Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

When is a right officially abridged?

Pacific Views has a post on the Republican party's open support for "crisis pregnancy centers", which are groups that exist only to lie to desperate women who are looking to terminate a pregnancy and either talk them out of it, scare them out of it with falsehoods, or even trick them out of it. I wouldn't doubt it if soon we will have "doctors" who trick women into thinking they've already had abortions, though it certainly hasn't happened yet.
Of course, reasonable people, even those against abortion, can't help but realize that these crisis pregnancy centers are in the business of denying women a legal right to obtain an abortion. How can anyone who proclaims to be as pro-freedom as Bush, etc. actually support groups who actively try to deny legal rights to others? Well, um, see, as long as it's convienent, "freedom" only means freedom from direct government abridgement of your rights. Businesses and private individuals are free to abridge the rights of others, and that's okay because we're all free to fight against having our rights abridged, even if we're not aware it's going on.
For instance, we have a right to freedom of speech and press. Under this view that freedom means only the right to be free from government interference, individuals have no recourse when their freedom of speech is edged out by corporate interference. To me, it seems like freedom of the press is worthless if all press is owned by corporate interests who exercise censorship. Also, it seems sensible to me that if Americans have freedom of speech than the airwaves belong to the public and the government has a duty to make sure that as many Americans as possible have a chance to use the airwaves and that diversity is represented.
But under the conservative view, freedom is abstract and rights are really rather limited. You have the abstract right to speak, but only in the sense that you shouldn't be thrown in jail for speaking your mind. But if corporations buy up all the airwaves and turn them into an endless propaganda machine that just happens to benefit the Republican party, well, make a billion dollars and compete yourself. You're free to do so. You have a right, but you wouldn't know it.
It looks like this kind of reasoning is being applied to reproductive rights. It's like they're saying, alright, alright, you have a right to contraception and abortion in the abstract. And if you luck out and can find those services, you have a right to use them without getting tossed in jail. However, if we can find a way to stop you from getting those services, your rights are not abridged because the government didn't technically abridge that right.
Of course, one way that people who are having their rights abridged by non-government entities is to prosecute them in court if they've done something illegal. But, alas, if their right is something that conservatives feel that they shouldn't have, they can count on the Republican party to defend those who have illegally abridged their rights. For instance, these crisis pregnancy centers are often in the business of committing fraud. Can you imagine how well it would be received if a group came together and offered to help people with cancer, but in reality they lied to them and told them that tumor-removing surgery was bad for you and did everything in their power to stall the person's efforts to obtain surgery and chemo? I don't imagine that the center's "freedom of speech" would suddenly be so damn precious.
It's the same with freedom of speech. The public still technically owns the airwaves, but that ownership is swiftly becoming a right in name only as monopoly laws and the Fairness Doctrine are under constant assault by conservative political forces. The willingness of the right to allow non-government entities to go about abridging the rights of American citizens should give one pause every time the Shurb starts bleating about his love of freedom again.

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