Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


PROTECT REPRODUCTIVE HEALTHCARE FOR NORTH CAROLINA WOMEN: It appears the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the current federal legal standard on abortion, as determined in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, and place that standard in the hands of the states. In North Carolina, that means it will be the state legislature that will determine the standard. North Carolina’s current laws are appropriate and adequate. Roe v. Wade already is a very restricted right to abortion – and a majority of North Carolinians support it. “Reproductive healthcare decisions are deeply personal and should be made by patients in consultation with their healthcare providers, not by politicians,” said a letter signed by Gov. Roy Cooper and 16 other governors earlier this week. The letter, to the top leaders of the U.S. House and Senate, called on Congress to act quickly. Bolding mine, because that number (1/3 of the states) is significant, and a clear warning. Some of those other states already have trigger laws in effect, which will outlaw abortion as soon as Roe is overturned. Others will likely act quickly, leaving NC in a distinct minority where it is allowed. We cannot allow Republicans to regain their Veto-proof majorities in the Legislature come November, or NC will join that repressive, misogynistic movement.

WITHOUT ROE V. WADE, IT'S UP TO NORTH CAROLINA TO PROTECT ABORTION ACCESS NOW: North Carolina has 100 counties. You can get an abortion in just nine of them. In 2019, close to 23,500 people received abortions in these nine counties and 15 clinics. They chose to do so in spite of a three-day waiting period and inaccurate counseling that attempts to discourage them from following through with their decision. They choose this in spite of having to raise hundreds of dollars for the procedure. And now, the very possibility of a safe abortion hangs in the balance. For months, we’ve gotten a glimpse into what state legislatures will do when there aren’t any federal abortion protections for abortion. They’ve passed a wave of anti-abortion bills that range from mild to downright draconian, such as an Oklahoma law that outlaws abortion almost entirely, with very few exceptions. That means North Carolina could very well be the only state in the Southeast where people will be able to safely seek reproductive health care. Tennessee and Kentucky have “trigger laws” in place that would automatically ban abortion as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned. Georgia and South Carolina have six-week bans on the books that will go into effect. The nine counties and 15 abortion clinics we have will no longer be serving just North Carolina. They may be serving the entire Southeast. In 2024, reproductive rights will likely be on the ballot in North Carolina once again. The state will be electing a new governor, and voraciously anti-abortion Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson will almost certainly be the Republican nominee. Abortion access in North Carolina is already scarce, but the 2024 election could determine whether it vanishes altogether. Congressional races are (of course) very important. But our state-level Legislative and Judicial races are not just important, they are critical. Don't forget that.

THE CHOICE IS ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT CANDIDATES TO DO IN OFFICE: Before voting, find out where candidates stand on the following critical matters. We urge support of those state and local candidates who will: DEFEND NORTH CAROLINA’S CONSTITUTION and the right of every child to have access to a quality education. That means supporting full implementation and funding of the Comprehensive Remedial Program the plaintiffs and defendants in the landmark Leandro case have developed and agreed to. This remedy is more than a quarter-century overdue. RESTORE INTEGRITY TO THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA BOARD OF GOVERNORS AND UNC SYSTEM by ending the hyper-partisanship of appointments of the board, campus trustees and key campus administrators. GIVE ALL NORTH CAROLINIANS A VOICE in their representative government by adopting non-partisan criteria and a non-partisan system for drawing congressional, legislative and other elective district lines. For too long, too many citizens have been left without a fair voice in Congress or the halls of the state legislature because of the hyper-partisan and racially discriminatory way election districts have been established. ASSURE NO ONE IS DENIED ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE because they cannot afford it. Expanding Medicaid – too long forbidden – will give more than a half-million North Carolinians access to health care they cannot afford now. STOP SHIFTING THE BURDEN OF PAYING FOR GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS AND SERVICES TO THOSE WHO CAN LEAST AFFORD IT by ending corporate tax cuts and adopting a more balanced system where businesses pay their fair share. ENCOURAGE ALL ELIGIBLE VOTERS TO CAST BALLOTS by enacting laws to make voting easier and more accessible. Discourage actions that will make it more difficult or cumbersome for properly registered citizens to exercise their civic duty. I would add one more (bare minimum) requirement for a candidate who wants my vote: Stand ready to oppose any effort to limit women's access to abortion, and that includes using public funds to support anti-abortion "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" or any other disingenuous or coercive tactics to "guilt" them into keeping a pregnancy they don't want. No fence-sitting on this one.

I'M TIRED OF HAVING THE RACE DISCUSSION: I’m confused. Torn. Conflicted. A recent conversation has left me so perplexed that I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, clutching my covers, holding my knees to my chest, and rocking back and forth trying to find meaning and understanding. I was asked recently if I ever write about anything other than racism and Black stuff. Huh, wait, what does that mean? I said yes I do, but I’ll stop altogether when racism ends, and there’s no longer a need to worry about Black stuff. I was also told I should write about happier topics and “leave that race stuff alone.” I’m sorry your hate and my having to endure it makes you feel uncomfortable when I articulate it. I used to echo the familiar refrain that education and increased interactions between Blacks and whites was the solution to ending racism. I don’t sing that song anymore because I don’t like the melody. For this to be an effective solution, the correct education must be taught both in the classroom and at home. It’s failing before we even start because there’s so much fear in even discussing the critical theoretical framework by which structural and institutional racism could be examined. In the classroom, the curriculum must be changed to reflect the accomplishments and contributions of people from all ethnic groups and not just for 28 days once a year. If our children are taught about cultures other than their own, more than Dr. King’s Dream Speech, about this country’s sketchy past, and that people of every skin color hue has contributed to the growth of this nation; there would be more respect for other cultures and less racial animus. Think of the psychological damage done to a Black child, who through all his formal years of education, is indoctrinated with the thought that his culture has produced nothing significant for this country. On the other hand, the white child has received the opposite, but then is told to receive people of color as his equal. American history should be less of a His-Story-Mystery and reflect the failures, successes, negatives and positives of every group. Whoever came up with the term "whitewashing" to describe how we treat history was a genius. Every time that effort fades and the truth begins to show through, it's time to break out the paintbrushes again. We are at that point again right now, and we need to knock that paintbrush out of their hands this time.

THE LAST BEST CHANCE FOR NC'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Whether they’re presiding over overcrowded and inadequate classrooms, doing quadruple duty as classroom instructors, nurses, counselors, and social workers, dealing with cranky, demanding and often poorly informed parents, filling out reams of bureaucratic paperwork, or heading off to second jobs made necessary by their invariably lousy pay, public school teachers are among the most heroic of modern public servants. One shudders to think about the state our schools would be in were it not for their remarkable fortitude. All that said, one also gets the strong sense in recent years that our teaching corps’ capacity for making lemonade out of the lemons they’re so frequently dealt is waning. With repeated Republican budget cuts leaving per pupil spending below Great Recession levels, facility needs at an all-time high, alternative, better-paying employment opportunities plentiful, and a cynical and manufactured right-wing campaign to spur parental fear and outrage in full flight, a growing number of teachers (and would-be entrants into the field) are abandoning the profession. Indeed, as is the case in many parts of the country these days, North Carolina is experiencing a serious teacher shortage as literally thousands of teachers and prospective teachers depart the profession for what they hope will be greener pastures. That GOP legislative leaders continue to refuse to abide by court orders and appropriate the necessary funds is truly outrageous and the latest in a long series of lawless acts by a group that has made violating the constitution one of its signature moves. Fortunately, the final word in this long-running drama has not yet been written. Soon, the ultimate arbiter on the meaning of the state constitution – the North Carolina Supreme Court – will weigh in on the matter yet again and, one presumes, determine once and for all whether the Leandro case has any real meaning. If the court fails to take strong action or embarks upon another spell of dithering while right-wing dark money works overtime to end the panel’s narrow 4-3 Democratic majority in this fall’s election, more than a quarter century of litigation will be shown to have been for naught. The constitution, the protections it supposedly offers, and court itself will be greatly diminished. Justice Newby played his card and replaced the previous Leandro judge, and the new (hand-picked) judge is calling for an $800 Million increase in funding. Game over, dudes. You tried and failed, now do what the Constitution and the People are demanding.


SUSAN COHEN: AS A NURSE, I'VE SEEN THE NEED FOR REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM: Unfortunately, there are times when the woman cannot control the circumstances. Rape and incest occur. What about women who are drugged? In almost 50 years as a nurse I’ve worked with patients in too many of these heart-breaking situations. Our culture does not want to recognize this. It’s too abhorrent to acknowledge but we all know it occurs. How dare our government—be it Congress, the courts, or the president—presume to control what a woman does once a pregnancy occurs. If you think abortion is wrong, then don’t have one! It’s very simple. It is pretty simple, frankly. And these marching anti-maskers reveal their rank hypocrisy by being silent on this issue.

SARAH PRESTON: EMPOWER AND SUPPORT PROGRESSIVE WOMEN CANDIDATES: Twenty-six states are ready to ban or significantly impede access to abortion when — not if — the Supreme Court overturns Roe. We can’t let North Carolina become one of them. The N.C. General Assembly will be the last line of defense. Early voting is underway. We should all realize by now that every election has consequences, whether it is a primary, general, or midterm election. The 2016 election resulted in the makeup of the current Court, which is about to overturn 50 years of precedent. Pro-choice North Carolinians have an opportunity. The current anti-choice majority in the legislature must be voted out and replaced with people who understand that abortion is health care, reproductive freedom is fundamental and women should have a seat at the table. Let’s fully support the many progressive women on the ballot now and again in November. It's been over a hundred years since Lillian Exum Clement blazed the trail to Raleigh for other women to follow. They should be holding at least half those seats by now, and not half of half like they are. Can you imagine what that would be like? I can, and it's a goal worth pursuing.

LYNN ANDREWS: WHAT ABOUT OUR LIBERTY? The Supreme Court draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito says the issue of abortion should be returned to the people’s elected representatives. I strongly disagree. The issue of abortion should be decided by women and their doctors. Women do not elect representatives to make medical decisions for them. They elect representatives to protect their liberty and defend the Constitution. I urge Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. Women deserve the right to make their own decisions about health care, just like men. Insert applause soundtrack, in place of my male opinion, which is not needed.



I'm finding it hard

to get into the Mother's Day spirit, with the threat of the overturning of Roe v. Wade looming. I know, it's not "my" day anyway, as a man and father. Motherhood is challenging as hell, from morning sickness all the way to the end of days. My daughter just had her second child a week ago, and she's home now caring for a newborn and a toddler. Which makes me tired just thinking about it.

I am proud of her strength and resilience, and I love my two grandsons a great deal. But I can't help feeling the tendrils of the patriarchy wrapping around this day, giving women a brief nod for performing their expected function. I probably shouldn't even be writing this, because who the hell am I to cast a shadow, to air my confused feelings about this day? My feelings don't (or shouldn't) matter at all.

But I can't help it.

What about women who can't have children, or who simply don't want to? One is a choice and one is not, but that choice is on the line right now. Someone posted a meme on Facebook that showed a handful of greeting cards which read, "Happy Forced Mother's Day." At first I recoiled at that, like it was going Too Far. But it isn't. It is something we should all be contemplating right now.

Are we going to continue to congratulate and thank women for becoming mothers, when they no longer have any say-so in that decision? Is this our last genuine Happy Mother's Day?

I don't know the answer to that, or many other questions surrounding this issue.

I do know that, since the beginning of recorded history, childless women have been marginalized, speculated about, treated as failures, given sympathy when it was not asked for or appropriate, mistrusted in a variety of settings and occupations, even those that have absolutely nothing to do with procreation or child-rearing. Is that some half-ass punishment by the patriarchy for not supporting their gender-biased power structure? I think we know the answer to that.

I hope I haven't offended too many reading this, or cast a pall on this day for mothers who deserve much more than just a day. That was not my intent, or at least I don't think it was. I'm just really frustrated, and worried. As I'm sure most of you are.