Despite the defeats of “personhood” measures in 2008 and 2010, Colorado voters will once again vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to grant all the rights of born persons to zygotes, embryos, and fetuses in November 2014.

The Coalition for Secular Government is pleased to announce an updated and expanded paper on the “personhood” movement by Ari Armstrong and myself, titled “The ‘Personhood’ Movement Versus Individual Rights: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception.” The paper is currently available for download as a PDF or for reading as an HTML page.

Formats: HTML / PDF

Please share it with friends and on social media!

Here’s our media release on it:

New Paper Criticizes “Personhood” Movement and Colorado’s Amendment 67
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Coalition for Secular Government: http://www.SecularGovernment.us

A new paper criticizes the “personhood” movement and Colorado’s Amendment 67, a measure that would treat abortion as murder under the law; outlaw abortion even in cases of rape, incest, risks to a woman’s health, and severe fetal deformity; outlaw some types of birth control; outlaw common forms of in vitro fertility treatments; and ban embryonic stem-cell research.

The 54-page paper, coauthored by Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong, offers extensive historical and scientific background on the “personhood” movement, abortion, and related matters. The paper also offers philosophic arguments supporting a woman’s right to seek an abortion.

“Amendment 67 is extremely misleading in its language,” Hsieh said. “The proponents of the measure apparently want voters to believe that it is about protecting pregnant women from vicious criminal attacks, but the reality is that the measure would treat women as murderers for getting an abortion or even for using certain types of birth control or in vitro fertility treatments.”

Amendment 67 seeks to extend full legal protections to “unborn human beings,” which its sponsors define as all embryos from the moment of conception.

As the new paper discusses, Colorado law already establishes criminal penalties for harming a pregnant woman’s embryo or fetus against her consent.

If you have any questions about the paper, please email me.

Campaign Finance Trial on Friday

 Posted by on 2 October 2014 at 9:00 am  Campaign Finance, Free Speech, Law
Oct 022014
 

This Friday, the Coalition for Secular Government? will be in federal court, arguing that Colorado’s campaign finance regulations on “issue committees” violate our free speech rights. (Our case is being argued by the fine attorneys of the Center for Competitive Politics.)

Basically, I don’t want to have to do the equivalent of filing taxes every two weeks just so that Ari Armstrong and I can publish a very wonkish policy paper on abortion rights. Our policy paper isn’t like a campaign ad, yet it’s treated like one by the law… which sucks. (For details, read my December 2011 testimony to Colorado’s Secretary of State.)

If you want to see litigating for liberty in action, the trial will be held on Friday, starting at 10 am, in the federal courthouse at 901 19th Street in Denver. We’re before Judge Kane.

We have a good shot at making a dent in these unjust laws… and I’m very excited!

The Racial Double Standard

 Posted by on 22 August 2014 at 11:00 am  Justice, Law, Police, Racism, Rights
Aug 222014
 

When I was an undergrad at Washington University in St. Louis, I worked as a server in a restaurant in Clayton. (Clayton is a very upscale business part of town.)

The head cook was a very good (black) man, albeit with a very checkered past. He’d served time for attempted murder: fellow drug dealers went after his pregnant wife, and he fully intended to kill them in retaliation. However, in prison, he’d gone straight. When I knew him, he was a great kitchen manager, he worked crazy-long hours, and he was a devoted father. He also worked hard to keep the younger (black) kitchen staff on the straight and narrow and out of trouble with the law. He was the kind of guy that I’d trust with my life, without hesitation.

One night, he told me that if he was driving home alone — or with another black person in the car — he’d get home without incident. However, if he was giving a ride to one of the (white, female) servers, he’d be sure to be pulled over by the cops and questioned.

Can you imagine living with that?

I’m used to going about my business without interference from the police — unless I’m speeding or whatnot. If I’m pulled over, I can expect to be on my way in a few minutes — perhaps with a ticket but without being questioned about my private business, let alone searched. That’s not the case for too many people, I think.

The Magistrate’s Rebellion?

 Posted by on 13 May 2014 at 2:00 pm  Law, Privacy, Rights
May 132014
 

Judge denies Gmail search warrant, notes “Technorati are … everywhere”:

A federal judge in Silicon Valley took the unusual step last week of rejecting a routine email search request, and suggested that Google and the government take steps to halt the now-routine practice in which tech companies hand over the entirety of their customer’s cloud-based computer accounts.

“The Technorati are … everywhere,” wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal. “And yet too few understand, or even suspect, the essential role played by many of these workers and their employers in facilitating most government access to private citizen’s data.”

Grewal’s ruling also includes a discreet swipe at Google:

“While Google has publicly declared that it challenges overbroad warrants, in three-plus years on the bench in the federal courthouse serving its headquarters, the undersigned has yet to see any such motion.”

Hear, hear! This is a tiny step, but I hope it leads to much more. Thank you, Judge Paul Grewal.

How Not to Advise a Disgruntled Teenager

 Posted by on 25 March 2014 at 2:00 pm  Ethics, Law, Parenting
Mar 252014
 

You remember that story of the teenager who sued her parents for support? Happily, the lawsuit was recently withdrawn, and she’s back at home. But here’s the kicker… her lawsuit was facilitated — and surely encouraged — by the father of a friend of hers.

“Canning had been living in Rockaway Township with the family of her best friend. The friend’s father, former Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino, was paying for the lawsuit.”

This father-of-a-friend deserves a bitchslap or two, particularly given that the girl has become such a public spectacle. What a mess.

Jan 222014
 

I’m a bit late in blogging this news, but I’m delighted to report that the Institute for Justice has created a Food Freedom Initiative:

A new national initiative launched [November 19, 2013] by the Institute for Justice seeks to make sure the government stays out of some of the most personal decisions people make every day: What we eat and how we get our food. This nationwide campaign will bring property rights, economic liberty and free speech challenges to laws that dictate what Americans can grow, raise, eat or even talk about.

To kick off the initiative, IJ is today filing three separate lawsuits challenging Miami Shores, Florida’s ban on front-yard vegetable gardens; Minnesota’s severe restrictions on home bakers, or “cottage food” producers; and Oregon’s ban on the advertisement of raw–or unpasteurized–milk. Each case demonstrates how real the need for food freedom is in every corner of the country.

“More and more, the government is demanding a seat at our dining room tables, attempting to dictate what we put on our plates, in our glasses and, ultimately, in our bodies,” said Michael Bindas, an IJ senior attorney who heads up the new initiative. “The National Food Freedom Initiative will end government’s meddlesome and unconstitutional interference in our food choices so that Americans can once again know true food freedom.”

  • IJ is challenging Miami Shores’ front-yard vegetable garden ban in state court on behalf of Herminie Ricketts and Tom Carroll, a married couple who grew vegetables on their own property for their own consumption for nearly two decades before Miami Shores officials ordered them to tear up the very source of their sustenance or face fines of $50 per day. Learn more about their case: www.ij.org/FlVeggies.
  • Minnesota allows food entrepreneurs to make certain inherently safe foods–such as baked goods–in home kitchens, but it: (1) prohibits their sale anywhere other than farmers’ markets and community events; and (2) limits revenues to $5,000 per year. Violating these restrictions can lead to fines of up to $7,500 or up to 90 days in jail. IJ is challenging these restrictions under the Minnesota Constitution on behalf of cottage food entrepreneurs Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck. Learn more about their case at: www.ij.org/MNCottageFoods.
  • In Oregon, it is legal for small farmers to sell raw milk, but they are flatly forbidden from advertising it. If they do advertise their milk, they face a fine of $6,250 and civil penalties as high as $10,000–plus one year in jail. IJ is challenging this ban under the First Amendment on behalf of farmer Christine Anderson of Cast Iron Farm. Learn more about Christine’s case at: www.ij.org/ORMilk.

These three cases raise important constitutional questions that show how meddlesome government has become in our food choices: Can government really prohibit you from peacefully and productively using your own property to feed your family? Can government really restrict how many cakes a baker sells and where she sells them? Can government really ban speech about a legal product like raw milk? The answer is no.

IJ’s President and General Counsel, Chip Mellor, said, “For 22 years, IJ has been on the forefront of protecting Americans’ property rights, economic liberty and freedom of speech. With our National Food Freedom Initiative, IJ will now bring that experience to bear in the most fundamental area–food–so that Americans can be truly free to produce, market, procure and consume the foods of their choice.”

If you care about your access to foods of your own choosing and the rights of food producers to engage in voluntary trade, please consider donating to IJ! IJ is extremely effective and principled in their advocacy of liberty, and I know that my donor dollars are going to very good use.

P.S. With this initiative, the Institute for Justice is tackling a really important and growing aspect of statism in a way that resonates with ordinary Americans. They’re doing so on the basis of sound principles and facts, and they’re likely to effect change through the courts and public outreach. In contrast, ARI’s only activity in this area has been a series of propagandistic blog posts in defense of GMOs by an astrophysicist without an adequate understanding of relevant principles of biology. Basically, ARI’s approach seems little better than what Christian Wernstedt satirized here: The Tragedy of Milkia®: The Luddite Attack Against Industrial Dairy Progress. For this reason and about a hundred others, I’m glad that my donor dollars have long gone elsewhere, particularly to IJ.

 

I found that photo on Facebook a while back, with the following caption:

This photo was posted on STFU, Conservatives Tumblr page last night [here]. The reason why I’m sharing it is not because of the photo itself (which is epic in it’s [sic] own right), but for the comments it generated.

One person wrote, “but then again, its kind like putting a meat suit on and telling a shark not to eat you”.

STFU responded (with bolded text):

We (men) are not fucking sharks!

We are not rabid animals living off of pure instinct

We are capable of rational thinking and understanding.

Just because someone is cooking food doesn’t mean you’re entitled to eat it.

Just because a banker is counting money doesn’t mean you’re being given free money.

Just because a person is naked doesn’t mean you’re entitled to fuck them.

You are not entitled to someone else’s body just because it’s exposed.

What is so fucking difficult about this concept?

Bravo.

Indeed. Also, Laura Jedeed has some really excellent comments on rape and this image too.

Happily, the rights of women in western countries are more widely recognized and better protected today than at any other time in human history. That’s a huge achievement, and part of why I’m grateful to live in modern America.

However, more progress awaits us. One example was in the news last year:

A recent court case just exposed a barbarity in California law, namely that it’s not rape to trick an unmarried woman into sleeping with you by pretending to be her boyfriend.

Julio Morales was convicted and sentenced to three years in state prison for entering an 18-year-old woman’s bedroom and instigating sex with her while she was asleep after a night of drinking at a house party in 2009. According to prosecutors, it wasn’t until “light coming through a crack in the bedroom door illuminated the face of the person having sex with her” that she realized Morales wasn’t her boyfriend. Holy shit.

But a panel of judges overturned the conviction this week because of a law from 1872 that doesn’t give women the same protections as married women because, as we all know, single women are always down for nonconsensual sex, even when they’re asleep and/or purposefully tricked into the act.

The court admitted that “If the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband” it would be rape. But since there was no ring on her finger, it’s not!

Eugene Volokh had some comments here. I agree that rape by fraud shouldn’t be a punishable offense, except in cases of impersonation of a lover or spouse. (I’m not sure of the case of mere friends.) As Eugene says of such impersonation:

It is, thankfully, apparently a rare sort of lie; it is very far outside the normal level of dishonesty that people expect might happen in their relationships; it is one for which there is no plausible justification or mitigation; and criminalizing it is unlikely to sweep in the garden variety lies that, unfortunately, often appear in people’s sexual and romantic lives.

California law obviously needs to be updated.

Here’s another example. The 2012 election was replete with politicians making ridiculous and offensive comments about rape in order to rationalize their across-the-board opposition to abortion. Most notable was Todd Akin’s justification for denying abortions to women pregnant due to rape:

… from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.

Conservatives need to recognize that forced pregnancy — not just pregnancy due to rape but any unwanted pregnancy — is a morally abhorrent violation of rights, not a gift from God.

Alas, the third example hits closer to home for me. In a February 2012 podcast, Leonard Peikoff said that a man is entitled to force himself on a woman if she has a few drinks with him and then goes up to his hotel room. Thankfully, he corrected that a few weeks later, but only in part. By a rather strange analysis, Peikoff concluded that a woman cannot withdraw consent after penetration. In reality, that means that the man can do whatever he pleases to the woman after penetration, even as she kicks and screams and yells and cries in protest. That’s seriously, seriously wrong — and dangerous too.

On a more positive note, you’ll find my own views on the nature and limits of consent in sex in this podcast. (It’s a pretty lengthy discussion… about over 40 minutes.)

Ultimately, my point here is that the rights of women matter — and they’re not yet fully protected. The image at the top of this post reminds us of that. The fact that she’s half-naked doesn’t make her any less of a person with the absolute right to forbid another person access to her body.

That’s a lesson that some people still need to learn, unfortunately.

Jan 092014
 

Lately, I’ve gotten a slew of hits to this video from Philosophy in Action: Should a man unwilling to be a father have to pay child support? It’s now gotten nearly 5,000 views. Nice!

That’s awesome. Alas, awesome often comes paired with crazy, such as this comment:

Let’s think about this bit — “If a woman steals a mans seed without his consent, does she have a right to live?” — for a moment.

First, I’m pretty sure that a man voluntarily gives his “seed” to a woman in having sex with her. That’s rather the point, in fact.

Second, are we talking death penalty?!? Um, wow.

Finally, here’s a pro-tip: Don’t ever suggest up-front that your audience might think you a sociopath after reading your opinion. It might just prejudice them against you… just a bit.

Doctors and the Police State

 Posted by on 20 December 2013 at 10:00 am  Alcohol/Drugs, Crime, Drug War, Government, Law
Dec 202013
 

This story — Drug Warriors Kidnap and Sexually Assault a Woman After Getting Permission From a Dog — is appalling in its own right:

In a case eerily similar to David Eckert’s humiliating ordeal at the hands of cops in Deming, New Mexico, a federal lawsuit charges U.S. Border Patrol agents with subjecting a U.S. citizen to six hours of degrading and fruitless body cavity searches based on an alleged alert by a drug-sniffing dog.

However, what’s really noteworthy, I think, is the complicity of the doctors and medical staff:

First the agents strip-searched the plaintiff, examining her anus and vagina with a flashlight. Finding nothing, they took her to the University Medical Center of El Paso, where they forced her to take a laxative and produce a bowel movement in their presence. Again they found no evidence of contraband. At this point one of their accomplices, a physician named Christopher Cabanillas, ordered an X-ray, which likewise found nothing suspicious. Then the plaintiff “endured a forced gynecological exam” and rectal probing at the hands of another doctor, Michael Parsa. Still nothing. Finally, Cabanillas ordered a CT scan of the plaintiff’s abdomen and pelvis, which found no sign of illegal drugs. “After the CT scan,” the complaint says, “a CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] agent presented Ms. Doe with a choice: she could either sign a medical consent form, despite the fact that she had not consented, in which case CBP would pay for the cost of the searches; or if she refused to sign the consent form, she would be billed for the cost of the searches.” She refused, and later the hospital sent her a bill for $5,000, apparently the going rate for sexual assault and gratuitous radiological bombardment.

As the article says, this case “illustrates the appalling complicity of doctors in waging the war on drugs, even when it involves utterly unethical participation in dehumanizing pseudomedical procedures performed on involuntary and audibly protesting ‘patients.’”

In my view, civil damages are an insufficient remedy in such cases. Assuming that the doctors and staff knew that the woman did not consent to these warrantless searches, then they are guilty of the crime of sexual assault. They should be arrested and prosecuted for that. Perhaps then doctors would think twice before passively doing whatever government agents demand.

Alas, that seems unlikely. Hopefully, some justice will be served by this civil suit.

 

Tonight, I’ll interview Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Timothy Sandefur about occupational licensing — how it works, what it’s supposed to do, and what it’s real-life effects are. We’ll also talk about “Certificates of Need” (CONs) regulations that allow existing businesses to squash any newcomers. I kid you not.

If you’re not familiar with CONs, check out Sandefur’s 2011 article, CON Job: State “certificate of necessity” laws protect firms, not consumers. Here are the open paragraphs:

When St. Louis businessman Michael Munie decided to expand his moving business to operate throughout the state of Missouri, he thought it would be a simple matter of paperwork. After all, he already held a federal license allowing him to move goods across state lines. But when he filed his application, he discovered that, under a 70-year-old state law, officials in Missouri’s Department of Transportation were required to notify all of the state’s existing moving companies and allow them the opportunity to object to his application. When four of them did file objections, department officials offered Munie the choice of withdrawing his application or appearing at a public hearing where he would be required to prove that there was a “public need” for his moving business. The law is not clear on how exactly he would do this — “public need” is not defined, nor are there any rules of evidence or procedure in the statute. And even if he managed to prove a “public need,” the department would take anywhere from six months to a year to make a final decision. In the face of such complications, Munie chose to withdraw his application and ask instead for limited permission to operate within a portion of St. Louis. His competitors had no objection to that, and he was given the restricted license.

Bizarre as this law might seem, it is only one of dozens of such requirements, generally called “certificate of necessity” (CON) laws, that exist across the country, governing a variety of industries, from moving companies and taxicabs to hospitals and car lots. A legacy of the early 20th century, CON laws restrict economic opportunity and raise costs for products and services that consumers need. Unlike traditional occupational licensing rules, they are not intended to protect the public by requiring business owners to demonstrate professional expertise or education. Instead, these laws are explicitly designed to restrict competition and boost the prices that established companies can charge.

Go read the whole article.

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