Religion – It’s What’s For Dinner….. er, School Lunch In Pennsylvania?

Oops, they did it again.

Well, not yet. And I hope they will not do it again. Everyone’s favorite, zealous Christian Representative, Rep. Rick Saccone has introduced yet another bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that blatantly disregards the Pennsylvania Constitution. His latest bill, House Bill 1728, would force every school in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to display signage saying “In God We Trust” in classrooms and other areas in public school buildings

For the record, Rick Saccone is the same irreverent that successfully introduced legislation declaring 2012 the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania. (I wish you could see my face every time I think of this.) And his newest Bill states outright that the bill is motivated by “The Great Christian Governor” James Pollock. You know I could not let this legislation stand without putting in my two cents.

Dear Representative X,

Last year, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted to name 2012 the year of the bible. As a non-believer, I doubt it within my ability to explain to you how disrespected and paltry that made me feel as a citizen of the Commonwealth.

Now, similarly flippant legislation has been introduced by the same person – Rep. Rick Saccone – to promote and display signs relaying Christian messages in our schools. I am shocked by House Bill 1728! I cannot believe that, contrary to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I and my children could once again be compelled to maintain such displays of religious nature. This bill is antithetical to everything that Section 3 of our Constitution stands for!

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives already spat all over Section 3 last year by establishing preference by law to an establishment of religion. I can only hope that you will not do it again. I urge you not to support House Bill 1728, and to vote against it if it should be put up for a vote.

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PA House Bill 2405 Won’t Reduce Abortions

In a transparent attempt to garner political clout among far-right conservatives, Representative Daryl Metcalfe has introduced House Bill 2405 in the Pennsylvania Assembly. HB 2405, if passed, would exclude Planned Parenthood and similar health care providers from eligibility for Title X reimbursement if they are associated with providers that offer abortion services – all despite the fact that by law no Title X funds may be used in programs that offer abortion as a method of family planning.

In Metcalfe’s own words:

“Regardless of their position on abortion, Pennsylvania taxpayers must no longer be forced to subsidize the loss of innocent lives… In reality, women in Pennsylvania will be healthier and the children safer when we permanently defund Planned Parenthood and its anti-family agenda.”

Wow. What. A. Liar.

Rather than subsiding abortion, as Metcalfe asserts, Title X funding is used at Planned Parenthood to prevent unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Defunding Planned Parenthood would NOT prevent abortions, as Planned Parenthood’s Title X clinics are financially independent business entities separate from the advocacy organization and the organization that provides abortions.

Since Title X funding is never used to fund abortion, defunding comprehensive reproductive health care providers would only serve to increase the number of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases in Pennsylvania by reducing access to qualified providers. Contrary to Metcalfe’s words, HB 2405 will not result in healthier or safer Pennsylvanians. Reducing access to health care is not a pro-women or a pro-family agenda. House Bill 2405 would lead to fewer health care options, fewer health care services provided*, increased transmission of sexually transmitted infections, higher incidence of unplanned pregnancy, prenatal anomalies and preterm births*, and more abortions.

Metcalfe’s bill is not a pro-life policy. It is a scourge.

*due to supply of Title X providers not keeping pace with demand for Title X services

PA House Bill 2405 Empowers Poverty

Having the ability to prevent additional pregnancies gives women better opportunity to work themselves and their families out of the hole of poverty.

Poverty begets poverty. Poverty is one of the hardest economic situations to escape from in the United States. As the income gap widens and Americans become poorer and weaker, poverty, for some, becomes an cyclic chasm from which escape can seem impossible.

Enter Title X.

One of the benefits of the Title X program is that it gives women and men an opportunity to halt the cycle of poverty. As a demographic, being a single woman with children puts one into one of the largest and poorest faring economic subgroups in the nation. Having the ability to prevent additional pregnancies gives women better opportunity to work themselves and their families out of the hole of poverty.

Birth control access can have a profound effect on the welfare of a family. When a woman is not perpetually pregnant, she has better opportunity to hold down a steady job (or even two or three) and even go to school. With less mouths to feed, more of the family income can be used toward purchasing fuel, clothes and medical care for children. Especially for single mothers, birth control access can mean the difference between a lifetime on welfare and earning a living wage for ones family.

Politicians and pundits like to play the “birth control is a license to have sex” card. To them I say, what about to the women who don’t have a real choice not to have sex? I have listened to stories from women living with abuse who really didn’t have a choice – it was submit or get beat up. How is a woman in that situation supposed to claw herself out of a life of poverty and abuse if she is always pregnant and, thus, has no job and no money? For a woman in that situation, control over her own body means safety and freedom.

Politicians in Pennsylvania know that Title X funds cannot be used for abortion care. They also know that the restrictions on Title X funding bar the state from discriminating against qualified health care providers – meaning Pennsylvania would lose all of the Title X funding if House Bill 2405 were enforced.

A vote for HB 2405 is a vote against every woman struggling to pick herself up out of poverty. A vote for HB 2405 is a vote to empower poverty. What will these politicians choose for Pennsylvania women? Poverty or Opportunity?

 

*Edited to clarify restrictions on Title X funds.

PA House Bill 2405 would Alienate the Poor

If Governor Corbett signs HB 2405, thousands of Pennsylvanians will be unable to access any health care at all.

Pennsylvania legislators have an impossibly simple choice to make: table or vote down House Bill 2405 and maintain the Title X funding that ensures low income Pennsylvanians continue to receive reproductive health care, or pass HB 2405 thus alienating over 125,000 poorer Pennsylvanians from the basic health care they need to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, prevent unplanned pregnancy, and ensure early detection of cervical and breast cancer. It may seem to you and me like there is only one logical choice. But I am not sure these politicians “get” it.

For many low-income Pennsylvanians, a Title X clinic represents the only source of health care they’ve got. For students or someone working for low wage with or without insurance, managing to pay for doctor’s visits, tests and birth control can be an enormous financial burden. Add children into that equation, and often the health care needs of the parent or parents is utterly trumped.

If Governor Corbett signs HB 2405, thousands of Pennsylvanians will be unable to access any health care at all. For those who rely on Title X funding for care, HB 2405 means loss. Rep. Metcalfe and his condescending cronies win when the poor lose. If that is not morally wrong, I don’t know what is.

Ending Safe Abortion Behind the Guise of Women’s Health

Yet another state (commonwealth, really) has jumped on the “defund Planned Parenthood” bandwagon. Regardless of all the historical evidence highlighting the burden on taxpayers that results from doing so, Pennsylvania House Representative Daryl Metcalfe introduced House Bill 2405 which, if passed and signed by Governor Tom Corbett, would bar the Pennsylvania Department of Health from entering into a contract with or making a grant to…

“any entity that performs non federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non federally qualified abortions are performed.”

Read, “If you provide your patients abortion care with private funds, we won’t give you public funds to provide non-abortion related services.” House Bill 2405 would be harmful to Pennsylvania in so many ways it would be tiresome to detail them all here. So I hereby embark on a blog-a-day tirade enumerating the various and sundry ways that defunding Planned Parenthood and other comprehensive reproductive health care clinics would endanger the welfare of Pennsylvanians.

 

PA House Bill 2405 would Alienate the Poor
PA House Bill 2405 Represses Consumer Choice
PA House Bill 2405 Empowers Poverty
PA House Bill 2405 Won’t Reduce Abortions

Atheists are protected by the Constitution, right?

I guess all us atheist are going to have to enroll in a martial arts class.

Living in the USA as an atheist may not be a hard or treacherous as living in Pakistan as a Christian. But some day’s, it’s all one can do not to just lay someone out. If you are an atheist, you probably heard that a judge in Pennsylvania dismissed a recent case brought by Ernest Perce V against Talaag Elbayomy who attacked Perce as Perce was marching in a parade on Halloween prominently dressed as a zombie Muhammad. Perce captured video tape of the incident that included audible reaction from Perce as Elbayomy assaults him. And the responding officer, Sgt. Brian Curtis, reported that Elbayomy admitted to assaulting Perce. Yet a judge dismissed Perce’s complaint citing a lack of evidence and then proceeding to chastise Perce for exercising his First Amendment right to free speech.

The frustrating thing about this whole episode is, the judge’s grounds for dismissal were not rooted in the First Amendment, and were accompanied by a side of religious bias stinkier than limburger cheese. Not once did the judge cite the US or PA Constitutions to support his legal views of the case. In fact, as Judge Martin’s ruling stands, it opens the door to impugn attacks against people who offend other people’s religious beliefs in the name of ‘cultural sensitivity’. One has nothing to fear from beating up atheists or other nonbelievers because the residing judge will just throw out the case and chastise and belittle the plaintiff in the process!

This comes after the Pennsylvania House ground their foot on the Constitution by declaring 2012 “The Year of The Bible,” stressing the “national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures”. (You just can’t make this stuff up!)

I guess all us atheist are going to have to enroll in a martial arts class. Unfortunately, a judge probably won’t throw out any case against a godless heathen!

Regulating Abortion in PA after Gosnell

I agree with the grand jury, inspecting a medical facility only once in ten years is grossly negligent oversight, and endangers patient safety. We need to do better.

In a transparent attempt to usurp the personal power endowed upon us by Roe v. Wade, the Pennsylvania Assembly is considering legislation that would make it impossible for the currently-operating, well-regulated abortion providers in Pennsylvania to continue to provide health care services. While abortion clinics in Pennsylvania are currently regulated in accordance with 28 Pa. Code Ch. 29, Subchapter D – Ambulatory Gynecological Surgery in Hospitals and Clinic, Senate Bill 732 [PDF] would apply Ambulatory Surgical Facility (ASF) regulations to abortion clinics, even for simple, early first trimester procedures. ASF regulations would mandate larger operating room size, fire extinguishing provisions and ventilation capacities that current non-hospital based facilities cannot meet.
This bill was proposed in response to the discovery of the clandestine Gosnell horror clinic in Philadelphia. In the grand jury report [PDF], Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Department of State officials were called out by name for their extremely negligent oversight of this clinic. And now, legislators are attempting to cover their tracks. But anti-choice politicians have seized the opportunity to eliminate any choice for women of abortion care altogether by closing abortion facilities for structural details as minor as an improperly sized closet. If passed, a compliant clinic would be given inadequate time (180 days to widen hallways, increase procedure room size, install new ventilation, and etc. is inadequate time) to make the structural changes necessary to comply with structural requirements for ambulatory facilities.
But imposing new regulations does not mean that the new regulations will be enforced. Instead of new, stricter regulations, we need better oversight and stricter enforcement of the current regulations for abortion clinics. Or if new regulation is the only viable solution, phased-in enforcement of ASF regulations not related to reporting, inspection, enforcement or licensure should be agreed. I agree with the grand jury, inspecting a medical facility only once in ten years is grossly negligent oversight, and endangers patient safety. We need to do better.
What follows is the letter I wrote to my state Senator expressing my opposition to Senate Bill 732, as amended. If you live in PA, please take the time to contact your state Senator about Senate Bill 732.
Dear Senator _________,
I write to you to express my genuine concern for the consequences a piece of legislation currently being considered by the Pennsylvania Senate, Senate Bill 732 (SB 732). As amended, SB 732, if passed, would create a dangerous health care situation. As you know, SB 732 adopts facility standards for all abortion clinics that most western PA abortion providers cannot currently meet, and would face grave structural and financial burdens to meet if such standards were enacted. The effective date of the legislation is such that no structural changes could be rendered to such facilities before their enforcement, and these clinics would be forced to close.
This legislation was proposed under the supposedly well-intentioned premise that patients need to be protected from illegal, unsafe surgical abortion facilities like the one uncovered in Philadelphia. Upon examination, this is an obvious lie. This legislation does nothing to protect women from dubious ‘doctors’ who care nothing for their health and well-being. It is my personal view that this legislation will have the opposite effect. This legislation would close most of the clinics in Pennsylvania due to structural nonconformances unrelated to ensuring medical health or patient safety.
Closing the currently well-regulated, compliant abortion facilities will make abortion inaccessible to most Pennsylvania women. In addition, many women will be unable to afford a legal abortion due to the increase in cost to providers due to increased regulation. Consequently, utterly desperate women will seek clandestine services from unregulated, illegal providers. Women may seek abortion care out of state. Or, sadly, women may attempt extremely dangerous self-abortion. The indirect effects of this legislation are innumerable.
If the genuine concern of the Pennsylvania Assembly is the health and safety of women, the assembly should readdress this bill and pass laws that do not manufacture health crises. Or, if new regulation is the only viable solution, phased-in enforcement of ambulatory surgical facility regulations not related to reporting, inspection, enforcement or licensure should be agreed. If the real concern of the Pennsylvania Assembly is usurping Roe v. Wade by eliminating safe abortion access in Pennsylvania, then this bill is unconstitutional.
I agree with the grand jury, inspecting a medical facility only once in ten years is grossly negligent oversight, and endangers patient safety. We need to do better. But as evidenced by the Gosnell indictment, enacting regulations does not mean the regulations will be enforced. In addition, this legislation does nothing to actually protect patients. Your yes vote on this bill will create a public health crisis, fuel a clandestine abortion industry, and endanger women’s lives. I urge you to vote no on SB 732.
Sincerely yours,
Nuclear Grrl