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Grand Canyon won’t seek volunteers to kill bison this fall
Author: FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A bison herd that lives almost exclusively in the northern reaches of Grand Canyon National Park won’t be targeted for lethal removal there this fall.

The park used skilled volunteers selected through a highly competitive and controversial lottery last year to kill bison, part of a toolset to downsize the herd that’s been trampling meadows and archaeological sites on the canyon’s North Rim.

Introducing the sound of gunfire and having people close to the bison was meant to nudge the massive animals back to the adjacent forest where they legally could be hunted. But the efforts had little effect.

“They just kind of moved a bit from where the activity occurred, and sometimes they’d come back the next day,” said Grand Canyon wildfire program manager Greg Holm.

New surveys also have shown the herd is closer to the goal of about 200, down from an estimated 500 to 800 animals when the park approved a plan to quickly cut the size of the herd. The park is now working with other agencies and groups on a long-term plan for managing the bison, an animal declared America’s national mammal in 2016 and depicted on the National Park Service logo.

Hunting over hundreds of years and a genetic bottleneck nearly left the animals that once numbered in the tens of millions extinct in the U.S. Federal wildlife authorities now support about 11,000 bison in about a dozen states, including the largest herd on public land at Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone, which spans 3,500 square miles in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, also is developing a new management plan for the roughly 5,500 bison there. It’s working with Native American tribes, state agencies and other groups to find ways to reduce the number of bison sent to slaughter.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota regularly rounds up bison using helicopters and corrals, then transfers some of the animals to tribes, other states and national parks. Without natural predators, bison herds can grow quickly and strain the resources, the park says.

The Grand Canyon herd didn’t always live within the park’s boundaries, where they can be seen along the highway leading to the North Rim entrance. The bison are descendants of those brought to Arizona in the 1900s as part of a crossbreeding experiment with cattle.

The animals increasingly recognized they could be hunted on the adjacent national forest and sought refuge in the national park. Hunting isn’t allowed at national parks, but the agency has authority to kill animals that harm resources, using park staff or volunteers.

Most of the bison at Grand Canyon have been removed by corralling them and transferring them to Native American tribes that have been trying to reestablish herds on their land. A controversial pilot project last fall sought skilled volunteers to shoot up to 12 of the animals.

More than 45,000 people applied for the chance. Ultimately, 10 were picked, and they were able to kill four bison. Although the animals are massive, they’re quick and agile and can hide among thick stands of trees.

Grand Canyon officials say they won’t repeat the program this fall, but it won’t be excluded as a tool in the future. Another corralling effort is planned.

The latest bison population estimate based on aerial surveys and tracking devices shows 216 bison on the expansive Kaibab Plateau, according to Grand Canyon National Park. Agencies that manage the land and wildlife in far northern Arizona and study the bison’s movement are meeting in July to start talking about the long-term plan.

Part of that discussion will include creating more gaps in the state-sanctioned bison hunting seasons outside Grand Canyon National Park to see if bison will move outside the boundaries, said Larry Phoenix, an Arizona Game and Fish Department regional supervisor.

Meanwhile, the Game and Fish Department is seeking approval to improve fencing, cattle guards and water catchments to expand the range for another herd of bison in far northern Arizona. The state imported 15 bison yearlings from a privately owned nature reserve in Montana in late 2017 and said the herd now needs more room to grow.

Phoenix is confident these bison won’t follow the others into the Grand Canyon, largely because the animals don’t know the other herd exists.

Environmental groups are skeptical fences can keep them from straying and adding to the overall bison population in the region where they’ve been difficult and costly to keep in check.

They’re asking the U.S. Forest Service to do an in-depth review of the proposal that considers climate change and impacts to plants and animals like the chisel-tooth kangaroo rat.

Pride parades march on with new urgency across U.S.
Author: BOBBY CAINA CALVAN, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Pride parades kicked off in New York City and around the country Sunday with glittering confetti, cheering crowds, fluttering rainbow flags and newfound fears about losing freedoms won through decades of activism.

The annual marches in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and elsewhere are taking place just two days after one conservative justice on the Supreme Court signaled, in a ruling on abortion, that the court should reconsider the right to same-sex marriage recognized in 2015.

“We’re here to make a statement,” said 31-year-old Mercedes Sharpe, who traveled to Manhattan from Massachusetts. “I think it’s about making a point, rather than all the other years like how we normally celebrate it. This one’s really gonna stand out. I think a lot of angry people, not even just women, angry men, angry women.”

Thousands of people — many decked in pride colors — lined the parade route through Manhattan, cheering as floats and marchers passed by.

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the top court ruling a “momentary setback” and said Sunday’s events were “an opportunity for us to not only celebrate Pride, but be resolved for the fight.”

“We will not live in a world, not in my city, where our rights are taken from us or rolled back,” said Lightfoot, Chicago’s first openly gay mayor, and the first Black woman to hold the office.

In San Francisco, some marchers and spectators held signs condemning the court’s abortion ruling. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who rode in a convertible holding a gavel and a rainbow fan, said the large turnout was an acknowledgement that Americans support gay rights.

“Even in spite of the majority on the court that’s anti our Constitution, our country knows and loves our LGBTQI+ community,” she told KGO-TV.

The warning shot from the nation’s top court came after a year of legislative defeats for the LGBTQ community, including the passage of laws in some states limiting the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity with children.

As anti-gay sentiments resurface, some are pushing for the parades to return to their roots — less blocks-long street parties, more overtly civil rights marches.

“It has gone from being a statement of advocacy and protest to being much more of a celebration of gay life,” Sean Clarkin, 67, said of New York City’s annual parade while enjoying a drink recently at Julius’, one of the oldest gay bars in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

As he remembers things, the parade was once about defiance and pushing against an oppressive mainstream that saw gays, lesbians and transgender people as unworthy outsiders.

“As satisfying and empowering as it may be to now be accepted by the mainstream,” Clarkin said, “there was also something energizing and wonderful about being on the outside looking in.”

New York’s first Pride March, then called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, was held in 1970 to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, a spontaneous street uprising triggered by a police raid on a gay bar in Manhattan.

San Francisco’s first march was in 1972 and had been held every year since, except during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Celebrations are now global, taking place throughout the year in multiple countries, with many of the biggest parades taking place in June. One of the world’s largest, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was held June 19.

In the United States, this year’s celebrations take place amid a potential crisis.

In a Supreme Court ruling Friday striking down the right to abortion, Justice Clarence Thomas said in a concurring opinion that the court should also reconsider its 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage and a 2003 decision striking down laws criminalizing gay sex.

New York City parade spectator Jackie English said she and her fiancee Dana had yet to set a wedding date, but have a new sense of urgency.

“Now we feel a bit pressured,” she said, adding they might “jump the gun a little sooner. Because, what if that right gets taken away from us?”

More than a dozen states have recently enacted laws that go against the interests of LGBTQ communities, including a law barring any mention of sexual orientation in school curricula in Florida and threats of prosecution for parents who allow their children to get gender-affirming care in Texas.

Several states have put laws in place prohibiting transgender athletes from participating in team sports that coincide with the gender in which they identify.

According to an Anti-Defamation League survey released earlier this week, members of LGBTQ communities were more likely than any other group to experience harassment. Two-thirds of respondents said they have been harassed, a little more than half of whom said the harassment was a result of their sexual orientation.

In recent years, schisms over how to commemorate Stonewall have opened, spawning splinter groups events intended to be more protest-oriented.

In New York City, the Queer Liberation March takes place at the same time as the traditional parade, billing itself as the “antidote to the corporate-infused, police-entangled, politician-heavy Parades that now dominate pride celebrations.”

San Francisco’s parade was marked by the return of uniformed police, who were banned in 2020 after a 2019 confrontation with protesters who staged a parade-stopping sit-in. Critics accused them of using excessive force. On Sunday, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott, in full dress uniform, passed out small rainbow pride flags to spectators.

Despite the criticism of growing commercialism, a strong streak of activism was apparent among attendees this year.

“The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade has caused a very strong uproar about what went down,” said Dean Jigarjian, 22, who crossed the river from New Jersey with his girlfriend to take part in the New York City parade. “So as you can see here, the crowd seems to be very energized about what could be next.”

After years of pandemic weariness, world of nursing begins to recover
Author: Elise Takahama, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — When Allan Kinyua arrives for his evening shift at the UW Medical Center near Northgate, the special care unit buzzes with energy. Staffers cart meals and medical equipment in and out of patient rooms, pausing occasionally to check records and doctor notes.

Kinyua, a certified nursing assistant, is in charge of eight of the 17 patients. One has COVID-19. Another is legally blind and coming from the intensive care unit. Some need assistance breathing or help going to the bathroom. Many have heart or lung issues.

The day was already busy, though routine. But in this hospital’s hallways, the trauma of the pandemic lurks in haunting memories.

Evening after evening in early 2020, Kinyua would start a shift by taking a COVID patient to the bathroom. By morning, they’d be intubated. When he would return the following night, the patient would be dead, the room already getting prepped for the next one.

Terrified co-workers broke down in tears often, he said. “It was just happening so fast. You couldn’t even take time to process what was going on. … I think to some extent, I became numb to the pain.”

Since then, more than 13,000 Washingtonians have died from COVID. Still, Kinyua, who moved from Kenya 3 1/2 years ago, has pushed forward in the health care field, even deciding last year to pursue his nursing degree in an accelerated program.

As thousands of students like him finish their classes this summer, the state’s newest crop of registered nurses will start to bolster the strained health care systems throughout the region. Recent legislative action has boosted efforts to patch staffing holes within hospitals and long-term care facilities. But nationwide attrition rates among health care workers reveal a lot has been lost, leading to big questions over the future of an industry at a crossroads.

While omicron’s contagious subvariants led to a spring surge of infections and hospitalizations, COVID antivirals became more accessible and deaths stayed low. But it’s still a difficult time for health care staffers while patients, now mostly people whose conditions have worsened after delaying care, continue to pour in.

“I think back to when I graduated from nursing school” about 30 years ago, said Darcy Jaffe, senior vice president for safety and quality at the Washington State Hospital Association. “There were staffing shortages back then as well, but we didn’t have as much unknown as we have right now about what health care is going to look like in the next few years,” she said.

Kinyua, on his recent shift, heads into his first room of the evening. He cheerily greets the patient, sitting upright in bed, before checking his temperature and pulse. Minutes later Kinyua is on to the second room, where a patient sleeps and a CPAP machine hums.

He continues down the hall, popping in and out of rooms.

It’s not yet apparent, but it is going to be a long night.

Long-term problems

Constant staffing holes and overwhelming patient loads have ranked high as top reasons for health care worker burnout in Washington and throughout the U.S. But other factors also weigh on the industry, like the rising demand for medical services as baby boomers age into retirement.

Meanwhile, the number of students completing undergraduate nursing programs has declined in recent years, despite the growing need, according to a 2020 state Department of Health report.

In 2015, 3,347 undergraduate nursing students completed their programs in the state, the report found, compared to 2,671 graduates in 2020.

Washington doesn’t track how many health care workers leave the industry every year, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported nearly 1.7 million Americans quit their health care jobs between January and April alone. In addition, the field lost about 20% of its workforce in 2019 and 2020, including 30% of nurses, according to a 2021 American Hospital Association survey.

More new nurses are also asking to start off part-time, said Jaffe, of the state hospital association. She’s glad to see new employees ease into the job, but she worries the staffing shortage will only worsen.

“The pandemic has had that impact on a lot of the staff in general about reevaluating their work-life balance,” she said. “I do think it’s tough for new grads right now because they’re entering hospitals that are not quite in recovery.”

The shortages are expected to persist, she said.

Despite the long hours and enormous emotional burden, many health care workers, including Kinyua, stick with it. New nurses are filled with hope.

When he moved to Washington state, Kinyua planned to go to graduate school for project management. He landed in health care instead after a friend asked him to temporarily fill a shift at an adult family home.

“I just completely loved it,” he said. “I’ve worked in many industries, but there’s a lot of satisfaction in helping people who need it. … Even though the pandemic was pushing (health care workers) in one direction, leaning on each other helped us push back a bit.”

Creative solutions

While most health care systems in the state still grapple with day-to-day burnout, some new long-term solutions are in the works.

Chelene Whiteaker, senior vice president of government affairs for the state hospital association, spent much of the past year advocating for new policies to boost health care education and alleviate staffing strains.

Meanwhile, health care labor unions last year pushed for hospitals and other care facilities to do more for their staffers, like ending mandatory overtime policies and offering retention bonuses.

During this year’s session, Washington lawmakers made a series of moves to address health care challenges, including adding 220 new nursing education slots at the University of Washington and in community colleges and introducing a new bachelor of nursing degree at Eastern Washington University.

Lawmakers also funded Gov. Jay Inslee’s hospital staffing initiative, incentivizing long-term-care facilities to take more patients ready to be discharged from the hospital and establishing more than 200 more nursing home beds.

“It’s a good starting point,” Whiteaker said.

New education programs are also popping up throughout the region, including one at Providence Mount St. Vincent in West Seattle.

The Mount this year received state approval to create its own four-week certified nursing assistant program.

“It’s a great way to get exposure in a way that’s safe and supportive,” said Kayett Asuquo, director of clinical facilities at Providence. “After that, they’re guaranteed a job as Providence employees.”

In January, UW’s School of Nursing also added a externship program for students interested in long-term care, sending them into nursing homes and other facilities to give them a taste of a non-hospital environment.

Program leaders are hoping the experience will renew interest in long-term care jobs, a particularly difficult corner of health care during COVID because older adults were at a higher risk of getting severely sick.

“There was a mass exodus of long-term care jobs during the pandemic,” said Tatiana Sadak, who’s leading the UW program. “Those jobs became impossible.”

The new programs are finding some early success, though. This year, six students signed up for the pilot version of UW’s long-term care externship. Next year’s program has already enrolled 14.

Looking forward

Keetra Kartes has worked in health care for years and is now a registered nurse on an acute-care floor at Harborview Medical Center. She loves her co-workers and her job — but she’ll never forget the daily feeling of watching patients with COVID get sicker and sicker.

She recently saw a video on social media posing a question: If you had to go back to nursing school knowing where you are now, would you?

“I had to really think about that,” Kartes said. “And that was really jarring to me.”

But there are signs that new nurse classes are diving into the health care field with a different energy, she’s noticed. There’s a stronger desire to be advocates for their fellow health workers, push for new legislation and become more involved with labor unions. And graduates know that regardless of how tough the job can be, it likely won’t be worse than the past two years.

Julie Trotter, one of Kinyua’s nursing classmates at UW, said for her and many of her peers, the passion for the job outweighs their fears.

“We applied for the program knowing that COVID was a thing, knowing the pandemic was ongoing, but a lot of us have worked in health care spaces already so I think we know firsthand the challenges are not something we’re going to let stop us,” Trotter said.

She, Kinyua and dozens of their peers have one more quarter left at UW this summer before many will apply for their nursing licenses.

Back at UW Medical Center, Kinyua continues to check in on patients in the special care unit. Another certified nursing assistant’s shift is almost up, so she walks Kinyua through her patient notes before she leaves.

As his night winds down, he checks on staffing levels elsewhere in the hospital. He’s not surprised to see shortages — and quickly volunteers to help in a couple of surgical units. He often takes the hours where he can and when there is need.

Kinyua is scheduled to clock out after eight hours at 11:30 p.m. But it’s 7:30 a.m. before he heads home.

He’s exhausted, but his goal of becoming a critical care nurse in the ICU remains. He hasn’t looked back.

As Senate-confirmed justices end Roe, how will voters react?
Author: LISA MASCARO, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The end of Roe v. Wade started in the Senate.

It was the Senate Republican partnership with President Donald Trump to confirm conservative judges, and transform the federal judiciary, that paved the way for the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling to overturn the constitutional right to abortion.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell set the strategy in motion, engineering the Supreme Court’s makeover by blocking President Barack Obama’s 2016 nomination of then-Judge Merrick Garland and changing the Senate’s rules to easily confirm Trump’s picks. It was a long game that sought to lock in a conservative court majority for decades to come. Trump and McConnell, R-Ky., couldn’t have accomplished it alone, needing the backing of almost all Republican senators to reshape the bench.

Now, Republicans are heading into a November midterm election that is poised to swiftly become a referendum on the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, as voters decide which party should control Congress. With the nation polarized, Democrats are vowing legislation to protect abortion access and while Republicans want to impose further limits, including a nationwide ban on abortions.

“We are going to retake the Senate in November and we’re going to hold the Senate for a long time,” predicted Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who celebrated the ruling on a conference call with reporters Friday.

The stakes are high with the control of Congress in the balance. With Biden’s approval rating low and economic conditions grim with high gas prices and other signs of inflation, Republicans are favored to pick up seats in both chambers and regain control. Democrats have just a slim few-vote margin in the House and barely hold the evenly split 50-50 Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris casts a vote in case of a tie.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., warned that Republicans would be called to answer for their work and were planning even more draconian measures if they win control of Congress, including a nationwide ban on abortion.

“They cannot be allowed to do this,” Pelosi said. “Make no mistake: The rights of women and all Americans are on the ballot this November.”

Before Trump was elected the nation’s abortion wars had settled into an uneasy truce in Congress. The court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade and the subsequent Planned Parenthood v. Casey affirmed a constitutional right to abortion access. Legislation flared from time to time, but there were rarely solid majorities in the House and Senate to upend settled law.

But McConnell, R-Ky., set his plans for a conservative judiciary in motion early 2016, even before Trump became president. Knowing the power abortion and other issues held for conservative voters, he refused to consider Obama’s nominee to fill the court vacancy left by conservative Justice Antonin’s Scalia’s death that February. McConnell argued it was too close to the November election.

It was a stunning, calculating political move. McConnell dashed off his decision just before the Republican presidential candidates were about to take the stage for a debate heading into the South Carolina primary, setting the tone for the GOP.

Democrats, outraged, pushed ahead Obama’s nomination of Garland only to have McConnell, as majority leader in the Senate, decline to take it up for consideration. Trump won the presidential election in November in part on the promise of filling the court vacancy with a conservative in the mold of the late Scalia.

The Trump era brought three new conservative justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Each was confirmed under new rules McConnell orchestrated that lowered the threshold to a simple 51-vote majority, to push past a filibuster of opposition.

While Republican senators may have diverged with Trump on many issues, almost all Senate Republicans stuck with him on this one for the promise a conservative court majority could bring — not just on abortion, which some senators feel more strongly about than others, but the rash of other policy and regulatory issues.

No Democrats voted for Barrett, and of the three Democrats who voted for Gorsuch only Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, remains in office. He also voted for Kavanaugh.

Manchin said he was “alarmed” at the abortion decision, having trusted Gorsuch and Kavanaugh when they testified under oath that Roe v. Wade was settled legal precedent.

The same disbelief was expressed by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who along Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are the two Republican senators who publicly support access to abortion.

“Every Republican Senator knew this would happen if they voted to confirm these radical justices,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Collins appeared furious Friday, saying the ruling was “ill-considered” and “inconsistent” with what Gorsuch and Kavanaugh had told her in private meetings and their public testimony about the importance of supporting judicial precedents.

“Throwing out a precedent overnight that the country has relied upon for half a century is not conservative,” Collins said in a statement. “It is a sudden and radical jolt to the country that will lead to political chaos, anger, and a further loss of confidence in our government.”

Murkowski and Collins have introduced legislation that would begin to put the Roe v. Wade protections into law, an alternative to the Democrats’ bill that already passed the House but has been blocked in the Senate as unduly expanding abortion rights.

The two Republican women said a legislative solution was paramount, and must be a priority, despite the unlikelihood of the House and Senate passing a bill.

“It is up to Congress to respond,” said Murkowski, who is up for reelection in the fall.

But Republicans are moving in the opposite direction, poised to enact further restrictions if they win control of Congress in fall.

Asked what types of abortion legislation Republicans would work to advance if they took over the House, GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who is in line to replace Pelosi as speaker, said: “We will continue to look wherever we can go to save as many lives as possible.”

Congress is away for a two-week recess. Crowds have gathered outside the Supreme Court, across the street, since the abortion decision was released.

McConnell, who is not up for reelection this fall but hopes to win enough seats to again become the majority leader in the Senate, appeared pleased by the outcome of his many long years of work.

“Millions of Americans have spent half a century praying, marching, and working toward today’s historic victories,” he said in a statement Friday. “I have been proud to stand with them throughout our long journey and I share their joy today.”

8 people shot outside rave in Tacoma
Author: Lauren Rosenblatt, The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Eight people were shot after a fight broke out outside a rave in Tacoma early Sunday morning, the Tacoma Police Department said.

All eight individuals are in stable condition.

South Sound 911 received multiple reports of shots fired and cars fleeing the area in the 4500 block of South Tacoma Way at 12:45 a.m. Sunday, according to Tacoma Police.

A large crowd was attending a rave hosted by a private venue, police said. An argument broke out in the alley behind the location and shots were fired.

Officers arrived to a find a “chaotic” scene, the department said later Sunday.

The eight individuals were taken to three different hospitals.

South Dakota governor: Bar abortion pills, but don’t punish women for them
Author: HOPE YEN, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — South Dakota’s Republican governor pledged on Sunday to bar mail-order abortion pills but said women should not face prosecution for seeking them.

In apparent defiance of legal guidance by the Justice Department after the Supreme Court last week stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, Kristi Noem indicated in national television interviews that she would put in place a plan approved by state lawmakers to restrict the pills. The majority ruling Friday by the court’s conservative justices triggered abortion bans in South Dakota and elsewhere.

But Noem said doctors, not their patients, would likely be prosecuted for knowing violations of what would be one of the strictest laws on abortion pills in the United States.

“I don’t believe women should ever be prosecuted,” she said. “I don’t believe there should be any punishment for women, ever, that are in a crisis situation or have an unplanned pregnancy.”

At issue is mail-order or so-called telemedicine abortion pills, which have been on the rise in the country since 2000 when the Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone — the main drug used in medication abortions.

More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, and more than half are now done with pills, not surgery, according to data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Abortion pills are expected to become in higher demand as over half the states are likely to move to ban abortions following the Supreme Court’s decision.

Noem, a strong opponent of abortion rights who faces reelection in November and is mentioned as a possible 2024 presidential contender, cast the distribution of abortion pills as unsafe and has called a special session to craft new laws.

“These are very dangerous medical procedures,” said Noem, referring to abortion pills. “We don’t believe it should be available, because it is a dangerous situation for those individuals without being medically supervised by a physician.”

In a state where Republicans hold super-majorities in both statehouse chambers, South Dakota lawmakers have been floating proposals that also would make it more difficult for women to seek an abortion out of state. South Dakota voters rejected outright bans in 2006 and 2008, and abortion rights advocates are preparing for a similar referendum on abortion access.

In a statement Friday, President Joe Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, said the Justice Department will protect abortion providers and those seeking abortions in states where it is legal and will “work with other arms of the federal government that seek to use their lawful authorities to protect and preserve access to reproductive care.”

“In particular, the FDA has approved the use of the medication mifepristone,” he added. “States may not ban mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy.”

The South Dakota law, passed in March, requires women seeking an abortion to make three separate trips to a doctor in order to take abortion pills and makes it clear that women in the state cannot get the pills through a telemedicine consultation. The law has been on hold after a federal judge in February ruled it likely “imposes an undue burden on a person’s right to seek an abortion.”

Two drugs are required. The first, mifepristone, blocks a hormone needed to maintain a pregnancy. A second drug, misoprostol, taken one to two days later, empties the uterus. Both drugs are available as generics and are also used to treat other conditions.

The FDA last year lifted a long-standing requirement that women pick up abortion pills in person. Federal regulations now also allow mail delivery nationwide. Even so, roughly 19 states have passed laws requiring a medical clinician to be physically present when abortion pills are administered to a patient.

South Dakota is among them, joining several states, including Texas, Kentucky, Arkansas, Ohio, Tennessee and Oklahoma, where Republicans have moved to further restrict access to abortion pills in recent months.

One portion of the South Dakota law, which will take effect in July, contains a section that does not hinge on the federal courts: increasing to a felony the punishment for anyone who prescribes medication for an abortion without a license from the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners.

A broader court decision is pending in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

Noem spoke on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

A ‘sucker punch’: Some women fear setback to hard-won rights
Author: JOCELYN NOVECK, Associated Press

At 88, Gloria Steinem has long been the nation’s most visible feminist and advocate for women’s rights. But at 22, she was a frightened American in London getting an illegal abortion of a pregnancy so unwanted, she actually tried to throw herself down the stairs to end it.

Her response to the Supreme Court’s decision overruling Roe v. Wade is succinct: “Obviously,” she wrote in an email message, “without the right of women and men to make decisions about our own bodies, there is no democracy.”

Steinem’s blunt remark cuts to the heart of the despair some opponents are feeling about Friday’s historic rollback of the 1973 case legalizing abortion. If a right so central to the overall fight for women’s equality can be revoked, they ask, what does it mean for the progress women have made in public life in the intervening 50 years?

“One of the things that I keep hearing from women is, ‘My daughter’s going to have fewer rights than I did. And how can that be?’” says Debbie Walsh, of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “If this goes, what else can go? It makes everything feel precarious.”

Reproductive freedom was not the only demand of second-wave feminism, as the women’s movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s is known, but it was surely one of the most galvanizing issues, along with workplace equality.

The women who fought for those rights recall an astonishing decade of progress from about 1963 to 1973 including the right to equal pay, the right to use birth control, and Title IX in 1972 which bans discrimination in education. Capping it off was Roe v. Wade a year later, granting a constitutional right to abortion.

Many of the women who identified as feminists at the time had an illegal abortion or knew someone who did. Steinem, in fact, credits a “speak-out” meeting she attended on abortion in her 30s as the moment she pivoted from journalism to activism — and finally felt enabled to speak about her own secret abortion.

“Abortion is so tied to the women’s movement in this country,” says Carole Joffe, a sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco medical school who studies and teaches the history of abortion. “Along with improved birth control, what legal abortion meant was that women who were heterosexually active could still take part in public life. It enabled the huge change we’ve seen in women’s status over the last 50 years.” Joffe says many women, like her, now feel that the right to contraception could be at risk — something she calls “unthinkable.”

One of them is Heather Booth. When she was 20 and a student in Chicago, a male friend asked if she could help his sister obtain an abortion. It was 1965, and through contacts in the civil rights movement, she found a way to connect the young woman, nearly suicidal at the prospect of being pregnant, to a doctor willing to help. She thought it would be a one-off, but Booth ended up co-founding the Jane Collective, an underground group of women who provided safe abortions to those in need. In all, the group performed some 11,000 abortions over about seven years — a story recounted in the new documentary “The Janes.”

Booth, now 76, sees the Roe v. Wade upheaval as a chilling challenge to the triumphs of the women’s movement.

“I think we are on a knife’s edge,” she says. “On the one hand, there’s been 50 years of a change in women’s condition in this society,” she adds, recalling that when she was growing up, women could only respond to employment ads in the “women’s section,” to list just one example.

“So there’s been an advance toward greater equality, but … if you ask about where we stand, I think we are on a knife’s edge in a contest really between democracy and freedom, and tyranny, a dismantling of freedoms that have been long fought for.”

Of course, not every woman feels that abortion is a right worth preserving.

Linda Sloan, who has volunteered the last five years, along with her husband, for the anti-abortion organization A Moment of Hope in Columbia, South Carolina, says she values women’s rights.

“I strongly believe and support women being treated as equals to men … (in) job opportunities, salary, respect, and many other areas,” she says. She says she has tried to instill those values in her two daughters and two sons, and upholds them with her work at two women’s shelters, trying to empower women to make the right choices.

But when it comes to Roe v. Wade, she says, “I believe that the rights of the child in the mother’s womb are equally important. To quote Psalm 139, I believe that God ‘formed my inner parts’ and ‘knitted me together in my mother’s womb.’”

Elizabeth Kilmartin, like Sloan, volunteers at A Moment of Hope and is deeply pleased by the court’s decision.

In her younger years she considered herself a feminist and studied women’s history in college. Then, over the years she came to deeply oppose abortion, and no longer considers herself a feminist because she believes the word has been co-opted by those on the left. “No women’s rights have been harmed in the decision to stop killing babies in the womb,” Kilmartin says. “We have all kinds of women in power. Women aren’t being oppressed in the workplace anymore. We have a woman vice president … It’s just ridiculous to think that we’re so oppressed.”

Cheryl Lambert falls squarely in the opposing camp. The former Wall Street executive, now 65, immediately thought back to the gains she made earlier in her banking career, becoming the first woman to be named an officer at the institution she worked for. She calls the court decision “a sucker punch.”

“My thought was, what era are we living in?” Lambert says. “We are moving backwards. I’m just furious on behalf of our children and our grandchildren.”

Lambert herself needed an abortion as a young mother when the fetus was found to carry a genetic disease. “I thought it would get easier, not harder, to have an abortion in this country,” she says.

Now, she and many other women fear a return to dangerous, illegal abortions of the past — and a disproportionate impact on women without the means to travel to abortion-friendly states. Still, many are trying to see a positive side: that as bleak as the moment may seem, change could come via new energy at the ballot box.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” says Carol Tracy, of the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia.

Steinem, too, issued a note of resolve.

“Women have always taken power over our own bodies, and we will keep right on,” she wrote in her email message. “An unjust court can’t stop abortion, but it guarantees civil disobedience and disrespect for the court.”

As China shuts out the world, internet access from abroad gets harder too
Author: Stephanie Yang, Los Angeles Times

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Most internet users trying to get past China’s Great Firewall search for a cyber tunnel that will take them outside censorship restrictions to the wider web. But Vincent Brussee is looking for a way in, so he can better glimpse what life is like under the Communist Party.

An analyst with the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin, Brussee frequently scours the Chinese internet for data. His main focus is information that will help him understand China’s burgeoning social credit system. But in the last few years, he’s noticed that his usual sources have become more unreliable and access tougher to gain.

Some government websites fail to load, appearing to block users from specific geographic locations. Other platforms require a Chinese phone number tied to official identification. Files that were available three years ago have started to disappear as Brussee and many like him, including academics and journalists, are finding it increasingly frustrating to penetrate China’s cyber world from the outside.

“It’s making it more difficult to simply understand where China is headed,” Brussee said. “A lot of the work we are doing is digging for little scraps of information.”

One of the most sweeping surveillance states in the world, China has all but closed its borders since the start of the pandemic, accelerating a political turn inward as nationalism is on the rise and foreign ties are treated with suspicion. A harsh zero-COVID policy has contributed to the attrition of foreign residents, particularly after a long and bitter lockdown this spring in Shanghai, China’s largest and most international city.

At the same time, academics and researchers have complained that the digital window into China seems to be constricting too. That compounds a growing concern for China experts locked out of the country amid deteriorating relations with the West. A tightening of internet access means observers will struggle to decipher what internal pressures China’s leader Xi Jinping may be facing and how to keep track of Beijing’s diplomatic, technological and military ambitions.

Comprehensive analysis on whom China’s Great Firewall keeps out is scarce; much of the focus on the country’s internet freedom remains on domestic censorship. But many researchers who have experienced such challenges suspect that their limited access is part of China’s attempt to ward off what it sees as international meddling, and present its own tightly controlled narrative to the outside world.

Several researchers, for example, noted difficulties accessing Xinjiang government data from abroad, likely a response to international criticism on reports of forced labor and human rights abuses against the western region’s Uyghur population. More puzzling to Brussee was when he encountered similar barriers to the government website of Anhui province, a decidedly less controversial part of China.

Brussee said websites have also added guards against data scraping, limiting how much information he can retrieve via automation on public procurement of surveillance systems, policy documents and citizens or businesses affected by the social credit system. Some bot tests known as CAPTCHA require manual input of Chinese characters or idioms, another barrier for those unfamiliar with the language.

China is keen to project an image of power and superiority. But that has been undermined at times by embarrassing revelations, including recent videos of Shanghai residents protesting harsh lockdown restrictions. The posts were quickly wiped from the Chinese web but continued to circulate beyond the Great Firewall, challenging Beijing’s claims that its zero-tolerance COVID policy was better at containing the pandemic than programs in the West.

Comments on China’s internet can also cast an unflattering light. Earlier this year, users on the nation’s Twitter-like Weibo platform drew condemnation for sexist comments welcoming “beautiful” Ukrainian women as war refugees. An anonymous movement that translates extreme and nationalistic posts from Chinese netizens has outraged state commentators who call it an anti-China smear campaign.

In order to squeeze through bottlenecks, Brussee uses a virtual private network, or VPN, which routes an internet user’s web traffic through servers in a different geographic location. Though it’s a commonly used tool for Chinese netizens to circumvent the Great Firewall, Brussee’s aim is to appear to be visiting websites from within China’s borders.

But VPNs aren’t foolproof. Chinese authorities have cracked down, making connections in and out of China slow and erratic. Brussee said he went a month without a VPN last fall, when his main provider inexplicably stopped functioning. After five fruitless calls to the company, he could only wait for service to eventually resume. His last resort would be to use a Chinese company with more reliable servers inside the country, but he said installing Chinese software comes with additional security risks.

“I don’t think the VPN is enough anymore a lot of the time,” said Daria Impiombato, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute who uses VPNs to bounce around to different locations when trying to visit Chinese government websites. “You find workarounds, but it takes way longer.”

One alternative source of information that Impiombato has relied on is WeChat, the ubiquitous social messaging app owned by Chinese gaming giant Tencent. Many party agencies have their own pages on WeChat where they post notices, but it requires a lot of mobile scrolling to find the relevant material, she said.

Signing up for an account, however, has become more challenging for foreigners in recent years as Chinese platforms like WeChat, Weibo and others have implemented additional screening, such as a Chinese phone number and official identification. In some cases, those registration requirements can be more prohibitive than geoblocking, ruling out resources from online discussions to official documents to industry databases.

Graham Webster, editor in chief of the DigiChina Project at the Stanford University Cyber Policy Center, has searched for a way to use Weibo since losing his Chinese phone and subsequently his account. The closest solution he could find was a service that provided temporary, and he suspected fraudulent, phone numbers.

“We are talking about something that would be on the internet for one-fifth of the world’s population and not for the other four-fifths,” Webster said. “This is one more wedge in a steepening curve of barriers between China and the outside world. It leaves a lot more ground for suspicion and uncertainty.”

Blocking foreign internet users, particularly from sensitive information, is not unique to China. According to a 2020 report from Censored Planet, which studies internet freedom and censorship, the U.S. government had blocked about 50 websites from being viewed from Hong Kong and mainland China, including official military home pages and stores of economic data.

But China’s control of information appears more expansive. The government, according to researchers and academics, had made files and data available online over the last decade. But in recent years — as China has become more sensitive about its global image and more critical of the West — that degree of openness has run into a trend to deter outsiders from peering in.

“It’s the effort of openness coming up against the current push towards closedness,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The result is some strange hybrid landscape, where you can have access to a lot of information if you go through all these hoops, specifically because they are not designed for you to have access to them.”

Some who have developed ways to bypass blocks were reluctant to share details, aside from generally trying to emulate a Chinese location, fearing those channels would be plugged as well.

“Describing to a newspaper the workarounds to access blocked Chinese sites ensures that the workarounds will be blocked, too,” one U.S. academic researcher wrote via email. “The only thing I can add, without cutting short my own career, is another common sense measure, namely, scrape and cache whatever one discovers the first time around.”

That’s turned into standard practice for Impiombato, who has grown paranoid about saving her own copies of everything as government webpages, news releases and social media posts have vanished unexpectedly amid her research.

“Sometimes you see the perfect piece of information that you need and then suddenly it’s gone, she said. “You almost have to start from scratch every single time.”

Katherine Kaup, a professor at Furman University who studies China’s ethnic policy, said the country’s changes have forced her and others to consider entirely new research topics and techniques. She has reservations about one day returning to China for field work, and even virtual discussions with people in the country have been dampened by concerns over repercussions for speaking too frankly amid a growing clampdown on dissent.

“I sometimes feel like I’m in a bad sci-fi movie,” she said. “The type of research that we used to do is not going to be possible moving forward in the next few years.”


©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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