Robin Abcarian
Commentary, news and analysis
Here's a guy advocating death by hanging for women who have abortions

The other day I wrote about El Salvador’s extraordinarily harsh abortion laws, which have included murder convictions for women whose only crime was miscarriage. I noted that if you think such a thing could never happen here, you haven’t been paying attention.

For example, in Pennsylvania, a 39-year-old mother of three named Jennifer Whalen is serving a nine- to 18-month jail sentence for buying pills that induced an abortion in her pregnant 16-year-old daughter. She did not have a required prescription for the online purchase. In an interview with Emily Bazelon of the New York Times, Whalen said she had no idea she'd broken the law.

Having spent all of 2009 covering the battle over abortion in this country – a year that included the failed criminal prosecution of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller by the state of Kansas and his subsequent murder by an anti-abortion religious extremist – I can tell you for certain there are people in this country who would like nothing better than...

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New sex rules for California college students are long overdue

Last Thursday around 10 p.m., 21-year-old Sofie Karasek stood outside a frat house near the UC Berkeley campus, doing her part to prevent rape and sexual assault.

Karasek, a senior who is majoring in political economy, wasn't haranguing or protesting. She was conducting what she described as a "mini consent workshop." Before students were allowed to enter the party, which was thrown by campus Democrats, they first had to listen to her spiel.

“Cal Dems is working to create a culture of consent at our party tonight!” she told would-be partiers. “What does consent meant to you?”

“What are some ways to ask for consent?” she pressed. “What do you need consent for?”

A conversation like that could suck the fun right out of a college party, but Karasek told me it had the opposite effect. Last spring, when someone stopped her outside a student co-op party and asked similar questions, she said, “I felt so much more comfortable once I went inside.”

Karasek was thrilled Monday, when Gov. Jerry...

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When they would rather let you die than let you have an abortion

Have you ever wondered what a world without abortion might actually look like?

Let me amend that: There will obviously never be a world without abortion. Have you ever wondered what a world without legal abortion would look like?

If so, look no further than El Salvador, where abortion --all abortion --is not just banned but criminalized. On Thursday, Amnesty International released an extremely disturbing report, “On the Brink of Death: Violence Against Women and the Abortion Ban in El Salvador.”

The influence of an inflexible Catholic Church and the country’s archaic attitudes towards women’s rights have combined to make El Salvador one of the most antiabortion places in the world. Hard to believe, but it's even worse than Mississippi.

El Salvador is a place where 9-year-old girls impregnated by rape are forced to bear children, where women have no choice but to continue potentially deadly ectopic pregnancies, where women who have miscarriages are routinely accused of trying to abort...

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A history of abusive hazing won't stop Miss America from moving on

The mean girl won the beauty pageant. What a shock.

On Sept. 14 in Atlantic City, Kira Kazantsev became Miss America 2015. The contest featured nothing out of the ordinary: boobs, bikini butt glue and, of course, talent.

(Well, talent. Kazantsev sang the Pharrell Williams song “Happy” while sitting cross-legged on stage banging a single red cup on the floor. “I wanted every single little girl in America to be able to see that you ... can do whatever talent you want on national television -- even with a red cup -- and still be Miss America," she said later.)

Barely more than a week into her reign, Kazantsev, 23, has found herself buffeted by two controversies. Neither is as fabulous as the one that engulfed another Miss New York, Vanessa Williams, after she became the first African American to win the pageant in 1983. Then again, no Miss America has ever been quite as fabulous as Williams, who relinquished her crown after some “artistic” but explicit photos depicting lesbian sex...

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Did cartel threats really preempt protest for Marine jailed in Mexico?

It was the blockade that couldn't drive straight.

On Saturday, unknown numbers of Americans angry about the Mexican incarceration of former Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, illegal immigration and a bunch of other stuff, were supposed to drive to ports of entry between Mexico and the United States, turn off their engines and form a blockade.

Stasyi Barth, the 41-year-old Lake Elsinore housewife who dreamed up the protest pictured patriots stepping from their cars, waving American flags and forcing officials on both sides of the border to act. Nevermind the Mexican judicial system! Nevermind the intense debate about illegal immigration! Nevermind the billions already spent securing the border! 

This would show Washington, for once and for all that ... well, that some people are so darn mad they are willing to engage in acts of civil disobedience to make their point.

On her Facebook page, Shut Down All Ports, Barth demanded Tahmooressi’s immediate release, and the permanent sealing of the...

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Weird parallels between a single mom, a jailed Marine and Ray Rice

A driver carrying a legally registered gun crosses a border and is stopped by authorities. The driver, who is not trying to hide anything, volunteers that a gun is in the car. In the jurisdiction where the driver has been stopped, possessing such a weapon is illegal. Tough luck for the driver, who is arrested, carted off to jail, charged with violating gun laws and may spend years in prison.

Sound familiar?

I’m not talking about Andrew Tahmooressi, the 25-year-old Marine reservist who crossed into Mexico from San Ysidro last spring with three loaded guns in his truck and has been sitting in a Mexican prison ever since.

I’m talking about Shaneen Allen, a 27-year-old South Philadelphia mother of two who was arrested last October as she drove from her home to Atlantic City, where she planned to  celebrate her younger son’s third birthday.

Around 1 a.m., just outside of Atlantic City, she briefly drifted into another lane and was pulled over by a New Jersey state trooper. As she reached...

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Your parents whipped you and you turned out OK--like Adrian Peterson?

What, exactly, is the difference between knocking out a grown woman with a punch to the face and whipping a child until he bleeds?

Both are acts of brutality against relatively defenseless victims (even a grown woman is no match for a professional athlete in peak physical shape).

As we continue to digest the stories about two NFL running backs -- the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Rice, who beat his fiancee in an elevator, and the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson, who beat his pre-schooler with a switch--it’s been distressing to hear people roundly condemning Rice, yet trying to rationalize what Peterson did to his son.

After Peterson was charged with child abuse for using a switch to lacerate the thighs of his 4-year-old son, many people who should know better tried to trivialize the abuse.

“Whipping,” said former NBA star Charles Barkley, “we do that all the time. Every black parent in the South is going to be in jail under those circumstances.”

Others, like Mark Ingram of the New Orleans...

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LAPD and ACLU disagree about whether Daniele Watts had to show her ID

You’d really hate to think that the latest Los Angeles Police Department controversy turns on whether a pair of adult lovers were or were not having sex in their car in broad daylight. I’m pretty sure that people who decide to get down in a parked car do so because part of the thrill is knowing you could get caught.

Kids might see, which is gross. But worse, grownups might see and call the police, who might arrest you on suspicion of committing for lewd acts, or, if you are no longer engaged in anything that could be construed as a lewd act, they might demand your identification.

If you refuse to provide your ID, all hell might break loose.

I don’t know what actress Daniele Watts and her partner, chef Brian James Lucas, were doing in their car on Radford Avenue in Studio City last Thursday afternoon. They said they were making out. Someone who called the cops from a nearby office building said they were having sex.

Things escalated when Watts refused to identify herself to Los Angeles...

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A plan to bring a Marine home from Mexico by wreaking havoc at border

On Saturday, Sept. 20, if Stasyi Barth of Lake Elsinore has her way, border traffic from the Pacific Ocean to Brownsville, Texas, will grind to a halt, blockaded by Americans using their vehicles as barricades.

Barth is rallying folks who are mad as hell about a lot of things, not least of which is the incarceration and trial of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, the 25-year-old Marine reservist who was arrested in Mexico after he took a wrong turn and crossed the border with three loaded guns in his truck.

Barth, a 41-year-old married mother of three, is a former computer programmer who has been on disability for most of the last decade. She’s been stewing for years about illegal immigration, she told me, but Tahmooressi’s arrest and incarceration “kind of pushed it over the edge for me.” Through Facebook, she hooked up with Rob Chupp, an Indiana man who has been active in one of those rabid militia groups along the border, and together they’ve come up with a plan: “Shut Down All Ports.”

At...

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Domestic violence experts doubt this was Ray Rice's first assault

No wonder Janay Rice feels like she is living a nightmare.

Her football star husband was already paying a minor legal and public relations price for knocking her out in an elevator last February. The NFL, after an appallingly weak response, finally imposed a stringent new policy about domestic assault.

Just when the whole scandal seemed like it was about to blow over, TMZ posted a video of the assault on Monday. How that explosive footage had remained secret for seven months is a mystery.

But the images reignited the scandal, and the fallout has been intense. Ray Rice, who initially got a two-game suspension and a year of mandatory domestic violence counseling, is now facing a career implosion. The star running back has been cut by the Baltimore Ravens, suspended indefinitely by the NFL and dropped by Nike.

Tuesday on Instagram, Janay Rice posted an understandable howl of pain:

"I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I'm mourning the death of my...

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Good riddance to Ray Rice, whose domestic violence cannot be ignored

I don’t believe, as some have claimed, that watching that new elevator video where Ray Rice assaults his soon-to-be wife revictimizes her.

The release of the video is not a privacy violation; there should be no expectation of privacy in a public elevator. This was not a sex crime. She was not a minor.

Janay Palmer Rice is married to one of the country’s most celebrated running backs. The assault, at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City just before 3 a.m. on Feb. 15, occurred in a public place. It was already the subject of a torrent of public debate after TMZ obtained a video showing what happened in the moments after Rice delivered his knockout punch. We saw Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee from the elevator into a hallway. Happy Valentine's Day, darling.

Today, the world got the chance to see what actually happened in that elevator. If you can stand it, you should watch it. It’s important to know what we are talking about when we talk about domestic violence.

We are talking about a...

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Cheerleaders' wage-theft lawsuit to cost Oakland Raiders $1.25 million

Eight months after filing a groundbreaking, class-action wage theft lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders, two former Raiderettes cheerleaders have won a $1.25-million settlement from the team. The deal was announced today by attorneys for both sides, and is subject to court approval.

In January, the two former cheerleaders alleged that the Raiders broke a raft of state labor laws, including failing to pay minimum wage, withholding wages for months and refusing to reimburse cheerleaders for their business expenses.

In a sense, today's settlement, filed in Alameda Superior Court, is their second major victory.

The first came in July, when the Raiders tacitly admitted their sins and offered their new cheerleading squad a contract that nearly tripled their pay.

Instead of earning only $125 per game in a single paycheck delivered at the end of the season, Raiderettes will earn $9 an hour from now on, plus overtime, for the estimated 350 hours each cheerleader puts in each year, including...

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