Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Letter to TN's Governor Bill Haslam about Amendment 1: Women's Reproductive Rights

Dear Governor Haslam, 

After reading your recent statements about your support of Tennessee’s Constitutional Amendment 1, which will be up for vote in November 2014, I dare say that many women and men are horrified.  If this amendment passes, women’s reproductive and gynecological health will be in the hands of our state legislators rather than being decided upon by women, their families, their doctors and their faiths. Do you really care about the safety of women, families and babies?

You say that with this new amendment, you and state legislators have no plans to create new rules, however, passing this amendment gives carte blanche to all future politicians - elected officials - to do what they choose about women, no matter how traumatic.  What could be more tragic than the rape of a girl or woman through an attack or incest who will then be told by her state legislature that she cannot have an abortion?  That she must birth this child created by a criminal act even if she is only 12 years old?  What about pregnant women who have been diagnosed with cancer, who need chemotherapy?  Are they to risk their lives for a microscopic  embryo?

A  recent Vanderbilt University poll found that 71 percent of Tennessee voters oppose the idea of giving the legislature more authority to restrict abortions. Many conservative, moderate, and liberal women are agreeing on one thing: that we all want the privacy to make such personal medical decisions with our doctors and our families. This is not a partisan issue. It is a right to life issue.  It just depends on whose right to life you consider.  We are pro-life and pro-rights for women, those of us who want to protect ourselves, our sisters, mothers, and daughters from having to suffer unduly because of an accident, illness, or an attack.

The one partisan issue, related to your majority party, Governor Haslam, is your desire to cut  welfare and food stamp programs.  Agreeing to this amendment means more women and children will need these programs if abortions are limited. 

Also, how will men in this state feel if they decide to have unprotected sexual intercourse with a woman, when there is no alternative to the birth of their baby who will need their support throughout life?  What if a condom breaks? Perhaps men won’t feel so safe either, if this amendment passes.

One problem with this amendment is that the wording is complicated so if not read carefully, some may think that they are voting “yes” to preserve the rights that women now have when in fact the opposite will occur. That’s some cagey writing, an attempt to confuse voters.

Governor Haslam, if you care about your wife, daughters, son, and all babies who need to start out life with love and support, you will reconsider your support of this amendment.


Barbara Sanders, LCSW
Published in The Tennessean, June 5, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Violence Interrupted

The answers to decreasing violence in our society are not simple.  So many complicated, complex American systems and institutions need changing, and it will take us all working together to create and implement new ways to deal with violence within ourselves and between each other. 

As long as human beings walk the earth, some violence will occur.  Although we cannot eradicate all violence, we can change our laws and focus on the mental and emotional health of our people to reduce the amount of tragedy among us.

We are grounded in a violent history: when the first settlers came to America, they moved and slaughtered our native people, displaying the greed that lives on today. We take what we can get no matter that human beings or the earth suffer. In this circular pattern, violence begets anger, rage and despair which begets more violence.

Change begins with a shift in some of our beliefs about life and health. America teaches us that “healthy” often means “successful” which can sometimes harm people and the earth. Some win and some lose. Competition reigns and only recently has collaboration become a buzz word as a possibly better way of doing business, supporting agreement instead of the winner takes all.  As long as there are people there will be conflict, and we should devote our attention to working through those conflicts nonviolently, if at all possible. Two of my hopes are: 1) reducing our own violence, verbally and physically, toward others and ourselves, and 2) supporting laws that minimize access to assault weapons.

Unfortunately, when states like Tennessee and Georgia allow guns in all sorts of public places, then accidents, suicides, impulsive acts and planned murders are more likely to occur. Also, as long as the large gap between the wealthy and the poor continues and as long as there is a death penalty, economic and institutional violence continue.

We live in a society that praises those who support both war and drone use, and those who support violence within America in more subtle but no less harmful ways, like through increasing poverty by our laws and practicing different types of justice for the poor and the rich, and based on the color of our skin.

One belief that needs to be reexamined and changed: that girls/women’s behavior prompts boys/men to violence.  If a male isn’t able to succeed whether by income, sexual prowess, vocationally, or socially, females are often blamed and accused, then targeted with violence. How horrifying. 

Even though an antidote to violence may be compassion and love, all the love in the world will not completely stop violence.  Faith alone cannot stop violence.  We are a country full of bullies, angry, fearful, anxious and depressed people.  We need to deal with these underlying feelings that so many share. Only if we work together will we have any chance of creating the space for a positive change in our current beliefs and in our systems.