Two very different Alabama residents received attention in national publications recently. Helen Rivas was honored by the Americas Quarterly as a "Hero of Social Inclusion" for her work on immigration. State Senator Clay Scofield got a derisive mention in USA Today in a column co-written by the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Attitudes in the United States toward immigrants run in cycles. Right now, we are at a shamefully low point, where a few who speak of patriotism and love of country, of the rule of law and of our country’s founding principles, and of family values, have fallen prey to the cockamamie idea that some people do not deserve to be seen as fellow human beings and are not entitled to rights under the U.S. Constitution.
That must change. I am confident that we, as Alabamians and as a nation, will eventually beat back horrible laws such as HB 56, whether by changing hearts and minds or by political and legal action.
Meanwhile, another stupid Alabama law was also in the news a few weeks ago. Writing in USA Today, two physicians ask the question "Where Are the Doctors?" in relation to increasing restrictions on birth control & abortion:
Nine states require doctors to perform ultrasound examinations on women seeking an abortion, and to encourage women to view the images. (This requirement was justified by Alabama Sen. Clay Scofield in his deeply patronizing comment, "This bill just allows them to see the child inside of them, so it's not just out of sight, out of mind.") Three of these states also require women to listen to a description of the fetus. [...] The unspoken assumption by state legislators seems to be that doctors will, of course, acquiesce with these new laws, that they are simply neutral agents who will comply with whatever the state orders. Physicians, however, have ethical commitments to patients that they cannot and should not be required by state law to set aside.
Obviously, the authors have missed the writings & the leadership on this and other issues by our own Dr. Abston!
Congratulations to Helen Rivas. We need more people like her (and Dr. Abston) who are willing to speak out and work to help make our state a place people admire instead of a state that regularly provides fodder for comedians.
Alabama has done the national laughingstock bit for too long. It's time to aim for something better...
(It's just awesome to see so many younger people getting interested & involved in the state. Yaaay! - promoted by countrycat)
As one of the more senior student-politicos in Alabama a lot of people ask me whether or not I get excited at the unique opportunities to meet local, state, and national Democratic leaders. The truth is that what really gets me energized is when I watch other people my own age, "get into the fight."
One such example was when a friend of mine, a bright student and hopefully future Civil Liberties attorney, Charlotte Lawson came to me asking for contact information for Senator Phil Williams (R-Gadsden) because she knew I was a constituent of his. I provided the information and was so impressed with her letter that I asked her to share it with you all.
Her passion on the subject as well as leadership also helped form an Anti-SB5 and general Women's Rights Rally that will take place on campus at the University of Alabama at the 'Crimson Promenade' on March 27th from 12pm-2pm. Ya'll come.
Governor Bentley just announced massive cuts in the state's general fund because of a $188 million shortfall ... and what are Alabama Legislators working on? No fewer than 13 bills attacking women's rights. Why are they wasting time instead of doing the real work we sent them to Montgomery for?
"Alabama, STOP the War on Women's Rights" Rally
Sunday, March 18, 2:00 - 5:00 Big Spring Park, Huntsville, Alabama
Twenty speakers, including:
AL Democrats Chairman Judge Mark Kennedy
Dr. Pippa Abston
LaShon White-Menefee, Public Policy Manager for Planned Parenthood Southeast
Music will be provided by area volunteers.
For more information contact: Pamela Watters - firstname.lastname@example.org / 256-655-3732
Some newspapers have declined to publish this week's Doonesbury comic strips due to their subject matter: abortion & transvaginal ultrasounds. If you wondering why something that's been all over TV and print media for weeks is suddenly verboten... well, join the club.
A number of papers across the country have announced they'll run Doonesbury "flashbacks" (previous strips) intead. Read today's strip online. Here's the synopsis:
Young woman arrives for her pre-termination sonogram, is told to take a seat in the shaming room, a middle-aged male state legislator will be right with her.
Wondering how Alabama newspapers will handle this one.
Alabama State Senator Bill Holtzclaw shut down comments on his blog last summer after people pointed out that he was wrong about meeting held in Huntsville pertaining to the anti-immigration bill he sponsored. Now, he's wrong on his Facebook page about the anti-woman bills pending in the legislature.
Memo to Senator Holtzclaw: when you got elected, you put your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution - not the other way around. h/t to Jamie Raskin!
Add him to the ranks of the clueless.. lest Shadrack McGill get lonely. Good Heavens, this issue is so obvious that if Holtzclaw is confused, you have to wonder if he can dress himself:
Some of those people "lucky" enough to be be "friends" on Facebook with Senator Holtzclaw - he doesn't seem to be accepting any more right now - pointed out that there's a lot more involved in being "pro-child" and "pro-family" than outlawing abortion and banning birth control.
WTF??? After kids are born, they need food, clothing, shelter... and education. Is Holtclaw planning to lead the fight in the Alabama Senate against HB159 & 160? Those allow employers to withhold their employees' state income tax payments (otherwise destined for education) and put them in their own bank accounts intead. Some House Democrats supported it: will Holtzclaw make a fuss?
Concerned Alabama men & women from around the state held the Alabama version of a "Rally for Sanity" yesterday. Over 100 people gathered for a rally to oppose SB12 specifically and any legislation that restricts a woman's right to make her own health care decisions. The crowd's feelings on this subject are pretty much covered by this sign:
We weren't alone - there were protests in Texas, Idaho, and Arizona. Women (and men) are fed up with a GOP agenda that focuses on birth control and vaginas instead of jobs.
Alabama legislators & others spoke to a cheering crowd of men & women gathered in Montgomery today to protest the legislature's pending package of anti-choice bills. Senator Roger Smitherman (D) reminded the crowd: "y'all didn't have to come down here for the 10 years that I was committee chair!" Other speakers included state senators Billy Beasley (D), Priscilla Dunn (D), Linda Coleman (D) and Tammy Irons (D), and Alabama Democrats Chair Mark Kennedy (who spoke on the record and on camera!).
The legislators were thrilled to have our support, as they've been fighting a lonely battle against GOP excesses. JoAnn Cummings of Decatur described a trip to Montgomery last week when her group ran into Senator Linda Coleman: "She thanked us profusely, hugged us, and thanked us for taking the time to support her on the issue."
As Daddycat and I left for Montgomery this morning, I reflected that the very first time I visited Montgomery to lobby against anti-choice bills was in 1983. Here it is 2012 and we're still having to fight these battles over and over and over.
I'll have great video up in the next few days. I'm typing this in the car on the way home though & wanted to offer a quick report. Photos of the rally are on the flip.
SB12 OPPOSITION RALLY Thursday, March 8, 2012 11:00am until 2:00pm
Be sure to visit your state representative and state senator while you're there!
Although Sen. Scofield has temporarily backed down on SB12, he believes he can just change a few words and make it viable again. Dr. Abston very eloquently explains the reasons Scofield's forced ultrasound bill, or any other forced ultrasound bill, should be withdrawn.
Greg Reed, the Chair of the Senate Health Committee, gained national attention when it was pointed out that he was the vice-president of a company that sells ultrasound equipment. Reed answered in an interview with Walker County's newspaper (the Daily Mountain Eagle), stating that it was a long-standing company policy to not do business with abortion clinics. The truth is, Mr. Reed's company has at least attempted to do business with an abortion clinic as recent as October 2011. On October 26, 2011, Kirk McGuire (the president of Preferred Medical Systems), sent a quote (pdf) to Diane Derzis (the operator of several abortion clinics). One would think that Mr. McGuire, who has been in the ultrasound business since 1990, would be very familiar with Ms. Derzis.
Mr. Reed can spin this issue all he wants but the proof is in the quote.
Here's a snippet of the quote. You can download the entire document in PDF format at the link above:
SB12 OPPOSITION RALLY Thursday, March 8, 2012 11:00am until 2:00pm
This is a rally for Alabama voters to show Sen. Scofield that we will not be appeased by amendments or a substitution to SB12. It must be withdrawn. It is also our message to all Alabama legislators that our votes will not go to anyone who supports this bill or any similar bill seeking to interfere with women's healthcare, an issue that should be left up to the woman and her physician.
Bills seeking to limit women's rights should not be up for consideration, debate, or vote.
If your 12 year old daughter or granddaughter or niece is raped and becomes pregnant in Alabama, what are her options under Sen. Clay Scofield's (R, Female Business) bill, SB12? What would your options be as her parent or guardian?
A) Submit to a second violation -- this one by the state -- likely with a transvaginal ultrasound probe before a physician can legally perform an abortion,
B) Carry her rapist's offspring to term and give birth, or
C) Pray for a miscarriage.
That's it. Sen. Scofield's bill defines "woman" as "a female human being whether or not she has reached the age of majority."
In other words, any female, no matter if she is only a child herself, will be subjected to Scofield's unnecessary medical procedure and -- even if she averts her eyes from the images -- will be forced to listen to the doctor's narration of the ultrasound, describing the presence and location of the fetus with dimensions, internal organs and external limbs. What effect will that have on a child who is pregnant as a result of rape? Is that how we treat our children in Alabama?
And make no mistake, this is not an impossible or unlikely scenario I'm describing. Girls as young as 12 give birth in Alabama just about every year. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the youngest mother in 2010 was 12; likewise in 2006 and 2009. In 2007 the youngest mother was 11 and in 2008 the youngest female to give birth in Alabama was 10 years old. Can you imagine subjecting a 10 year old -- who has already been traumatized by rape -- to this procedure?
The child has already been raped once and ideologues like Sen. Scofield want the state to rape her again with an ultrasound probe -- complete with narration! -- before she can legally consent to an abortion or recieve any medication? What are they thinking?
Senator Scofield's bill contains no exceptions for victims of rape or incest or for children. He may not be as heartless as this bill makes him appear, but he obviously hasn't taken the trouble to inform himself on this issue before trying to write legislation and he doesn't understand the implications of his bill.
There is an SB12 copycat bill in the Alabama House, HB418. It includes the very same language and is now before the Health Committee. It has not one, but seventeen Republican sponsors, all of whom are apparently as uninformed and misguided as Clay Scofield. They are:
If you are represented by one of these Republicans, please take steps to educate them about the bill they are sponsoring and ask them to drop it. And everyone who is disgusted by this legislative focus on invading a woman's body instead of on Alabama's very real budget problems and struggling economy should contact members of the House Health Committee and ask them to let HB418 die.
WAAY-31 reporter Shea Allen tracked Sen. Clay Scofield down yesterday to talk about his transvaginal ultrasound bill, SB12. First go vote in the poll at that link (bottom of page) then come back and watch Scofield squirm for the full 11 minute interview, uncut.
Note that Scofield makes the point that if he takes out the transvaginal requirement the only difference between his bill and current Alabama law is that his would force doctors to not only perform the ultrasound BUT ALSO to show women the ultrasound image. He very magnanimously stops short of forcing the woman to look at the image, saying "she can avert her eyes, if she chooses."
Ms. Allen also asks Scofield what was up with taking down his facebook page (feared for his safety) and why he wants to modify his bill now. He claims he didn't realize there were concerns until now, even though he introduced the same bill last year. That's like admitting "I just put my name on these bills, I have no idea what they'll actually do."
I really wish Ms. Allen had asked Scofield where he got the text of his bill originally, because it's dollars to donuts he didn't write it himself. Is SB12 another piece of ALEClegislative spam, or did he get it from some anti-abortion think tank?
Crawfishing is a polite term for what Scofield is doing. Far from "always intending" to let Alabama women and girls choose the type of ultrasound they'd have to endure, he deliberately and clearly wrote his law to insist that the state make the choice, requiring doctors to use:
"a vaginal transducer or abdominal transducer, whichever would display the embryo or fetus more clearly"
No choice there, just criminal penalties for any doctor who disobeys. So Scofield was against (fake) choice before he was for it? Something like that.
Actually Schofield, a 32 year old poultry farmer who wants to impose his medical judgment over that of, you know, actual medical doctors for every female in the state of Alabama, just got his head reshaped by the Governor.
This evening Rachel Maddow reported that her staff contacted Gov. Bentley's office today to ask if they had been in contact with Sen. Scofield (remember, Bentley got ambushed by a reporter over SB12 just yesterday) and were told that, yes indeedy, the Governor had made his views known to Scofield. Presto, Scofield is now crawfishing around, looking for a way to save face. Watch him mealymouth and squirm on the WAAY video at this link.
Scofield's proposed change makes his bill slightly less incendiary without making it a bit better. It still substitutes the government's medical advice for your doctor's and imposes a useless, humiliating, uncomfortable and expensive procedure on women. If more Alabama legislators had vaginas, trash laws like this one would never see the light of day.
“I do not sell ultrasound equipment in my business to clinics that are abortion clinics,” he said recently. According to campaign information, Preferred Medical Systems sells diagnostic medical equipment in five states.
How stupid does he think we are? Of course SB12 will increase the demand for equipment Reed's company sells. This bill would require a medically unnecessary (and usually invasive transvaginal) ultrasound before procedures performed in hospitals or outpatient centers, not just abortion clinics. A woman with an ectopic pregnancy or fetal death is going to end up in a hospital -- and that hospital will require more of the kind of machines Sen. Reed's company profits off of.
On top of his ridiculous claim that there's no conflict of interest, Reed's assertion that he wouldn't sell the transvaginal probes to abortion clinics is food for thought. Are he and other conservatives hoping to set up a Catch 22 situation, requiring abortion providers to use equipment suppliers will then refuse to sell them?
Back on the topic of how stupid does Sen. Reed think we are?, he obviously thinks women are extremely stupid:
... he said it’s a good bill that would help “a mother to understand that a live baby is inside her body.”
Women know what's inside their bodies. That's not the problem. Keeping the government outside our bodies and our doctors' offices is the problem.
A similar bill was on the fast track in Virginia, but has now come off the rails. How did they do it in Virginia? A few people understood what this bill really required, they communicated that knowledge very effectively, including pictures and blunt language, to members of the legislature and to the media. The bill and its supporters were widely ridiculed. Then the public began to understand. Then 1000 women silently lined the path used by Virginia legislators on the way to and from the chamber where they were voting away womens' rights. The ultrasound requirement is not completely dead in Virginia (and certainly not in Alabama) but conservatives have definitely been burned.
One Republican lawmaker got the message loud and clear, from his wife!
Since 2001, Preferred Medical Systems has had one mission: To provide a complete ultrasound solution for our customers. We are the exclusive authorized distributor of SAMSUNG MEDISON Ultrasound products in the southeastern United States.“Additionally we are one of the nation’s leading sellers of pre-owned ultrasound equipment for all major brands.”