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This Bible Belt Abortion Provider Is Looking Beyond Trump

Mother Jones

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Abortion providers have had a rollercoaster year. On the one hand, a landmark abortion rights case in Texas saw an affirmative ruling from the Supreme Court, overturning restrictions that aimed to put clinics out of business across the United States. At the same time, conservative statehouses pushed through legislation that aimed to decrease abortion access and defund Planned Parenthood, the largest women’s health provider in the country. Months after the Supreme Court ruled in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that the restrictions in Texas qualified as undue burdens and were therefore unconstitutional, Donald Trump was elected president, assuring voters of his staunch support for anti-choice legislation and deflecting allegations of sexual assault.

The week after the election, we called Dr. Willie Parker—a Harvard-educated OB-GYN from Alabama in his 50s who has been providing abortions full time since 2009. He practices in clinics in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, has confronted demonstrators blocking his access, and sued the state of Mississippi to keep the sole clinic in that state open. We wanted to hear how abortion providers are preparing for the next chapter of the battle against reproductive rights. As board chair for Physicians for Reproductive Health, Parker has been at the forefront of the national fight to preserve a woman’s right to choose. Here’s what he had to say about the likely new realities in women’s health during the future Trump administration.

What’s the conversation like among providers right now?
Most people can’t even talk. We’re still figuring it out. But I think people are trying to think beyond and say, “OK, given the inability to overturn the election, and given our ability to prognosticate based on how he’s operated politically, most of us have to think worst-case scenario.” But there’s also really no way of knowing what he’s going to do—he’s been sufficiently vague in his policy positions. We can take some prognostic indication from some of the things that he’s said, like in his 60 Minutes interview where he talked about his intention to appoint a pro-life justice to align the court to overturn Roe. I think of it as a low-hanging fruit. He has every intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as much because it’s known as Obamacare as because he wants to try and deconstruct the legacy of President Obama. But that has implications that mean women who were accessing family planning and contraception as a preventative service with no co-pay will lose access to that coverage. We will only see an exacerbation of the things we were engaged in trying to prevent—like unplanned pregnancy and the need for abortion, which creates a societal dilemma. If you’re making abortion illegal and undermining the various things that will allow the prevention of that need, it can only be a situation that goes from bad to worse.

There are a lot of misconceptions around contraception and abortion care, not only in the general public, but also among our lawmakers. Do you think there will be an uptick in anti-science attitudes?
There’s a saying that you can’t awaken somebody who’s pretending to be asleep. I’m full of clichés—I was raised by a Southern black woman, and they had a saying for everything.

I get you, I’m from Tennessee and Mississippi, I grew up on those sayings too.
Oh, so you’re my homegirl! laughs

There’s a willful ignorance. We indulge people who are willfully misrepresenting the facts. I don’t think those anti-choice congress people are as much benignly misguided as they are intentionally and willfully ignorant of the facts of reproduction. That lends itself very well to them being ideologically driven and carrying out agendas that, if they were to be really be honest about the facts, would be a tougher sell. But I think anti-intellectualism can be rewarded by the outcome of the election that’s going to result in people being appointed who can reinforce that agenda. We’re going to see more of that willful ignorance if we don’t push back and fight. The worst thing we can do is to assume that the electoral college votes resulting in the election of Donald Trump represents a mandate. It does not. He did not get the majority of the popular vote; that went to Hillary Clinton. That means those votes represent the consciousness of the nation, which is that abortion should be legal, that contraception and family planning are health issues and prevention, that a woman’s right to reproductive privacy is the law of the land and should remain such.

Have any of your patients expressed any fear since the election?
I’ve seen patients once since the election, and then, it was only abortion patients. But certainly, my friends and the common narrative is people are trying to shore up their own lives with regards to family planning and reproduction. I know people who were previously considering IUDs are considering them again. I know the requests for those kind of visits are up. People are concerned about how much control over their reproductive lives they’re going to lose as a result of this election outcome.

Do you think this puts states that are down to one clinic, such as Mississippi, in even more danger?
The fight in Mississippi will be more protracted. I’m the physician plaintiff in the lawsuit that keeps the Mississippi clinic open, and we prevailed twice in the Fifth Circuit—once with just the three-judge panel and once with the full Fifth Circuit panel. Despite that, the state tried to push it up to the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court did not take that in lieu of the Texas case. So the definitive nature of the Texas case should have made things OK in Mississippi, but the state of Mississippi has decided to go forward. Now, I think their hope will be rekindled and renewed around the fact that potentially there will be an overturning of Roe, and there will be the appointment of a conservative justice who alters the balance of the court. There now will be a political hope based on the change in the presidential administration—hope that maybe wasn’t there before the election. But I don’t think anything will change immediately. President Obama, in his first remarks since the election, in order to reassure people and help them understand how government works, said the US government is like an ocean liner, not like a speed boat. It’s harder to turn around than people might think. Hopefully, many of the decisions have been structured in a way to make them resilient, so they’re not as vulnerable to the capricious whim of political administrations.

So what would you say to women who are worried about what a Trump administration could do to their reproductive health?

I just want to remind people that the task of those who support reproductive rights and reproductive justice didn’t change based on who is in the White House. We have leadership that is not supportive of what we’re trying to do, but the demand for justice shouldn’t be modulated. We can take that as a notion that we don’t know exactly what President-elect Trump is going to do, but we can’t afford to take a position of waiting around to see. We have to work under the assumption that the things that we fought hard for to protect women will be under assault, and we have to bring all our creativity and our energy to bear to preserve those things. No matter who is in the White House.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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This Bible Belt Abortion Provider Is Looking Beyond Trump

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Oklahoma scientists pressured to downplay link between earthquakes and fracking

Oklahoma scientists pressured to downplay link between earthquakes and fracking

By on 4 Mar 2015 4:01 pmcommentsShare

Oklahoma has been experiencing an earthquake boom in recent years. In 2014, the state had 585 quakes of at least magnitude 3. Up through 2008, it averaged only three quakes of that strength each year. Something odd is happening.

But scientists at the Oklahoma Geological Survey have downplayed a possible connection between increasing fracking in the state and the increasing number of tremors. Even as other states (Ohio, for example) quickly put two and two together and shut down some drilling operations that were to blame, OGS scientists said that more research was needed before their state took similar steps.

Now, though, emails obtained by EnergyWire reporter Mike Soraghan reveal that the University of Oklahoma and its oil industry funders were putting pressure on OGS scientists to downplay the connection between earthquakes and the injection of fracking wastewater underground. In 2013, a preliminary OGS report noted possible correlation between the two, and OGS signed on to a statement by the U.S. Geological Survey that also noted such linkages. Soon after, OGS’s seismologist, Austin Holland, was summoned to meetings with the president of the university, where OGS is housed, and with executives of oil company Continental Resources. Continental CEO Harold Hamm was a major university funder, while the university president David Boren serves on Continental’s board, for which he earned $272,700 in cash and stock in 2013. From EnergyWire:

“I have been asked to have ‘coffee’ with President Boren and Harold Hamm Wednesday,” [Holland] wrote in an Nov. 18, 2013, email to a co-worker.

The significance was not lost on his colleague, OGS Public Information Coordinator Connie Smith.

“Gosh,” Smith responded. “I guess that’s better than having Kool-Aid with them. I guess.”

A meeting with such powerful figures in the state would be intimidating for a state employee such as Holland, said state Rep. Jason Murphey of Guthrie.

“Wow. That’s a lot of pressure,” said Murphey, a Republican whose district has been rattled by numerous quakes. “That just sends chills up your spine if you’re from Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma geologist Bob Jackman, who has tried to get the word out about the connection between fracking and the quakes, recalls Holland saying last year that he couldn’t do the same. According to Jackman, Holland, when pressed, blurted out, “You don’t understand — Harold Hamm and others will not allow me to say certain things.”

Holland says Jackman misremembered the conversation. Holland publicly denies being pressured by the university or industry.

Other scientists at OGS weren’t happy to see the agency downplay the link between one oil and gas project, called the Hunton dewatering, and an earthquake swarm near Oklahoma City. One wrote to a family member, “I am dismayed at our seismic people about this issue and believe they couldn’t track a bunny through fresh snow!”

Even the USGS picked up on something fishy when Holland suggested alternative hypotheses to explain earthquakes instead of linking them to fracking processes. A science adviser with the federal agency wrote to Holland saying one alternative theory was “unlikely” and “could be very distracting from the larger issue of earthquake safety in Oklahoma … and the role that wastewater injection may be playing.”

In July 2014, Holland told Bloomberg that if a link between fracking and the quakes were to be discovered, he’d have to advise the state to shut some drilling operations down. “If my research takes me to the point where we determine the safest thing to do is to shut down injection — and consequently production — in large portions of the state, then that’s what we have to do,” he said. “That’s for the politicians and the regulators to work out.”

The research is there, even if UO President David Boren or Continental CEO Harold Hamm aren’t pleased about it. Let’s see what those politicians and regulators do next.

Okla. agency linked quakes to oil in 2010, but kept mum amid industry pressure

, EnergyWire.



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Oklahoma scientists pressured to downplay link between earthquakes and fracking

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When Shirley Temple Black Was a Vietnam War Hawk on the Campaign Trail

Mother Jones

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Shirley Temple Black, the beloved 1930s child movie-star who reinvented herself in later years as an American diplomat, died Monday at her Woodside, California, home at the age of 85.

She was tremendously successful on the international stage as a film star (she is ranked as number 18 on the American Film Institute’s list of top female screen legends), but found less success in national politics. In 1967, Black mounted an unsuccessful campaign to represent California’s 11th congressional district. (Superstar Bing Crosby was on her campaign’s finance committee.) A Republican, Black ran on an anti-racism, anti-crime, pro-war platform.

Here’s an excerpt from an Associated Press story from October 1967 that demonstrates how hawkish on Vietnam the one-time Bright Eyes star was:

As for the war in Vietnam, Mrs. Black said: “President Johnson should rely more on the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff than on the advice of Defense Secretary (Robert S.) McNamara.”

“Obviously, civilians make the policy. But after the policy is made, that’s the time you bring in the key military leaders, in order to form the strategy and tactics of how to achieve your goals.”

Aligning herself with the hawks in the debate over what to do in Vietnam, Mrs. Black said she thought U.S. forces should mine the approaches to Haiphong, the principal port, to cut off military supplies from Red China and the Soviet Union.

(Mining that Vietnamese port is something the Nixon administration ended up doing in 1972 during Operation Pocket Money.)

Well, Shirley Temple didn’t win. She lost the Republican nomination to Paul McCloskey, a Korean War vet who strongly opposed US military involvement in Vietnam. “I will be back,” she told supporters at the time of her defeat. “This was my first race and now I know how the game is played. I plan to dedicate my life and energies to public service because I think my country needs it now more than ever.”

Black indeed came back, but perhaps not in the way she initially imagined. In 1968, she went on a European fundraising tour for the Nixon presidential campaign. In 1969, President Nixon appointed her to the five-member delegation to the UN General Assembly, where she earned praise for speaking out on issues such as environmental problems and refugee crises. She later served as US ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976, President Gerald Ford’s chief of protocol for the State Department from 1976 to 1977, and ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989, serving there during the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

Following the fall of communism, Black continued to serve in Prague—and found a creative method of mocking those who remained committed communists:

Needling any Communists who may be watching, Black sometimes appears on her home’s balcony in a T-shirt bearing her initials, STB, which also was the acronym of the now-disbanded Czech secret police. Asked what STB agents are doing these days, she replied, “Most of them are driving the taxis you ride around in.”

Now, here’s a photo of a young Shirley Temple posing with a signed photo of President Franklin D. Roosevelt:

Globe Photos/ZUMA

…and here’s one of an older Shirley Temple with co-star Ronald Reagan (decades later, she would serve during the Reagan administration as a State Department trainer):

face to face/ZUMA

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When Shirley Temple Black Was a Vietnam War Hawk on the Campaign Trail

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Fracking opponents win big in Pennsylvania

Fracking opponents win big in Pennsylvania

William Avery Hudson

Robinson Township in western Pennsylvania is home to a couple thousand residents and about 20 fracked wells. In a resounding victory for common sense and for local governments throughout the state, residents there and in six other towns won an epic court battle last week that will give them back the right to regulate or even evict the fracking operations in their midst.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday struck down elements of a state law that had prevented local governments from regulating fracking activities. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

The long-awaited decision is a blow to a 2012 law known as Act 13 that was promoted by [Gov. Tom Corbett (R)] and the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry as a means to create a uniform statewide standard for gas development.

By a 4-2 vote, the court ruled that the zoning provisions in the law were unconstitutional, though the court disagreed on the grounds for striking down the law.

“The bottom line is that the majority of the court agreed that Act 13 is unconstitutional, and that local governments can zone oil and gas drilling like they do other activities,” said Jordan B. Yeager, a Doylestown environmental lawyer who argued the case on behalf of several municipalities.

Cue bullshit bluster:

“We must not allow today’s ruling to send a negative message to job creators and families who depend on the energy industry,” Corbett said in a statement. “I will continue to work with members of the House and Senate to ensure that Pennsylvania’s thriving energy industry grows and provides jobs while balancing the interests of local communities.” …

“We are stunned that four justices would issue this ruling, which will so harshly impact the economic welfare of Pennsylvanians,” State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Sam Smith (R., Jefferson) said in a joint statement. They said the ruling likely would increase natural gas prices and cost “a multitude” of jobs.

The claim that giving local governments the right to control drilling operations within their borders will “harshly impact the economic welfare” of the state’s residents is, of course, obnoxious and false. But, then, we have become depressingly accustomed to hearing such lies from frackers and from the politicians who promulgate their talking points about economic booms and jobs.

Pa. Supreme Court jolts shale industry, The Philadelphia Inquirer
What Pa. court’s ruling on gas-drilling law means, The Philadelphia Inquirer

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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Fracking opponents win big in Pennsylvania

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