I thought I would post the low down from the hoe down, for anyone who is interested.
As most of you know, I recently prepared for an appearance before The Ohio House of Representatives regarding House Bill 228, a proposal to ban all abortion in Ohio.
It was a crazy day at the Statehouse. Because of the large number of people, Chairman White decided to form two panels, giving each side a chance to make their best case. Planned Parenthood/NARAL formed one side, and a Pro Life group headed by Janet Folger represented the other.
Sadly, the people of Ohio were left out of the debate.
Below is the series of correspondence that evolved. Its will take a few min. To read, but it proves that democracy CAN work:
Mr. Chairman and members of The House Health Committee,
I am an Ohio citizen, who attended yesterdays hearing on HB 228. Like
many of your constituents, I spent weeks preparing my written testimony.
This was a deeply personal and emotional exercise for many of us, as we
struggled to find the words we needed, and the courage to express them
I prepared a powerful 8 minute speech, but was advised to "keep it under 6
minutes." After the edits, I was then told a 3 minute cap would be enforced
because of the large number of people who planned to testify.
When I reduced my testimony to fit the time limit, it lost all of the
supporting arguments necessary for an effective persuasion speech.
I can not begin to express my frustration over this feeling of being
stifled by my elected leaders. I felt muzzled, and desperate to be heard,
not for my own sake, but for the next generation of Ohio women who will be
affected by this type of legislation.
I noted with dismay the fact that the people were not heard. The "panels"
chosen consisted of PAC organizations that both have big dollars at stake.
Planned Parenthood relies on federal funding, and the "life groups" use the
issue to generate millions of dollars in fund raising, not to save children,
but to control elections.
Janet Folger is not even an Ohio resident. Ms. Folger moved to Fort
Lauderdale, Fla., in 1998 to become national director of the Center for
Reclaiming America, an advocacy group of Coral Ridge Ministries, a
multimedia evangelical organization.
According to Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian
Coalition, "Janet is an example of what I like to think of as an issue
entrepreneur. Some entrepreneurs try to figure out what the new hot stocks
are. Janet is an ideological entrepreneur, someone who tries to pick the hot
This woman is a ringer, supported by religious extremists; a paid
professional who makes her living by exploiting hot button issues. She even
used the time of this committee to promote her book!
Why is it that this Florida woman got to dominate the entire morning
session with no time limit on her Christian evangelizing, while Ohio
residents were locked out of the debate and sent to the atrium overflow
Shame on you for giving her unlimited time on the floor while ignoring the
voices of real Ohio voters.
Kelley Bell, a constituent from Powell, Ohio
P.S. I commend representatives Redfern, Smith, Brown, DeBose, and
Reidelbach for their insightful questions and commentary.
Thank you for your study of this issue, and for supporting the rights of
A Pro Choice Democrats response:
Dear Ms. Bell:
I thank you for expressing your disappointment with the HB 228 proceedings on Tuesday, June 13, 2006. Your view on representative democracy is insightful and well received within this caucus. If you approve, I would like to forward your e-mail to the media. I think its time the media learn about the general publics disgust with the proceedings and its lack of a true public forum. Please reply promptly because I believe we need to strike while the issue is still hot. I look forward to your response. Thank you.
Legislative Aide, to
State Representative Michael DeBose, District 12
A Pro Life Republican response:
----- Original Message -----
From: Peterson, Jon
Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 9:53 AM
Subject: [SPAM] District 02 Auto Reply
Thank you for your recent email. Due to the high volume of emails this
office receives, we will give priority to constituents of the 2nd Ohio House
District (Delaware County). For this reason, it is important that you
include your full name and mailing address in your correspondence. If it is
an emergency, please contact this office at 614-644-6711. Thanks again for
Ohio House of Representatives
2nd House District
Dear Rep. Peterson,
My message was signed:
"Kelley Bell, a constituent from Powell, Ohio"
For your information: Powell, Ohio IS in the 2nd Ohio House District
As an experienced representative, I am shocked that you do not know your own
"Powell is located at 40°N, 83°W . The city sits between the
Scioto and Olentangy Rivers, about fourteen miles north of the state capital
of Columbus, centered on the intersection of state highway routes 315 and
Considering the sensitive nature of the debate regarding HB228, I am
offended by your response. My e-mail provided you with enough information
to know what voting district I represent, what my stand is on the issue, and
how to contact me.
Your rude brush off has been duly noted.
Kelley Bell, a constituent from Powell, Ohio
We receive thousands of emails and you are the first to complain
about the auto-response. Most compliment our office on wanting to focus on
serving our constituents and using this technology to assist us in that
Our office is among the busiest in the House (next to the Speaker) and we
pride ourselves on constituent relations. We are sorry your first
experience with our office was a negative one.
(Former Powell resident)
From: Kelley Bell
To: Peterson, Jon
Subject: Re: [SPAM] District 02 Auto Reply
Thank you Sir.
I truly appreciate your reply. It seems that even a generic auto response
can be seen as dismissive in regard to this issue.
What this reveals is a history of small indignities suffered by women
and minorities. It is an infectious wound, slow to heal, and hyper
sensitive to even the slightest touch.
It is imperativeitive that we use our legislature to move forward, as a nation
that values diversity, and shows respect for all Americans, regardless of
gender, race, or religious belief, and work together to heal these old
I thank you for extending the olive branch in that regard.
Below is an essay on the matter that might be of interest.
Abortion: Over Easy, Please
By Kelley Bell
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
The answer depends on your perspective, of course.
If you look to the dictionary, chicken precedes egg. The chicken came
Unless of course you define a chicken as a hen, then the egg came first.
If we ask the question from a creationist point of view, the answer is
unknowable, as the creator could have made either one first.
The evolutionary perspective, tells us the first hen must have been a
mutation of some other avian life form, which laid the egg that hatched the
first chicken. Scientifically speaking, the egg undoubtedly came first.
So when does the egg become a chicken? Is it a chicken when it hatches, or
is it a chicken while it is still an egg? I don't know about you, but I have
never been offered a barbecued egg, or a hard boiled chicken. An egg is not a
chicken. If you don't believe me, ask your grocer.
On the issue of abortion, the three minute question boils down to this; when
does an embryo become a human being?
The pro-life advocates say that life begins at conception. When the sperm
and egg connect, the result is a human life that will eventually grow into a
baby, a child, and an adult. It is living tissue, with a complete set of
DNA, and is therefore a living human being worthy of protection under the
During an Ohio House of Representatives hearing on the issue, I heard a
Jewish Rabbi explain the Talmud teaching of a man who hit his wife in the
stomach, causing a miscarriage. "This was not murder," explained The Rabbi,
"because the fetus within her did not yet have a soul." He said that the
soul enters the body when the child is born. The fetus was indeed living
tissue, with the potential to become a human being, but according to Jewish
law, it is not a human being until it has a soul.
Buddhists, Taoists and other Asian philosophies teach us that "breath is
life." When a baby comes into the world and takes that first breath,
something miraculous happens, something indefinable. It is no longer an
egg in the process of cell division, absorbing nutrients from the host. At
the moment of birth, it crosses over into our world as a viable life form of
its own. It breathes life.
Clearly, when we explore the soul, and the processes of life and creation,
we have crossed over from the realm of science, into the realm of religion.
This is key, for here in The United States, we are a pluralistic democracy.
The very foundation of our government is based on the premise of freedom of
religion. To enforce one religious viewpoint over others is against the
principles for which we stand.
I empathize with the religious perspective that life begins at conception,
and I understand the pain these people feel due to their beliefs
about the beginning of human life. From their theological perspective,
abortion is murder. I understand that. But we do not all share the same theology, and our constitution demands we confine our laws to show respect for all
It is also of great social concern that we recognize the subjugation of
women in relationship to this one religious belief. When women are shamed
for abortion, when they feel guilt or remorse, or feelings of depression and
suicide, these feelings stem from religious teachings regarding abortion. Such complications only occur as a medical side effect of religiously based guilt, promoted through graphic protests, pulpit pounding, and social pressure within the
What the religiously motivated Pro-Criminalization advocates need to understand, is the vital importance of our right to freedom of religion is in this country. They need to comprehend the slippery slope they are asking us to tread when they lobby to enforce their beliefs as law. If we allow one interpretation of faith to become the rule of law, we are no longer a democracy, but a theocracy; A theocracy that
We sent our children to Afghanistan to die in the name of democracy and
freedom. Yet we are so blinded by our own beliefs, that we do not see our
nation is walking the exact same road. The leaders of The Taliban do not
see themselves as evil. They see themselves as moral men, devoted to
enforcement of theocratic law, as handed down from Abram, to his sons Isaac
and Ishmael, who then spread those teachings, to Mohammed, and the twelve
tribes of Israel. Muslims, Christians and Jews are all practicing
variations of the same religion. The only thing that sets us apart from one
another is our interpretation of those teachings. As Americans, our
constitution decrees that no one interpretation can take precedence over
another in matters of law. This ideal is what we stand for, what we fight
for, and what we must sacrifice for, even in the case of abortion.
Do we support our constitution, and the freedom of religion on which this
great nation was founded, or would we be better off as a theocratic nation
The chicken or the egg question may seem like a silly children's riddle, but
no matter how you scramble it, in reality, it asks us to explore and all the
secular, scientific and religious philosophies of creation and lawmaking.
Would you like a side of Taliban with your eggs? Not me thanks. That's too
hard to digest. I'll take mine over easy, please.
Response from Rep. Peterson:
Kelley, thank you for sharing the essay - very insightful. As a seminary student, I was particularly interested in the perspectives of other faith traditions on this issue. Shame on me, but I had not taken the time to do research in this area on my own.
Thank you again,
I dont know if he will change his vote, but at least he's thinkin.