In this week's Rights Review, local and national civil liberties news overlap in a big way — from politicians playing politics with women's health, testing the very limits of free speech and the troubling tale of brainwashing Carl Levin.

Next Friday, be sure to check out the fascinating documentary After Stonewall at the Kalamazoo Civil Liberties Film Fest. Only two chances remain to indulge in dinner and a movie with our Southwestern branch, so purchase your tickets today.

Michigan News

Another Attack on Women's Health

Two months into the legislative session and our state Senate is already playing politics with a woman's right to choose.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 160, an extreme measure prohibiting a rarely used, yet medically necessary abortion method includes no exception of a woman's health and is already banned by federal law.

“Although we believe that such laws are bad for women and prevent doctors from practicing the safest and best medicine, this bill is unnecessary because of our federal laws,” said our legislative director Shelli Weisberg in an article for the Michigan Messenger.

This bill is only part of a national attack on women's health care. On February 18, the House of Representatives passed an amendment that would eliminate all federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

This would virtually eliminate reproductive health care access in poor communities,  including vital counseling, education, and preventive health screenings.

Banning Funeral Protests Stifles Free Speech

In 2009, U.S. Army Veteran Lewis Lowden and his wife Jean were paying their respects to a close family friend and comrade who had died in Iraq.

While driving in the funeral procession, police forced them out of the motorcade and arrested the couple for the political stickers on their van..

The couple were charged with violating a Michigan law forbidding protests at funerals, one of many state laws passed in response to the controversial Westboro Baptist Church protest.

“Laws that are created to stifle unpopular speech, which is what the law in Michigan was created to do, always end up backfiring and punishing innocent people.” says our staff attorney, Dan Korobkin.

This week in a related case, the Supreme Court agreed that the even hurtful speech must be protected in order to preserve public debate. 

Brainwashing Carl Levin?

In a strange piece of national security news, Rolling Stone recently reported a general in Afghanistan commanded his Information Operations (IO) cell to use psychological manipulation techniques on congressional delegations visiting his base - including Michigan senator Carl Levin.

The ACLU thinks everyone should be concerned by attempts to brainwash our representatives.

If the report is verified, this violation strikes at the ability of Congress to make well-informed decisions as our representatives. Confusing, concealing or altering the information provided to Congress and the public cannot be accepted if we are to preserve our democratic values.