First Amendment Rights

June 26, 2022

Hey, SCOTUS!

You just imposed the religious will of a small group of Fundamentalist Christians onto our entire nation.

Did you not know the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that everyone in the United States has the right to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all?

The Supreme Court of the United States is currently embroiled in one of the most divisive cases of the 21st century.

I offer some comments to them.

REF:    Docket No. 19-1392:  Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Honorable Justices:

I’m a retired man of European ancestry who has enjoyed a great life in America. I was raised in a family which celebrated equal rights among women and men; valued the importance of education; encouraged everyone to work to their potential; and gave our neighbors an opportunity to live their lives to the fullest.

I have lived in 3 states, and I’ve always thought that one of the great benefits to all who are residents of the United States is the breadth and depth of the 10th Amendment, which strives to ensure equal rights to all U.S. residents regardless of which state they were born in, or where they currently reside.

That said, I am extremely alarmed and disappointed by recent media reports which indicate a high potential for The Court to negate the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (410 U.S. 113), in addition to reversing a subsequent and related decision from 1992 — Planned Parenthood v. Casey (505 U.S. 833).

A variety of research surveys over time have found that the majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. When religion has been included in the demographics of survey participants, the vast majority of white evangelical Protestants say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

The 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Whenever people bring their personal religious beliefs or values into any public debate, they risk imposing illegal, unwanted or restrictive religious practices and beliefs on others who have been granted the Constitutional right to pursue their own — perhaps different — beliefs.

The great majority of published public opinions opposed to open unrestricted access to comprehensive reproductive health care over the past 4 decades — including both contraception and abortion — center on personal ethical, moral or religious issues, with the loudest voices opposing open access generally emanating from a small minority of predominantly college educated white evangelical Christians, an economically privileged cohort.

Restrictions imposed on open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services have disproportionate adverse economic impact on — and directly deprive basic human rights to — young women; low-income women; and women of color. These are socially and economically disadvantaged women, frequently members of a protected class.

The longitudinal negative social and economic impacts on women who are denied access to a voluntary abortion — and to the children who are born as a result — are often devastating. The spillover of these social and economic impacts into our larger society is chilling.

I urge you to reject the religious, ethical and moral arguments embedded into the Dobbs case, and to instead codify the right of all women residents of the U.S. to unfettered access to comprehensive reproductive health care, regardless of current residency; education; economic status; age; disability; religion; national origin; pregnancy; race/color; sex, sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Sadism in Tallahassee

March 5, 2022

Elected Officials Running Amok

Today, Florida is the third most populous state in the U.S.:   21.5 Million and growing.

Florida has an elected, part-time legislature that seems to evoke the historic governance needs back when Florida had a post-WWII population of 2.5 Million.

How can it be that a particularly malignant cabal of ignorant, callous and wicked creatures was elected to state office in Florida in 2021?

Satan apparently had a mission for them:  Enact atrocious legislation to further torment Florida residents who are poor and/or downtrodden.

The Florida Legislature meets in session every year for sixty consecutive days. That’s it.

In contrast, Tennessee has a population of about 7 Million, with an elected legislature that meets for 90 session days over a two-year period.

Arkansas, with a population of 3 Million, closely mirrors the Florida model, except it has a much broader scope of representation per capita.

The Florida Legislature managed to propose and pass a number of specious bills during their 2022 Reign of Error.

One of the most egregious bills passed by the Florida Legislature in its 2022 session – known as CS/HB 5: “Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality” – is a clever ruse orchestrated by hard-core religious zealots which will primarily have adverse impact on socially and economically disadvantaged women, generally members of a protected class.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, so it seems clear he is aware of the focus Harvard Law has placed on Reproductive Rights.  Through his legal education, he has been exposed to a deep and intimate knowledge of Disparate Impact, the legal theory which helps to examine the effects of laws or practices which appear on the surface to be nondiscriminatory, but which have in practice a disproportionately negative effect on members of legally protected groups.

Certainly Gov. DeSantis is entitled to embrace his own personal values, beliefs and opinions.  But, he is not entitled to use his position as an elected official to impose his personal values on the people of Florida.

We would expect that if CS/HB 5 <or a similar bill> should come to him for approval, he would veto it.

Yet, as of this writing, media sources predict that Gov. DeSantis will sign the bill into law.

It’s no secret that open access to comprehensive reproductive rights – including birth control and abortion – has evolved into an extremely acrimonious and hostile issue across American society.

The 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”  When people bring their personal religious beliefs or values into any public debate, they risk imposing unwanted or restrictive religious practices and beliefs on others who have the right to pursue their own – but different — beliefs or practices.

I have no interest in debating religious or cultural positions on contraception or abortion.  My interest is to encourage a deep look into how and when restricting open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services becomes an economic and human rights issue. When a small group of people — highly committed to their own religious beliefs – engages in persecution of others who do not share their religious beliefs and practices, that results in a violation of the 1st amendment, each and every time.

A recent Pew Research survey found that the majority of Americans (61%) say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. When religion is included in the demographics of survey participants, 77% of white evangelical Protestants say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Recent Gallup polling found similar results.

In fact, the loudest voices opposing abortion and open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services in the U.S. seem to come from a +/- 20% minority comprised of predominantly college educated white evangelical Christians.

Yet, the vast majority of people who are adversely impacted by rules, laws or practices which restrict access to the full range of reproductive health care services are socially and economically disadvantaged women, almost always members of a protected class.

The longitudinal negative social and economic impacts on women who are denied access to a voluntary abortion — and the children who are born as a result — are devastating. The spillover of these social and economic impacts into the larger society is chilling.

I’m truly surprised that the current debate on open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services remains centered on religious grounds, when in fact, citizens of the United States have an ironclad guaranty in the U.S. Constitution to freedom from religious persecution.

The Florida bill which would severely impact the ability of women to make personal choices about their own reproductive health (known as HB5) passed its first House committee hearing on January 19, 2022, and it is now heading to new committees for further discussion.  (The companion bill in the Florida Senate is SB-146).  Among other things, the bill will place severe restrictions on women’s access to abortions in Florida.

Florida Representative Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) perhaps said it best, “This bill is terrible for all Floridians, particularly for those who are low-income, live in rural areas, or are people of color who have historically faced inequitable access to quality healthcare, or low-income people who cannot afford to travel out of state for a safe abortion. It is not the government’s place to interfere with one of the toughest decisions a person will ever make. That private decision is one of faith, healthcare, personal freedom, and protecting the emotional and physical future of women and their families. Tallahassee politicians should not be involved.”

Kudos to Rep. Driskell for speaking out clearly and eloquently on basic human rights.

HB 5 will be presented in the Florida House ‘Professions & Public Health Subcommittee’ on January 19, 2022.

This proposed bill has a very clever title.

The real purpose of the bill is to codify into Florida law, “A physician may not perform a termination of pregnancy if the physician determines the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 weeks.”

HB 5 is a direct affront on the rights of all women to make personal decisions relative to their own lives.

Whenever arbitrary restrictions are imposed on open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services, the actual outcomes have disproportionate adverse economic impact — and direct deprivation of human rights — on young women; low-income women; and women of color.

These are socially and economically disadvantaged women, almost always members of a protected class.

The great majority of published public opinions opposing open and unrestricted access to comprehensive reproductive health care over the past 4 decades – including both contraception and abortion – center on personal ethical, moral or religious values.

Nationally, the loudest voices opposing open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services come from a small minority of predominantly college educated white evangelical Christians.

When people bring their personal religious beliefs or values into any public debate, they risk imposing illegal, unwanted or restrictive religious practices and beliefs on others who have been granted the Constitutional right to pursue their own – perhaps significantly different – beliefs.

I am aware of no rational person who considers abortion to be a primary means of family planning or birth control. Abortion is a last resort, a means to be employed only when all other options have failed.

I’m hopeful that you will reach a conclusion similar to mine on this Bill:  Florida’s government should focus on supporting our residents and improving health care, not taking away their rights, especially rights that can materially impact their health, livelihoods, and futures.

I encourage you to join me in asking members of the Florida Legislature to carefully and objectively examine the broad implications of HB 5 prior to taking a position on the Bill.

Don’t Tread on Me

May 17, 2019

The late George Wallace, former Alabama Governor, was noted for his rigid and often harsh opinions which he shared freely with the rest of the world.  In his 1963 inauguration speech, Wallace proclaimed, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

In response to what he felt was federal government overreach in its attempt to desegregate the University of Alabama, Wallace said, “The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted, and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the central government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of this state by officers of the federal government.”

Or, slightly modified to address current events, “The unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted, and force-induced intrusion upon the reproductive rights of women across the State of Alabama today of the might of the state government offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges and sovereignty of individual citizens by elected officials of the state government.”

It’s one thing to observe the sons, male cousins and grandsons of the late George Wallace as they link hands with the remaining white male disciples of the former Alabama Governor to assert their testosterone-fueled dominance over whatever they find annoying or objectionable.

It’s another thing to listen to female elected officials in Alabama proudly proclaiming victory over the right of women — as individuals protected by the same rights the US Constitution conveys to men — to make determinations over their own reproductive health.

Alabama House Rep. Terri Collins, who sponsored the bill, publicly identifies as female, as does Alabama Governor Kay Ivey who signed the bill into law.

Have they completely lost touch with reality?

Someone recently said, “I don’t know of any woman who engaged in sexual activity – forced or consensual – with the hope to have an abortion.”

Abortion is not a sport; it is a deeply personal and painful decision which should be made carefully and rationally, because it has lifetime repercussions.

Those who fly the Gadsden flag and rail against government intrusion on individual rights are often the very same folks who are adamantly pro-life and who vehemently oppose a woman’s right to self-determination.

The Gadsden Flag says it all…