Privacy and Civil Liberties
In September 2000 (shortly before Al Gore won the popular vote, but
George W. Bush was appointed by the Supreme Court) my article "Abortion and
the Left" appeared in the Stanislaus Connections, a monthly newspaper put
out by the Modesto, CA Peace/Life Center.
"A rational, secular case thus exists for the rights of preborn humans. Individual life is a continuum from fertilization until death. Zygote, embryo, fetus, infant, adolescent, etc. are all stages of development. To destroy that life at any stage of development is to destroy that individual.
"The real question in the abortion debate is not necessarily the seemingly absurd scenario of giving human rights to zygotes and embryos, but rather the thorny question of how to legally protect those rights without violating a new mother’s privacy and civil liberties.
"And the right to privacy is not absolute. If parents are abusing an already born child, for example, government 'intrusion' is warranted — children have rights.
"Recognizing the rights of another class of beings limits our freedoms and our choices and requires a change in our lifestyle — the abolition of (human) slavery is a good example of this.
"A 1964 New Jersey court ruling required a pregnant woman to undergo blood transfusions, even if her religion forbade it, for the sake of her unborn child. One could argue, therefore, apart from religion, that recognizing the rights of the unborn, like the rights of blacks, women, LGBTs, children, animals and the environment, is a sign of social progress."
Let's not play a semantics game!
Emergency "contraception" is really an abortifacient if it takes effect after fertilization.
Pro-choicers must not resort to intellectual dishonesty, like pro-lifers!
"Pro-life" and "Pro-choice" are each propagandistic euphemisms. I am forced to use these terms when discussing abortion, because these are the political labels by which each side identifies themselves. But they are each misleading.
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a physician who co-founded NARAL and presided over some 60,000 abortions before changing sides on the issue, wrote in his 1979 book, Aborting America:
"...the Right-to-Lifers are not in favor of all 'life' under all circumstances. They are not in the forefront of the save-the-seals crusades. They are not devotees of Albert Schweitzer's 'reverence for life,' or its equivalent in Eastern religions, in which the extinction of cows or flies somehow violates the sanctity of the cosmos.
"Turning to the human species, they do not necessarily oppose the taking of human life via capital punishment. Where were they when Caryl Chessman was executed for a crime he likely did not commit--and a rape at that, not a murder?
"They were likely not notably in the opposition while the United States was sacrificing lives on both sides of a questionable war in Vietnam. They are not 'pro-life'; they are simply anti-abortion."
However, Dr. Nathanson goes on to say about abortion-rights advocates, wanting to call themselves "pro-choice" rather than "pro-abortion":
"This is the Madison Avenue euphemism of the other side. Who could possibly be opposed to something so benign as 'choice'?
"The answer is: Almost anyone -- depending.
"The diehard opposition to civil rights and public accommodations for black Americans in the '50s and '60s was 'pro-choice' with a vengeance.
"Some whites wanted the 'right' to rent hotel rooms to whomever they wished.
"Most of us now oppose the concept of choice in such ugly claims.
"The true question is, What choice is being offered, and should society sanction that choice?
"In any honest discussion we must focus upon what is being chosen, without hiding behind the slogan."
Similarly, abortion-rights advocates referring to abortion opponents as "forced birthers," wouldn't that make opponents of infanticide advocates of "forced parenthood" ?!
There are compelling reasons why banning emergency "contraception" would prove futile.
1. It's impossible for girls and/or women in a certain age range to engage in sexual activity with boys and/or men without even merely risking pregnancy.
2. As long as sex is seen as separate from reproduction, i.e...
3. As long as illicit sex is viewed in the public mind solely as a private, recreational, and secret activity...
4. As long as we heterosexuals think we have a "right" to engage in sex without even merely risking pregnancy...
5. and as long as the unborn in their earliest stages of development are considered in the public mind to be a "lower" life form which can be killed and/or disposed of in private or in secret (like animals and/or perhaps even insects being killed and/or disposed of -- which only happens because nonhuman life is considered dirt cheap! Consider the parallels between vivisection and embryonic stem-cell research!),
...then there will always be a demand for emergency "contraception."
And just as the Prohibition of alcohol failed in a country where social drinking is socially acceptable, banning emergency "contraception" in a country where nonhuman life is considered dirt cheap would similarly prove futile and would be a privacy and civil liberties disaster!
Intoxication: alcohol, coffee, ganja, tea, tobacco, etc. are not forbidden in the Hindu religious tradition, but they are considered low-class, and definitely not permitted in the practice of yoga and meditation!
Mohandas Gandhi similarly felt the "Indian States should close all liquor shops... I trust the day is not distant when there will be not a single liquor shop in our peninsula...Whereas total prohibition in the West is most difficult of accomplishment, I hold it is the easiest of accomplishment in this country (India).
"When an evil like drink in the West attains the status of respectability, it is the most difficult to deal with. With us (Indians) drink is still, thank God, sufficiently disrespectful and confined not to the general body of the people, but to a minority of the poorer classes.
"(Millions) of Indians are tetolalers by religion and by habit. Millions therefore cannot possibly be interested in keeping up the nefarious liquor traffic."
(Young India, September 8, 1927)
On the other hand, prostitution was *legal* in ancient India for the identical reason the Prohibition of alcohol in the United States failed (and the current prohibition of marijuana is failing as well).
In his purport (commentary) to the Srimad Bhagavatam 1.11.19, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes:
"We may not hate even the prostitutes if they are devotees of the Lord. Even to date there are many prostitutes in great cities of India who are sincere devotees of the Lord.
"By tricks of chance, one may be obliged to adopt a profession which is not very adorable in society... even in those days, about five thousand years ago, there were prostitutes in a city like Dwarka... This means that prostitutes are necessary citizens for the proper upkeep of society.
"The government opens wine shops, but this does not mean that the government encourages the drinking of wine. The idea is that there is a class of men who will drink at any cost, and it has been experienced that prohibition in great cities encouraged illicit smuggling of wine.
"Similarly, men who are not satisfied at home require such concessions... It is better that prostitutes be available in the marketplace so that the sanctity of society can be maintained."
And since its coming West in the 1960s, the Hare Krishna movement has received numerous commendations for getting young people off drugs, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
"The combination of our medical care, and the spiritual care from the Hare Krishna philosophy, has resulted in a very powerful tool indeed for the treatment of drug addiction and for this we are very grateful," wrote Fraser McDonald, Medical Superintendent of the Parnell Drug Clinic, in Auckland, New Zealand.
Similarly, Addictions magazine, the magazine of the Washington, DC Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Inc., reported that "Krishna Consciousness is one hundred percent successful in stopping drug use among those who voluntarily enter the program."
New Orleans welfare director Morris Jeff said, "You have done good work in establishing a workable alternative to the problem of drug addiction and alienation."
Dr. Gertrude Speiss, a national senator and former mayor of Basel, Switzerland concurs: "The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is very much engaged in the fight against drugs and assists those who have been harmed by drug use. I, therefore, wish this society all the best."
A Christian clergyman in Australia, similarly predicted the Hare Krishna movement would become "the Salvation Army of the 21st century" in this regard.
Should drugs be legal? Even persons believing in privacy and civil liberties have reason to view drugs with caution. Tobacco and alcohol cause more damage in our society than any other drug, and the principle reason for this is because they are legal and thus socially acceptable.
Former United States Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, a political liberal, argued for the exploration of the possibility of drug legalization, and supported the distribution of contraception in the public schools. President Clinton, a centrist, stood by Elders, saying that she was misunderstood.
Like many liberals open to the possible rights of the unborn, Elders commented about pro-lifers' lack of concern for already born children, saying in January 1994, "We really need to get over this love affair with the fetus and start worrying about children."
In 1994, Joycelyn Elders was invited to speak at a United Nations conference on AIDS. She was asked whether it would be appropriate to promote masturbation as a means of preventing young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity, and she replied, "I think that it is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught."
Oddly enough, it was Ms. Elders' statement about masturbation which finally caused her to be fired from her position as Surgeon General by President Clinton (a centrist) in December 1994!
“Want to Stop Abortions?”: asks the June 1995 newsletter for the Colorado Peace Mission in Boulder, CO. “Make them unnecessary. Provide everyone with: A choice of whether to have sex...and with whom; Comprehensive sex education; Non-coercive family planning; Safe, affordable birth control; Open, honest talk about sex; Loving parents...”
In his 1992 book, Visions of Liberty, former Executive Director of the ACLU, Ira Glasser writes:
"The use of wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping emerged during the Prohibition era. Roy Olmstead was a suspected bootlegger whom the government wished to search. It placed taps in the basement of his office building and on wires in the streets near his home. No physical entry into his office or home took place. Olmstead was convicted entirely on the basis of evidence from the wiretaps.
"In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Olmstead argued that the taps were a search conducted without a warrant and without probable cause, and that the evidence seized against him should have been excluded because it was illegally gathered. He also argued that his Fifth Amendment right not to be a witness against himself was violated.
"By a 5-4 vote, the Court rejected his arguments and upheld the government's power to wiretap without limit and without any Fourth Amendment restrictions, on the grounds that no actual physical intrusion had taken place.
"Olmstead's Fifth Amendment claim was also dismissed on the grounds that he had not been compelled to talk on the telephone, but had done so voluntarily.
"Thus the Court upheld the government's power to do by trickery and surreptitious means what it was not permitted to do honestly and openly.
"It wasn't until 1967, in a similar case involving gambling, that the Court overruled the Olmstead decision by an 8-1 margin and recognized that the Fourth Amendment applied to wiretapping and electronic surveillance."
According to Ira Glasser:
"Prohibition led to Al Capone and rising crime, violence and corruption, overflowing courts, jails, and prisons, the labeling of tens of millions of Americans as criminals and the consequent broadening of disrespect for the law, the dangerous expansions of federal police powers, encroachments on civil liberties, hundreds of thousands of Americans blinded, paralyzed, and killed by poisonous moonshine and industrial alcohol, and the increasing government expenditure devoted to enforcing the Prohibition laws.
"Prohibition did succeed in reducing alcohol consumption and alcohol-related ills ranging from cirrhosis to public drunkenness and employee related absenteeism. But this was due to the effectiveness of the temperance movement in publicizing the dangers of alcohol. The decline in alcohol consumption during those years, like the recent decline in cigarette consumption, had less to do with laws than with changing social attitudes.
"During the 1980s, for example, Americans began switching from hard liquor to beer and wine, from high tar-and-nicotine to low tar-and-nicotine cigarettes, and even from caffeinated to decaffeinated sodas, coffees, and teas.
"Alcohol prohibition was repealed after just thirteen years while the prohibition of other drugs has continued for over 75 years. Why? Alcohol prohibition struck directly at society's most powerful members. The prohibition of other drugs, by contrast, threatened far fewer Americans with hardly any political power.
"Only the prohibition of marijuana, which nearly one hundred million Americans have violated since 1965, has come close to approximating the Prohibition era experience, but marijuana smokers consist mostly of young and relatively powerless Americans."
According to Glasser:
"In turn-of-the-century America, opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana were subject to few restrictions. Many of our drug laws were enacted with racist overtones.
"The first anti-opium laws were passed in California in the 1870s and directed at the Chinese immigrants and their opium dens, in which, it was feared, young white women were being seduced.
"A generation later, reports of rising cocaine use among young black men in the South -- who were said to rape white women while under its influence -- prompted similar legislation.
"During the 1930s marijuana prohibitions were directed for the most part against Mexican and Chicano workers who had lost their jobs in the Depression."
A pamphlet entitled 10 Things Every Parent, Teenager and Teacher Should Know About Marijuana produced by the Family Council on Drug Awareness tells us marijuana is not physically addictive. The 1980 Costa Rican study, the 1975 Jamaican study and the 1972 Nixon Blue Ribbon Report all concluded that marijuana use does not lead to physical dependency.
The FBI reports that 65 to 75 percent of criminal violence is alcohol-related. On the other hand, Federal Bureau of Narcotics director Harry Anslinger testified before Congress in 1948 that marijuana leads to nonviolence and pacifism.
In a message to Congress on August 2, 1977, President Jimmy Carter insisted: "Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself."
Conservatives are living in the past--in the days of "reefer madness."
In a March 1979 radio broadcast, for example, Ronald Reagan said, "Somehow they (young people) never seemed to have heard the other side. Never heard, for example, that marijuana contains 300 or more chemicals and 60 of those are found in no other plant."
What Reagan failed to mention is that tobacco smoke contains over 3,000 chemicals!
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Law Judge Francis L. Young wrote on September 8, 1988: "Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."
After years of suppression by the government, the truth about medical marijuana is finally out. Dr. Tod Mikuriya, former director of marijuana research for the entire federal government, wrote in 1996: "I was hired by the government to provide scientific evidence that marijuana was harmful. As I studied the subject, I began to realize that marijuana was once widely used as a safe and effective medicine. But the government had a different agenda, and I had to resign."
Tobacco kills about 430,700 each year. Alcohol and alcohol-related diseases and injuries kill about 110,000 per year. Secondhand tobacco smoke kills about 50,000 every year. Aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs kill 7,600 each year. Cocaine kills about 500 yearly alone, and another 2,500 in combination with another drug. Heroin kills about 400 yearly alone, and another 2,500 in combination with another drug. Adverse reactions to prescription drugs total 32,000 per year, while marijuana kills no one.
A November 4, 2002 Time/CNN Poll found that eighty percent of those polled felt marijuana should be legal only for therapeutic (medicinal) purposes. 72 percent felt recreational users should get fines rather than jail time, which is essentially decriminalization. The complete legalization of marijuana was favored only by 34 percent of respondents, but this figure is twice as large as it was in 1986. Marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco, and our drug laws should reflect reality.
According to a 2003 Zogby poll, two of every five Americans say “the government should treat marijuana the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate it, control it, tax it, and only make it illegal for children.” Close to one hundred million Americans, including over half of those between the ages of 18 and 50, have tried marijuana at least once. Military and police recruiters often have no alternative but to ignore past marijuana use by job seekers.
In 1996, California voters passed a law to regulate medical marijuana within the state. In 2000, voters in California approved an initiative allowing people who are arrested for simple possession of drugs to go through a rehabilitation program rather than through the court process that would result in prison. Since the program began, most agree it has been very successful. It results in less recidivism and is considered cheaper than imprisonment.
Dissenting from the Supreme Court ruling on the suspension of an Alaskan student for waving a banner -- "BONG HITS 4 Jesus" -- at a high school event, Justice John Paul Stevens took the long view:
"...the current dominant opinion supporting the war on drugs in general, and our anti-marijuana laws in particular, is reminiscent of the opinion that supported the nationwide ban on alcohol consumption when I was a student. While alcoholic beverages are now regarded as ordinary articles of commerce, their use was then condemned with the same moral fervor that now supports the war on drugs...
"...just as Prohibition in the 1920's and early 1930's was secretly questioned by thousands of otherwise law-abiding patrons of bootleggers and speakeasies, today the actions of literally millions of otherwise law abiding users of marijuana, and of the majority of voters in each of the several states that tolerate medicinal uses of the product, lead me to wonder whether the fear of disapproval by those in the majority is silencing opponents of the war on drugs."
The Washington Post, July 26, 2007, reported: "Stevens compared the current marijuana ban to the abandoned alcohol ban and urged a respectful hearing for those who suggest 'however inarticulately' that the ban is 'futile' and that marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated instead of prohibited."
"I don't want you to hear me pee..."
"Nor has electronic surveillance been the only source of our loss of privacy," writes Ira Glasser in his 1992 book Visions of Liberty. "The widespread use of urine-testing in employment to see whether people may have been using illegal substances violates the rights of many innocent people.
"Urine-testing programs are usually not restricted to those who show evidence of impaired job performance that may be due to the use of drugs. These tests are normally administered randomly. Without any probable cause for search, this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
"Many of these random tests have been struck down by the courts, where the government is the employer. But some have been upheld. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (hardly a Constitutional liberal!), denounced them as 'an immolation of privacy and human dignity in symbolic opposition to drug use.'"
And Ira Glasser writes in Visions of Liberty:
"The other major use of electronic eavesdropping has been to punish political dissent. For decades, former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover used wiretaps and other electronic devices to spy on political figures and citizens not yet suspected of having committed a crime. He built vast dossiers on their political activities and personal lives. Special units of local police called 'Red Squads' did the same."
When I was younger, I contributed $1,008 to the ACLU Foundation, not because I've suddenly become a huge fan of partial-birth abortions, but because having lived unwillingly under electronic surveillance, like a political prisoner, with persons around me wired for sound, and my past probed to a degree no real life political or religious figure has had to endure, it's my conviction we have a right to privacy.
ACLU, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor, New York NY 10004 (212) 549 - 2500****
In January 2006, on the eve of the West Coast Walk For Life in San Francisco, CA, Carol Crossed of Democrats For Life (kind enough to write the foreword to my own book, The Liberal Case Against Abortion) spoke optimistically of Roe v. Wade being overturned.
When I asked her if Roe could be overturned without Griswold v. Connecticut (the 1965 Supreme Court decision which only guaranteed a right to marital privacy regarding the practice of contraception -- grihastas and illicit sex) being overturned as well, Carol froze, and couldn't answer the question!
Although this was well before the scandals involving Republican politicians Larry Craig and David Vitter, I would have preferred it if Carol had said:
"You're correct. Only a pervert watches or eavesdrops when others pee, defecate, copulate, masturbate, etc. It's wrong to put people under surveillance without their knowledge or consent. Democrats For Life of America will never resort to draconian tactics to protect prenatal life."
That being said, pro-life Democrats deserve greater visibility!
If pro-lifers really want to end the abortion crisis, opposition to abortion and the various strategies and solutions being put forth to end it are going to have to come from across the political spectrum (e.g., Joycelyn Elders and/or the Colorado Peace Mission advocating open, honest talk about sex), and not just from the far right.
"The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
--Hubert H. Humphrey
Fifty-nine percent of Democrats favored a ban on partial-birth abortion. (Gallup Poll, November 1, 2000)
Eighty-nine percent of Americans favor informed consent for women seeking abortions. (Gallup Poll, 2002)
Sixty-seven percent of Democrats would outlaw some or all abortions. (Gallup Poll, May 5-7, 2003)
Forty-three percent of Democrats agreed with the statement that abortion "destroys a human life and is manslaughter." (Zogby Poll, December 2004)
Seventy percent of high school senior females say they would not consider abortion if they became pregnant while in high school. (Hamilton College/Zogby Poll, January 2008)
Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe abortion should have stricter limitations. (CBS News Poll, January 2008)
Twenty-nine percent of Democratic Convention delegates disagreed with the statement, "Abortion should be generally available to those who want it rather than under stricter limits or not permitted." However, 52 percent of Democratic voters as a whole disagreed. This large discrepancy between party leadership and membership indicates a serious problem that Democrats For Life of America wants to correct.
During the 2008 campaign, Reverend Jim Wallis (of Sojourners fame) advised Barack Obama to support a plank in the Democratic Party Platform that would aim to reduce abortions by focusing on supporting low income women and making adoption easier.
Democrats For Life of America, 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, South Building, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20004 (202) - 220 - 3066