[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/12/13/senate.spending.bill/story.capitol.dome.gi.jpg width=300 height=169]
Tanya M. Acker
In an attempt to exploit racial fears and perhaps assume for themselves the broad legitimacy of a civil rights movement, anti-choice activists are now targeting African-Americans – claiming that the exercise of reproductive freedom by African-American women is effecting a “genocide” in the African-American community. According to proponents of this strategy, family planning clinics are disproportionately located in African-American communities so as to facilitate this “genocide.”
While I do not dispute the sincerity of many in the pro-life movement, this attempt is cynical, misguided, and dangerous.
To argue that abortion rates among African-American women are higher because of a “racial conspiracy” is to ignore the reality of health care options (or the lack thereof) in that community. African-American women are less likely than their white counterparts to have access to affordable care – including affordable birth control options. They are also more likely to die of breast cancer, more likely to contract HIV and more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension. Infant mortality rates, too, are higher in the African-American than in the White community. To focus solely on the issue of higher abortion rates is to ignore the broader reality that the problem of inadequate access to health care is particularly acute in communities of color.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/CRIME/02/05/michael.jackson.doctor.charges/story.murraymug.gi.jpg caption="Dr. Conrad Murray told authorities he administered sleep aids to Michael Jackson." width=300 height=169]
Tanya M. Acker
With the indictment of Dr. Conrad Murray, a new media feeding frenzy begins.
As an attorney, I am both familiar with and thankful for the legal presumption of innocence that is a cornerstone of the American criminal justice system. I also know that presumption is often more meaningful in theory than in practice; having at times represented litigants who were viewed with some measure of social opprobrium, I have some sense of what it is to be on the wrong side of a public relations juggernaut.
Dr. Murray’s team, of course, has its own story to tell. We have recently heard a good deal about the doctor’s history serving disadvantaged patients – service for which I am sure those patients are grateful. I am also certain that there may be other elements of his defense about which we are unaware and which may or may not ultimately prove persuasive to a jury. And before we assume that we know more about this case than we actually do, I would like to point out that I have seen gross abuses of state power – with respect both to well-funded criminal defendants and others – so we should be wary about blindly accepting the allegations set forth by the prosecution.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/12/30/911.lessons/story.wtc.gi.jpg caption="The World Trade Center site three days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack." width=300 height=169]
Tanya M. Acker
During a recent panel discussion about trials for terror suspects I pointed out that the American criminal justice system has managed the prosecution of terrorists before – Ramzi Yousef, Timothy McVeigh, Richard Reid, to name a few – and that I thought our Constitution is up to the challenge (notwithstanding all of those dastardly rights it often affords the accused).
My counterpart on the right responded: “I don’t think a majority of the American public give a fig about the rights of a radical Islamic extremist.” When I maintained that I thought they “cared about the Constitution,” my counterpart suggested that they instead “care[d] about their lives and their family’s lives.”
Now this is a very curious assessment of the situation. One the one hand, we have terrorists and our allegedly terrorist-protecting Constitution. On the other, we have our family, friends and all that we hold dear. Since the terrorists obviously must lose and since most of us have only two hands, there is obviously no way to win this fight without dispensing with the protections afforded by that weak-kneed, pansy document conceived and drafted by our Founding Fathers.
Call me Jack Bauer-bashing naïve, but I have this thing about false choices. I don’t like making them and I don’t think the rest of us should either.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/02/16/un.trafficking/art.streetscene.cnn.jpg caption="Aid agencies say young women are being forced into prostitution around the world – including Russia's capital."]
Tanya M. Acker
At the Women’s Conference hosted by Governor Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver last week, I listened to Somaly Mam, a human rights activist who has made the liberation of girls from sex slavery her life’s work, describe her experience of being sold into sex slavery in Cambodia at 10 or 12-years-old. (Ms. Mam did not know exactly how old she was when she was first imprisoned in the brothel, as she lost all conception of time during her confinement.)
She talked about the fact that child sex slaves are raped sometimes 20 to 30 times a day and also described the horror of watching her best friend murdered, an event which ultimately prompted her to attempt a successful escape.
I then heard Ms. Mam and Nicholas Kristof describe the widespread tragedy that is the global sex trade in girls and how in many cases, as these girls are valued by their brothel masters at only a few hundred dollars a person, those brothel owners often think it efficient to execute the “recalcitrants” publicly in order to send a lesson to the others.
And then, as I listened to Lisa Ling correctly point out that much of what passes for “news” these days consists of talking heads yelling at one another, I thought about how, as one of those talking heads, I have spent more time arguing with right wing anchors about such inanities as whether the President is simultaneously a socialist and fascist who wants to impose his own version of martial law, than I have discussing the plight of these girls.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/09/art.youlie.gi.jpg caption="Rep. Wilson the congressional heckler."]
Tanya M. Acker
Simmer down Congressman Wilson, the Confederacy has been dissolved, the Civil War is over, and your side lost. Like it or not, he is your President too.
Now, on to other news.
While I doubt that the President’s speech will change the tone in Washington, I hope it will at least change the subject from the absurdities about “death panels” and other such nonsense to the truly important fiscal issues implicated by reform. (I don’t know if Eric Cantor and the rest of the GOP’s “dream team” will be able to follow that conversation – engrossed as they were in their Blackberries during such a critical address by the President of the United States – but one can only hope.)
Like many, I am fascinated by the numbers. The President said that he would not sign any reform package that added to the federal budget deficit, yet analysts already have disputed that assertion, maintaining that the only way the current reform proposals can be considered “budget neutral” is if one embraces Washington’s fuzzy math. Similarly, the Congressional Budget Office disputes one of the key economic assumptions underlying reform, namely, that increasing access to preventive care will ultimately bring down costs in the long run (according to the CBO, the increased utilization of resources may ultimately increase, rather than reduce, expenditures on medical care).
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/06/09/kansas.tiller.clinic/art.tiller.clinic.gi.jpg caption="Flowers are left outside Tiller's clinic in Wichita, Kansas, after his death. "]
Tanya M. Acker
Dr. Tiller’s murder was an act of domestic terrorism and the terrorist who committed it has claimed there will be more attacks. Threats and even acts of violence against abortion providers have become far too common. Each one should remind us of the precarious nature of a right that many women take for granted and that many wrongly assume is guaranteed forever.
Those of us who describe ourselves as pro-choice have far too often ceded the definitional debate to those who would deny women the freedom of choice.
As a woman who supports abortion rights, I proudly consider myself pro-life. I support the lives and life choices of women who insist upon the prerogative to make their own reproductive decisions. I believe their right to do so arises not only from the Constitution, but from their status as autonomous, free-thinking beings.
Tanya M. Acker
A “hag,” is how one conservative commentator described Speaker Pelosi, as he discussed the current controversy over “what she knew and when she knew it” with respect to the CIA’s interrogation techniques.
Really? A “hag”?
The issue of whether the Speaker is a hypocrite has very little to do with whether the interrogation techniques at issue are illegal – but fine. If you want to go down the road of discussing who may or may not be a hypocrite in Washington I think that people on both sides of the aisle would welcome that debate.
But must we really indulge the sexism and misogyny? Just as many conservatives have found a way to criticize President Obama without resorting to racist and other hateful rhetoric, one certainly can have a debate about the Speaker’s good faith without the silly references to “Botox” and facelifts.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/03/20/pm.aig.obama/art.aigreed.afp.gi.jpg caption="AIG's plans to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in executive bonuses is the latest controversy to enrage many Americans."]
Tanya M. Acker
Attorney and Political Consultant
On the “Tonight Show” last night President Obama discussed the need to change the “culture of entitlement” on Wall Street.
It needs more than changing. How about scrapping it completely and then grafting on a little bit of character and common sense?
The other day, I asked a Bank of America representative why, after I used their electronic bill pay feature, it would take two days to refund into my account money that they did not timely deliver to a payee (according to the bank’s own specified delivery timeline and guidelines). I was essentially told that it was none of my business.
I am not kidding.
Editor's note: WARNING!!! This is not just a little tongue & cheek...it is A LOT of cheek!!! While the news events described did occur...Tanya Acker took little creative liberty with the dialogue...
Attorney, political analyst and Obama supporter
John McCain must be very depressed. What do people in the public service live for, except a little attention from those they “serve”? (Oh, and the chance to “serve” in the first instance, of course. Silly me).
In any event, he can’t get a second look from the press if he tried.
Case in point: during a Middle East tour, he makes the claim that al Qaeda, a Sunni terrorist group, is getting funding from Shiite Iran. (Just a little footnote here – Sunnis and Shiites don’t get along so well, see... e.g., the current civil war in Iraq). Hearing the stumble and eager to get things back on track, Joe Lieberman whispers a correction in his ear.
(Thank God for that trusty old Joe.)
“Oops,” the senator says, acknowledging his mistake. “Of course I didn’t mean that . . .”
Or did he? Remember, this is John “master of foreign policy” McCain, he who knows all about all things off-shore. Might this slip-up have been a ploy to direct some attention in this frenetic election season back to himself? A desperate cry for help (or at least news coverage) from the media masters? A passionate plea: “pay attention to me! Enough of the lady and the black guy!”