Before Roe vs Wade

Janet Gotkin remembers a time when young women had unsafe abortions…

“I was 37. I had two children and I found myself pregnant. There was no question in my mind I did not want to have another baby. My husband did not want another baby,” Gotkin said.

She said “it’s time to say the word ‘abortion…’”

Gotkin, a retired librarian and research entrepreneur, said whether legal or not, abortion has always been with us and will continue to be.

“Abortion has been available in home remedies for a millennia. The first recorded abortion came from ancient Egypt thousands of years ago. When people talk about ending abortion, they really talk about banning legal abortion with safe practitioners,” she said.

Just as an aside, before you think this was a problem for women alone…jive laws like Roe vs Wade were applied to men as well. As a young man in New England, when I had a vasectomy it was just as illegal as an abortion. My urologist swore me to secrecy. All the religious dogma applied to the law-writers in my home state’s legislature. They lived up to every piece of the non-science pie, perfectly willing to ignore any citizen’s rights.

Symbol of a past whose time is over

Since Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis was taken into federal custody Thursday for refusing the Supreme Court’s order to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples (and subsequently released on the condition she not interfere with the issuing of marriage licenses), the religious right has made the Democrat into an icon. Republican presidential candidates are elevating her as the poster child of the Barack Obama administration’s alleged crusade against religious liberty. But by using her government position to force same-sex couples into conforming to her religious beliefs, Davis has instead cast herself as a lasting symbol of bigotry…

While Davis’ actions could be misconstrued as civil disobedience, what separates her from actual civil disobedience leaders is that her actions are rooted in a denial of equality, rather than a push for greater equality. In his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King wrote,

“So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”

In refusing the court’s order to recognize same-sex marriage, Davis is no different than Alabama governor George Wallace, who vowed “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” and defied federal authorities by blocking a doorway to prevent two black University of Alabama students from going to class.

Kim Davis’ era is over. It’s time to impeach her and replace her with a clerk who will do the job without discrimination.

According to Pew research, American support of marriage equality went from 57 percent opposed and 35 in favor in 2001, to 55 percent in favor and 39 percent opposed in 2015…Even the right-leaning National Journal admits that support for gay marriage is up by at least 30 points among virtually all demographics — the only demographics that doesn’t include are African-Americans (up by 26 points), Southerners (up by 25) and Republicans (up by 21 percent). Davis and her supporters fall into a very vocal minority.

Americans have largely evolved beyond their hatred. While racism remains rampant 50 years after desegregation, racists can no longer deny equal access to public places solely based on the color of someone’s skin. And while homophobic views still pervade much of the rural United States despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky, are finally having their marriages recognized. Kim Davis’ era is over. It’s time to impeach her and replace her with a clerk who will do the job without discrimination.

Even on the lowest common denominator of local politics – Kim Davis got her job as a replacement for Mommy who was retiring. All Americans are accustomed to the dangers of generational family politics. We’ve suffered through generations of Bushes starting with a Hitler supporter.

And by the way, one of her deputy clerks is her son. Ready to carry on the family traditions of religious bigotry – and nepotism.

Hurricane Sandy and climate change

In the waning weeks of the North American hurricane season – a time when a superstorm is not expected to cause widespread damage to the eastern coast of the United States – Hurricane Sandy is a grim reminder of the menace of extreme weather events. With the lowest central pressure of the 2012 hurricane season, Sandy may have caused up to $20 billion in damages, making it one of the costliest superstorms in history.

Sandy interacted with a weather system moving toward it from the east, posing difficult challenges for forecasters and nearly unprecedented weather conditions for the region. A similar storm hit New England 20 years ago. But Sandy was worse, delivering hurricane-strength winds, drenching rains, and severe coastal flooding throughout the populous mid-Atlantic and northeast corridor.

…From the perspective of climate change, it is best to take a measured view of Sandy, lest hasty reaction harm scientific credibility…But that is little cause for comfort.

According to the giant insurance company Munich Re, weather and climate disasters contributed to more than one-third of a trillion dollars in damage worldwide in 2011, and this year’s total may rival that amount. There is growing evidence of links between climate change and sea-level rise, heat waves, droughts, and rainfall intensity, and, although scientific research on hurricanes and tornadoes is not as conclusive, that may be changing…

…Today, thanks to satellites, weather balloons, supercomputers, and skilled forecasters, we can anticipate hazardous weather up to a week in advance. Similar advances in climate modeling are occurring, thanks to methodological improvements and better data…

The world will need more cooperation in the coming years, as climate change begins to interact with and exacerbate extreme weather events, in order to gain the lead-time needed to prepare for disasters. We will also need the collaboration among governments, the private sector, and academia that often leads to improvements in forecasting…

We do not know whether superstorms like Sandy are harbingers of a “new normal” in the uneasy and unpredictable relationship between climate change and extreme weather events. That does not mean that there is not or cannot be such a connection, but rather that the scientific research needed to prove (or disprove) it must still be conducted. That is how good science works. Sandy has provided a powerful demonstration of the need to support it.

If politicians could get past ignorance, their anti-science habit, they might aid study and research simply by getting out of the way. Unfortunately, their opportunist lifestyle makes it easier to wallow in agitprop, fight against funding knowledge gathering and rely on spooky sloganeering for their endless election campaigns.

Fighting for understanding, trying to rebuild infrastructure that fits a changing world really shouldn’t require disaster and death to prompt reasonable concern from our elected officials.

Saucy seaside postcards by Donald McGill

McGill was a prolific artist, designing more than 12,000 cards over six decades, and selling more than 200 million cards in British seaside towns. Before he was banned for “indecency” in 1954.

Now each can be viewed at a museum in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, which is home to the world’s largest collection of McGill’s work.

At the height of his fame McGill only earned three guineas a design, but today his original artwork sells for up to £1,700 in auction and up to £2,500 in London galleries.

Even if an artist doesn’t outlive his censors – and censorship – quality work, humor and wit eventually win out over ignoranuses.