Thursday, March 4, 2010

Castle Doctrine vs. Body Temple

Late last year, I learned about Castle Doctrine laws on an episode of Dan Rather Reports. Coming from the saying "A man's home is his castle," Castle Doctrine laws give people the right to use deadly force against trespassers. Needless to say, these laws are quite controversial. Even the former president of the National Rifle Association, Marion Hammer, who started the Castle Doctrine effort in the state of Florida, believes that the law might go too far in some cases. According to the NRA, there are 24 states with Castle Doctrine Laws (as of February 2010). Many of the states with these laws are conservative states that really love their guns, and it seems to be seen as more of a gun rights issue than a property, privacy, or human rights issue (I believe it's a bit of all of these).

I'm with Marion Hammer on the Castle Doctrine laws, in that using deadly force should be legal when protecting one's life and body, but not to protect one's property. There are gray areas in such situations, like when someone breaks into your house in the middle of the night; you don't know if someone is there to hurt you or steal your stuff, and no one wants to take any chances there. But the Castle Doctrine laws got me thinking about abortion laws, which I will call Body Temple laws, from the saying "My body is a temple." Like I said before, a lot of the states that have Castle Doctrine laws are red states, and I was curious to find out about their abortion legislation. So I headed over to NARAL's site to check it out.

Texas: Gets an F from NARAL for requiring biased counseling and parental consent laws. Their Castle Doctrine law doesn't specifically mention property, but deadly force can be used against a trespasser without the owner's life being threatened.

Alabama: Also gets an F from NARAL for the same reasons Texas does. Alabama also has an unconstitutional ban on abortion that cannot be enforced. Their Castle Doctrine law has been changed to scrap a "duty to retreat" measure, meaning the person doesn't have to try to get away before using deadly force. It is assumed that the person's life and body are in danger if someone intrudes their home, workplace, vehicle, or anywhere else they have a right to be.

Florida: Gets a D from NARAL for having an unconstitutional ban on abortion, biased pre-abortion counseling, and parental consent laws. Furthermore, a Florida legislator was "led by the Lord" to file a bill that would make abortion a felony punishable by a life sentence in prison. Florida's Castle Doctrine law is quite strong. Victims of intrusion on one's property are given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to using deadly force against trespassers, meaning the law assumes that every intruder on a person's property is there to cause bodily harm or death. There is no duty to retreat, and the person who uses deadly force against an intruder cannot be prosecuted.

Idaho: Another F from NARAL for having the same restrictions on abortion as Alabama. Additionally, Idaho prohibits private health insurance companies from covering abortion. I think they should get an F- for that one. Their Castle Doctrine law allows the use of deadly force to defend one's body and life.

Nebraska: Also gets an F from NARAL for parental consent laws, health insurance restrictions, and refusal to provide reproductive health services. Their Castle Doctrine law is being held up in committee, but if passed, it would allow the use of firearms and deadly force against intruders to protect oneself and others.

South Dakota: Not surprisingly at all, South Dakota gets an F from NARAL for having probably every anti-abortion measure on the books. South Dakota also tried twice, unsuccessfully, to ban abortion in almost all cases. State Senator Bill Napoli went so far as to redefine rape to take into consideration the woman's sexual history, religion, and in which body part she was penetrated. The same Mike Rounds who signed the eventually overturned abortion bans signed into law Castle Doctrine legislation that permits people to use deadly force against someone to protect their property from theft and injury. Property injury? Didn't think there was such a thing.

I think you get the point I'm making here. I'm not about to go through all 24 states Castle Doctrine and Body Temple laws here, but you certainly can check them all out. You might even want to perform a statistical analysis to see the correlation. But it seems pretty clear to me that there are a lot of states that allow you to kill someone for trespassing on your property or when you believe your bodily integrity, life, or even the prettiness of your property is at stake. In some states, people are trusted that they were truly in danger when they kill an intruder. They are given immunity and don't have to prove that they were in danger. In essence, they can get away with murder as long as they say the trespasser was trying to hurt them, as long as there's no compelling evidence disputing that claim. They don't even have to run away, or try everything they can to avoid getting hurt, before using deadly force. They are given the benefit of the doubt, because these laws place petty thieves on the same level as cold-blooded murderers.

So why does a woman have to go through a counseling session or "think about it" for 24 hours before having an abortion? Why are there so many restrictions on a woman using -- and I'll use some inflated anti-choice rhetoric here to make my point -- deadly force against an embryo or fetus who is using her body without her permission? If a young woman in South Dakota can kill a trespasser who's on her property to spray paint "Murdering whore" on her car, why does that same young woman have to get permission from her parents or receive biased counseling or wait 24 hours before having an abortion, to get rid of an embryo that's using her body against her will? Why aren't these women given that same benefit of the doubt, that they seriously considered all other options before making the final decision to have an abortion? Seems like property has more rights in some parts of the country than women, and it's extremely disturbing.

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