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Archive for February, 2011

Democrats Celebrate Black History Month in Video

Monday, February 28th, 2011

In honor of Black History Month, a group of legends from the Civil Rights Movement, pioneering Democrats, and rising new leaders recently sat down to discuss the important role that African Americans have played in shaping this country.

Professor Julian Bond, a civil rights leader and former Georgia lawmaker, talked about the unique history of African Americans:

All Americans ought to have some consciousness that among us, there’s this population that has had a peculiar history—African Americans. Slavery, subjugation, discrimination, now freedom–now one of us is the President of the United States. That’s great, and we need to celebrate it, but we need to understand how we got here.

Watch these history makers and future leaders, and then take a moment to share the story in African American history that inspires you and the work you do.

NY Anti-Abortion Billboard Loses Battle

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

A New York billboard running a picture of a young African American girl with the words, ” the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb”, was hotly contested and ultimately removed from its site. Lamar Advertising agency ran the ad for Choose Life, a pro- life group, as a part of its anti-abortion campaign to reach black women. Statistics released by the New York City Health department states that over 41 % of all births are aborted in New York City and 59.8% for black women. Mayor Bloomberg said he was unsure if the figures were correct. The billboard was placed in lower Manhattan on February 18, 2011 and removed on February 24, 2011 amid outcries from various groups, including city leaders and community activists.

The first amendment guarantees that the anti-abortion billboard was constitutionally protected. Yet, just because there was a legal basis for placing the advertising, doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do. It clearly was not the right thing. The ad was said to be removed due to complaints received from the restaurant in the building below the ad which had no relationship to the ad but was receiving the brunt of the comments. The ad should be offensive to all women and not just African American women. It is particularly racially insensitive to African Americans. It should be particularly offensive in a city where Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D. NY) founded the first chapter of the National Organization for Women (“NOW”) in New York and fought for women’s rights, including the right to choose abortion. Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to Congress and the first African American and woman to run for the Democratic candidacy for the Presidency

Now, that the ad has been removed, another thing left to do is to apologize to the mother of the child, depicted in the bill board. Tricia Fraser of Patterson, NJ took her daughter to a modeling agency two years ago. Photographs were taken and she agreed to a release of her daughter’s photograph. Yet, she never imagined that her daughter’s image would be used on a bill board for an anti-abortion campaign aimed at African Americans. She states that she “was devastated that they portrayed her like that.” And she is worried that her daughter’s image might be similarly used again in the future. She wants an apology and assurances that it will not be used in that manner again. To date, no response has been received. So, next time a professional photographer takes a picture of you, your baby, child, wedding or bat mitzvah, remember you too could see it again displayed on some billboard.

Since the Republican controlled Congress has vowed and passed a bill to take away all funding from Planned Parenthood for contraceptive use and counseling, one can only wonder what effect the measure will have on the lives of women in New York and elsewhere, if passed in the Senate. That would make a good subject for an ad. A recent study by the University of California at San Francisco published in the journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that of the 85,000 low income women studied, there was a 46% decline in the odds of an abortion and a 30% decrease in the odds of becoming pregnant when the women received a one year supply of birth control pills. Currently, most public centers piece meal out birth control pills in increments of one to three months. Lead study author Diana Green Foster says:

“Having sex without using a method of birth control is one of many kinds of risks people take in their lives, like driving too fast or driving without a seatbelt. If seatbelts were given out as piecemeal as contraception, few people would use them.”

Most private facilities do not engage in the piece meal approach. It almost seems like a no brainer to give a year supply if the odds of abortion declined by 46%. Instead, Congress chooses to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. Instead of attacking and demonizing a woman’s right to choose a legal abortion, perhaps Lamar advertising agency and Choose Life should be focused on ads for jobs, social programs for women, aborting crime and yes, funding for contraceptives.

Debbie Hines is a lawyer and legal/political commentator. She also writes for the Huffington Post. She is frequently seen in the media addressing issues on women, race, law and politics.  She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Rush Limbaugh Thinks Women Should be Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Size

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Rush Limbaugh recently blasted first lady Michelle Obama about her size and body image.  Apparently, according to Limbaugh, Michelle Obama is eating way too much and not looking thin enough.   He said:

 “It doesn’t look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutrition, dietary advice. I’m trying to say that our first lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated   swimsuit issue.”

He further ranted about Michelle Obama eating ribs and her waist size which appears too large to him.  Limbaugh believes that first lady Michelle Obama should have a smaller waist size to promote her anti-obesity program, Let’s Move, aimed at preventing childhood obesity and the associated debilitating diseases. He commented that her size is hypocritical to her anti-obesity stance. Now, women have Rush Limbaugh, a poster boy for Weight Watchers, commenting on how they should look and their public body image. If anything is hypocritical, it is Rush’s stance on a woman’s body size.   A few years ago, Rush Limbaugh went a diet by the Quick Weight Loss Centers and he lost weight at that time.  He made it seem so complicated like he was the only one smart enough to follow it and lose weight.  Judging by his size now, the diet failed.  

Although, many women strive  to be smaller as seen by the infomercials, TV shows, diet gimmicks, diet fads, diet pills and the entire diet industry, many fail at their attempts to lose weight, just like Rush did.  The media often perpetrates a size 2 swimsuit model size as the ideal image of beauty for women. And now women have Rush Limbaugh telling them what size they should strive to be.  Unlike Limbaugh’s personal attack on Michelle Obama’s body image, the message of Obama’s Let’s Move will undoubtedly save some lives.  Michelle Obama is not commenting on anyone’s body image. Instead, she is taking a sensible and healthy approach to eating and life style changes to transform the lives of children and youth. Nine million children and teens between the ages of 6-19 are overweight. And as conservative Republican Mike Huckabee noted with the problems the U.S. Armed Services has in finding recruits who are not obese, “rather than condemn Michelle Obama, I think we ought to be thanking her for what she has done.”

While Republicans want to wipe out health care reform and anti-obesity health efforts aimed at children, meanwhile the American people are getting bigger and sicker from the effects of obesity. The statistics on childhood obesity are staggering.   And who does Rush Limbaugh think is paying for the high cost of health care associated with obesity?   Instead of attacking Michelle Obama’s effort to reduce obesity and health issues among our youth, perhaps, Rush might want to take her advice to eat less, lose weight and move his body more and his mouth less. It couldn’t but help his waistline and body image.

Should Blacks Celebrate Civil War History?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Elsie Scott, Ph. D. shown in photo

Dr. Carter G. Woodson started Negro History week in 1926. It later became Black History Week and has now become Black History Month. A proclamation is now issued by the President of the United States.   And in 2011, some wonder why we still celebrate it.  After all, we have our first African American president, our first African American attorney general, the third highest ranking congressional Democrat is an African American and the former chairman of the Republican National Committee is African American.  Many argue that we are now living in a post racial society. So why do we still celebrate Black History month in February?  

Below are some reflections by Elsie L. Scott, Ph.D. Dr. Scott is president and chief executive officer of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) in Washington, D.C. The CBCF is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization supported by an $11 million annual budget and a staff of 33 employees, including eight fellows who each serve a year in Congressional offices on Capitol Hill. Dr. Scott recounts her childhood memories of Black History Week:

 “I remember celebrating black history week when I was in elementary and secondary school. It was the one week in the school year when we could openly talk about the achievements of black people, when we could talk about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights.  We would decorate the bulletin board with pictures of black achievers and each student would have to prepare a black history booklet. My sisters and I would have the prize-winning black history booklets because our father subscribed to Ebony, Jet and black newspapers from which we could clip an array of beautiful pictures of black leaders, entertainers and sports figures. Children without those resources at home had a difficult time finding enough pictures to complete their booklets. We would prepare our booklets and give our “leftover” pictures to children who did not have black publications at home.”

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. The Association of for the Study of African American Life and History chose African Americans and the Civil War as a theme for this year’s Black History celebration.  The Association for the Study of African American Life and History chooses a theme that guides Black History Month each year. The history of the Civil War and blacks is often entangled with negative emotions for many African Americans. Few know of the service of African Americans in the Civil War.  The movie, Glory, which starred Denzel Washington, highlighted the heroic service of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers.  It is estimated that about 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. 

Dr. Elsie Scott recounts her family’s civil war history:

 “My father’s grandfather served in the Civil War, entering the war as a cook for a confederate soldier and ending the war as a union soldier.  He told my father how he was captured by the union soldiers and imprisoned. The black prisoners were told to repeat this oath, “I promise I will never rebel again against the United States” and they were freed. Hearing that a colored unit of the union army was being formed in New York, they traveled to New York and volunteered to fight in hopes of ending slavery. He became a part of the 20th U.S. Colored Infantry.’

Those serving as free blacks risked being killed or returned to slavery. Dr. Scott’s great grandfather’s name is inscribed on the wall of the African American Civil War Museum located in Washington, DC.

Dr. Scott states that Black History Month is a good time to learn about the role that blacks played in the Civil War. Many African Americans want to forget this painful part of American history. Yet, African Americans played a pivotal role in fighting for the Union and freedom. The descendants of confederate soldiers have actively sought to preserve their history, and many have sought to distort what is taught in the classrooms and what is written in the history books.  Americans need to know that African Americans fought for freedom, not just in the Civil War, but also in other wars as well as on the battlefront against Jim Crow in American cities and towns.   And African Americans continue to fight for freedom in America today.

 Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and legal/political commentator.  She writes on race, women, law and politics.She is frequently seen in the media.  She also writes for the Huffington Post. She holds a Juris Doctorate from  George Washington University Law School and a BA in African American history from the University of Pennsylvania.  Dr. Elsie Scott contributed to this article.

GOP Cuts Contraceptives for Women But Allows for Horses

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Rep. Dan Burton (R. IN)Sometimes, life is stranger than fiction. The Republican controlled House voted to end all funding to Planned Parenthood for any contraceptive or other  purposes.  Meanwhile, Rep. Dan Burton (R. IN) introduced a spending bill amendment aimed at promoting contraception use by horses to control the population of wild horses.  Burton’s amendment would prevent the Bureau of Land Management from holding wild horses in pens and offers “immuno-contraception” to the horses as an alternative. These same Republican politicians, who want to strip women of their right for any contraceptive resources through Planned Parenthood, offer an amendment to support funding for contraceptives for wild horses. Does anyone see the irony or better yet, hypocrisy in the two? Rep. Burton says wild horses are treated in an inhumane way and birth control will improve their treatment.  I support treating horses and other animals in a humane manner. I just wonder how Burton and his fellow Republicans think lower income women and those without health insurance are being treated by the Republican led House, without access to Planned Parenthood’s contraceptive services.  Meanwhile, back in the country, the American people are still screaming show us the money…meaning jobs.

Planned Parenthood federal funding money currently forbids any use for abortions.  The federal monies to Planned Parenthood  goes to help some women without insurance, including lower income women and college students, with birth control,  education on HIV, HIV testing, life- saving breast and cervical cancer screenings,  education on use of condoms and STD education. Cutting any funding for HIV and cancer testing undoubtedly will cost lives for men and women and deny basic health care access.  Completely defunding Planned Parenthood is as reckless as the President of Bahrain ordering troops to fire into the crowd.  It will have the same consequences.

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund says this is the most dangerous legislative assault on women’s health in all the years of Planned Parenthood.  Richards says the bill to bar Planned Parenthood from federal funding is   “part of an unbelievable and unrelenting campaign to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers and deny women access to basic health care.” Millions of women at some time in their lifetime have gone to a Planned Parenthood Center. Instead of decreasing funding to the war and the contractors who benefit from the war, the GOP has chosen to assault and war against women and at the same time help horse contraception.

It is estimated that 3 million women go yearly to 800 Planned Parenthood centers across America.  97% seek services for annual exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings, contraceptives, well woman health visits and health education. Well woman health care allows a woman to be assessed for other health issues such as diabetes and hypertension. And then Planned Parenthood ensures that they receive care elsewhere, if needed.  Where will they go if the measure is passed in the Senate? And the GOP probably says, don’t ask, don’t care.  House Speaker Boehner would probably just say, if lives are lost as a result of these cuts, then “so be it.”  Planned Parenthood and women are under attack by Republicans who want to make government smaller by making government   ”just small enough to fit inside our bedrooms and our medicine cabinets”   says NARAL Pro Choice America President Nancy Keenan.

Well, one thing is for sure.  Women conceive and so do horses. Unlike horses, women vote.

Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and legal/political commentator. She is frequently seen on air in the media. She also writes for the Huffington Post.  She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.   For the Best of  Legal Speaks blogs, click on Res Ipsa Loquitur ( “the thing speaks”)

GOP Plays Hardball With Women and Planned Parenthood

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

The Republican controlled House voted to end all funding to Planned Parenthood for any purpose.  This decision comes on the heels of their other decisions to gut programs for veterans, students, seniors and destroy 800,000 jobs in the process. The GOP House’s spending bill will hurt women, men, veterans, students, teachers and thousands of retires and disabled workers relying on social security checks.  Cuts to health care reform alone will add $210 billion to the budget over 10 years. Have they no shame?  The GOP House has now just about turned their backs on everyone.  But worse, yet, the funds cut to Planned Parenthood and health care reform, if passed by the Senate, will also cost lives to men and women. Meanwhile, the American people are still screaming show us the money…meaning jobs.  Republican Congressman John Kline (R. MN) said that “nobody should be comfortable with huge cuts like these” in referring to his colleagues’ cuts to education.

Planned Parenthood federal funding money forbids any use for abortions.  The federal monies to Planned Parenthood instead goes to help some women without insurance with birth control,  including students in college,  men, education on HIV, HIV testing, life- saving cancer screenings,  education on use of condoms and STD education. Cutting any funding for HIV and cancer testing undoubtedly will cost lives for men and women and deny basic health care access.  Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund says this is the most dangerous legislative assault on women’s health in the 95 years of Planned Parenthood.  Richards says the bill to bar Planned Parenthood from federal funding is  “part of an unbelievable and unrelenting  campaign to shut down Planned Parenthood health centers  and deny women access to basic health care.” Millions of women at some time in their lifetime have gone to a Planned Parenthood Center. Instead of decreasing funding to the war and the contractors who benefit from the war, the GOP has chosen to assault and war against women.  Completely defunding Planned Parenthood is as reckless as the President of Bahrain ordering troops to fire into the crowd.  It will have the same consequences.

It is estimated that 3 million women go to 800 Planned Parenthood centers across America.  97% seek services for annual exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings, contraceptives, well woman health visits and health education. Well woman health care allows a woman to be assessed for other health issues such as diabetes and hypertension. And then Planned Parenthood ensures that they receive care elsewhere, if needed.  Where will these women go if the measure is passed in the Senate? The Republicans probably take the position of don’t ask, don’t care.  If lives are lost in the process, in the words of their leader, John Boehner, “so be it.”

There are options available to combat these dire consequences. Women and men need to take a stand against the draconian attack on Planned Parenthood. Information is available at their web site. If the GOP is ultimately successful in its attack on women’s basic health care, education, students, seniors, veterans and the disabled who’s left to  be next on the chopping block.  Go to Planned Parenthood.org and   Planned Parenthood Action Fund for more information.

Debbie Hines is an attorney and legal/political commentator.  She addresses issues on race and women in law and politics.  She is frequently seen on air in the media. She also writes for the Hufington Post. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.