According to a recent United Nations report, North Dakota is torturing women. Seriously. Juan Méndez, the United Nation’s special rapporteur on torture, has included lack of access to abortion in his yearly report on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Considering North Dakota’s new law which bans abortion after six weeks, it stands to reason that the state is torturing its female citizens.
I’m not trying to be trite—I do believe, as Méndez does, that forcing women to carry pregnancies they don’t want is cruel:
International and regional human rights bodies have begun to recognize that abuse and mistreatment of women seeking reproductive health services can cause tremendous and lasting physical and emotional suffering, inflicted on the basis of gender. Examples of such violations include abusive treatment and humiliation in institutional settings; involuntary sterilization; denial of legally available health services such as abortion and post-abortion care.
But if you believe abortion is a “convenience,” rather than a human right, saying as much is controversial. To the American anti-choice movement, it’s even laughable.
But how else would you describe laws that are meant to punish women for being sexually active? Sure, anti-choice legislation and activism prides itself on showy pro-woman rhetoric. Women’s Right To Know! Women Deserve Better Than Abortion! But at the end of the day, forced pregnancy is less about protecting women or “life” than it is about punishment and humiliation.
Rape exceptions are the clearest example. While I agree that forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy that is the result of rape is an even further assault on women’s bodily integrity, the foundation of a rape exception is that some women “deserve” abortions and some don’t. The underlying message is pretty clear—a woman who has been forced to have sex has done nothing wrong, a woman who had consensual sex has. (Bill Napoli’s now-infamous example of a “sodomized virgin” comes to mind.”)
Other restrictions and attempted limits on abortion access prove just as transparent. In 2007, for example, legislators in Ohio pushed a bill that would have mandated women get a written not from the father of the fetus before being able to obtain an abortion. If they didn’t know who the father was, they would not be allowed to access the procedure. This is about humiliating women and making the decision to have an abortion as difficult as possible.
A report from the Center for Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Rights Violations as Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: A Critical Human Rights Analysis, points out that degrading treatment is defined as an act “aimed at humiliating the victim, regardless of whether severe pain was inﬂicted.” Anti-choice legislation seems to be written with that exact goal in mind.
Ultrasound laws—frequently called women’s “right to know” laws—are pushed under the guise of making sure women fully understand what they’re about to do. As if women are so stupid that they don’t realize what getting an abortion is. One Rhode Island doctor said a bill mandating ultrasounds before abortions “turned the ultrasound into a torture machine.” And for women whose wanted pregnancies are ending, these laws are beyond cruel. One woman in Texas who was forced to have three sonograms in one day and listen to a doctor describe her doomed fetus in detail called the experience a “superfluous layer of torment” and recalled sobbing throughout the procedure.
Can anyone really argue that Savita Halappanavar was not tortured in Ireland? Despite excruciating pain and the fact that her pregnancy was ending, Savita was denied an abortion because doctors wanted to wait for her fetus’s heartbeat to stop. She died in pain asking for help. It’s the same fate Republicans would have for American women—don’t forget the ironically named “Protect Life Act” that would have allowed hospitals to deny dying women life-saving abortions.
Americans are catching on. The majority of people in the U.S. consider themselves “pro-choice,” and though most support some sort of limits on access, many are wary of punitive legislation like ultrasound laws and laws that allow health care providers or pharmacists to deny procedures or medications. And the more people find out what these restrictions are really about—as they did with ultrasound mandates thanks to media and social media—the more likely, I believe, they’ll be to oppose them.
So perhaps there is progress being made. But the fight won’t end until all women—whether they’re in North Dakota, Ireland or anywhere else—can access abortion without shame, fear, humiliation or government interference. Anything else is cruel—and yes, torture.
By: Jessica Valenti, The Nation, April 3, 2013
In a Wall Street Journal oped last month, Mitt Romney laid out “how I’ll respond to a China’s rising power” and criticized the Obama administration’s handling of relations with Beijing. Romney warns of a China as a regional hegemon:
The character of the Chinese government — one that marries aspects of the free market with suppression of political and personal freedom — would become a widespread and disquieting norm.
In the op-ed, the former Massachusetts governor also criticized Obama for failing to press Beijing on human rights and intellectual property violations.
While Romney is quick to criticize Beijing and the White House’s management of U.S.-China relations, an examination of the GOP frontrunner’s investments with Bain Capital — a company he co-founded and once led — suggest he has profited from Chinese surveillance of its own citizenry and from companies that have engaged in intellectual property theft.
The New York Times revealed yesterday that a Bain-run fund in which a Romney family blind trust had holdings purchased Uniview Technologies in December, a Chinese company that claims to be the biggest supplier of surveillance cameras to the Chinese government. Uniview produces “infrared antiriot” cameras and software that allow police to share images in real time and provided technology for an emergency command center in Tibet that “provides a solid foundation for the maintenance of social stability and the protection of people’s peaceful life,” according to Uniview’s Web site.
Human rights advocates say that the rapidly growing number of surveillance cameras in Chinese cities are used to intimidate political and religious activists. “There are video cameras all over our monastery, and their only purpose is to make us feel fear,” Loksag, a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Gansu Province told the Times. He said the cameras helped the authorities identify and detain nearly 200 monks who participated in a protest at his monastery in 2008.
Romney has said he has no role in Bain’s operations but a financial disclosure form filed last August showed that his wife, Ann Romney, held a $100,000 to $250,000 investment in the Bain Capital Asia Fund that purchased Uniview.
In his Wall Street Journal op-ed, Romney wrote, “In the economic arena, we must directly counter abusive Chinese practices in the areas of trade, intellectual property, and currency valuation.”
But Romney’s apparent hypocrisy between his hardline positions on China and his lucrative investment portfolio is on show once again with Bain Capital’s investment in Chinese YouTube competitor Youku. CBS Marketwatch co-founder Bill Bishop writes on his blog, Sinocism, that Romney’s talk of pressing Beijing to better enforce intellectual property rights is in direct contradiction with Bain Capital’s early investment in Youku, a “pirate’s den of copyright infringement” in the site’s early days. A Bain Capital VP now sits on the board of Youku and Youku has reportedly cracked down on copyright violating content. Its newly acquired partner, Tudou, still hosts a variety of pirated and copyright infringing videos.
But if Romney profited from Bain’s ties to Youku and Uniview Technologies, it’s worth examining how the GOP frontrunner’s tough-talk on China can happily coexist with Bain’s investments in companies that have constructed business models around Chinese human rights abuses and intellectual property theft.
By: Eli Clifton, Think Progress, March 16, 2012
Meet The Press had a very interesting cast of characters today for their round table discussion on the events occuring in Libya. Panelists included Helen Cooper, White House Correspondent for the New York Times; Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent; Michael Hayden, Former Director of the NSA and CIA; John Miklaszewski, NBC News Chief Pentagon Correspondent; and Richard Haass, President of The Council on Foreign Relations.
None of the input by these elitist panelist’s came as a surprise. In fact many of their responses were predictable. Cooper, Mitchell and Miklaszewski obviously wanted to use their airtime to promote their next story..to keep the news cycle going. That’s their job so more power to them. Hayden, as a George W. Bush appointee, surely would not suddenly have a change of heart and say anything contrary to the proven failed policies of that administration. Richard Haass, in symphony with Hayden, played his “bad cop” role to the hilt. Haass never seemed to miss a step in his criticism of the Obama administrations handling of Libya (excerpted comments):
David Gregory, the host (and I use that term lightly) of Meet The Press, Began the discussion: I want to talk, however, about how much is on the president’s plate right now. You talk about crisis management and a confluence of crisis. We’ve pulled together some cover stories from Time magazine–I want to put it up there on the screen–”Target Gaddafi.” The next one, “Hitting Home: Tripoli Under Attack.” And the next one, “Meltdown.”
MR. RICHARD HAASS: It’s a lot to manage, but also it raises the importance of an administration having its priorities. You’ve got a lot to manage with Japan, you’ve got a lot to manage with what’s going on in the broader Middle East, you’ve got a lot to manage what’s going on in the United States in terms of our economy and our deficit. So one of the real questions is why are we doing as much are we are doing in Libya? So many of your guests are talking about too little too late. Let me give you another idea, David, too much too late. In times of crisis and multiple crisis, administrations have to figure out their priorities. They got to do some triage. The–to me, the big problem is not what we haven’t done, it is what we are doing.
MR. GREGORY: Richard, you, you just have broad concerns as you, as you penned a piece in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, “The US should keep out of Libya.”
MR. HAASS: Again, our interests aren’t vital. We’re talking about 2 percent of the world’s oil. Yes, there’s a humanitarian situation on, but at the risk of seeming a bit cold, it is not a humanitarian crisis on the scale say of Rwanda. We don’t have nearly 100–a million people, innocent men, women and children whose lives are threatened. This is something much more modest. This is a civil war. In civil wars, people get killed, unfortunately. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves. This is not a humanitarian intervention, this is U.S. political, military intervention in a civil conflict which, by the way, history suggests, often prolongs the civil conflict. And, as several people have already pointed out, what is step B? Whether Gadhafi complies with what we want or whether he resists successfully, either way, we are going to be stuck with the aftermath of essentially having to take ownership of Libya with others. And just because others are willing to share in something, as so many people point out, doesn’t make it a better policy. It just means the costs are going to be distributed. But the policy itself is seriously flawed.
MR. GREGORY: The big ideas and are we getting them right?
MR. HAASS: Mike Mullen says the big idea, the biggest single national security threat facing the United States is our economy, it’s our fiscal situation. This will not make it better. Instead, we are ignoring a previous secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, someone you haven’t had on the show in awhile. We are going abroad in search of monsters to destroy. There’s any number of monsters. But is this, right now, something that’s strategically necessary and vital for the United States, given all that’s happening in places like Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, around the world, with all that we need to repair at home? The answer, I would think, is not. And that’s the big idea the administration’s missing. It’s not enough to simply want to do good around the world wherever we see bad. We’ve got to ask ourselves, where can we do good, at what cost, against what else we might have to do?
All of Haass’ comments gave me a flashback. Iran immediately came to mind. Haass, Iran..Haass, Iran. When is enough actually enough..when is enough not enough?
The answer is Mr. Haass, you’ve got a credibility problem. The following article appeared in Newsweek on January 22, 2010. It was written by none other than Richard Haass:
Enough Is Enough
Why we can no longer remain on the sidelines in the struggle for regime change in Iran.
Two schools of thought have traditionally competed to determine how America should approach the world. Realists believe we should care most about what states do beyond their borders—that influencing their foreign policy ought to be Washington’s priority. Neoconservatives often contend the opposite: they argue that what matters most is the nature of other countries, what happens inside their borders. The neocons believe this both for moral reasons and because democracies (at least mature ones) treat their neighbors better than do authoritarian regimes.
I am a card-carrying realist on the grounds that ousting regimes and replacing them with something better is easier said than done. I also believe that Washington, in most cases, doesn’t have the luxury of trying. The United States must, for example, work with undemocratic China to rein in North Korea and with autocratic Russia to reduce each side’s nuclear arsenal. This debate is anything but academic. It’s at the core of what is likely to be the most compelling international story of 2010: Iran.
In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration judged incorrectly that Iran was on the verge of revolution and decided that dealing directly with Tehran would provide a lifeline to an evil government soon to be swept away by history’s tide. A valuable opportunity to limit Iran’s nuclear program may have been lost as a result. The incoming Obama administration reversed this approach and expressed a willingness to talk to Iran without preconditions. This president (like George H.W. Bush, whose emissaries met with Chinese leaders soon after Tiananmen Square) is cut more from the realist cloth. Diplomacy and negotiations are seen not as favors to bestow but as tools to employ. The other options—using military force against Iranian nuclear facilities or living with an Iranian nuclear bomb—were judged to be tremendously unattractive. And if diplomacy failed, Obama reasoned, it would be easier to build domestic and international support for more robust sanctions. At the time, I agreed with him.
I’ve changed my mind. The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.
The authorities overreached in their blatant manipulation of last June’s presidential election, and then made matters worse by brutally repressing those who protested. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has lost much of his legitimacy, as has the “elected” president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The opposition Green Movement has grown larger and stronger than many predicted.
The United States, European governments, and others should shift their Iran policy toward increasing the prospects for political change. Leaders should speak out for the Iranian people and their rights. President Obama did this on Dec. 28 after several protesters were killed on the Shia holy day of Ashura, and he should do so again. So should congressional and world leaders. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards should be singled out for sanctions. Lists of their extensive financial holdings can be published on the Internet. The United States should press the European Union and others not to trade or provide financing to selected entities controlled by the Guards. Just to cite one example: the Revolutionary Guards now own a majority share of Iran’s principal telecommunications firm; no company should furnish it the technology to deny or monitor Internet use.
New funding for the project housed at Yale University that documents human-rights abuses in Iran is warranted. If the U.S. government won’t reverse its decision not to provide the money, then a foundation or wealthy individuals should step in. Such a registry might deter some members of the Guards or the million-strong Basij militia it controls from attacking or torturing members of the opposition. And even if not, the gesture will signal to Iranians that the world is taking note of their struggle.
It is essential to bolster what people in Iran know. Outsiders can help to provide access to the Internet, the medium that may be the most important means for getting information into Iran and facilitating communication among the opposition. The opposition also needs financial support from the Iranian diaspora so that dissidents can stay politically active once they have lost their jobs.
Just as important as what to do is what to avoid. Congressmen and senior administration figures should avoid meeting with the regime. Any and all help for Iran’s opposition should be nonviolent. Iran’s opposition should be supported by Western governments, not led. In this vein, outsiders should refrain from articulating specific political objectives other than support for democracy and an end to violence and unlawful detention. Sanctions on Iran’s gasoline imports and refining, currently being debated in Congress, should be pursued at the United Nations so international focus does not switch from the illegality of Iran’s behavior to the legality of unilateral American sanctions. Working-level negotiations on the nuclear question should continue. But if there is an unexpected breakthrough, Iran’s reward should be limited. Full normalization of relations should be linked to meaningful reform of Iran’s politics and an end to Tehran’s support of terrorism.
Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.
Which is it Mr. Haass…Is the humanitarian crisis in Libya too small or is there just too little oil? Are you a realist or just another political hack?
By: raemd95: Excerpts are quotes from Meet The Press, March 20, 2011; Enough is Enough: By Richard N. Haass, originally published in Newsweek, January 22, 2010
The senator gives a stunning rant against energy efficiency — and reproductive choice
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we are up against. In a diatribe as bizarre and petulant as anything out of Charlie Sheen’s or any recent star of “The Bachelor’s” mouth, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul went on a tear Thursday about how abortion is somehow interfering with his God-given right to incandescent light bulbs. Clearly, there wasn’t one illuminating over his head when he started down the crazy path.
On Friday, Irin Carmon at Jezebel beautifully drilled down the essence of the rant — that “Rand Paul Thinks His Toilet Is More Important Than Your Abortion Rights.” In a mind-boggling display of foot stamping during an energy hearing, Paul asked deputy assistant energy secretary for efficiency Kathleen Hogan if she was “pro-choice,” leading the visibly puzzled Hogan to reply she’s pro-choice on light bulbs. Rand then launched into full cri de coeur mode, comparing the choice of abortion to being “anti-choice on every other consumer item, including light bulbs, refrigerators, toilets. You can’t go around your house without being told what to buy. You restrict my purchases. You don’t care about my choices.” Boo hoo hoooooo!
Who knew that reproductive choice was a consumer purchase? Who knew you could run out to Best Buy and pick up one of them late-term abortion thingies with an Energy Star rating? Paul then went on to overshare that “My toilets don’t work in my house. And I blame you and people like you.” We get it — Rand Paul has a fiber diet and a low flush toilet. “I can’t find a toilet that works!” he blurted angrily again later. So if you’re a pregnant teenage rape victim, maybe you should start thinking about how Rand Paul is suffering to get a little perspective.
Much of Paul’s speech doesn’t even make sense: If he’s so ticked about some perceived limitation of his “choice,” why does his Web page insist “I believe in a Human Life Amendment and a Life at Conception Act as federal solutions to the abortion issue.” You don’t like government regulation? The government regulates abortion. Where’s your free market now, Paul?
The whole piece is a truly remarkable piece of irony-rich rantitude, sure to be included in the next volume of Now That’s What I Call False Equivalencies and White Male Solipism! Paul said he finds it “troubling, this busybody nature that you want to come into my house — my bedroom, my bathroom …” But a woman’s womb, hey, that’s up for grabs.
Yet when he kvetched to Hogan that “I find it insulting … appalling and hypocritical,” it was clear the parallels to how he feels and the sentiments of many of us on the side of reproductive freedom are stunningly similar. Just because Rand Paul has problems with his plumbing, it’s astonishing that he believes he has the right to meddle in ours. But when he declared, “You busybodies are always trying to tell us how we can live our lives better — keep it to yourselves,” I had to admit, Rand Paul, you dismissive, whiny jerk, that I could not agree more.
By: Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, March 11, 2011