Utah legislative craziness takes dark turn

March 1, 2010

Today I discussed legislative craziness, and she was surprised to discover Utah’s wackoes like Rep. Chris Buttars are national, and perhaps international stars of legislative dysfunction.  In my e-mail I get notes talking about a silly resolution from South Dakota’s legislature.

Then I stumbled into this:  “Utah bill criminalizes miscarriage.

From what I’ve read of the bill, I agree that’s what it would do.  It’s sitting on the Utah governor’s desk right now, deserving a veto, but probably headed into the Utah Code.

If it becomes law, women might be well advised to avoid any activity while in Utah, certainly not skiing or snowmobiling, nor hiking or river running, nor even jogging.  A woman who had a miscarriage within a week of skiing in Utah would be hard put to provide evidence exculpating her from a charge that her actions caused the miscarriage.  The contest of expert testifiers could be tremendously expensive.  Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, California and other states offer all of those activities, but without the specter of a murder charge to women who miscarry later.

No, there’s no excuse for a woman who doesn’t know she’s pregnant.

Yes, I know the bill was designed to punish the bizarre behavior of some people who attempt to induce abortion by physical activity early in a pregnancy.  No, I don’t think this bill does that job well, either.

You legislative drafters, take a look at the bill.  The language is bizarre, it seems to me — it backs into a law by defining what is not covered.  I see some great ambiguities.  The bill excuses medical abuse of the fetus — failing to get medical care for the mother, for example, which leads to death of the fetus — but calls into question any action a woman might take in seeking an abortion from a medical practitioner.  It seems to me that the bill directly strives to outlaw all medical abortions, though one section says that seeking an abortion is not covered.

Debaters would have a field day with the enforceability problems of this bill.

Oy.  From Chris Buttars, the craziness disease has spread to the entire Utah legislature.

Is there a quarantine law in Utah, for people who carry dangerous infections?


  • Best description and discussion I’ve seen on the bill, at the New York Times; it confronts head on the chief problem with this proposed law:  It criminalizes the activities of a desperate young woman who needs counseling and other help, but does not need to be jailed, nor deserve it:

Lynn M. Paltrow, the executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a nonprofit group based in New York, said the focus on the child obscured the bleak story of the teenager, who also deserves, she said, empathy from the world, and the law.

“Almost nobody is speaking for her,” Ms. Paltrow said. “Why would a young woman get to a point of such desperation that she would invite violence against herself? Anybody that desperate is not going to be deterred by this statute.”

Bill of Rights Institute cosponsors prize for National History Day

January 21, 2010

I get e-mail:

Students nationwide can compete for the Constitutional Rights in History prize

The Bill of Rights Institute announced their collaboration with National History Day (NHD) today. The Institute is sponsoring the Constitutional Rights in History prize, awarded to an outstanding entry in any category from both the senior and junior divisions which documents and analyzes how individuals have exercised their constitutional rights throughout American history.

The 2010 theme for National History Day is “Innovation In History: Impact and Change.” Students must demonstrate through their project how their chosen individual’s actions had an impact on history.

Each year more than half a million students, encouraged by thousands of teachers nationwide, participate in the NHD contest. Students choose historical topics related to a theme and conduct extensive primary and secondary research through libraries, archives, museums, oral history interviews and historic sites. The Bill of Rights Institute’s prize will be awarded at the National Finals held in June 2010 in College Park, Maryland.

For more information about History Day, go to http://www.nationalhistoryday.org/.

© 2010 Bill of Rights Institute
200 North Glebe Road, Ste 200
Arlington, VA 22203

Domestic terrorists kill again, in Kansas

May 31, 2009

Bulletin from NPR:  A physician in Kansas who provided abortion services was murdered at his church today.

George Tiller was gunned down at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita.

This sort of terrorism has been wonderfully absent from American of late.

Update:  Suspect captured.  News conference at 4:00 p.m. Central.

Should a teacher let students know her voting preferences?

October 14, 2008

Law professor Stanley Fish tackled the issues around teachers wearing campaign buttons in the classroom, at his blog with the New York Times.

Fish says teachers don’t have a free speech right to wear buttons supporting their favorite candidates.

My point is made for me by William Van Alstyne, past President of the AAUP and one of the world’s leading authorities on the first amendment. In a letter to current president Nelson, Van Alstyne corrects his view that faculty “have a first amendment right” to wear campaign buttons. “I have no doubt at all,” he declares, “that a university rule disallowing faculty members from exhibiting politically-partisan buttons in the classroom is not only not forbidden by the first amendment; rather, it is a perfectly well-justified policy that would easily be sustained against a faculty member who disregards the policy.”

Right! It’s no big deal. It’s a policy matter, not a moral or philosophical matter, and as long as the policy is reasonably related to the institution’s purposes, it raises no constitutional issues at all. On Oct. 10, the United Federation of Teachers filed suit to reverse the button ban, claiming that the free speech rights of teachers had been violated. If that’s their case, they’ll lose.

I think he’s right — check out his post, and tell us what you think.

John McCain: Constitution, yes or no?

August 9, 2008

In Denver, Colorado, John McCain has an opportunity to stand up and defend the First Amendment and the rest of the Constitution. All he needs to do is issue a statement that he disagrees with the prosecution of the peaceful woman — he could do even more asking the prosecutor to drop the charges.

Ed Brayton describes the case at Dispatches From the Culture Wars.

The silence from McCain: Will it grow deafening?

More reading:

Bloggers’ rights: A quandary

July 25, 2008

Freedom of expression is the key to all other rights in our American system of government, I am convinced. Defending the First Amendment becomes the way to defend all other rights. Telling the King he has no clothes, without fear of retribution, makes it possible to keep the King clothed.

I support most groups and efforts to defend and protect the First Amendment. I’ve been a member of the Society of Professional Journalists for most years since 1974, I’ve been a member of the National Freedom of Information coordinating committee, and I’ve worked in three states and the federal legislature to expand freedom of information, reporters’ access to information, and especially the people’s right to know.

In the press, there are few hard-core idiots. A few exist, but they are outweighed by the many who make sincere efforts to get the story right. That’s a long way of saying, it’s easy to support rights of people who aren’t always yapping at you.  Their existence puts me in a little quandary, and I need to resolve it.

Last night I found one more deluded, on-line writer working against the First Amendment and, IMHO, hammering away at the foundations of the Constitution in other ways. (Incredibly, this guy asked Jonathan Rowe to abandon commenting at his blog, suggesting Rowe’s carefully crafted, court-tested, generally take-’em-to-the-bank correct ideas about history are “lies.” Yeah, he has a right to hold foolish opinions.)

Does he have a right to do that, on-line?

Yes he does have that right. As I’ve often said before, I put a lot of stock into the old Ben Franklin maxim that truth wins in a fair fight. So we need to keep the fight fair.

We also need to defend the rights of bloggers whose work helps expose the truth, even at the expense of defending the deluded writers who get it wrong.

What are blogger’s rights and protections? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) put together a concise and nearly complete legal guide for bloggers — you can find it here.

EFF campaigns to protect and defend bloggers’ rights. Bloggers, and other supporters of freedom, should join that campaign. Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub will display a badge of the campaign to encourage others to join it.

Bloggers' Rights at EFF

Do you like freedom? Do you read a lot? Do you read on-line? Do you express your opinions? Then you have a vested interest in supporting these groups. Since you’re reading this on-line, you have a vested interest in supporting the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s work to defend bloggers’ rights. Click over to EFF, get informed, lend some support, and get involved.

This blog is banned in Turkey, prohibited from viewing in China, non-grata in much of Singapore and Iran, and blocked from the Duncanville, Texas, Independent School District.  I appreciate the freedom to blog, and I hope we can keep blogging free everywhere else, and make blogging free in those areas darkened by bans on expression.

(Okay, I like the cat in the one badge from the EFF — would it kill them to put a dog in one?)

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