Clear It with Sidney | Hillman Foundation

Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

Clear It with Sidney

"The Iron Closet": Gay In Russia on the Eve of Sochi

What is it like to be gay in Russia today? Jeff Sharlet reports on LGB life in Russia on the eve of the Sochi Olympics for GQ


[Image credit: ME!O, Creative Commons.]

Juveniles Serving Life Without Parole

Social justice journalist Beth Schwartzapfel has an important piece on juveniles sentence to life without parole (LWOP) and the legal fight to eliminate LWOP for young offenders:

A common perception is that these kids are “the worst of the worst,” and indeed, many juveniles sentenced to life have done terrible things. But HRW estimates that a quarter of them were, like Jennifer, convicted of “aiding and abetting” or of felony murders. Almost 60 percent had no prior criminal convictions. More than 70 juveniles were just 13 or 14 years old at the time of their crime — some so small when they arrived in prison that all the uniforms were too big for them. Anecdotally, many, like Jennifer, had been subjected to abuse and neglect, their childhoods marred by instability, poverty and violent or criminal behavior by the adults in their life. [AJAM]

The Supreme Court has already declared mandatory LWOP for juveniles to be unconstitutional and a handful of states have eliminated it as a punishment for young offenders. 

[Photo credit: shingst, Creative Commons.]

#Sidney's Picks: VW Plant May Unionize; Botched Bloodwork; Snowy Owls

The Best of the Week’s News

  • A Volkswagon plant in Tennessee is poised to become the first unionized auto plant in the American South.
  • How the myth of the “Negro Cocaine Fiend” shaped U.S. drug policy.
  • South Carolina is the slowest state when it comes to delivering results on the potentially life-saving blood tests that all babies get during their first days in the hospital.
  • The Polar Vortex is like a portal from another dimension, sucking snowy owls in to our reality.


[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

Self-abortion and Miscarriage Management in Texas

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. 

55 Graves Found at Notorious Ex-Reform School in Florida

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.

New Law Could Shutter Every Abortion Clinic in Louisiana

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. 

Lawyers: Fetus of Dead Texas Woman is Distinctly Abnormal

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. 

Banks Turn Troops Into Cash Cows With Overdraft Charges

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]

Sidney's Picks: Walmart Breakthrough?; Forced "Life Support"; Drinking Water Crisis in WV

The Best of the Week’s News

  • Walmart  joins the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program


[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

Rolling Stone Investigates the Stealth War on Abortion Rights

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.