Monday, January 28, 2008

New Requirements for Businesses Against Abortions

It was an odd encounter but in Wichita these odd moments are not that unusual. Wichita is a place where people are so adamant that women have babies against their will that conducting business becomes impossible without someone forcing their anti-choice point of view into a transaction. Man, it’s a real turnoff and accomplishes N O T H I N G.

When I am trying to purchase something in a store or do business with a company, I do not expect employees or even the owner to start lecturing me about the evils of abortion. I just want to buy the product or look at the merchandise and leave. I’m not there to hold a debate or even presume to first ask them if they harass Dr. Tiller and the women who seek his medical help.

It’s clear to me that I have incorrectly assumed that decent people will act responsibly in public especially in a work environment, but this is not the case in Wichita. Frankly, I’m tired of being sideswiped by righteous individuals whose views I don’t share in the least.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t mind doing business with people who disagree with me if we stick to business and the product I want is something they can offer. However, I certainly want to avoid places that turn their public place into a private zone of moralizing to me. Most of us would never ever force our private views on others in a public place but again, let’s be clear; in Wichita, don’t count on any bubble zone of decency to protect you from these fanatical views. The “Visioneering Committee” might want to think about what a turnoff this is to new citizens of Wichita as well as the natives.

Therefore, it might make sense to propose that the Wichita City Council pass legislation requiring businesses who can’t control their workers or owners from statements that make it clear they are against a woman having the fundamental right to make her own choices about reproduction, to place signs up announcing their opposition. The sign could state: “Pregnant women are required by the Christian Fundamentalists of Wichita and their god to give birth regardless of whether the woman agrees or follows our beliefs. Have a nice day.”

And while the City Council is at, by all means, allow these businesses to put up their crosses, the Ten Commandments, opposition to same sex couples, and pictures of aborted fetuses so that it should be very, very clear we are dealing with people who live in a world that rejects an individual’s personal liberties and would transform our republic into a theocracy in a minute if they could.

A “buyer beware” warning sign should be visible to the consumer since we enter these businesses for no other reason than to make a purchase, and then find ourselves accosted by pronouncements against abortions. I would really appreciate the heads up that the business I am about to encounter is either going to respect me or use the opportunity to get on their soapbox that I’m a baby killer and have no morals compared to their glorious morals.

It must be nice to view life in only black and white terms and to have all the right answers to other people’s lives. I wouldn’t know. I’m just trying to do the best I can and when a young girl or older woman feels that her pregnancy is not a good thing, I’m taking her word for it, and wouldn’t presume to do otherwise.

Vickie Sandell Stangl

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Anti-Choice Witch Hunt

Currently in Kansas, a grand jury is investigating Dr. George Tiller, one of only a handful of late-term abortion providers in the U.S. The petitioners are convinced that the Dr. has violated state regulations pertaining to late termination of pregnancy. This is the second time in as many years the doctor has been thusly investigated as he is a top target of such anti-choice organizations like Kansans for Life (like the rest of Kansans are for death?), and Operation Rescue (they aren’t interested in rescuing ‘born’ children from anything). The citizen petition, which was the impetus for the grand jury, was organized by Operation Rescue & Kansans for Life, and only required about 4,100 signatures. As advocacy groups go, these two are about as biased as they come, with long-standing goals of not only shutting down Tiller’s clinic, which serves several thousand patients per year, (only a small percentage of these are late-term); but to make all abortion illegal in Kansas, as well as across the nation. The citizen-petitioned grand jury dates back to the late 1800’s when it was enacted to help fight political corruption during the railroad boom.

Historically, this citizen’s grand jury has rarely been invoked and never, until recently, to advance a social or moral agenda. This old law, had its use in fighting political corruption to be sure; but in this case it is a tool in active vigilantism. A small minority of people with an agenda, forcing a criminal investigation, definitely usurps the executive power of government. A government populated with persons elected by the majority of voters by the way. But Operation Rescue & Kansans for Life (KFL) have long claimed that prosecutors are too soft on abortion; thus, the witch hunt they’ve orchestrated.

Last Friday, jurors heard testimony from KFL director David Gittrich (“inspired by God to use the grand jury”), and Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, (why are these organizations always headed up by men?). While the testimony is secret in these proceedings, the jurors did receive binders from Operation Rescue that included the citizen petition, a failed criminal complaint from 2006, and photos of several pregnant women entering the clinic during this last fall. These busybodies regularly take pictures of those entering and exiting the clinic, from their protest “camps” just outside the gates and over the fence of the clinic. Of course these photos prove nothing, they are being used in the group’s building of circumstantial “evidence” and of course, to intimidate and shame the women who are often in the midst difficult circumstances.

Additionally, Operation Rescue has indicated that they cannot have prosecution of late-term abortion without subpoenaing private medical records – Doctor/patient privacy and HIPPA be damned, they’re at it again! This taxpayer-funded investigation amounts to little more than religious and moral zealots preaching against women’s right to reproductive freedom.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Juno and Liberal Hollywood

“Liberal Hollywood” is a phony phrase when it comes to young girls and pregnancy.

I just returned from the seeing the movie Juno (as in the Roman Goddess and wife of Zeus, associated with bringing forth life) and the adorable name of the sixteen year old who discovers what we have known since the dawn of time: lying down or sitting in a chair while engaging in sex can lead to pregnancy. That was the most important and accurate message of the entire movie. Unfortunately, the movie quickly turns into the old theme of grownups yearning for their youth and kids showing grownups a thing or two about life-especially Juno.

I was impressed with the young actress who plays Juno but I found the subject of an unplanned pregnancy treated a bit too flippant. Teen pregnancy is no laughing matter and Juno for the most part is a very funny movie. Granted this is fiction and it is far more entertaining to watch a precocious actress be funny and quirky as she reveals her confusion and regret for her sexual tryst BUT, and this is a big BUT, it is disappointing how the subject of an unplanned pregnancy is always a comedy or some warm, feel good, movie about a girl who of course, elects to have her baby.

Whether the movie is “Knocked Up”, “Home Fries” or “Waitress”, Hollywood doesn’t want to address teen pregnancy or any unwanted pregnancy in a different storyline other than humor and a happy, happy ending which means of course, the woman has her baby and life is going to work out just dandy.

How about a real movie where the young woman decides she can’t handle a baby, does not believe she can give a baby up for adoption, or just does not want to take the risk on her health and opts for an abortion? I’m sure it could be done in a respectful and honest manner to illustrate that when it comes to unplanned pregnancies, women should be respected no matter what choice they make. I’m dreaming I know, so bear with me as we enter the world of writer Diablo Cody.

The scene where Juno goes into a women’s clinic to have an abortion is just bogus if not pretentious. I challenge anyone to find a woman’s clinic where the receptionist is a seventeen-year-old “Goth” girl with piercings in her lip, and nose and acts as if she is bored to tears handing out forms for Juno’s scheduled abortion procedure. The appointment becomes even weirder when the same receptionist offers Juno a flavored condom. Honest. Juno quips that it is a little late now for this helpful gift. It’s not only a little too late, it is the screenwriter trying to be cute but it just comes off as silly.

Obviously the screenwriter is making a statement that abortion is not only a mistake but these clinics are abortion mills staffed by uncaring, goofy, irresponsible people so run as fast as you can for the exist and save your baby!

There is one teenage protester outside the clinic who softly and gently urges Juno to save her baby. This alone is pure fiction since protesters are rarely meek but are extremely angry and pushy as young girls try to get passed their obnoxious screaming but we don’t want to have the audience angry with the heroic protester. Juno is determined to go in and proceed but the protester makes a remark that Juno cannot stop thinking about: “Did she know that her baby had fingernails already?” This shocking revelation causes Juno to sit in the office obsessing on the fact to the point that she leaves and decides an abortion is not right for her. Now, there is nothing wrong with this and in fact it is good that Juno has decided to do what she believes is best for her in this situation. She realizes she has to be comfortable with her choice and decides that fingernails represent a future she believes should have a chance regardless of her lapse in judgment. In the end, a baby finds a happy home, Juno and her boyfriend pick up where they left off, her parents still adore her and the track team keeps working out with the change of the seasons

Now, the important lesson here is choice. No one forced Juno to get an abortion. She makes her own choice to have the baby and give it up for adoption. It is as if Juno wants to do something good for others out of her mistake. Maybe it makes her feel better too, and who can blame any woman for wanting to have absolution in a world that makes an unplanned pregnancy a crime? Again the writer ignores some important realities facing most girls in the same situation: not every teenage girl has supportive parents like Juno, not every teenager has the mental and physical well being to carry a baby to term, and not every teenager has sophisticated intellect of Juno to cope with motherhood. These are important variables that make choice absolutely essential for every young woman facing an unplanned pregnancy.

Juno bravely gives up her baby to the point that you wonder if she really knows what she has given up which of course, is another theme skipped over; babies having babies is never a good idea. Bottom line, all women deserve to make their own reproductive decisions. Unfortunately the writer chose to make it appear that the choice Juno made was “right” and therefore right for all girls in the same situation.

That’s called a political statement hidden in a charming comedy. Just once I’d like to see a sweet, funny film explore a teenager who chooses an abortion and she lives happily ever after because it happens and it’s not some fictional story like Juno.

Vickie Sandell Stangl