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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rick Scott and his push to fundamentalism

From the Miami Herald

By Daniel Shoer Roth

Florida is on its way to fundamentalism. Gov. Rick Scott and some of our ultraconservative legislators are determined to get there despite the human cost.

On the one hand, they aspire to minimize the government’s involvement in people’s life in crucial areas like public education and social services for those in need. On the other hand, they support the government’s meddling in Florida residents’ personal decisions.

Tallahassee is a mess. Last week the governor signed a package of radical bills, which tie teacher contracts and pay in large part to the performance of students on standardized tests like the FCAT. The new law also phases out so-called teacher tenure, a protection teachers have against quick firing. It seems that conservatives’ goal is to see Florida’s teachers fleeing the state.

It’s a terrible way to penalize teachers in poor neighborhoods -- those teachers tend to be the most dedicated — and their disadvantaged students. It’s ludicrous to equal the performance of a child who had a good breakfast amid loving parents to that of a child who could not sleep all night on an empty stomach listening to quarrelling parents.

There are also some 20 bills in Tallahassee that would put an array of new obstacles in the paths of women seeking abortions, which would take us back decades in social development.

Women who wish to terminate their pregnancy — even at an early stage — would be forced to subject themselves to a medically unnecessary ultrasound test. Another bill would ban abortion altogether, challenging the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling and, inevitably, paving the way for a dangerous illegal abortion market.

Abortion is a sensitive issue that prompts passionate arguments from two sides: one defends the right to life of a fetus and considers abortion in virtually all instances a crime, and another believes a woman should have authority over her body.

Yet not all is black and white. There are specific areas of gray: victims of rape or incest; pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother; fetuses with congenital defects.

Many of these bills fail to include even exceptions for such cases. Nor do they include measures to reduce the abortion rate, which would be the only solution after heavy-handed policies have failed.

New legislation should focus on giving better access to information and birth-control methods; strengthening crime prevention and thus reducing the number of rapes; offering more medical services to mothers and children; and improving and emphasizing sexual education programs.

Gov. Scott has nonetheless proposed cutting 10 percent in public education funding — $1.7 billion — a threat to subjects like physical education and health, which include the sexual education curriculum.

Wouldn’t it be more effective to teach these subjects in order to reduce unwanted pregnancies, either by abstinence or contraceptive plans, instead of banning abortions after the teens are pregnant?

But who can understand Scott and his Tea Party supporters?

They propose to cut funds for drug rehabilitation programs, which help keep thousands of people out of jail, reduce crime, and save millions of dollars of taxpayer money, while they want to force public employees to take a drug test every 45 days, a measure that would cost taxpayers a fortune.

Another fundamentalist insanity comes from two bills the purpose of which is to protect Florida courts from a supposed infiltration and incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines such as the Islamic Sharia law, a code of behavior that in some Arab countries discriminates against women. But no court in America has ever used Sharia to rule in a case. This is simply a manifestation of Islamophobia that does not contribute to creating jobs or balancing the budget.

Indeed, the only “Sharia laws” that would affect Floridians are those that Scott and his ultraconservative legislators wish to impose on us.

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