I love animals of all kinds.  I could sit and watch animal videos all day.   If I get the opportunity to watch them in real life, I am mesmerized.  On my way home last week, we spotted a family of deer in a pasture.  I literally stopped the car in the middle of the road to watch them. 

When I was a child my mom gave me the nickname “Ellie May”.  For those of you who don’t know that person, she is a fictional backwoods girl whose family struck oil and moved to California.  Any animal she spotted, she took home with her.

I caught a lot of grief from my mother on more than one occasion for wanting to rescue every stray dog and cat that came into our yard.  Hence, the nickname given to me.  I didn’t mind because I knew while they were in my care, they were fed and loved.

Animal lovers around the country are celebrating a new piece of legislation that is expected to make animal cruelty a felony.

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, which was sponsored by two Florida congressmen, would make extreme acts of animal cruelty a federal crime punishable by up to 7 years in prison.  The bill has received unanimous bipartisan approval.  The act will close a loophole that only made animal cruelty punishable under federal law if it was caught on film.  The bill does contain exceptions for normal veterinary care, hunting and conduct necessary to protect life or property.

The bill’s sponsors say it is necessary because animal welfare is an important policy issue and the idea of animal abuse is abhorrent.

While I fully support any law that punishes despicable individuals who abuse animals, it is concerning to me that legislators across the country don’t feel the same way about human life.

The state of New York recently passed the Reproductive Rights Act that supporters claim reaffirms women’s reproductive rights.

The new law removes the need for a doctor to perform abortions allowing nurse practitioners and midwives to do the procedure.  It removes abortion from the criminal code into public health law and legalizes it after 24 weeks if the woman’s life or health is at risk or if the fetus is not viable.

That means an abortion can be performed up until the time of birth.

Most women who have been pregnant will tell you they never called their child a fetus.  I’ve never heard any pregnant woman say her fetus is playing soccer in her tummy. From the moment you receive the news you are pregnant, it is a baby to most mothers. 

Allowing terminations at nine months is beyond reprehensible.  Doctors have made mistakes before in terms of whether the child could survive or not.

We all know abortions are legal and until that changes, whether or not the woman chooses to have one is between her and her maker.

I understand that legally it has no rights until it is born, but someone should be looking out for the child. The new law not only removed the restrictions on when abortions can be performed, it includes ending criminal charges for anyone harming children in the womb.  That means if someone intentionally harms a woman who is pregnant and the child is hurt or killed, they cannot be prosecuted.

This new legislation is nothing to celebrate when it leaves babies unprotected from those who would harm them.

A recent case in Arizona calls into question laws that should offer protection to another group of individuals.

A 29-year-old female who is described as “incapacitated” and required maximum level of care delivered a healthy baby in December.  The woman was in the care of an Intermediate Long Term Care Facility and had been there since the age of 3. 

These facilities provide nursing and supportive care for those who can’t care for themselves because of mental disability.

There was no way this woman could have given consent for sexual relations.

A licensed practicing nurse has been arrested and charged with sexual assault. 

The staff at the facility claims they did not know the woman was pregnant and the doctor who was supposed to be caring for her had not visited her in three years.

The Arizona Developmental Disability Planning Council conducted an investigation after the incident was reported. Their report found some of the most pronounced systematic shortcomings concerning the way state law treats vulnerable adults.

Facilities of this kind are allowed to operate without a state license.  This means they are not subject to licensing requirements and the state has no leverage to achieve compliance with any state laws.

A mandatory reporter is any person who has contact with vulnerable people such as children, disabled persons, and senior citizens.  They are legally required to ensure a report is made when abuse is observed or suspected.

Under the current Arizona law, it is considered a felony if a mandatory reporter does not report a case of child abuse.  However, it is a misdemeanor if a report is not filed about abuse of a vulnerable adult.  There is no reasonable explanation for the difference in the severity of the charges in regard to these two groups.

I think about my mother, who spent her final days in a nursing home.  Even though she was a strong woman, she became weaker and unable to care for herself.  The thought of anyone neglecting or abusing her is frightening and I would certainly want anyone who failed to report any abuse prosecuted.

Knowing that vulnerable adults and babies are given less protection than animals under the law is fundamentally wrong.

Yes we need laws to protect animals, but we certainly need a way to protect defenseless human beings.  If we don’t consider them worth at least the same protection as animals, then we are guilty of abuse.

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