Each Friday, we’ll bring you updates on the latest civil liberties news from Maine and the nation.
LePage’s Emergency Bill LD 1811
As part of his strategy to expand Maine’s ‘War on Drugs’, Governor Paul LePage proposed a bill, LD 1811, which would allocate funds to strengthen the state’s ability to enforce drug laws. The bill creates 4 new District Court Judge positions, 14 new Investigative Agent positions, and 4 Assistant Attorney General positions. The ACLU of Maine believes that state resources should be allocated to address addiction and drug use through treatment and education, not incarceration. On Monday, Oami testified against LD 1811 in front of the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety.
In her testimony, Oami explained why expanding the ‘War on Drugs’ is a step backwards for Maine. “Drug offenses, especially possession, are often indicative of addiction. And rather than be treated as a crime, addiction must be treated as a public health issue. Recent studies show that treatment is far more cost-effective than incarceration for drug offenses. Treatment rehabilitates drug offenders at a lower cost, allowing them to become productive members of society. On the other hand, incarcerating someone is enormously expensive.”
You can find Oami’s full testimony here.
Did Phelps’ Extremism Aid The LGBT Rights Movement?
Fred Phelps, Sr., the pastor who headed the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, earned himself a reputation as a virulently antigay preacher who staged demonstrations at military funerals and funerals of people who had died of AIDS. His passing this week sparked discussion as to whether Phelps’ brand of acerbic hatred could have, in any way, had a positive influence on the progress of the gay rights movement.
It seems it may have. James Esseks, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project at the ACLU, explained to the Associated Press earlier this week that he eventually saw Phelps’ protests as aiding his own movement. “He would show up with his extreme anti-gay views, and a bunch of people in the middle would think, ‘If that’s what it means to be anti-gay, I want no part of it,’” Esseks stated.
Kentucky Says No to Anti-Abortion Bills
A series of three anti-abortion bills were up for discussion in a two-hour hearing in the House of Representatives in Kentucky on Thursday. Critics of the bills voiced concern that the legislation was aimed at restricting a constitutionally protected procedure and apprehension about interfering with medical decisions between a woman and her doctor.
The ACLU of Kentucky is working hard to protect the already limited access to abortion services for families. "These bills are really about trying to make it more difficult, more onerous on women to get an abortion," Derek Selznick, director of the Reproductive Freedom Project for the ACLU of Kentucky, stated after the hearing. "Really they come from a place of coercion and not consent."
In addition, Selznick argues that mandatory ultrasounds would be invasive and traumatic to a woman who conceived a child after being raped. “While a doctor or somebody is actually holding a transvaginal wand inside of a woman and must explain what they’re seeing on the screen … for a woman who’s been raped, that is just adding trauma to that experience.”