Yanukovich’s House – War in Ukraine

Today I attempted to enter Yanukovych’s house even though it is indefinitely closed by the government. They want to investigate what was found there and make preparations to turn it into more of a museum for those interested. It took an hour to drive there and I spent twenty minutes trying to get let in. Other people also came and argued with the guards – even when we tried together, the answer was still ‘no’… Under the old government, you could do and get almost anywhere even if it was against the law. The most common ways were name-dropping, bribing and threatening.

Access Denied was made possible thanks to the grant I received from the Prague Freedom Foundation to report on the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution in March 2014.

Today I attempted to enter Yanukovych’s house even though it is indefinitely closed by the government. They want to investigate what was found there and make preparations to turn it into more of a museum for those interested. It took an hour to drive there and I spent twenty minutes trying to get let in. Other people also came and argued with the guards – even when we tried together, the answer was still ‘no’.

I was very disappointed because I wanted to see the house I read so much about. But on my way home I realized that there is something very positive about what happened today. Under the old government, you could do and get almost anywhere even if it was against the law. The most common ways were name-dropping, bribing and threatening.

But the new government made bribes strictly illegal. This new law is constantly mentioned on news and radio stations. People are doing what they can to be as different as possible from the old government. Even less important laws are being taken extremely seriously. People finally want change and are actively making it a reality.

I still have a hard time imagining Ukraine functioning completely without bribes. In the past even going to the doctor used to require it. Healthcare stayed free even after Communism ended, but if you wanted a guarantee that the doctor would examine you properly you needed to bring: chocolates, alcohol and money as “a friendly gesture”.

I will still try to make phone calls to see if there’s any legal way for me to get into the house, but what I witnessed today showed me that Ukraine really is changing.

Here’s an article with pictures and a video of his house: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2568468/The-spoils-corruption-The-opulent-valuable-downright-gaudy-artefacts-former-home-ousted-Ukrainian-president-Viktor-Yanukovich.html

Originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/access-denied/

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

The Right Sector – War in Ukraine

“We need unity of the Ukrainian nation,” he answered when I asked him about what the next step should be for Ukraine. He said that the propaganda spread by Russian Television has caused people living in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Crimea to hate Ukraine, Ukrainians and Ukrainian. The Right Sector doesn’t see Ukraine divided into 1st class Ukrainians and 2nd class Ukrainians, “to us they are all the same,” he says. The party has been accused of igniting violence at the protests and its members have been called neo-Nazis.

The Right Sector was made possible thanks to the grant I received from the Prague Freedom Foundation to report on the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution in March 2014.

Today I spoke on the phone with Artem Skoropadsky, the spokesperson for the Right Sector in Ukraine. The party has been accused of igniting violence at the protests and its members have been called neo-Nazis. I was not present at the protests so I am in no position to agree or disagree with these accusations. What I can do is state a few solid facts about the paramilitary party and summarize my interview with Skoropadsky.

The Right Sector was founded by Dmytro Yarosh after the protests began in late November 2013. The right-wing coalition uses the same red and black flag originally belonging to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army or UPA. UPA was also accused of being fascist when they fought Nazis and Communists during World War II and after. The Right Sector is definitely nationalistic and has publically announced that they believe that the Regional and Communist parties should be banned – but so have ordinary people with no affiliation to the party.

The Right Sector is also commonly accused of being against speaking Russian in Ukraine, but that was the language that Skoropadsky answered his phone in. He also answered my first question in Russian, and only switched to Ukrainian once he realized that I understand it better.

“It is incorrect to say that the Right Sector created a revolution, it was ordinary people who created the revolution,” explained Skoropadsky when I asked him about the role of the Right Sector at Maidan. But he went on to say that “the Right Sector was the main driving force of the revolution” and they were not afraid to take responsibility for what occurred at Maidan.

“We need unity of the Ukrainian nation,” he answered when I asked him about what the next step should be for Ukraine. He said that the propaganda spread by Russian Television has caused people living in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Crimea to hate Ukraine, Ukrainians and Ukrainian. The Right Sector doesn’t see Ukraine divided into 1st class Ukrainians and 2nd class Ukrainians, “to us they are all the same,” he says.

Talking to one person, especially a politician isn’t enough to get the full picture. However I agree with his emphasis on the importance of unity, and what he said about seeing all Ukrainians as being the same didn’t sound fascist to me at all. I am hoping to speak with some of these ordinary people who according to Skoropadsky created the revolution to get more opinions on the Right Sector.

This was originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-right-sector/

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Parliamentary Frustration – War in Ukraine

The deputies were all dressed professionally but not everyone acted the way they looked. Voices were raised, speeches were booed and disrespected and people talked over each other. This can be excused because we are all human and our emotions take over sometimes. But what really surprised me was the lack of initiative that spread through the room as time passed like a common cold…

Parliamentary Frustration was made possible thanks to the grant I received from the Prague Freedom Foundation to report on the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution in March 2014.

I had never been to a parliamentary session before, and I had certain expectations. I imagined everyone being very professional and calm, working together at a brisk pace to get bills and laws passed (especially in an urgent situation like this). This was not what happened.

The deputies were all dressed professionally but not everyone acted the way they looked. Voices were raised, speeches were booed and disrespected and people talked over each other. This can be excused because we are all human and our emotions take over sometimes. But what really surprised me was the lack of initiative that spread through the room as time passed like a common cold.

I was only there for the first 6 out of 10 hours, but I saw people’s energy begin deteriorating after the first hour. When I went down for lunch 3 hours into the session, there were at least 10 deputies eating, ignoring the repeated message over the speakers asking them to “return to the room to vote on a very important matter”.

It got worse after they voted for the main matter of the day. Electing the new judges for the Constitutional Court seemed to be a secondary issue on some deputies’ minds – many just seemed to be there to promote their political parties. An hour after they cast their votes, the session leader had to announce that a technical problem had occurred with the voting process. At first, I assumed that “technical” meant that the machine counting the votes was wrong… Turns out a large number of deputies didn’t mark their ballots correctly: twenty-five of them made incorrect check-marks, whatever that means.

This caused more yelling, finger pointing and accusing those who made mistakes of sabotage. As I was leaving, deputies were being summoned once again to return to their seats to vote – but it did not start over until an expert was called forward to explain to all the deputies how to properly check off boxes on the ballot.

One outraged deputy took the mike saying that even the most elderly village-folk know how to vote, and maybe one of them should be called in to teach the esteemed politicians how to do it. This followed with the leader of the session pointing out how embarrassing and damaging this is to Ukraine. Another vote was done and finally, four judges were elected.

It was a long day for everyone. Just look at those deputies. Jokes aside, Ukraine has 450 deputies so it’s no surprise that not everyone agrees and that coming to an agreement can take a very long time. Especially at times like this when they are stressed and under more pressure and scrutiny from the public than ever before.

Originally published: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/parliamentary-frustration/

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Hanna Herman – War in Ukraine

“It is clear that the deputies here today don’t want Ukraine to split apart, for half of Ukraine to fall away.” As I listened to the deputies in Verkhovna Rada, Hanna Mykolayivna Herman really stood out to me. She is a member of the Party of Regions and Vice Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and International Relations. Until recently she was also very close to Yanukovich and acted as his advisor since January 2013.

Hanna Herman was made possible thanks to the grant I received from the Prague Freedom Foundation to report on the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution in March 2014.

“It is clear that the deputies here today don’t want Ukraine to split apart, for half of Ukraine to fall away.” As I listened to the deputies in Verkhovna Rada, Hanna Mykolayivna Herman really stood out to me. She is a member of the Party of Regions and Vice Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and International Relations. Until recently she was also very close to Yanukovich and acted as his advisor since January 2013.

She had supported Yanukovich since she became his spokeswoman Prime Minister in 2004. But after he fled but still announced himself as the legitimate president, she ceased speaking to him and for him. She remains a member of the Regional Party but her ideals are shared by many deputies from a variety of political parties. She received a lot of supportive applause at the parliamentary session on March 13th and she got a lot of attention from the press.

She stressed that Ukraine must show the world that it is strong and must act on what is happening. “We need to look for protection within Ukraine instead of externally.” Herman believes that the international community will lose interests in helping Ukraine if they see that Ukraine isn’t trying to help itself and if it’s perceived as weak.

Her other important point was that the government must finally answer certain questions to prove to the people that the government can be trusted. These questions include:

Who really shot at the people at Maidan?
Who really poisoned Yushchenko?
Who really killed Georgiy Gongadze?

“If you as the new government won’t give answers to (these questions), then it means that they were staged. It means that all of this can’t be believed,” Herman says. She also believes that deputies in the parliament shouldn’t be allowed to work simultaneously in the executive branch of the government. Working for both leads to corruption and doubt about the legitimacy of the bills passed. “We must understand, that if we are building a law-abiding nation, we cannot begin building it by breaking the law.”

There is a really great English-language website that explains the backgrounds of deputies and other Ukrainian politicians and shows all the promises they made and whether they were or weren’t fulfilled. Here’s the link to her profile (please note that her name is spelled differently based on whether it is translated from Ukrainian or Russian) http://en.slovoidilo.ua/person/German-Anna-Nikolaevna.html

This was originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/hanna-herman/

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Waiting to Board – War in Ukraine

Several minutes before boarding and there are more people than I expected to see flying to Ukraine today. The English language TV briefly showed updates regarding the situation in Ukraine but very few people were paying attention. The people waiting around me are mostly Russian-speaking holders of the blue Ukrainian passport but there are also several Czechs. Right next to me, two boys are looking at a Lego castle. One of the boys, no older than 10 looks over at his mothers tablet as she is reading about news in Kiev commenting that the information might not be true. Even kids understand the corruption and violence that has been occurring in our country.

Waiting to Board was made possible thanks to the grant I received from the Prague Freedom Foundation to report on the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution in March 2014.

Several minutes before boarding and there are more people than I expected to see flying to Ukraine today. The English language TV briefly showed updates regarding the situation in Ukraine but very few people were paying attention. The people waiting around me are mostly Russian-speaking holders of the blue Ukrainian passport but there are also several Czechs.

Some Czechs seem to be on their way to visit family or go on holiday, while another, clearly a businessman is speaking on the phone in accented but impressive Russian. The most Ukrainian I’ve heard among all these people has been a mother using a Ukrainian word here and there while speaking Russian with her kids.

This language phenomenon is not new or surprising – however what does surprise me is the choice to revoke Russian from being Ukraine’s second official language. Although I personally prefer speaking Ukrainian, I understand and accept that Russian is preferred by many Ukrainian citizens and they should have the right to speak it.

Right next to me, two boys are looking at a Lego castle that their parents bought them joking about the flag being Ukrainian and the battle scene depicted on the box being Maidan. One of the boys, no older than 10 looks over at his mother’s tablet as she is reading about news in Kiev commenting that the information might not be true. Even kids understand the corruption and violence that has been occurring in our country.

Originally published here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/waiting-to-board/

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

February 18th, 2014 Witness – War in Ukraine

This evening I met with Galika Olena Ivanivna. This 62-year-old woman with the energy and spirit of a college student was standing in Mariinsky park on February 18th. That day she saw like-minded people of all ages being shot at and murdered right in front of her. She was helpless and couldn’t stop it. It’s been almost a month since and she had trouble keeping her voice steady as she spoke about what she saw. She hasn’t been back to the park or Maidan since.

February 18th Witness was made possible thanks to the grant I received from the Prague Freedom Foundation to report on the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution in March 2014.

This evening I met with Galika Olena Ivanivna. This 62-year-old woman with the energy and spirit of a college student was standing in Mariinsky park on February 18th. With a Russian mother and Ukrainian father, Galika did not feel patriotic about Ukraine until the Orange Revolution in 2004. Like the other protestors, she was sick of the government robbing the people who work hard every day.

That day she saw like-minded people of all ages being shot at and murdered right in front of her. She was helpless and couldn’t stop it. It’s been almost a month since and she had trouble keeping her voice steady as she spoke about what she saw. She hasn’t been back to the park or Maidan since.

Before the violence started, she described being at Maidan as “being in a different world where everything was perfect.” There was a sense of unison between the protesters, who were joined together by a common goal of “protecting the people, the future and democracy.” The protesters at Maidan would work together to keep the square safe from pickpockets and those who wished them harm. Every Sunday when the priests would come to lead prayer, they would gather together and make the area spotless and clean. “After leaving Maidan one would feel pumped with so much positive energy.”

She is concerned with the future of Ukraine but insists that “Crimea will be ours.” She is not sure who the future president will be, and she isn’t sure that Ukraine is ready to make that decision just yet. But she is certain that Maidan has now changed how people think and see the government. According to her, they will not step down until a worthy and fair leader is governing the country that so many had died to keep sovereign and free.

Originally posted here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/feb-18th-witness/

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Warning, graphic images:

Before Abortion: 24 Hours of Choice

With abortion clinics in Ohio shutting down, there is concern. Once no abortion clinics exist in a state, women are forced to get abortions in other states. If they cannot afford to do this, they are more likely to turn to illegal, dangerous and potentially fatal procedures. The government is now requiring hospitals to perform vaginal ultrasounds on all women who want to terminate their pregnancies, whether they need one or not. Vaginal ultrasounds are an intrusive and emotional procedure for the patient, involving a hand-held probe penetrating the vagina. “Having no control over such a procedure is almost like…” said Mary, waiting for somebody else to finish her sentence with the word ‘rape’.

Before Abortion 24 Hours of Choice won Prague Freedom Foundation‘s Excellence Award. It was written during the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

Gynecologists know perfectly well when an abdominal ultrasound is not enough and a vaginal ultrasound is necessary. With the new regulations in Ohio, however, that control goes to the politicians, explains Mary, a nurse at the Akron Women’s Medical Group. She asked to keep her surname private in fear of the protestors who attempt to gather contact information of the staff in order to harass them. She is upset that the government is now requiring hospitals to perform vaginal ultrasounds on all women who want to terminate their pregnancies, whether they need one or not. Vaginal ultrasounds are an intrusive and emotional procedure for the patient, involving a hand-held probe penetrating the vagina.

“Having no control over such a procedure is almost like…” said Mary, waiting for somebody else to finish her sentence with the word ‘rape’.

“Women come here at their most vulnerable,” she said.

Mandatory vaginal ultrasounds are one of the new additions to the controversial “24-hour law” first introduced in 2006. Although abortion is legal in the state of Ohio, the government keeps adding new laws, making it harder for women to terminate their pregnancies. During a 24-hour period, the patient is presented with all her options and – according to some – pressured into keeping the baby.

“Women come in here knowing less than they did 15 years ago,” said Mary whose clinic performs up to 45 abortions during their busiest weeks. The state now requires that hospitals perform vaginal ultrasounds as part of the routine examination that an abortion-seeking woman must undergo. Through this procedure, a nurse is required to take a picture of the fetus and show it to the woman. The patient is also forced to see her fetus’ heartbeat, provided it is detectable at that stage.

Kathleen Clyde, member of the Ohio House of Representatives opposes these new restrictions. “The legislature should not be asserting itself into the doctor’s office…,” she said. “Forcing women to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound is outrageous.”

Clyde fears that if the situation deteriorates, low-income women could see some “very scary things.” Before abortion was first legalized in 1973, women risked many health dangers when they had illegal abortions. Both sides agree that the design of the law succeeds in revealing whether the woman is being coerced into having an abortion against her will – but the effectiveness and purpose of the law add even more debate to an already controversial topic.

Part of the problem is the sensitive terminology of what it means to be “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” In general, those who oppose abortion and support the new provisions call themselves pro-life. Those who instead fight for a woman’s right to decide whether an abortion is a right choice for her are pro-choice. This, however, is often misleading. The way some see it, some people on the pro-choice side push for abortion more than they do for all the other choices that women have.

“To me, this is pro-abortion and not pro-choice because one choice is considered less than the other,” said Kelly Shinners, a nurse at Bulter Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. “Abortion is just one of those choices.”

Shinners’ goal is to make women of all backgrounds, financial situations and education levels understand all their choices. She doesn’t want them to believe abortion is their only choice because that is not what being pro-choice means.

Jaime Miracle, the policy director at NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, refers to the other side as ‘anti-choicers.’ Miracle thinks the 24-hour law is ineffective and believes that once a woman is already in the clinic, her mind is made up.

“This is another example of the anti-choice [movement:] not understanding these women’s decision-making process,” said Miracle. According to her, the values of ‘pro-choice’ mean more than just the abortion issue of pregnancy. From her point of view, it’s about having quality medical care (including contraception) and about having one’s family the way they want it to look.

Extremists exist on both sides of the debate. The most passionate ones take their views to the sidewalks outside abortion clinics. The protesters aren’t usually hostile, although security guards are preventatively summoned as a safety measure and to comfort the women. By law, people have the right to protest peacefully on the sidewalk. Recently, on Jan. 29th, two peaceful protesters stood with their signs, sniveling while bundled up against the sub-zero temperature. They were fighting for their opinion to be heard in front of the Akron Women’s Medical Clinic, and simply handed out pamphlets with information about different kinds of abortion and contraception which outlined all of the options available to women. The pamphlet cites several post-abortion symptoms, including ‘using drugs or alcohol more than before.’ The protestors pleaded: “Contact a pregnancy center. God bless you.”

These pregnancy centers – found in most cities, especially near universities – aren’t always praised for their work, however. Their fliers advertise their services as having ‘no judgment, no pressure and no politics.’ They can be found in abundance at police stations, schools, hotels and various waiting rooms. But not everyone believes that the message they are spreading among young women is accurate.

In order to investigate this suspicion, NARAL Pro-Choice League decided to investigate the truth of their advertisements in a two-year undercover study. As their policy director, Miracle explained that their goal was “to experience what the women would experience.”

The results were shocking. Half of the undercover patients were not pregnant and went in to get tested – when their tests came back negative, most centers did not endorse birth control but instead told them about abstinence. Those who were pregnant and asked for advice were often given false information that linked abortion to breast cancer and dementia – some were even told the story of a woman who claimed that ‘abortion turned her into a crack-head whore.’ Upon receiving these results, NARAL began fighting for pregnancy centers to advertise their services correctly.

Other centers of seemingly objective information, such as Planned Parenthood branches, are also facing intense criticism. Kayla Smith, legislative director at Ohio Right to Life, accuses Planned Parenthood of being a “business making hundreds of thousands of dollars out of these women’s abortions.”

Planned Parenthood, the leading provider of information about contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and abortion, is often accused of only offering two options: becoming a parent or having an abortion. According to Smith, it often pressures women to have abortions. They often come to high schools to present information to students. For many, they are considered the neutral source of information. But not for Smith. She believes that the 24-hour law is a better source of information. “Even if it saves one life it is effective,” she said.

Misha Barnes, the managing director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood, believes the organization to be a quality healthcare provider. She joined the organization after being a patient there herself.

“I don’t consider myself pro-choice or pro-life,” she said. She supports policies that allow people to make their own decisions about their lives and get educated about all their options, including parenting, adoption and abortion.

“We support them in whichever decision they make,” said Barnes. According to her, Planned Parenthood also gives their patients time to think it through. Even if a woman comes in wanting an abortion straight away, she is told all of her options and is scheduled for a consulting appointment where she receives more information and signs a consent form. Only after that does the 24-hour period take place. Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio is a non-profit health care provider that receives government funding. The funding is for family planning services, STD testing and sexuality education – not for abortions.

With all this plentiful – if often conflicting – information being thrown at female patients facing a difficult decision, the 24-hour law has the potential to be a great source of facts, especially for younger women. But abortion clinics might soon see another hurdle. A new “transfer-agreement” requires abortion clinics to have a formal agreement with a hospital to take on patients in case of abortion complications, even though it is agreed that abortion complications are very rare. The new provision excludes public hospitals from being able to participate in the agreement and as many as three abortion clinics have been shut down because of it. There are three potential concerns with the transfer agreement. First, those hospitals that are formally against abortions will refuse any agreement requests, hence lowering the number of clinics for women to turn to. Second, some people fear this agreement is going to become a platform for influential individuals within the hospital who hold pro-life ideals. And third, hospitals might fear negative publicity. Especially with economic problems looming over the country, it is easier and safer for them to stay out of the abortion debate.

With abortion clinics in Ohio shutting down, there is concern that Ohio is going in the direction that Mississippi found itself at this time last year. The government began threatening to shut down the last abortion clinic in the state last January. Once no abortion clinics exist in a state, women are forced to get abortions in other states. If they cannot afford to do this, they are more likely to turn to illegal, dangerous and potentially fatal procedures.

Bridget Harrison, policy adviser for Speaker William Batchelder at the Ohio House of Representatives, emphasized that she could not speak for the legislators who are promoting anti-abortion laws’ long-term goal. But she did say, “I think that the ultimate goal of people who are pro-life is to completely eliminate abortions.”

Maisie Crow, photographer and multimedia producer, made a movie about the clinic in Mississippi called The Last Clinic. It demonstrates the struggles that the clinic faces as well as people arguing for and against its closing. She worries that we are going back to the times when women were dying because of illegal abortions. “It’s shocking to me that we might return to that,” she said. “I’ve met women who have aborted no matter what the law is.” Crow considers herself pro-choice and believes that women need to have access to health care and have the option to consider what is best for them.

Although religion is at the center of the abortion debate, even the church does not deliver a consistent message. Churches like the Unitarian Universalist Church consider themselves pro-choice.

Reverend Richard Pentello from St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kent, Ohio, a priest for 35 years, refers to abortion as ‘unfortunately an option’ in today’s society. The Catholic Church sees a fetus as a life, not just as a cluster of cells, and they believe that all life is valuable “from the moment of conception until natural death.” Although he respects the rights of women, he does not believe that “those rights supersede the right to life.” He and the church understand that there are various circumstances but believe it important for the option of adoption to be considered. Despite the church’s strong pro-life opinion, Pentello said that women who opted to get abortions for whatever reason can still go to heaven as long as they are truly sorry and seek forgiveness.

”Those who violate the dignity of life, like abusers and terrorists, are left in the hands of God,” he said.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Maisie Crow – ‘The Last Clinic’

Maisie Crow made a movie about the last abortion clinic in Mississippi that is under the threat of being shut down. In the movie she managed to capture on film exactly what I want to capture on paper – a story about abortion from both the pro-choice and pro-life sides. Although she is open about being pro-choice, she has a good relationship with the pro-lifers at the abortion clinic because she spent an equal time with them as she did the other side. Her movie was even shown in a church.

Maisie Crow – ‘The Last Clinic’ was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by  Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

I thought I was done collecting sources for my final project when Lance gave me a flier for a presentation in Franklin Hall by someone called Maisie Crow. He said that she was doing something involving abortion. When I Googled her later that day, I found out that she made a movie about the last abortion clinic in Mississippi that is under the threat of being shut down.

I was immediately interested and decided to go to the presentation, but I wasn’t expecting to be inspired. Maisie looked like one of the college students and was just as short as me. She was given very impressive introductions by two staff members at Kent that I actually knew, Thor and David. She herself didn’t say much because she wanted us to watch the movie first. Her passion and determination for her project was obvious right away when she stopped the movie a few minutes in because the speakers had a weird buzz and she wanted her movie to be presented at its best.

In the movie she managed to capture on film exactly what I want to capture on paper – a story about abortion from both the pro-choice and pro-life sides. Although she is open about being pro-choice, she has a good relationship with the pro-lifers at the abortion clinic because she spent an equal time with them as she did the other side. Her movie was even shown in a church.

She is continuing her story and wants to develop her 45 minute movie into a full length feature film and she is extremely devoted to sharing this story. After the presentation I had to line up with a bunch of other people who wanted to talk to her. I was excited when it was my turn and I told her a bit about my project in Ohio and we exchanged information. Because she was leaving at 10AM we didn’t have time to meet in person but we did spend about 30 minutes on the phone talking about abortion, our projects and life in general.

I got a quote from her for my paper and we promised to stay in contact. It is amazing what Maisie has accomplished and I think we can all learn from her. I look forward to watching her other videos and sharing my paper with her once I am finished. It is amazing finding people who are successful yet levelheaded and who inspire you to do what you love and to use it to make a difference in the world.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

How to Make Freedom Idiot-Proof

Every foreigner knows the U.S. for being the “land of the free and home of the brave”. Although the U.S. government avoids ratifying many specific human rights treaties they are still one of the top countries when it comes to upholding their citizen’s human rights. Free people living or traveling in the land of the free should be free to choose to be dirty and bacteria-ridden if they chose so to be. Granted, I haven’t been able to find an Amendment to fit this particular crime against human rights, but I feel violated anyway…

How to Make Freedom Idiot-Proof was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

Every foreigner knows the U.S. for being the “land of the free and home of the brave”. Although the U.S. government avoids ratifying many specific human rights treaties they are still one of the top countries when it comes to upholding their citizen’s human rights. Freedom is a huge theme in America and everyone always talks about what their rights are, and they are quick to speak up when their human rights are being abused.

Maybe I should learn to speak up, too. Let me try.

Spending ten days in Ohio, I’m here to report that I’ve seen many public signs that violate basic human rights found in the U.S. Constitution. Some of them are hilarious, if you ask me. The very first Amendment, for example, is breached in most libraries across the country. How can one exercise their right to free speech when they read signs that demand ‘Library Silence’. I was shushed at in a university library the other day when trying to express a scholarly thought – not only was my right of free speech violated but in the shock of the experience robbed me of my intellectual property – that’s a double right violation right there. See what I mean? And that’s not all.

Another set of signs that violates our basic human rights begins with signs prohibiting people from littering. Every time we are not allowed to throw our burger wrapper or coffee cup on the ground because there’s a sign saying ‘Do not litter. Use the bins provided.’ we are forced to go out of our way to dispose of our trash which takes away from our precious free time and wastes our energy that could be used for more productive activities like watching TV – this sounds very much like involuntary servitude, to which the only exception is as punishment for a crime. So if you’re not a criminal, you are being cheated out of yet another human right. I protest!

Finally, it is frustrating to see signs demanding that people wash their hands along with a description of how to do it – these signs that are seen most commonly in restaurants, schools and hospital bathrooms. Free people living or traveling in the land of the free should be free to choose to be dirty and bacteria-ridden if they chose so to be. Granted, I haven’t been able to find an Amendment to fit this particular crime against human rights, but I feel violated anyway. As if a bathroom door or mirror has any right to dictate any man, woman or child’s level of cleanliness. I protest again!

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t protest too much. After all, the second Amendment allows citizens to keep and bear arms…

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.