Anti-abortion bill clears Georgia Senate committee
By SANYA MANSOOR and BEN NADLER
Monday, March 18
ATLANTA (AP) — Abortion rights activists chanted “shame” as Republicans on a Georgia Senate committee moved Monday to ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
The Senate Science and Technology Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote of 3 to 2. The legislation, backed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, has passed the House and now could go quickly to the floor of the GOP-controlled Senate.
Republicans are moving to enact tough abortion restrictions in the state legislatures they control, even though they’re certain to be challenged in court. Similar “heartbeat” bills just passed the Ohio Senate and the Tennessee House, and are advancing in Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina.
They’re hoping the U.S. Supreme Court — with new Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — will uphold state laws that undermine the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing the right of women to abort a fetus that can’t survive outside the womb.
Courts have repeatedly struck down similar laws. A state judge found Iowa’s “heartbeat” law to be unconstitutional in January. Last week, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of “heartbeat” measure in Kentucky.
In Georgia today, women have the legal right to seek abortions during the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy. A fetal heartbeat is generally detectable at around six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.
The proceedings inside the Capitol have been fraught with tension and emotional arguments from lawmakers and advocates on both sides, some of whom shared personal abortion stories. The issue has drawn large crowds — mainly protesters against the bill. Troopers urged activists to stay calm in the hallways on Monday, warning they’d arrest anyone who continued to chant.
The two Democrats on the Senate committee, both women, tried to introduce three amendments countering the idea that a fetus is a person before it’s viable outside the womb.
One amendment introduced by Democratic Sen. Valencia Seay would have eliminated tax benefits the bill would provide for expecting parents; another would have essentially nullified the bill by making it revert to current state law, which grants abortion rights during the first 20 weeks of gestation.
After all three amendments were voted down by the committee’s Republicans. Seay slammed the bill and the lawmakers who support it, all of them men.
“I’ve made every attempt to rectify this non-commonsense approach,” Seay said. “Common sense comes from us who have delivered, who have given birth and who respect women making a choice for themselves.”
The Georgia bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest — but only when the woman files a police report first — and to save the life of the mother. It also allows for abortions when a fetus is determined to be not compatible with life due to serious medical issues.
Republicans have allowed some changes since House passage, including to allow a pregnant woman to pursue child support from the father for direct medical and pregnancy expenses.
Republican Rep. Ed Setzler of Acworth, the House bill’s author, said last week that the government’s paramount duty under the state constitution is to protect “the fundamental right to life of our citizens, particularly those that are most defenseless among us.”
Groups want trial to allow non-doctors to perform abortions
By PATRICK WHITTLE
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union and a group of abortion providers argued on Monday that a federal court should allow a trial on whether to strike down a 40-year-old Maine law that prevents non-doctors from performing abortions.
The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Maine Family Planning and four clinicians brought their case to U.S. District Court in Portland, where a judge is expected to make a ruling in the coming weeks about whether to let the case go forward. Attorneys for the state of Maine have requested a summary judgment to dismiss the case. If it were instead to go forward and the rule were struck down, that could ultimately expand access to abortion in the rural state by allowing physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurse midwives to perform them.
Dozens of states have restrictions that limit the performance of abortions to doctors, and some of those have been challenged. ACLU of Maine legal director Zachary Heiden said he hopes the case provides a precedent for other states.
ACLU attorney Julia Kaye told Judge Nancy Torresen the state’s restrictions force women who are seeking abortions in Maine to travel long distances, and some are unable to access abortions at all.
“These are burdens being imposed by the state for no articulable reason,” Kaye said. “When you’re asking poor and low income women to travel hundreds of miles, sometimes on a very time-sensitive basis, some women won’t be able to do that.”
Chris Taub, assistant attorney general for Maine, argued that there isn’t strong enough evidence showing how many women have to travel long distances. He added that fewer abortions are being performed in the state compared to the 1980s and ’90s because demand is down, and not because of state laws.
“We have vague evidence that because of the physician-only law, some women have to travel far distances,” he said. “We don’t have any evidence of the percentage of women who face these kinds of burdens.”
The court case is playing out while recently elected Gov. Janet Mills, a former Maine attorney general, is also hoping to expand the state’s list of abortion providers. Mills, a Democrat, has proposed a bill that would also allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse-midwives to perform abortions.
Despite Mills’ bill, the ACLU is moving forward with its lawsuit because it believes the current rules are unconstitutional and should be addressed by a federal court, said Heiden, of the ACLU of Maine.
It is not clear when Torresen will issue a ruling about the state’s request for summary judgment. The arguments about the judgment were wrapped up by late morning.
Arkansas lawmakers mull 10-year legislative term limit
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers are considering a measure that would restrict state lawmakers to serving a maximum of 10 years in the Legislature.
The proposed amendment would impose the strictest legislative term limits in the country.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the Arkansas Term Limits ballot committee filed the proposal Thursday.
The state Supreme Court disqualified a similar proposal sponsored by the committee last October. The state’s high court determined that there weren’t enough valid signatures from registered voters on petitions.
A voter-approved measure in 2014 loosened Arkansas’ term limits and allowed lawmakers to serve 16 years in the House, Senate or a combination of both.
The National Conference of State Legislatures records show the severest term restrictions are currently in California and Oklahoma, which both limit lawmakers to serving 12 years.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com
DA: Man should die for teen’s rape, murder, dismemberment
By MICHAEL RUBINKAM
DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man should be put to death for killing and dismembering his girlfriend’s 14-year-old daughter as part of a rape-murder fantasy he and the teen’s mother shared, a prosecutor declared Friday as he described how the victim fought for her life.
Jacob Sullivan, 46, pleaded guilty to all charges last month in a case that raised questions about the child welfare system’s failure to protect Grace Packer, who spent years in an abusive home before she was raped, drugged, bound and gagged for hours and then, finally, strangled in the attic of a suburban Philadelphia home in 2016.
Prosecutors said Grace’s adoptive mother, Sara Packer, plotted the crime with Sullivan and watched him violate and kill her daughter. Sara Packer, a former foster parent and county adoptions supervisor, agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence and is scheduled to testify at the penalty phase of Sullivan’s trial, which opened Friday outside Philadelphia. It’s expected to last several days.
In his opening statement, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said he would be asking the jury to impose the death penalty for Sullivan’s “awful, unspeakable, heinous crimes.” Sullivan and Packer “decided together that Grace was not worth the air she breathed,” Weintraub said.
Sullivan’s lawyer, Jack Fagan, asked jurors to spare Sullivan’s life, saying he should get the same sentence as Sara Packer. Fagan said Packer was controlling and manipulative, hated Grace long before she met Sullivan online in 2013, and masterminded the rape and murder plot.
“Sara Packer was the driving factor in the intent, the planning and the execution of what happened to her daughter,” he said.
The defense plans to call Packer as a witness.
The jury that will decide Sullivan’s sentence must be unanimous to impose the death penalty; otherwise Sullivan will get life without parole. Even if he’s sentenced to death, it’s unclear whether the punishment would ever be carried out. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf declared a moratorium on capital punishment in 2015. Pennsylvania last carried out an execution in 1999.
Sara Packer and her husband at the time, David Packer, adopted Grace and her brother in 2007. The couple cared for dozens of foster children before David Packer was sent to prison for sexually assaulting Grace and a 15-year-old foster daughter at their Allentown home, about an hour outside Philadelphia.
Sara Packer lost her job as a Northampton County adoptions supervisor in 2010 and was barred from taking in any more foster children.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services launched an investigation after Grace Packer’s murder but its findings have not been made public.
On Friday, Weintraub said Grace’s short life was a series of terrible misfortunes, culminating in her agonizing death.
“What is the worst thing you can think of you can do to a child?” he asked the jury. “Because in this courtroom, we are going to check all of those boxes.”
Sullivan has admitted he punched and raped Grace, bound her hands and feet with zip ties and stuffed a ball gag in her mouth. Prosecutors said Sullivan and Packer also gave her what they intended to be a lethal dose of over-the-counter medication and left her to die in a sweltering attic.
Grace eventually managed to escape some of her bindings and spit the gag out, but was unable to make it out of the house before Sullivan and Packer returned the next day — some 12 hours later — and Sullivan strangled her.
The couple stored her body in cat litter for months, then hacked it up and dumped it in a remote area where hunters found it in October 2016, prosecutors said.
Abington Township Detective Cindy Pettinato, who investigated Grace Packer’s disappearance, testified Friday that Sara Packer seemed unconcerned her daughter was gone, quickly ridding the house of her daughter’s belongings.
Amy Adam, Grace’s guidance counselor, said the teen got excellent grades but required emotional support. She said that a few months before Grace’s death, Sara Packer had threatened to send her to foster care or to a residential center. That prompted Grace to write a “good-bye letter” to her family, Adam said.
The letter was displayed for the jury.
“I know that you guys are at your breaking point and I understand,” Grace wrote. “I love you guys I always have and I always will.”
Opinion: ‘Pay-As-You-Go’ Threatens the Future of Retirement
By Anne Hobson and Hunter Cox
Congressional Democrats’ recent reintroduction of the Social Security 2100 Act, which would expand Social Security benefits for many Americans, could do us all a great service — not by becoming law, but by putting our entitlement funding crisis into sharper focus.
With spending on Social Security approaching $980 billion in 2018, and with projections rising to $1.8 trillion in the next decade, ensuring the program’s financial sustainability for future generations has never been more critical. Leaders cannot keep ignoring Social Security’s inherent funding issues with more continuing resolutions that fund the government for short periods of time, endlessly kicking the can down the road and saving the real debate for another day. This is what keeps government under threat of fiscal insolvency.
The original Social Security Act of 1935 established three different types of programs to provide economic security for three specific groups of Americans: old-age insurance for retirees in the form of Social Security, unemployment insurance, and aid to families with children, a precursor of the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) program.
Most debate surrounds the assistance provided to retirees, who under the act’s original design were guaranteed to be refunded the amount they had paid in, at minimum. Under this design, Social Security operated as a fully funded program: Workers who paid in were told that their payments would be enough, with interest, to fund the program’s benefits.
However, just four years after the Social Security Act was enacted, amendments began to change the original benefit formula, prioritizing families and workers who were close to retiring, a politically popular move at the time.
Now, rather than being determined by a worker’s total contributions over a lifetime, Social Security payouts are determined by a formula based on that worker’s past taxable income. This helped transform Social Security into the “pay-as-you-go” program it is today, where today’s workers pay for yesterday’s, without any guarantees regarding future funding.
These days, Social Security hardly looks like a good deal for most Americans. A Congressional Research Services Report predicted that average retirees in 2003 would wait more than 17 years to earn back Social Security contributions plus interest. For those retiring in 2020, this payback period grows to nearly 22 years.
Returns on the investments made with our Social Security dollars are even poorer. A Tax Foundation study found that in nearly all cases, placing similar amounts of money in personal, tax-preferred savings accounts dramatically outperforms Social Security yields.
Social Security is rapidly approaching a time in which it can no longer self-fund its liabilities. As costs rise and America’s population growth declines, insolvency becomes an increasingly credible threat. The most recent program trustees’ reports determine that Social Security will become insolvent in 2034.
If policymakers continue to kick the can, the costs of correcting things will fall onto future generations through benefit cuts or higher taxes — and we cannot ask younger Americans to finance both the retirements of previous generations and their own at once.
In the meantime, the most viable (and politically toughest) solution to the “pay-as-you-go” problem is reducing current and future benefits in a fair and manageable way. Raising the full retirement age and cutting benefits for high earners are just two ways Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, proposed doing this in 2016. His bill — the last notable, formal proposal along these lines — could be looked at as a starting point.
Social Security simply isn’t built to serve as the all-purpose retirement income program politicians want it to become. Just as it was in 1939, the political pressure to prioritize current beneficiaries — who happen to be a powerful voting bloc — is strong. But what was designed as an insurance program is not a replacement for private retirement income planning and savings.
It is time to save ourselves from “pay-as-you-go.”
ABOUT THE WRITERS
Anne Hobson is a program manager with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Hunter Cox is a Mercatus MA fellow. They wrote this for InsideSources.com.
A half-century before the hashtag, artists were on the front lines of #MeToo
March 19, 2019
The 2002 installation ‘Rape Garage’ displayed statistics about rape, along with first-person narratives about sexual trauma. Stefanie Bruser, Josh Edwards, Katie Grone and Lindsey Lee. Mixed media site installation at “At Home: A Kentucky Project with Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman.” 2001-2002. Courtesy the Flower Archive, housed at the Pennsylvania State University Archives.
Author: Vivien G. Fryd, Professor of Art History, Vanderbilt University
Disclosure statement: Vivien G. Fryd does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Vanderbilt University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
The #MeToo movement has had a sweeping effect on politics, organized religion, educational institutions, Hollywood, sports and the military.
The cultural prominence of rape and sexual assault might be new. Efforts to bring attention to the issue, however, are not.
Beginning in the 1970s, a group of female artists in the U.S. started confronting rape, incest and sexual assault through performances, videos, quilts and other nontraditional media.
By tackling a taboo subject, they were at the forefront of raising public awareness of these issues. In my new book “Against Our Will: Sexual Trauma in American Art Since 1970,” I detail how their relentless efforts to end the silence surrounding sexual violence against women reverberates in the #MeToo movement today.
The ‘heroic’ rapes of the Renaissance
When these feminist artists emerged, they sought to counter what art historians call “the heroic rape tradition of Western art.”
Beginning in the Renaissance, this tradition involved artists’ rendering assault, rape and murder against women with a patina of beauty and heroism that masked the reality of the violence. For example, Titian’s “Rape of Europa” depicts the ancient Greek myth in which Zeus turned himself into a bull to abduct Europa and bring her to Crete. There, he revealed his identity, raped her and fathered three children.
In Titian’s rendering, he depicted Europa as an eroticized woman who seems to writhe in pleasure on the bull’s back as they fly into the sky. The painting’s playful cupids, dynamic composition and rich colors belie the fact that Zeus is about to rape Europa.
In Correggio’s “Jupiter and Io,” Jupiter, the Roman king of the gods, disguises himself as a cloud as he embraces the nymph, who has no idea that it’s actually Jupiter who’s seducing her. The lecherous act is depicted erotically, and Io seems to be enjoying it.
Over time, many scholars and critics, mostly male, have praised these works for their dramatic compositions, enticing colors and idealized figures. Little consideration was given to the violent sexual subject matter.
But by the 1980s, some art historians, mostly women, expressed unease about the sexually violent content of these revered works. They pointed out that representations of rape – even within the context of mythological, biblical and historical subject matter – seemed to glorify the act.
Why, they wondered, wasn’t anyone talking about the fact that this violent subject matter was so prevalent, accepted and praised? Why hadn’t anyone questioned it? Was it indicative of a larger problem beyond the world of art?
Two artists change the narrative
Raising consciousness about sexual trauma required creating a visual counternarrative. Rape wasn’t pleasant. It wasn’t beautiful. And it certainly shouldn’t be acceptable.
Two artists, Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz, were at the forefront of this movement.
They produced at least seven large-scale and complex public performances in Los Angeles that helped redefine rape as a crime of aggression and act of female subjugation.
One was a 1977 work titled “Three Weeks in May.” As part of the series of performances and installations, Lacy marked up two bright yellow municipal maps of Los Angeles located in City Mall Plaza. On the first map she stenciled the word “rape” in four-inch red letters over every location where a woman had been raped over a three-week period. She updated the map daily, using data from the Los Angeles Police Department.
On the second map, she highlighted the locations of prevention centers, rape hotlines, hospital emergency rooms, and crisis and counseling centers.
Passersby checking out the maps – whether they were City Hall employees, tourists or shoppers – were instantly exposed to the overwhelming number of rapes that had occurred in the city, along with the resources available to assist victims.
Lacy and Labowitz were able to generate awareness, attract media attention and encourage survivors to seek help.
An anti-rape drumbeat
Over the years, Lacy, Labowitz and other artists continued to reiterate these themes in their work.
Sue Coe’s 1983 painting “Woman Walks into Bar – Is Raped by Four Men on the Pool Table – While 20 Watch” condemned the fact that four men brutally and publicly gang-raped a 21-year-old woman while patrons in a New Bedford, Massachusetts, tavern looked on and did nothing.
The 2002 installation “Rape Garage,” by Stefanie Bruser, Josh Edwards, Katie Grone and Lindsey Lee, was part of the “At Home” project at Western Kentucky University, which was facilitated by feminist artist Judy Chicago and her husband, Donald Woodman. Participants constructed installations that explored the themes of womanhood and manhood in different rooms of a house in Kentucky. As its name suggests, “Rape Garage” was an installation in the house’s garage. It highlighted the issue of rape by displaying statistics and posting first-person narratives of sexual trauma. It suggested that pornography encouraged rape and even included the fact that a man could be raped by a woman.
Then, in 2012, Lacy and Labowitz performed an updated version of “Three Weeks in May” titled “Three Weeks in January.”
Once again, Lacy created a rape map, this time installing it outside of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Deaton Auditorium.
Although the map indicated that the number of rapes had decreased in the last 35 years, it showed that sexual violence remained a problem, especially in high schools and on college campuses. Viewers were encouraged to spread awareness by tweeting or blogging about the work.
Other artists continued to follow their lead. Most notably, Emma Sulkowicz, a visual arts major at Columbia University, became a national figure for a piece she titled “Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight,” which some compared to the 1970s anti-rape performances.
During her sophomore year, Sulkowicz had been raped. After a university adjudicating committee found her assailant not guilty, she decided she couldn’t stay silent.
Over an eight-month period during her senior year, she carried a mattress similar to the one on which she had been raped to all of her classes and even her graduation. Other students joined her at Columbia University and other colleges to further protest against rape on college campuses.
The rest of the country joins forces
These clarion calls have been around for decades, but they were lonely voices that often went unheeded or unheard. Then, in 2016, things started to change. More and more women – and men – began to speak out to end the silence and demand justice.
In 2018, Judge Rosemary Aquilina sentenced ex-USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar to up to 175 years in prison for his serial sexual abuse of female minors and young adults.
“It stops now,” Aquilina proclaimed. “Speak out like these survivors, become part of the army.”
The more than 150 female athletes’ voices heard on television and radio and read in newspapers had become part of that army. They had joined the hundreds of victims of the Catholic Church, Hollywood stars, bosses, journalists and politicians who have stepped forward since the dawn of the #MeToo movement.
But let’s not forget the feminist artists who were on the front lines – who bravely spoke out to end the silence when few addressed the taboo topics about domestic violence, rape and incest.
Tish Wells, logged in via Twitter: Excellent article! I was in art school in 1980 and remember the discussion that our History of Art text had no women at all. Back then, these artists work is one more step into awareness.
Vivien G. Fryd, Professor of Art History, Vanderbilt University, In reply to Tish Wells: Thanks for your reply. Our survey texts indeed didn’t have any women artists in them. Many of the artists discussed in my book, such as Judy Chicago in her Dinner Party, addressed that.