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by Julia

A good male friend recently asked me what percentage of the television shows I watch fit into the category of “Women Who for Some Reason Embrace the Patriarchy.” Avoiding the cop-out answer that “all popular culture reflects the patriarchy,” I realized that it’s a pretty large percentage. Anyone who has lived with me or spent any time in front a television with me knows that when I’m not watching The Wire or Ravens football, there’s a good chance that I’m watching TLC or MTV. I was into Jon & Kate plus 8 before Kate went blonde, I started watching the Duggars when they were at 13 Kids and Counting (now at 20, I think?), and I’m pretty sure my college roommate and I threw a watch party for the premiere of 16 and Pregnant (long before there were domestic violence awareness commercials at every break during Teen Mom).

Disregarding the fact that having articulated that list kind of makes me want to self-revoke my college and high school diplomas, I observe that all of these shows revolve around women reproducing, and either reproducing a lot or reproducing at a stigmatized age – both of which are categories of reproduction that I have neither experienced nor known anyone to experience. There are a lot of class observations to be made here (Kiera, I’m totally going write that post on dialectics and Teen Mom), but I want to focus this post more on the latest addition to my television line up (no, not Boardwalk Empire, though it is amazing): TLC’s Sister Wives.

Sister Wives documents the lives of Kody Brown, his three wives – (l-r) Janelle, Christine, and Meri -and their 13 children in Lehi, Utah. They lead relatively normal lives – all but one of the children attend public school, they wear conventional clothes, etc – except they all live in the same house with three separate apartments for each of the women, through which Kody rotates on a schedule, sleeping with a different woman each night. At first, it seems like Kody makes a real effort to spend equal time with each of the women (his meticulous schedule helps him – vomit). But as the show progresses, it’s clear that there is some serious inequality going on, all of which manifests in major jealousy among the wives. The show revolves around the major plot twist: 16 years since his last marriage (to Christine), Kody wants to add another wife to the family – Robyn (far right).

This show got over 2 million viewers for the premiere, and with such viewership comes, obviously, scrutiny. The scrutiny wasn’t limited to the Today Show, however: Utah police are looking into possibly prosecuting the Brown family for bigamy. Not really surprising given the huge media attention, and with this whole law school thing going on, I didn’t pay much attention to the progression of the story. That is, until my Torts professor announced that he would be representing the Brown family. My professor, a constitutional law scholar, explains his reasoning here.

So my fascination with the polygamist, patriarchy-embracing family took on a legal flavor. I hopped on my legal statute search engines and dug up the history of bigamy prosecutions in Utah. Turns out, there aren’t many. The ACLU gives a great summary here, but basically it comes down to this: “a person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.” In the case of the Browns, Kody is only legally married to Meri, his first wife, and he cohabits with the other three women, thereby falling under this statute. Historically, Utah courts have be hesitant to prosecute claims of bigamy unless there are allegations of other crimes in the relationship: rape, incest, child abuse, etc. (More on the definition of “crime” as construed under this statute in a bit.) The reason for turning a blind eye? The Fourteen Amendment and, ironically enough, the landmark civil rights case of Lawrence v. Texas (2003). In Lawrence v. Texas, a Texas law criminalizing sodomy  was found to have violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the court said “absent injury to a person or abuse of an institution the law protects, consenting adults enjoy the freedom to define their private intimate relationships within ‘the confines of their homes and their own private lives.'” This same legal principle contributed to the relative freedoms women enjoy under Roe v. Wade.

Is this a matter of “Bigamy! From the people who brought you anal sex and abortions!”? As you would imagine, it’s not quite that simple. But the protection of privacy (and, in this case, the expression of religious beliefs) is what allows consenting adults to partake in polygamist marriages, absent any other crimes. As the ACLU points out, these other crimes can and should be prosecuted under other statutes.

However, by criminalizing private, consensual, adult relationships that are motivated by sincerely held religious beliefs, we fail to live up to the constitutional promise that consenting adults be free to maintain and define their personal relationships without fear of government interference.

So that explains why my professor is representing them. However, this is the same professor who spent the first two weeks of law school talking about Hegel, Critical Legal Studies, Queer Legal Theory, and Feminist Legal Theory. So how does feminism fit into all of this? I believe it all comes down to whether or not something as nebulous as patriarchy can be criminalized (answer: it can’t…who writes and enforces the laws to begin with??). But should patriarchal exploitation be criminalized in relationships between (or in this case, among) “consenting adults”? It is clear that there’s some major inequality going on in this family. I think a lot of what I’ve observed is pretty easily surmised, so I’ll just include two select stories that epitomize the relationship.

On their twentieth wedding anniversary, Meri and Kody discuss some of the jealousy problems that arose when Robyn was added to the family. Meri asks Kody the question that I had been wondering throughout the series: “How would you feel about me taking on another husband, or having another male lover?” Kody’s answer: “The thought of you with another guy sickens me and seems wrong to me. I feel like you want me to admit that what I’m doing is unfair – and that’s just not an emotion I’m willing to address.” Wrong on so many levels, all of which come down to patriarchy.

The most disturbing quotation from that same scene came when Kody and Meri discussed having another child. Meri and Kody have one child together, a teenage daughter, and though Meri used to want to have more children, fertility issues have prevented that, and now she has decided she doesn’t want to try for more children any more. She tells Kody that she doesn’t want to do in vitro fertilization, at which point Kody smiles and turns to the camera and says, “I haven’t been told ‘no’ in a strong enough fashion for it to mean ‘no’ yet.” I think that pretty much epitomizes the problems encompassing the entire show. Consent in this relationship, it seems, is a one-time deal. All of these women did choose freely to enter into this relationship, knowing that they would take on more wives, etc. But when it comes time to add the new wife, there really isn’t any negotiation – it’s the Kody Show. And this type of inequality, writ large, is the Patriarchy Show. And guess what? It’s not limited to polygamist marriages.

I’ll leave the analysis on deconstructing patriarchy within heterosexual relationships to another time (or perhaps another person), but it is essential to recognize that inequality pervades all relationships if you don’t actively resist it. This doesn’t mean we should stop having partnerships, but it does mean we all need to work incredibly hard to live up to the name we give our interactions and truly act as partners. The clear problem in Sister Wives is not the polygamy, it’s the patriarchy. There is no negotiation, no consent-seeking, and, therefore, no equality. And that’s incredibly oppressive and detrimental to women.

But should the state be intervening to prevent exploitative, patriarchal relationships? I’m sure you could find some feminist legal scholars out there who would argue for the criminalization of polygamy on these grounds, but then how many monogamous relationships would crumble under similar examination? While it pains me to watch the jealousy that plagues these women in this incredibly unequal relationship, I can think of other reality shows that portray similar levels of misogyny within supposedly “normal” marriages – rife with cheating, deceitful husbands and crying women left at home wondering what she did wrong. And I can think of millions of monogamous, “real-life” relationships that lack communication and equality.

The answer, then, is not to try to criminalize inequality in marriages. From a constitutional perspective, it’s a complete invasion of privacy. From a practical standpoint, it’s impossible. And from a feminist standpoint, it’s just not the right route. We need to strive towards demanding equality in our relationships. This comes from empowering both men and women to seek and desire consent in every iteration of the word, and to desire equality in their relationships. Partnerships can come in many forms, and it’s not my role to judge someone else’s choice, how many partners they want to have, or whether they want to have any all. It is my role, however, to be concerned with the lack of consenting partnerships. A partnership is a grounds for constant renegotiation of boundaries. What one initially consents to should not be binding. What breaks my heart about this show, then, is not that these women are in a polygamist relationship, but that they are stuck, like so many other women, in relationships that no longer make them comfortable and no longer fulfill them. The way to rectify this situation is not to criminalize their partnership, but rather to empower women and men to strive for a world in which no one exists in a oppressive partnership, for at that point, it ceases to become a partnership at all.

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by Elizabeth

I’m not usually one for public self-reflection, particularly on September 11th, where I fear the risk of over-sentimentalizing.  But this morning,  on the ninth anniversary, I found a poignant reflection in an unlikely place. From the Twitter of notorious over-sharer and occasional racist, John Mayer:

johncmayer: Why is it that the 9th anniversary of 9/11 feels more like the first? There was healing and then the stitches popped. #iloveNY

File this under #wordsIneverthoughtI’dwrite, but I think John’s got a point.  In light of the proposed Quran burning and Ground Zero Mosque, it is apparent that almost a decade later we’ve still got a long way to go in the grieving, remembrance, and understanding processes. I don’t believe that there is, or can be, any tidy collective experience for 9/11 (who is the “we”?), but I do believe in a common currency, particularly among members of my generation who delineate the pre- and post-9/11 world.

So, at the risk of over-sentimentalizing and over-sharing (publicly!), I’m posting a piece I originally wrote in 2006 and recently revisited. It is my best attempt at reflecting on what September 11 was and is, somewhere between a personal and collective lived experience.

I was laughing when the north tower of the World Trade Center was hit.  Eighteen minutes later, at 9:03, a second plane collided with its twin, and the boredom of having spent 22 minutes in Mrs. Lamato’s second period algebra had set in. I left the room no more aware than I was when I had entered it, although newly disappointed with a test grade.  In performing arts, we were fist-fighting, and while we shrieked and were taught to pull hair convincingly, a plane plowed into the Pentagon. We found it odd that our teacher ended the lesson early, making us sit quietly in rows.  Over the intercom the principal announced that “we had been attacked”; it took a few seconds for me to determine who “we” was.  Shushing the gossipers, I sat with legs crossed, trying to hear what wasn’t being said.  Flight numbers and times and locations were repeated slowly, as if what we were being told would be more comprehensible if uttered sluggishly, but our brains were already too saturated with breakups and invites and homework.  We were naive and still our September 11 was just another sunny Tuesday.

While I sat in the health room fourth period, the north and south towers collapsed from the top down, looking as though they had been peeled apart like an orange.  My teacher, having been given the okay to acknowledge the situation, logged online to print photographs of the wreckage, briefing us intermittently.

Rumors began for lack of any real knowledge, and over my usual turkey sandwich and lemonade, I was told by several classmates that planes were circling our state and that the White House was under attack.  My class size shriveled period by period as the names of my peers were called to the office where red-eyed mothers sat restlessly, waiting to escort their children safely home.  I was bewildered and scared- not of another attack, but of not knowing what was going on.  We forced diversionary discussions and attempted small talk through the remainder of the periods uncomfortably. Somebody complimented me on my shirt.

At home, my mom and I sat in front of the TV, our cheeks sticking together, slick and salty.  My sister called, then Dad, Grandmom, Nanny, the aunts.  Physically, we were all alright and accounted for, although every call consisted of “I just can’t believe it” and a brackish, wet receiver.  Later in the evening, I was confronted with a new unfounded fear.  As it grew dark, I began to feel increasingly unsafe; unsettled in the same way I had in August, when two convicts had escaped from the nearby prison.  Presumably, the escapees were hidden in my backyard, waiting for me just as I had pictured Bob Ewell attacking Scout in her ham costume. I had felt then that I was in danger, somehow vulnerable, and on September 11th, I felt similarly, that the felon pilots were evading police in a New Jersey suburb.

It was after 9/11 that I began to feel like an outsider.  While most of the nation needed to be given someone to blame, I had trouble being angry.  I did not—and still do not—possess the capacity to become enraged with the terrorists, no matter how many PBS documentaries I see or press conferences are held.  In the months and years that followed the eleventh, nationalistic fervor erupted among many- something that both frightened and worried me.  Just as I was saddened by the events of September 11, I was equally disheartened with, and perhaps envied, the reactions of my family members and peers who found it easy to hate. While I felt guilty and jealous and confused, I was mostly just sad.

My September 11 made me wish to stay protected, although in many respects I felt as though shelter did not exist.  The day itself differed only slightly from any other in my eighth-grade year, but gradually I’ve realized that I shouldn’t have expected it to.  In some ways I still have trouble fathoming it at all.  What’s most difficult to comprehend, what most are still tussling with, is how anyone could have a motive for killing 2,993 people.  But yet I still cannot hate those who did.

I don’t remember the twelfth of September, perhaps because it blurred with the following weeks of attempted normalcy and habitual behavior.  Most likely, my teachers and classmates and I pretended that we were alright, or that we understood, or that things were normal- and they were.  We realized that normalcy is arbitrary and slowly, sheepishly, continued with our turkey sandwiches and weariness of algebra, hesitant only because we feared seeming callous.  We settled for a new norm, and we were naive, and still our September 11th was just another Tuesday.

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by Julia

An investigation by The Baltimore Sun reports disturbing news about the Baltimore City Police Department and its handling of rape cases at every point in the investigation. As a proud Baltimore native and a staunch advocate for women’s rights, this upsets me greatly.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 4 in 10 emergency calls alleging rape end in on-scene officers dismissing the case, concluding no further investigation is needed. These cases never make it to detectives or prosecutors.
  • More than 30 percent of the cases investigated by detectives each year are deemed unfounded, five times the national average.
  • The number of rapes reported in Baltimore has dropped by 80% over the last 15 years. The FBI reports the national rape rate over the same period of time has dropped by only 8%.

“Of the 194 reports of rape or attempted rape last year,” 62 (32%) were determined to be unfounded. In the vast majority of these cases, police say the victim recanted her story after initially seeking police involvement. If 40% of rape allegations are called “unfounded” in the field, and then 32% 0f those cases that do make it to investigators are delegitimized, the number of women who are suffering in silence from the emotional and physical toll of sexual assault is inexcusably high.

The Baltimore Sun, June 27 2010

A common response to rape allegations – whether in large cities or on college campuses – is that the women are lying, either to punish the alleged rapist, or to detract attention from infidelity, etc. But the facts surrounding rape allegations tell a different story. “Studies suggest the percentage of rape claims that are false is between 2 percent and 8 percent.” In an editorial in Sunday’s paper, The Sun puts it this way:

It is often too difficult for rape victims to come forward, to report their crimes and to see to it that their attackers are brought to justice. The problem is not that women routinely make up rape allegations — who would willingly submit themselves to such unjust public humiliation?

Rape victims often feel ashamed to report their allegations to others in large part because they may have been partaking in activities that are either illegal or embarrassing at the time of the assault. Most experts on sexual assault agree that when victims recant their previous allegations, it is to avoid further emotional turmoil, especially in cases in which police investigators are questioning them in a way which makes the victims feel their stories are not being taken seriously. Victims report being interrogated by detectives while in the ER just after receiving rape kits – some women are even threatened with lie detector tests or cell phone record and video footage investigations. After undergoing such intense questioning, is it any wonder that some women would choose to recant their stories and attempt recovery on their own, rather than having to undergo scrutiny?

Rape is different from other crimes. Not only does it involve a violation more profound than any other crime but it also comes with a social stigma that forces victims to relive the pain again and again. No one suggests that a victim of a carjacking was really asking for it. No one asks whether an assault might really have been consensual. When a robbery victim is on the witness stand, the most private details of her life are not dissected under cross examination.”

The issue of determined a rape as “unfounded” in Baltimore is further complicated by high rates of prostitution and drug usage. One woman reportedly recanted an account of rape because she was “tired of people thinking they can do what they want to people because of her situation being a prostitute.” The message to police should be crystal clear: a victim’s activities at the time of an alleged sexual assault have no bearing on whether or not a crime occurred. Every case should be treated seriously, regardless of whether a woman was high, drunk, disabled, involved in prostitution, wearing a short skirt, walking in a bad area…etc. As to consent, the absence of ‘no’ is not ‘yes.’

Baltimore and Other Cities

There is an egregious disconnect between the reported number of sexual assaults in the city, and, in all likelihood, the number of actual rapes per year. Baltimore is one of only two cities in the nation in which homicide rates are significantly higher than reported rapes (the other is New Orleans, where a similar investigation is being conducted). Baltimore’s reported rape rates match up with relatively low-crime cities like Toledo and San Francisco, while our homicide rates more closely match Detroit and Philadelphia. [see graph]

A group of 50 detectives is responsible for all of the rape and child abuse cases in the city. (The Sun’s investigation uncovered that Detective Anthony Faulk Jr. is responsible for one-fifth of the unfounded reports, shelving 14 cases last year (the next highest “unfounded” case rate among the detectives is six) I would love to sit down and talk to this guy…) According to city procedure, officers in this unit must file chargers before the Baltimore state’s attorney office gets involved with the investigation. This recent rape statistic story has unearthed a longstanding conflict between the Police Department and the prosecutor’s office about who has “charging rights” in sexual abuse cases. Sometimes, there isn’t physical evidence of sexual assault (non-consensual, non-violent sex between a couple could be an example in some cases), and the only thing the police can go on – the only “proof” – is the woman’s word. This shows how vitally important the initial interaction between the victim and the police is in fully prosecuting a rape case.

Other cities (such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) have dealt with the changing nature of investigating sexual assault, as departments become more educated on the ideas of affirmative consent. Departments with relatively good sexual assault response programs often dispatch specialized units to respond to 911 calls. These departments also have specific classifications for sexual assault allegations which are later recanted by the victim – these reports are filed away and can be reopened if/when the victim decides to prosecute. These departments have it right – the focus should be on prosecuting the rapist – not on blaming the victim or making her feel uncomfortable for not having “evidence.”

The Next Step

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has ordered an audit of police procedure and statistics following The Sun’s investigation. As I’ve written previously, Rawlings-Blake has been a solid advocate for women’s rights in the past. Last year as City Council President, Ms. Rawlings-Blake ordered all Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) in Baltimore City to clearly display that they do not offer referrals or services for abortion or contraception. Baltimore was the first major city in the US to enact such a policy. Just last month at a Take Back the Night event in Baltimore, the Mayor spoke out about the importance of recognizing and reducing sexual assault, stating, “The number of women living with the long-term affects of sexual assault is much higher than reported.”

The Sun also reports that a task force has been created to further investigate the procedures of the department as well as look into the cases that have been deemed “unfounded” in the past. On Tuesday, it was announced that a rape hotline would be implemented to encourage victims to come forward with rape allegations by reducing the anxiety surrounding a police interrogation. Until police are adequately trained in dealing with rape reports, outsourcing sexual assault cases to experts is the right call.

Baltimore needs to utilize every possible avenue towards protecting rape victims moving forward. 911 response teams need to be trained to respect every victim and treat each allegation seriously. Investigators need to learn how to tactfully question victims to gain information about the situation, and when to it is time to stop questioning. If rape victims cannot trust their government to take them seriously in their allegations, how can we even begin to think about ways to reduce rape occurrences in our city? Rape victims are violated in the most extreme way. It is now the city’s job to convince residents that they “won’t be victimized again by a callous, cynical police department” and to take action to treat rape victims with the respect that should be afforded to citizens who turn to the law for protection.

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by Julia


After months of tea partying, Stupak (“baby killer!!”), death panels, and “bipartisanship,” Congress passed legislation late Sunday night designed to greatly expand health care coverage and combat the tyranny of medical insurance companies. Despite my reservations about the bill, I am confident that this step is significant for millions of Americans in a similar way that Civil rights legislation was to previous generations under Johnson in 1964. President Obama and Congressional Democrats weighed reelection and popularity with the plight of the under-insured – particularly the lower classes – and thankfully, their ideological beliefs trumped potential losses in the 2010 and 2012 cycles. George Packer at the New Yorker writes:

“Civil rights brought an oppressed minority of Americans closer to equality, and—as Johnson knew—was so hated across the South that it was bound to cost the Democrats the region. Health-care reform, if it does what its supporters claim, will humanize a system in which the vast majority of Americans feel trapped. It will redress social and economic, not racial, injustices. Its breadth and potential effect will resemble those of Social Security and Medicare far more than civil rights—programs that became prime instances of popular activist government and tied substantial segments of the electorate to the Democratic Party for decades.”

The reform purportedly will cost $940 billion over 10 years. Not too shabby, recalling that the US budgets $700 billion annually for the military. The real test, of course, is whether the legislation actual delivers on the glossy prediction of increased equality. Among other things, the legislation:

  • Expands coverage to 32 million currently uninsured Americans
  • Bans denial of coverage or higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions (phased in by 2014)
  • Bans higher premiums for women
  • Creates an exchange market in which small business owners can shop for insurance coverage for their employees
  • Taxes households making over $250,000 in order to pay for the expanded coverage to the lower classes
  • Allows young adults to stay on their parents insurance through age 26 regardless of college enrollment
  • Requires everyone to have insurance, either under Medicare/Medicaid or private insurance (those without insurance coverage will pay a $695 annual fine. No word on who exactly enforces this clause…)
  • Closes the Medicare prescription drug donut hole
  • Consolidates all student loans under the government starting in July and greatly increases Pell Grant funds
  • Places a 10% tax on tanning salons (sorry, Jersey Shore)

The bad news:

  • Abortion – a legal medical procedure – is still not covered by federal funds (though, without a public option, this basically maintains the status quo of Hyde.) Jos over at Feministing fears that the incredible silence on the part of pro-choice organizations will lead to a further marginalization of women’s rights, and she’s right.
  • Women insured by private companies will be forced, by the Nelson “compromise,” to pay separately for abortion coverage and the rest of their health insurance. Political scientists predict that this clause will ultimately lead to the elimination of abortion coverage by all private insurance companies. Stellar.
  • The bill lacks a public option. We are very much still at the mercy of insurance and Big Pharma, and anyone who tells you otherwise is greatly deluded.
  • It prevents undocumented immigrants from purchasing insurance through the exchange.

The conversation is far from over. Major props to Ezra Klein for his start-to-finish coverage of the process of health care reform, and to the Tea Party for providing plenty of comic relief. Lest we forget: underneath all of the bantering from both sides about the faults of government-run health care, there are millions of uninsured Americans declaring bankruptcy and in some cases dying for lack of health care. This is unacceptable in any society, and it is about time that the United States takes care of its citizens. Is the legislation perfect? Not at all, especially because it lacks a public option. But passing legislation which begins to establish equality in access to a necessity for survival is something I can and should support. Here’s hoping for continued reform and expansion (and abortion coverage).

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by Elizabeth

Congrats to our girl Kathryn Bigelow, the FIRST WOMAN EVER to win BEST DIRECTOR. Did we mention that her film, The Hurt Locker, also won BEST PICTURE.  Suck on that one, James Cameron.

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by Julia

The media is abuzz with the news that CBS will air a thirty-second spot by Focus on the Family featuring University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother during the Superbowl. Focus on the Family is a notoriously anti-choice organization, and the ad portrays Tebow’s mother’s decision not to abort her son, despite severe complications with the pregnancy and medical advice to do so. Focus on the Family, recall, is the same organization that staunchly advocates for a slew of conservative values. In 2008, the organization donated close to a million dollars to pass Proposition 8 in California. Focus on the Family also lobbies for abstinence-only education. Yea, because that’s really working out. The message is clear: this Heisman trophy winner could have been aborted if not for the moral convictions of his mother!! College football would not have been the same!! Kudos to Focus on the Family for fully exploiting a captive, football-loving audience with their clever anti-choice message.

The ad itself is not surprising to me, nor is CBS’s blatant violation of its policy against “advocacy ads.” CBS famously denied the liberal-leaning United Church of Christ advertising during the Superbowl in 2004, citing a policy against running any ad that “touches on and/or takes a position on one side of a current controversial issue.” In the past, CBS has also rejected ads by PETA and moveon.org because the network “does not run advertisements on controversial issues of public importance.” Right, because animal rights and political transparency are more controversial than a blatant anti-choice message. Most recently, CBS rejected an add from a gay dating site, ManCrunch.com, because it “did not meet their broadcast standards.” Because ads for Cialis and Viagra are fine, but when homosexuality is involved in romantic relationships, suddenly “broadcast standards” are violated. Despite pressure from a coalition of women’s organizations, the Focus on the Family ad is set to run during the Superbowl on February 7th, at a cost to the organization of $2.5 million.

Ultimately, this ad is symbolic of a trend evident in US politics for a long time – money is really effective at limiting the voices (and choices) of Americans. Solidified by the inane SCOTUS decision last week, corporate control over political discourse is on the rise, and has potentially disastrous consequences. I oppose the Focus on the Family ad not because of its manipulative anti-choice message, but because of CBS’s eager abandonment of policy for money. I have maintained little trust in corporations like CBS to adhere to neutral policies, but when such a decision is mirrored in the Supreme Court, the reality of full corporate control of our lives is evident. Because money speaks in advertisement, viewers are literally urged to “consume” anti-choice, to choose these values as they would a pickup truck or type of beer. Scary stuff. But what happens when those same corporate interests dictate law? In this case, the choice is no longer there, and we citizen-consumers are forced to conform to whichever policy has the most money behind it. Much, much scarier.

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by Elizabeth

After just 37 minutes of deliberation, a Kansas jury found Roeder, 51, guilty of premeditated, first-degree murder for killing abortion provider Dr. George Tiller on May 31.

During the trial Roeder testified that, “There was nothing being done, and the legal process had been exhausted, and these babies were dying every day. I felt that if someone did not do something, he was going to continue.” Judge Warren Wilbert ruled out a voluntary manslaughter defense, which would have been based on the belief that Roeder thought his actions were justified. Still, defense attorney Mark  Rudy told the jury, “No defendant should ever be convicted based on his convictions.”

Roeder was also convicted of two counts of aggravated assault for threatening ushers at Tiller’s church after the murder. He will receive a mandatory life sentence, with the possibility of parole in 25 years, though prosecutor Nola Foulston says she will push for a “Hard 50” sentence, requiring Roeder to first serve 50 years before parole. Roeder may also be indicted on federal charges.

NARAL Pro-Choice America released a statement reading, in part,

Our thoughts are with Dr. Tiller’s family and friends. Even though this conviction brings a murderer to justice, it won’t replace the husband, father, and grandfather they lost last May. […] We also call on opponents of a woman’s right to choose to end the practice of inflammatory rhetoric and tactics that inspire this kind of violent action from the most extreme factions of the anti-choice movement. No other abortion provider’s family should have to endure the tragedy of seeing their loved one killed for providing an essential and legal health service to women.

With Dr. Tiller still dead and abortion providers living in fear, I’m hard-pressed to celebrate this decision. However, I am truly thankful the jury decided as they did.

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