The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘First Amendment Rights

Telephone, n.  An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.  ~Ambrose Bierce

I don’t think that it comes as anything resembling a surprise that this country is sharply divided on the question of elective termination of pregnancy.  The last decade has had some rather spectacular examples of just how far the “antis” are willing to go in order that the rest of we heathens are sufficiently impressed with the depth of their beliefs.  Dr. George Tiller died, any number of clinics have been bombed, and the perpetrators are treated as folk heroes rather than the murderous individuals that they are.  Two state legislatures contemplated (albeit briefly) adding laws to consider adding the killing of an abortionist to the list of justifiable homicides.  During their less blood-thirsty moments, fervent anti-abortionists have bombarded the offices of providers with endless telephone calls begging them to reconsider their career choices.

As for the rest of us, we’ve been pretty well speechless in the face of this.  Oh, we’ve counseled caution, huffed about a woman’s right to choose, suggested that we consider proper family planning teaching.  Our reward has been schools teaching abstinence, funding cuts for Planned Parenthood and other clinics and Rush Limbaugh’s  defamation of a Georgetown student being lauded in certain circles.  Probably none of us will ever shoot anti-abortion protesters, but it seems that there may be something that we can do.

I have a new hero, and his name is Todd Stave.  Todd inherited an office building from his father that houses an abortion provider.  He has been familiar with protesters picketing, praying,lighting candles and displaying gory photographs outside of the building, and supports their right to do so under the First Amendment.  The protestors, however, began to gather outside of his daughters school and then began calling his home at all hours of the day and night demanding that he terminate the lease, and to let him know that they were praying for his soul.  Todd first got angry, then he figured out a way to get even.

He began to write down the telephone numbers of the callers, and enlisted his friends who enlisted their friends, and so forth.  Soon the callers were receiving hundreds of telephone calls from people who spoke softly and nicely thanking them on behalf of the Stave family for their prayers.  The callers also advised that the Stave family could not and would not terminate the lease, as they believe in choice.

Word spread, and a new association has formed – Voice of Change.  From their website:

For too long, the abortion discussion has been dominated by angry, nasty protests fueled by individuals and organizations that thrive on sensationalism and extremism. Now it is our turn.
“Voice of Choice” was established as a calm, measured response to anti-abortion activists who engage in misguided, raging protest tactics that are often ill-informed and only serve to victimize women, pro-choice professionals, law-abiding businesses and unaligned bystanders.
We use email, telephone and social media in peaceful, person-to-person counter-protests against groups that target abortion facilities, providers and patients, as well as their families and communities. We don’t question anyone’s right to express opinions and ideals; we challenge their bullying tactics and their contempt.

Widdershins, I am beyond excited.  I am retired, have a telephone service with unlimited long-distance calling, and I can sit here all day and make phone calls.  As a triage nurse in public hospitals, I’ve been called almost everything that you can think of, so negative feedback will not be particularly distressing.  If this catches on, perhaps we can make the PLUBS realize that we need reasonably priced prenatal care, the same sort of maternity leave that’s available in other enlightened nations, accessible child care and family planning.  I think that the latter issues would be of more general value to society than brandishing posters of mangled fetuses to the world.  If you have some time and would like to help, sign up and the website.

This is an open thread.

There has been a great deal said about religious liberty of late.

Apparently, mandating the coverage of birth control pills is tantamount to insisting upon human sacrifice.  Catholic bishops and Republican political figures are suddenly  brothers in umbrage.  Even usually liberal commentators are shocked and appalled by this move – at least, the male liberal commentators plus Mika Brzezinzki.  Not too many other female voices have been heard.  Sens. Barbara Boxer and Jean Shaheen have gotten a word in edgewise, but that’s about it thus far.

The problem as stated by the men involved is government infringement on religion, which they interpret as a First Amendment violation.  The First covers a lot of ground: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to free assembly, freedom of religion, and the right to petition Congress.   (Norman Rockwell did some lovely art work for four of them – I guess he just couldn’t figure out how to do a neat rendition of a lobbyist.)

We re all aware that we do not enjoy absolute freedom of speech.  Threatening an elected official, yelling “fire” in a crowded building, or inciting a riot will definitely buy you a ride downtown.  The right to free assembly is long gone.  There are limitations on the sizes of crowds, the areas in which you might assemble, and the length of stay should you manage to assemble anywhere.  Permits are usually required for large groups, and have a number of stipulations.  Freedom of the press has been impinged – reporters have been imprisoned for refusal to name sources, and reporters took a beating at some of the Occupy sites.  Reporters Without Borders now ranks the US as 47th in freedom of the press.  That’s ugly, people.  Three very basic freedoms have been compromised.

The right to petition Congress is as lively as freedom of the press is not.  We are all free to contact our representatives on an ongoing basis, if they can manage to fit us in between the lobbyists, “consultants” ala Newt, and political intelligence operatives.  And, for the most part, there has been freedom of religion.  We have been free to practice – or not – the religion of our choice.  It is no more illegal to be an agnostic or a humanist than it is to be a Methodist.  This is the part that is getting crushed in this debate –  we don’t have to ractice any religion whatsoever.  Never, ever, ever.   State assemblies are rushing to pass laws banning Shari’a while they are decrying the fact that they can’t erect monuments to the Ten Commandments.  Somehow, the subtleties seem to be eluding them.  But, this is American law as it currently stands.

As it currently stands – and we’d best be damned careful that it continues to stand.  Ever since the flap over the Catholic church providing birth control methods to its employees hit warp speed, the noise level from the right has been absolutely deafening.  Griswold v. Connecticut established birth control as a privacy issue, but ever since the Patriot Act, we appear to have little or no  privacy as American citizens, and we need to be vigilant here.  Yes, thus far the noise is over who pays for said contraception.  The Catholic church feels strongly that their ironclad belief that women shoud not practice birth control supercedes the needs of any number of women with hormone imbalances, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, and ovarian cysts who require the therapy.  Pregnancy is God’s will, and I suppose that bleeding to death would be as well.  Who knows?  Somehow, both the Right and the Left male intellegentsia are just fine with this.

Enter Rick Santorum, stage (far, far) right.  He has an even better idea:  no one should use birth control.  Yep, the 99% of Americans who do are just dead wrong.  Why, this is the sort of thing that leads one down the primrose path to promiscuity.  He absolutely promises that if he’s President that he will not interfere with anyone’s right to practice contraception.  His main complaint, it seems, is that the President’s agenda not motivated by the Bible.  Check this out, from The Huffington Post:

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb 18 (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum challenged President Barack Obama’s Christian beliefs on Saturday, saying White House policies were motivated by a “different theology.”

A devout Roman Catholic who has risen to the top of Republican polls in recent days, Santorum said the Obama administration had failed to prevent gas prices rising and was using “political science” in the debate about climate change.

Obama’s agenda is “not about you. It’s not about your quality of life. It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology,” Santorum told supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement at a Columbus hotel.

When asked about the statement at a news conference later, Santorum said, “If the president says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian.”

But Santorum did not back down from the assertion that Obama’s values run against those of Christianity.

“He is imposing his values on the Christian church. He can categorize those values anyway he wants. I’m not going to,” Santorum told reporters.

A social conservative, Santorum is increasingly seen as a champion for evangelical Christians in fights with Democrats over contraception and gay marriage.

Maybe it’s me, but I sense the erosion of many more liberties to come.  If women lose control over their bodies, they will then lose control over their professional lives.  What’s next – the right to vote and own property?

Dear Lord, deliver me from your followers.  Amen.

This is an open thread.


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