Arkansas’ Witch Hunt on Women’s Rights

Now I know that I’m technically a “Texas” Leftist… as defined by the name… but some things are just so offensive that they have to be called out regardless of political division. And in full disclosure, I am a native Arkansan, so things that happen in my former home state tend to cut me to the core.

Arkansas’ Republican-controlled state legislature is in full assault of the rights and liberties of American women. As if jaw-dropping legislation last week to ban abortion (in DIRECT violation of Roe V. Wade) wasn’t enough, they went on to override Governor Mike Beebe’s veto of the bill so that it would become law anyway.

But today’s reporting from Leslie Newell Peacock of the Arkansas Times literally takes the cake. Now state lawmakers, led by State Representative David Meeks, are seeking to restrict both Contraception and in-vitro fertilization. HB1898 is entitled the “Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act”, but clearly it is anything but free.

As someone who was born and raised in the state of Arkansas, I can tell you why Representative Meeks chose to emphasize religious affiliation. The two largest hospital conglomerates in the state of Arkansas are religiously affiliated… Baptist Health and St. Vincent Infirmary. Both are based in Little Rock, but they also operate many of the state’s smaller (but critical) rural hospitals. These institutions are vital members of the health community, and if one or both were to change their women’s health procedures regarding contraception, it would be a tragedy for Arkansas families. That’s what Meeks wants… if they take a grand stand and cease services, it will put pressure on the smaller hospitals to follow suit. There is hope that these hospital professionals wouldn’t ever elect to prevent women from receiving these health services, but in the “fact-free” climate of today’s Republican politics, one can never be so sure of what’s going to happen.

The challenges for the Natural State continue to mount, but thankfully, another election is fast approaching in 2014. The GOP is proving that they are not good for Arkansas.

HuffPost Live discussion: Newsom’s New Cities

Besides the blog and an active Twitter account, I am also an avid consumer (and fan) of HuffPost Live, a new media experience created by Huffington Post. What is best about it in my opinion is the connection that it creates between media “producers”– the host, the guests, the information they present, and the “consumers”– the audience. In the HuffPost Live community, these lines become blurred where the audience joins in the conversation, and becomes a part of the show in real time. Of course many shows have had this format in the past… call-in radio, etc. But with HPL, two things are new and encouraging for this process. For one the content generated is immediately recorded and saved to the website, therefore it can be shared throughout social media as soon as the segment concludes. It’s a great way to grow the content and its influence.

Today was a really great discussion with California’s Lieutenant Governor (and former San Francisco Mayor) Gavin Newsom. He was discussing his new book, Citizenville, in which he seeks to encourage a new understanding about the role of government in our lives. He talks about how rapidly technology has developed, yet those innovations aren’t being utilized to improve and revolutionize how government works.

Watching the conversation, I simply couldn’t help but point out one instance in which my local government of Houston, Texas has made a great advancement. The Houston 311 App moves city services (road maintenance, hazordous buildings and lots, etc.) to a smart phone app. This allows not only for instant reporting, but also serves as a “citizen catalog” where these issues are documented for others to see. If I run over a pothole, and stop to report it via the 311 app, I can look up to see if the issue has been reported previously. I can also scroll through to find other local issues, and vote them up or down if I feel they’re also important. Though the app has only been out for a few months, it’s been working very well. I’ve even reported one issue that was repaired within a week. It’s a great example of the very changes that need to occur throughout the public sector.

As you can see from the clip, segment host Josh Zepps (while interviewing Lt. Gov. Newsom) decided to share my comment about Houston 311…

Sure, it may seem like a small thing, but to me and many others who use social media, these are the very steps that we can use to focus media towards more issues that citizens care about. It’s a way to amend and expand the national conversation. Oh, and be sure to watch the end of the segment. Lt. Governor Newsom confirms that he is planning to run for Governor of California if Jerry Brown decides to sit out in 2014. Should be an interesting race to watch.