Just 3 days south of Texas, there is a Latin American country on the verge of Civil War. The little country of Nicaragua is experiencing social unrest and violence throughout the country that some are calling the worst it has been since the civil war 30 years ago.
Currently, 78 people have been killed, over 868 people have been injured five of whom are in critical condition and roughly 438 people, including many students, have fallen victim to government disappearances. On one side is the communist dictator Daniel Ortega and his vice president and wife Rosario Murillo, along with the Sandinistas or Nicaraguan Communists. He has most of the government’s support, as well as a fairly large portion of the poor population. Those opposed to the communist dictator are a large group of people ranging from college students, to poor farmers, to other local municipalities who all feel that Ortega is destroying the constitution. Nearly all the major cities in the country are experiencing mostly peaceful protests.
The protests started on the 18th of April after a proposed social security reform that passed practically overnight. The reform would have increased funding for the program while raising the age for individuals to access social security and decreasing the number of benefits given out to those recipients. As with most protests and civil movements, students and the young were the first to protest the bill. The Sandinistas in turn sent in the police to break up the protest. The unarmed protesters were met with police officers firing live ammunition and Pro-Sandinista groups armed by the police. After the first week nearly 50 people were killed, most of which were student protesters. In addition to the deaths, hundreds were injured and arrested. The overreaction of the government to the protests has morphed a simple protest over social security into a nationwide referendum against the Ortega regime.
Since the beginning of the protests, Ortega has given some concessions to the protesters, including withdrawing the social security reform and releasing some of the people arrested, but to the protesters, it isn’t enough. During the unrest, pro-government groups were looting local businesses and causing destruction while under the protection of the police. This only fueled the protests further and caused more people to come out against the government. There are currently hundreds of thousands of people protesting and the number continues to grow daily.
Nicaragua is a poor country with people willing to do whatever it takes to get food. To some people, their only choice is between supporting the oppressive dictator or starve. Others truly believe that the Ortega’s plan can really work and can give everyone a better life. Not all government officials are acting out. Some government workers are joining in the protest and actually keeping the peace through the chaos. The Nicaraguan military has decided to not become involved on either side.
The situation in Nicaragua is still developing and it is hard to tell which way this conflict will go. Currently, the government is engaged in the second day of talks with the protesters in an attempt to bring peace to the country. The demands by the protester are for the government to release those arrested, fire the officers who injured citizens unjustly, and for the President and Vice-President to step down from office. More information can be found by following the social media hashtag #SOSNicaragua.
Thanks to middle-of-the-night efforts by Iowa legislators, unborn children in the state may soon receive significant new protections against elective abortions. Earlier this month, the Iowa House and Senate approved a measure to ban almost all abortions when the fetus presents a detectable heartbeat, usually six weeks after conception. Exceptions to the bill concern certain cases of rape or incest.
According to KATU news, the measure passed the Iowa House by a slim 51-46 margin, after nine hours of debate. The restrictive nature of the bill, which includes some of the most stringent protections against abortion in the United States, provoked intense criticism from Iowa Democrats.
“These restrictions do nothing to reduce or eliminate abortion but put roadblocks between a woman and her physician in making the best medical decision for her,” stated Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D-Ames). Meanwhile, Rep. Shannon Lundgren (R-Peosta) argued that the bill contains valuable protections for the unborn. “Today we are taking a courageous step . . . to tell the nation that Iowa will defend its most vulnerable, those without a voice, our unborn children,” Lundgren said.
Some Republican officeholders see the measure as a blatant challenge to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. “I don’t think we’re even trying to disguise that,” Sen. Rick Bertrand (R-Sioux City) explained. “Today we will begin this journey as Iowa becomes . . . the starting line back to the Supreme Court.”
Legal battles over Iowa’s new legislation appear inevitable. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which exercises jurisdiction over Iowa, previously rejected a North Dakota statute with similarities to Iowa’s new law.
Pro-abortion advocates argue that such legal disputes will squander taxpayer dollars. Pro-life legislators, meanwhile, hope for a chance to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment
On March 13th one of the most important cases concerning the freedom of speech was argued before the United States Supreme Court, NIFLA v. Becerra.
The central issue at stake, in this case, is whether the government can compel organizations and individuals to share a message that is fundamentally in opposition to the organization’s purpose or an individual’s belief.
In 2015, AB 775, the Reproductive FACT Act, was passed in California. The FACT Act mandated both licensed and unlicensed pregnancy resource clinics (PRC’s) to post large signs with information about abortion and contraception services provided by the state.
AB 775 is about freedom of speech and pushing a pro-choice agenda. This can be seen in the fact that 98% of the clinics subject to this law are pro-life. Compelling PRC’s to share about abortion in such a detailed manner is wholly against the PRC’s purpose.
It was argued that the reason for the law is that pro-life PRC’s are manipulating women into a carrying out an unwanted pregnancy.
During a visit to a pregnancy resource center, however, the woman is counseled on all of her options. Even abortion is discussed. While these resource centers hope the woman will choose to keep her baby, they do not force her into a decision, and they will support her after regardless of her decision.
Josh McClure, a pregnancy center director, said this law will “require us to use our walls as a billboard to promote abortion.”
The case was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on March 13th. Attorney, Michael Farris, arguing on the behalf of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) said: “A government that tells you what you can’t say is dangerous, but a government that tells you what you must say—under threat of severe punishment—is alarming.”
Should the United States Supreme Court Justices deliver an opinion in favor of the California law, the first amendment as we know it will be no longer exist with the same power and protection it has afforded the American people for centuries. The opinion from the Supreme Court is slated to be published sometime in June. Let’s hope the Justices keep the First Amendment intact and protect our freedom to speak or not speak certain messages.
As of March of 2018, over 105,000 signatures have been collected for the initiative effort to stop taxpayer funding of abortions in Oregon. This, the 4th such attempt by pro-life group Oregon Life United (OLU), is the closest they have gotten to the required 117,578 signatures the group has achieved. OLU is attempting to collect 150,000 total signatures to account for any disqualified signatures.
If successful in the signature gathering stage, the initiative will give Oregon voters the opportunity to weigh in on the issue in the November election. Oregon Life United’s leaders have high hopes that this year they will be able to stop taxpayer dollars from funding abortion.
On average, 10 abortions per day are paid for by Oregon taxpayers. In Oregon, even late-term, sex-selective abortions are publicly funded. With the passage of House Bill 3391 by the Oregon Legislature last year, taxpayer funding of abortions was further expanded to undocumented immigrants.
Oregon Life United founder, Jeff Jimerson, first began his effort to stop taxpayer funding of abortion in 2012 by creating Oregon2012, a non-partisan, non-denominational political action committee (PAC). Its mission was to pass the state’s first-ever law to protect women and babies from abortion.
Jimerson believed the best way to fulfill the mission of Oregon2012 was to start a ballot initiative. This requires a certain percentage of registered voters to sign a petition that they want the proposed legislation to appear on the ballot. Once done, the ballot measure will receive a public vote in the next election. In this case, the initiative language would change the state constitution to prohibit public funding of abortions.
When Oregon2012 began their ballot initiative to qualify for the November 2012 election, volunteers from all over Oregon began to collect signatures. However, only 72,000 of the required 117,000 minimum were collected. In 2014, Jimerson and the team tried again, this time collecting 98,000 signatures.
Discouraged from the multiple defeats, but optimistic about the gradual increase of signatures collected each year, Jimerson tried again. The groups most recent attempt brought on a wave of pro-abortion opposition. Several pro-abortion organizations including Planned Parenthood, NARAL and others, made a lengthy court appeal which blocked Jimerson’s group from gathering enough signatures in time. Determined to stop taxpayer-funded abortions, Jimmerson filed the petition again for 2018 as Oregon Life United.
Although 105,000 signatures is a significant milestone, there are only three months remaining for petitioners to gather the remaining quota.
To qualify for the November ballot, a total of 117,578 valid signatures must be collected before the June 30th deadline. OLU’s goal of collecting 150,000 signatures is a frequently used strategy for initiative efforts in Oregon in order to avoid disqualifying the effort because of too many signature errors.
“I’m confident we can get it done,” says Jimerson. To learn more about Oregon Life United’s petition, go to www.StopTheFunding.org.
The following article contains excerpts from an interview conducted with Republican candidate Teri Grier.
Teri Grier has not given up the fight for rural Oregon. She is running again for State Representative of House District 9. Grier still feels that “the vast rural community of Oregon, which is largely conservative, is under siege by the much louder voice of liberal Portland.”
According to Grier, the rural citizens in her district are struggling to find jobs. The high rate of unemployment has pressured her neighbors to relocate for work. Grier attributes the unemployment rate to the state’s leaders who consistently vote for Portland’s needs, not the needs of the rural community.
To Teri, this crisis is an eerie throwback to her childhood, when she experienced the down turning of several mines in her small town in Arizona. Both her mom and step-dad lost their jobs along with numerous other families, many of which were forced to pack what they could into a truck and drive away, leaving the key in the front door. Teri describes this disaster as a “modern day Grapes of Wrath.”
Teri firmly believes this experience gives her the ability to understand rural Oregon in a way many other legislators cannot. When discussing the possibility of being a voice for these communities, she stated that “the experience that I’ve had can help make that happen. Those places that feel like they’ve been forgotten . . . they’re not forgotten.”
Jump forward over twenty-five years later, and Teri, who now has been working in public policy for over two decades, is aghast as the Oregon Legislature frequently passes major pieces of legislation in less than 30 days that “should take six years or longer.” The lack of transparency in state government and the intentional neglect of rural community needs inspired Grier to begin a write-in campaign for state representative in 2016.
In the 2016 election year, Grier drove all over her district, knocking on thousands and thousands of doors, just listening to local people share. Unfortunately, she lost to Democratic incumbent Caddy McKeown in the fall by 1,111 votes.
However, Teri Grier was not fazed by the loss and is running again. She has the support of many rural communities and conservatives House District 9 from her last campaign. Grier plans to work hard so rural Oregon is not neglected in the future.
Salem, OR – Legislators return to the Oregon Capitol this week. Already some are seeking to pass a bill which would target dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. House Bill 4135 is scheduled for a hearing and possible work session in the House Health Care Committee at 3:00 pm on February 7th. It is believed this bill will move quickly because there are only 35 days in the 2018 regular session.
Last session a similar bill (SB 494) was introduced in the Senate by Senator Floyd Prozanski . It died in the House. The new bill, HB 4135, is chief sponsored by Speaker of the House, Tina Kotek.
“Supporters of this bill are touting it as a ‘fix,’ but the only fixing that is happening is fixing it so vulnerable Oregonians are left without protections and their right to basic care like food and water,” said ORTL Executive Director Lois Anderson. “One wonders what the true motivations are for this legislation.”
HB 4135 is purported to just be a bill that makes technical changes to the current statutory advance directive form found in ORS 127.531. However, over the last 25 years Oregonians at the end-of-life stage have been protected by the current advance directive and removing it from statute has legal consequences.
“The advance directive was put into Oregon statute back in 1993. I was then a state senator when a very well vetted bill was thoroughly discussed and passed. I worked hard to ensure the advance directive was in statute. If it were to be removed from statute, I fear the legal protections we carefully placed there could be jeopardized, potentially harming end of life decisions for vulnerable patients,” stated Representative Bill Kennemer (R- HD 39).
Under current Oregon law, a healthcare representative does not have the authority to make a life ending decision for an incapable person unless the representative has been given authority to do so, or the incapable person is in one of four end of life situations defined in statute.
If HB 4135 is passed a person who appoints a healthcare representative, but makes no decisions regarding end of life care, would be granting his or her healthcare representative the power to make a life ending decision for the principal even when the principal is not in one of the four statutorily defined end of life situations, and even if this is not the will of the principal.