TPM Cafe: Opinion

Washington, D.C.’s Democratic Party is holding its mayoral primary today, and — for the first time in years, all's quiet on the education front. Sure, there are pending arguments around the shuffling of boundaries for neighborhood schools, but there's no serious push to roll back — or strenuously expand — the controversial reforms of Adrian Fenty’s Administration. The rapidly growing charter school sector and Fenty-era teacher evaluation system are in the city to stay.

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The little girl could not have been more than 5 years old. She was wearing a purple polka-dot dress and her hair was pulled tight into ponytails tied with purple ribbons. On her feet were sparkly shoes. Someone had taken great care to dress her and on this grey fall morning in October 2013 she was all sunshine and light.

She skipped towards the large, fortress-like building. She turned towards me and gave me a joyful smile, and said “I’m going to see my daddy today.”

And then together we walked through the doors of the Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois.

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Move over, Georgia Right to Life! There is a new “pro-life” advocacy organization in town, and they are ready to take over as the lead anti-choice group in the state. Even worse? They may have the National Right to Life’s blessing to do so, too.

Here’s the background: Georgia Right to Life (GRTL), the state-based anti-abortion group that historically has held the most sway in the state of Georgia, but it’s been dealing with some heavy baggage this election cycle. With a highly combative GOP primary for an open Senate seat, the Republican primary candidates seem to be battling to see who can be the most extreme when it comes to opposing any form of abortion rights. For GRTL, this should be simple choice – with all candidates hostile to abortion, it would be hard to endorse a loser.

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Katie Klabusich is an activist who works tirelessly for abortion rights and access. She is a journalist and blogger for various online outlets, frequently chronicling current events around abortion with a particular focus on the activities of anti-abortion protesters. She has helped organize fundraising events for abortion clinics and advocacy organizations. And she has also put herself on the front lines of the abortion fight, volunteering as a clinic escort to help women enter abortion clinics in Illinois and New Jersey.

On March 5, Klabusich woke to a message from a friend about a new blog post on the Pro-Life Action League’s (PLAL) website. The post urged readers to “pray and fast” for 40 days for three specific people — Dr. Cheryl Chastine, a doctor who has recently started performing abortions in Wichita, Kansas, where Dr. George Tiller practiced until he was assassinated in 2009; Robin Marty, a journalist who writes about abortion for many outlets and whose work has appeared in Ms. Magazine, Rolling Stone, and RH Reality Check (full disclosure: Marty has written posts for TPM); and Klabusich.

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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments over the ACA’s provision requiring contraceptives like Plan B to be covered as a basic part of health plans.

The implications of this decision for women’s health are huge. Contraception is health care, as surely as any other kind of medicine is, but this decision would put that decision in the hands of bosses rather than the women whose decision it should be. And the strategy on the right tomake it seem like a debate about abortion distorts the facts even further--though it apparently is working on Justice Anthony Kennedy.

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Before he became the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall had a groundbreaking legal career — one spent fighting for civil rights, racial equality, and fairness in the criminal justice system. When he retired from the Court, his colleagues reflected on how his unique perspective influenced the Justices’ deliberations. According to Justice Byron White,

Thurgood brought to the conference table years of experience in an area that was of vital importance to our work, experience that none of us could claim to match. . . . He characteristically would tell us things that we knew but would rather forget; and he told us much that we did not know due to the limitations of our own experience.

Today, federal judges like Marshall are the exception rather than the rule — far too few of them have worked as civil rights lawyers or represented indigent criminal defendants.

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For years the DC Abortion Fund (DCAF) has given small, silver coat hanger pendants as a gift to monthly donors who give $10 or more. They are well liked among our supporters. On more than one occasion people have asked me how they can get one. When I wear mine, if I get any comments, they are positive. It’s often been a conversation starter about DCAF and the work we do.

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As the “invisible primary” for 2016 gets underway, the most visible near-certain Republican candidate is the junior senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul. Aside from a consistent high ranking in early 2016 polls (he’s remained a steady presence near the top of all post-November-2012 surveys of Republicans, even as Marc Rubio and Chris Christie have risen and fallen), he’s received mostly favorable media attention, from his famous filibuster against CIA nominee John Brennan to his periodic “outreach” initiatives aimed at the young and minority voters among whom his party has been struggling.

He has also avoided much of the intra-party antagonism attracted by his rival Ted Cruz, in no small part because of his calm manner and good personal relationships with “Establishment Republicans” (particularly his Kentucky colleague the Senate Minority Leader, to whom he is offering valuable “constitutional conservative” cover in a potentially dangerous primary challenge). And he has a built-in national base and relatively high name ID thanks to his father’s various campaigns both as a Libertarian and as a Republican.

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When it comes to women’s health issues like contraception and abortion, why does the press so often present opinion and fact side by side? Recent pieces in Reuters,the New York Times and SCOTUSblog, to name just a few, made an attempt at “balance” by presenting what they see as “both sides of the issue” on contraception. But do facts have two sides? When reporting on medical issues, weighing a religious belief as equal to scientific and medical evidence is disingenuous and confusing to the reader. And often there is no opportunity to correct misinformation. As a women’s health care provider, this disappoints and frustrates me.

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Rhode Island has recently learned that its renewable energy standards could be ruinously expensive. But they’re in good company: more than a dozen states have “learned” the same thing, from reports from the same economists at the Beacon Hill Institute (BHI).

Housed at Boston’s Suffolk University, BHI turns out study after study for right-wing, anti-government groups. Funding for BHI’s relentless efforts has come from Charles and David Koch (leading tea party funders) and others on the same wavelength. For the Rhode Island study, BHI teamed up with the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a member of the Koch’s State Policy Network.

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