by Lindsay Beyerstein
How our blog got its name
Sidney Hillman was a powerful national figure during the Great Depression, a key supporter of the New Deal, and a close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the rumor spread that President Roosevelt ordered his party leaders to “clear it with Sidney” before announcing Harry S. Truman as his 1944 running mate, conservative critics turned on the phrase, trumpeting it as proof that the president was under the thumb of “Big Labor.”
Over the years, the phrase lost its sting and became a testament to Hillman's influence.
It's hard to imagine a labor leader wielding that kind clout today, but we like the idea—and we hope Sidney would give thumbs up to our blog.
Clear It With Sidney
Texas's draconian new abortion law has left the 1.2 million women of the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas without an abortion provider. While pro-choice groups challenge some parts of the law in court, Valley women are forced to travel hundreds of miles for a clinic abortion. The Valley is one of the poorest regions in the United States and extended journeys to abortion clinics are beyond the reach of many poor valley women who have to budget not only for the procedure itself but for transportation, lodging, lost work hours, and often, the cost of childcare.
One Valley abortion provider reinvented himself as a miscarriage management consultant after the new law prohibited him from performing abortions this fall. He examines his patients and subtly steers them towards self-abortion with misoprostol if he thinks it's safe for them to do so. He can't tell them to go out and get the drugs, but he doesn't have to, misoprostol miscarriages are already part of the culture. If the drugs don't work all the way, he tells them they can always come back for surgery to finish the process.
Miscarriage management is a flashback to the pre-Roe days when sympathetic doctors would tell women to hurt themselves or visit back alley abortion providers in order to get a miscarriage started. Once a woman began bleeding, the doctor could legally perform surgery to resolve the miscarriage and end the pregnancy.
The Texas law hasn't stopped abortions in the Valley, it has just made them more difficult and dangerous.
Researchers and forensic anthropologists have uncovered 55 sets of remains from an unmarked cemetary on the grounds of what was once the Arthur G. Dozier reform school in South Florida. Some of the boys who were sent to Dozier in the mid-twentieth century were never heard from again. There investigators found 24 more bodies on the site than were listed in school records.
Survivors who attended the school have described beatings, torture sessions, rapes and the disappearances of boys, many of them after they were taken from dormitories or other school buildings for punishment.
Roger Dean Kiser, now 67, of Brunswick, Ga., told The Times in October that he was sent to Dozier at age 12 in 1959 and stayed for two years. He wrote a book about the school, "The White House Boys,’’ named for a house on school grounds where he said boys were beaten. [LAT]
Survivors recount being raped by their captors as well as beaten. School records assert that boys died of natural causes or in a fire, but investigators think the newly uncovered remains could cast doubt on the official story.
Bad news for reproductive freedom in Louisiana:
Women in Louisiana could lose all access to abortion services if the state succeeds in enacting a secretive overhaul of its clinic regulations. The requirements are so stringent that not one of the five clinics currently operating in Louisiana would meet them, according to a lawyer advising the clinics. The new regulatory framework would also impose a de facto thirty-day waiting period for many women—an exceptional requirement.
“What it amounts to is a back-door abortion ban,” said Ellie Schilling, a New Orleans attorney. “The way the [Department of Health and Hospitals] went about passing these regulations was in a secretive and undemocratic way. The public definitely doesn’t know what’s going on.” [The Nation]
A 30-day waiting period would almost certainly be deemed unconstitutional if this provision is challenged in court. If anything constitutes an undue burden on a woman's right to choose, a needless monthlong delay would surely qualify. Medically speaking, a 4-week delay would impose additional risk and expense on many women seeking abortions. The further along a woman is in her pregnancy, the more difficult and expensive the procedure becomes.
The fetus developing inside the dead body of Marlise Munoz is severely deformed, according to lawyers for Munoz's family. Munoz, a former paramedic, died of a pulmonary embolism in November, but her body has been artificially ventilated against her wishes and the wishes of her family because of a Texas law that requires a hospital to continue all life-saving treatment on a pregnant woman. Lawyers for the family argue that since Munoz is already legally dead, the law is irrelevant in this case.
By publicizing the dire prognosis of the fetus, which is said to be so severely malformed as to make it impossible to determine its sex, the family's lawyers may be laying the groundwork for Munoz's husband to authorize an abortion past Texas's new 20-week ban. The ban makes exceptions for severe fetal anomaly. If the hospital wants to treat Munoz's body as if it were a living patient, then it should fall to her husband, as her next of kin, to make medical decisions on her behalf, including the decision of whether to continue the pregnancy to term. If Munoz were no longer pregnant, her body could be withdrawn from the ventilator.
Unscrupulous lenders have always preyed on military families, who are apt to be some combination of young, preoccupied, and broke. Payday lenders dot the neighborhoods around military bases. Real banks are cashing in, too. Fort Hood National Bank regularly allows account-holders to overdraft their accounts by several hundred dollars, charging a $35 fee per overdraft. A Wall Street Journal investigation found that 3 out of 10 of the banks that collected the most overdraft fees had branches on military bases.
[Photo credit: bradipo, Creative Commons]
The Best of the Week's News
- Walmart joins the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Fair Food Program
- Dead and pregnant in Texas: Lose your rights.
- Alive and pregnant in West Virginia: Lose your tap water.
- A philosopher and a political scientist ask: Is the U.S. a racial democracy?
[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]
Janet Reitman, an investigative journalist well-known for her expose of Scientology and her profile of the Boston bombing suspect, tackles the stealth war on abortion. Reitman explains how right wing groups have stopped trying to criminalize abortion outright and refocused their energies on regulating abortion out of existence. This is the first time in years that Rolling Stone has devoted so much space to a reprouctive rights story. Kudos to the publication and the reporter for putting out this important piece of journalism.
Sidney-winner Irin Carmon on the big abortion rights case before the Supreme Court. The court will decide whether states can create buffer zones around abortion clinics to protect patients and providers from confrontational anti-choice protesters, if the state can show that existing criminal law is not enough to protect the clinics.
[Photo credit: Infowidget, Creative Commons.]
On the 50th Anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, Barbara Ehrenreich argues that researchers went off track decades ago when they decided that fixing poverty was a matter of diagnosing and remediating the supposedly dysfunctional culture and flawed characters of poor people. These researchers assumed that the poor stayed poor because they choose immediate gratification over long-term planning, or addiction over sobriety, or promiscuity over lawful marriage, and therefore needed moral uplift in the form of "chastity training" and other behavior modification programs. Not surprisingly, the only people who improved their economic status were the consultants who charged taxpayers big bucks for ineffective and degrading programs.
Ehrenreich thinks it's a lot simpler than that: The working poor don't rise out poverty because wages are low and being poor is insidiously but ruinously expensive. As Ehrenreich discovered while researching her book Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, if you don't have first and last month's rent to put down on a new apartment, you can find yourself stuck in an overpriced residential motel that costs far more per month than you would have paid in rent if only you'd had the cash to put down the deposit. Ehrenreich found poverty "surcharges" on everything from convenience store groceries to high-interest payday loans. Between the hidden high costs of making do on minimum wage and stagnant wages, it's no wonder that so many poor people find themselves unable to get ahead.
[Photo credit: kersy83, Creative Commons.]
A chemical spill in the Elk River left 300,000 West Virginians without water last week. Experts say the spill reveals systematic weaknesses in the state's system for managing toxic chemicals:
“We can’t just point a single finger at this company,” said Angela Rosser, the executive director of West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “We need to look at our entire system and give some serious thought to making some serious reform and valuing our natural resources over industry interests.”
She said lawmakers have yet to explain why the storage facility was allowed to sit on the river and so close to a water treatment plant that is the largest in the state.
Ms. Rosser and others noted that the site of the spill has not been subject to a state or federal inspection since 1991. West Virginia law does not require inspections for chemical storage facilities — only for production facilities. [NYT]
Critics say that the state government of West Virginia has long been hostile to environmental regulation because of the outsize influence of coal and chemical companies.
[Photo credit: "Elk River Falls," for illustration only, dmott9, Creative Commons.]