The Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
“You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom."
Doctors for Assange Statement
Doctors to UK: Assange Extradition
‘Medically & Ethically’ Wrong
Ahead of the U.K. Home Secretary’s decision on whether to extradite Julian Assange to the United States, a group of more than 300 doctors representing 35 countries have told Priti Patel that approving his extradition would be “medically and ethically unacceptable”.
In an open letter sent to the Home Secretary on Friday June 10, and copied to British Prime Minster Boris Johnson, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland, the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, the doctors draw attention to the fact that Assange suffered a “mini stroke” in October 2021. They note:
“Predictably, Mr Assange’s health has since continued to deteriorate in your custody. In October 2021 Mr. Assange suffered a ‘mini-stroke’… This dramatic deterioration of Mr Assange’s health has not yet been considered in his extradition proceedings. The US assurances accepted by the High Court, therefore, which would form the basis of any extradition approval, are founded upon outdated medical information, rendering them obsolete.”
The doctors charge that any extradition under these circumstances would constitute negligence. They write:
“Under conditions in which the UK legal system has failed to take Mr Assange’s current health status into account, no valid decision regarding his extradition may be made, by yourself or anyone else. Should he come to harm in the US under these circumstances it is you, Home Secretary, who will be left holding the responsibility for that negligent outcome.”
In their letter the group reminds the Home Secretary that they first wrote to her on Friday 22 November 2019, expressing their serious concerns about Julian Assange’s deteriorating health.
Those concerns were subsequently borne out by the testimony of expert witnesses in court during Assange’s extradition proceedings, which led to the denial of his extradition by the original judge on health grounds. That decision was later overturned by a higher court, which referred the decision to Priti Patel in light of US assurances that Julian Assange would not be treated inhumanely.
The doctors write:
“The subsequent ‘assurances’ of the United States government, that Mr Assange would not be treated inhumanly, are worthless given their record of pursuit, persecution and plotted murder of Mr Assange in retaliation for his public interest journalism.”
“Home Secretary, in making your decision as to extradition, do not make yourself, your government, and your country complicit in the slow-motion execution of this award-winning journalist, arguably the foremost publisher of our time. Do not extradite Julian Assange; free him.”
Julian Assange remains in High Security Belmarsh Prison awaiting Priti Patel’s decision, which is due any day.
Recently I’ve started working with the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee. On March 17, Ruchell turned 83. He’s been imprisoned for 59 years, and now walks with a walker. He is no threat to society if released. Ruchell was in the Marin County Courthouse on August 7, 1970, the morning Jonathan Jackson took it over in an effort to free his older brother, the internationally known revolutionary prison writer, George Jackson. Ruchell joined Jonathan and was the only survivor of the shooting that ensued. He has been locked up ever since and denied parole 13 times. On March 19, the Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee held a webinar for Ruchell for his 83rd birthday, which was a terrific event full of information and plans for building the campaign to Free Ruchell. (For information about his case, please visit: www.freeruchellmagee.org.)
Below are two ways to stream this historic webinar, plus
• a petition you can sign
• a portal to send a letter to Governor Newsom
• a Donate button to support his campaign
• a link to our campaign website.
Please take a moment and help.
Note: We will soon have t-shirts to sell to raise money for legal expenses.
Here is the YouTube link to view the March 19 Webinar:
Here is the Facebook link:
Sign the petition to Free Ruchell:
Write to Governor Newsom’s office:
No one ever hurt their eyes by looking on the bright side
Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale
U.S. Air Force veteran, Daniel Everette Hale has recently completed his first year of a 45-month prison sentence for exposing the realities of U.S drone warfare. Daniel Hale is not a spy, a threat to society, or a bad faith actor. His revelations were not a threat to national security. If they were, the prosecution would be able to identify the harm caused directly from the information Hale made public. Our members of Congress can urge President Biden to commute Daniel's sentence! Either way, Daniel deserves to be free.
Sign the petition:
If extradited to the United States, Julian Assange, father of two young British children, would face a sentence of 175 years in prison merely for receiving and publishing truthful information that revealed US war crimes.
UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled that "it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America".
Amnesty International states, “Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”
Human Rights Watch says, “The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”
The NUJ has stated that the “US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists & their ability to protect their sources”.
Julian will not survive extradition to the United States.
The UK is required under its international obligations to stop the extradition. Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty says: "Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense."
The decision to either Free Assange or send him to his death is now squarely in the political domain. The UK must not send Julian to the country that conspired to murder him in London.
The United Kingdom can stop the extradition at any time. It must comply with Article 4 of the US-UK Extradition Treaty and Free Julian Assange.
Laws are created to be followed
by the poor.
Laws are made by the rich
to bring some order to exploitation.
The poor are the only law abiders in history.
When the poor make laws
the rich will be no more.
—Roque Dalton Presente!
(May 14, 1935 – Assassinated May 10, 1975)
 Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.
“In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper
A film by Kenneth A. Carlson
Teaser is now streaming at:
Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022
“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com
Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”
That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.
Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.
For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.
The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.
New Legal Filing in Mumia’s Case
The following statement was issued January 4, 2022, regarding new legal filings by attorneys for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
In her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
With continued pressure from below, 2022 will be the year that forces the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philly Police Department to answer questions about why they framed imprisoned radio journalist and veteran Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have filed a Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition focused entirely on the six boxes of case files that were found in a storage room of the DA’s office in late December 2018, after the case being heard before Judge Leon Tucker in the Court of Common Pleas concluded. (tinyurl.com/zkyva464)
The new evidence contained in the boxes is damning, and we need to expose it. It reveals a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority by the prosecution, including bribery of the state’s two key witnesses, as well as racist exclusion in jury selection—a violation of the landmark Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky. The remedy for each or any of the claims in the petition is a new trial. The court may order a hearing on factual issues raised in the claims. If so, we won’t know for at least a month.
The new evidence includes a handwritten letter penned by Robert Chobert, the prosecution’s star witness. In it, Chobert demands to be paid money promised him by then-Prosecutor Joseph McGill. Other evidence includes notes written by McGill, prominently tracking the race of potential jurors for the purposes of excluding Black people from the jury, and letters and memoranda which reveal that the DA’s office sought to monitor, direct, and intervene in the outstanding prostitution charges against its other key witness Cynthia White.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed and convicted 40 years ago in 1982, during one of the most corrupt and racist periods in Philadelphia’s history—the era of cop-turned-mayor Frank Rizzo. It was a moment when the city’s police department, which worked intimately with the DA’s office, routinely engaged in homicidal violence against Black and Latinx detainees, corruption, bribery and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions.
In 1979, under pressure from civil rights activists, the Department of Justice filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Philadelphia police department and detailed a culture of racist violence, widespread corruption and intimidation that targeted outspoken people like Mumia. Despite concurrent investigations by the FBI and Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and dozens of police convictions, the power and influence of the country’s largest police association, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) prevailed.
Now, more than 40 years later, we’re still living with the failure to uproot these abuses. Philadelphia continues to fear the powerful FOP, even though it endorses cruelty, racism, and multiple injustices. A culture of fear permeates the “city of brotherly love.”
The contents of these boxes shine light on decades of white supremacy and rampant lawlessness in U.S. courts and prisons. They also hold enormous promise for Mumia’s freedom and challenge us to choose Love, Not PHEAR. (lovenotphear.com/) Stay tuned.
—Workers World, January 4, 2022
Pa. Supreme Court denies widow’s appeal to remove Philly DA from Abu-Jamal case
Abu Jamal was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder of Faulkner in 1982. Over the past four decades, five of his appeals have been quashed.
In 1989, the state’s highest court affirmed Abu-Jamal’s death penalty conviction, and in 2012, he was re-sentenced to life in prison.
Abu-Jamal, 66, remains in prison. He can appeal to the state Supreme Court, or he can file a new appeal.
KYW Newsradio reached out to Abu-Jamal’s attorneys for comment. They shared this statement in full:
“Today, the Superior Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider issues raised by Mr. Abu-Jamal in prior appeals. Two years ago, the Court of Common Pleas ordered reconsideration of these appeals finding evidence of an appearance of judicial bias when the appeals were first decided. We are disappointed in the Superior Court’s decision and are considering our next steps.
“While this case was pending in the Superior Court, the Commonwealth revealed, for the first time, previously undisclosed evidence related to Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case. That evidence includes a letter indicating that the Commonwealth promised its principal witness against Mr. Abu-Jamal money in connection with his testimony. In today’s decision, the Superior Court made clear that it was not adjudicating the issues raised by this new evidence. This new evidence is critical to any fair determination of the issues raised in this case, and we look forward to presenting it in court.”
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?
By Michael Moore—VIA Email: email@example.com
American Indian Movement leader, Leonard Peltier, at 77 years of age, came down with Covid-19 this weekend. Upon hearing this, I broke down and cried. An innocent man, locked up behind bars for 44 years, Peltier is now America’s longest-held political prisoner. He suffers in prison tonight even though James Reynolds, one of the key federal prosecutors who sent Peltier off to life in prison in 1977, has written to President Biden and confessed to his role in the lies, deceit, racism and fake evidence that together resulted in locking up our country’s most well-known Native American civil rights leader. Just as South Africa imprisoned for more than 27 years its leading voice for freedom, Nelson Mandela, so too have we done the same to a leading voice and freedom fighter for the indigenous people of America. That’s not just me saying this. That’s Amnesty International saying it. They placed him on their political prisoner list years ago and continue to demand his release.
And it’s not just Amnesty leading the way. It’s the Pope who has demanded Leonard Peltier’s release. It’s the Dalai Lama, Jesse Jackson, and the President Pro-Tempore of the US Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy. Before their deaths, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu pleaded with the United States to free Leonard Peltier. A worldwide movement of millions have seen their demands fall on deaf ears.
And now the calls for Peltier to be granted clemency in DC have grown on Capitol Hill. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the head of the Senate committee who oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has also demanded Peltier be given his freedom. Numerous House Democrats have also written to Biden.
The time has come for our President to act; the same President who appointed the first-ever Native American cabinet member last year and who halted the building of the Keystone pipeline across Native lands. Surely Mr. Biden is capable of an urgent act of compassion for Leonard Peltier — especially considering that the prosecutor who put him away in 1977 now says Peltier is innocent, and that his US Attorney’s office corrupted the evidence to make sure Peltier didn’t get a fair trial. Why is this victim of our judicial system still in prison? And now he is sick with Covid.
For months Peltier has begged to get a Covid booster shot. Prison officials refused. The fact that he now has COVID-19 is a form of torture. A shame hangs over all of us. Should he now die, are we all not complicit in taking his life?
President Biden, let Leonard Peltier go. This is a gross injustice. You can end it. Reach deep into your Catholic faith, read what the Pope has begged you to do, and then do the right thing.
For those of you reading this, will you join me right now in appealing to President Biden to free Leonard Peltier? His health is in deep decline, he is the voice of his people — a people we owe so much to for massacring and imprisoning them for hundreds of years.
The way we do mass incarceration in the US is abominable. And Leonard Peltier is not the only political prisoner we have locked up. We have millions of Black and brown and poor people tonight in prison or on parole and probation — in large part because they are Black and brown and poor. THAT is a political act on our part. Corporate criminals and Trump run free. The damage they have done to so many Americans and people around the world must be dealt with.
This larger issue is one we MUST take on. For today, please join me in contacting the following to show them how many millions of us demand that Leonard Peltier has suffered enough and should be free:
President Joe Biden
E-mail: At this link
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Attorney General Merrick Garland
E-mail: At this link
I’ll end with the final verse from the epic poem “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet:
I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
PS. Also — watch the brilliant 1992 documentary by Michael Apted and Robert Redford about the framing of Leonard Peltier— “Incident at Oglala”
Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Department of Labor
For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Thursday, January 20, 2022
(202) 691-6378 • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.bls.gov/cps
(202) 691-5902 • PressOffice@bls.gov
In 2021, the number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions continued to decline (-241,000) to 14.0 million, and the percent who were members of unions—the union membership rate—was 10.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The rate is down from 10.8 percent in 2020—when the rate increased due to a disproportionately large decline in the total number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The 2021 unionization rate is the same as the 2019 rate of 10.3 percent. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.
These data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. For further information, see the Technical Note in this news release.
Highlights from the 2021 data:
• The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.9 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.1 percent). (See table 3.)
• The highest unionization rates were among workers in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). (See table 3.)
• Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.6 percent) than women (9.9 percent). The gap between union membership rates for men and women has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. (See table 1.)
• Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
• Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 83 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($975 versus $1,169). (The comparisons of earnings in this news release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.)
• Among states, Hawaii and New York continued to have the highest union membership rates (22.4 percent and 22.2 percent, respectively), while South Carolina and North Carolina continued to have the lowest (1.7 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively). (See table 5.)
Industry and Occupation of Union Members
In 2021, 7.0 million employees in the public sector belonged to unions, the same as in the private sector. (See table 3.)
Union membership decreased by 191,000 over the year in the public sector. The public-sector union membership rate declined by 0.9 percentage point in 2021 to 33.9 percent, following an increase of 1.2 percentage points in 2020. In 2021, the union membership rate continued to be highest in local government (40.2 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers.
The number of union workers employed in the private sector changed little over the year. However, the number of private-sector nonunion workers increased in 2021. The private-sector unionization rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in 2021 to 6.1 percent, slightly lower than its 2019 rate of 6.2 percent. Industries with high unionization rates included utilities (19.7 percent), motion pictures and sound recording industries (17.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (14.7 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.2 percent), professional and technical services (1.2 percent), food services and drinking places (1.2 percent), and insurance (1.5 percent).
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2021 were in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). Unionization rates were lowest in food preparation and serving related occupations (3.1 percent); sales and related occupations (3.3 percent); computer and mathematical occupations (3.7 percent); personal care and service occupations (3.9 percent); and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (4.0 percent).
Selected Characteristics of Union Members
In 2021, the number of men who were union members, at 7.5 million, changed little, while the number of women who were union members declined by 182,000 to 6.5 million. The unionization rate for men decreased by 0.4 percentage point over the year to 10.6 percent. In 2021, women’s union membership rate declined by 0.6 percentage point to 9.9 percent. The 2021 decreases in union membership rates for men and women reflect increases in the total number of nonunion workers. The rate for men is below the 2019 rate (10.8 percent), while the rate for women is above the 2019 rate (9.7 percent). (See table 1.)
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2021 (11.5 percent) than White workers (10.3 percent), Asian workers (7.7 percent), and Hispanic workers (9.0 percent). The union membership rate declined by 0.4 percentage point for White workers, by 0.8 percentage point for Black workers, by 1.2 percentage points for Asian workers, and by 0.8 percentage point for Hispanic workers. The 2021 rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics are little or no different from 2019, while the rate for Asians is lower.
By age, workers ages 45 to 54 had the highest union membership rate in 2021, at 13.1 percent. Younger workers—those ages 16 to 24—had the lowest union membership rate, at 4.2 percent.
In 2021, the union membership rate for full-time workers (11.1 percent) continued to be considerably higher than that for part-time workers (6.1 percent).
In 2021, 15.8 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union, 137,000 less than in 2020. The percentage of workers represented by a union was 11.6 percent, down by 0.5 percentage point from 2020 but the same as in 2019. Workers represented by a union include both union members (14.0 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.8 million). (See table 1.)
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,169 in 2021, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $975. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, these earnings differences reflect a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region. (See tables 2 and 4.)
Union Membership by State
In 2021, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 10.3 percent, while 20 states had rates above it. All states in both the East South Central and West South Central divisions had union membership rates below the national average, while all states in both the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions had rates above it. (See table 5 and chart 1.)
Ten states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2021. South Carolina had the lowest rate (1.7 percent), followed by North Carolina (2.6 percent) and Utah (3.5 percent). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2021: Hawaii (22.4 percent) and New York (22.2 percent).
In 2021, about 30 percent of the 14.0 million union members lived in just two states (California at 2.5 million and New York at 1.7 million). However, these states accounted for about 17 percent of wage and salary employment nationally.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on 2021 Union Members Data
Union membership data for 2021 continue to reflect the impact on the labor market of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Comparisons with union membership measures for 2020, including metrics such as the union membership rate and median usual weekly earnings, should be interpreted with caution. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 led to an increase in the unionization rate due to a disproportionately large decline in the number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The decrease in the rate in 2021 reflects a large gain in the number of nonunion workers and a decrease in the number of union workers. More information on labor market developments in recent months is available at:
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
By Rebekah Boitey, June 12, 2022
Ms. Boitey recently completed 11th grade at Jack Britt High in Fayetteville, N.C.
Thousands marched in cities across the country to condemn mass shootings and to call for federal legislation to restrict the use of military-style weapons. Credit...Hilary Swift for The New York Times
I never feel comfortable returning to school after hearing about another shooting. I feel immense sadness, intense anger and fear. School shootings are no longer unimaginable or incomprehensible, but common and anticipated. I am 17, and many school shootings have occurred throughout my lifetime, yet I’ve seen no significant change. Instead of passing stricter gun laws, politicians have proposed armed teachers, and designing schools with a single exit.
I don’t sit in the front of the class, not because it makes me an easy target for my teacher’s attention, but because it makes me an easy target for the shooter. I worry that I’ll go to the bathroom at the wrong time and get stuck in the hallway as classroom doors lock and gunshots ring. I worry that instead of binging YouTube videos about D.I.Y. notebook and locker decorations I should have been watching how to turn my textbook into a chest plate.
My high school has multiple counselors that I have found to be incredibly supportive, and my school district has implemented the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System developed by Sandy Hook Promise. But without legislative changes, these programs can only do so much.
I ache for change. Children are being killed in classrooms that are supposed to prepare them for a future. I am angered that lawmakers continue to allow these shootings to happen, and that some even make it easier for them to occur. Adults have abandoned us, the responsibility of protecting ourselves has been passed on to us. We’re told to run in a zigzag pattern to avoid getting shot, and survivors are praised for having the ingenuity to cover themselves with their classmate’s blood. I can’t simply accept this as the way things must be.
The strongest feeling I have is desperation. Because I have felt this way many times before. I was 7 when Sandy Hook happened; 12 when I participated in my school’s walkout after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Now, entering 12th grade, I mourn the children killed at Robb Elementary, and beg that something finally be done.
After the shooting in Uvalde, Times Opinion reached out to students across America to find out how we were affected by it and what, if anything, would help us feel safer at school. Like me, hundreds of students took the opportunity to have their voices heard. What follows is a selection of our responses.
‘I don’t want to be scared anymore.’
MATHEW ANATOLIY RAVIN, 15, LITCHFIELD, CONN
I feel useless, knowing that no matter what I do I can’t change anything. It’s out of control and no one is taking the lead in fixing the issue. Nothing helps me return to the classroom. So many thoughts are stuck in my head: Where should I sit to help protect myself if a shooter comes in? Could the person next to me suddenly lose it and let it out on all of us? School is no longer a safe space.
AZIZA GREER, 16, SEBASTOPOL, CALIF.
I am terrified to go to school. This year alone we had two lockdowns, one of them right before the P.S.A.T. Luckily, no one was hurt in either, but the fear it left in me and my school community for weeks after was heart-shattering. No one should be scared of going somewhere to learn and ending up dead. I want people to suck it up and give us gun control. I don’t want to be scared anymore.
MEGAN KEAVENEY, 17, PORTSMOUTH, N.H.
I completely broke down after seeing the news of Uvalde. I sobbed in my mom’s arms. I felt, and still feel, helpless. Every day that goes by is just another day that I have to simply hope that I — or someone I love — is not in the wrong place at the wrong time. A few days after the Uvalde shooting, I visited my school resource officer in tears and asked about our precautions. She told me that the teachers are well trained, our doors are always locked. She also said she wished she could say it would never happen.
TOM NUNN-RUTLEDGE, 17, NEW YORK, N.Y.
Every time someone drops a book in a classroom I look for the nearest exit. It’s insane that this reaction is in no way irrational. As long as seemingly anyone can access firearms without a sufficient background check, mental health screening or training, I will never feel safe.
‘In our current reality, we must be prepared for insanity.’
LAUREN LAMSON, 16, MIDDLETON, WIS.
I remember my first lockdown drill vividly. I was 7. My teacher pushed desks against the door, quickly taped black paper over the windows and huddled us into a corner. She told us to open our scissors and take off our shoes if an intruder came in, to throw stuff at them. I felt safe at the time.
I don’t anymore. This past January, on the first day of the semester, my school went into lockdown. I was in the hallway. A teacher unlocked the doors to the gym and shepherded about 30 of us inside. We didn’t know where to hide in such a wide-open room. No one knew what was happening. Once it was over we were told to go straight to our next class. Then we were congratulated for making it through the lockdown. No apologies for the lack of communication, no acknowledgment of our stress — just an assumption that our numbness would dissipate. We know going to school isn’t safe. In our current reality, we must be prepared for insanity.
ANGELINA BAKER, 16, PHILADELPHIA
Nothing can change the fact that students woke up on a regular morning and went to class, just as I did, but never came home to their families. They never achieved their dreams or fulfilled their destinies.
PERI KARPISHPAN, 17, NEW YORK CITY
I am blessed to go to a private school with insane levels of security. Every day when I walk through the bulletproof double doors past the highly trained armed security, I remember I am safe. It is hard to forget, though, that millions of kids just like me are not. We have a therapist on staff, but I have never used her as a resource. I prefer to feel the rage. I refuse to let go of it. I want to make sure I never normalize the idea that parents who send their kids to school — the safest place a kid should be — must pray that they return home.
‘There’s nothing I can do without the right to vote and a pocket full of cash.’
KATE HAWSE, 17, LEXINGTON, KY.
Parkland was the first major school shooting that I felt I really understood. It changed everything as far as how conscious I was of politics. I went to the first March for Our Lives in my town. I thought that something would come out of it, but nothing did.
Parkland has gone further and further down the list of recent shootings and, honestly, I can’t take investing myself emotionally into this anymore. I live in a red state and I’ve lost all hope of any kind of gun control legislation being enacted here, at least by the time I graduate. Lawmakers need to fight to make things right, or just commit to their complicity. There’s nothing I can do without the right to vote and a pocket full of cash.
LAUREN BAKER, 16, HOUSTON
The problem is not doors. The problem is that almost any person can obtain a gun capable of mass murder. I pray that each shooting will be a call to action, that there will be a push for change and reform. But I know we are helpless to people in power who refuse to keep us safe. I’m angry that our country allows children to be slaughtered over and over just to protect a nuance of an outdated amendment. I do not have faith in our government to protect anyone.
CATE BOLAND, 15, SANTA ANA, CALIF.
When I can vote, I will remember every politician who took blood money, who protected a multimillion dollar corporation over children.
‘We try to put Band-Aids on our invisible wounds’
AGATHA GERMAN, 16, NEW YORK CITY
Recently, one of my teachers shared how concerned she was for her child who is starting school soon. It really put into perspective just how long this has been going on. She has been worried about them for almost three decades — for her own safety in high school, then for her students’ and, now, for her child’s. It startled me. In a way, it’s comforting to see that I’m not alone in my mix of grief, fear and irritation.
My mom always says that having your child die before you is a parent’s worst nightmare. I guess my way of compartmentalizing is pretending to live in a world we don’t. The shooting in Uvalde exposed how sterilized I have become to such horrifying acts of violence. I have slowly become desensitized.
IAN O., 17, ARDSLEY, N.Y.
As a nation, we cannot limit safeguards to security guards or metal detectors. It is as if we try to put Band-Aids on our invisible wounds, on suffering, on the hidden difficulties in reconciling with tragedy. I would feel safer if the local, state and federal government put more effort into preventing shootings through increased funding for mental health services, gun buybacks and overall education. Additionally, I think a committee composed of middle and high school students, along with experts in mental health, gun violence and other relevant fields, would be successful in identifying both the underlying causes and potential solutions.
GRIFFITH PUGH, 16, EDINA, MINN.
Since the chances of reasonable gun control measures passing in the Senate are slim to none, I’ll propose my own solution: Focus more on preventing kids from turning into shooters in the first place. Most shooters are males between 18 and 20; they were bullied in school, are social outcasts, have dysfunctional families or often express violent ideations on social media long before the actual shooting. School boards across the country need to implement an early warning system where classmates can report peers who reach out about violent behavior. These students would be contacted by a counselor who would provide support. We can save the most lives this way.
By Aaron Timms, June 13, 2022
Mr. Timms, a writer, grew up in Sydney, Australia.https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/13/opinion/australia-mass-shootings-guns.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Opinion
Within hours of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last month, as President Biden flew home from a trip to Asia, he found himself wondering why liberal democracies like Australia, Canada and Britain can get gun violence under control, while America has tried for decades without success. “They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes,” he said in an address to the nation later that night. “They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency that they happen in America. Why?”
It’s easy to imagine his mind lingering on Australia. After a bitter fight with rural gun owners and conservative activists, Australia introduced sweeping measures to restrict gun access in the wake of a 1996 shooting that left 35 dead. The reforms were truly comprehensive in scope and included a ban on all automatic and semiautomatic shotguns, stringent licensing and permit requirements, and the introduction of compulsory safety courses for all gun owners, who were also required to provide a genuine reason for owning a firearm that could not include self-defense. The federal government also announced a gun amnesty and federal buyback that led to more than 650,000 weapons being surrendered to the police and destroyed.
Mass shootings and firearm deaths, including suicides, have markedly declined in the 26 years since Australia reformed its gun laws. To Mr. Biden, crossing the Pacific Ocean on Air Force One, that story must have offered a glimmer of hope, a sign that sometimes, countries can change, reducing gun violence and tragedy. If it could happen in Australia, why not in the United States?
Like America, Australia was a European settler colony, founded in the blood of massacred Indigenous people, and has a frontier myth in which guns and conquest have played a historically important cultural role. America had its cowboys, buckaroos and gunslingers; Australia its squatters, drovers and bushrangers. And like America, Australia today is a multiethnic state-based federation in which gun-friendly rural areas enjoy considerable political influence.
But these similarities tell only part of the story. Australia’s success in pushing through gun reform in the wake of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre was mostly the result of timing, luck and the idiosyncrasies of the Australian Constitution. On gun policy, the fundamental differences between Australia and America outnumber the similarities. If anything, a closer examination of Australia’s success with gun reform reveals the magnitude of the task ahead for America.
Resistance to gun reform in Australia had been fierce in the years leading up to Port Arthur. In 1987 two massacres in Melbourne left a total of 15 people dead and placed the issue of gun control firmly on the national political agenda. But the firearms lobby and lawmakers in gun-friendly states like Queensland and Tasmania worked to frustrate efforts at federal reform. Part of the problem, and an obvious point of similarity with the situation in the United States today, was that guns were mostly regulated by the states, which made reform dependent on national coordination.
Mere weeks before the Port Arthur massacre, a federal election was held that saw the conservatives — a coalition between the mostly urban and suburban center-right Liberal Party and the rural National Party — return to power after 13 years in opposition. The magnitude of their victory gave the incoming government an overwhelming mandate. Capitalizing on the depth of revulsion across Australia at the slaughter in Port Arthur, the new prime minister, John Howard, moved quickly to push through reforms, coordinated across all the states, that had stalled in the wake of earlier shootings.
The Australian gun lobby did not take these changes lying down. Gun owners protested against reform in the thousands. Effigies of the National Party leader, Tim Fischer, were burned at several rural demonstrations, and Mr. Howard took the extraordinary measure of addressing a crowd of gun supporters in the Victorian coastal town of Sale in a bulletproof vest. (He later said that he regretted wearing the vest.) But as in the United States, the 1990s in Australia were a politically more innocent time, with less polarization, more bipartisan agreement on basic issues of justice and fairness, and a less toxic media environment than the one we have become accustomed to.
It still took conviction and courage for conservative leaders to stand up to their constituents and advocate change. Mr. Fischer, in particular, faced fearsome opposition within his own party to his support for Mr. Howard’s reforms, and these divisions created real, lasting damage, permanently poisoning the country’s political discourse. But reform was still possible, thanks in large part to the shared norm of bipartisanship and the willingness of conservatives, acting on principle, to risk alienating their base.
In addition, Australia faced none of the structural or constitutional obstacles standing in the way of gun reform here in the United States. Australia does not have anything resembling the Second Amendment. It has no filibuster, no Bill of Rights and no constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms. The Australian Constitution explicitly codifies a handful of other rights like the right to a fair trial and freedom of religion, and Australia’s High Court has ruled that the Constitution contains an implied right to freedom of political communication. But on guns the country’s founding document has nothing to say. The great drama of contemporary Australian jurisprudence is about enshrining, rather than removing, rights within the Constitution, making the debate on individual rights and freedoms in Australia quite distinct from the one in America.
Australia loses as much as it gains from this constitutional deficiency — a point that’s often lost in American media coverage of gun policy in the emotional days that follow a mass shooting. Compared with the herculean effort that would be required to repeal the Second Amendment, Australia’s gun reforms entered into law relatively easily. But without a Bill of Rights, there’s no constitutional framework in Australia to prevent the mandatory and indefinite detention of asylum seekers, or to insulate free speech from the chilling effect of defamation suits.
The Port Arthur gunman reportedly chose his site, a former penal colony turned into an open-air museum, in part as a homage to Australia’s bloody history of colonial violence: The weakness of Australia’s architecture of express individual freedoms may have inadvertently helped put an end to frequent mass shootings, but the absence of a Bill of Rights is also, arguably, one of the reasons Indigenous Australians, those dispossessed and murdered by the same people who built Port Arthur, continue to endure life expectancy and standards of living well below the national average.
And despite the very real drop in gun violence witnessed across Australia since the mid-1990s, signs of erosion in the national framework of gun control have recently begun to emerge. There are now more guns in Australia than there were at the time of the Port Arthur massacre (3.8 million in 2020 compared with 3.2 million in 1996), and a quietly resurgent gun lobby is spending, on a per-capita basis, about as much as the N.R.A., according to a recent report. Stringent gun control standards have not stopped Australia from incubating its own radicalized killers and exporting violence abroad: The gunman in the 2019 Christchurch massacre that left 51 dead was an Australian.
So the Australian experience of gun control resists easy translation to America. But if Australia is to serve as any kind of example, it is for the bravery and principle shown by conservative and rural leaders, often at great cost to their own political fortunes, in making the case for reform to their gun-loving constituents. Character of this caliber may be far harder to extract from the ranks of today’s Republican Party than it was from Australia’s conservatives in the 1990s.
By Paul Krugman, June 13, 2022
Bryan Tarnowski for The New York Times
A few days ago The Times published a report on the drying up of the Great Salt Lake, a story I’m ashamed to admit had flown under my personal radar. We’re not talking about a hypothetical event in the distant future: The lake has already lost two-thirds of its surface area, and ecological disasters — salinity rising to the point where wildlife dies off, occasional poisonous dust storms sweeping through a metropolitan area of 2.5 million people — seem imminent.
As an aside, I was a bit surprised that the article didn’t mention the obvious parallels with the Aral Sea, a huge lake that the Soviet Union had managed to turn into a toxic desert.
In any case, what’s happening to the Great Salt Lake is pretty bad. But what I found really scary about the report is what the lack of an effective response to the lake’s crisis says about our ability to respond to the larger, indeed existential threat of climate change.
If you aren’t terrified by the threat posed by rising levels of greenhouse gases, you aren’t paying attention — which, sadly, many people aren’t. And those who are or should be aware of that threat but stand in the way of action for the sake of short-term profits or political expediency are, in a real sense, betraying humanity.
That said, the world’s failure to take action on climate, while inexcusable, is also understandable. For as many observers have noted, global warming is a problem that almost looks custom-designed to make political action difficult. In fact, the politics of climate change are hard for at least four reasons.
First, when scientists began raising the alarm in the 1980s, climate change looked like a distant threat — a problem for future generations. Some people still see it that way; last month a senior executive at the bank HSBC gave a talk in which he declared, “Who cares if Miami is six meters underwater in 100 years?”
This view is all wrong — we’re already seeing the effects of climate change, largely in the form of a rising frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, like the megadrought in the American West that is contributing to the death of the Great Salt Lake. But that’s a statistical argument, which brings me to the second problem with climate change: It’s not yet visible to the naked eye, at least the naked eye that doesn’t want to see.
Weather, after all, fluctuates. Heat waves and droughts happened before the planet began warming; cold spells still happen even with the planet warmer on average than in the past. It doesn’t take fancy analysis to show that there is a persistent upward trend in temperatures, but many people aren’t convinced by statistical analysis of any kind, fancy or not, only by raw experience.
Then there’s the third problem: Until recently, it looked as if any major attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would have significant economic costs. Serious estimates of these costs were always much lower than claimed by anti-environmentalists, and spectacular technological progress in renewable energy has made a transition to a low-emission economy look far easier than anyone could have imagined 15 years ago. Still, fears about economic losses helped block climate action.
Finally, climate change is a global problem, requiring global action — and offering a reason not to move. Anyone urging U.S. action has encountered the counterargument, “It doesn’t matter what we do, because China will just keep polluting.” There are answers to that argument — if we ever do get serious about emissions, carbon tariffs will have to be part of the mix. But it’s certainly an argument that affects the discussion.
As I said, all of these issues are explanations for inaction on climate, not excuses. But here’s the thing: None of these explanations for environmental inaction apply to the death of the Great Salt Lake. Yet the relevant policymakers still seem unwilling or unable to act.
Remember, we’re not talking about bad things that might happen in the distant future: Much of the lake is already gone, and the big wildlife die-off might begin as early as this summer. And it doesn’t take a statistical model to notice that the lake is shrinking.
In terms of the economics, tourism is a huge industry in Utah. How will that industry fare if the famous lake becomes a poisoned desert? And how can a state on the edge of ecological crisis still be diverting water desperately needed to replenish the lake to maintain lush green lawns that serve no essential economic purpose?
Finally, we aren’t talking about a global problem. True, global climate change has contributed to reduced snowpack, which is one reason the Great Salt Lake has shrunk. But a large part of the problem is local water consumption; if that consumption could be curbed, Utah needn’t worry that its efforts would be negated by the Chinese or whatever.
So this should be easy: A threatened region should be accepting modest sacrifices, some barely more than inconveniences, to avert a disaster just around the corner. But it doesn’t seem to be happening.
And if we can’t save the Great Salt Lake, what chance do we have of saving the planet?
Researchers are drilling down into the ways life on a hotter planet will tax our bodies, and looking for protections that, unlike air-conditioning, don’t make the problem worse.
By Raymond Zhong, Published June 13, 2022, Updated June 14, 2022
Trying to stay cool during a heat wave in Houston this month. Credit...Brandon Bell/Getty Images
When W. Larry Kenney, a professor of physiology at Pennsylvania State University, began studying how extreme heat harms humans, his research focused on workers inside the disaster-stricken Three Mile Island nuclear plant, where temperatures were as high as 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the decades that followed, Dr. Kenney has looked at how heat stress affects a range of people in intense environments: football players, soldiers in protective suits, distance runners in the Sahara.
Of late, however, his research has focused on a more mundane subject: ordinary people. Doing everyday things. As climate change broils the planet.
Heat advisories and excessive heat warnings were in effect on Monday across much of the eastern interior of the United States, following a weekend of record-smashing heat in the country’s Southwest. The heat will move farther Northeast in the next few days, according to the National Weather Service, into the upper Mississippi Valley, western Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.
With severe heat waves now affecting swaths of the globe with frightening regularity, scientists are drilling down into the ways life in a hotter world will sicken and kill us. The aim is to get a better grip on how many more people will be afflicted by heat-related ailments, and how frequent and severe their suffering will be. And to understand how to better protect the most vulnerable.
One thing is for sure, scientists say: The heat waves of the past two decades are not good predictors of the risks that will confront us in the decades to come. Already, the link between greenhouse-gas emissions and sweltering temperatures is so clear that some researchers say there may soon no longer be any point trying to determine whether today’s most extreme heat waves could have happened two centuries ago, before humans started warming the planet. None of them could have.
And if global warming is not slowed, the hottest heat wave many people have ever experienced will simply be their new summertime norm, said Matthew Huber, a climate scientist at Purdue University. “It’s not going to be something you can escape.”
What’s tougher for scientists to pin down, Dr. Huber said, is how these climatic shifts will affect human health and well-being on a large scale, particularly in the developing world, where huge numbers of people are already suffering but good data is scarce. Heat stress is the product of so many factors — humidity, sun, wind, hydration, clothing, physical fitness — and causes such a range of harms that projecting future effects with any precision is tricky.
There also haven’t been enough studies, Dr. Huber said, on living full time in a warmer world, instead of just experiencing the occasional roasting summer. “We don’t know what the long-term consequences of getting up every day, working for three hours in nearly deadly heat, sweating like crazy and then going back home are,” he said.
The growing urgency of these issues is drawing in researchers, like Dr. Kenney, who didn’t always think of themselves as climate scientists. For a recent study, he and his colleagues placed young, healthy men and women in specially designed chambers, where they pedaled an exercise bike at low intensity. Then the researchers dialed up the heat and humidity.
They found that their subjects started overheating dangerously at much lower “wet-bulb” temperatures — a measure that accounts for both heat and mugginess — than what they had expected based on previous theoretical estimates by climate scientists.
Effectively, under steam-bath conditions, our bodies absorb heat from the environment faster than we can sweat to cool ourselves down. And “unfortunately for humans, we don’t pump out a lot more sweat to keep up,” Dr. Kenney said.
Heat is climate change at its most devastatingly intimate, ravaging not just landscapes and ecosystems and infrastructure, but the depths of individual human bodies.
Heat’s victims often die alone, in their own homes. Apart from heatstroke, it can cause cardiovascular collapse and kidney failure. It damages our organs and cells, even our DNA. Its harms are multiplied in the very old and very young, and in people with high blood pressure, asthma, multiple sclerosis and other conditions.
When the mercury is high, we aren’t as effective at work. Our thinking and motor functions are impaired. Excessive heat is also associated with greater crime, anxiety, depression and suicide.
The toll on the body can be strikingly personal. George Havenith, director of the Environmental Ergonomics Research Center at Loughborough University in England, recalled an experiment years ago with a large group of subjects. They wore the same clothes and performed the same work for an hour, in 95 degree heat and 80 percent humidity. But by the end, their body temperatures ranged from 100 degrees to 102.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
“A lot of the work we’re doing is trying to understand why one person ends up on one side of the spectrum and the other one on the other,” he said.
For years, Vidhya Venugopal, a professor of environmental health at Sri Ramachandra University in Chennai, India, has been studying what heat does to workers in India’s steel plants, car factories and brick kilns. Many of them suffer from kidney stones caused by severe dehydration.
One encounter a decade ago has stayed with her. She met a steelworker who had been working 8-to-12-hour days near a furnace for 20 years. When she asked him how old he was, he said 38 to 40.
She was sure she’d misunderstood. His hair was half white. His face was shrunken. He didn’t look younger than 55.
So she asked how old his child was and how old he was when he got married. The math checked out.
“For us, it was a turning point,” Dr. Venugopal said. “That’s when we started thinking, heat ages people.”
Adelaide M. Lusambili, a researcher at the Aga Khan University in Kenya, is investigating heat’s effects on pregnant women and newborns in Kilifi County, on Kenya’s coast. In communities there, women fetch water for their families, which can mean walking long hours in the sun, even while pregnant. Studies have linked heat exposure to preterm births and underweight babies.
The most heartbreaking stories, Dr. Lusambili said, are of women who suffered after giving birth. Some walked great distances with their 1-day-olds on their backs, causing the babies to develop blisters on their bodies and mouths, and making breastfeeding difficult.
It has all been enough, she said, to make her wonder whether climate change is reversing the progress Africa has made on reducing newborn and childhood mortality.
Given how many people have no access to air-conditioners, which are themselves making the planet hotter by consuming huge amounts of electricity, societies need to find more sustainable defenses, said Ollie Jay, a professor of heat and health at the University of Sydney.
Dr. Jay has studied the body’s responses to sitting near an electric fan, wearing wetted clothing and sponging down with water. For one project, he recreated a Bangladeshi garment factory in his lab to test low-cost ways of keeping workers safe, including green roofs, electric fans and scheduled water breaks.
Humans have some ability to acclimatize to hot environments. Our heart rate goes down; more blood is pumped with each stroke. More sweat glands are activated. But scientists primarily understand how our bodies adapt to heat in controlled laboratory settings, not in the real world, where many people can duck in and out of air-conditioned homes and cars, Dr. Jay said.
And even in the lab, inducing such changes requires exposing people to uncomfortable strain for hours a day over weeks, said Dr. Jay, who has done exactly that to his subjects.
“It’s not particularly pleasant,” he said. Hardly a practical solution for life in a stifling future — or, for people in some places, an increasingly oppressive present. More profound changes in the body’s adaptability will only occur on the time scale of human evolution.
Dr. Venugopal gets frustrated when asked, about her research on Indian workers, “India is a hot country, so what’s the big deal?”
Nobody asks what the big deal is about having a fever, but heatstroke puts the body in a similar state.
“That is human physiology,” Dr. Venugopal said. “You can’t change that.”
The demise of Roe v. Wade would make the need for effective birth control more urgent than ever. Yet many American women still have a hard time obtaining it.
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg, June 13, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/13/us/politics/birth-control-roe-v-wade.html
ROLLA, Mo. — For more than half a century, Tri-Rivers Family Planning has operated on a shoestring budget, providing contraceptives, pregnancy testing, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and other reproductive health care to a mostly low-income and female clientele in the Ozark Mountains.
The clinic has never performed abortions. But with the Supreme Court widely expected to revoke the constitutional right to abortion that it established in Roe v. Wade, its work has never been more essential — and its nurse practitioners and patients have never felt more threatened.
Last year, the Republican-led Missouri Senate voted to ban taxpayer funding for two common methods of preventing pregnancy: intrauterine devices and emergency contraception — the so-called morning-after pill, also known as Plan B — which many abortion opponents regard as “abortifacients” because they can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Lawmakers later abandoned the effort, but some have indicated that if Roe falls, they may try again.
“The attacks are relentless — any little angle they can chip away at what we do, they are doing it,” said Lisa Ecsi Davis, the clinic’s director of operations, who has worked at Tri-Rivers for 30 years. “It’s exhausting.”
The demise of Roe would make the need for effective birth control more urgent than ever. Yet nearly six decades after the Supreme Court guaranteed the right to use contraception, and more than 10 years after the Affordable Care Act mandated that private insurers cover it, many American women still have a hard time getting access.
Funding for Title X, the federal safety net program that helps finance family planning clinics like Tri-Rivers, has been flat for more than a decade. Private insurers do not always cover the full cost of contraception, despite the A.C.A. requirement. Six states allow pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions for religious or moral reasons, without taking steps to help patients get them filled elsewhere.
“This is our daily life,” lamented Rachel Goss, the executive director of the Family Planning Council of Iowa, which administers Title X grants in that state. “You’re fighting this constant uphill battle just to provide safe — and right now, legal — care.”
Congressional Democrats, sensing a potent political issue in the upcoming midterm elections, are pushing to expand access to birth control.
Last week, they introduced legislation to require insurers to fully cover any F.D.A.-approved birth control pills, including emergency contraception, which costs as much as $50 over the counter — far too much for those struggling financially.
But some Republicans on the far right have sought to broadly limit access to emergency contraception, which prevents pregnancy when taken within several days of unprotected sex.
“The idea that we might now be facing fights on contraception is something that is very hard to wrap your head around,” said Elizabeth Nash, an expert in state policy at the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. If abortion opponents persuade lawmakers to define pregnancy as starting at fertilization, she said, it “could cause complications in being able to provide contraceptive care.”
Texas already bars its state family planning programs from paying for emergency contraception. Missouri, one of 13 states with “trigger laws” that would immediately ban abortion if Roe is overturned, is becoming another front in the battle over birth control — and may foreshadow what is to come in a post-Roe world.
In February, it became the fourth state — after Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas — to eject Planned Parenthood, a major provider of birth control nationally, from its Medicaid program. Planned Parenthood has asked the Biden administration to intervene, saying the move violated federal law. A spokeswoman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the agency was “considering the policy options within its authority.”
In the meantime, Medicaid patients must find care elsewhere — and often endure long waits for appointments, said Michelle Trupiano, the executive director of the Missouri Family Health Council, the nonprofit that administers Title X grants in the state.
In Rolla, a small city of about 20,000 people that sits along historic Route 66, Hailey Kramer, the chief nurse practitioner at Tri-Rivers, said her patients make clear that birth control is a deeply personal decision.
Kaitlyn Ball, 24, became pregnant while taking birth control pills and now has a 3-year-old; she does not want to get pregnant again. After consulting with Ms. Kramer, she got an I.U.D.
Taylor Gresham, a 25-year-old dancer, has been a patient at Tri-Rivers since the summer before her senior year in high school, when she discovered she was pregnant. After she got an abortion, the clinic provided her with Depo-Provera. Her mother thought it was a good idea, she said, because “a high school kid is probably not going to take a pill every day.”
After she graduated, Ms. Gresham opted for an I.U.D.; more recently, she started taking birth control pills again. “I’m on a better routine with my life,” she explained.
In 1965, in a case that provided the legal blueprint for Roe, the Supreme Court declared that married couples had a constitutional right to use contraception. Its decision in the case, Griswold v. Connecticut, established a right to privacy that the court said was implied, if not delineated, in the “penumbras” of the Constitution — the same rationale it invoked eight years later in Roe.
Griswold put contraception at the forefront of the national conversation at a time when policymakers were focused on ending poverty; in 1969, President Richard M. Nixon declared that “no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition.” Title X was established by Congress the next year to help pay for the care that so-called family planning clinics provide to low-income patients, who are charged fees based on family size and income.
Old newspaper clippings show that Rolla’s mayor came to the ribbon-cutting when Tri-Rivers — initially an affiliate of Planned Parenthood — was founded in 1971, and more than 100 Rolla merchants made donations to get the clinic going.
Last year, Tri-Rivers cared for more than 1,800 patients, more than half of whom were uninsured. The clinic gets $250,000 a year, just under half its total budget, in Title X dollars — an amount that has “stayed the same for many years,” said Toni Stubblefield, its president and chief executive.
The clinic, which serves roughly a 10-county area and sits halfway between St. Louis and Springfield, once had two satellites. One closed years ago, the other last year, a victim of tight budgets and Covid-19.
Some Tri-Rivers patients must now drive three hours round-trip to be seen — a challenge that keeps some women, especially those who work or have young children, from being seen at all.
Power to Decide, a reproductive rights advocacy group, estimates that more than 19 million American women live in “contraceptive deserts,” which it defines as “counties in which there is not reasonable access to a health center offering the full range of contraceptive methods.”
The years when Donald J. Trump was president brought some of the biggest struggles yet for family-planning clinics. The Trump administration’s “gag rule” barred Title X grant recipients from referring patients for abortions. Ms. Ecsi Davis posted signs about the rule on the Tri-Rivers’s walls, a not-so-veiled critique.
“It just always felt wrong, to not be able to give people the information that they were asking for,” said Ms. Kramer, the nurse practitioner.
Then came 2021, and the Missouri Senate’s vote to bar Medicaid funding for Plan B and I.U.D.s.
“I’m a devout Catholic and believe that life is sacred from the moment of conception until actual death,” said State Senator Paul Wieland, a Republican who led the effort, adding that he did not “want any of my dollars going to pay for things that kill human life.”
The language prompted an uproar from female lawmakers. The governor called a special legislative session, and it was rewritten to bar public money from paying for “any abortifacient drug or device that is used for the purpose of inducing an abortion.”
National leaders of the anti-abortion movement say their next push will be to ban medication abortion — a two-pill regimen that terminates a pregnancy. Birth control “is not something that’s on our radar,” said Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, a leading anti-abortion group.
But like Mr. Wieland, Ms. Hawkins said she believed that I.U.D.s and the morning-after pill had been “mislabeled as contraceptives.” She added, “This is the ‘con’ in contraception.”
Since the leak last month of a draft opinion that would overturn Roe, some Tri-Rivers patients have been seeking intrauterine devices, which can stay in place for up to seven years, or to stock up on emergency contraception.
Anyone can buy Plan B at the clinic for $20, no prescription necessary. That is about half the sale price at Walmart, patients say. For Medicaid patients who cannot afford it, or who do not live nearby, Ms. Kramer can also write prescriptions, with Medicaid covering the cost — “at least for now,” she said.
Still, her patients are worried. Sydney Breedlove, a 23-year-old graduate student, said she had used Plan B twice, buying it at the clinic. When she was 19, she said, she bought it for a 16-year-old friend. She said some of her friends are stocking up, and some fear they will be forced to give up their I.U.D.s.
In the leaked draft opinion, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. emphasized “that our decision concerns the constitutional right to abortion and no other right.” Some legal experts have surmised that Justice Alito was seeking to send a message that the court was not trying to completely undo the right to privacy grounded in both Roe and Griswold.
But some Republicans are taking aim at Griswold nonetheless. Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee has called the ruling “constitutionally unsound.” Republicans running for statewide office in Michigan and Arizona are echoing that language.
In the decades-long assault on Roe, advocates for reproductive rights see a blueprint for restricting access to contraception. After abortion became legal in 1973, opponents pushed successfully to chip away at the decision, partly by persuading courts and state legislatures to impose new requirements such as waiting periods and parental consent for minors.
“When are they going to start saying, ‘Just because you’re a 16-year-old woman, you can’t have access to this birth control or this service’?” Ms. Kramer said. “It concerns me that access will constrict.”