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November 03, 1989 - Image 4

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Page 4

Friday, November 3, 1989

The Michigan Daily

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
420 Maynard St.
Vol. C, No. 43 Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.

Lexington woman speaks out on:


Political Prisoners

THE NICARAGUAN government has,
as it did in 1984, agreed to international
supervision for its general elections in
February, 1990. Former U.S. Attorney
General Elliot Richardson, the U.N.
observer in Nicaragua, praised the
scrupulous fairness with which the
elections were organized. In fact, the
only threat to fairness has come from
the U.S. sponsored contras, who -
during the month pf October alone -
closed down more than 50 voter regis-
tration centers, preventing thousands
from registering to vote (NYT
The success of the Sandinistas and
the fairness of the Nicaraguan electoral
process have scared Ortega's enemies.
Doubting the potential of the opposition
to win in a free election, the Bush
Administration has used every
stratagem in its arsenal to undermine
the elections it claims to believe in so
Economic muscle is not the only tool
wielded by the Bush administration in
their campaign to "de-democratize"
Nicaragua. Congressional leaders an-
nounced Friday they would continue a
$48 million aid package approved for
contra rebels this April. Although this
so-called humanitarian aid cannot be di-
rectly spent on weapons, it frees up
other money for this purpose. Contra
patrols striking from across the border
in Honduras have caused 3,700 deaths
during the ceasefire which has been in
effect these past 19 months. Much of
this activity has been aimed at disrupt-
ing the process of voter registration, as
evidenced by the two Sandinista politi-
cal organizers murdered October 25th
and the 19 reservists ambushed and
killed on their way to register October
:Significantly; the ceasefire was initi-
,ated largely to protect the integrity of
the elections. Because contra activity
continues nearly unchecked - the
killing of military personnel and civil-
ians associated with the Sandinistas is
evidence of this - contra rebels have
demonstrated that they are trying to sti-
fle the open debate necessary for the
electorate to make an informed deci-
sion. Disrupting elections is a standard
guerrilla tactic; but in sponsoring such
activity, the United States government
has discredited its entire rationale for
involvement in the region. Our so-
called struggle for democracy has be-
Some nothing more than a simple
struggle for power.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega
has promised the Nicaraguan people,
the Central American presidents, and
the entire international community that
his country will hold free, fair and
democratic elections on Feb. 25, 1990.
Regrettably, increased military activity
by the contras aimed at thwarting his
democratic efforts leaves him little
choice but to end the unilateral ceasefire
in order to protect his people. In yes-
terday's New York Times , Ortega ex-
plains this decision: "We do not con-
sider it an acceptable ceasefire when we
cease and the contras fire. For peace to
be achieved, the war itself must be
stopped. There is no other way to end
the war than to start immediately the
demobilization of the contras" (NYT
The most effective way to stop contra
attacks and insure democratic elections
is to fully implement the Tela Accords,
which called for the demobilization and
disarmament of the contras by Dec. 5.
President Bush's refusal to adhere to
the agreements of Central American
presidents make his pronouncements
about fairness and democratic process
appear questionable at best.
Already, the reluctant decision of
Ortega to respond to contra attacks has
been greeted with a storm of highly
charged anti-Sandinista rhetoric from
the Bush Administration and the U.S.
media. White House spokesperson
Marlin Fitzwater called the threat of a
November 1 offensive by the Sandin-
istas "an incredible affront to the
democratic principles that the Latin
American countries are here to cele-
brate." On Ortega's suggestion that he
would cancel the offensive if the U.S.
followed through on its agreement to
have the contras disarmed by December
5th, Fitzwater was strangely silent.
Bush's expressed outrage at Ortega's
decision to end the ceasefire agreed to
in Sapoa March 1988 rings false when
one considers how blatantly his contra
proxies have violated it during these
past few months.
The contras have no intention of dis-
arming by the December 5th deadline.
Apparently, they will continue to rav-
age the countryside and disrupt legiti-
mate political activity until the elections
next February. It is equally clear that
President Ortega has no choice but to
use military force to guarantee contra
terrorism will not make a shambles of
the democratic society he and so many
others fought 12 years to build.

By Susan Rosenberg
Picture an underground basement con-
taining 16 cells painted all white with no
natural light. Wire mesh covering all win-
dows making a view out impossible.
Eleven large rotating surveillance cameras.
Electronic gates controlled from a com-
mand center in another building. Constant
surveillance and controlled movement su-
pervised by specially trained prison guards.
Infrequent family visits. Two ten minute
phone calls a week that are recorded, tran-
scribed, analyzed and forwarded to other
law enforcement agencies for analysis.
Sexual intimidation and constant harass-
ment by male guards. Never more than
five women in this place. A psychological
prison (torture center) in Uruguay? A
scene from the film "A Clockwork Or-
ange?" NO! The U.S. Federal Bureau of
Prisons (BOP) High Security Unit (HSU)
at the women's federal correctional institu-
tion in Lexington, Kentucky, which
opened in October 1986.
The HSU was officially shut down on
August 15, 1988. During the almost two
years it was operational, it held three
women political prisoners: Alejandrina
Torres (a Puerto Rican Independentista and
Prisoner of War); Silvia Baraldini (an Ital-
ian national convicted of participating in
the 1979 prison liberation of Black Libera-
tion Army member Assata Shakur); and
myself, Susan Rosenberg (a north ameri-
can convicted of weapons possession).
The HSU symbolizes the U.S. govern-
ment's hypocrisy: while it claimed that it
had no political prisoners in its prisons,
the HSU was the first prison facility to be
used explicitly for this purpose. It was the
subject of militant opposition initiated by
the Puerto Rican Independence Movement
that included groups ranging from church
to radical women to lesbian activists. The
HSU was condemned by Amnesty Interna-
tional as "small group isolation", an in-
ternationally recognized form of psycho-
logical torture - and it was closed offi-
cially by a court ruling from the legal
By Solidarity

challenge in Baraldini v. Thornburgh.
Judge Barrington Parker concluded in his
decision, "It is one thing to place persons
under greater security because they have
escape histories and pose special risks to
our correctional institutions. But consign-
ing anyone to a high security unit for past
political associations they will never shed
unless forced to renounce them is a dan-
gerous mission for this country's prison
system to continue."
On September 8, 1989, the U.S. Court
of Appeals in Washington, D.C., over-
turned Judge Parker's decision.
The Appeals court held that the gov-
ernment is free to use the political beliefs
and associations of prisoners as a basis for
treating us more harshly and placing us
under maximum security conditions. Fur-
thermore, their ruling means that no court
can question or dispute the prison's deci-
sions even if those decisions explicitly in-
volve the prisoner's politics.
This legal precedent gives official sanc-
tion to the BOP to place political prison-
ers into control units. A control unit is a
prison block within a prison that isolates
prisoners. There is no movement in the
units, and they are designed to break the
prisoner through sensory deprivation and
control. The control unit is the U.S.
equivalent of the West German or British
"dead wings" or "white cells."
The Appeals court ruling will also effect
Marion penitentiary for men, where pris-
oners have been locked in their cells 23
hours a day for over five years. Marion has
also been condemned by Amnesty Interna-
tional, and it is also used as a control unit
for political prisoners and prisoners of
war. While Marion is supposedly a pun-
ishment facility, a growing number of po-
litical prisoners have been sent there di-
rectly from trial.
The new Lexington legal decision al-
lows the BOP to build more control units
and to carry out this "mission" against the
government's political opposition. All the
government has to do is label someone a
"terrorist" or a "security risk" and they can
be subjected to repressive conditions and

human rights violations. .
The BOP never acknowledged the con-.
demnation of the conditions at the HSU.:
They never complied with the original
court order enjoining them to transfer the
women held at the HSU. Instead, they.
built a new "maximum security" unit for
women inside the men's federal prison in
Marianna, Florida. The "mission" of the
BOP at Lexington will be carried on in a
slightly more palatable form at Marianna.
This "mission" is one part of the overall
program of the BOP to increase regimenta-
tion, control and repression against all
women in prison.
Since 1990, a growing number of
women have been arrested and given long
sentences for political actions against the
government. Now that the transfer of po-
litical prisoners to Marianna has been ap-
proved by the Appeals court decision, it is
just a matter of time before some, if not
all, are sent there.
The U.S. government continues to deny
that there are political prisoners in its
jails - just as it denies that there are deep
social problems within our society. Yet
the same government that hopes to make
it a crime against the state for women to
control our own bodies is also trying hard
to destroy women political prisoners, our
commitments and identities.
We will continue to resist. Your sup-
port will make a critical difference.
Susan Rosenberg is serving a 58 year sen-
tence for the possession of explosives.
She is a Doctor of Acupuncture who was a
pioneer in the use of traditional Chinese
medicine to treat drug addiction. Write to
her as follows: Susan Rosenberg;
#233412 1901 D Street, SE, Washington,
D.C. 20003. The political campaign that
was crucial in bringing the pressure to
close the IISU is needed again. For more
information contact the Washington Area
Committee for Political Prisoners'
Rights, P.O. Box 28191, Washington,
D.C. 20038; or Freedom Now! Campaign,,,,
for Amnesty and human Rights for Polit-
ical Prisoners in the United States, 5249
N. Kenmore, Chicago, Illinois 60640.

Throw away the locks

EIGHTEEN YEARS ago the New York
State Police stormed Attica prison. Fir-
ing dum-dum bullets and tear gas
canisters at prisoners armed with
tableware, the police killed 29 and
maimed hundreds.
Last week, at the close of an extraor-
dinary process of litigation, the sur-
vivors of the uprising and the victims'
families were awarded $1.3 million in
damages. The next day, the Attica
bloodbath was re-enacted at the state
prison in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
118 men - 12 guards, firefighters,
and police, and 106 prisoners - were
The Camp Hill prisoners rose up
after the warden told them that their
families could not bring them food
when they visited. That was the im-
mediate cause, but there were lingering
complaints of inadequate health care,
beatings by guards, and overcrowding.
Camp Hill was filled to 48 percent over
capacity - better than the 60 percent
average in the nation's 58 Federal pris-
Overcrowding is the problem. But in
the present terms of the debate about
what to do about it, a solution will not
be found. On Tuesday, the Detroit Free

Press ran a story with the headline
"Many inmates, too few cells." Had
they stopped to consider that there
might be "too many inmates," they
would have gone a long way towards
addressing the crisis.
Statistics show that the number of
prisoners has little to do with crime
rates: judges return more guilty verdicts
and longer sentences when they know
that convicts will have somewhere to
go. All jails that get built will get filled.
So the solution to overcrowding,
surprising as may it may seem, is to
stop building new prisons. Today no
one will claim that prisons can rehabili-
tate criminals. Prisons are holding
pens, packing men and women in cir-
cumstances so stifling and so inhumane
that they feel they have no other re-
course than to take over, at the risk of
their own lives.
Fighting alone, prisoners can never
win. Michigan will spend $1 billion on
prison construction this year. It is in
everyone's interest to oppose this, and
to demand that prisoners be released to
relieve the overcrowding that exists
now. If the spending does not stop,
there will be more Atticas, and more
Camp Hills.

Today, pro-choice activists must erode
the notion that abortion is a dirty little se-
cret. The termination of a pregnancy can
be a positive choice, one that enables
women to control their reproduction and
their lives.
If abortion becomes illegal once again
in the U.S., women will not stop having
abortions, but many, and especially work-
ing-class and poor women, will stop hav-
ing safe abortions. Before legalization, 49
per cent of all pregnancy related deaths in
New York were due to illegal abortions.
Fifty per cent of these women were Black,
and 44 per cent were Puerto Rican
(Coalition of women of color for reproduc-
tive health memorandum 2/26/89).
Today, abortion remains one of the
safest of all medical procedures. When
performed within the first trimester of
pregnancy - and over 93 per cent of all
abortions are - chance of death stands at
only one out of 400,000 (Against the Cur-
rent 7-8/89). Nevertheless, we must realize
that the preservation of Roe v. Wade -
the 1973 Supreme Court decision which
effectively legalized abortion in the U.S.
- is not in itself enough to guarantee
women reproductive choice.
A critical look at Roe v. Wade
Not the unconditional affirmation of
feminist principles that many women have
assumed it to be, Roe v. Wade instead ex-
ists as a compromise between a woman's
right to choose abortion and the state's
right to interfere with that choice. The de-
cision was not based on a woman's right
to control her own body and to make the
moral choices that responsibility entails.
Rather, the Supreme Court denounced the
principle that "the woman's right is abso-
lute and that she is entitled to terminate
h& pregnancy at whatever time, in what-
ever way, and for whatever reason she
alone chooses." As the Court insisted,
"With this we do not agree" (410 U.S.
113, emphasis added).
The Roe decision itself provides open-
ings for anti-choice activists. As Justice
Blackmun, the author of the majority deci-
sion, phrased it: [I]t is reasonable and ap-

propriate for a State to decide that at some
point in time another interest, that of
health of the mother or that of potential
human life, becomes significantly in-
volved. The woman's right to privacy is
no longer sole and any right of privacy she
possesses must be measured accordingly
(410 U.S. 113).
Sterilization abuse and abortion
Immediately following Roe, anti-choice
forces began mobilizing. The National
Conference of Catholic Bishops initiated
grassroots "Right-to-Life" groups. And
conservative politicians passed anti-choice
A 1973 amendment to the Foreign Aid
Bill, still in effect today,-specified that no
U.S. government money could be used
abroad for abortion devices or counseling.
This amendment immediately aroused fem-
inist concern that sterilization would re-
place abortion as the "birth control method
of last resort," and that sterilization abuse
would increase (Village Voice 3/1 1-
Today, one-quarter of all Native-Ameri-
can women have been sterilized, often
without their knowledge and certainly
without their consent. Afro-American
women are twice as likely to be sterilized
as white women. Medicaid continues to
fund sterilization, but only 13 states and
Washington, D.C. currently allow medi-
caid abortions. By 1975, both Republican
President Gerald Ford and Democratic can-
didate and soon-to-be President Jimmy
Carter opposed medicaid funded abortions.
The 1977 Hyde Amendment to the an-
nual appropriations bill for the Depart-
ment of Health and Human Services pro-
vided the precedent the 1989 Supreme
Court needed in order to prohibit public
hospitals and their employees from per-
forming abortions. The majority decisions
of the important federal cases which tested
the constitutionality of the Hyde Amend-
ment -- Beal v. Doe (432 U.S. 438
1977), Maher v. Roe (432 U.S. 464
1977), Harris v. McRae (448 U.S. 297
1980), and Williams v. Zbaraz (448 U.S.
358 1980) - all concluded that states
were not required to fund even medically
necessary abortions.

The overturning of the Hyde Amend-
ment may very well have transformed the
healthcare industry in the U.S. By arguin
that the poor have a right to medical
treatment they cannot afford, those in fa-
vor of maintaining medicaid funded abor-
tions implied the need for a nationalized
healthcare program. But the Supreme
Court insisted that medical care was not a
right to which the poor were entitled; in-
stead, the court presented medical care as a
gift from the government to the impover,
ished. "[T]he Hyde Amendment leaves an
indigent woman with at least the samo
range of choice in deciding whether to ob-
tain a medically necessary abortion as she
would if congress had chosen to subsidize
no health care cost 'at all" (Harris v.
McRae 448 U.S. 297 1980).
What's Next for the Abortion
The current feminist mobilization,
against the threat to legal abortion is ex-
citing. At the same time, however, the
fact that the women's movement did not
respond in full force when federal funding
for medicaid abortions was eroded suggests
that the feminist movement must be more
sensitive than it's been in the past to the
needs of poor and working-class women. If
we hope to build a multi-issued, broad
based movement, we must fight to provide
women control over the material circum-
stances of their lives. This means demand
ing not only the legal right to abortion"
but guaranteed access to abortion as well.
To insure that every woman is econom
ically and truly free to raise children either
by herself, with a male partner, or with
another woman, we must abolish the ster-
ilization abuse and economic exploitation
- low wages, inadequate childcare and in-
sufficient parental leave options - that
prevent women from exercising their right
to bear children. Women who opt for abord
tion out of economic necessity clearly do
not have the right to choose how they
want to live their lives. And it is in broad-
ening the definition of choice that abor-
tion rights activists face our biggest chal
Solidarity is an independent non-sectarian
socialist organization.


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