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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Restoring Sanity Through U.N. Scrutiny?!

Rally to Restore Sanity…to Reproductive Policies

October 30, 2010 by Carol King

While some of my friends were on their way to Washington, D.C. to “Rally to Restore Sanity,” one friend is preparing to go to Geneva, Switzerland, to make a plea for sanity to the United Nations about abortion. Renee Chelian, founder of Northland Family Planning in Southfield, Mich., will testify about the dismal reality of providing abortions in the United States.

Reproductive rights supporters are hoping the U.N. will use its influence to improve conditions for American women. As part of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group meeting November 1-12, 16 countries will have their human rights records examined. For the first time, the United States will be one of those countries.

“I thought the U.N. was only about peacekeeping,” said Chelian. “I’m learning that they’re concerned about human rights around world. They try to be our eyes, ears and conscience” when it comes to safeguarding everyone’s human rights. “They may not have enforceable powers, but they do have tremendous influence.”

Chelian, along with representatives from the Center for Reproductive Rights, Amnesty International USA and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, hope to convince members of the Human Rights Council and other international human rights experts to look at the threatened state of reproductive rights in the U.S. The Center for Reproductive Rights is hosting a side event where panelists will share the obstacles American women face in seeking reproductive health care, and what steps the government can and should take to increase access for all women.

“I will describe the kinds of attacks against abortion providers, clinic staff and patients. We have been burned down, bombed out, harassed and intimidated and finally murdered,” said Chelian. The Obama Administration is working with clinics and staff, but Chelian believes, “We need to put pressure on the federal government. They have the ability to protect us and they should.”

The issues go beyond protecting the clinics, workers and patients. The harassment, intimidation and vilification of abortion providers has resulted in fewer doctors willing to do the work. Women’s access to reproductive health care is limited by income, location, family situation and other factors. Said Chelian,

Physicians in rural areas do not add abortion care because of threats to themselves and their families. [They become] targets in the community–followed to the grocery store, restaurants, church. [They] fear losing patients because of the harassment and intimidation of other patients. Who would want to see this physician? If there are no physicians, legal abortion means nothing.

With no abortion facilities nearby, rural woman face unnecessary delays created by having to travel to a distant clinic, organizing time off work, finding child care and a driver, and enduring waiting periods which require two clinic visits.

Access for poor women is equally difficult. As they try to raise sufficient money, they often delay their abortions until the second trimester–when the procedure becomes even more expensive. It’s a Catch-22.

In a country so determined to make abortion as inaccessible and unpleasant as possible, you would expect unparalleled support for pregnant women, but we can’t even take comfort in that. According to Amnesty International, American women have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than those in 40 other countries.

I’ll be keeping track of the proceedings in Geneva and report on the progress being made to define reproductive rights as human rights.

Photo from Flickr user alexandralee, under license from Creative Commons 2.0.

Now take a listen to this video!

Then, there is the Rally to Restore Sanity

Signs Of 'Sanity' In Washington
by NPR Staff and Wires

When Reason Wears A Bear Costume

A "sanity" rally blending laughs and political activism drew thousands to the National Mall on Saturday.

People assembled by the tens of thousands Saturday on the National Mall, for a "sanity" blending laughs, activism, and a call for civility from two improbable maestros of moderation, comedians Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

"In the shadow of the Capitol and close to the election, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert entertained a huge throng rallying on Saturday for "sanity," poking fun at the nation's diversity and its ill-tempered politics.

In one shtick, Stewart and his associates queried some crowd-goers to identify themselves by category, eliciting answers from attendees such as "half-Mexican, half-white," "American woman single" and "Asian-American from Taiwan."

"It's a perfect demographic sampling of the American people," Stewart cracked. "As you know, if you have too many white people at a rally, your cause is racist. If you have too many people of color, then you must be asking for something — special rights, like eating at restaurants or piggy back rides."

Colbert honored NPR among other news organizations at the event with a "Medal of Fear" for forbidding employees to attend the rally. A 7-year-old girl accepted the award in NPR's absence.

*Watch the credits at the very end of this video, & then act positively on the suggestions they represent. Hint: for the good of the WHOLE country!

The event sought in part to be a counterpoint to the "Restoring Honor" rally in August by Glenn Beck, the Fox News commentator popular among conservatives and tea party supporters. Beck's rally, which had strong religious overtones, drew some protests from civil rights supporters.

Don Novello, who years ago played Father Guido Sarducci on "Saturday Night Live," provided the benediction. He polled the crowd on their religious leanings, then gave thanks to God for allowing everyone to assign their various causes to him.

Egged on by the hosts, Ozzy Osbourne and Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, engaged in something of a battle of the bands, the heavy-metal rocker and the folkie interrupting each other.

The crowds — easily tens of thousands strong — were festive, goofy, disillusioned with the state of politics if not the nation, and ready to play nice at a gathering called as a counterweight to all the shouting and flying insults of these polarized times. But there were political undertones, too, pushing back against conservatives ahead of Tuesday's election.

Slogans urged people to "relax." But also: "Righties, don't stomp on my head," a reference to a Republican rally in Kentucky at which a liberal activist was pulled to the ground and stepped on. And, "I wouldn't care if the president was Muslim."

Shannon Escobar, 31, of Bangor, Pa., came with a group of 400 people on buses chartered in New York. A supporter of President Barack Obama in 2008, she said she's tired of nasty rhetoric from both sides and disenchanted with lack of progress in Washington.

"I want to see real change — not Obama change," she said. "We need a clean slate and start over with people really working together."

A regular viewer of Stewart's "The Daily Show," she said she had a dream that he ran for political office, but got "corrupt and dirty."

"I need him to stay pure," she said, deadpan.

People also carried signs in favor of United Farmworkers and the movement to give the District of Columbia a vote in Congress. Many were college students, but the crowd cut across all age groups. "Seniors for pot" cried a half-dozen older people.

Organizers insisted the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear wasn't about politics. Still, supporters and left-leaning advocacy groups hoped it would rekindle some of the voter enthusiasm for Democrats seen in 2008, particularly among young adults.

Stewart is popular especially with Democrats and independents, a Pew Research Center poll found. Colbert of "The Colbert Report" poses as an ultraconservative, and the stage Saturday was stacked with entertainers associated with Democratic causes or Obama's 2008 campaign.

Even so, Stewart said the day was about toning down anger and partisan division. "Shouting is annoying, counterproductive and terrible for your throat," he said on his website."

One more soundbite; even though the truth is we have only all of our own selves to "blame" for the entire mess that our beacon of Democracy is in. America the beautiful, the land of the free and the brave, no matter who we are alive in this period of our history, no matter how hard we may have worked for the right access to include everyone, while keeping our air, water & land to grow food, clean with the seventh generation in mind_ we are all part of this mess of self-centered blame to which our once beautiful beacon of Democracy has sunk. NOW! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO TO CHANGE IT FOR THE BETTER FOR EVERYONE, NO EXCEPTION?

REMEMBER, STAND-UP, BE COUNTED & TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the entire mess we are all in together America, on BOTH sides of the aisle!

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