Category Archives: reproductive rights

How Not to Position Yourself as a Progressive Firebrand

Well, some angry pro-choicers did the unthinkable: They took out their anger at the Roe v. Wade decision on the exterior of the Vermont Statehouse. They broke some windows and spray-painted “IF ABORTIONS AREN’T SAFE YOURE NOT EITHER” on the concrete outside the front entrance. One of the broken windows was in the office of Lt. Gov Molly Gray, who issued the following statement:

“I am alarmed by these attacks on our State House — my workplace — and condemn them in the strongest possible terms. Vermonters are feeling deep anger and frustration in the wake of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling. I share this frustration. However, threats of violence and destruction of property are absolutely unacceptable and never the solution.”

And her campaign wonders why she’s considered the moderate, establishment candidate in the race. Her statement betrays an institutionalist point of view that prioritizes the sanctity of a building over the rights of women.

I’m sorry, but there does come a time when “threats of violence and destruction of property” are, if not exactly appropriate, perfectly understandable. One of our highest institutions just forcibly turned the calendar back by a half-century in a way that made “A Handmaid’s Tale” seem like a prophecy. It’s not surprising, then, if some people strike out against the nearest symbol of institutional America. In this case, the Statehouse.

Just spitballin’, but if Gray had asked me (and why would she?), I would have suggested a statement like this:

I share the widespread anger over the outrageous Supreme Court decision. This betrayal leaves women wondering if anyone speaks for them in the corridors of power — including my own party, which complacently believed that the rights granted in Roe v. Wade were secure. The damage to the Statehouse is unfortunate, but it pales in comparison to the damage done to American women by the Supreme Court.

I intend to channel my anger into productive action. We must restore reproductive rights and be diligent about protecting them. What we have done in the past simply isn’t enough.

Yeah, something like that.

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Just Shut Up, Phil (And Other Observations)

“Deeply disappointed,” my ass.

As long as he continues to voluntarily wear the Republican badge, Gov. Phil Scott is in no position to bemoan the disastrous Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Besides, he has no power whatsoever to make anything happen about this. In fact, I assume that if he had his way, we’d elect Christina Nolan to the U.S. Senate, which would be one more nail in the coffin of reproductive rights.

Indeed, if those pesky rumors about a Phil Scott run for Congress had come true (and he’d won, which could have happened because Nice Guy), he’d be helping his party retain or expand Congressional majorities, which would mean even more anti-choice judges.

“I signed a law”… that the Democratic Legislature pushed through with no help from your fellow Republicans. “I will be voting for that amendment,” but the vast majority of your fellow Republicans won’t be. You can roll your disappointment up real tight and stick it where the sun don’t shine.

Phil Scott likes to pretend that his party has gone off the rails fairly recently. Say, with the nomination of Donald Trump. Problem is, his party has been working to overturn Roe v. Wade since the 1991 confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. He was nominated by George H.W. Bush. Justices Alito and Roberts were nominated by George W. Bush. The other three radical judicial activists were installed by Trump and Mitch McConnell.

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Christina Nolan, Fake Abortion Rights Advocate

As befits a politician aspiring to the image of moderate Republicanism, U.S. Senate candidate Christina Nolan has given a carefully circumscribed statement of support for abortion rights.

And it’s as worthless as a bank note from the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.

I’m not accusing her of lying. Although a look at her background might suggest otherwise. She was raised in a devout Catholic family; she attended Rice Memorial High School; her grandparents were publicly anti-abortion; and one of her aunts is Mary Beerworth, the longtime head and public face of Vermont Right to Life. None of those facts can be found in any of her campaign literature, because of course they can’t.

But hey, for all I know she might be the family outcast, what with her “alternative lifestyle” and all.

Whether she’s welcome at holiday dinners or not, she opposes Proposition 5, the amendment that would enshrine reproductive freedom in Vermont’s Constitution, using language and reasoning borrowed from the anti-abortion crowd. They realize that direct opposition is a nonstarter in Vermont, so instead they raise bogus concerns about Prop 5 being overly broad, subject to misinterpretation, and potentially allowing abortion right up to the moment of birth. Nolan reportedly views Prop 5 as “extreme” but shies away from specifics. When asked where she would draw the line, all she can offer is “Vermonters need to have this conversation.”

That’s one level of uselessness. The other is the potential consequences of her entirely hypothetical election to the U.S. Senate.

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Vermont Right to Life Practices the Art of Not Being Seen

The folks at Vermont Right to Life know they’re up against it. Vermont voters will have their say in November on Proposition 5, a constitutional amendment protecting reproductive rights, and they will almost certainly pass it by a wide margin. Right to Life knows this. So they are setting out to campaign in stealth mode. Like the many conservative school board candidates I’ve written about, VRTL has abandoned its real agenda in favor of a whitewashed, seemingly inoffensive suite of arguments.

They’ve even launched a new organization, Vermonters for Good Government. Now, doesn’t that sound like something we can all get behind?

But a brief perusal of VfGG’s website shows that their vision of “good government” consists of one thing: Defeating Proposition 5. But they aren’t doing it by shouting about how fetuses are human beings, no sir. They simply want to expose “the implications of swift changes to the Vermont Constitution.”

Swift, ha. The amendment process takes a full two four* years. Ain’t nothing “swift” about Prop 5.

*The amendment must be approved in two successive bienniums, not two successive years.

But wait, there’s more! These people are the real feminists, don’t ya know? VfGG warns of “the unseen, harmful impact of Prop 5 on the health and well-being of young girls, women, our communities, our healthcare system…” And they close by saying they are nothing more than guardians of the Vermont Constitution.

How do I know VfGG and VRTL are one and the same? First, according to the Secretary of State’s nonprofit registry, the principals of VfGG include two prominent figures in the right to life movement, Sharon Toborg and Norman Smith. And second, the VRTL Twitter account is promoting an event sponsored by VfGG.

That event, by the way, is a campaign strategy session led by a notorious figure in far-right politics.

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Apparently the Larner College Insists On Doing This Dumb, Politically Damaging Thing

Well, after quite a bit of back-and-forth and a false alarm along the way, it now seems that UVM’s Larner College of Medicine will stand by its baffling decision to grant continuing education credits to medical professionals who attend a conference organized by the Vermont Right to Life Committee.

No, seriously. Stop laughing. Medical education credits for a political organization with no expertise in medicine, and that peddles junk science to support its agenda. That’s hunky-dory according to Vermont’s one and only medical school.

I wrote about this landmark of stupidiousness last Friday. Shortly after my post went live, Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale tweeted that Larner was reversing the decision. I amended my post to reflect the news. But Friday came and went, as did the weekend and Monday, and there was still no official word from Larner.

It’s now apparent that news of Larner’s reversal was, well, fake news.

Here’s what we know so far.

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Vermont’s Only Medical School Makes an Ass of Itself (UPDATED)

Update: Well, that didn’t take long. The UVM medical school has reportedly withdrawn the offer of credit for the RTL symposium.

Updated Update: It’s now 4:00 pm Monday, and we have yet to hear officially from Larner College. It would seem in the institution’s best interest to put out this fire as quickly as possible. Is there some dithering going on?

You’d think that leaders of a medical school would be smart. Guess not.

The news that the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine is offering continuing education credit for medical professionals who attend a conference of Vermont Right to Life beggars credulity. On just about every level. It’s a PR nightmare, an abdication of professional oversight, and a tacit endorsement of politically-inspired junk science.

Let’s begin by defining “continuing medical education.” According to the American Medical Association, CME is meant to “maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills and professional performance and relationships that a physician uses to provide services for patients, the public or the profession.”

So tell me, how does attending a presentation entitled “The Case Against Proposal 5” (the constitutional amendment protecting reproductive rights) improve a medical professional’s performance in providing services for patients?

That’s the issue, even before we get to the politics of giving credit for a Right to Life event in a strongly pro-choice state, and the dubious “science” concocted by RTL and its allies. There’s no way it’s appropriate to give medical education credit for attending a political meeting of a group that has no connection to the medical profession.

It should also be noted that UVM’s doctors are reimbursed for professional expenses, including CME courses. So presumably, some of the University’s dollars will go into the coffers of Right to Life.

I hope there are some emergency meetings around UVMMC this morning, with learned important people trying to devise a face-saving way out of this shande. Because they need to find one, pronto.

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The Senator Floats Serenely Above the Fray

I’ve written about this before, but it took on fresh urgency this week after the Supreme Court’s little knife job on abortion rights. Where is Sen. Patrick Leahy? What is he doing about this?

There are a number of things he could be doing. If he’s limited himself to criticism of the court’s ruling, I’m sorry. That’s no better than “hopes and prayers” right now.

For starters, he needs to spearhead the movement to reform the filibuster. At minimum, we should go back to its traditional form: You have to take the floor and stay there, instead of merely filing an email once a day. The abortion rights bill that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is just empty talk unless there’s serious filibuster reform, because there’s no way the bill would get 10 Republican votes or more.

Leahy is a powerful figure in the Senate, and he has yet to provide a clear statement of his stance on the filibuster. Last time I checked, I got this smidge of boilerplate from pres aide David Carle:

He continues to discuss this with other senators, and there’s a lot of that going on.

Good stuff, that. Especially since the reproductive rights of every woman in a red state are now in the judicial crosshairs. Maybe he could pick up the pace on those discussions?

Leahy is also the senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a past committee chair. He’s in a strong position to push for court reform — adding new justices, reining in the high court’s powers, etc. What’s he doing? Anything?

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