Rad Geek People's Daily

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Posts from June 2002

Hey, hey, DEA! How many patients have you jailed today?

OK, as promised, here’s the report from the past few days of cross-state rabble-rousing. The big event was a protest at the DEA offices in Montgomery, as part of a national day of direct action at about 60 DEA offices across the country, fighting back against the federal government’s nation-wide crackdown against medical marijuana dispensaries.

We drove up to Birmingham on Monday night to petition at the primary election polling places to get Dr. Jimmy Blake on the ballot as an independent candidate for Jefferson County Commission in the November general election. The sun was beating down on us all day, and the breeze couldn’t bother itself to blow for more than about five minutes. Nevertheless, the pay was good, and Vestavia Hills was a hopping place for getting signatures. One poll worker said she’d sign the petition because she supported Jimmy Blake, but she didn’t think we should be outside a primary polling place to petition. Well, OK, I thought, and I don’t think you all should be using state funds to subsidize the internal party business of the two major parties. I’d be glad to stop petitioning out front of primary polling places if Demopublicans actually had to go through the same shit to get on the ballot that independents do. But I held my tongue. A signature is a signature.

On Wednesday morning we drove down to Tuscaloosa and began to plan the big event for Thursday 6/6.

Thursday we met Floyd Shackleford in Wetumpka The Montgomery TV press had arrived thanks to the efforts of the media collective assisting ASA, and we got a chance for some great film of Floyd delivering our Cease & Desist order from 73% of the American people to the DEA. We held a banner (DEA: Stop Arresting Patients) and distributed the fake WANTED posters I put together for the event, while Floyd and I talked to the interviewers.

We had prepared Burma-Shave signs which we hoped to hold by the side of the road for passing motorists to see, but we arrived a bit late and all we had time to do was deliver the Cease & Desist order and talk to the press. We had also run off lots of copies of flyers to hand out to passing pedestrians, but the DEA building was off in a office building ghetto a bit off the main streets, so there was no foot traffic for handing out our flyers. I was a bit disappointed that it turned out to be more of a press conference than an actual demonstration. Nevertheless, the newsmedia coverage was a lot more sympathetic than I thought it would be, and it came together pretty well for something we had thrown together in less than a week of active planning. The day was beautiful, the drive home peaceful, and the remainder of the day restful.

Take action! Thanks to the publicity from participating in the national event, we are quickly gaining contacts around the state for future actions toward taking the high ground in the drug war. If you are in Alabama and would like to join the network we are developing of activists who are fighting to end the federal government’s assaults on states’ rights and compassionate care, get in touch and ask me to add you to the contact list.

Geekery Today gets favorable reviews in my absence

I have returned from three days trekking around the state–petitioning for an independent candidate in Birmingham, helping the UA Libertarians with a Operation: Politically Homeless in Tuscaloosa, and putting on a protest / press event at the DEA office in Montgomery. More on these events coming up soon.

In the meantime, however, check this out: the folks at The Weblog Review have been kind enough to review Geekery Today, and I received a 4 out of 5. According to my all-too-kind reviewer,

I learned a lot at Geekery Today, and with the amount of information available at this weblog, I could certainly see it turning into a magazine and hitting newstands everywhere.

Add some brain food to your daily dose of surfing and check this site out

Geeze, I think I’m going to blush.

Struggle Over European Abortion Politics

Yesterday the Beeb featured an online fact sheet compiled from an Alan Guttmacher Institute survey of the status of abortion across Europe. The survey is interesting, but paints an overly rosy picture of the status of reproductive choice in Europe.

With a few exceptions, nearly all the countries in the map are given green status for reproductive choice, meaning that abortion is permitted on request. However, this needs some serious qualifications. Countries which are counted as abortion on demand can still have extensive regulations and red tape banning abortions after a certain period of time, mandating waiting periods and government-specified counselling, and similar standard measures from the anti-choice Right’s toolbox for chipping away at access to abortion. By the standards of this survey, every one of the 50 United States counts as green—whether they rank as an A or an F in NARAL‘s rankings of abortion access. The only way for a nation to not be counted as being in the most liberal category vis-a-vis abortion is to return to the state of affairs in the pre-Roe United States. For example, Greece has had on demand abortion laws for the first trimester since 1986, but illegal abortions remain prevalent because of lack of public awareness and extensive delays and red tape imposed by government regulations. Turkey is listed as on demand even though a woman must have the consent of her male partner to be able to legally obtain an abortion (!). Worse, Latvia is inexplicably listed as an on demand country, because abortions can be approved for any reason–never mind that every abortion in this liberalized state must be approved by a committee of bureaucrats.

Unfortunately, Alan Guttmacher Institute’s report, as most of their reports, is fundamentally a document on family planning rather than women’s right to choose. Just who holds the reins of power over a woman’s body is irrelevant in this survey; what is relevant is whether or not someone has the right to authorize an abortion. What they are talking about, all in all, is a doctor’s rights to perform abortions, not a woman’s rights to choose whether or not to have an abortion. To those of us who fight for abortion rights on the basis of pro-choice feminism, however, we have to worry just as much about the arbitrary veto power over a woman’s body that is given to a husband or a committee bureaucrat, as we do about blanket bans in countries such as Ireland or Malta.

However, while the report is overly rosy about the state of choice in Europe, not all is gloom and doom. There have been key victories across Europe, and many signs of hope:

  • France: in 2001, the French government liberalized abortion laws by extending the period of time in which a woman may have an abortion from 10 weeks of pregnancy to 12 weeks (this brings it up to the standard of the US, where Roe categorically protects the right to abortion in the first trimester).

  • Ireland: a referendum to tighten Ireland’s ban on abortion, which is already one of the harshest laws in Europe was narrowly defeated in spite of heavy lobbying by the Catholic Church and the ruling party in favor of the amendment. This was merely holding the line rather than an advance to take back choice, but the failure of slippery-slope anti-choice arguments, and the lopsided vote in urban districts (61% of Dublin voters rejected the amendment), augurs well for future progress in Ireland.

  • Poland: after the fall of Communism, the influence of the Catholic Church caused Poland to pass some of the toughest anti-abortion laws in Europe in the 1990s, and doctors in some hospitals began to use the anti-choice climate in the government to stonewall and illegally refuse some abortions which were still permitted under Polish law. However, the 2001 victory of the pro-choice Democratic Left Party (mostly former Communists) and the public debate over abortion may begin to roll back the tide of anti-abortion legislation in Poland.

  • Portugal: also saddled with intensely anti-choice laws, a referendum in 1998 only upheld Portugal’s present anti-abortion restrictions by the razor-thin margin of 51% to 49%. The President of Portugal, Jorge Sampaio, favors liberalizing abortion laws and has indicated he will work to hold another referendum on the issue.

  • Switzerland: Switzerland was also a member of the worst abortion laws in Europe club, until the the Swiss Parliament finally voted to legalize first trimester abortions in 2001. Right-wingers attempted to delay and possibly derail the passage of the law by forcing it to go to a referendum. However, the tactic failed: just yesterday, Swiss voters blew away Switzerland’s abortion restrictions in a landslide, with 82% rejecting an opposing referendum which would have made Switzerlands laws even tougher (banning abortions even in the case of rape), and 72% of Swiss voters supporting the decriminalization of abortion in the first trimester. The new law will go into effect in October.

  • The European Union: as EU legislation reduces border restrictions between European countries more and more, it is becoming harder and harder for anti-choice governments to control European women’s efforts to secure abortions. For example, despite Ireland’s blanket ban on abortions, nearly 7,000 Irish women receive abortions each year by crossing the Irish Sea to clinics in the UK. EU immigration protections prevent the Irish government from stopping these women from leaving the country.

  • The High Seas: Women on Waves, founded in May 1999 by Dutch clinician Rebecca Gomperts, sails to countries where abortion is illegal (in particular, Ireland) to provide legal counseling and reproductive health services while in port, and delivery of professional, safe, and legal abortion services offshore outside territorial waters.

The situation in Europe offers no room at all for complacency, but a lot of room for hopeful struggle. We will win this one if we fight for it.

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