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“Not Just An Abstract Idea”: Want To Make Buying Guns Hard? Make It As Tough As Getting An Abortion

It’s not just an abstract idea. It’s a bill going through the state house in Missouri. Mandatory evaluations. Mandatory talks with local leaders. Mandatory accountability. One state rep wants it to happen—and soon.

Hours before shots rang out in San Bernardino, California, leaving 14 dead and 21 injured, Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman introduced a bill with a simple premise:

What if the process to buy guns in America was as difficult as the one to get an abortion?

A flight crew member turned political consultant, Newman was inspired to run for office after watching her daughter Sophie, then 6, talk about guns and kids on The Rosie O’Donnell Show. After founding a statewide political action committee called Harriet’s List, she was elected to office in 2009, where she’s built a reputation of being tough on firearms.

Her Twitter bio, beneath a pink StandWithPP picture, describes her as: “wife, Mom, Nana, obsessive about reproductive justice, voters rights, women’s rights, equality & of course—gun violence prevention.”

Her bill, first reported on by St. Louis Magazine, isn’t modeled after the general restrictions to getting an abortion in America, but her state’s specifically. Missouri has some of the toughest in the nation. Missouri is one of just a few states operating with fewer than five abortion clinics, and one of four that enforces a 72-hour waiting period.

Beyond the difficulty of getting an abortion in Missouri, Newman’s bill was likely inspired by the level of firearm violence in her state. In 2010 Missouri’s rate of homicide, 5.6 per 100,000 people, was 56 percent higher than the national average—making it the fourth-highest in the nation. Gun deaths in the state have surpassed motor vehicle fatalities since 2013.

When The Daily Beast asked Newman for the impetus behind the bill, she replied, “utter frustration.”

“We were at our wit’s end,” she said. After spending 15 years arguing against guns the traditional way, she decided to get creative.

This bill, she knows, will never get a hearing, much less approved. That’s not the point.

“I’m on the defense team, I understand that,” she said. “A lot of my job is getting the word out there.”

Using an unconventional bill to raise awareness for an issue is a move she’s tried before. In 2012, she introduced a bill that would prohibit men from getting vasectomies unless the procedure was meant to prevent serious injury or death.

After the story gained traction this year, Newman decided to try the radical method again—this time using an issue for which conservatives have an “endless appetite”: abortion access.

There is only one abortion clinic in the entire state. There are at least 3,000 places to buy guns. But what if those numbers were reversed? From attending the funeral of a gun victim under 18, to watching videos of fatal firearm injuries, here is what it would look like if buying a gun in Missouri was as difficult as getting an abortion.

Prior to any firearm purchase in this state, a prospective firearm shall:

— Confer and discuss with a licensed physician the indicators and contraindicators and risk factors, including any physical, psychological, or situational factors, that may arise with the proposed firearm purchase at a firearm dealer located at least 120 miles from the purchaser’s legal residence.

— Submit to an evaluation for the physician to search the individual for indicators and contraindicators and risk factors and determine if such firearm purchase would increase the purchaser’s risk of experiencing an adverse physical, emotional, or other health reaction.

— Listen to oral statement regarding the risks associated with the purchase as well as read and sign a written statement that includes the following:

1. The name and license number of the licensed firearm dealer.

2.  The immediate and long-term medical risks associated with firearms, along with medical descriptions and photographs of fatal firearm injuries, as collected by emergency pediatric medical professionals, law enforcement, and prosecutors’ offices.

3.   Alternatives to purchasing a firearm, which shall include materials about peaceful and nonviolent conflict resolution.

4.    A statement that the dealer is available to answer any questions concerning the purchase of a firearm, together with the telephone number of the dealer that the dealer may be reached to answer any questions the purchaser may have.

5.    The prospective firearm purchaser shall obtain written consent of his or her parents in order to qualify for the purchase of any firearm.

— Watch a 30-minute video on fatal firearm injuries, as collected by urban medical professionals, law enforcement, and local prosecutors, and verify in writing he or she viewed the entire video in the presence of a licensed firearm dealer.

— Verify in writing by a licensed physician that the purchaser has toured an emergency trauma center in the nearest qualified urban hospital on a weekend between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. when gun violence victims are present.

— Within 72 hours of a firearm purchase, the prospective firearm purchaser meet with at least two families who have been victims of violence involving a firearm and two local faith leaders who have officiated, within the past year, a funeral of a victim of violence involving a firearm who was under the age of eighteen.

Perhaps if these measures were in place, Newman suggests, some of the more than 32,000 people who die from gun violence in the U.S. each year would be saved. It’s a sentiment echoed eloquently in a now-viral Facebook post by Brian Murtagh, who suggested (like Newman) that we treat young men who want to buy guns the same as we treat women who want an abortion.

“Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun,” he writes. “It makes more sense to do this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right? I mean, no woman getting an abortion has killed a room full of people in seconds, right?”

With 20 to 30 abortion bills filed each year, Newman wants to capitalize on the momentum. Mirroring the restrictions for abortion access, she says, allowed her to show the “ridiculousness” of both the pro-gun lobby and the pro-life one.

“If this is one way that I can influence a voter to keep this their number one issue, then it’s something,” she said. “It’s something.”

Correction 12/4/15 3:45 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated that Missouri had two abortion clinics. It has one.

 

By: Abby Haglage, The Daily Beast, December 4, 2015

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Access for Abortions, Gun Deaths, Gun Violence, Women's Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ted Cruz Tackles ‘The Condom Police'”: He’s Never Met “Any Conservative Who Wants To Ban Contraceptives”

Ted Cruz doesn’t usually stray too much from his usual campaign stump speech at various events, but last night in Iowa, NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard reported that the Texas Republican was asked about his position “on making contraception available for women.” Cruz seized the opportunity to share some unexpected rhetoric, calling the controversy surrounding Republicans and birth control “an utterly made-up nonsense issue.”

“Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America,” Cruz exasperatingly said to the rather boisterous crowd. “Like look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom. You put 50 cents in – and voila!”

Cruz added that he expects Hillary Clinton to run against “the condom police” in order to “try to scare a bunch of folks that are not paying a lot of attention into thinking someone’s going to steal their birth control.”

And if there were only one form of birth control available to American consumers, Cruz would almost have a credible point. At the Iowa event, the senator said he’s never met “any conservative who wants to ban contraceptives” – Cruz might want to chat with Rick Santorum – but the Texan’s focus was exclusively on condoms.

Cruz is right that there is no “rubber shortage.” What he’s wrong about is, well, literally everything else.

Part of the problem is that Republicans sometimes seem surprised by descriptions of their own policies. In one of my favorite moments of the 2012 debates, President Obama argued “employers shouldn’t be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage. That’s not the kind of advocacy that women need.”

Mitt Romney scoffed at the very idea, responding, “I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”

Romney seemed repulsed by Obama’s description of Romney’s own position, but the truth of the matter was that both the Republican nominee and his running mate endorsed a policy that would leave contraception decisions for millions of workers in the hands of employers.

Cruz’s posture is similar, in that he seems baffled by Democratic rhetoric. If condoms are readily available, and there’s no meaningful effort to restrict their sales, why in the world are Democrats always running around complaining about a “war on women” and Republican hostility towards contraception?

The answer, of course, is that there are other forms of contraception, and women’s access to them would be curtailed by the GOP agenda.

Cruz really ought to know this. He not only personally voted against a measure to protect workers’ access to contraception, regardless of possible objections from their employers, but Cruz has also argued that he considers birth-control pills “abortifacients.”

What’s more, the Texas senator has endorsed a “Personhood” policy, which would have the practical effect of banning common forms of birth control.

In other words, Cruz would have voters believe that the entire issue is “nonsense” because Republicans aren’t actively trying to limit access to condoms, which necessarily means, in his mind, that there is no “war on women.” But the GOP senator is inadvertently proving his critics’ point with a myopic understanding of what contraception even is.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 1, 2015

December 3, 2015 Posted by | Birth Control, Reproductive Choice, Ted Cruz, Women's Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“New ‘Select Committee’ On Planned Parenthood”: Where Do GOP Investigations Of Planned Parenthood Go Now?

The shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday was a vivid reminder that the organization isn’t just a political lightning rod for conservatives who oppose abortion rights. It’s also under constant threat of harassment and violence from radical anti-abortion advocates, ranging from hate mail and vandalism all the way up to arson, bombings, and in a few cases, the murder of clinic staff or patients.

The Colorado attack comes at a time when the Republican Congress is trying to figure out new ways to go after the group. So where will those efforts go now?

At the moment, we don’t have direct confirmation that Robert Dear, the alleged killer, was motivated by objections to abortion. What we do know is that, according to anonymous law enforcement sources, he said “no more baby parts” to officials, which would be a clear reference to the “sting” videos created by an anti-abortion group showing Planned Parenthood personnel discussing the transfer of fetal tissue to researchers. (Though many have charged that the videos show Planned Parenthood “selling baby parts,” that is not in fact true. The organization only accepts small reimbursements on the order of $50 or so to cover their costs when making these transfers, and the videos don’t show them doing anything different.)

In any case, the important context to understand is that Planned Parenthood has almost never not been under attack, both from violent extremists and from Republicans in Congress who would like to see the organization disappear, or at least deprive it of the Medicaid reimbursements it gets for things like pap smears and cancer screenings (no government money can go to fund abortions). The nature and intensity of that assault ebbs and flows, but a confluence of events has caused the attack in Colorado Springs to get even more attention than it otherwise would have.

After those videos were released, Republican presidential candidates began condemning Planned Parenthood in unusually vituperative terms, accusing the group of murder and all manner of other crimes. Their colleagues in Congress saw an opportunity to renew what had been a sporadic attack on the group, so they mounted multiple investigations in an attempt to find something they could use as a justification for cutting off the group’s Medicaid reimbursements. When the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s lengthy grilling of Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards not only didn’t prove any wrongdoing but made the Republicans on the committee look foolish, outgoing Speaker John Boehner announced the creation of a Benghazi-style committee to investigate the organization.

The idea, as it seems to be in most congressional investigations Republicans launch, is that while they don’t really know what they’re looking for, if they look hard enough then they’ll find something that can be used against Planned Parenthood. And it’s possible they will, though there isn’t actually much reason to think so. If they do find something that sounds problematic, it will suddenly become the one aspect of the abortion issue Republicans care about above all others.

Don’t forget that before those videos came out and Republicans decided that “selling baby parts!” was a handy tool that could be used to bludgeon the group, they weren’t crusading to end fetal tissue research. Some of them even supported it; notably, Mitch McConnell voted for the law that allowed such research to take place. They’ve shown no interest in any new law changing the regulations covering how that research is conducted. If any of the presidential candidates who were in such high dudgeon over the videos have a plan to outlaw fetal tissue research, I haven’t heard about it.

The truth is that Republicans don’t despise Planned Parenthood because they genuinely believe the organization is breaking the law. They despise it because they despise abortion rights, and also because Planned Parenthood’s political activities support Democrats. It’s not complicated.

And now we have a situation where the Colorado murders help establish a context in which further “investigations” of Planned Parenthood in Congress will take place. Will the group’s advocates bring up those murders again and again, arguing that clinic violence and congressional harassment are all parts of the same animal? You bet they will. That won’t change Republicans’ desire to go after Planned Parenthood, but it might make them a little hesitant about doing so, at least until memories have a chance to fade.

The Benghazi committee has been going for a year and a half, and shows no sign of ever wrapping up its work so long as there’s some miniscule chance it might find something incriminating on Hillary Clinton. So Republicans might just make their select committee on Planned Parenthood semi-permanent, even if they put it on the back burner for a while.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, November 30, 2015

December 2, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Conservatives, GOP, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“ACA Plays ‘Remarkable’ Role In Cancer Detection”: A Striking Picture Of Increased Early-Stage Diagnoses Among Young Women

As the Affordable Care Act has taken root, there’s been quite a bit of anecdotal evidence pointing to people whose lives were saved – quite literally – by the law’s existence. But at this point, we’re also able to measure the ACA’s efficacy beyond just the anecdotes.

The New York Times reported on a substantial increase in the number of young women who’ve been diagnosed with early-stage cervical cancer, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a mystery to explain the trend. Because “Obamacare” covers young adults before their 26th birthday, the percentage of uninsured 19- to 25-year-olds has plummeted.

You can probably guess what that means: more young women are able to see a doctor, more doctors are able to do cancer screenings, and more exams are detecting cancer at early stages. From the Times’ report:

Researchers from the American Cancer Society wanted to examine whether the expansion of health insurance among young American women was leading to more early-stage diagnoses. Early diagnosis improves the prospects for survival because treatment is more effective and the chance of remission is higher. It also bolsters women’s chances for preserving their fertility during treatment. And women with health insurance are far more likely to get a screening that can identify cancer early.

Researchers used the National Cancer Data Base, a hospital-based registry of about 70 percent of all cancer cases in the United States. They compared diagnoses for women ages 21 to 25 who had cervical cancer with those for women ages 26 to 34, before and after the health law provision began in 2010.

The results painted a striking picture of increased early-stage diagnoses among the younger group, with no meaningful change in the older group.

One of the researchers, Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, said the effect of the Affordable Care Act is hard to miss, leading to results he described as “very remarkable.”

For the ACA’s proponents, it’s additional evidence to suggest the law is literally a life-saver, and for the ACA’s opponents, it’s another challenge in explaining why the law must be destroyed in its entirety, regardless of the consequences.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 25, 2015

November 28, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Cancer Screenings, Obamacare, Women's Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Whose Positions Are ‘Extreme”?: Marco Rubio, ‘A Woman Has A Right To Choose’, But Not Really

A few years ago, shortly before Election Day 2014, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) realized he was struggling with women voters and he worried about whether the gender gap would derail his campaign. Walker responded with a TV ad in which, in the context of the abortion debate, the governor defended leaving these decisions “to a woman and her doctor.”

Substantively, the rhetoric was ridiculous – it reflected the exact opposite of Walker’s policy agenda – but the Republican candidate saw value in trying to use his rivals’ phrasing to make his own far-right policies sound more mainstream.

BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski reported the other day on a similar tactic adopted by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“Again, terrible tragedy what happened in Oregon, but you’re right, every single year unborn in this country are killed legally, through laws that allow that to happen,” Rubio said when radio host Glenn Beck asked him to respond to Hillary Clinton’s comments on the Oregon shooting, which Beck used to pivot to the issue of abortion.

“Look, I recognize this is tough issue and I actually do believe that a woman has a right to choose with her body,” he added. “The problem is that when there’s a pregnancy, there’s another life involved and that life has a right to live. And so, as policymakers we have to choose between two competing rights, and I’ve chosen as a matter of principle to choose life in that debate.”

First, it’s a lingering mystery why we still see competitive candidates for the nation’s highest office associating themselves with Glenn Beck, chatting about who they see as radical, without appreciating the irony.

Second, it’s jarring for Rubio, who’s been a consistent far-right voice on issues such as abortion and contraception access, boast that he “actually” does “believe that a woman has a right to choose with her body” – though he’s comfortable pursuing an agenda to curtail and restrict that right.

The Florida senator added that Hillary Clinton “has extreme positions” when it comes to reproductive rights.

Rubio has argued more than once in recent months that if a woman is impregnated by a rapist, the government has the authority to force her to take the pregnancy to term, regardless of her wishes.

How eager is he, exactly, for a debate about whose positions are “extreme”?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 12, 2015

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Marco Rubio, Women Voters, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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