Scott Phillip Roeder

On May 31, 2009, Scott Roeder walked into the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, waited for the right opportunity, and shot and killed George Tiller.

He has confessed to it numerous times, and today, he basically hung himself in Court.

During the trial, Roeder’s defense attorneys tried to present a defense that would hopefully result in a conviction on voluntary manslaughter. As such, to justify the lesser charge, Roeder verbally gave everything needed to secure a conviction of first-degree murder.

On the stand, Roeder revealed he had been trying to find the chance to kill Tiller since August 2008, over 9 months of trying. He even considered a sniper shot while Tiller was walking into his clinic, but he knew that Tiller drove an armored vehicle, wore body armor, and had a security detail.

Seeing the church as the opportunity to kill him, Roeder showed up, armed, at the church numerous times while. On May 31, Roeder finally got his opportunity, shooting Tiller in the church foyer.

But today, the judge in the case ruled against allowing the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. Roeder now faces conviction of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

While I feel, that given the extreme pre-meditated nature of this crime, Roeder should have been subject to the death penalty, I am relieved he is not. The last thing we need to do is make Roeder another Paul Jennings Hill, or give the extremist or militant pro-life lobby another martyr.

Unless there is a dereliction of duty by the jury, Scott Phillip Roeder will be convicted of "murder one" for killing George Tiller. What started off as a controversial and rocky case will come to a sure and just end.

There will likely be appeals, and they will likely, and hopefully, fail.

The fact of the matter is that Scott Roeder killed a man in cold blood in the foyer of a church. This didn’t happen in Tiller’s clinic while he was preparing to perform an abortion. Roeder killed Tiller in a church, shooting Tiller in the head because Roeder knew that Tiller had the tendency to wear body armor.

At least Roeder likely will be sitting in jail for the rest of his life, unless, as I said, there is an extreme derelict of duty on the part of the jury.

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Commentary on capital punishment

I am in favor of capital punishment. I will say that up front: I’m in favor of the death penalty. I’ve been in favor of it all my life; it’s not something that is going to change readily.

Now there are a lot of arguments and misconceptions against capital punishment. I’ve heard quite a few – in fact I’m quite well-read on the subject. The only part of capital punishment on which I choose to not be well read are the various tactics in which it is carried out. The method, to me, is independent of the concept.

I could write article after article, blog post after blog post about why various methods should not be employed, and many probably have. I’m not here to argue the method, though, only the concept of capital punishment. And there are a lot of arguments to choose from, such as this one:

"The Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment means that the death penalty is unconstitutional."

If you believe this, then you need to re-read the Fourteenth Amendment, more specifically the Due Process Clause:

[N]or shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

The Due Process Clause states simply that the government may not, without first going through the necessary legal processes, seize your property, incarcerate you or strip you of your rights ("deprive you of…liberty"), or put you to death ("deprive you of life").

The mention of life separate from liberty and property means that the Constitution is implicitly declaring the death penalty as constitutionally exempt from the Eighth Amendment. Where an Amendment and the body of the Constitution conflict, the Amendment controls, and where two Amendments conflict, the newer Amendment controls.

"So what about those who’ve been released from death row, having had their convictions thrown out on new evidence?"

Any person who uses that as an argument needs to rethink their logic. You might as well say that those who’ve been released from prison, as contrasted from death row, due to new evidence surfacing means that the entire penal system should be abolished.

The fact that the prisoner was on death row is irrelevant to the argument. They were incarcerated by the State following a conviction by a jury of their peers in a Court of law, meaning the jury weighed the evidence presented to them and returned a verdict of Guilty.

Evidence later surfacing that provides the reasonable doubt necessary for a conviction to be set aside isn’t a problem with capital punishment, but with the criminal investigation. The only thing that capital punishment brings to that party is an implied time limit. I say "implied time limit" because there is not any limit on when a person can have their conviction overturned or vacated to the best of my knowledge. The only difference is whether the person will be alive when that happens.

And that applies equally to individuals not sentenced to death, as the person incarcerated could die unexpectedly in jail, whether on death row or not, or might expire during a life sentence before new evidence surfaces that allows the conviction to be vacated.

And yes, there have been cases where a person’s conviction has been posthumously vacated where the person in question died in prison. In 2000 convictions for murder against four members of the Patriarca crime family were overturned. The conviction was secured in 1968, and by the time the conviction was overturned, two of the men had expired in prison.

Miscarriages of justice are unfortunate, but abolishing the death penalty will not eliminate them, and there is nothing to suggest that the occurrence will be reduced.

"But capital punishment has no deterrent effect."

I agree. But let me raise your claim with this argument: the entirety of the corrections and criminal justice system has no deterrent effect on murder either. So what’s the point in arguing that there’s no deterrent effect when the threat of just going to prison for the rest of your life doesn’t deter either?

And I would not consider it unreasonable to expand the argument to say that the criminal justice system doesn’t deter any crime.

"If that’s the case, then why do so many try to cover up the murders they’ve committed?"

That is a psychological question that I don’t have the answer to, and I’m not going to speculate. But I’m sure if you read around there’ve been articles and books published on it.

But with regard to the murder itself, once someone forms the intent to kill a person, there is likely nothing to deter the person from actually going forward with the crime, other than a kink in their plan, assuming there is a plan. And the same could apply to virtually any other crime.

I mean think about it, is a person who has already decided they will kill someone suddenly going to back down upon realizing that they will go to jail? I highly doubt it.

"It costs more to keep a person on death row than it does to incarcerate them for life."

It also costs more to incarcerate a person for life than it does to parole them after 20 years, depending on the prisoner. Should we abolish mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole?

If we start successfully arguing that certain punishments should not be allowed because of cost, eventually it’ll become that no punishment should be allowed because of cost. Instead of incarceration, perhaps just fine people for their crimes since that actually provides a positive revenue stream to jurisdictions instead of paying out to support prisoners while they are in jail.

If you find that statement irrational, then it is equally irrational to argue about the cost of keeping a person on death row.

* * *

Thank you to Glenn Beck and his book Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government for the inspiration for this format. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. Now before you think I’m a Kool-Aid drinking conservative nut who will readily say "Yes, Glenn, I believe you" to anything he says, not the case. There are actually points of view on which I disagree with him, believe it or not.

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A forgotten case on abortion

Typically when discussing abortion, many in both the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" camps tend to focus on the infamous Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113 (1973). But Roe was not the first case to address abortion, and it certainly was not the last.

Like many other decisions, the Supreme Court built the jurisprudence of Roe upon the decisions of prior cases. One notable case is Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 US 479 (1963), in which it was decided that the State may not outlaw birth control, but it applied only to married individuals. Building immediately upon that decision is Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 US 438 (1972), in which the Supreme Court expanded Griswold’s protections to unmarried individuals.

Between these two cases would come another, dealing almost directly with the criminal proscription of abortion.

Dr. Milan Vuitch was arrested in the District of Columbia in 1968 for illegally performing abortions. Judge Gerhard Gesell, however, would set aside the indictment and rule that the statute under which Vuitch had been arrested was "unconstitutionally vague". That decision would be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Oral arguments in the case would be held on January 12, 1971, and the case would be decided April 21, 1971. In United States v. Vuitch, 402 US 62, the Court would reinstate the indictment against Vuitch, stating that the law in question was not unconstitutionally vague, but the ruling doesn’t stop there.

Because Vuitch was arrested and indicted under a criminal statute, the Supreme Court ruled that ultimately "the burden is on the prosecution to plead and prove that an abortion was not ‘necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life or health.’" [406 US at 71]

If this burden is not met beyond reasonable doubt, as determined by the fact-finder during the trial, a "not guilty" verdict is compelled. This particular provision is in line with virtually every other criminal statute on the books: the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond reasonable doubt the existence of all facts and elements pertinent to supporting the charges alleged.

Let me repeat that because it is quite important for everyone to remember:

In any criminal trial, it is the burden of the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt all facts and elements necessary to support the charges alleged. In no criminal trial will you find it the burden of the defense to prove the absence of a particular fact or element to secure a "not guilty" verdict.

An element of a crime is presumed absent unless otherwise proven to exist beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution with cross-examination by the defense.

The central tenant behind the reason the law was originally declared unconstitutionally vague rested on the supposed vagueness of the world "health" with regard to whether an abortion was performed pertinent to the mother’s health. Does that mean physical health only, or does it also include mental health?

Applying Doe v. General Hospital of the District of Columbia, 313 F. Supp. 1170 (DC 1970), the Supreme Court ruled, inline with this decision, that abortions may be performed to resolve or avoid compromising the mental health of the mother, even if she had no prior history of mental health defects. This is the standard that allowed George Tiller to perform seemingly needless late-term abortions.

With the law upheld and the indictment reinstated, Vuitch would face trial on charges of illegally performing abortions. However with the burden now firmly on the shoulders of the prosecution to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the abortion was performed in violation of the statute, prosecutions of allegedly illegal abortions would become difficult.

Vuitch perfectly outlined the difficulty of prosecution with regard to abortions:

Now the government lawyer will be in the position of challenging my medical decision. What are the jury members going to decide when a lawyer tries to tell them that the doctor is wrong about a medical matter? [1]

Even if abortion were again criminalized today, with the Vuitch standard in place (I don’t yet know of a case where it was vacated), prosecution would still be very difficult.

Other questions, however, were still yet to be answered at the time the Vuitch decision was rendered.

References

[1] "Ambivalence on Abortion". Time. May 3, 1971.

United States Supreme Court cases:

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Don’t be narrow focused on health care reform

I work in the health care industry and have worked in the health care industry for the last 4 years, minus a stretch of unemployment. I first worked for a medium company whose target market was small and medium clinics, and now I work for a large corporation whose target market is larger clinics and hospitals.

One thing that I’ve come to observe is how short-sighted the thinking appears to be on health care. There is a lot that is not being taken into consideration by those who seek to overhaul 1/7th of our economy. In my opinion it is currently immaterial whether the target is a single-payer system, because they are aiming at changes that don’t target the real causes of the increased health care costs.

Currently if you have insurance, when you visit a physician you receive from your insurance company a document, similar to an invoice, called an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) which outlines the charges from your recent visit and how much was paid by the insurance provider. Your EOB will likely show two prices for each listed charge: the price normally charged by the physician’s office, and a discounted price. The discounted price is the price that the physician agrees to charge patients with a particular insurance plan.

This is why there is a push to get everyone on insurance of some kind: the discounted rates mean that everyone pays less overall. For individuals without insurance, the discounted rates don’t apply, meaning that basically 47 million people are left with a full tab after a doctor’s visit that they have to pay on the spot or make arrangements to pay. If the person is indigent or meets certain qualifications, the government will pay the bill through one of several programs, or there may be private charities that can provide assistance. Again, though, there is no discount applied to the rates.

Part of the problem in this country when it comes to figuring out how to reform the system is that few actually understand how insurance actually works. Actually I would say that is most of the problem. For most covered individuals, there will be no problems when a billing statement is sent from the physician’s office to the insurance company. The insurance company will pay on the claim, you’ll receive the EOB in the mail, and everything goes on as normal.

Part of this lack of understanding is the patient not understanding their insurance benefits. For visits to a clinic, things tend to be relatively straightforward, even when you see a specialist for a consultation. It’s when you need treatments targeting a specialized diagnosis that you need to start reading the fine print on your insurance policy — and the problem is that few actually do. For example, I have psoriasis. Treatments can come only through one source: a dermatologist. Treatments targeting psoriasis range from the relatively inexpensive over the counter treatments that may or may not work to expensive prescriptions (even with my insurance coverage).

Then there’s the physician-side of things, namely the billing process. One of the leading causes of billing problems at hospitals and physician offices is incorrect billing and/or insurance information provided by the patient. Billing problems increase health care costs because they delay payment to the clinic or hospital and increase administrative overhead. Billing problems are also completely preventable, and most are caused by patients — something you won’t hear from health care reform advocates. The clinics and hospitals aren’t in the clear on this, either, as clinics and hospitals will have administrative issues, same with insurance companies (and practically every company with an accounting department). However the cost of their administrative issues are still passed on to their single revenue source: the patients.

This comes down to increasing efficiencies within the clinics and hospitals, as well as the insurance companies. Reduce administrative overhead and administrative errors and issues, and you reduce costs at the same time. This is why there is a push for electronic health record (EHR) systems at clinics and hospitals: they have been shown to reduce errors in the heath care setting, including administrative errors.

However you can’t completely prevent patient errors, which is another reason why a lot of people want a single-payer system. In a single-payer system, patient errors are all but eliminated when it comes to billing. The only thing you have to provide is an account number and some other identifying information — but then again, you’d probably not be surprised how often even just this basic information causes billing issues.

A secondary problem associated with billing that also keeps health care costs up is that most individuals don’t thoroughly review their EOB or billing statements when they receive them. Just like you should not pay for any other services you don’t receive, your insurance company should not pay for services the clinic did not provide to you. These billing and administrative errors need to be corrected, so be sure to go over every statement you receive regarding visits to clinics and hospitals to verify everything is reasonably accurate.

One other thing you can do as well to reduce health care costs: pay out of your own pocket when you can afford to do so. When you pay your co-pay at the front counter at the clinic, ask them the total amount of the bill. If they say they won’t know until their accounting or billing department sees the paperwork from the visit, ask them to bill you first and you’ll make the determination then of whether to bill the insurance company. I actually did this on my most recent doctor visit, and what they quoted me wasn’t affordable, but at least I gave them the chance to avoid billing the insurance company.

Note that billing the insurance company is quite different than notifying the insurance company. If you have an insurance plan with a deductible, always have a statement sent to the insurance company so anything you pay out of pocket is credited against your deductible.

When you pay out of pocket as opposed to billing the insurance company, you help reduce the clinic’s administrative and overhead costs. If more patients did this, imagine how it would start adding up. Now I know that for visits and consultations with specialists, this may not be entirely realistic — my most recent visit was with an Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat) and the laryngoscopy alone was $150 (not to mention about 1 1/2 hours with numb nasal passages), plus I was additionally billed for the clinical consultation.

However I also had two consultations with a dermatologist about three years ago, and the total billed amount for each consultation was under $60. Had I had the foresight to ask what the billed amount would be, I would’ve paid it in full without them having to bill the insurance company.

I am against the current health care reforms for the single reason that this is not being completely thought out. Everyone involved in the legislative process thus far has been very short-sighted and narrow-focused, even with several practicing physicians in both houses. And with what is at stake, we cannot afford to be short-sighted and narrow-focused on reforming health care.

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Glenn Beck fears for the President’s life

I watch the Glenn Beck program through the blog “The Right Scoop“. Today (January 20, 2010) he said something rather telling, and startling.

Embedded below is part 2 of the series of videos providing the show. Around shy of three minutes through the clip, Glenn mentions a blog post by Newsbusters.org in which far-left commentator Mike Malloy is quoted as saying this:

You crazy sons-of-bitches, you right-wingers. Do you not understand that the people you hold up as heroes bombed your goddamn country? Do you not understand that Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly are as complicit of the September 11, 2001, terror attack as any one of those dumb-ass fifteen who came from Saudi Arabia? Don’t you get that?

Read more about it here. They also have a link to the radio broadcast in which he says this.

It’s interesting that this person said that the Fox News commentators are “complicit” in the 9/11 attacks. To be complicit, they had to not only have had advance knowledge of 9/11, they also had to have been in a position to stop or interrupt the attacks and do nothing. In criminal law, that would make them accessories.

Give me a break.

Watch the full show here.

Go to about 3:54 on the video. You’ll find Glenn saying this:

Please pray for our Secret Service. Make sure that they do their job. Please, dear God, protect our President.

If I am interpreting what Mr Beck is saying correctly, he actually fears for the President’s life. I’ve watched his show, primarily whatever was made available through FoxNews.com, for much of the past year. I don’t think he would be saying something like this unless he actually had reason to believe the safety of the President of the United States could be compromised.

If this is indeed a fear of his, I certainly hope it is one that does not come to fruition.

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Nothing happens at Internet pace

Tuesday January 19, 2010, in an upset victory, the Senate seat once held by John Kennedy and his younger brother Edward Kennedy went to a Republican – State Senator Scott Brown. Many in the political arena, especially the bloggers and commentators, saw this as a "referendum on health care", or a "41st vote" in the Senate, another check on the Democrat majority in Congress.

While it is certainly sobering to see the "super majority" in the Senate broken, one thing that is obvious is that most Americans, on all edges of the political spectrum, have not regained the perspective they so clearly need.

What do I mean?

Fourteen years ago in 1996, we saw the first presidential campaigns to feature web sites. Kansas Senator Bob Dole and former New York Congressman Jack Kemp ran on the Republican ticket with President Clinton and Vice Pres Gore running for re-election on the Democrat ticket. The Internet was moving into the mainstream, with the number of households with a computer and an Internet connection (albeit mostly dial-up at that time) increasing at a huge rate. The United States and the world was moving into the Internet age, and we started growing more impatient at the years grew on and we started becoming more tied to our digital lives.

Today you’d be very hard pressed to find someone without an e-mail address, and while a little easier, though not much, it would still be difficult to find someone without a Facebook profile or Twitter feed. Our society has become the epitome of "instant gratification", so much so that the people do not understand, even with almost a trillion dollars of spending earmarked in the US Treasury, why the economy has not only not improved, but has gotten worse since Obama was inaugurated one year ago this day.

The concept of something actually taking days, weeks, months, or even years has escaped most everyone today. Now if a problem cannot be corrected in minutes, let alone hours, we think there is something wrong with whomever is trying to make the corrections without realizing that perhaps the nature of the problem is the reason corrections won’t come quick.

Now Scott Brown is in a unique position, in that he has the potential to deliver on one "instant gratification" promise: stopping the massive health care bill from leaving Capitol Hill, assuming parliamentary tricks are not employed by Democrats.

And one lesson that all of Washington needs to learn is this: the Independents control the elections. You may have established party bases that you can rely on to make up a certain percentage of the vote, but you must still placate the independent majority.

Few incumbencies are like Edward Kennedy’s, going pretty much until death. Few incumbencies go until the person voluntarily decides to not seek re-election. Remember that.

To the rest of the American people, here is one lesson you need to learn: nothing happens at Internet pace. Let me give you an example.

There is an online game called Puzzle Pirates — I play occasionally and not nearly to the extent I once did. One aspect of the game seemingly unique to Puzzle Pirates is its open market economy. Prices are controlled by the economic theory of supply and demand — capitalism runs relatively free on Puzzle Pirates, though it is restricted by certain hard-coded rules within the game.

Within Puzzle Pirates one way to make money is by running a forage operation. Others come to forage for you at your operation, you pay them based on what they bring in, and you eventually sell what is foraged for a profit, assuming you can make it to your destination without getting intercepted. Running a forage operation is the epitome of patience. Profits will not come quick, and there is great expense to be made up front.

With patience and determination, things will pay off — for several months while I was unemployed, I ran arguably the largest forage operation in the game, reaping considerable profits and generating considerable wealth within the game.

But during that time I ran into a lot of people who tried to compete with me, failing miserably in the process, who thought that the forage operations were a great way to get rich. Done properly they are, but their fallacy was assuming they could get rich quick, and it doesn’t work that way. Like any business, my forage operation started out small, on one of the smaller ships in the game, and eventually grew to encompass several large ships in a kind of foraging armada.

I was patient.

And that is what we have lost in this country: patience. We now expect that things will happen at Internet pace. I’m sure there were those who thought that on Election Day 2008 or Inauguration Day 2009 things would suddenly change because Obama was elected. The only thing that changed that day was the person sitting as President of the United States. Many were newly unemployed that day, and many more, like me, were still unemployed for extended periods of time.

Since that Inauguration Day, however, the President and Congress have been trying to make things happen at Internet pace, and the rest of the world just doesn’t work that way.

And even the next election day people were counting down to 2010 and 2012. Obama was just elected, but people were not even willing to give him a chance — they were more than ready to see him gone, and could not wait for the opportunity to oust him from office. In 2006, if not 2005, we were seeing Democrats announcing their candidacy for President. Bush had been re-elected and many couldn’t wait to see him finally gone, as he was now prohibited by the Constitution from seeking the Presidency ever again.

Even this year many cannot wait for November. While those in Washington should be afraid about losing their jobs, the rest of the people need to be even more careful than before, fully vetting our candidates before going to the ballot box.

While many say that Brown’s election to the Senate should be a wake-up call to those in Washington to slow down, we all need a similar wake-up call. Nothing happens at Internet pace, and we all need to slow down and renew our patience.

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The United States was founded by Christians

One thing that always irks me is when atheists use the argument “this country wasn’t founded by Christians”. And the one thing that irks me the most about these arguments, from either side, is how they always argue about the Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution. And the reason it irks me is because it makes it sound like this country didn’t exist in any form before the Constitution.

Okay, technically the United States didn’t exist before the American Revolution, but the colonies did. The foundation for this country was laid by those colonists as well, who were Christians. We just have a government that is supposed to be, by definition of the Constitution, religiously neutral.

Jamestown, Virginia, is recognized as the first successful colonization attempt of North America. Three ships, the Discovery, Godspeed, and Susan Constant, led by Captain Christopher Newport of the Virginia Company, established a settlement at Jamestown Island in the James River.

And guess what religion the crews of the three ships were. That’s right. They were Christians.

Even the majority of those who signed the Constitution were Christians, but that is beside the point. The reason the United States exists to begin with is because of the colonists who came over here and started successful colonies that grew into what would become the United States. And those colonists were Christians.

To say this country was not founded by Christians ignores the colonists who are the reason the United States exists at all. At the time the Constitution was written, there were other faiths than just Christianity in the United States, and those who wrote the Constitution recognized this.

The first Jews didn’t arrive in the New World until 1654, arriving in the already established colony of New Amsterdam, which would later become New York City.

Let me ask you this: was the contribution of the colonists not significant enough because they didn’t sign a piece of paper?

Oh, wait, they did.

The Mayflower Compact was signed by the Plymouth colonists in 1620. And the Mayflower Compact is recognized as the first constitution in the New World, though not a true constitution, and it was signed “In the Name of God, Amen”. And it begins “Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith…”

So to all persons who try to say that this country was not founded by Christians, you’re outright wrong. You cannot ignore the fact that the colonists, who are the reason the United States even exists, were Christians.

Oh but what about the Constitution? Okay, let’s go into this.

The majority of those who signed the Constitution were Christians. Of the total who attended the convention, 49 were a denomination of Protestantism, 3 were Roman Catholic (52 total). There were 55 delegates total. Plus how did the Constitution even come into effect?

It would not have mattered if the authors of the Constitution were Jews, Muslims, Christians, Pagans, atheists, or deists if it never went into effect. It would have just waned into history as another piece of paper that crumbled to dust. And even though it was ratified, it still does not matter in the least the religious affiliation of those who drafted the document.

But Constitution had to be ratified… by the States… by their legislatures – legislatures consisting of popularly elected members. And who elected those members? The majority of the populous, who were… Christian.

Ultimately the Constitution was ratified courtesy of the people of the United States. But it all started with the Jamestown settlement and the Plymouth Colony, both of which were founded by Christians.

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Why is the pro-life movement going after contraception?

Back in November I watched a documentary on the pro-life movement in the United States called Unborn in the USA (Rent it on Netflix). It is nothing more than video footage of various interviews with those who are against abortion along with footage of demonstrations, rallies, and confrontations. On Netflix, I rated the documentary 3 stars out of 5.

One thing that is evident in the documentary is what those on both sides of the issue think will work in getting their point of view across to the point where it is the dominant point of view. It should be self-evident by now that shouting down your rival in an argument will not succeed, but aggravate.

I am what would be called “pro-choice”, only because I do not feel abortion should be proscribed by law. I do agree with “pro-life” organizations in that government money should not be subsidizing elected abortions. I certainly would like to see the downward trend in the per-year incidence of abortion continue, but along with that, I also want to see the downward trend in the per-year incidence of unwanted pregnancies continue.

I do not feel that abortion should be proscribed at all, actually. I feel that women who become unexpectedly pregnant should be educated on all available options – abortion included. But the education needs to be fair and balanced, providing information that is accurate instead of information blown out of proportion.

What many in the pro-life movement are doing is not education, but sensationalism. It is gaining them attention, but it is not producing the results they would like to see. In ironic contrast to the pro-life movement, the results the pro-life movement desire are being generated by some of the groups they most detest: family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood.

And family planning clinics are producing these results by going after the number one cause of abortion: unplanned, unexpected pregnancies.

By distributing birth control, allowing free and readily available access to condoms, and disseminating comprehensive information on female reproduction and pregnancy, family planning clinics are helping women to prevent pregnancy in the first place, which in turn reduces the number of abortions sought each year.

To accelerate this effort, many States through their Medicaid programs give women access to birth control, health exams, and counseling at little to no out-of-pocket cost.

Yet the pro-life movement is now turning their attention toward contraception, the very thing that is continuing to reduce abortion numbers.

“By outlawing contraception, you’re closer to outlawing surgical abortion. So if, as the pro-life community, you’re trying to outlaw surgical abortion but the court has told us its legal basis is founded on the necessity of abortion, shouldn’t the pro-life community begin to take a look at contraception? We’re trying to overturn Roe v. Wade, but the court is pointing us over here.”

— Matt Sande, Director of Legislative Affairs, Pro-Life Wisconsin 1

In 2005, Pro-Life Wisconsin pushed a bill that would have allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives the pharmacist believes could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus, forwarding a belief that pregnancy begins at conception, not implantation.1 This bill would, in short, allow a licensed pharmacist to refuse an order from a physician purely because the prescription alone might offend the pharmacist.

There have even been protests outside family planning clinics that do not even provide abortions. In Wausau, Wisconsin, pickets by pro-lifers, most of whom are Catholic, are apparently a daily sight outside that city’s family planning clinic.

The fight against contraceptives, however, is facing conflict from within, as other pro-life organizations do not feel that going after contraceptives is the right way to go. But it would be in the courtroom where they would face their biggest challenge.

In the landmark case Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 US 479 (1963), the Supreme Court of the United States overturned a Connecticut law that legally proscribed contraceptives by a 7-2 vote:

Any person who uses any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception shall be fined not less than fifty dollars or imprisoned not less than sixty days nor more than one year or be both fined and imprisoned. 2

The Court reasoned that the law, “in forbidding the use of contraceptives, rather than regulating their manufacture or sale, seeks to achieve its goals by means having a maximum destructive impact upon [a marital relationship].” (381 US at 485) The Court then put the nail in the coffin:

Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship.

The Court in this decision chiefly applies the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Ninth Amendment basically says that just because a right isn’t specifically stated in the Constitution does not mean it does not exist. It is with this Amendment, among others, that have allowed the Supreme Court to declare “rights” that otherwise would likely have not been recognized. Griswold is the first case to declare an express right to privacy, albeit a right of marital privacy.

The decision is also uncharacteristically short. The decision itself is only 7 pages (381 US 480-486). But in this short decision, it basically puts a golden nail into the coffin of legally proscribing contraception.

The decision in Griswold, however, was limited only to married individuals. The ruling would be expanded in the 1972 case of Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 US 438, by a 6-1 ruling, striking down a Massachusetts law proscribing the distribution of contraception to unmarried individuals.

There have as of yet been no direct challenges to Griswold or Eisenstadt.

Other sources:

United States Supreme Court cases:

  1. Davidoff, Judith. (2005, August 1). “Abortion foes take aim at contraceptives“. The Capital Times. [] []
  2. General Statutes of Connecticut, 53-32 (1958 rev.) []
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The Bill of Rights and Immigrants

Question: Does the Bill of Rights apply to immigrants?

Recently I’ve been getting into some interesting discussions with my cousin’s husband. Many of these discussions tend to involve abortion, as he is adamantly “pro-life”, but recently he made some comments regarding the Constitution and its applicability, or lack thereof, to non-citizens.

First, to say the Bill of Rights applies only to citizens of the United States is incorrect. Those who say this do not fully understand the Bill of Rights or the Constitution. But then again, this is not really any surprise.

The United States Bill of Rights is comprised of the first ten Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. To say they are “rights”, though, actually undermines the purpose of the Constitution, which is to establish a republican form of government, which Article IV of the Constitution requires.

It is called the Bill of Rights to mirror the British Bill of Rights of 1689, in which the people of England received in writing guarantees of certain rights by the King.

In the United States under the Constitution, the government grants no one their rights. You have them, and have always had them. They are inherent and inalienable.

Now if the Bill of Rights applied only to citizens, whether natural born or naturalized, then the government could be absolutely tyrannical toward immigrants. This means the government could:

  • arrest them up for no reason (a violation of Article I, Section 9 requirement for a writ habeas corpus)
  • arrest them if they say anything the government does not like (violating their First Amendment right to free speech)
  • seize their property without cause (a violation of both the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process)
  • torture them until they are inches from death (a violation of the Eighth Amendment)

Obviously none of this is occurring, because the government is indiscriminately restrained. Regardless of with whom the government is interacting, whether they be a citizen, legal or illegal immigrant, the government must act the same.

The Bill of Rights provides for further express limitations upon the government over what the Constitution provides. Originally they were interpreted to apply to the Federal government – the level ultimately established by the Constitution – but through the Fourteenth Amendment, they have been applied to all States as well.

Even the Supreme Court has interpreted the Bill of Rights as applying to everyone within the jurisdiction of the United States. In the case of Plyler v. Doe, 457 US 202 (1982), the Court found in a 5 to 4 majority that to deny children who are illegal immigrants a public education is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment unless the State could reasonably justify such discrimination.

In the case of United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 US 873 (1975), the Court ruled unanimously that to

allow roving patrols the broad and unlimited discretion urged by the Government to stop all vehicles in the border area without any reason to suspect that they have violated any law, would not be “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment.

In other words, before the Border Patrol can detain individuals attempting to cross the border, they must have at a minimum reasonable suspicion that the individuals are attempting to enter or remain in the country illegally. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Any person who is in the United States, whether legally or not, is entitled to full rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are express limitations on our government, not licenses to citizens. They define the limited circumstances under which the government can do something to a person within her jurisdiction, regardless of whether that person is a citizen, legal resident, or illegal immigrant.

Does the Bill of Rights apply to non-citizens? The answer is an overwhelming Yes.

Follow-up: Please read the article “Revisiting the Constitution and non-citizens” for a more in-depth look at this topic.

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With all this talk about H1N1, what is being missed?

Unfortunately H1N1 has claimed another life:

Article: “Kansas Man, 75, Dies From H1N1 Flu

And this recent death is in line with what I’ve been hearing about H1N1: if you’re in good health, you have nothing about which to worry. Save the vaccines for those at greatest risk.

Why are we a society so concerned about getting sick? It seems that in some households, children are inhaling more Lysol than oxygen. Have we lost touch with common sense? (Wait… on second thought, don’t answer that.)

Trust me, there are diseases out there that are much, much more troublesome than H1N1. Here’s my question: with all of this focus on H1N1, why are we not hearing anything about the rising measles problem in the United States? I guarantee you that measles is a much bigger problem than H1N1, and it’s a problem that is unfortunately growing.

In 1994 the World Health Organization declared that the United Kingdom no longer had an endemic strain of measles, which means that all cases of measles were the result of importation: someone contracting measles elsewhere and bringing it into the UK. The United States would receive a similar declaration 6 years later in 2000.

As a result of the declaration, vaccination of children with the MMR triple vaccine slowed to the point where health officials warned that chains of infection could now be sustainable. Further complicating matters regarding vaccination would the 1998 publication in the journal The Lancet of the since widely discredited study that supposedly showed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Again, that study has since been widely discredited and the official consensus in the global medical community is this: the MMR vaccine does not cause nor aggravate autism.

As a result of misconduct and ethics violations related to the study, Andrew Wakefield has been stripped of his license to practice medicine in the United Kingdom and is completely discredited in the medical community. In 2004 several of the researchers linked to the Wakefield study would publish a retraction of their findings.

But the damage was done. Suspicions and fears would be confirmed in 2008, where it was declared by British health officials that a strain of measles was once again endemic in the British population, according to the British newspaper The Independent.

And the case isn’t looking good for the United States.

Between January through April 2008, the United States had more cases of measles through just that 4-month period than was seen for entire years between 2000 and 2007. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would report in the August 22, 2008, report of their MMWR publication that there were 131 reported cases of measles between from January 1 to July 31, 2008. In 7 months, the United States would have more than twice as many measles cases as was typically seen for an entire year.

I have not been able to confirm a total number of cases for the entire year 2008, and the current number of cases of measles for 2009 is not available. I have contacted the CDC to see if this information is available and I will post the response when I receive it.

Measles was once a major health concern, and at the current trend, it will be once again, unless it can be arrested before it grows out of control. At the current rate, the United States is on track to the same situation the UK is currently facing: an endemic strain of measles resident in the population.

Measles is the most infectious virus currently known, second only to smallpox (now extinct except for lab samples). A person who is not immune to measles has greater than a 90% chance of contracting measles when exposed to the virus. And a carrier who aspirates (cough or sneeze) will have created a cloud of measles virus that is viable for up to two hours.

With all of the focus on H1N1 and seasonal influenza, why is no one talking about this? Personally, what I’m hearing about measles concerns me more, because it is a symptom of a greater problem.

If you are a parent, make sure your children’s vaccines are current.

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