Wealth Inequality in America

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From What Planet Do the Right-Wing Nut-Jobs Hail and Can We Deport Them?

As we suffered through this last election cycle, women across this nation were subjected to myth after myth about how our bodies really worked, by men who clearly are NOT familiar in any way shape or form as to how our female parts actually do work. First there were all those mythical statements about how we can’t get pregnant if we’re “legitimately” raped—

  • “I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen (that it’s a ‘gift’ from god)” — Richard Mourdock, (R-MO)
  • The Facts show that people who are raped — who are truly raped — the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work, and they don’t get pregnant.” — Rep. Henry Aldridge (R- )
  • “Concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami.” — Federal Judge James Leon Holmes, a Bush appointee
  • “The odds that a woman who is raped will get pregnant are ‘one in millions and millions and millions.” Rep. Stephen Freind (R- )
  • “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare … If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”  Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO)

Then it devolved to rants and raves about how allowing women to have birth control would destroy our nation’s religious liberty.

  • This is not a question about contraception, this is about separation of church and state.  I just think that was a overreach and an overstep by government.” — WWE executive and Republican Candidate Linda McMahon
  • Birth control is a license to do things in a sexual realm that are counter to how things are supposed to be.” Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum
  • “Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”
    ~ Foster Friess, billionaire investor in Rick Santorum’s SuperPAC
  • Then came the Blunt Amendment, legislation sponsored by Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri, was voted down 51 to 48. It would have let employers refuse to include contraception in health care coverage based on their “religious belief or moral conviction.”
  • “What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.”
    ”So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch…I will buy all of the women at Georgetown University as much Aspirin to put between their knees as they want…” —  Right-Wing radio pundit, Rush Limbaugh, talking about Georgetown Law Student, Sandra Fluke, who was allowed to speak to Democrats but who was prohibited from speaking to an all-male Republican meeting on Capitol Hill about women needing birth control for reasons beyond contraception.

It sickened us all, but the crazies on the right have decided to once again escalate their war on women and simultaneously broadcast their absolute ignorance about how women’s bodies work.  A classic example of that renewed effort from the right is posted over at Right-Wing Watch today (complete with excerpts of the actual audio broadcast):

Swanson: Wombs of Women on Birth Control ‘Embedded’ with ‘Dead Babies’

— by Miranda Blue on Friday, 2/1/2013 1:10 pm

Well, here’s some medical research we hadn’t heard about. Generations Radio host Kevin Swanson, who last week delved memorably into feminist theory, tells us this week that “certain doctors and certain scientists” have researched the wombs of women on the pill and found “there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb…Those wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.”

Swanson must be speaking with the same doctors as former Rep. Todd Akin. Even Kevin Peeples, whom Swanson is interviewing about his anti-contraception documentary Birth Control: How Did We Get Here?, isn’t quite sold on the evidence.

Swanson: I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.

Peeples: We’ve actually heard on both sides of that. We’re researching that and want to make sure we speak correctly to that in our second film. But we have medical advice on both sides of the table there, so we want to make sure that we communicate that properly.

Swanson: It would seem, and I realize that people are a little split on what are all the effects of the birth control pill, but it would seem that there’s a tremendous risk in the use of it for the life of children.

Earlier in the interview, Peeples and Swanson discuss how birth control came to be widely used and accepted by many churches. Women, Peeples laments, “desire the men’s role” and are now missing out on “the role God put them in that he laid out in Genesis.” Before World War II, Peeples claims, “abortion, sterilization, eugenics and birth control were all tied together” until “Hitler took the fall for taking it very aggressively and dramatically.”

Peeples: It starts with men and women fighting and not being happy with the role that God put them in that he laid out in Genesis. So whenever you seek to desire, when women seek to desire the men’s role, they lose the part and the idea of what children does, not just for the kingdom and not just does with their family, but does for their gender role.

Swanson: Are you saying that the population control stuff, egalitarian feminism, birth control, abortion, they’re all sort of interrelated?

Peeples: Yeah, it wasn’t until after World War II that they begin to separate them. Abortion, sterilization, eugenics and birth control were all tied together, they were all kind of a package for eugenics and population control. Hitler took the fall for taking it very aggressively and dramatically, and so they said, ‘Hey, let’s kind of take this back, let’s get rid of the negative things and let’s play on Christian liberty, let’s play on freedom, let’s play on people kind of taking this upon themselves to control population rather than forcing it on them. So, again, it’s just another effect of not researching our history to know what happened in the world alongside of the Church.

I’m sorry, that absolutely infuriates me.  From which planet do these right-wing whacked-out nut-jobs swoop in from each day and why the hell haven’t our immigration agents sent them back from whence they came, and barred them from returning?  Women’s bodies do NOT work that way. Did they get an “F” in their 7th grade health class?  Not only that, THIS is NOT the United States of Stepford where women should expect to be nothing more that incubators for man’s seed while running around barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen cooking dinner while silent as a lamb.

Every single woman on this planet knows that that’s why we have periods or why women unable to complete a pregnancy have a what’s called a “miscarriage” which expells the remains of the failed pregnancy.   BOTH of those processes are the equivalent of Mother Nature doing a bit of spring cleaning such that the woman’s uterus is cleaned up and ready for another try at implanting a fertilized egg on the wall of that very clean wall!

Republican Attitudes May Be Changing

Whoa … some members of the Republican Party may be seeing the light.  In a memorandum sent out by Jan van Lohuizen, a pollster for former President George W. Bush suggesting that Republican candidates should shift the way they discuss same-sex marriage.

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“BACKGROUND: In view of this week’s news on the same sex marriage issue, here is a summary of recent survey findings on same sex marriage:

  1. Support for same sex marriage has been growing and in the last few years support has grown at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down. A review of public polling shows that up to 2009 support for gay marriage increased at a rate of 1% a year. Starting in 2010 the change in the level of support accelerated to 5% a year. The most recent public polling shows supporters of gay marriage outnumber opponents by a margin of roughly 10% (for instance: NBC / WSJ poll in February / March: support 49%, oppose 40%).
  2. The increase in support is taking place among all partisan groups. While more Democrats support gay marriage than Republicans, support levels among Republicans are increasing over time. The same is true of age: younger people support same sex marriage more often than older people, but the trends show that all age groups are rethinking their position.
  3. Polling conducted among Republicans show that majorities of Republicans and Republican leaning voters support extending basic legal protections to gays and lesbians. These include majority Republican support for:
    1. Protecting gays and lesbians against being fired for reasons of sexual orientation
    2. Protections against bullying and harassment
    3. Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
    4. Right to visit partners in hospitals
    5. Protecting partners against loss of home in case of severe medical emergencies or death
    6. Legal protection in some form for gay couples whether it be same sex marriage or domestic partnership (only 29% of Republicans oppose legal recognition in any form).

Recommendation: A statement reflecting recent developments on this issue along the following lines:“People who believe in equality under the law as a fundamental principle, as I do, will agree that this principle extends to gay and lesbian couples; gay and lesbian couples should not face discrimination and their relationship should be protected under the law. People who disagree on the fundamental nature of marriage can agree, at the same time, that gays and lesbians should receive essential rights and protections such as hospital visitation, adoption rights, and health and death benefits.”

Other thoughts / Q&A: Follow up to questions about affirmative action:
“This is not about giving anyone extra protections or privileges, this is about making sure that everyone – regardless of sexual orientation – is provided the same protections against discrimination that you and I enjoy.”

Why public attitudes might be changing:
“As more people have become aware of friends and family members who are gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace. This is not about a generational shift in attitudes, this is about people changing their thinking as they recognize their friends and family members who are gay or lesbian.”

Conservative fundamentals:
“As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government.”

Given this memo, maybe at least some Republicans are finally realizing that “freedom means freedom for everyone” … not just freedom for straight folks. There are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections provided on the basis of marital status in Federal law.
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Below is a Summary and Explanation compiled by the Human Rights Campaign:

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Social Security
Social Security provides the sole means of support for some elderly Americans.  All working Americans contribute to this program through payroll tax, and receive payments upon retirement.  Surviving spouses of working Americans are eligible to receive Social Security payments.  A surviving spouse caring for a deceased employee’s minor child is also eligible for an additional support payment.  Surviving spouse and surviving parent benefits are denied to gay and lesbian Americans because they cannot marry.  Thus, a lesbian couple who contributes an equal amount to Social Security over their lifetime as a married couple would receive drastically unequal benefits, as set forth below.
Family Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits

  • Family #1: Married husband and wife, both are biological parents of the child
    • Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
    • Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits
  • Family #2: Same-sex couple, deceased worker was the biological parent or adoptive of the child
    • Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
    • Not Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits
  • Family #3: Same-sex couple, deceased worker was not the biological parent nor able to adopt child through second-parent adoption
    • Not Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
    • Not Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits

Tax:
According to the GAO report, as of 1997 there were 179 tax provisions that took marital status into account.   The following is a limited sample of such tax provisions.

Tax on Employer-Provided Health Benefits to Domestic Partners: In growing numbers, both public and private employers across the country have made the business decision to provide domestic partner benefits in order to promoted fairness and equality in the workplace.   For example, as of August 2003, 198 (almost forty percent) of the Fortune 500 companies and 173 state and local governments nationwide provide health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of their employees.  Federal tax law has not kept up with corporate and governmental who take advantage of it are taxed inequitably.

As policymakers have put an increasing emphasis on delivering health coverage through the tax code and as the cost of healthcare has once again begun to skyrocket, the current inequities in the tax code have placed a burden on the employers who provide healthcare coverage to domestic partners and on the employees who depend upon these benefits to provide security for their families.

  1. Burden on Employees
    Employers who provide health benefits to their employees typically pay a portion of the premium – if not the entire premium.   Currently, the Code provides that the employer’s contribution of the premium for health insurance for an employee’s spouse is excluded from the employee’s taxable income.  An employer’s contribution for the domestic partner’s coverage, however, is included in the employee’s taxable income as a fringe benefit.
  2. Burden on Employers
    An employer’s payroll tax liability is calculated based on their employees’ taxable incomes.   When contributions for domestic partner benefits are included in employees’ incomes, employers pay higher payroll taxes.  This provision also places an administrative burden on employers by requiring them to identify those employees utilizing their benefits for a partner rather than a spouse.  Employers must then calculate the portion of their contribution that is attributable to the partner, and create and maintain a separate payroll function for these employees’ income tax withholding and payroll tax.  Thus, the employers are penalized for making a sound business decision that contributes to stability in the workforce.

Inequitable Treatment of Children Raised in LGBT Households:
Recent data shows that at least 1 million children are being raised by same-sex couples in the United States.  The Code contains competing definitions of “child.”  Certain provisions of the Code defining child penalize for the marital status of their parents and caregivers.

  1. Earned Income Tax Credit
    Eligibility for the earned income tax credit (EITC) is based in part upon the number of “qualifying” children in the taxpayer’s household.   See 26 USC § 32.   The definition of qualifying child under this provision includes only a child who is the taxpayer’s (a) biological child or descendent; (b) stepchild of the taxpayer; or (c) adopted child.  Certain children of lesbian and gay couples are disadvantaged by this provision.  For exampled, a taxpayer and their partner domestic are jointly raising the partner’s biological child.  The taxpayer works full-time and the child’s legal parent stays home to care for the child.  The state in which the taxpayer resides does not permit them to adopt through second-parent adoption or to marry the partner and become the child’s step-parent.  This working family is therefore ineligible for an adjustment of the EITC, and therefore has decreased the resources to devote to the child’s care.
  2. Head of Household Status
    Heads of household, as defined by 26 U.S.C. § 2, are eligible for an increased standard deduction that, among other things, provides taxpayers with increased funds to care for their dependents.   The “limitations” section of this provision explicitly denies the benefit of head-of-household status to taxpayers supporting non-biological, non-adopted children.  Thus, a gay or lesbian taxpayer who supports his or her partner’s child (and who is ineligible to adopt the child) has fewer post-tax dollars with which to support the child.
  3. Child Tax Credit
    Taxpayers meeting income eligibility requirements are entitled to a credit against tax for qualifying children in their households.   This provision limits the child tax credit to children who meet the relationship test set fourth in the earned income tax provisions, § 32(c)(3)(B).  As set forth above, § 32 does not include children of a taxpayer’s domestic partner if the children are not related to the taxpayer biologically or through adoption.All three of these inequities have the effect of penalizing families who choose to have one parent in the work force and the other caring for the children full-time.   In addition, they disadvantage such couples and their children by limiting the choice of which parent will be a full-time caregiver.  Although similarly situated married couples may choose which parent will fulfill that role without consequence, lesbian and gay couples, as well as other unmarried couples, face negative tax consequences for the same decision.

Tax on Gain from the Sale of the Taxpayer’s Principal Residence:  Under Internal Revenue Code §121, a single taxpayer may exclude up to $250,000 of profit due to the sale of his or her personal principal residence from taxable income.   Married couples filing jointly may exclude up to $500,000 on the sale of their home.  Lesbian and gay couples, who are not permitted to marry or to file jointly, are therefore taxed on all gain above $250,000, creating a large tax penalty compared to similarly situated married couples.

Estate Tax:
Internal Revenue Code § 2056 exempts amounts transferred to a surviving spouse from the decedent’s taxable estate.   For same-sex couples who are legally barred from marriage, this exemption is not available, creating an inequity in taxation.

Taxation of Retirement Savings:
Under current law, when a retirement plan participant dies, plan benefits must be distributed in a lump sum or remain in the plan to be distributed in accordance with the minimum distribution requirements of § 401(a)(9).   This problem does not exist if the beneficiary is the deceased participant’s surviving spouse, because the surviving spouse may transfer plan benefits to an IRA or a retirement plan in which he or she is a participant.  This entitlement is valuable because (a) it allows the surviving spouse to defer taxation of the proceeds, often until the survivor is in a lower tax bracket; and (b) it protects the surviving spouse from being forced to withdraw from an investment program when its value is depressed.  Because gay and lesbian couples are treated as strangers under federal tax and pension law, they cannot transfer plan benefits without incurring significant penalties, and do not have the flexibility to withdraw funds when they choose.

This example demonstrates this inequity: Michelle and Sarah have been in a committed relationship for over 10 years.   They have registered as domestic partners under the laws of the District of Columbia.  Throughout their relationship, they have taken every legal step available to formalize their relationship and protect themselves, legally and financially as domestic partners.  Michelle participated in her employer’s 401(k) retirement plans, naming Sarah as the primary beneficiary.  Sarah purchased an individual retirement account (IRA).  While driving to her job, Michelle is killed in a car accident.  Sarah does not have the option to transfer Michelle’s 401(k) funds into her existing IRA because, under current law, only a “spouse” may roll over 401(k) and inherited IRA plans upon the death of a plan participant.  Sarah must then take the entire proceeds of the inherited 401(k) in a lump sum and pay taxes on them immediately at a much higher rate, rather than rolling it over into her own name tax free as a surviving spouse can do.

Family and Medical Leave:
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees family and medical leave to employees to care for parents, children or spouses.   As currently interpreted, this law does not provide leave to care for a domestic partner or the domestic partner’s family member.  Family and medical leave should be a benefit for all American workers.

Immigration Law: Currently, U.S. immigration law does not allow lesbian and gay citizens or permanent residents to petition for their same-sex partners to immigrate.  Approximately 75% of the one million green cards or immigrant visas issued each year are granted to family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.  However, those excluded from the definition, under current immigration law of family, are not eligible to immigrate as family.  Such ineligible person include (but are not limited to) same-sex partners and unmarried heterosexual couples.

Each year, current law forces thousands of lesbian and gay couples to separate or live in constant fear of deportation.   In some cases, partners of lesbian and gays face prosecution by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), hefty fines and deportation and U.S. citizens are sometimes left with no other choice but to migrate with their partner to a nation whose immigration laws recognize their relationship.  This creates a tremendous hardship, not only for those involved, but for their friends and family, and leads to a drain of talent and productivity for our country.Fifteen countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom recognize lesbian and gay couples for the purposes of immigration.

Employee Benefits for Federal Workers:
According to the GAO Report, marital status affects over 270 provisions dealing with current and retired federal employees, members of the Armed Forces, elected officials, and judges.   Most significantly, under current law, domestic partners of federal employees are excluded from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).  Although married couples are eligible for reimbursement for expenses incurred by a domestic partner are not reimbursable.   As of August 2003, nine states and the District of Columbia and 322 local governments offer health benefits to the domestic partners of their public employees, while the nation’s largest employer – the federal government – does not.

Continued Health Coverage (COBRA):
Federal law requires employers to give their former employees the opportunity to continue their employer-provided health insurance coverage by paying a premium (the requirement was part of the consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985; hence the common name COBRA).  An increasing number of employers, including 198 of the Fortune 500, now offer their employees domestic partner benefits.  Although this trend is encouraging, the Federal COBRA law does not require employers to provide domestic partners the continued coverage guaranteed to married couples.  Under 29 U.S.C. § 1167, an employer is only required to offer continuation coverage to the employee and to “qualified beneficiaries,” defined as the employee’s spouse and dependent children, regardless of whether the employee’s original benefits plan covered other beneficiaries.  Because of the narrow definition of “spouse” under federal law, employees are not guaranteed continued coverage for their domestic partners. [2]

[1] Defense of Marriage Act: An Update to Prior Report, General Accounting Office, 2004
[2] Nothing in this law prevents an employer from extending COBRA benefits to domestic partners.

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It’s nice to see that at least some Republicans are finally beginning to realize that, just maybe, it’s well passed time to end the systemic discrimination against an entire segment of our population.  It’s time for them to stop cherry-picking excerpts from the Bible and incorporating them into governmental laws affecting the people of our nation.

Under the Reading Lamp — 4/30/2012

ALEC’s Comeuppance

Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “ALEC’s operatives take these cookie-cutter bills from state capitol to state capitol, getting Republican governors and key legislators to introduce them. Then the organization helps organize astroturf campaigns to ram such ugliness into law. Gov. Scott Walker’s repressive agenda in Wisconsin is an ALEC product. So is Arizona’s war on Latinos, as is Florida’s murderous “stand your ground” shoot-em-up law.”

Putting Our Premiums Into Medical Care, Not Profits

Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “The recent news from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation that health insurers will have to send rebate checks totaling more than $1.3 billion to Americans this summer was especially gratifying to me. It more than justified my decision three years ago to clue members of Congress in on how insurance companies have systematically been devoting ever-increasing portions of our premium dollars to rewarding their shareholders and top executives.”

Top Republican Strategist Denies Women are Paid Less Than Men

Igor Volsky, Video Report: “Now we know, at least from both of your perspectives,” Maddow said, pointing to Castellanos and Romney surrogate Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), “women are not fairing worse than men in the economy that women aren’t getting paid less for equal work.” “It’s about policy and whether or not you want to fix some of the structural discrimination that women really do face that Republicans don’t believe is happening,” she added.

Five Tax Fallacies Invented by the 1%

Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed: “In 2009, the United States ranked 26th out of 28 OECD countries in total federal, state, and local taxes as a percent of GDP. Only Chile and Mexico had lower tax rates. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, ‘federal taxes on middle-income Americans are near historic lows.’ For taxpayers in the top 1%, the tax burden has fallen dramatically in recent years.”

AZ Lawmakers Lash Out at Imaginary United Nations Conspiracy With Assault on All Poverty & Environmental Laws

Ian Millhiser, News Report: “If this bill becomes law, Arizona’s government agencies would instantly be forbidden from doing anything to reduce poverty. Or to combat air pollution. Or to ensure that radioactive waste does not contaminate the environment. Or potentially to do anything at all to promote human health. Under this bill, Medicaid, state unemployment and welfare programs and nearly any environmental programs would need to cease, immediately.”

War, Money, and Moral Hazard

Thomas Magstadt, Op-Ed: “In the wake of the US bank-induced 2008 global financial crisis, policy makers, pundits, and economists suddenly rediscovered moral hazard in the under-regulated "free-market economy" both as a theoretical concept and as an existential danger. Nobody was more ardent in pushing this idea than then Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, who served in that position from 2006 to 2009.”

Don’t Let Congress Kick College Grads in the Teeth

Robert Borosage, Op-Ed: “The Republican chair of the House education committee says he has “serious concerns” about the bill. And the Republican budget — championed by Paul Ryan and embraced as “marvelous” by Mitt Romney — both calls for deep cuts in Pell grants and assumes that the interest rates on government sponsored student loans will double. What are the Republican “concerns”? They claim to be opposed to the $6 billion cost of keeping the rate low. But jacking up the rate simply shifts that $6 billion cost onto the next generation of students who are already crushed by debt.”

Trickle-Down Gulf Wreck-onomics

Robert S. Becker, Op-Ed: “‘BP’s toxic sludge inundation,’ or ‘BP’s fatal frothy flood,’ even ‘BP’s contagion of contaminated crude’ — crude and indiscriminate indeed when this glut of gunk continues its death march. Even bacteria called upon to consume oil slicks are nixed, slain by two million gallons of the solvent concoction Corexit. Keen observer of the Gulf tragedy, I’d be downright remiss to withhold scandalous news about oil stuck to human skin, eyeless shrimp, fish-scale infections, or rising mortality for marine mammals and previously endangered sea turtles.”

Feds File First Criminal Charges Related to BP Gulf Spill

Abrahm Lustgarten, News Analysis: “According to an FBI affidavit submitted to the court along with the indictment, Mix, who worked for BP until January 2012, was directly involved in BP’s efforts to understand how much oil was flowing out of the broken Macondo well. On April 21, 2010, Mix estimated that between 68,000 and 138,000 barrels of oil were leaking each day— far more than the 5,000 barrels that were estimated publicly at the time.”

Fracking Industry California Dreamin’: A Future California Nightmare?

Steve Horn, Op-Ed: “Yesterday, The Bakersfield Californian reported that another oil and gas industry giant is making its way to The Golden State: Hess Corporation. Hess has operations on six of the seven global continents and will be headed to California’s yet-to-be-fracked Monterey Shale basin, which contains some 15 billion barrels of proven recoverable shale oil, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration.”

Chesapeake Energy Well Blowout in Wyoming Causes Evacuation, Methane “Roared” for Days

Brendan DeMelle, News Report: “Once again, the failure appears tied to a faulty casing job. The Douglas Budget reports that, “the horizontal part of the drilling had been completed. The drillers pulled out the bit and were going to run the casing into the horizontal leg of the well.” That’s when the blowout occurred, apparently. Tom Doll, a Wyoming State Oil and Gas supervisor, told local press that the state had no idea how much methane gas had spewed into the air following the blowout, and would rely on Chesapeake to supply an answer.”

Rights Groups Hold International Drone Summit in Washington, DC

News Report: “We’re dragging this secretive drone program out of the shadows and into the light of day,” said Medea Benjamin, one of the Summit organizers and author of the new book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. “It’s time for the American public to know the true extent—and consequences—of the killing and spying being done in our name.” Lawyers representing Pakistani drone-strike victims and journalists investigating the attacks shared their experiences of these events in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. New footage of interviews with victims was aired.

The Viet Nam Conflict and the Fabricated Lies of War

Javier Rodriguez, Op-Ed: “That war was no different than the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the war against that other colonial power, Spain, the recent coup de tat against President Manuel Celaya and the democratically elected government in Honduras, and this one in particular hits the veins, the war on Mexico, where we lost over half of the territory. Indisputably history says, they have all been fabricated. No exceptions.”

Burden of Proof: Geithner, Obama, and Wall Street’s Unpunished Crimes

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: “Now the President’s really cracking down on Wall Street, we were told. In the face of widespread criticism for his proposed foreclosure fraud settlement with five top banks, the President eventually accompanied that deal with a promise of tougher enforcement. He appointed New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who had been pursuing banks and resisting previous deals, to his previously lethargic mortgage fraud group.”

AZ Legislators Trying to Declare Pregnancy 2 Weeks Prior to Conception

The past few months, we’ve seen the nation wake up to many anti-choice assaults on women’s basic right to control their fertility, especially with regards to imposing forced ultrasounds and numerous attacks on access to basic contraception. But one of the other favorite anti-choice approaches to maximizing the pain and suffering of women as punishment for sex has largely gone unnoticed by many outside of the pro-choice activist community: bans on abortions after 20 weeks. It’s understandable that it’s hard to whip people up about this particular situation. After all, abortions after 20 weeks are relatively rare. Only 1.5% of abortions occur after the 20th week, and the vast majority of those that do occur are done for medical reasons, or because legal and financial obstacles–like those put in place by lawmakers–caused a delay. While, if they knew their personal stories, most people would certainly sympathize with women in need of post-20 week abortions, a certain amount of reproductive rights fatigue is setting in. There’s only so many hours in the day, and anti-choicers know if they just keep throwing restrictions on access at us, some will slip through the cracks.

But, as exhausting as it is, we need to pay attention to and resist post-20 week bans on abortion. That’s because it’s cruel on its surface, but also because legislators are using 20 week bans in order to smuggle in other items of more importance to them than simply making it harder for a slim minority of women seeking abortions to get them. The most obvious thing they’re trying to do is set anti-science precedent. Since these bans are based on the false, unscientific claim that fetuses at 20 weeks can feel pain, if they’re allowed to stand, it opens the door for more laws based on straight-up lies to be passed. These laws are also being used to challenge the requirement set out in Roe v Wade that a woman’s health and life should trump that of the misogynist desire to keep her pregnant at all costs.

Legislators have had so much success smuggling in ulterior motives with 20-week bans that they’re now looking for ways to expand the amount of hard right anti-choice nonsense they can attach to those bills. The most recent—and extreme—example is Arizona. There, lawmakers are writing a 20-week abortion ban that starts counting off at the first day of a woman’s period. Yes, they’re arguing that you’re “pregnant” while you’re actually getting your period. In fact, as Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones explains, they’re really trying to steal as many weeks as possible away from women seeking abortion:

Most women ovulate about 14 or 15 days after their period starts, and women can usually get pregnant from sexual intercourse that occured anywhere between five days before ovulation and a day after it. Arizona’s law would start the clock at a woman’s last period—which means, in practice, that the law prohibits abortion later than 18 weeks after a woman actually becomes pregnant.

That’s bad in and of itself, but taking a step back and looking at the big picture makes this law look even more sinister. Medically speaking, pregnancy starts when a fertilized egg implants in the uterine lining. Anti-choicers have attempted to define it earlier with their failed attempts to pass “personhood” law that would define not just pregnancy, but “personhood” as beginning at conception. Now in Arizona, they’re trying to argue that you’re pregnant a couple of weeks before you even had the sex that resulted in your pregnancy.

Think about the implications down the road. If a woman is “pregnant” two weeks before she becomes pregnant, than any fertile woman—including those currently menstruating!—should really be considered pregnant. After all, we don’t know the future. We don’t know that any non-pregnant woman couldn’t be pregnant two weeks from now, making her retroactively pregnant now. Considering that it’s anti-choice nuts we’re talking about, it’s safe to assume that they’d simply prefer a situation where all women of reproductive age are considered to be pregnant, on the grounds that they could be two weeks from now. Better safe than sorry, especially if that mentality means you get to exert maximum control over the bodies of women of reproductive age.

Between personhood bills and the assault on access to contraception, it’s becoming increasingly clear that anti-choicers aren’t satisfied with simply trying to control the already-pregnant. Finding ways to define the not-pregnant as pregnant is a means of laying the groundwork for exerting this control. Imagine if Roe is overturned and states go into a true frenzy of stripping every imaginable right away from pregnant women. It wouldn’t be limited to stripping the right to abortion, but also to any kind of behavior deemed “abortive,” including holding certain kinds of jobs, eating certain foods, or taking certain medications. With this bill, then, you could not only restrict the rights of those who are actually pregnant, but extend the restrictions to all women of reproductive age on the grounds that they “could be pregnant in two weeks, i.e. in perpetuity” and would therefore be considered the same thing as being pregnant.

Already in some states, they’re looking for ways to prosecute women who have stillbirths if they did something the prosecutor believes may have had an impact on the pregnancy, such as drug use. With the hoped-for overturn of Roe, we can expect these efforts to intensify, with prosecutions of miscarriages. Now with this Arizona bill, if a woman is deemed pregnant two weeks before she actually is, prosecutors could even have a chance to look at your choices when you weren’t even pregnant—before you even had the sex that made you pregnant—and blame those choices for bad outcomes. They’re creating, brick by brick, the legal basis on which to prosecute a woman who drinks some alcohol, becomes pregnant two weeks later, and miscarries, even though she didn’t drink while pregnant. And you best believe that when feminists protest this, they’ll just paint it as if we’re more interested in protecting drunken sluts than “babies.”

If you can be “pregnant” without being pregnant, that also creates legal complications around simple menstruation. After all, menstruation is usually seen as the opposite of being pregnant; women use menstruation to mark that they aren’t pregnant. But under this bill, you could both be menstruating and “pregnant” by law. Should Roe be overturned and the state start looking to prosecute women for miscarriages they deem inappropriately prevented, what about women who are just getting their period? They’re “pregnant” under the pregnant-prior-to-conception framework, aren’t they? Are they miscarrying in the eyes of the law or are they just continuing their theoretical pregnancy? These kinds of ambiguities are exactly the sort of thing zealous misogynist law enforcement will be looking to exploit.

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.  This article is republished from RH Reality Check, a progressive online publication covering global reproductive and sexual health news and information.