Review of “Trespassers on the Roof of the World” by Peter Hopkirk

This little book on the history of the infiltration of Tibet by the West is quite fascinating. Beginning in the mid-1800’s, a number of brave and/or crazy but ultimately unsuccessful explorers and missionaries from England, Russia, America, France, India, and China were “hell-bent” on being the first into the holy city of Lhasa – at 12,000 feet the world’s highest capital. The terrain was perilous, the weather worse, and the Tibetans resistant. It was not until a British mission was put together in 1903 with more than a thousand soldiers, 7,000 mules, 4,000 yaks, and 10,000 “coolies” that the mission was accomplished. The British had to fight a battle though to get through the last barrier, Karo Pass. At 16,000 feet, the skirmish was fought at a higher altitude than any other engagement in history. (The British, with their advanced weaponry, lost five men with another 13 wounded, while the Tibetans suffered more than four hundred dead and wounded.) Once the British crossed into Lhasa, however, they saw this squalid and unprepossessing city full of wild roaming pigs and dogs, and wondered what all the fuss had been about….

The story of the early attempts to get to Lhasa are pretty awe-inspiring, beginning with the Indian spies trained by the British. They wandered through Tibet for years disguised as holy men, with measuring and recording instruments hidden inside Buddhist prayer wheels and Tibetan rosaries. They never succeeded in getting to Lhasa however, as there was little incentive for locals to assist them: Tibetans who were discovered helping foreigners get to Lhasa, even by selling them food or providing shelter, would be tortured and killed. Then there was the young missionary couple whose newborn died as they trudged along at sixteen and seventeen thousand feet, not understanding that little lungs were inadequate to the challenge. A couple of the adventurers were even women traveling alone.

The book ends with the unfortunate story of the transfer of Tibet’s sovereignty to China in 1950, and the failure of the rest of the world to respond to Tibet’s pleas for help. Tibetans suffered religious and political persecution, and it is estimated that up to one million Tibetans may have died in the repression by the Chinese and attempts at resistance to it. In 1980, some reforms were instituted by the Chinese government, including the decision to allow tourists to visit certain areas. But calls for independence by Tibet halted the liberalization. China keeps a tight control over press coverage in Tibet, and it seems as difficult as it ever was for the West to know what is going on in Lhasa.

Discussion: I found this book very interesting, and I especially enjoyed learning about Tibetan Buddhism. As for Tibet’s sad history, I’d have to agree with Hopkirk’s closing statement:

“…it is hard not to feel some sympathy for this gentle, cheerful and long-suffering people who only ever asked one thing of the outside world. And that was to be left alone.”

Evaluation: This book was written in 1982 and updated in 1994, but while dated, it is still considered to be one of the better resources for understanding Tibet and the history of its exploration and conquest. If you just want to know some quick facts about Tibet (especially about the awe-inspiring harshness of its terrain), you can get some information here.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published in the U.S. by Kodansha America, Inc., 1995


March 17, 1851 – White Southern Physician Claims Discovery of Disease Making Blacks Want to Escape Slavery

Samuel Cartwright was a physician born in 1793 who practiced in in Mississippi and Louisiana in the antebellum United States. He is infamous today for “identifying” the “disease” of “drapetomania” or “the disease causing negroes to run away.” According to Cartwright:

It is unknown to our medical authorities, although its diagnostic symptom, the absconding from service, is well known to our planters and overseers… The cause in the most of cases, that induces the negro to run away from service, is as much a disease of the mind as any other species of mental alienation, and much more curable, as a general rule. With the advantages of proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many negroes have of running away, can be almost entirely prevented, although the slaves be located on the borders of a free state, within a stone’s throw of the abolitionists.”

Cartwright first announced the “discovery” of this disease at a meeting of the Medical Association of Louisiana on this date. He also announced the disease of “Dysaesthesia Aethiopica” or “Rascality” that was “peculiar to negroes.”

He claimed:

Dysaesthesia Aethiopica is a disease . . . affecting both mind and body. . . . It is much more prevalent among free negroes living in clusters by themselves, than among slaves on our plantations, and attacks only such slaves as live like free negroes in regard to diet, drinks, exercise, etc.”

He went on to aver:

From the careless movements of the individuals affected with the complaint, they are apt to do much mischief, which appears as if intentional, but is mostly owing to the stupidness of mind and insensibility of the nerves induced by the disease. Thus, they break, waste and destroy everything they handle,–abuse horses and cattle,–tear, burn or rend their own clothing, and, paying no attention to the rights of property, steal others, to replace what they have destroyed. They wander about at night, and keep in a half nodding sleep during the day. They slight their work,–cut up corn, cane, cotton or tobacco when hoeing it, as if for pure mischief. They raise disturbances with their overseers and fellow-servants without cause or motive, and seem to be insensible to pain when subjected to punishment.”

He dismissed the skepticism of northern doctors:

…northern physicians and people have noticed the symptoms, but not the disease from which they spring. They ignorantly attribute the symptoms to the debasing influence of slavery on the mind without considering that those who have never been in slavery, or their fathers before them, are the most afflicted, and the latest from the slave-holding South the least. The disease is the natural offspring of negro liberty–the liberty to be idle, to wallow in filth, and to indulge in improper food and drinks.”

As the Equal Justice Initiative reports:

Citing “scientific” evidence and scripture, Dr. Cartwright argued that ‘the Negro is a slave by nature and can never be happy . . . in any other condition.’ . . .Dr. Cartwright explained the disease as a mental affliction triggered by masters who unwisely treat their slaves as equals and prescribed severe whipping and amputation of the toes as cures.”

Cartwright’s theories were cited by other Southerners as “scientific” justification for the institution of slavery.

March 15, 1767 – Birth of Andrew Jackson & Review of “American Lion” by Jon Meacham

Jon Meacham won a Pulitzer Prize for this biography of Andrew Jackson, probably because it is well-written, and most Americans know precious little about Jackson or the United States in the 1830’s. In my opinion, however, the book suffers from the author’s emphasis on the interpersonal relations between Jackson and his surrogate family (his wife died shortly after he was elected president), while giving somewhat short shrift to the key political and economic issues of the day. Even when discussing the key issues, Meacham spends more ink on who was winning (Jackson almost always won) than the merits of the disputes.


Jackson was born on this day in history into the Scots-Irish community in the Waxhaw Settlement between North Carolina and South Carolina, British America. His early life is summarized by Meacham, but the focus of this book is on his presidency. Jackson and his Vice Presidential candidate John C. Calhoun handily defeated John Quincy Adams in 1828. Many today don’t realize that during the election, Jackson’s opponents referred to him as a “jackass”. Jackson liked the name and used the jackass as a symbol for a while, but it died out. However, it became the symbol for the Democratic Party when cartoonist Thomas Nast popularized it later in the century.

1837 lithograph believed to be the first ever image associating the jackass with Jackson’s party.

1837 lithograph believed to be the first ever image associating the jackass with Jackson’s party.

In office, Jackson appointed John Henry Eaton as his Secretary of War. Jackson had been instrumental in introducing Eaton to his wife, Margaret, known as Peggy. Peggy became a liability for both Eton and Jackson because she was intemperate and outspoken and because she seems to have married Eaton while still married to another man. Jackson had great sympathy for the Eatons, perhaps because their situation was somewhat similar to Jackson’s with his wife, Rachael, whom he may have married a little before her divorce.

John Henry Eaton

John Henry Eaton

Meacham expends many words on the Eaton affair as a public scandal and source of contention in his cabinet, and perhaps that is appropriate. At least one entire cabinet meeting was devoted to resolving how to deal with the issue. Indeed, Meacham attributes the success of Martin Van Buren and the failure of John C. Calhoun to influence Jackson to their respective stances on the Eaton affair. Yet, I can’t help thinking Meacham could have devoted more space to issues like Indian removal and the Bank of the United States and less to the question of which Washington wives were willing to exchange visits with the Eatons.

One issue Meacham does handle adroitly is that of the crisis over the tariff and South Carolina’s efforts to “nullify” it. Southern planters did not like having to pay Yankee manufacturers “exorbitant” prices for goods. Had not a comprehensive protective tariff been imposed upon them by the northern states, the goods could have been purchased from foreign suppliers at lower prices. Of even more concern to them was the possibility that the northern states would use their leverage to restrict or eliminate slavery through legislation. Thus Calhoun and others promulgated a doctrine of nullification that would have permitted individual states to ignore federal legislation unfavorable to them.

Cartoon drawn during the nullification controversy showing the manufacturing North getting fat at Southern expense.

Cartoon drawn during the nullification controversy showing the manufacturing North getting fat at Southern expense.

Jackson saw the nullification theory as tantamount to the power to secede from the Union. Jackson asked for and received from Congress authority to enforce the tariff by military force if necessary. However, he was also instrumental in reducing the rates of many of the import duties. One of the main thrusts of Jackson’s second inaugural address was directed at opposing the nullification doctrine. Indeed, Abraham Lincoln analyzed Jackson’s address in formulating his own legal theories in opposition to the South’s later secession. The combination of the authorized military action, reduced duties, and Jackson’s eloquence was sufficient to defuse the nullification crisis, and the southern states did not ignore federal law for another twenty-four years.


In contrast to his coverage of nullification, Meacham says little about Indian removal (the forceful relocation of virtually all Indians from the southern states to lands west of the Mississippi) except to point out that Jackson was its leading proponent. [White Georgians wanted the valuable land in their state for themselves and the state legislature enacted laws designed to force Native Americans to migrate west. John Marshall’s Supreme Court declared the Georgia laws invalid, but Jackson ignored this decision. When the Cherokees refused to leave, Jackson sent troops who forced them at gunpoint to sign a treaty giving up their lands. Three years later they were driven along the “trail of tears” to the barren wastes of Indian Territory (today’s Oklahoma). Thousands died during or just after this journey. For excellent coverage of this issue, see the book Jacksonland by Steve Inskeep.]

Map of United States Indian Removal, 1830-1835

Map of United States Indian Removal, 1830-1835

Even less satisfying is Meacham’s treatment of the controversy over the Bank of the United States, the brainchild of Alexander Hamilton. We learn that Jackson was against it, saying it financed the political campaigns of his enemies, and that Nicholas Biddle, the Bank president, was for it. Nowhere does he discuss the merits of the bank (remember, this was before there was a federal reserve) or whether Jackson’s allegations of favoritism toward his rivals had any substance to them. Only one paragraph is devoted to the fact that a financial panic and severe depression struck the country just months after Jackson left office. Meacham mentions that there is “much historical debate” over the effects of Jackson’s economic policies, but doesn’t characterize or even describe the debate.

Meacham’s description of Jackson as a person is well-wrought. He owned 150 slaves, and freed none of them, even upon his death. He was formidable and an exceptionally strong leader. After Jackson’s death, when one of his slaves was asked whether he thought Jackson had gone to heaven, the slave answered, “If the General wants to go, who’s going to stop him?”

He was the first president to use the veto power against legislation simply because he disagreed with it — prior presidents had vetoed only bills they thought were unconstitutional. He justified his exercise of power by the fact that the president was the only person elected by “all the people.” (In those days, senators were elected by state legislatures.) This exercise of power, however, included the tendency to reward those loyal to him and punish his enemies. But the conflicts were couched in such a way as to make it seem as if it were the will of the people versus a disdainful elite. Meacham does not analyze the repercussions of this type of populism.

Andrew Jackson as most people know him today

Andrew Jackson as most people know him today

Evaluation: This book focuses too much on the personal to the detriment of the political. In the current political climate, readers could benefit by learning about a president who claimed to represent the little people, and then used to office to go after his internal enemies no matter what the cost to country and decency. Those who choose this book should make careful comparison to other historical treatments of Jackson, in order to get the full story.

Rating: 3/5

Published by Random House, 2008

March 12, 1956 – Publication of “The Southern Manifesto”

On this day in history, an overwhelming majority of Southern senators and congressmen published the “Declaration of Constitutional Principles,” more widely known as the “Southern Manifesto.” The purpose of this document was to denounce the Supreme Court’s 1954 unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education (347 U.S. 483), which determined that racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. The Southern Manifesto accused the Supreme Court of “clear abuse of judicial power,” pledging “to use all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to prevent the use of force in its implementation.”

The initial draft of the Declaration was written by South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, and it was then fine-tuned by the well-educated lawyers North Carolina Senator Sam Ervin and Mississippi Senator John Stennis.


The contentions they made, according to University of Chicago Law Professor Justin Driver, were sophisticated, flexible, and employed measured legal arguments to show how the Court “erred” in Brown. The Manifesto eschewed open appeals to racial segregation; rather, the tone strove to avoid alienating white northerners.

To at least this reader, however, the last paragraph, with its hypocritical implication that the writers were only interested in justice, seems a bit less lawyerly than the rest of the document:

In this trying period, as we all seek to right this wrong, we appeal to our people not to be provoked by the agitators and troublemakers invading our states and to scrupulously refrain from disorder and lawless acts.”

In any event, as Professor Driver pointed out:

Although the manifesto’s drafters certainly failed to achieve their primary objective of motivating the Supreme Court to reverse Brown, they largely succeeded in realizing their secondary aim: minimizing the reach of the court’s historic decision.”

Today in public school systems, the segregation of students is effected in part by rigid residential racial patterns (private actions, resulting in de facto segregation) rather than deliberate action of governmental authorities (state action, resulting in de jure segregation). Today, Latino and black students are more likely than ever to be attending segregated schools, largely a function of the composition of the areas in which they live, which in turn is strongly affected by poverty. See research by The Civil Rights Project and researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education reported here and summarized here. The Civil Rights Project, now located at UCLA, has updates to the 1999 Harvard research here, noting that in 2017:

Black and Latino students in the South are increasingly isolated in intensely segregated schools and are doubly segregated in schools serving low-income students, according to new research . . . by the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA and the Center for Education and Civil Rights at Penn State.

‘While significant gains in integration were made during the Civil Rights era, we are unfortunately seeing a troubling reversal of those trends,’ says Gary Orfield, Co- Director of the Civil Rights Project.”

Moreover, schools in poorer districts have a marked dearth of resources and good teachers. The Harvard Civil Rights Project study linked to above finds that “Poverty is linked to lower educational achievement, and racially segregated schools for all groups except whites are almost always schools with high concentrations of poverty.”

That study cites the hostile political environment (and that was in 1999!) observing:

Forty-five years after Brown v. Board of Education declared “separate but equal” as “inherently unequal,” segregation continues to produce unequal educational opportunities, particularly for low-income minority students. . . . In a time when the country is rapidly growing and becoming more diverse, it is important that the nation’s schools reflect this diversity. The immense gains of the civil rights movement cannot be taken for granted. As difficult as progress was to achieve, without a strong national policy supportive of desegregation, it is just as easily rolled back.”

Remedial efforts have backfired in the courts. Conservative justices have used an “anemic reading of Brown” as Professor Driver calls it, to rule that taking race into account to promote integration violates the Equal Protection Clause, most notably in the 2007 Supreme Court case Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007), also known as the “PICS” case. As “The New York Times” reported:

Voting 5 to 4, the court, in an opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., invalidated programs in Seattle and metropolitan Louisville, Ky., that sought to maintain school-by-school diversity by limiting transfers on the basis of race or using race as a “tiebreaker” for admission to particular schools.

‘The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,’ [Justice Roberts] said. His side of the debate, the chief justice said, was ‘more faithful to the heritage of Brown’ . . . . ‘When it comes to using race to assign children to schools, history will be heard,’ he said.”

Chief Justice Roberts

Chief Justice Roberts

March 11, 1850 – William Seward Speaks Out Against the Fugitive Slave Bill

On this day in history, William Seward, at the time a U.S. Senator from the state of New York (later to become Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State), spoke out against the proposed Fugitive Slave Bill – (to no avail; it went on to become the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850).

We are not slaveholders. We cannot, in our judgment, be either true Christians or real freemen, if we impose on another a chain that we defy all human power to fasten on ourselves. You believe and think otherwise, and doubtless with equal sincerity. We judge you not, and He alone who ordained the conscience of man and its laws of action can judge us. Do we, then, in this conflict of opinion, demand of you an unreasonable thing in asking that, since you will have property that can and will exercise human powers to effect its escape, you shall be your own police, and in acting among us as such you shall conform to principles indispensable to the security of admitted rights of freemen? If you will have this law executed, you must alleviate, not increase, its rigors.”

William Seward in 1851

William Seward in 1851

He further declared, invoking the words of the Declaration of Independence:

I cannot stop to debate long with those who maintain that slavery is itself practically economical and humane. I might be content with saying that there are some axioms in political science that a statesman or a founder of states may adopt, especially in the Congress of the United States, and that among those axioms are these: That all men are created equal, and have inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the choice of pursuits of happiness; that knowledge promotes virtue, and righteousness exalteth a nation; that freedom is preferable to slavery, and that democratic governments, where they can be maintained by acquiescence, without force, are preferable to institutions exercising arbitrary and irresponsible power.”

His whole speech, or the excerpts from it (it is very long) is eloquent, impassioned, and definitely worth reading. You can do so here.

Women’s History Month: Women’s Right to Choose vs. Abortion Laws

Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS) is a nonprofit, public interest organization based in Boston, Mass., that develops and promotes evidence-based information on girls’ and women’s reproductive health and sexuality. OBOS provides an excellent online summary of the history of laws relating to abortion in the U.S.

Modern abortion law really started on January 22, 1973, when Roe v. Wade (410 U.S. 113) was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A pregnant single woman (Roe) brought a class action challenging the constitutionality of the Texas criminal abortion laws, which proscribed abortions except on medical advice for the purpose of saving the mother’s life. In Roe, the Court found:

State criminal abortion laws, like those involved here, that except from criminality only a life-saving procedure on the mother’s behalf without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other interests involved violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman’s qualified right to terminate her pregnancy.”

Thereafter, Medicaid — a program funded jointly by the federal government and individual states — covered abortion care as part of comprehensive health care services provided to low-income women. However, in 1976, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited the use of federal funds for abortion care, except in cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the mother. The law effectively left the decision of funding abortion to the states, and most states choose to enact bans in their own Medicaid programs. The Hyde Amendment has been reenacted by Congress every year since 1976.

Because, as data show, the unintended pregnancy rate among poor women is five times the rates for higher-income women, the law’s impact has been disproportionate. (One reported reason for the discrepancy is poor women’s limited access to contraception, which is expensive.)

In 1980, Harris v. McRae (448 U.S. 297) upheld the Hyde Amendment in a narrowly divided ruling delivered by Justice Potter Stewart, declaring that women’s constitutional rights were not violated by the ban on federal funding for abortions.

In 1992, the Court, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (505 U.S. 833), in a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, upheld a highly restrictive Pennsylvania law that included mandatory waiting periods, parental consent, and biased information. Further, the Court allowed laws designed to limit access to abortion at any stage of pregnancy, so long as the law does not place an “undue burden” on a woman’s access to abortion.

In the 2007 case Gonzales v. Carhart (550 U.S. 124), the Supreme Court upheld the so-called Partial-Birth Abortion (PBA) Ban Act. This law was passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush in 2003. The question before the Court was whether PBA was an unconstitutional violation of personal liberty protected by the Fifth Amendment because the Act lacks an exception for partial-birth abortions necessary to protect the health of the mother.

In a 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court found that because the Act applies only to a specific method of abortion, the ban was not unconstitutionally vague, overbroad, or an undue burden on the decision to obtain an abortion. In her dissent to Gonzales v. Carhart, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg decried the ruling, saying:

Today’s decision is alarming … It tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). It blurs the line, firmly drawn in Casey, between previability and postviability abortions. And, for the first time since Roe, the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman’s health.”

The Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the U.S., documents that since Roe v. Wade, “states have constructed a lattice work of abortion law, codifying, regulating and limiting whether, when and under what circumstances a woman may obtain an abortion.” The pace has been picking up with the overwhelming ascendancy of conservatives in state governments. In 2015 alone, conservative lawmakers considered nearly 400 bills to limit a woman’s access to legal abortion and passed 57 new restrictions. More recently, the Institute reports:

States continued their assault on abortion in 2017, with 19 states adopting 63 new restrictions on abortion rights and access. That total is the largest number of abortion restrictions enacted in a year since 2013. In addition, Iowa, Kentucky and South Carolina all moved to restrict public funding for family planning programs and providers in 2017, bringing to 15 the number of states that have taken aim at the family planning safety net since the 2015 release of a series of deceptively edited videos seeking to discredit Planned Parenthood.”

Data up to 2016

A 2018 report charges:

Coercive intent and practices are at the core of social conservatives’ reproductive health agenda, including virtually every reproductive health–related initiative from the Trump administration and social conservatives in Congress over the past year.”

Perhaps even more worrisome:

Against a national backdrop of policymaking that often appears to willfully ignore clear and compelling data, it is important to note that 17 states have laws on abortion that match at least five of 10 major categories of restrictions that conflict with scientific evidence. Kansas, South Dakota and Texas top the list with restrictions in eight of these categories; Louisiana and Oklahoma each have seven. An additional 12 states have 2–4 of these types of restrictions, and so are considered in moderate conflict with the science (see Flouting the Facts: State Abortion Restrictions Flying in the Face of Science.) Only 21 states have laws that pose no or limited conflicts with scientific evidence.”

You can find an overview of state abortion laws as of February 2018 here.

The laws have come up with any number of ways to reduce availability of abortion services, in particular, by targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) regulations. As OBOS explains, TRAP regulations single out abortion providers and facilities by mandating burdensome and medically unnecessary requirements that are more stringent than requirements for other medical procedures of similar risk. Abortion has been found to be one of the safest medical procedures in the country, far safer than pregnancy and childbirth, and complications are rare. The Centers for Disease Control reports abortions are “more than 99 percent safe.”

As OBOS contends, “The true intent of TRAP laws is not to improve the safety of abortion but to place onerous restrictions on clinics and abortion providers so that they must stop providing services.” According to the Guttmacher Institute, as of 2017, 24 states have TRAP laws or policies in place.

Restrictions on abortion coverage are not limited to public funding. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) actually extended the Hyde Amendment restrictions on abortion coverage to states’ newly created health insurance exchanges. The ACA also allows states to prohibit abortion coverage entirely in health insurance plans offered through an exchange. Since the law was implemented, twenty-five states have barred health plans participating in the exchange from covering abortion. The ACA permits providers and facilities to refuse to provide, pay, or refer for abortion services under federal refusal provisions.

What does this mean for women’s rights? It’s not a happy picture if you don’t believe women should be forced to undergo ultrasounds (sometimes anal) and/or give up the right to safe interruptions of unwanted pregnancies. Pregnancies that are the result of rape (yes! you can get pregnant even if you are “legitimately” raped!) or other unpleasant circumstances that could cause a child to be unwanted or neglected or to ruin the life of the mother (as opposed to the person impregnating her), must proceed.

Unfortunately, according to the National Institutes of Health, statistics tallied through 2008 reveal:

Every year, worldwide, about 42 million women with unintended pregnancies choose abortion, and nearly half of these procedures, 20 million, are unsafe. Some 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion annually, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13%). Of the women who survive unsafe abortion, 5 million will suffer long-term health complications.”

Needless to say, restrictive laws associated with high rates of unsafe abortions. A study by WHO and the Guttmacher Institute published in The Lancet of abortions conducted between 2010 and 2014 showed:

In countries where abortion is completely banned or permitted only to save the woman’s life or preserve her physical health, only 1 in 4 abortions were safe; whereas, in countries where abortion is legal on broader grounds, nearly 9 in 10 abortions were done safely. Restricting access to abortions does not reduce the number of abortions.” [emphasis added]

It concludes:

When women and girls cannot access effective contraception and safe abortion services, there are serious consequences for their own health and that of their families. This should not happen. But despite recent advances in technology and evidence, too many unsafe abortions still occur, and too many women continue to suffer and die.”

Some may wonder why there some women who seek abortions after twenty weeks, a common prohibition point for the new legislation. According to a pediatric cardiologist specializing in high-risk pregnancies:

The answer is that comprehensive fetal testing, such as anatomical sonograms and ultrasounds of the heart, are typically performed just before 20 weeks of gestation. Such scans are critical for uncovering major birth defects, such as anencephaly (severe brain malformations), major heart defects, missing organs and limbs, and other severe birth defects. Fetal development is a complex process that often goes awry. Roughly 2 percent of all pregnancies are complicated by a major birth defect, and of those about 0.5 percent have a chromosomal defect, such as an extra or missing segment of normal DNA. Birth defects are a leading cause of infant mortality, and in many cases of severe birth defects, no medical treatment can salvage a fetus’s life or result in any measure of normal future health. [my emphasis]”

Nevertheless, here are the sad statistics for women’s “choice”:

You can access a more detailed chart about reproductive rights at the excellent Guttmacher Institute site, here. You can access information relating to laws restricting a man’s right to get women pregnant and pay for the consequences, um, nowhere.

March 7, 1965 – Bloody Sunday in American Civil Rights Struggle in Selma, Alabama

On Sunday March 7, 1965 about six hundred people led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams began a fifty-four mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery. They were demonstrating for African American voting rights and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while Jackson was trying to protect his mother at a civil rights demonstration. On the outskirts of Selma, after the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies in plain sight of photographers and journalists.

Alabama State Troopers Attack John Lewis at the Edmund Pettis Bridge

Alabama State Troopers Attack John Lewis at the Edmund Pettis Bridge

The state troopers threw tear gas into the crowd, and as the crowd fled back toward downtown Selma, mounted possemen swung clubs or homemade flails of rubber hose laced with spikes. Taylor Branch, in At Canaan’s Edge, reports:

“By 3:30 p.m., more than a hundred troopers, possemen, and sheriff’s deputies pursued the marchers over the mile back to the neighborhood around Brown Chapel [the starting point of the march], where they attacked stragglers in a frenzy. Some drove their quarry indoors; others yelled for Negroes to come out. Down the block, troopers threw one teenager through a ground-floor window into the basement of First Baptist Church. … Thirty minutes after the marchers’ encounter with the troopers, a Negro could not be seen walking the streets.”

Doctors and nurses worked all night on more than one hundred patients, who were only accepted at one hospital – a Catholic mission facility in a black neighborhood. The most common injuries were lacerations and broken bones, but there were also fractured skulls and injuries secondary to tear gas.

ABC News interrupted the Sunday night movie, Judgement in Nuremberg, to show footage of violence in Selma to forty-eight million viewers. Within two days, demonstrations in support of the marchers were held in eighty cities, and thousands of religious and lay leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, flew to Selma. On March 9, Dr. King led another group to the Pettus Bridge where they knelt, prayed, and returned to Brown Chapel.

Allowing CBS footage of “Bloody Sunday” as evidence in court, Federal Judge Frank Johnson, Jr. ruled on March 17 that the demonstrators be permitted to march. Under protection of a federalized National Guard, voting rights advocates left Selma on March 21 and stood 25,000 strong on March 25 before the state capitol in Montgomery.

Dr. King and Rev. Ralph Abernathy on the Resumed March

Dr. King and Rev. Ralph Abernathy on the Resumed March

As a direct consequence of these events, the U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, guaranteeing every American aged twenty-one and over the right to register to vote. During the next four years the number of U.S. blacks eligible to vote rose from 23 to 61 percent.