Advocates frustrated with Biden’s inaction on abortion protections. Mystery lingers over 21 teens who “died as they danced” in S. Africa.
Advocates frustrated with Biden’s inaction on abortion protections
Since the Supreme Court announced its ruling overturning Roe v. Wade last week, several prominent Democrats, including President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have declared that abortion is now “on the ballot”. The implication is that if Americans want federal protections for abortion rights, they need to support Democrats in upcoming mid-terms and future elections. If voters give Democrats the House, a filibuster-proof Senate majority and the Presidency, Democrats will protect abortion rights.
However, many reproductive rights advocates aren’t buying it. One woman who traveled to D.C. to protest Friday’s Supreme Court decision summed it up. “I’m not hopeful at this point that this is something that will be federally protected. I have as little faith in Democrats at this point as I did in Republicans”.
She also pointed out that “Democrats have used [abortion] for 50 years to fundraise. They had opportunities to codify Roe. They chose not to because being the pro-choice candidate in an election helps you raise money. And frankly, I’m pretty disgusted with a lot of our representatives right now”.
Indeed, when Obama first came to office in 2019, the Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in Congress. But at the time, Obama signaled that codifying Roe would not be a priority of his administration.
Senate Dems call on Biden to take executive actions, to no avail
Before Friday’s ruling, 20 Senate Democrats signed a letter to Biden calling for executive actions to protect abortion care access. They proposed 6 specific executive actions, none of which has Biden acted upon.
After the ruling, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith called on Biden to declare a public health emergency. Declaring a public health emergency, the Senators said, would enable the administration to take steps to “protect abortion access for all Americans”. It would also unlock “critical resources and authority that states and the federal government can use to meet the surge in demand for reproductive health services”.
Warren and Smith further proposed other deeper structural reforms. For example, they called on Biden to support reforms to the filibuster, which would enable Democrats to pass federal protections. Even without doing away with the filibuster altogether, lawmakers could carve out an exception to it, as they have done in the past.
Warren and Smith also call for reforms to the Electoral College. Both George W. Bush and Donald Trump won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote, before eventually appointing Justices that overturned Roe.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre recently remarked that Biden has not changed his stance against filibuster reform. Nor does Biden favor proposed reforms to the Supreme Court, such as expansion or term limits for Justices.
As an apparent response to these frustrations, Biden’s Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra went on NPR to discuss the options the administration is weighing. However, Becerra offered little in the way of concrete assurances or specifics. When speaking of women who will now need to travel long distances to obtain an abortion, Becarra said the administration is “going to try to be supportive of those who are trying to help make that possible”, a sentence loaded down with too many qualifiers to be meaningful.
When asked if the administration were considering offering abortion care on federal property (thus circumventing state prohibitions) Becerra said, “We haven’t made any decisions yet, but we are certainly familiar with some of those options that are being discussed”.
It may be too much to expect of the administration to have a plan of action only days after the fall of Roe. However, the court’s intention to overturn Roe had been public knowledge for weeks following the leak of Alito’s draft opinion.
Immediately after the decision, Biden was quick to tell Americans there was little he could do and that it was up to voters to support Democrats in November. Advocates for abortion rights and other progressive priorities have made it clear that they aren’t interested in Biden’s declarations of what he can’t or won’t do. They have made it clear that they would like to see him at least try. His action or inaction may determine whether Democrats succeed in capitalizing on public feeling about Roe in November.
Mystery lingers over 21 teens who “died as they danced” in S. Africa
In the early hours of Sunday morning, 21 teens, the youngest a 13-year-old girl, died in a nightclub in eastern South Africa. Most of the teens who died were under the legal drinking age of 18. They were celebrating the end of their mid-year school exams. When authorities responded to the scene, they found unconscious teens lying on tables, chairs and couches and even the dancefloor itself.
According to witnesses and authorities, the victims succumbed very quickly to whatever killed them. “They died as they danced,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said. “They dance, fall, and die. Literally”. The bar was crowded and even after revelers noticed something amiss, they struggled to make their way outside.
The cause of the deaths remains a mystery. Initially, authorities assumed the teens had been poisoned by something they ate, drank or smoked. Despite being underage, many of the teens had been drinking, and the bar also allows patrons to smoke hookah. But a few survivors had said that they’d noticed an overpowering smell, some comparing it to pepper spray, before losing consciousness.
An anonymous source has said that officials are examining the possibility that the revelers died from a poisonous gas in the poorly ventilated space. The source also claimed the victims gave off a strange chemical smell during their autopsies.
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