News You May Have Missed: December 5, 2021

“Sterling Silver Coat Hanger Pendant from DC Abortion Fund” by ClinicEscort 
is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


1. 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. 50,000 US women experience life-threatening pregnancy complications. What happens when Roe is gone?

The Supreme Court seems poised to dismantle Roe v. Wade, partially or entirely, according to the New York Times. If they do, the costs to women will be devastating.  The number of pregnancy-related deaths would increase by 21% for all women, 33% for Black women, a researcher writing in the University of Colorado’s Arts and Sciences Magazine points out–simply because carrying a pregnancy is more dangerous than having an abortion. You can see her calculations here.  Some 50,000 American women each year experience life-threatening complications from pregnancy, NPR noted in 2017–and the rate is increasing.

Because 26 states are likely to ban abortion outright as soon as the Supreme Court makes it possible, women with means are likely to cross state lines to obtain an abortion, while poor women are more likely to seek illegal abortions, with all the consequences for their lives and health, the Guardian points out, sketching the legal penalties such women might face as well. You can use Planned Parenthood’s app to see what will likely happen to abortion rights in your state if the Supreme Court overturns Roe, and the New York Times has a map of what the remade US will look like.

The language of “choice” around abortion masks the lethal costs of making it illegal. The dean of the Boston University School of Public Health points out that worldwide, 22,800 woman are estimated to die each year from unsafe abortions, with countless others suffering complications. Being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy can have serious consequences for women’s mental health throughout their lifetimes, as one study of more than 10,000 women who did so before Roe confirmed. The agonizing situations of women who are pregnant as a result of rape (including sexual abuse by a partner or family member), those dealing with a fetus with a genetic anomaly such that it will die in the womb or shortly after birth, those with chronic illnesses or life-threatening medical complications are not rare. A study in the 90s estimated that 32,101 pregnancies resulted from rape each year in the U.S. 

If the Supreme Court upends Roe, the next strategy to preserve women’s right to choose is legislative. The Women’s Health Protection Act would codify the protections of Roe; as H.R.3755, it passed the House in September. In June, the Senate version,  S 1975 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee–from which it has not emerged.

However, the chances of it passing the Senate are miniscule, as there are apparently two Democratic senators who would decline to vote for it, according to the New York Times. In order to survive a filibuster, the bill would need all 50 Democrats plus 10 Republicans to support it. RLS

 The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent a letter—signed by 60 civil rights organizations—to House members that could be used as a model letter to go to your Senator. Alternatively, the ACLU has an easy form you can fill out and have sent to your Senator automatically.

It’s time to tell your Senators that passing S.1975 is critical, given the state-level efforts to limit women’s access to the full range of reproductive health care and check whether or not they’re cosponsors. Find your Senators here.

2. The eloquence of Justice Sotomayor

If you read or listened to any of the coverage of oral presentations to the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, you will know the Justice Sonia Sotomayor was fierce in her opposition to an overturning of Roe v. Wade, using questioning to highlight the Constitutional issues at hand—including the right to freedom of religion as well as the right to privacy and the right to equal protection. Our personal favorite was “The issue of when life begins has been hotly debated by philosophers since the beginning of time. It’s still debated in religions. So, when you say this is the only right that takes away from the state the ability to protect a life, that’s a religious view, isn’t it?” S-HP

You can thank Justice Sotomayor for her fierce defense of women’s right to reproductive choice: Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court of the United States, 1 First St. NE, Washington DC 20543, (202) 479-3000. @soniamsotomayor.

3. Religious freedom and the Do No Harm Act

U.S. religious freedom has become less about the private right to practice (or not) the religion of one’s choice and more about the ability to discriminate against those not of one’s faith. This shift has been aided by changing interpretations of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), originally intended to prevent bias on the basis of religion and now applied to private-sector movements to deny services to individuals of particular religions or religious denominations. The Do No Harm Act (S.2752 in the Senate; H.R.1378 in the House) seeks to curb this shift from protecting freedom to enabling discrimination by disallowing the use of religion as grounds for discriminatory practices in promotions, wages and compensation, child labor, workplace activities, health care, and in provision of goods and services. As Americans United for Separation of Church and State explains, the purpose of this legislation is to “prevent anyone from using their religion to harm others.” The Do No Harm Act would prevent current uses of “religious freedom” that we have witnessed in recent years, including allowing employers to deny birth control and enabling foster care agencies to turn away prospective foster parents of the “wrong” religion. S.2752 is currently with the Senate Judiciary Committee. H.R.1378 is with the House Judiciary Committee and its Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. S-HP

You can check whether your Senators and Representative support the Do No Harm Act and thank or nudge as appropriate. Find your Senators here and your Representative here. You can also call on the chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to take swift, positive committee action on the Do No Harm Act. Addresses are here.

4. Reviving Labor

While the media have focused on people dropping out of their jobs post-COVID and refusing to accept non-livable wages, it seems to have missed the reviving union movement. Cornell University, which has a labor action tracker, reports that 37 strikes began in October, and that at one point 28,370 workers were on strike. Though they did not all strike, “90,000 unionised workers issued strike authorisations – including 10,000 John Deere United Auto Workers (UAW) members, 37,000 nurses and other health care workers at Kaiser Permanente, and 60,000 film and television workers organised with International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) explains Rebekah Entralgo, writing for Cold Type. John Deere workers accepted a solid contract after rejecting two inadequate offers, the New York Times reports, and after nearly two years of negotiations, lecturers at the University of California won a contract which improves access to paid family leave, job security for lecturers in their first six years of employment, and salary, according to the LA TImes.  Not only lecturers but students and professors were poised to walk out when the contract was finally signed early in the morning of the scheduled strike. RLS

The reasons behind the so-called Great Resignation are amply explained by David Dayen of The Prospect, who found in talking to workers that low wages, disrespect on the job, intolerable working conditions, and a sense that they are indeed essential have all propelled them into looking for something better. RLS

5. Is the DHS doing its job?

“Over 929,000 people have died in the post-9/11 wars due to direct war violence, and several times as many due to the reverberating effects of war. Over 387,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting,” the project directors at the Watson Institute’s The Cost of War project have ascertained.

The Watson Institute also found that since 9/11, 230 terrorist attacks and plots in the US have been stopped, while 81 succeeded to some degree; 276 people died in these attacks. Moreover, the Institute found that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tends not to anticipate domestic terrorism, focusing instead on international terrorism, according to a study by Erik J. Dahl, an Associate Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Dahl notes that the DHS’s lapses in this area “helped create an environment” that made the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol possible. RLS

6. Reality Winner speaks out

Reality Winner has finally been released from prison and is able, within limits established via a plea agreement, to speak about her decision to leak classified materials that drew attention to possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. This decision led to her conviction under the Espionage Act and a 63-month federal prison sentence. 60 Minutes this Sunday will feature an interview with Winner. At the time of this writing, the full interview was not available, but CBS included material from that interview in its reporting, including Winner’s statement regarding the leak: “I knew [the leaked material] was secret but I also knew that I had pledged service to the American people. And at that point in time, it felt like they were being led astray.” The 60 Minutes episode will reportedly reveal that, while the Justice Department was investigating and prosecuting Winner, “another part of the federal government was using the information Winner leaked to alert state and local election officials about potential hacking of their own systems.” S-HP

You can urge President Biden (yet again) to issue a full pardon for Winner, the one person who brought us the truth about Russia interfering into our election infrastructure: President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS.


7. Vaccine nationalism hurts us all

What is surprising about the Omicron variant is not that it exists but that mainstream voices are pointing out how inequality damages everyone. The Washington Post quotes J. Stephen Morrison, director of the global health policy center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as saying, “If you have uncontrolled transmission in large populations, that is the optimum environment for generating new variants. In Africa, you have a 6 percent vaccination rate. You’re going to get mutations.” Morrison refers to the current situation as “vaccine nationalism,” which is evident when wealthier countries focus on boosters when people in poorer countries cannot get their first shots. Not enough of the vaccine is being shipped through the Covax system and pharmaceutical companies have refused to suspend their intellectual property rights to enable the vaccine to be produced elsewhere. RLS

8. Grey wolves endangered

In 2020, the Trump administration removed grey wolves’ designation as an endangered species. Grey wolves have been villainized by ranchers for preying on livestock, but that predation can be avoided through nonlethal methods that don’t put the grey wolf at greater risk of extinction. Montana, Idaho, and Wisconsin have been at the forefront of states loosening restrictions on the hunting of grey wolves, and hundreds of wolves have been killed since the species’ delisting. The Biden administration has not restored protected status for grey wolves. Representatives of Native American nations had two separate meetings scheduled with Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to discuss restoring and increasing protections for grey wolves. In both instances, Haaland opted out of the meeting on short notice, sending in a lower-ranking department official in her place. S-HP

You can urge the President (@POTUS) , Secretary Haaland (@SecDebHaaland), and Martha Williams, deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (@USFWS) to restore grey wolves’ endangered status. Send a tweet, call or write. Full addresses are here.


To keep track of countries’ pledges–and actions–on climate, you can use the Climate Action Tracker.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a podcast series of 70 years of displacement.

The Americans of Conscience checklist points out that there are only 55 weeks till the midterms, and suggests a series of actions you can take toward election security.

Are you trying to decide whether to go to an in-person event? The Canadian Institute on Ageing offers a detailed, well-grounded risk assessment tool.

Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change, this month focusing on juvenile justice.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.

The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

Freedom for All Americans has a very useful legislation tracker on trans issues.