Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

Late last week the ruling from the highest court in the land came down Massachusetts’ buffer zone around abortion clinics preventing protest, prayer, speech of any kind within that 35 ft. radius went too far. In the majority opinion supported by nearly all the justices, Antonin Scalia cited speech people don’t want to hear is not something the government protects them from under the first amendment; confronting state official’s safety concerns, John Roberts said they had other tools at their disposal to ensure public order and keep citizens safe chiding them for putting undue burdens on protesters right to speech, ability to “converse with their fellow citizens.” Then Monday of this week came the controversial, long awaited Hobby Lobby decision still reverberating throughout the nation in which the court ruled corporations indeed are people and they do have religious rights; those rights meaning they can refuse to pay for contraception options that conflict with their religious principles. Both huge blows to women’s rights with resounding implications for women’s healthcare and women’s employment going forward, what she will have access to working for a privately owned, closely held company with religious affiliations vs. everyone else, considering just how many jobs come from said companies today. Still this should be of little surprise to watchers of the court, people keeping track of the decisions made by our current installment of Supreme Court justices, willing to roll back key portions of the civil rights act surrounding voting, that certainly has more support as an issue than anything to do with contraception, abortion; forget it was done amidst record attempts at voter suppression, long lines, limited numbers of voting machines, scaled back, eliminated early voting, restricted voting hours. New voter I.D. laws touted as protection against voter fraud really meant to keep elderly, minority, disabled, poor people from voting; a decision coming down from legal on high when racial tension was/is at its highest since the pre-civil rights decades. Next they rendered an almost identical ruling on affirmative action stating a Michigan school had other means to solidify student diversity and minority fairness, needing to use those instead; poised against the backdrop of comments from known figures like Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson saying he never saw an unhappy black person in the pre-civil rights south, right after he was done comparing gay people to animals, or anti-government rancher Cliven Bundy who held conservative support going high enough to reach the United States congress until he linked all black persons and welfare, then linked any black person on assistance to “never learning how to pick cotton.”  Now it seems they are taking the same tack with abortion and the contraception mandate in Obama care.

But are the justices correct, is it simply freedom from speech you don’t want to hear, is it as straight forward as cities, states using existing tools to keep and maintain public order; like in the racially charged issues above, the stark, echoing answer is not so fast. Had the justices researched the history behind Massachusetts’ buffer zone establishment, something the Rachel Maddow show staff had no trouble doing, they would have discovered it had its roots in preventing what happened outside abortion clinics across the nation in the 1990’s, early 2000’s where doctors and patient escorts, meant to make sure people made it un-accosted, unharmed into facilities were shot; including multiple brutal incidents in the Massachusetts city of Brookline where a man walked directly into abortion clinics with a gun and shot a total of 7 people killing 2, all while anti-abortion protestors filmed police, EMS carrying out the bodies of dead and wounded. Deeper investigation into why the eastern seaboard state went with the stationary, fixed buffer zone rather than a moveable 8 ft. bubble type buffer zone surrounding anyone coming or going from a clinic, still legal, still used in places like Colorado is directly because they then had abortion protesters loitering in the door of family planning facilities, intimidating patrons attempting to get female healthcare, coupled with the aggression of abortion opposition in Massachusetts, circa the year 2000. Not to mention 1992 and 1996 cases where a Milwaukie clinic was blockaded for an entire summer and protesters, unsatisfied with results, came back 4 years later barricaded in cars with I-beams to keep people out of the building. So they went with a 35 foot buffer zone that would allow both service seekers and clinic workers to come and go safely, forestall people with guns, other violent intentions from having ready access to potential targets. Perhaps justices should have been forced to take a hard look too at the footage collected by ABC news accompanying coverage of the ruling; does that look like freedom from speech to anyone? Seriously, it looks and is more pointedly, freedom from harassment, intimidation more than freedom from shouting, from being so close to someone you can smell what they had for breakfast, are subject to spit flecks as they emphatically drive home their convictions, arms shoving pamphlets into your car, trotting after you, forcing you to navigate a large crowd, even physically trying to restrain you, prevent you as you try to get into your doctor, it is actual footage showing protection from more than possible but probable injury. Despite who brought the original case eventually landing at the feet of the high court, these are overwhelmingly not people who want to plainly converse with their fellow citizens on public sidewalks, aren’t demur little old ladies quietly helping scared teens, 20 something’s rethink their choice, rather extremist groups, individuals who believe in killing people for political reasons, killing abortion doctors, abortion clinic escorts, patrons to punctuate their point, so caught up in their beliefs even unintended injury is the ultimate result. Police testifying before the 2007 Massachusetts legislature, later that year enacting their buffer zone law, bluntly stating they were like basketball referees watching feet, watching hands; no one’s going to get hit, trampled, a riot somehow start that way, sure.  Now there are those who will quickly view the evidence see it is 20-25 years old and say, that was 20-25 years ago; except it truthfully isn’t. Fast-forward to more 2007 scenes Milwaukie, protesters reenacting the cold blooded murder of a Florida abortion doctor, actually celebrating the anniversary; 2009 acting on inspiration from predecessors affiliated with the same radical group yet another man finally succeeded in killing a local Kansas doctor, no not outside his clinic as a woman had tried 16 years before, but shot in the back of the head while attending church.      

Naysayers holding onto their adamant  support crying wait Wisconsin and Kansas mean little in Massachusetts, willing to overlook the senseless, willful killing of 2 people injuring of 5 going way beyond simple peaceful protest, simple rights to assemble, calling it part of the past where it hopefully stays; these violent incidents set against the backdrop tea party movement constantly hammering down home American values, quite frankly stuck in and obsessed with the 1950’s, railing against big government, federal intrusion into your life and the blatant immorality assigned to liberals, progressives because of abortion, contraception and “Obama care” also known as the affordable care act. It coincides to  an influx of conservative ultra-right wingers to congress, local legislatures singularly bent on circumventing Roe v. Wade, putting forth personhood bill after personhood bill attempting not only to ban any and all abortion after 20 weeks, but remove key types of birth control pills, IUD’s, even select fertility treatments for women off the market, Georgia tried to pass legislation mandating police investigate miscarriages to ensure none were caused by “human involvement” a Virginia bill proposed mandating women report a miscarriage within 24 hours or face jail time, resurging in 2013 as its author sought an attorney general position. But abortion bombings and violence hold next to no chance of reoccurrence; the follow up question being on what grounds? Secondly do police have the capabilities justices seem to think they do in adjacent ways to protect women wishing to exercise their pro-choice right to an abortion, access to all reproductive healthcare, women’s clinics; outside laws on the books addressing harassment and violence, the likelihood had Massachusetts tried to use any of those existing laws against abortion protesters the Supreme Court would no doubt be hearing and deciding a case about misapplied state laws violating their constitutional right to speech or assembly, they may not have the resources. Interesting our Supreme Court hands down their ruling decreeing what it has when states have slashed their public service, civil servant ranks considerably reducing the number of police, fire, EMS workers for budget reasons; interesting it thinks Massachusetts and other states soon to be affected can suddenly find private security guards and personnel willing to take such a stressful, hazardous job in the climate they just created, forget pay for it. Again going to why the New England state chose this specific buffer zone over other choices was also so women would not find the continued police presence another form of intimidation; situations, scenarios made abundantly clear in the Milwaukie barricade case represent the tangible negative  impact to businesses, medical facilities sharing the same parking lot, sharing office space in a large building or plaza common today with an abortion clinic, the dental worker who called 911 after sing people bolted into their cars in front of her place of work. Never mind you citizen Y in the United States of America should be able  go anywhere, do any legal activity you wish to; shouldn’t that go triple for the poor person who needs a job, who happens to work in the same building as a doctor providing reproductive services, yes abortions too? Shouldn’t that apply exponentially to any legal medical care available to you sans fear, harassment, coercion, threats, real risk of bodily harm that has nothing to do with the procedure, just going into a women’s clinic?  Shouldn’t that go triple when you are going to a female health center, too often crassly referred to only as an “abortion mill,” not to terminate a pregnancy, not to murder your unborn child instead for a gynecological exam, pap smear, pelvic exam, mammogram or mammogram referral, birth control so you don’t end up with an unwanted pregnancy, prenatal care for your developing child because you want them, plan to utilize adoption?  All services also provided by infamous entities like Planned Parenthood concurrently many times the only women’s clinic in a given city, servicing a several hundred mile radius, but we don’t need a buffer zone to protect people not from speech, but violence, not from another point of view but physical threats, intimidation and dangers as they seek medical attention. And no, not some electronic bio implant allowing you to interface with a computer a-la sci-fi television, not some genetic engineering giving you thrice the standard human lung capacity, 20/15 or better eyesight, selectively breeding the child you want to have surpassing sex, removal of genetic anomalies, potential illnesses and disorders choosing eye color, but piecing together a personality, genetically wiring athleticism or a talent for math, art music, but instead standard medical care in practice 40 plus years.                      

Hardly unnoticed is the hypocrisy that the Supreme Court announced its decree on buffer zones knowing full well the court itself has its own buffer zone and possessing no plans to change it to comply with what women, family planning clinic workers must contend with from this day moving ahead; the court having come to their conclusion on abortion clinics previously upholding buffer zones at polling places nationwide and as of 2011 allowed said zones at military funerals. If you must protest our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, gay service members, you now must do so at a prescribed distance. Corresponding to their thought process leading up to the final ruling on voting rights, affirmative action, believing that in the post racial world of president Obama there is no longer racism akin to how we once thought of it therefore no need for those two protections, current justices are putting on their utopia blinders crafting, arbitrating law according to the world we wished we lived in, ignoring the one we actually see every day.  Thinking it’s literally been decades since there was an abortion clinic bombing, been years since an abortion clinic shooting targeting a doctor, abortion clinic users, the buffer zone appears to be city official laziness, a blatant effort to silence the religious minority so called liberals never wanted to listen to in the first place. Yet on the other side, under Massachusetts city ordinances, state law prior to what the Supreme Court said, people could still protest, sing songs, shout things, show those going in and out pictures they didn’t want to see, tell them how they were murdering their babies, sinning against god, going to hell, chant; they just had to do it far enough away not to physically be able to put their hands on people, to not make the outside of a medical facility resemble a rock concert. Both groups’ rights were respected and everyone was protected, not least of all protesters themselves who also didn’t have to worry about guns, knives, well aimed fists sent, used by clinic visitors who don’t want to be preached at, who don’t want to be lectured, who are educated enough to understand the consequences of what they are about to do or are taking advantage of the array of services offered and are sick of being assumed a murderer. At least celebrities make a conscious choice to live that life and when they descended in mass on California law makers their message was protect our kids not ourselves; incidentally laws prohibiting paparazzi in certain areas, within X number of feet came from too many standing in front of cars for that must have, worth thousands of dollars photo, then suing the famous person for injury, triggering a police and EMS response in the meantime, causing absolute disruption to public order. Shouldn’t you be so much more capable of receiving medical care without worry your face will end up on the news in protest footage, shouldn’t those people charged with security, safety have the breathing room to do so, just like they do at the Supreme Court, at polling places, at military funerals?

Their Hobby Lobby decision makes even less sense especially delving into the background of how they came to it, even from this same court that gave us Citizens United and unlimited political campaign contributions, who are again viewed as on the side of big business essentially saying money is speech. Reading parts of the declaration and chronicling what’s critically missing, any legal, constitutional basis limiting their finding to closely held corporations, excluding their finding to contraception/reproductive care. In fact their continued ruling stating this judgment in favor of Hobby Lobby only applies to contraception, asserting it cannot be used as precedent for any subsequent cases brought before the court on key issues outlined in dissent, vaccines, blood transfusions, seems to be rooted only in because I said so, not any legal precedent unless you count Bush V. Gore where they simply named Bush president of the United States. Meaning opposing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was absolutely, unequivocally correct in naming future fights on all those contentious medical procedures and more, it unquestionably opens the door for Jehovah’s witnesses opposed to blood transfusions, Scientologists opposed to mental health services, already a maze of marginal care, Amish, others opposed to vaccines to say oh no do not expect us to provide, pay money toward that, having devastating consequences to our nation’s public health. Take the recent measles outbreak attributed to a combination of unvaccinated, under vaccinated Americans traveling abroad, like the aforementioned Amish doing charity work, to Americans here refusing to vaccinate their children on fears it causes Autism, neurological disorders starting a ripple effect infecting those too young to be vaccinated. Keep this up and without comprehensive vaccine implementation, exclusions of blood transfusions, organ transplants, conception, abortion, to appease the religious set, placed beside identical religious attacks on science teaching in schools, restrictions to health classes, biology, anatomy and physiology and we will be a third world country. Next bolstered by their win here religious minded company CEO’s 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years from now will doubtlessly challenge the Supreme Court mandate this current decision only applies to the existing case not future ones, not on related topics quite possibly making the flawlessly logical argument its very existence constitutes the precedent they will be seeking. Suddenly too, I have a religious objection becomes a quick scapegoat for likewise avoiding expensive healthcare costs. Alito’s majority opinion doesn’t even stand as a final arbitration of the contraception, affordable care mandate, religious corporation/company debate, seeing as only 4 types of contraception were contested, those believed by the owners to be abortifacient; it will eventually broaden, at minimum, to a contest on refusing funding to any and all birth control a-la what the Catholic church has taught for years. Confirmed in both oral argument and dissent when the Greens were specifically asked if their stance changed; response no, the argument, according to them still held if it was any birth control. Sliding farther down the insanity gradient the entire case, independent of how it got all the way to the Supreme Court, seems to be a moot point; why, many states cross country have long standing contraception equity laws on the books. Though Hobby Lobby self-insures its employees virtually shielding them from state law, they are still subject to all sections of federal law including the 2000 ruling informing employers who refuse to provide contraceptives they are in violation of the pregnancy discrimination act of 1978.Translation businesses, like it or not, you must provide contraceptive care as part of insurance packages; such is the price of doing business, public or private still being part of the public domain. Otherwise it’s equivalent to saying you can pay your Muslim employee one wage, your catholic employee something else and a completely different sum to your evangelical Christian worker not based on one is a janitor, one a marketing specialist and one a CEO, but on your perceived merits to each faith. Under no circumstances would that be remotely acceptable so why so they think conception should be any different, seeing as it’s insurance options, not a forced endorsement, not mandatory usage by anyone who doesn’t want to. 

Worse, the laughable joke of a solution suggested by Justice Alito shifting responsibility for objectionable contraception from business, the small corporation to the taxpayer; aside from the Hyde amendment and its numerous revisions forcing government to purposefully stay out of paying for medicines, medical procedures perceived as abortion, here is exactly what so many conservatives used to rail against Obama care, strike fear into down home, hardworking Americans. The notion taxpayers would be on the hook for more than things they don’t agree with but women who can’t keep their legs closed, people who can’t be responsible, refuse to work, refuse to apply themselves to get a decent, better paying job, fleecing us for things we can’t afford. Except it is conservative fighting of the affordable care act leading justices to the proposed “solution;” which as Justice Ginsberg repeatedly highlighted is no solution at all, asking astutely what happens when an employer doesn’t want to pay a woman equal to a man, should the taxpayer foot the bill then too?  Neither lost on anyone nor escaping the dullest of eyes is who exactly is agreeing, who is disagreeing not just along party lines but gender lines. Male justices crafted the decision, sided with Hobby Lobby, exalting religious freedom above all else, all women justices dissented choosing to punctuate the cause of women’s rights, reproductive rights over the religious conversation. Who spoke to press on behalf of the Greens, owners of Hobby Lobby, the male probable patriarch, about 60 years old; who perpetuates constant fear mongering about religious liberty, the evils of contraception, abortion mills even the amniocentesis meant to test babies in-utero for severe problems, religious conservatives, overwhelmingly male who don’t want anything to do with subjects under the heading “female problems,” consequently having an understanding of the female body a-la Todd Akin. In short no earthly clue, yet still feeling entitled to comment on it, make decisions about it; conservative males just as uninformed about the medicines, procedures being debated. Because if they were properly informed they would comprehend 3 of the 4 contested contraceptives are in any no way close to abortifacient, 2 are IUD’s (intrauterine devices), which could only cause an abortion if implanted in a woman already pregnant; simple fix, a standard pregnancy test given before the procedure. 2 are emergency contraception known as plan B, the morning after pill, high dose forms of standard birth control posing no termination risk if you are already pregnant, i.e. if the egg has already been fertilized, since it prevents ovulation. Ella is the only one with potentially harmful effects to a developing child, say should a woman take it without knowing she is already pregnant, but that is more due to the fact it is relatively new and requires more research than any substantial fact proving it an abortifacient. God forbid a woman over 35, no longer able to take the pill for medical safety reasons, stokes, blood clots that kind of thing have other options besides just a condom when health providers recommend 2 forms of birth control be used to adequately prevent potential pregnancy or those women will have to deny their husbands sex. Wait, doesn’t the Christian right call that witchcraft?  How dare we stand in front of a rape victim and say no you can’t have emergency contraception, how dare she have to now go to her ultra-religious boss and divulge she was raped to get said covered contraception; except it’s not “legitimate rape if you went to a bar, a club dressed like that, if you had something alcoholic to drink, if you obviously willfully got drunk, agreed to go back to his place for coffee, to talk more privately, to see his book on astronomy, his rare fish, other exotic pet, he dropped that drug into your drink because you were in a place you never should have been.  Incest survivor, well there’s that heathen family, turned away from god, no wonder; still no emergency contraception for you. And this is how these people think; the same people peaching personal responsibility, decrying welfare, food stamps, public housing, babies born out of wedlock, yelling about the horror nonsensically denying women access to all forms of birth control via insurance coverage the women are slated to pay for. And the Supreme Court let them do it.