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Criminalizing Gender: Kansas, Mississippi, and Alabama Editions

[ 55 ] June 25, 2011 |

While yesterday provided a significant victory for progressive politics (and general ‘right thing to do’-ness), the forces of moral fascism reactionary citizenry continue unabated.

In Kansas, a new licensing law for abortion providers has passed, under the ruse of establishing “safety standards” in a state described by the head of Operation Rescue as “the Wild West for abortionists for as long as anyone can remember.”

There are precisely three providers in the entire state.

For now.  It’s absurd to imply that providers do not conduct business in line with professional standards of care, and this isn’t about that, obviously.

“These requirements range from the impossible to the absurd,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “They’re not designed to protect patient safety; they’re designed to shut down abortion providers.”

And of course, safety standards will be somewhat difficult to enforce when reproductive freedom is criminalized.

Moving south, The Guardian has a good piece describing “the creeping criminalisation of pregnant women as a new front in the culture wars over abortion, in which conservative prosecutors are chipping away at hard-won freedoms by stretching protection laws to include foetuses, in some cases from the day of conception.”

In Mississippi, this takes the guise of a law that makes miscarriages suspect under “depraved-heart murder” of the unborn foetus, which carries a mandatory life sentence.  In one Mississippi case, the defense

have argued before Mississippi’s highest court that her prosecution makes no sense. Under Mississippi law it is a crime for any person except the mother to try to cause an abortion.  “If it’s not a crime for a mother to intentionally end her pregnancy, how can it be a crime for her to do it unintentionally, whether by taking drugs or smoking or whatever it is,” Robert McDuff, a civil rights lawyer asked the state supreme court.

In Alabama, the “criminal endangerment law”, originally passed with the goal of protecting the children of hobbyists running meth labs, has been employed in prosecutions not consistent with the original intent of the state legislature.  The most grotesque case discussed in the article is that of Amanda Kimbrough, who

is one of the women who have been ensnared as a result of the law being applied in a wholly different way. During her pregnancy her foetus was diagnosed with possible Down’s syndrome and doctors suggested she consider a termination, which Kimbrough declined as she is not in favour of abortion.

The baby was delivered by caesarean section prematurely in April 2008 and died 19 minutes after birth.

Six months later Kimbrough was arrested at home and charged with “chemical endangerment” of her unborn child on the grounds that she had taken drugs during the pregnancy – a claim she has denied.

So here we have a woman, faced with a probable Down’s baby, who rejected termination as she doesn’t believe in abortion.  Not exactly the archtype target of such legislation, yet her case is before a higher Alabama court on appeal.

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  1. thebewilderness says:

    Essentially they are criminalizing females failure to produce human resources.

  2. Harry the Hat says:

    You were lauding New York’s ability to decide the marriage issue for themeslves…and really down deep they have the right to do this.

    And so do these other states in regulating abortion. Theses laws, too, passed the legislature and were also signed by the governors, just as NY’s marriage law was.

    So, where do you stand on the right of the people to determine their own destiny? One way when it suits your agenda….and another way when it doesn’t?

    • strannix says:

      Couldn’t agree more. If Brockington really supported gay marriage, it only follows that he’d support every other law ever written.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      I can’t obviously speak for the LGM gang, but I celebrated the New York result because it allowed people to have the right to determine their own destiny. I was certainly not celebrating state sovereignty as such, which is just a means to an end (and in this case, not the only potential means to this end).

      The NY state victory is not a victory for some extremely theoretical assertion of 10th Amendment rights on the part of the state of NY, but rather the vindication of the basic human rights of people in NY to marry the person of their choice. These rights should belong to them even if a majority of the voters in New York (or, more precisely their representatives, as NY has no initiative process) tried to deny these rights.

      So I’m going to be just as happy if the court system denies to the majority of California voters the right to put unreasonable limits on the right to marry.

      The celebration of New York is a celebration of individual rights not “states rights.” (Indeed, in an ideal world, this issue should not be left up to the states at all.)

      Similar logic applies to Kansas, Mississippi, and Alabama: when these states pass laws attacking the basic rights of (in these cases) a majority of their populations, that is not cause for celebration.

      • Harry the Hat says:

        These rights should belong to them even if a majority of the voters in New York (or, more precisely their representatives, as NY has no initiative process) tried to deny these rights.

        That’s the stupidest and most dangerous thing I’ve heard here to date. There are no homosexual ‘rights’ other than what the government deems appropriate.

        In NY case, the people’s representatives agreed with you. But to deny the people in other states the exact same power to decide and agree or disagree with you is simply liberal fascism.

        You like democracy as long as it serves your agenda. And when it doesn’t….well….you’re willing to democracy under the bus.

        Nice…

    • ..Norman..ThomasThe .Socialist says:

      So, where do you stand on the right of the people to determine their own destiny? One way when it suits your agenda….and another way when it doesn’t?

      So, how ’bout it Dave? Which face will you show us tomorrow?

      Maybe you can explain this hypocrisy ’cause your hanger-oners apparently can’t….and in their defense, I can’t expalain it any way but hypocrisy, either.

      • thebewilderness says:

        You are, as usual, confused. The people of a state, county, or municipality, cannot vote away other people’s rights through the democratic process of one person one vote. The purpose of the bill of right, those first ten amendments to the constitution, are there specifically to prevent such goings on.
        However, the people of a state, county, or municipality, can vote to extend rights enjoyed by some to all. Another way to extend rights to a larger portion of the population is through the votes of the people’s representatives.
        I really do wish you would crack a civics book before you attempt to engage in a discussion of the political process as practiced in this republic.

        • Norman ThomasThe Socialist. says:

          The people of a state, county, or municipality, cannot vote away other people’s rights through the democratic process of one person one vote.

          completely agree.

          Now, perhaps you can show me where these “rights” for homosexuals are enumerated. Maybe a court case or two just to back up your assertions?

          Anything?

    • Harry the Hat says:

      So, where do you stand on the right of the people to determine their own destiny? One way when it suits your agenda….and another way when it doesn’t?

  3. strannix says:

    Here’s my question about the MS and AL cases:

    Let’s assert, for the sake of argument, that large majorities of the good people of Mississippi and Alabama oppose the application of these laws in these ways.

    So … what happens then? Seems to me like the answer is, “pretty much nothing.” Theoretically, of course, they’d be able to vote out the prosecutors who are pushing these cases and other elected officials who support them.

    But in real life, does that happen? It doesn’t seem to me that people think of prosecutors as people who should be held to account for these sorts of abuses. You can tell people horror stories all day long and they’ll be angry about it, but still no one in the country can actually name their district attorney.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that this is only incidentally an abortion issue and is really at heart an issue of prosecutorial abuse. People just aren’t conditioned to see prosecutors as potentially bad people who need to be monitored. I think it’s far more common for the public to see them through a “Law & Order” prism, where they have to spend all their time devising clever ways to get around devious defense attorneys who are trying to set murderers free.

    So if the good guys are sending women to jail for doing drugs and killing babies, well, then who’s going to question that?

    • Joe says:

      That might be assuming a lot, but such is the nature of these laws, which are passed in large part for symbolic effect. The numbers of people hurt by egregious cases are small enough (relatively speaking) that majorities are not overly concerned (or even aware) about them.

      Yes, L&O reminds us that “two groups” are out there to protect us — the police and prosecutors. The defense are usually shifty people gleefully trying to “gotcha” by some technicality. Heck, the last abortion episode I know of had the LIBERAL one leaning against a murdered doctor.

      Maybe we need more Matlock episodes that show that prosecutors and judges can be wrong. Even in good ole boy territory.

  4. ema says:

    Reportable incident from the Kansas licensing law:

    (a) Each incident resulting in serious injury of a patient or a viable unborn child shall be reported to the department withing 10 days after the incident. (p33)

    where “unborn” child is defined as:

    (n) Unborn child means a living individual organism of the species homo sapiens [huzza for twins and multiples!], in utero, at any stage of gestation from fertilization to birth.

    For just a second, it’s tempting to point and laugh. And then reality sets in.

  5. Anderson says:

    The MS prosecutor is Forrest Allgood, whose name you need only Google to find out what a piece of work he is.

  6. DrDick says:

    They will not rest until they have repealed the Enlightenment. They really do long for a new Dark Ages and are doing their damnedest to achieve it.

    • Anderson says:

      I believe that Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor would argue that in the Dark Ages, at least, a greater % of souls were saved, making that time preferable to now.

      It would surprise me if, for instance, a substantial number of today’s Roman Catholic hierarchs did not quietly share that opinion.

    • James E. Powell says:

      Which “they” are we talking about? If it’s the elected officials who enact anti-abortion laws, what they want is money and power. They really do not care about anything else.

      If “they” refers to the millions of people who advocate and vote for abortion bans, there are probably several reasons. But I doubt that anyone described it better than Oklahoma’s Brad Carson when he tried to explain his loss in 2004. These people are against modernity in general and the whole list of what they see as changes for the worst in American culture.

      I don’t see the point of pandering to them. They’d never believe it from a Democrat anyway. But until the Democrats come up with a more attractive answer, they are going to vote Republican till they die.

      • DrDick says:

        I am talking about the anti-abortion forces, rather than the politicians who pander to them (though there is some overlap between the two, especially in Kansas). I am intimately familiar with these folks, as I spent the first 35 years in Oklahoma.

      • If it’s the elected officials who enact anti-abortion laws, what they want is money and power. They really do not care about anything else.

        I’d like to believe this, but there really are a lot of true believers in state legislatures.

        • thebewilderness says:

          They are indeed true believers, but what they believe in is authoritarianism, whether they approach it from the position of Christian Reconstructionists or secular power brokers. Yanno, power to the correct people.
          Every strategy they have applied to the oppression and subjugation of women is also being applied to every other group designated as lesser than.

        • DrDick says:

          Indeed. As I said, there is some overlap, and especially at the state level.

    • Harry the Hat says:

      They will not rest until they have repealed the Enlightenment.

      Anytime anyone uses the term “englightenment” when discussing issues, he really means “Our side is on the side of Angels and your side is just a bunch of rubes.”

      It’s cheerleading and little else.

      Rah…rah…rah….go team go!!

      What are you…twelve?

  7. James E. Powell says:

    Unless and until people who support abortion rights deliver the kind of money and votes that people who want to criminalize abortion do, this is how things will be.

    Nothing has convinced me that right-wing politicians care about abortion any more than they care about gay rights or immigrants. But these are rather handy issues to gain political power. All the better to lower tax rates on the rich, destroy labor rights, get rid of environmental regulations, and repeal consumer protections.

    • Karen says:

      Exactly. God, gays, guns, illegal immigration and abortion are useful to the powerful only to the extent they inspire the foot soldiers in the trailer parks to vote. The plutocrats will take their pregnant daughters overseas for abortions, import all the nannies and gardeners they need, and pay their private security guards to stay in another corner of the mansion while they fuck like crazed gay rabbits. It’s the non-rich who’ll, you know, die from eclampsia and such.

    • Harry the Hat says:

      Unless and until people who support abortion rights deliver the kind of money and votes that people who want to criminalize abortion do, this is how things will be.

      The truth is there are a whole lot of people who don’t support any of this. This issue demonstrates the need for people’s support. If the legislature had legalized abortion through a democratic process instead of judges ramming this down the throats of the American People with really poor legal reasoning just to get the job done any ol’ way, you wouldn’t be facing forty years of constant resistance.

      What the people think matters and because of the short sightedness of the American left, there’s a pretty good chance that abortion could become illegal again in the not too distant future.

  8. efgoldman says:

    I’m not an attorney and I don’t play one on TV, but is seems to me the Kansas law, at least, is prima facie arbitrary, capricious and discriminatory unless it applies to every free-standing medical clinic, no matter what services it performs, in the state.

    I expect an injunction in place by the end of the week.

  9. Linkmeister says:

    If anyone’s wondering as I was, the text of the article Brad Carson wrote in 2004 is here. Unfortunately, TNR doesn’t have a web minion who formats old articles before they go into the archives, so it’s ugly as sin, with no paragraphing left.

    • Joe says:

      The print preview for me has paragraph breaks.

      • Linkmeister says:

        Thanks. I hadn’t tried that option. I copied/pasted it into an Open Office doc and paragraphed it myself (I like my breaks better than the ones TNR has, but never mind) so I could read it more easily.

    • James E. Powell says:

      Thanks for linking that. I looked for it via google, but could not remember the title or where it was published.

      I disagree with Carson in some respects. I think it is interesting that while he castigates the Democrats for their modernity he does not seem to let right v. wrong enter into the mix. So one is left to wonder whether Carson believes the Democrats are wrong or just wrong politically.

      I do agree with Carson when he says that “[b]anning gay marriage or abortion would not be sufficient to heal the cultural gulf that exists in this nation.”

      A large part of the cultural gulf that exists in this nation has been there since before the Civil War and cannot be healed.

  10. BarneyFranksSpeechTherapist says:

    You write:

    “For now. It’s absurd to imply that providers do not conduct business in line with professional standards of care, and this isn’t about that, obviously.”

    Really? You must lead a sheltered life because you seem not to be aware of this:

    “A West Philadelphia abortion doctor has been arrested and charged with 8 counts of murder in the deaths of a woman patient and 7 babies. The babies were born alive and then killed with scissors, prosecutors said Wednesday.”

    http://www.myfoxphilly.com/dpp/news/local_news/abortion-dr.-kermit-gosnell-arrested

  11. Harry the Hat says:

    Yes, isn’t it amazing that prohibition breeds bootlegging?

    Yes, the ‘hate crimes’ keep spiraling upward. The laws aren’t working. Same for murder.

    We should repeal them and just give up.

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