Georgia politicians shut down abortion rights. Netflix will answer by shutting down production.


Click to enlargeJoeff Davis

❝ Netflix has become the first major Hollywood company to take a stand against Georgia’s recent passage of a strict abortion law, with chief content officer Ted Sarandos saying Tuesday that the streaming giant would “rethink our entire investment in Georgia” if legislation known as the “heartbeat bill” became state law…

“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Sarandos said in a statement. “It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court. Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there — while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to. Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia…”

❝ The bill’s passage earlier this month comes as Georgia has become a vital production hub for the film and TV industries. The region known “Y’allywood” is responsible for more than 92,100 jobs and nearly $4.6 billion in total wages in the state, according to the MPAA. State officials said that for the fiscal year ending June 30 film and TV production generated $2.7 billion in direct spending.

Boycotts are a time-honored tool against racism in the Confederacy and across the United States. The tactic is overdue IMHO against bible-thumping bigots who would impede women’s rights. They deserve the same opportunity to feel the hurt where they care the most. In their wallets.

Ireland – “A quiet revolution has taken place”

❝ Ireland’s prime minister on Saturday hailed the culmination of “a quiet revolution” in what was once one of Europe’s most socially conservative countries after a landslide referendum vote to liberalize highly restrictive laws on abortion.

Voters in the once deeply Catholic nation backed the change by two-to-one, a far higher margin than any opinion poll in the run up to the vote had predicted, and allows the government to bring in legislation by the end of the year…

❝ No social issue had divided Ireland’s 4.8 million people as sharply as abortion, which was pushed up the political agenda by the death in 2012 of a 31-year-old Indian immigrant from a septic miscarriage after she was refused a termination.

Campaigners left flowers and candles at a large mural of the woman, Savita Halappanavar, in central Dublin. Her parents in India were quoted by the Irish Times newspaper as thanking their “brothers and sisters” in Ireland and requesting the new law be called “Savita’s law”.

Overdue, just. A profound beginning that shouldn’t be a surprise in a nation that set aside ideological crap-meisters a few years back to dedicate a disproportionate chunk of government funds to raising the educational level of the whole nation. Too bad we haven’t that kind of courage in Congress or the White House.

Ireland got expanded personal freedom. We got chump change.

Trump signed a global death warrant for thousands of women

❝ Six months ago, one powerful white man in the White House, watched by seven more, signed a piece of paper that will prevent millions of women around the world from deciding what they can and can’t do with their own bodies.

In that moment, on his very first Monday morning in office, Donald Trump effectively signed the death warrants of thousands of women. He reversed global progress on contraception, family planning, unsustainable population growth and reproductive rights. His executive order even has implications for the battle against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

❝ Rarely can the presidential pen have been flourished to such devastating effect. The policy it reintroduced will shut health clinics in Uganda and HIV programmes in Mozambique; it will compel women from Nepal to Namibia to seek out deadly back-street abortions…

“Girls are kicked out of school if they get pregnant. They are very often forced to marry the fathers. Very often they have to live in their in-laws’ house, where they have to do unpaid labour. It is a violation of women’s rights. We need to see this as a gender issue and very much as a power issue.”

Tewodros Melesse, director general of the the International Planned Parenthood Federation…said the US move “seeks to restrict the rights of millions of women. It asks us as a health provider, to stop providing services which are entirely legal in countries through our members – where some of the most poorest women, depend on them.

RTFA. Congressional Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats, don’t care. As usual.

Carly Fiorina’s anti-abortion blather about Planned Parenthood is crap!

At Wednesday’s debate, Carly Fiorina received thunderous applause for challenging Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to watch a specific scene from the Planned Parenthood sting tapes. The scene, she said, showed “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

But when asked for a citation, her campaign replied with a video that isn’t from the Planned Parenthood sting tapes at all — and that still doesn’t show what Fiorina said it did…

I sent Fiorina’s spokeswoman a second email outlining my questions, and asking her again to point me to the video that Fiorina meant to reference in her remarks. She replied with a link to the Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway’s recent piece, “Watch the video that Planned Parenthood and its media allies deny exists…”

[Some of] these things are in the Human Capital video. But they still are not the scene that Fiorina describes. There’s no footage of the moment O’Donnell describes, nor is there proof offered that it occurred — there’s no moment to “watch,” as Fiorina urged debate viewers.

Moreover, the footage of the fetus in that video isn’t from the Planned Parenthood videos. One image is of a stillborn baby, initially included in the video without the mother’s permission. Other footage appears to come from a collection of stock footage of fetuses. “The stock footage was added to the video to dramatize its content,” fact-checking website Politifact concluded. “We don’t know the circumstances behind this video: where it came from, under what conditions it was obtained, or even if this fetus was actually aborted (as opposed to a premature birth or miscarriage).”…

The most generous reading of Fiorina’s remarks are that she mistook what she saw in the videos. It is possible to watch the Human Capital video and think the footage of fetuses was shot in a clinic; this is, after all, a documentary about Planned Parenthood. And when she discussed “someone saying we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,” she may have mistook something the former StemExpress technician says in the same video, where she describes the fetus as being “intact.”

But this isn’t the defense that Fiorina has offered. “Rest assured, I have seen the images I talked about last night,” she told Good Morning America Thursday morning. If these images Fiorina says she’s seen do exist, she still has not shared them…

But the real divide here isn’t about what Fiorina saw. It’s about abortion. Planned Parenthood workers are comfortable with fetal tissue research because they are comfortable with abortion — they don’t believe a first-trimester fetus to be a living, feeling human being, and so they see the donation of fetal tissue for medical research to be an obvious, unalloyed good. Abortion rights supporters can watch the videos and still believe in a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy…

Which side are you on is still the question forced by all the political blather from the Right. Whether it comes from Carly Fiorina or Michelle Bachmann. Does a woman have the right to consult with her physician and decide to have an abortion?

I would only add in the simple scientific question acknowledged as normal and productive by virtually every medical researcher. Once an abortion has been performed does a woman have the right to assign that tissue to medical researchers?

My answer to both is “Yes”.

The case for fetal-cell research

We first acquired the stem cells from the red receptacles of a local hospital’s labor and delivery ward, delivered to our lab at the University of Southern California. I would reach into the large medical waste containers and pull out the tree-like branches of the placenta, discarded after a baby had been born. Squeezing the umbilical cord that had so recently been attached to new life, the blood, laden with stem cells, would come dripping out.

But sometimes a different package would arrive at our lab. Despite my distaste for wringing placentas, I felt more squeamish about what lay inside the unassuming white box. Packed in the ice was a crescent-shaped sliver of dark red tissue: a human liver. Just like the placentas that were discarded after birth, this tissue was originally destined for medical waste following an abortion.

Although their fates were similar, their origins couldn’t be more different. One source was the byproduct of celebration, the other a procedure often marked with stigma and shame. While under the bright focus of the microscope the cells we isolated were indistinguishable, in our minds there was a significant difference.

The reality is – there is no difference. I could swap the labels and neurotic hangups would switch just as easy.

Stem cell science is a big deal in California, thanks to the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a state agency that has allocated almost $2 billion in research grants since 2004 (federal funding is still highly restricted). To meet the demand for cells, researchers turned to a procedure protected by federal law: abortions. The discarded tissue from terminated pregnancies, performed up to 26 weeks in California, is a rich source of stem cells…

The use of fetal tissue in research is not new. Fetal cells extracted from the lungs of two aborted fetuses from Europe in the 1960s are still being propagated in cell culture. They’re so successful that today we still use them to produce vaccines for hepatitis A, rubella, chickenpox and shingles. From two terminated pregnancies, countless lives have been spared.

It isn’t just vaccines. Scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have injected neural stem cells into two patients to treat their spinal cord injuries. And progress is being made in the use of stem-cell therapies against cancer, blindness, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, H.I.V. and diabetes…

Perhaps this is why it was difficult to hear Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, discuss the organs of aborted fetuses so casually in surreptitiously recorded conversations with anti-abortion activists posing as fetal-tissue buyers. It’s understandable that politicians, angered by her callous tone, are investigating how fetal tissue is handled and how research is conducted, despite the strict institutional review that governs the use of anatomical tissue donated for research.

Politicians aren’t “angered by her callous tone” they’re excited by one more opportunity to turn up their patriarchal opposition to women making reproductive choices without their approval. Don’t confuse opportunism with judicious thought.

The choice I made is repeated every day, in labs all over the world. Researchers have no say in whether a fetus is aborted or develops into a human baby; those decisions are made by women and shaped by politicians. Yet their science, performed on discarded tissue, has the ability to save lives. It already has.

Choices surrounded by politicians, priests and superstition. The facts of life and science may be difficult for some folks to deal with; but, at least they’re grounded in reality. Making decisions based upon the greatest good for the greatest number ain’t a bad starting place.