Volume , Number 0
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Nuggets From the Nuthouse
Douglas j. Buege
Eleanor J. Bader
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Right to Life Agenda
T he National Right To Life Committee (NRTLC)—the oldest anti-abortion organization in the country—has a lot to gloat over this winter. George W. Bush, called “the most solidly pro-life president in 31 years” by the group, signed the first federal ban on an abortion procedure last fall and an array of NRTLC agenda items have come to fruition as well.
- 13 states subject women to 24-hour delays between scheduling an abortion and having the procedure
- 33 states require girls under 18 to obtain the consent of, or notify, at least one parent prior to abortion
- Congress has banned access to abortion for virtually every woman who depends on the government for health care—Medi- caid and Medicare recipients; women in the military; military dependents; federal prisoners; Native Americans; and federal workers, including Peace Corps volunteers.
Meanwhile, the most violent wing of the anti-abortion movement has been clipped. Clinic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph, on the lam for more than five years, has been captured. James Kopp, responsible for assassinating Dr. Barnett Slepian in 1998, is serving 25 years to life. Paul Hill, guilty of murdering Dr. John Bayard Britton and bodyguard James Barrett in 1994, was put to death by Florida prison authorities in September. Just two months later, Stephen John Jordi of Miami Beach was arrested for planning to bomb clinics; that same month Clayton Waagner was convicted for mailing more than 400 letters purporting to contain anthrax to women’s health centers.
It’s a NRTLC dream come true. As incidents of extreme anti-abortion violence plummet, these “moderates” stand poised to thrust their legislative wish-list on every state house in the nation. Among their priorities: more money for abstinence-only programs, curbs on teen access to abortion and contraceptives, and bills granting embryos and fetuses protection against “victimization.”
Young people, says NARAL, remain favorite prey because “minors do not vote. They have virtually no political power. Consequently, they represent a safe target for anti-choice lawmakers bent on restricting reproductive freedom.”
Nowhere is this more evident than in Kansas. That state’s assault on youth began on June 18, 2003, the day Attorney General Phil Kline, a 43-year-old Republican, announced a change in the reporting requirements in cases of suspected child sexual abuse. Like every state in the country, Kansas has, since the early 1970s, required that professionals working with children—among them doctors, dentists, nurses, coroners, medical examiners, psychologists, teachers, child care providers, social workers, and law enforcers—notify the authorities whenever child abuse or neglect is suspected. In 2000, 2.8 million reports were filed nationwide; 879,000 cases were substantiated.
Kline got his impetus from State Senator Mark Gilstrap, an anti- abortion Kansas City Democrat. In the spring of 2003, Gilstrap contacted Kline and urged him to review the disclosure requirements regarding minor’s access to reproductive health care—especially abortion. Kline told the Capital - Journal newspaper that his perusal of Child Abuse statutes led him to strengthen the reporting mandates. “It is illegal for girls under 16 to have sexual relations,” he says. Since sex for females under 16 is, by definition, “rape, [taking] indecent liberties with a child, or unlawful voluntary sexual relations,” all libidinous activities on the part of these teens has to be revealed.
In practical terms, if the courts uphold Kline’s directive, mandatory reporters will have to notify the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services “if they come into contact with a boy or girl younger than 16 who seeks medical attention for a sexually transmitted disease, a girl who seeks medical attention for a pregnancy, or children younger than 16 who seek birth control or who disclose that they already have been sexually active,” since this is “evidence” that a felony has been committed.
Doctors who fail to report “suspected abuse” face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. They can also be disciplined by the State Board of the Healing Arts.
Not surprisingly, the shift is polarizing those who work with young people. Kline says the change protects children from sexual exploitation. In his corner are Kansans for Life, a NRTLC affiliate and the state’s largest anti-abortion organization, and Concerned Women for America. On the opposite pole are reproductive rights activists and care providers, advocates for youth, the Medical Society of Kansas, the Kansas Association of Social Workers, and several nursing groups.
“Providers of care have been required to report all suspected injuries from abusive relationships for decades,” says Bonnie Scott Jones, a staff attorney at the New York City-based Center for Reproductive Rights and the lawyer who argued for an injunction to stop Kline from imposing the new strictures. “Kline interprets the law regarding illegal sexual activity to say that all sexual activity is sexual abuse and is injurious so it has to be reported,” Jones says. “It does not matter if the sex is consensual or between similar-aged parties.”
According to the complaint Jones filed, “Plaintiffs fear that reporting all consensual sexual activity between age-mates will not protect adolescents from sexual abuse, but will instead threaten plaintiff’s professional relationships with their patients and clients and deter adolescents from obtaining needed care, at the expense of their health.”
“Kline was very clever to focus many of his statements on doctors who perform abortions even though he knew that the reporting requirement had broad implications for public health and applies to all providers of care to minors,” Bonnie Scott Jones says. “People, including liberals, have not confronted the issue of what decisions young people should be able to make outside the bosom of their families. We know the stark realities about what adolescents do and what adults wish they did. This case is the most extreme example of people who are uncomfortable with adolescent sexuality. It goes beyond abortion. Where the line gets drawn in terms of teen access to reproductive healthcare services will be litigated and fought in professional associations and communities over the next many years.”
Until it is resolved, and until abortion and birth control are recognized for the social good they provide, the situation will likely deteriorate further. According to the World Health Organization, 20 million of the 50 million abortions performed worldwide each year are performed in unsafe, unsanitary, and illegal conditions. On the day that you read this, 200 women will have died from illicit procedures.
Eleanor J. Bader is co-author of Hatred: Anti-Abortion Terrorism.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.