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A New Version of THE DREAM: Martin Luther King and the Public Employees’ Unions April 5, 2011

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Education, Labor Issues, Law, Ethics & Society, Racial Discrimination, U.S. Constitution.
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Irony, progress or backward motion?  Perhaps a bit of all three…Labor unions and civil rights groups organized sit-ins and teach-ins all across the country yesterday to protest the assault on the rights of public employees’ unions to engage in meaningful collective bargaining in Wisconsin and Ohio. The sponsors of the “We Are One” rallies noted Dr. King’s tie to the rights of public employees and his plans to march with striking sanitation workers–his plans were foiled by his tragic death.

“What we are witnessing is nothing but an ideological assault on Dr. King’s vision for a more economically just nation,” said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Yes, irony, progress and backward motion….

Irony– Because some of the same folks against whom he marched no doubt have descendants that are now employing Dr. King’s philosophy and methodology to fight for their rights.

Progress– Because  although Dr. King would no doubt be troubled by the states’ strategy to solve  their financial crisis by denying public employees’ unions the right to meaningful bargaining, he probably would be gratified to see that this new rally and call for equality is composed of individuals reflecting a rainbow of ethnicity, race and gender.

Backward motion–Because although we have become a nation in which there is greater opportunity for minorities, arguably the gap between the haves and have-nots has grown even larger.

Regardless of ones view on the rights of public employees, it is a testament to our democracy that Dr. Martin Luther King lives on not only in our memories, but  as a contemporary guide to employ the First Amendment to voice our opinions, to assemble and to petition the government with our grievances.


Legislating Conscience: Distinguishing Abortion from Contraception And All That Jazz February 19, 2011

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Abortion, Health care, Law, Ethics & Society, Religion, U.S. Constitution.
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So, if you work for a medical provider and you oppose abortion, regardless of  legality, you cannot be compelled to participate in providing a woman her legal right to have an abortion.  Alternatively, if you assist a woman in obtaining this medical procedure, you are within your legal rights to do.  The right to be guided by your personal moral compass as it pertains to another individual’s decision to implement her medical rights was initially codified in 1973 in the Church Amendment. Since then other federal and state  laws have been passed and are generally referred to as “conscience protection statutes.”

‘Sort of a paradox of the democratic process that seeks to protect and provide everyone with a voice and a right to acknowledge, but not necessarily support individual prerogative when abortion and sterilization procedures are involved.  This paradox is back in the news as the Obama administration has revisited, revised and repealed aspects of the regulations pertaining to the conscience protection statutes that the Bush administration put into effect in the waning days of its administration.  Interestingly, the statutes functioned without regulations for over 30 years.

The Bush regulations immediately drew criticism for being redundant, overly broad, vague and perhaps, most significantly, for arguably collapsing the definition of contraception into abortion and thereby making it more difficult for individuals to obtain legal health care. Additionally, interpretation of the Bush regulations permitted the possibility that individuals could be denied services based upon evidence of a lifestyle that offends the health care provider’s conscience.

The new ruling makes clear that neither the intent  nor the language of the federal statutes is to define contraception as abortion. “The provision of contraceptive services has never been defined as abortion in federal statute… There is no indication that the federal health care provider conscience statutes intended that the term “abortion” included contraception.”

The Department of Health and Human Services further explains that,

“The Department agrees with concerns that the 2008 Final Rule may have caused confusion as to whether the federal statutory conscience protections allow providers to refuse to treat entire groups of people based on religious or moral beliefs. The federal provider conscience statutes were intended to protect health care providers from being forced to participate in medical procedures that violated their moral and religious beliefs. They were never intended to allow providers to refuse to provide medical care to an individual because the individual engaged in behavior the health care provider found objectionable.”

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, applauded the revision of the rule which,” had it been finalized in its original form, would have allowed insurance companies to deny claims for birth-control pills, hospitals to refuse emergency contraception to rape survivors, and employees at HMOs to refuse their patients referrals for abortion care.”

“The Obama Administration was correct in rescinding the highly inaccurate and dangerous provisions in a regulation imposed by the Bush Administration in late 2008,” said National Women’s Law Center Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger.

“It put the health and safety of American women at risk by expanding far beyond legal limits the ability of health care providers to refuse necessary treatment and information to patients—particularly when seeking reproductive health care, but going far beyond. The highly controversial regulation, which has been challenged in the courts, in effect encouraged providers to deny access not only to abortion services and information but also to contraception, treatment for infertility, depression, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS in ways that the law does not allow. Indeed, virtually any medical service could have been swept within its expansive purview.”

Query:  When one individual’s personal values clash with another individual’s legal rights, to what degree should we protect one person’s moral values and thereby deny another person access to legitimate healthcare?

Backward Progress? The Shirley Sherrod Attack: Racism & Redemption July 22, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Law, Ethics & Society, Racial Discrimination.
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WOW—That’s the first word that comes to mind when reviewing the recent events surrounding Shirley Sherrod’s speech, firing, and White House apology with an offer of a new job.  If you are wondering why you have never heard of Shirley Sherrod before, there is a good reason.  Until about a week ago, she was a midlevel employee at the Department of Agriculture with no particular notoriety.  Her inadvertant fame is the result of her forty-five minute speech to the N.A.A.C.P. in which she described how her father was murdered, in 1965, by white men who were never indicted and her initial feelings of reluctance when she was later called upon to assist some struggling white farmers who were trying to keep their farm.

Understandable right?  Sure, especially since she ultimately did assist the farmers, the Spooners, who have spoken out in her support and indicated that all would have been lost without her support.  It was an experience of enlightenment that Ms Sherrod was describing—The problem is that her comments of initial reluctance were taken out of context and posted by a blogger– Two and one half minutes of a forty-five minute speech were taken out of context and created a firestorm on the internet and cable news networks that  resulted in even the national office of the N.A.A.C.P. calling for Ms. Sherrod’s  resignation.

 Not only that, but the Secretary of Agriculture, Mr Vilsack, actually demanded her resignation stating that the Department of Agriculture does not tolerate any type of racism.  WOW is the operative word here…..Because now that everyone has access to the entire speech, Ms Sherrod has received an apology from Mr. Vilsack and the White House and has been offered a new position that will allow her to contribute to erasing the Agriculture Department’s “checkered civil rights history.”   

One has to ask whether in our fast paced, technologically advanced world, we need to call for a moment of pause, reflection and investigation of the facts of an event before reacting.  The answer seems clear: adopting an approach of mindfulness so that we can respond thoughtfully, rather than react emotionally based  upon an incomplete picture, ought to be the way to go. A healthy dose of skepticism with a sprinkle of mindful reflection may have avoided this entire event.

Jesse Jackson concluded that there remains a ” redemptive story book ending.”    He further stated,  “I wish that Shirley Sherrod and the Spooner family could be invited to the White House and give them the credit that they’re due, because it is a great American story. A rural white family in Georgia and a black woman, overcoming years of segregation. It would be great if the president were to seize this moment.”

Just seems that an awfully backwards process ultimately shed light on Ms. Sherrod’s and the Spooner’s civil rights progress.  Whether it is a “story book” ending for Ms. Sherrod remains to be seen as certainly it appears that she has been caught in an unimaginable nightmare of late.

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