Banks County Opinions...

JANUARY 22, 2003


Column

By: Margie Richards
The Banks County News
January 22, 2003

Let’s change our mindset
Admit it—we all love to complain.
And there’s something about whining about “what’s wrong with the world today,” about “people” (we never speak as if we’re part of the species during these diatribes), or about our government in particular that can really get us on a roll.
I started thinking about this recently when I heard a report on a national TV show that focused on the public’s response to the fact that there are several hundred children missing from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).
Case workers have no idea where they are, nor apparently does anyone else who should. Most of these kids were put in “shelters” - government run facilities and then they simply “disappeared.”
Many are classed as runaways, even though many of them may not have actually “ran away.”
You probably remember the case of a Florida five year old whose grandmother had been trying for a year to find out where her granddaughter, who had been placed in the DCF system, was. The last I heard, that little girl still has not been found.
In a case cited in this particular report, a 17-year-old girl was found recently in a lake, dead of a gunshot wound to the head, five months after DCF officials realized she was not where she was supposed to be.
How can they (meaning DCF) get away with operating this way and being so irresponsible with the children they are supposed to protect?
Well for starters, there has apparently been no public outcry.
Now that’s not to say people have not complained. According to the journalist who filed the story, there’s plenty of “talk” on the streets about it. Everyone is shaking their heads and grumbling and whining about it. The best thing that’s happened so far is that a Florida child advocacy group (I can’t remember the name) took the time to alert the national media.
But, according to the reporter, very few individuals have actually written or called their legislators, lobbied their officials or offered to help in other ways.
And that seems really sad, as well as troubling, to me.
We have got to get out of the mindset that I believe a lot of us have - that we pay our taxes each year and that’s it - that it’s the government’s job to take over the reins and make everything okay for everybody—that all we have to do is take care of what’s in our own little world and let the “government” take care of the rest.
And we have to realize that it often takes more than just writing a check to a cause we believe in.
Sometimes we need to spend some of our precious time working hard for what we want to see changed or made better; making phone calls, writing letters, and applying a little “elbow grease.”
I’m not suggesting the citizens of Florida go out and investigate the cases of missing children themselves; that’s obviously a job best left to DCF officials and law enforcement.
But as citizens, they can hold their feet to the fire and make sure those investigations are being done and keep the flame turned up until they see some results.
And in the meantime, they also can and should band together and lobby their lawmakers for changes in a system that allows so many children to fall through the cracks.
As has been shown over and over, in our own community and elsewhere, when we get together we can get things done, and generally get it done a lot better and more efficiently than government can.
So why don’t we do just that more often?
Well, for one thing it’s easier (and more fun) to complain. And make excuses. Some of my own excuses frequently include: too busy, too stressed already, too “tax poor,” and/or too disgusted with ‘government’ to give a rip anymore (there’s that nasty word again).
And then there’s this reason - “no good deed goes unpunished.”
That’s a little expression I heard a long time ago and it’s stuck with me.
And I’m afraid it’s true all too often. Sometimes it seems like when we work hard and selflessly on something, all we get from others is criticism that can feel like a slap in the face.
But that’s when we have to remember why we cared enough to get involved to start with, and that it’s not about what we “get,” but about what might be accomplished to make things better in the future—long after we’re gone and forgotten.
That’s the way it ought to be, anyway.
Margie Richards is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.

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Editorial

By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
January 22, 2003

The state of the world after 30
years of abortion
In 1972, the Supreme Court decided that a person’s right to privacy was implied in the Constitution when our forefathers deemed every citizen had a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Then the Supreme Court justices took that statement a step further and said the Constitution also implied that women have the right to end their pregnancy because of their right to privacy. Here are my thoughts on that.
Ending pregnancy through unnatural means was a reality when Benjamin Franklin drafted the Constitution. If he and the rest of the men of the Continental Congress had meant to legalize abortion, they would have done so.
Why seven of the nine justices felt Franklin would have left that our inadvertently I don’t know. But 30 years later here we are, perhaps in the best position to rectify a wrong perpetrated 40 million babies later.
Pro-choice advocates plan to celebrate Roe v. Wade in a grand fashion this month while pro-life advocates plan to march on capitols across the nation to ask for protection for the unborn.
Meanwhile, a Republican legislature gears up for the 2003 session, Republicans promising constituents they will pass the “first significant pro-life legislation in 30 years,” and Democrats shouting that the world has entered the “anti-choice trifecta.”
So what is Roe v. Wade’s legacy? 1.6 million abortions a year, 16 times as many as there were before legalization. That is 4,500 abortions per day. Before legalization, the number of abortions was 98,000 on average and the number of deaths were above 1,000 a year only before penicillin (pre-1940).
Cynthia Knight, author of “Life Without Roe: Making Predictions About Illegal Abortions” who is also a specialist in state legislative issues, says that if abortion were illegal: “Even assuming an increased risk from illegal abortions, the total number of women dying and being hurt by abortion would be less [than the number currently injured or killed].”
Where does our community fit into all of this? In 2001, 1,110 women elected to have abortions from Banks, Barrow, Clarke, Hall, Jackson and Madison counties. That’s more than twice the population of Danielsville and 160 more dead babies than living citizens in Homer.
The 2001 number of abortions even ellipses the population of Hoschton by 40 citizens. I don’t believe our community lacks morals and I don’t believe any of us believe that abortion is not murder. Scientists agree that life begins at conception. But abortions are still going on.
I believe women and men weigh the responsibilities of pregnancy and a child against the life of someone they’ve never met. Being out of work for six weeks or missing the prom is real. A zygote is not. They don’t connect the mass of cells to the smiling baby with Uncle Bert’s chin and their mother’s eyes.
So why do moral women choose abortion over the alternative? The choice itself is often the impetus. Consider this. An unwed woman, clerking at a grocery store with no stable home becomes pregnant. Society promotes abortion as the only acceptable or feasible alternative for poor people who face unplanned pregnancies. And the realities for the women who decide against abortion are hard. Dual-income families are necessary.
More than 40 million Americans have no healthcare. Day care is expensive and often unavailable. The minimum wage is $5.75 an hour. And the baby’s father is saying he supports her choice. He’ll pay for the abortion, but he doesn’t want children right now. It’s her decision, but it won’t be his baby.
Translation: you’ll have to hogtie him for any kind of support. And who has time to hunt him down when you’re working two jobs to pay for childcare and housing and living off food stamps.
Frederica Mathewes-Green, a feminist who supported abortion in the early 70s, but has since switched to pro-life, sums the “choice” up for the educated professional woman in her article
“The Bitter Price of Choice”: “It is a cruel joke to call this a woman’s ‘choice.’ We may choose to sacrifice our life and career plans, or choose to undergo humiliating invasive surgery and sacrifice our offspring. How fortunate we are-we have a choice!” Green asks if we choose instead to keep our bodies and our lives intact, what kind of social change could women instigate?
What would make abortion unnecessary? She suggests flexible school situations, more flex-time, part-time and home-commute jobs, attractive adoption opportunities, safe family planning choices and support in handling sex responsibly. But she believes none of these changes will occur while women are willing to discard their children to ensure the status quo and live in a man’s world.
She writes: “That we have willingly ordered our lives around a denigrating surgical procedure-accepted it as the price we must pay to keep our life plans intact-is an ominous sign.”
The Feminists For Life argue abortion is a betrayal of feminism. They state that all women who demand the right to an abortion admit that pregnancy and motherhood are incompatible to being a fully functioning adult and that an unencumbered, unattached male is the model for success.
“By settling for abortion instead of working for the social changes that would make it possible to combine children and a career, pro-abortion feminists have agreed to participate in a man’s world under a man’s terms.”
So social change seems to be the prescription but changing society takes decades of swimming against the current.
There is something we can do now. We can plug the hole in the dike so to speak. Seventeen states have a Right to Know Act which states that any one considering an abortion be given all of the information to make an informed decision and given 24 hours to reflect on the information.
The act was validated by the Supreme Court 11 years ago, but Georgia has not protected this right as yet. Some people think perhaps the legislature will vote on the issue this session. The act calls for women to be given printed materials that explain the age and size of her child, describe the type of abortion procedure to be used and discuss the help available to bring the child to term, as well as provide information on the alternatives.
Abortion is the only surgical procedure in Georgia that does not require complete accurate information. When women are fully informed they are much less likely to go through with an abortion. The Georgia Right to Life Chapter (www.grtl.org) is circulating a petition to make the Right to Know Act law.
If you go online to their website, it takes less than a minute to click the link and type in your name and address. If you have 10 minutes, pick up the phone and call your representatives in the legislature. Let them know how you feel. And who knows how many lives you could potentially save.
[The articles mentioned and most of the factual data can be found at roevwade.org. City populations are taken from the 2000 census data.]
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.


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