49 years of Roe
How the nation’s top health agency is commemorating the day. Plus: The VP goes home and crime reemerges as a hot topic in DC.
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The Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade on this day 49 years ago, ruling that the Constitution protects the rights of pregnant people to seek abortion care.
“Reproductive health care has been under extreme and relentless assault ever since, especially in recent months,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday. “It has been nearly 150 days since women in Texas have been denied these constitutional rights,” a reference to SB 8, the controversial law passed by the state’s legislature that bans abortion after six weeks.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced a Reproductive Health Task Force on Friday to mark Roe’s anniversary. It also announced $6.6 million in funding to address what it calls an increased need for family planning services where restrictive laws and policies have impacted reproductive health access.
“Advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights is central to our core global health goals, including our focus on addressing health inequities and expanding access to universal health coverage,” HHS Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Loyce Pace, said. “In order to build back better in the US and around the world, we must ensure that all people can access high quality health care, including sexual and reproductive health care services.”
The majority of people — 62 percent — who get abortions are religious and 45 percent of mothers give their desire to care for existing children as a reason for terminating a pregnancy. And as I wrote in this post from November, many people’s anti-abortion beliefs are formed from the incorrect belief that abortion is unsafe compared to other medical procedures. “There’s not much that’s safer than an abortion,” a panelist at a discussion on the subject said at that time. There are no long-term health risks, no increased risks of mental health problems for people who receive an abortion compared to carrying a baby to term.
HHS said the task force, composed of senior-level HHS officials, is focused on advancing quality, access and equity to reproductive health care. One of its goals is to reduce the barriers impacting people and communities who have been marginalized due to anti-abortion laws and economic inequality.
It’s to be determined how much of an impact the task force will ultimately have. Besides swatting away any attempts to regulate guns, confirming conservative judges to federal courts and cutting taxes for the wealthy, there is no Republican pursuit with which as much tenacity has been applied than to overturning Roe. Their wish could finally be fulfilled this summer because the Supreme Court, led by its conservative supermajority, is primed to decide three reproductive health care cases this term that may overturn Roe.
The decisions would be less consequential if the right to abortion care was codified into law, as the Women’s Health Protection Act, which passed the House last year, would do. But like most meaningful House-passed legislation, it’s stalled in a split Senate that lacks the 10 Republican votes it needs to arrive at President Biden’s desk for signature.
What’s frustrating to reproductive freedom activists is that the anti-abortion onslaught, as is the case with most social issues, defies the will of the American majority.
According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll from last November, 60 percent of Americans say the Supreme Court should uphold its landmark abortion decision in Roe v. Wade while 65 percent of the public opposes a Texas law banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Three-quarters of Americans say abortion access should be left to women and their doctors.
In a new CNN poll released on Friday, just 30 percent of Americans say they'd like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn Roe. And 59 percent of Americans say that if Roe vs. Wade were overturned, they'd like their state to set laws that are more permissive than restrictive toward abortion.
“Roe v. Wade gave women the ability to control their own bodies, to plan their own families, and to determine their own futures. Roe v. Wade advanced women’s equality and that case saved women’s lives,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in a video reaffirming the administration’s commitment to protecting abortion rights. “On this 49th anniversary, let us recommit to doing everything we can to protect those constitutional rights.”
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The vice president spent Friday afternoon in San Bernardino, California for a briefing on wildfire prevention. She also received an aerial tour of the San Bernardino National Forest to view the burn scars of the El Dorado Fire.
Harris called herself a “proud daughter of California,” who had personal experience growing up where her family had droughts that gave her an understanding of the seriousness of being able to respond quickly.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, 8,835 wildfires burned almost 2.6 acres of California in 2021. There were three fatalities and 3,628 structures were damaged or destroyed. All but three of the top 20 fires in the state have happened since 2000. The majority have occurred in the last two years — with three happening in 2021.
“Our family in the last few years, we’ve had evacuation orders because of the wildfires,” she said.
Harris announced $1.3 billion in disaster relief funding for the US Forest Service. These funds will go toward hazardous materials cleanup, reforestation, watershed restoration and infrastructure repairs. She also broadcast another $48 million in funding to combat the impacts of climate change across federal and non-federal lands. These investments are possible, the Vice President’s office says, because of the $5 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure law dedicated to the crisis.
The funding includes a pay raise for federal firefighters too.
“This is a subject that requires us to understand that when we as a country get in front of an issue, it is not because of any one leader or any one approach is because there’s collaboration is because there’s a recognition that the work that happens on the ground usually requires great skill,” Harris said. “Skill and hard work that should be rewarded.”
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Crime has been a hot topic in DC this week.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to House Democrats on Friday listing their legislative priorities in the upcoming months. In the section about Build Back Better, she placed an interesting emphasis on the community violence prevention initiatives within the bill, touting them as the largest-ever federal investment.
“We could have a whole day — and we probably will — on that subject because our first responsibility is to protect and defend,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference on Thursday. “Whether that’s our national security or our community safety, we have to keep the American people safe.”
Jen Psaki was asked on Thursday if the perceived soft-on-crime policies of him blue-city district attorneys, that as John Plaff at The New Republic acknowledged are recognition that prison time doesn’t fight crime, undermine the administration’s efforts to show it takes the issue seriously.
“The President has been crystal clear, I think, in almost every time he’s spoken about this,” she said. “He believes that more needs to be done by local leaders.”
Psaki was asked a similar question on Friday and said Biden’s record and his commitment speak for themselves.
“The President believes that no one in this country should worry about whether it’s safe to ride the subway or go to the bus or go to work or walk home at night,” Psaki said. “And that’s why he’s put more cops on the beat, has stepped up efforts to get illegal guns off the streets, and invested in proven community anti-violence programs.
Biden himself spoke at the annual mayors meeting on Friday and assured local leaders his administration would continue to prioritize reducing gun violence.
“We shouldn’t be cutting funding for police departments,” he said, “I proposed increasing funding.”
But for progressive Democrats and Black voters, there can be no debate on crime without the inclusion of police reform. And since there is no sign of negotiations to broker a deal between Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina resuming anytime soon, leaders are looking to the president to use his executive authority.
“Of course, federal legislation would be the preference because it’s permanent,” Psaki told reporters on Friday. “I don’t have anything to predict for you in terms of the timing, but we have been and are looking at [executive actions] through the policy teams.
This is something to keep an eye on going forward.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Good Saturday morning. Welcome to Supercreator, your daily guide to the politicians and power brokers shaping how you work and live in the new economy. Send me tips, comments, questions — or just say hi: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today in Politics
→ President Biden is at Camp David with no public events on his schedule.
→ Vice President Harris is in Los Angeles with no public events on her public schedule.
Read All About It
Melinda Fakuade on M&Ms:
Everything is political and everything feels personal now. Chocolate candy, tied to some of the happiest and simplest memories Americans have, is no different. Publicity stunts are not new, but years ago, no one would be expected to go along with the idea that the green M&M loves being “a hypewoman for her friends,” especially since, IMO, she has the qualities of a very glamorous hater who tolerates the other M&Ms because she loves attention. Marketing executives seemingly love nothing more than to watch us shriek into our screens about their silly little decisions, and we fall for it every time. It is almost embarrassing how easily consumers can be manipulated, and also a little frightening how badly I now want to eat M&Ms.
Pooja Makhijani on how young people are making period products more sustainable:
Members of Gen Z and beyond are more forthcoming about their periods than generations past, and they are more likely to care whether the products they use are environmentally sustainable. The convergence of the two ideals may signify a cultural shift in how young people are approaching menstruation.
Reusable products represent only a fraction of menstruation supplies purchased in the United States — Americans spend $1.8 billion on pads and $1 billion on tampons yearly, which dwarfs sales of all other products combined. But the market share for reusable products is expected to grow through the next decade, according to forecasters, largely fueled by the wider acceptance and availability of menstrual cups in Western countries. Still, the average menstruator can use thousands of tampons in their lifetime. And single-use plastic menstrual products take about 500 years to decompose, a 2021 report from the United Nations Environment Programme found.
Kenny Torrella on plant-based meat:
On its face, this seems like big progress for animal welfare and the climate, and in many ways it certainly is. Pledges to dramatically increase plant-based food sales — if fulfilled — will introduce new products to a lot more people and further normalize alternatives to factory-farmed meat, eggs, and milk. And increased sales will help plant-based startups scale, which should bring down prices.
But as positive as these commitments are, they probably won’t make much of a dent in reducing Big Food’s greenhouse gas emissions or put fewer animals in factory farms, at least not in the short term. That’s because ****the pledges are additive, meaning they involve selling consumers more plant-based food but not necessarily less animal-based food.
Bryan Walsh on the Doomsday Clock:
It’s also difficult to square a clock ticking ever closer to midnight with the fact that human life on Earth, broadly defined, has been getting better over the past 75 years, not worse. Even with the Covid-19 pandemic, the growing effects of climate change, and whatever might be brewing in an AI or biotech lab somewhere, humans are far healthier, wealthier, and — at least on a day-to-day basis — safer in 2022 than they were in 1947, and odds are that will still be true in 2023 regardless of the Clock’s next annual setting.
Josef Adalian on Netflix:
The danger in the strategy is that Netflix really does need to keep finding new, interesting content to keep audiences hooked. Simply having a library stacked with thousands of hours of movies and TV shows from previous years isn’t enough: Netflix and its subscriber base are addicted to the new. That’s why very few Netflix originals these days make it past three seasons. There are exceptions for extraordinarily popular or cost-effective titles, with series such as You, Emily in Paris, Stranger Things, Cobra Kai, and The Crown all on track to survive at least four seasons. But in general, Netflix moves on from shows pretty soon after they sense a series has faded a bit in the culture, or before their production costs get out of control.
Liz Krieger on the couples code:
All this data raises the question: Is password-sharing a 21st-century litmus test for couples? It shouldn’t be, but “when you’ve built trust and a foundation with someone, and the sharing of passwords and access codes arises naturally and organically, it’s a very positive sign for a relationship,” says Dr. Marni Feuerman, a Florida-based licensed psychotherapist and the author of Ghosted and Breadcrumbed: Stop Falling for Unavailable Men and Get Smart About Healthy Relationships. “For example, say you left your phone at home and your partner is there and calls home to get something off of it, and hence you without hesitation share the password. This would be a good sign for you both. That would speak to the strength of the relationship.”
Last Not Least
How to spot long COVID and what to do next • Twitter is developing its own version of Instagram’s popular Close Friends feature • Google wants the antitrust lawsuit from state attorneys general dismissed • Amazon and Meta spent a shit-ton of money on lobbying lawmakers in 2021, followed by Google and Apple • The most-viewed on-demand show in 2021: Criminal Minds • Related: Nothing in Criminal Minds makes sense and it’s perfect • Congressional approval sinks the lowest point in more than a year
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