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Partial Transcript, Abrams Report, April 5, 2005

From the May 15, 2003 Mahablog

Texas: It's Like a Whole 'Nother Country
 
By now you've heard about the Texas Democrats in Exile. Be sure to read Josh Marshall's Talking Points for May 14 to get background on this story not provided by Faux News.
 
You probably realize also that "Texas Justice" is an oxymoron. Texas death penalty supporters are fighting a proposal to place a moritorium on executions until DNA testing can be done to verify guilt. Most of 'em are probably guilty; why waste time waitin' to fry 'em?
 
But today I want to write about Texas Mothers Who Kill Their Children. This is not about the Bush Regime, but it does reveal something about the culture that gave us the Bushies.
 
It's too early to say much about Deanna LaJune Laney, the Tyler Texas mother who bashed two of her children to death with rocks. All that can be said is that she doesn't have a prayer.
 
I followed the Andrea Yates trial closely, and came to the conclusion that Texas is not only like a whole 'nother country. It's also stuck in a whole 'nother century, sometime in the Dark Ages. The Texas justice system does not recognize brain disease; to them, insanity is a character flaw, or maybe devil possession.
 
The early news stories about Andrea Yates called her illness "postpartum depression," but the truth is that she was a five-alarm schizophrenic. She had been sinking deeper and deeper into psychosis for several years, had attempted suicide, and had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals. In the months before the killings, one of her friends was so alarmed at her behavior she was keeping notes.
 
Two weeks before she killed her children, a bleeping incompetent psychiatrist took her off the antipsychotic meds -- cold turkey -- that had propped her up and kept her functional. A couple of days before she killed her children, her husband Randy took her back to this psychiatrist and begged him to put her back on her meds; the doc refused.
 
Once in county jail, the psychiatric staff proclaimed she was the most psychotic inmate they had ever seen. Several of the prison psychologists and psychiatrists  -- people who worked with her for many weeks -- testified at trial that Yates was massively delusional. A prominent neuropsychiatrist tested her and diagnosed severe schizophrenia, noting major frontal lobe impairment. During her trial, Yates had to be drugged into catatonia so she could sit in her seat and not try to catch flies with her tongue.
 
The jury was told, over and over, that Yates had a disease of the brain. They were not told that, if found not guilty by reason of insanity, Yates would not have gone free. The court would have ordered her to be hospitalized, not to be released without another court order.
 
The prosecutors trotted out two primary witnesses. One was the psychiatrist who had taken her off her meds and who would have been charged with murder if I'd had anything to say about it. He said he saw no sign of psychosis in Yates. One suspects this guy couldn't find shit in an outhouse.
 
The other witness was a paid expert psychiatrist who is also a consultant for "Law and Order." He said that Yates had gotten the idea for killing her children from a "Law and Order" episode. Later it was determined that there was no such episode; it had been scripted but never produced.
 
After several weeks of testimony, the jury took all of four hours to find Yates guilty of murder. They decided she couldn't have been crazy because she had called 911 to report the childrens' deaths. Yes, this makes sense. A crazy person would have made up some story about intruders to avoid punishment.
 
So far, it appears that Deanna Laney has a weaker case than Yates's. Laney has no prior history of psychiatric illness, for example. Unless the defense can prove conclusively that Laney's brain had been taken over by evil alien worms, she'll be convicted.

Laney was arrested early Saturday after she called a 911 dispatcher and reported she had hit her sons over the head with rocks. She said that God had ordered her to kill her sons, according to Sheriff J.B. Smith.

"She was very calm, very peaceful," he told The Dallas Morning News.

The bodies of the two older boys were found in the front yard with bloody rocks on their chests, according to investigators. The youngest child was found in his crib with a skull fracture and a pillow over his head. Their mother was wandering in the back yard. ...

Gary Bell, pastor of the First Assembly of God and the defendant's brother-in-law, said the family was well-respected in the area.

"They were a model family, hard-working, very spiritual. But in a moment of passion, and weakness, it seems, this tragedy unfolded," he said. [UPI]

Yeah, that's it. It was "passion, and weakness." Character flaws. Schizophrenics should just get over it. (Please note that this is not a feminist issue; male schizophrenics get convicted and imprisoned for violent crimes at higher rates than women.)
 
Molly Ivins points out how enlightened compassion permeates the Texas legislature:
I think a special salute for clear thinking should go to the House for its amazing decision to cut the program that pays for medications for mentally ill people who are out of prison on probation or parole. Is this brilliant? Now these people will be wandering around the state without their meds. [Ivins, May 13]
And the moral is, if you're crazy, get the hell out of Texas.


In Association with Amazon.com

March 14, 2003
 
Neocons: Reality Is for Wimps
 
The Republican-controlled Senate (with significant Democratic support) has discovered it can alter the physical universe just by passing a law.
 
For example, last week the Senate passed a new "partial-birth" abortion ban that alters medical science:
Though the Supreme Court ruled a similar law in Nebraska unconstitutional in 2000, partly because it failed to include an exception to protect a pregnant woman's health, Senate and House sponsors believe they have solved that legal problem by including Congressional findings that the procedure is never warranted for health reasons.

"Partial-birth abortion is simply never medically indicated," said Senator Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio, who helped write the current bill. [Carl Hulse, "Lopsided Vote in Senate to Ban Type of Abortion," The New York Times, March 14, 2003]

Hey, don't stop there! Please make it so beer won't make me fat! Or maybe the Senate could outlaw idiots. But then there would be no Senate, huh?
 
Unfortunately the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that medical science doesn't work that way.

As stated in a 1997 Statement of Policy issued by ACOG's Executive Board, and in ACOG's amicus curiae brief filed in the Stenberg case, ACOG continues to find it disturbing that legislators would take any action that would supersede the medical judgment of a trained physician, in consultation with a patient, as to what is the safest and most appropriate medical procedure for that particular patient.

ACOG's 1997 Statement of Policy affirmed that position and explained why ACOG believes such legislation to be "inappropriate, ill advised, and dangerous." The policy statement noted that although a select panel convened by ACOG could identify no circumstances under which intact D&X would be the only option to protect the life or health of a woman, intact D&X "may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman, and only the doctor, in consultation with the patient, based upon the woman's particular circumstances, can make this decision." [Statement on So-Called "Partial Birth Abortion" Laws By The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, February 13, 2003

The doctors say that "partial-birth abortion" is a non-medical term that may or may not refer to a procedure kown as "intact dilatation and extraction" (D&X for short). But the anti-choice forces refuse to use the medical term, just as they refuse to acknowledge medical fact, so it's impossible to say precisely what is being banned. Our nation's "journalists" don't help much; in a review of several news articles on the Senate action  I found only one that attempted to explain what a D&X is.

So, I will explain it. Commonly, in a D&X procedure the physician delivers the lower part of the fetus and then collapses the skull before extracting the entire fetus. Anti-choice activists call this "partial birth" because the fetus is halfway out of the womb when it is killed.

This sounds nasty, but the alternative method for most second-trimester abortions is a "D&E," for dilation and evacuation, in which the fetus is dismembered in utero and the tissue removed through the birth canal in pieces. The language of the Senate bill may or may not ban D&E's also, but logically, you can't call a D&E a "partial birth" abortion.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the advantage of D&X over D&E in later abortions is that it may "minimize uterine or cervical perforation from instruments or from laceration by fetal parts. ... Intact D&X may minimize trauma to the woman's uterus, cervix, and other vital organs." [Link]

A physician might also remove the fetus by inducing labor, but the same JAMA article states "For second-trimester abortions, some physicians prefer D&E over labor-induction methods because D&E has a lower mortality rate, takes less time, is less expensive, can be done on an outpatient basis, and takes less of a psychological toll on some women because it does not imitate labor."

Now, the reader may be getting all huffy and thinking that these women shouldn't be gettin' no abortions, nohow. Anti-choice activists believe women in their eighth month of pregnancy routinely waltz into abortion clinics so they can fit into their party clothes for the weekend. However, the fact is that no one, not even the AMA or the CDC, is keeping a log of why every abortion is performed. So anyone who tells you why late abortions are performed is lying.

Even so, we know there are times when a the choice has to be made between the life of the fetus and the life of the mother. Conditions such as congestive heart failure, eclampsia, or out-of-control diabetes can make it impossible for a woman to carry to term and survive. And, unfortunately, if the decision to terminate a pregnancy is made before 24 weeks' gestation, you are terminating the life of the fetus, no matter how the termination is done.

Oh, but that's rare, you say. Yes, it is. But so is the D&X procedure, which is performed about 2,000 times a year in the United States, according to Alan Guttmacher. 2,000 times, out of 1.3 million abortions and more than 4 million live births -- and this is not figuring in miscarriages and stillbirths -- that's what, .03 percent? I'm not good with numbers, but that seems rare to me.

And as for those 8th-month abortions -- if they happen at all, they must be very rare. The same JAMA article already cited says, "The number of abortions performed after 26 weeks nationwide is estimated between 320 and 600."

No, I don't know that all these late procedures were medically necessary to save the life and health of the mother. But it's reasonable to assume that at least some of them were.

And even the stuffy old AMA admits to approving of D&X abortions in "cases of serious fetal anomalies incompatible with life," such as anencephaly. What they're saying is that the baby cannot survive outside the womb, no matter what. The Senators who voted for the "partial birth" ban should experience carrying a doomed baby to term. That's reality.

But perhaps they can outlaw anencephaly and Tay Sachs and eclampsia and rape and even bad hair. While they are at it, they should pass a law that says no babies will be killed in an Iraq war. They'd better pass that one soon.

Copyright 2003, 2004 by Barbara O'Brien

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