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Posts Tagged ‘Law’

American women’s reproductive rights face relentless attack

In behavior, news, politics, US, women on February 21, 2012 at 1:26 am
Flag of Virginia

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American women are facing a barrage of attacks from the religious right and the elected officials who represent their interests.

The last time I looked, American women do have the vote. But you’d never know it.

Here’s a smart and lucid recent post about our current, increasingly embattled fight for access to contraception, with lots of helpful links.

The latest monstrosity?

A law in Virginia requiring a woman who wants an abortion to undergo a transvaginal probe.

From Dahlia Lithwick writing at Slate:

So the problem is not just that the woman and her physician (the core relationship protected in Roe) no longer matter at all in deciding whether an abortion is proper. It is that the physician is being commandeered by the state to perform a medically unnecessary procedure upon a woman, despite clear ethical directives to the contrary. (There is no evidence at all that the ultrasound is a medical necessity, and nobody attempted to defend it on those grounds.) As an editorial in the Virginian-Pilot put it recently, “Under any other circumstances, forcing an unwilling person to submit to a vaginal probing would be a violation beyond imagining. Requiring a doctor to commit such an act, especially when medically unnecessary, and to submit to an arbitrary waiting period, is to demand an abrogation of medical ethics, if not common decency.”*

Here’s a CNN story about the state’s move to declare embryos as persons with legal rights:

Women’s rights advocates say these legislative and ballot efforts around the country to establish fetal personhood are part of a move to place greater restrictions on women’s access to abortion.

“Over the past several years, we’ve seen more and more attempts to restrict abortion directly,” said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that describes itself as advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights through research and policy analysis. “These efforts around redefining ‘person’ are a little more of a back door approach, because they don’t use the term abortion. They’re not an outright abortion ban. Instead they’re using a less obvious approach in a way that does not exactly indicate exactly how far they go.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, new laws in 24 states in 2011 restricted access to abortion services, while according to the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America, the number of “anti-choice” measures being implemented in states has risen steadily over the past decade, from 303 in 2001 to 713 in 2011.

Let’s review….

The United States is still facing the highest unemployment since the Depression.

Income inequality is at a record high.

Millions of home-owners are in foreclosure.

And legislators are focusing their energies and animus on.…our reproductive freedoms?

What's His Favorite Food? Her Mom's Maiden Name? Government Cracks Down On 'Green Card Marriages'

In behavior, immigration on June 14, 2010 at 9:21 am
Wedding cake

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As I type this, I’m looking at one of my most precious possessions — my green card. As some of you know, they’re not green but a creamy beige, with multiple hologram images embedded in it, including a statue of Liberty.

It has my fingerprint on it, my photo (showing my unadorned right ear) and my alien registration number. It cost me $370 to renew it recently, as we do every 10 years.

Many people, desperate for a green card they can’t get any other way, marry a U.S. citizen — and some draw the attention of the Stokes unit, which interviews couples in detail to determine whether their is a real marriage or a sham, reports The New York Times:

Having flunked their first interviews with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, they had entered the mysterious world of the “Stokes unit,” a uniquely New York variation on the marriage interviews conducted nationwide whenever a citizen seeks a green card for a foreign spouse. Named for a 1976 federal court settlement that gave couples, among other protections, the right to bring a lawyer to a second, recorded interview if their first one raised suspicions of fraud, the Stokes unit recently doubled its staff to 22 officers.

It is a story line familiar from pop culture: “The Proposal” last year, “Green Card” in 1990. And while the authorities do not question the validity of the marriage of Faisal Shahzad, the failed Times Square bomber, his arrest last month did renew questions about the process of scrutinizing spousal green-card petitions. Nationwide, the number of such petitions denied for fraud is tiny: 506 of the 241,154 filed by citizens in the last fiscal year, or two-tenths of 1 percent (an additional 7 percent were denied on other grounds, like failing to show up for an interview).

Some critics contend that the low numbers simply show the system is easily fooled, while others say that exaggerated estimates of marriage fraud over the years have created a bureaucratic monster, thwarting legitimate, if unconventional, couples and spurring unconstitutional intrusion into their lives.

In some parts of the country, the authorities stage dawn bed checks. “Someone shows up at your house with a badge and a gun, unannounced,” said Laura Lichter, an immigration lawyer in Denver. “ ‘Hi, we’re here from immigration. Do you mind if we come in to look and see if two towels are wet?’ ”

Today’s paper profiles a couple together 17 years:

“They’ve been married 8, 10 years, and they don’t know a thing about each other?” asked Barbara Felska, a veteran in the Stokes unit, the New York office that quizzes spouses separately, then compares their answers to determine whether their relationship is real. “You don’t know his medical conditions, or that he has high blood pressure?”

The predicament of Ms. Feldman and Mr. Singh reflects what legal scholars see as a growing tension in national values between the protection of marriage from government intrusion, and the regulation of marriage through immigration laws.

I got my green card because I was then the unmarried child of a U.S. citizen; some of us get them through visas and lotteries, not just snagging the first American with a pulse that we see.

These two stories raise interesting questions about what is “normal” for any couple to know about one another, and their families, and their health. My sweetie and I know one another’s PIN numbers, but after a decade continue to handle our shared bills separately with separate bank accounts. (That would look suspicious.) If I were pressed to offer details of his relatives, some would be hazy — as some of them are virtual strangers to us both, with no Christmas cards or birthday wishes, ever.

I know that he takes two daily medications and what for, but could only name one of them if asked. I know his middle names and those of his (long-dead) parents, where was born and raised. He still sometimes confuses some of my Canadian details. Privately, it doesn’t matter, but what if the harsh light of a government inspector — and possible deportation — were in the mix?

Every married couple is different. I am a deeply private person, as is my partner — I don’t rummage through his chest of drawers or closet or other storage spaces. They’re his. Nor do I poke into his wallet, or vice versa. We retain a variety of boundaries, mostly out of respect for our privacy and individuality. If married, this would likely change little.  How would that look to someone seeking to determine if we had a Normal Marriage?

Define “normal.”

Some people find such boundaries abhorrent. I knew one young couple who happily flossed their teeth in front of one another as they sat on the sofa watching TV; my partner and I had one of our worst first fights when I asked him to wait outside a small hotel room while I flossed; in my world, some activities (still) are not meant to be shared.

My two recent visits to USCIS offices were benign and, thankfully, easy. I read these articles and wonder what I’d do or say if we were called in.

Teen Mom Charged With Manslaughter After Her Dogs Kill Her Infant

In Crime, parenting on June 10, 2010 at 10:31 am
Sleep Like A Baby

Image by peasap via Flickr

This is the news story right now in Quebec, (in addition to the Grand Prix in Montreal), a terrible tale of a teen mom who stepped outside two days ago for a cigarette — to protect her newborn from second-hand smoke — in which time her two huskies attacked and killed the child. She lives in a small town about 40 miles east of Montreal.

She has already been charged with manslaughter by the Crown Attorney, (Canada’s version of a DA), prompting howls of outrage in the Gazette letters page and even an editorial in the Toronto-based, national Globe and Mail:

Parents who make mistakes are probably the norm, rather than an exception. Momentary lapses are common. Sometimes, babies and small children die as a result. They fall into hot tubs and drown. They wade out beyond their competence into lakes and drown. They fall off farm machinery. They are asphyxiated when sharing a bed with a parent. They fall out of windows.

It is rare that charges of manslaughter are laid in those deaths. Manslaughter requires a foreseeable risk of injury, and a marked departure from the standard of reasonable person. “The momentary lapse that a reasonable person would engage in is not meant to be caught by the criminal law,” says Sanjeev Anand, a law professor at the University of Alberta Law School. A marked departure implies gross negligence – “the absolutely egregious conduct that no reasonable person would engage in.”

There is some dispute about the facts…Her family says she was outside briefly; the police concluded after a short investigation (they charged her one day after the death) that she was outside for 20 minutes…

The state does not need to exact justice every time a child dies an accidental death, even where a parental lapse in judgment led to it. A grieving mother now needs to defend herself against a charge that her wrongful conduct killed her own baby. For a parent, the death of a baby is an excruciating punishment from which there is no parole. In the circumstances of this case, it is hard to see how laying a manslaughter charge serves the public interest.

Several of the letters in the Montreal Gazette raise the question of the mother’s age and likely low ncome — if she were 25 or 35, not 17 — would she have been charged, and so quickly?

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Nannies Get A Holiday Gift They Really Want — A Tough New Law To Protect Their Rights

In parenting, women, work on December 19, 2009 at 8:40 am
A child and her nanny

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Here’s a gift for nannies — one that will fit them to a tee. A tough new law has just been passed to ensure their legal rights are protected.

Anyone who charges a placement or recruitment fee to a caregiver to work in Ontario now faces fines of up to $50,000 and a year in jail.

The Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act, which passed into law late Wednesday, also makes it an offence to confiscate passports or personal documents from caregivers, and empowers provincial Labour Ministry investigators to retrieve them.

“Respect for the dignity and worth of others is one of the core things of this bill,” Labour Minister Peter Fonseca said, adding the new law “seeks to protect those who protect and nurture others every day of their working lives.

“They care for our loved ones who cannot care for themselves.”

American law calls them B-1s, domestic servants but Google the terms “nanny protection” and you’ll find a dozen ways to protect your kids from a caregiver, not how that caregiver — who is most likely to be female, an immigrant and poorly paid  — can and must protect her own rights.

In some measure, it’s a feminist issue pitting women of privilege against poorer, usually minority women who leave their own kids, often in another country, to care for others. Nannies are a key player in many affluent homes, allowing ambitious women to climb the corporate ladder and better their own economic lives — or enjoy a life of even greater leisure; some families have two or even three nannies, working 24/7.

But the law turns a blind eye — at least in New York state — to nannies’ needs, where a similar law has never  been passed, despite several attempts. Why can’t New York lawmakers do the right thing?

New Oklahoma Law Further Restricts Access To Abortion

In Health, women on December 17, 2009 at 10:18 pm
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 22:  Pro-choice supp...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Oklahoma’s new abortion law is overly invasive, says a report on NPR.

In Oklahoma, a new law requires any woman seeking an abortion to first answer dozens of personal questions, including why she wants the procedure. That information, names omitted, would eventually be posted on a state Web site.

Those who support the measure say it will help them better understand why women are seeking abortions. Abortion rights advocates call the law intimidating and invasive, and this week, they are challenging it in court. Legal experts say the law is another test of how far states can go to regulate abortion.

A Necessary Law, Or Intolerable?

The survey in Oklahoma’s new abortion law includes some of the following questions: Would having a baby dramatically change a woman’s life, or interfere with her job or education? Is she unemployed, or unsure of a relationship with the father?

How can we counsel, how can we treat, how can we offer counseling to mothers to be that are choosing abortion, if we don’t have hard-core facts?

- Oklahoma state Sen. Todd Lamb

“This is not going in and getting a wart removed. This is a procedure that ends a human life,” says Oklahoma state Rep. Dan Sullivan. He says the law is valid and necessary.

“And because it’s a special procedure, we believe that it’s appropriate to be able to find out why these are going on and if there is something that we can do to change that,” Sullivan says.

But abortion rights activists call the law — and the survey — intolerable….

Forty-six states have laws that require clinics and hospitals to submit some kind of reports about the abortions they perform. But clinics in Oklahoma say this law is an invasion of privacy that goes far beyond abortion reporting requirements in any other state.

Linda Meek, executive administrator of Reproductive Services in Tulsa, Okla., says it’s discouraging and intrusive to patients.

“If they want to reduce the number of abortions, then they need to concentrate on educating women about preventing unwanted pregnancies, educating them about emergency contraception, birth control — and making birth control more accessible,” Meek says.

Abortion rights groups also fear that women could be identified based on the information they provide, especially women who live in Oklahoma’s small rural communities.

How much should a woman be asked before she can have an abortion? Are any questions fair?

A Searing Letter to The NYT Explains Why Women Need Access To Safe Abortions

In Health, women on December 7, 2009 at 12:20 pm
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 22:  Mary Beth O'Don...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The letters page of The New York Times is almost always dominated by confident male voices. Women — why? — rarely take up more space in this coveted bit of real estate. This letter today, from a woman who had her abortion on a veterinarian’s table in 1962, left me wanting to cry, and to share it more widely:

A Pregnant Pause” (Week in Review, Nov. 29) gives an incredibly accurate picture of the generation gap on abortion rights, one that I had trouble understanding until I read your article.

I am nearing 70. In 1962, as a married lady of 20 with one more year of college to go for my degree, our birth control failed. I was pregnant. We were frantic. My husband and I were barely surviving financially, and we were struggling to support ourselves. If we could have supported a child, we would not have been using birth control.

We had a friend, a veterinarian, who offered to help us. I climbed onto the dog table, weeping, my husband holding my hand. After the procedure I hemorrhaged and we rushed to the emergency room. I told them the story, just leaving out how the hemorrhaging started, and they classified it as a “spontaneous abortion.”

Our lives went on, we’re still happily married, and we have two successful adult children. But as I watch the assault on reproductive rights, my heart is still filled with dread, and my memory returns to that morning on the dog table.

I hope no young woman ever has to handle her reproductive choice as I was forced to. They can make any law they want to make, but they can never make a woman have a baby. We will do what we have to do, and for today’s young, access to abortion must remain safe, affordable and legal.

Barbara Russakov
Anaheim Hills, Calif., Nov. 29, 2009

Nice Not So Nice For Teens — Citywide Curfew, Video Camera Enforced, Begins Next Week

In Crime, world on November 28, 2009 at 8:44 am
"Nice, France"

Nice, where young 'uns behave. Image by HGruber via Flickr

The city of Orleans, birthplace of Joan of Arc, already has a partial one in effect. Now the Mediterranean city of Nice plans to impose a curfew between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. on all kids younger than 13 who are out in the streets without an adult chaperone.

“I want a city where the honest feel at ease and wrong-doers are nervous,”said Nice’s mayor, and France’s Industry Minister, Christian Estrosi. Juvenile delinquence, thanks to increased policing, is down 13 percent in the city since the start of 2009, he said. The city of 360,000 plans to enforce the new law using 550 video-cameras now being installed, all of which will be up and running by April 2010.

Any child found alone on the streets will be returned to their home, he said.

The plan, which I read about in Liberation, a leftist Parisian daily, has already provoked more than 400 comments on the paper’s website.

You're In Court But Can't Understand a Word: Is It Fair?

In women, politics on July 5, 2009 at 11:49 am

We’re in a time of financial disaster. The states are running out of money. The feds are trying to fix a dozen expensive problems at once. Highly educated professionals, along with everyone else, are losing their jobs, their homes and their dreams. It’s a time when, if you’re lucky enough to have a seat in the lifeboat, it’s tempting (if not fiscally wise) to not only pull in the oars but pound on the fists of those clinging to the sides. We just can’t afford it, whatever it is.

In times like these, should we care about immigrants — legal and illegal — who don’t speak English, or speak it sufficiently enough to comprehend legal proceedings, who can’t get court interpreters to help them through the judicial process?

New York Times‘ legal affairs reporter John Schwartz raised the issue yesterday, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/04/us/04interpret.html?_r=1, the lack of interpreters available to non-English speakers in state civil courts and the escalating costs of trying to accommodate their needs. In a system where we are all meant to be equal under the law, are we only as equal as our ability to speak and fully comprehend English? Read the rest of this entry »

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