Tuesday, January 27, 2015
House Republicans drop controversial abortion bill ahead of Roe v. Wade anniversary
House Republicans on Wednesday dropped a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, abandoning legislation that at one time seemed certain to pass the chamber but fell victim to intra-party disputes over concerns that the law would alienate women voters.
The failure of the bill, which was intended to be Congress' first anti-abortion legislation of the new session, reflects divides in the GOP just weeks after it assumed control of both houses for the first time in eight years.
Instead, the House will vote Thursday -- the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision -- on a bill that would ban the use of tax dollars for abortions, the same law that was passed by the House nearly one year ago but died in the Senate, which was then controlled by Democrats.
The substitute bill would make permanent the so-called Hyde amendment, which bans all federal money for abortion services. Currently, Congress simply renews the amendment each year, which it has done since the mid-1970s. Voting on the bill Thursday would provide Republicans with a symbolic act on the same day that the anti-abortion March for Life is scheduled to begin in Washington.
The failed bill, which reflected the idea that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, would have criminalized virtually all abortions for pregnancies of 20 weeks or longer. It would offer some exceptions, including for victims of rape that have already been reported to authorities.
But some Republicans, including female members of Congress, objected to that requirement, saying that many women feel too distressed to report rapes and should not be penalized. A 2013 Justice Department report calculated that just 35 percent of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to police.
"The issue becomes, we're questioning the woman's word," Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., said earlier Wednesday. "We have to be compassionate to women when they're in a crisis situation."
There were also objections to the bill's exemption for minors who are victims of incest and have reported the incident.
"So the exception would apply to a 16-year-old but not a 19-year-old?" said Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pa. "I mean, incest is incest."
There was concern that the bill would have looked bad for the Republican Party as it struggles to court female voters in the 2016 presidential and congressional elections, and primary and general election candidates could have turned the vote around on the Republicans. The GOP also wants to demonstrate that it can focus on issues that matter to voters and not get bogged down in gridlock.
But members who backed the 20-week bill were furious that those who shied away didn't raise their objections until essentially the last minute.
“We’ve been working on this for two years. Where were they?” a source who is close to the process told Fox News on Wednesday afternoon.
The source added that it was expected that the abortion bill would be one of the new Congress's first votes of the session, and that any members suggesting otherwise are “being dishonest.”
Thursday's debate was timed to coincide with the annual march on Washington by abortion foes marking the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 legalizing abortion.
In a statement, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said he was disappointed by the failure of the 20-week measure, but said he was encouraged that Congress would vote on banning taxpayer funding of abortions.
"Americans have been forced to violate their conscience and religious convictions long enough by being made to fund President Obama's massive abortion scheme," Perkins said.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., a chief sponsor of the 20-week bill, called it "a sincere effort" to protect women and "their unborn, pain-capable child from the atrocity of late-term abortion." He had also said GOP leaders "want to try to create as much unity as we can."
The White House had threatened to veto the legislation, calling it "an assault on a woman's right to choose."
Democrats were strongly against the legislation and said the measure was nothing more than a political gesture.
"This is not only insulting to the women of this country, but it's just another pointless exercise in political posturing," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. "It will never become law."
The GOP rift on the issue was discussed Wednesday at a private meeting of House Republicans, who by a large majority are strongly anti-abortion.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a brief interview earlier Wednesday that he believed the House would debate the bill as planned. But he did not rule out changes.
"We're moving forward," he said earlier Wednesday. "There's a discussion and we're continuing to have discussions."
The legislation would have allowed an exception where an abortion is necessary to save the mother's life.
Under the bill, those performing the outlawed abortions could face fines or imprisonment of up to five years.
A report this week by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office cited estimates by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that about 10,000 abortions in the U.S. are performed annually 20 weeks or later into pregnancies. The budget office estimated that if the bill became law, three-fourths of those abortions would end up occurring before the 20th week.
The House approved a similar version of the bill in 2013, but the measure was never considered in the Senate, which was then controlled by Democrats. Its fate remains uncertain in the Senate, where anti-abortion sentiment is less strong than in the House.
Britain's Nazi social workers again
Social workers seized a man aged 91 from his house and imprisoned him in a care home against his will for 17 months, a judge said yesterday. Staging an early morning raid, they took the former civil servant away from his home of 50 years in his dressing gown. They claimed they were taking him to a hotel – and threatened to call police when he refused.
He was then locked up in a care home, subjected to ‘continuous supervision and control’, and forbidden from seeing his friends or attend services at his church, the court heard.
But for a friend’s protests, he could have been imprisoned for life, District Judge Paul Mort said, condemning Essex County Council and its social workers, who repeatedly refused to accept independent expert reports that found he was fit to live at home.
They ignored the elderly man’s consistent pleas to go back to his house and his cat, Fluffy. Not until the day of the final court hearing in the case did they change their minds.
Judge Mort said the treatment of the former RAF gunner was ‘inexcusable’ and ‘disturbing’. He found the man was unlawfully detained and awarded him £150,000, together with free care at home for the rest of his life. The case is one of hundreds now going through the secretive Court of Protection to challenge imprisonment of vulnerable people by councils using the controversial Mental Capacity Act.
The man was not identified, and nor were the social workers, despite senior judges saying that the courts should name social workers just as they name police officers or medical experts.
In his ruling, Judge Mort said the man lived in his home for 50 years, first with his parents and his sister, and since their deaths alone with his cat. He went to church every Sunday and had a group of friends, who described him as generous towards those in need and charities.
After he developed dementia and health problems, his friends told the council he could be vulnerable. A social worker visited, but her report said nothing about his mental state or his wishes.
Instead, she and a colleague returned at 8.30am the next day. The man ‘was wearing his dressing gown and was without trousers or pyjama bottoms’. The court heard that the social worker insisted he go with her to a ‘hotel’ – really the care home. When he refused, she told him she would call police. He was ‘very reluctant to leave’ and ‘very distressed’.
The social workers had no legal authority for this, the judge said, adding: ‘He was detained against his wishes for 17 months.’
Social workers next applied for legal control of the man’s finances, at a time when his care fees were £1,500 a month. A friend complained, and was told to take her case to the Court of Protection. As a result, the man was finally allowed home last November.
The judge said: ‘I fail to understand why [this] was considered to be a reasonable and proportionate solution to the problem.
‘It is hard to imagine a more depressing and inexcusable state of affairs. Had it not been for the alarm raised by his friend, he may have been condemned to remain there for the remainder of his days.’
He said the social workers were ‘unprepared to countenance any view contrary to their own’. ‘They maintained their resolute opposition to his returning to his home until the last possible moment . . . the conduct of Essex County Council has been reprehensible. The very sad and disturbing consequences for him cannot be ignored,’ he added.
Baker Faces Complaint for Refusing Anti-Gay Message on Cake: Case is new twist on growing issue
A dispute over a cake in Colorado raises a new question about gay rights and religious freedom: If bakers can be fined for refusing to serve married gay couples, can they also be punished for declining to make a cake with anti-gay statements?
A baker in suburban Denver who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding is fighting a legal order requiring him to serve gay couples even though he argued that would violate his religious beliefs.
But now a separate case puts a twist in the debate over discrimination in public businesses, and it underscores the tensions that can arise when religious freedom intersects with a growing acceptance of gay couples.
Marjorie Silva, owner of Denver's Azucar Bakery, is facing a complaint from a customer alleging she discriminated against his religious beliefs.
According to Silva, the man who visited last year wanted a Bible-shaped cake, which she agreed to make. Just as they were getting ready to complete the order, Silva said the man showed her a piece of paper with hateful words about gays that he wanted written on the cake. He also wanted the cake to have two men holding hands and an X on top of them, Silva said.
She said she would make the cake, but declined to write his suggested messages on the cake, telling him she would give him icing and a pastry bag so he could write the words himself. Silva said the customer didn't want that.
"It's just horrible. It doesn't matter if, you know, if you're Catholic, or Jewish, or Christian, if I'm gay or not gay or whatever," said Silva, 40, adding that she has made cakes regularly for all religious occasions. "We should all be loving each other. I mean there's no reason to discriminate."
Discrimination complaints to Colorado's Civil Rights Division, which is reviewing the matter, are confidential. Silva said she would honor the division's policy and would not share the correspondence she has received from state officials on the case. KUSA-TV reported the complainant is Bill Jack of Castle Rock, a bedroom community south of Denver.
In a statement to the television station, Jack said he believes he "was discriminated against by the bakery based on my creed."
"As a result, I filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. Out of respect for the process, I will wait for the director to release his findings before making further comments."
Jack did not respond to emails from The Associated Press seeking comment. No one answered the door at the address listed for Jack in Castle Rock.
The case comes as Republicans in Colorado's Legislature talk about changing the state law requiring that businesses serve gays in the wake of a series of incidents where religious business owners rejected orders to celebrate gay weddings. Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg said the new case shows a "clash of values" and argued Colorado's public accommodation law is not working.
"The state shouldn't come in and say to the individual businessman, 'You must violate your religious — and I'll say religious-slash-moral convictions. This baker (Silva), thought that was a violation of their moral convictions. The other baker, which we all know very well because of all the stories, clearly that was a violation of their religious convictions," Lundberg said.
But gay rights advocates say there is a significant difference in the cases. Silva refused to put specific words on a cake while Jack Phillips, the baker who turned away the gay couple, refused to make any wedding cake for them in principle.
"There's no law that says that a cake-maker has to write obscenities in the cake just because the customer wants it," said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado.
Phillips' attorneys had argued in court that requiring him to prepare a gay marriage cake would be akin to forcing a black baker to prepare a cake with a white supremacist message. But administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer disagreed, writing that business owners can refuse a specific message, but not service.
"In both cases, it is the explicit, unmistakable, offensive message that the bakers are asked to put on the cake that gives rise to the bakers' free speech right to refuse," administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer said.
Phillips' attorney, Nicolle Martin, said she has sympathy for Silva, arguing she is in the same category as her client. "I absolutely support her right to decline," Martin said. "I support her right as an American to pick and choose the messages she will express."
Silva said she remains shaken up by the incident. "I really think I should be the one putting the complaint against him, because he has a very discriminating message," she said.
It’s not color; it’s culture
Let me make myself perfectly clear: Al Sharpton is a racist.
He makes his considerable living and derives his undeserved social status by going around the country and causing trouble complaining about white people being racists when it is he and his ilk who are the racists. He’s a relic of the past who judges human character and prejudges people solely upon the color of their skin.
Well I have some breaking news for Brother Al: It’s not about color; it’s about culture.
Racism, for the most part is dead in America. Most Americans, with the notable exception of Al Sharpton and his small cadre of race baiters, no longer categorize people on the basis of skin color. Today most of us judge others on the basis of their culture, i.e., the ideas they accept; the philosophy they live by. Black and white has nothing to do with it.
There are millions of people in America who embrace the philosophy of statism and the culture of sloth. They’re intellectually lazy, envious, dishonest, unreliable, irresponsible and ignorant. They lie, cheat, steal and often violently victimize society. Yet they see themselves as victims and like to blame others for their problems.
As opposed to producers they’re takers. They believe they’re entitled to status, money and power simply by virtue of being born but without making any honest effort to succeed. The recent case of Michael Brown from Ferguson Missouri is a perfect example of that kind. There are plenty of them, black, white and every color in-between. Al Sharpton is one of them; he represents them.
Last week Sharpton claimed that the “lily-white” Oscar nominations are “appallingly insulting.” He called for an "emergency meeting next week in Hollywood to discuss possible action around the Academy Awards." No black skinned actors or actresses were nominated this year. "In the time of Staten Island and Ferguson, to have one of the most shutout Oscar nights in recent memory is something that is incongruous," he whined.
Now he’s threatening to meet in Hollywood this week with a group of his fellow race baiters to discuss “potential actions.” He’s going to do what he does best: use his weapon of racism as a club to shakedown businesses for money and other concessions in order to have his dishonest way with them.
Al Sharpton is a racist. His time has passed in America. Today...
It’s not color; it’s culture.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.