info 11.16.16

Roll Up Your Sleeves
Part 2

On Monday we wrote about civics, the environment and immigration. Today, it's all about rights, many protected by the First Amendment, yet potentially under threat.

Chris Matthews: Should women who have an abortion be punished?…
Donald Trump: "There has to be some sort of punishment."
Chris Matthews: "Ten cents? Ten years?"
Donald Trump: "I don't know."

The majority of women in the United States, 54%, identify as pro-choice. Planned Parenthood is now the largest provider of reproductive health services in the country and, as such, attracts the most attention and controversy. It was controversial when it opened 100 years ago, October 16, 1916, by Margaret Sanger in Brooklyn (it didn't have the PP name) and was shut down in short order. Five years later, she founded the American Birth Control League, which became Planned Parenthood in the 1940s. Here are 7 Things You Can Do to Help Planned Parenthood and the Communities it Serves. Singer-songwriter Bethany Cosentino has suggested that you make a donation to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence's name, since he will get a certificate sent to him.

There are other organizations doing important work. As a MUG reader wrote to us, the National Institute for Reproductive Health is "an organization that partners with a wide range of reproductive health, rights and justice organizations on the state and local level (including many independent abortion providers who are not part of PP). NIRH builds power and infrastructure in the states to shape public policy because that's where the fight is for abortion access and repro rights, now more than ever."…The Center for Reproductive Rights handles the legal side on these issues and advocates policy to lawmakers.

On Saturday, January 21, the day after Inauguration Day, there is a Women's March on Washington. Trains from NY to DC are already selling out so you may need to find alternate transportation. (Historical note: In 1913, a day before the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, there was a Women's Suffrage Parade in Washington.)

The mission of Emily's List is to "ignite change by getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to office", and it has been out front against the choice of Steve Bannon as a top advisor. Rachel Thomas, Emily's List national press secretary said, "It's no wonder Donald Trump tapped Bannon to be his chief strategist and right-hand man in the White House. Bannon and Trump are cut from the same cloth of misogyny, racism, disrespect and ignorance toward women." Signs petitions against Bannon from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Will it prevent him from getting the job? Almost certainly not. But the disinfectant must be relentless sunshine.

The Newseum Institute has interesting results from its State of the First Amendment survey, including the stat that 39% of Americans can't name any of the First Amendment freedoms. They are: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.

The Interfaith Alliance president Rabbi Jack Moline urges all Americans not to "sit idly by as our religious freedom is chipped away." He asks you to take two actions: 1) "Let Mr. Trump know that you expect him to protect the religious freedom of all Americans regardless of their faith or belief. Let him know that you expect him to respect the rights of religious minorities, and you expect him to hold the line on LGBT equality. Visit his transition team website and tell him your concerns. 2) Choose three friends or family to share this message with and ask them to join the effort by signing up for our mailing list and following us on Facebook."

Support is welcomed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. A strongly worded opinion piece, "Jewish historians speak out on the election of Donald Trump", was published yesterday in the Jewish Journal, writing that "It is our duty to… resist the degradation of rights that Mr. Trump's rhetoric has provoked."

Speaking out, too, is First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams who said the President-elect "may be the greatest threat to the First Amendment since the passage of the Sedition Act of 1798." One of his chief concerns is press freedoms and the possibility of more restrictive libel laws. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press ranks countries around the world on a World Press Freedom Index. We're number 1, right? Nope, that would be Finland, followed by the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, Costa Rica… and we're next? We're actually #41 as a result of what they term "the government's war on whistleblowers." If Trump follows through with his promise to change libel laws, our ranking will surely drop further.

There are already intimations of restrictions on speech. On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid leveled harshly critical charges against Trump. Two days later, Kellyanne Conway responded this way: "[Reid] should be very careful about characterizing someone in a legal sense. He thinks that he's just being some kind of political pundit here, but I would say be very careful about how you characterize that."

Timothy Garton Ash's latest book, Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World, examines the issues around free speech, in particular how those principles are applied digitally. Back in the old analog sphere, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression defends speech in all forms, whether that of an activist, musician or sculptor. They present The Jefferson Muzzles each year to "worthy" institutions, groups and individuals who have demonstrated disregard for the First Amendment's protection of free speech. This year, their failing grade went to college campuses for the "epidemic of anti-speech activity."

The mission of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, is to preserve and protect free speech on America's college and university campuses.

Governor Cuomo has announced a new statewide hotline to report incidents of bias and discrimination: 888.392.3644

The LGBTQ community is facing discrimination in the National Defense Authorization Act, of all things. Rep. Steve Russell added an amendment to it allowing religiously-affiliated organizations to discriminate agains gays and lesbians, women and religious minorities—with taxpayer dollars. You can sign a petition against the Russell amendment. And support the nonprofits doing work for the LBGTQ community, including GLAAD, the Audre Lorde Project, and the Ali Forney Center.

People of color remain vulnerable. The NAACP, National Action Network, Black Lives Matter and the National Urban League would all welcome your support.

Roll Up Your Sleeves - Part 1

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