The Supreme Court held (5/22) that two North Carolina congressional districts are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, as Justice Clarence Thomas joined with the Court’s liberal bloc to produce a 5–3 decision.

Yet, while Cooper v. Harris is a victory for voters who don’t want lawmakers manipulating districts to determine electoral outcomes, it is a small victory, Ian Milhiser noted at ThinkProgress (5/22). And there is much in Justice Elena Kagan’s opinion for the Court that highlights how fundamentally broken the law governing gerrymandering will continue to be even after the decision.

Cooper v. Harris involved two congressional districts, the First and the 12th, which the state’s Republican-controlled legislature packed with additional black voters — despite the fact that these districts routinely elected the candidate preferred by African Americans. By cramming more black voters into district that already elected black-preferred candidates, the legislature prevented those black voters from influencing electoral results in other districts, effectively diluting the power of African Americans throughout the state.

Every justice agreed that the First District was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander (Neil Gorsuch, who occupies a seat that Senate Republicans held open for a year until Donald Trump could fill it, did not participate in the case), so the primary disagreement between Kagan’s majority opinion and Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent concerned the 12th District.

Though the lower court determined that the 12th District was packed with black voters because lawmakers were motivated primarily by those voters’ race, the state claimed that it did so for a different reason: to minimize the influence of Democratic voters. Black voters in North Carolina — and, indeed, in the nation as a whole — overwhelming tend to prefer Democrats over Republicans. So it is often difficult to tell the difference between a deliberately racist gerrymander and a partisan gerrymander where Democrats impacted by the gerrymander are also people of color.

In this case, a consultant who helped the Republican-led legislature draw the state’s maps testified that he was instructed “to make the map as a whole ‘more favorable to Republican candidates.’” There was also significant evidence indicating that the people who drew the 12th District were motivated more by a desire to pack more black voters into this district then they were strictly by partisanship.

In the end, Justice Kagan and a majority of her colleagues concluded that they had to defer to the lower court, which found that the mapmakers were motivated primarily by race and not partisanship. Justice Alito and the dissenters, by contrast, would have imposed a devilish condition on plaintiffs who challenge unconstitutional racial gerrymanders in court.

Such plaintiffs, under Alito’s framework, must “come forward with an alternative redistricting map that served the legislature’s political objective as well as the challenged version without producing the same racial effects.” Essentially, they must provide a legislature motivated by rank partisanship with a road map they can use to achieve their partisan goals.

Alito was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, both of whom are quite conservative, but also considered to be relative moderates compared to Alito.

So the Cooper decision is a victory over an illegal map, but it’s hardly a rout for the forces of gerrymandering, Milhiser noted. At most, Kagan’s opinion warns state lawmakers to make a bunch of public statements on the record indicating that they are crafting their maps to discriminate on the basis of party affiliation and not on the basis of race. Indeed, it is likely that the contested 12th District would have been upheld if the state’s lawmakers had simply been more vulgar in advertising partisan goals.

TRUMP’S COMMON CURTSY. During the first stop of his first foreign trip as president, Donald Trump continued his pattern of doing things for which he had criticized Obama and and the Clintons. For example, Trump had mocked President Barack Obama mercilessly for bowing to the late Saudi King Abdullah in public during a 2009 trip and Trump also said then-First Lady Michelle Obama insulted Saudis by not donning a head scarf during the visit. In fact, when he arrived in Riyadh, Trump reportedly said, before exiting Air Force One, “I catch one American bowing here and you’re on the next Saudi flight home.”

But First Lady Melania Trump left the plane without a scarf and, a few hours later, Trump bowed and even appeared to curtsy to new King Salman as the king presented Trump with a gold medal and necklace.

Later, it was announced that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will donate $100 mln to a fund founded by First Daughter Ivanka Trump to help women entrepreneurs. Candidate Trump regularly blasted the Clinton Foundation for accepting donations from repressive Middle East regimes such as Saudi Arabia, even as Trump’s foundation was forced to admit that it had engaged in self-dealing and illegal transfers of funds to “disqualified persons.” At least the fund Ivanka inspired is administered by the World Bank.

HOUSE DEMS RAKING IN SMALL-DOLLAR DONATIONS. Donald Trump’s list of accomplishments as president isn’t very long, but he can claim a hefty dose of the credit for this one: House Democrats have already raised more money online in 2017 than they did in all of 2015, Laura Clawson noted (5/18).

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $20 mln in online contributions since the start of the year from contributions averaging just $18, according to the DCCC, beating the $19.7 mln the committee raised during 2015, the last off-year ahead of an election year.

The Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee has been working to improve their online collections — but the haul­ was only $1.7 mln, according to the National Journal.

Republicans don’t have as much motivation to increase their small-dollar contributions, though, since they have the Koch brothers and other billionaires ready to buy elections for them, Clawson noted.

WHITE HOUSE KEEPS ‘OBAMACARE’ PAYMENTS IN PLACE ANOTHER 90 DAYS. The White House (5/22) asked for a 90-day delay in a lawsuit over whether Congress should continue to fund Obamacare subsidies. This means that subsidies that help more than 7 mln low-income Americans afford health care can continue in the meantime.Ian Milhiser noted at ThinkProgress (5/22).

The Trump administration has threatened Obamacare subsidies numerous times. President Donald Trump had previously suggested that Democrats should negotiate with him on a health care bill if they wished to keep the subsidies. A Los Angeles Times story (5/18) reported that Seema Verma, administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a deal to insurers that if they supported the House Republican health care bill, the subsidies would remain in place.

Health care experts say that although the decision is a positive outcome in the short term, it perpetuates uncertainty for insurers as they make decisions about 2018 rates. In three months, insurers would have already made decisions about premiums.

Larry Levitt, senior vice president for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that a move to end the subsidies would signal that the administration wants Obamacare marketplaces to collapse, causing insurers to flee.

Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said that delaying the lawsuit gets the White House the same outcome but allows them to deny responsibility for it.

Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, unveiled a budget proposal (5/23) that would decimate low-income health coverage by cutting $866 bln from Medicaid and $72 bln from Social Security disability benefits..

O’DONNELL MAY BE OUT IN MSNBC RIGHTWARD REVAMP. Lawrence O’Donnell might be ousted as one of MSNBC’s top hosts as the channel continues its move to the right. In the past several months, NBC chairman Andy Lack has let go several left-leaning correspondents and anchors, including Alex Wagner and Melissa Harris-Perry. Other progressive hosts have had their shows moved to the weekend, including Al Sharpton and Joy-Anne Reid. At the same time, NBC has also brought on several right-leaning hosts and pundits including former GOP spokeswoman Nicole Wallace, Washington Post columnist George Will, and former Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, Matthew Sheffield noted at Salon (5/22).

On May 18, O’Donnell said his contract would expire on June 4 and that he and his representatives were attempting to get it renewed by MSNBC.

“I’ll let you know where you can watch me June 5 if it’s not MSNBC,” he wrote. “I’m sorry this situation has become public.”

According to Nielsen Media Research, O’Donnell’s 10 pm ET show, The Last Word, is usually the second-highest rated show on MSNBC. The program has also been routinely placing first in its time-slot.

According to NBC employees not authorized to speak about the situation, Lack’s shifting the cable channel to the ideological center as part of an effort to gain trust of Republican elected officials who have long seen MSNBC as biased against them.

Cenk Uygur, founder of the TYT digital network and a onetime MSNBC host, blamed the channel’s ideological movement as being at the behest of NBC Universal’s parent company Comcast.

“Comcast wants to end net neutrality and who else wants to end net neutrality? The right wing does. Hey, wouldn’t it be better to do marketing for the right wing then? That would make Comcast untold billions of dollars,” Uygur said in an interview with Salon (5/15).

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter (4/13), MSNBC president Phil Griffin said that Trump frequently called him while the future president was still the host of The Celebrity Apprentice and pushing his racist “birther” conspiracy theory against former president Barack Obama.

“He started calling me all the time in 2011 to say Lawrence O’Donnell was a ‘third-rate’ anchor,” Griffin was quoted as saying. According to HuffPost reporter Yashar Ali (5/14), Trump has attempted to get O’Donnell fired on multiple occasions.

WHITE HOUSE HAVING H.R. PROBLEMS. There never has been a White House that’s been so bad at hiring people, Charles Pierce noted at (5/18) “and I include those presided over by Ulysses S. Grant and Warren Gamaliel Harding. We have to begin with Michael Flynn, who must know absolutely everything. He was made the National Security Adviser despite the fact that everybody in Washington except Alexander Ovechkin [a Russian hockey player in the NHL] was firing off flares to warn the administration off. (This, by the way, is how the whole thing may also sink Mike Pence, since the vice president was head of the transition team in question. That may be a big part of The Story that his lawyer says Flynn has to tell.) Now, we learn that, not only was Flynn uncomfortably cozy with the Russians, he also was peddling foreign policy advice on behalf of Turkey, for whom he was an unregistered lobbyist.”

The Trump team appears to have learned nothing from this debacle, Pierce noted. One of the rumored candidates for a top diplomatic post in the Department of Labor is Curtis Ellis, who the New York Daily News reported is “a Trump adviser who has written for conservative website Breitbart and once accused Democrats of plotting the ‘liquidation of white, blue-collar working families.’” Ellis actually is already working with the Labor Department, on the handling of trade policy, as part of the “beachhead team” brought in by Trump, according Pro Publica. “Ellis is best-known in right-wing circles as a World Net Daily contributor, a website that’s written numerous ‘birther’ stories questioning the validity of former President Barack Obama’s US birth certificate. He’s argued in his writing that Obama and Hillary Clinton wanted to kill working-class Americans.” He would represent the US as head of the International Labor Affairs Bureau.

Another spectacular rumored hire for a top job in the Department of Homeland Security is David Clarke, the high sheriff and keeper of the dungeons in Milwaukee, Pierce noted. “Not to put too fine a point on it, but Clarke is a complete nut. In his jail, a woman delivered a baby unattended and both of them died on a cell floor. Another inmate died of thirst. On the national scene, Clarke is renowned for saying really vicious and stupid stuff all the while dressing up like Jeff Goldblum’s character from Buckaroo Banzai. Giving this guy a post anywhere within the national law-enforcement apparatus is tantamount to hiring a cannibal murderer as your sous-chef.

“And, it appears, we yet might have Weepin’ Joe Lieberman running the FBI. Good god, it’s like a casting call at Castle Dracula.”

DAYS AFTER PROMISE TO SAVE FOOD STAMPS, TRUMP BUDGET TARGETS THEM, AS SAFETY NET IS SLASHED. “As far as I’m concerned we have no proposed changes” to the food stamps program, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told congressmen (5/17). “You don’t try to fix things that aren’t broken.”

Perdue’s comments, delivering during a House Agriculture Committee hearing, seemed to signal that President Trump would not seek to shrink America’s efforts to help low-income families feed themselves, Alan Pyke noted at ThinkProgress (5/22).

The agriculture secretary’s assurances seemed to mean good news for the 7.7 mln mothers and young children who rely on WIC and the roughly 40 mln Americans who use SNAP dollars to fill out their shopping budget.

Just five days later, a budget proposal showed the White House going back on Perdue’s commitment — contemplating some combination of policy changes and outright budget cuts for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) and other key food supports for the poor.

The $4.1 tln budget proposal, unveiled by White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney (5/23), includes a 10% increase in military spending and $2.6 bln for border security, but it proposed drastic cuts in nine of 13 major initiatives.

Trump would cut $192 bln from foot stamps over 10 years and $72 bln from disability benefits, including a big chunk from the Social Security disability insurance program. “The rationale is that the cuts would force Americans back to work,” the New York Times noted (5/23). “But some 60% of food stamp recipients already work and an estimated 15% more work most of the time, availing themselves of food stamps only when they are between jobs or when their hours are reduced. The remainder are disabled and elderly. They will not go back to work if their food stamps are reduced. They will go hungry.

“The cuts to Social Security disability benefits would be similarly cruel. The budget assumes the cutbacks would prod disabled people back to work. That assumption ignores how severely disabled most benefit recipients are. The cuts also ignore Mr. Trump’s pledge not to cut Social Security. Mr. Mulvaney walked back that pledge on Monday, saying the promise pertained only to retirement benefits..”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has already said he expects the Republican-led Congress to largely ignore the proposal, saying in an interview with Bloomberg News that early versions reflected priorities that “aren’t necessarily ours.”

AIRPORT LAWYERS WHO STOOD UP TO TRUMP UNDER ATTACK. While the country has been fixated on President Trump’s firings, leaks, and outbursts involving the Department of Justice, that agency has been telling good lawyers to stop representing people. In April, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)—a respected nonprofit in Seattle that represents immigrants in deportation proceedings—received a “cease and desist” letter from the DOJ threatening disciplinary action. The letter demanded that NWIRP drop representation of its clients and close down its asylum-advisory program. The reason: a technicality, perversely applied. NWIRP is accused of breaking a rule that was put in place to protect people from lawyers or “notarios” who take their money and then drop their case, Rachel B. Tiven reported at TheNation.com (5/19).

NWIRP filed a lawsuit to defend itself against the DoJ’s order—and a US District Judge (5/17) granted a restraining order, allowing the organization to keep helping immigrants who need legal advice. But what’s at stake extends far beyond NWIRP and the 5,000 people it serves every year. The outcome of this legal battle will profoundly impact access to legal representation for the tens of thousands of immigrants who apply for asylum in the United States every year and the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants whose cases are currently in front of an immigration judge.

Tiven noted that there is no right to counsel in immigration proceedings. “If you are not a citizen—or if the government merely alleges you aren’t—you can be taken from your home, jailed, and permanently deported without ever seeing a lawyer.”

Tiven concluded, “If [the DOJ succeeds], they don’t just deprive people of scarce resources for volunteer counsel, they gradually muzzle the bar. They marginalize the heroic work of nonprofits like NWIRP and its peers around the country. They defang the big law firms that have been willing to stand up to this administration...and they make immigrant representation a more marginal part of the law.

“When lawyers rushed to airports this winter to protect our friends, our neighbors, and our Constitution, people cheered. The Trump administration took offense, and now those lawyers are in their cross hairs. The president is taking a sledgehammer to the pillars of our government: the FBI, the Justice Department, the federal courts. America, we are under attack.”

‘ESSENTIAL’ TOXIC WASTE CLEANUP PROGRAM TO BE SLASHED. In another case of confusion between administrators and budget writers, Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt has pledged repeatedly in recent months to prioritize clean-up of hazardous waste sites, yet the Trump administration is expected to propose dramatic budget cuts to the program responsible for those efforts, Mark Hand noted at ThinkProgress (.

Since getting sworn in as EPA administrator in February, Pruitt has vowed on multiple occasions to make the federal government’s hazardous site clean-up across the nation, known as the Superfund program, one of his top priorities. “Some of the most important work that we do as an agency, or should be doing… is with respect to the Superfund responsibilities,” Pruitt said in a radio interview two weeks ago.

Pruitt has contended that the Superfund program has languished over the years and has lacked the leadership to get the 1,300-plus sites cleaned up. “It’s time for leadership in East Chicago,” Pruitt said in the interview, referring to a Superfund site in a low-income neighborhood in East Chicago, Ind.

In March, Pruitt told a gathering of the US Conference of Mayors that Superfund “is an area that is absolutely essential” and “a priority.”

Chicago staff want a meeting with EPA head after leaked report targets their office for closure

President Trump’s 2018 budget plan for the EPA, however, calls for cutting the Superfund cleanup program by approximately 25%, according to a copy of the budget obtained by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

“On the one hand, Administrator Pruitt has been saying that he sees clean-up of Superfund sites and brownfield sites as a top priority and a return to the core mission of the EPA, as he sees it. At the same time, we are seeing these very damaging cuts, which, make no mistake, will hinder and slow down clean-up of these hazardous waste sites,” Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told ThinkProgress.

Overall, the president’s FY18 budget request will propose cutting the EPA’s budget by 31% and eliminating 3,200 staffers and over 50 programs, including those supporting international and domestic climate change research and partnership programs.

The cuts won’t be enough, said Myron Ebell, the climate science denier who oversaw the transition team for Trump’s EPA.

“This is an impending disaster for the Trump administration.” Ebell said on tapes obtained by Reuters.

Ebell’s concern is not the dramatic, unpopular cuts Trump will reportedly serve the EPA in his forthcoming budget, or how those cuts will be received by the American people and Congress. He thinks they don’t go far enough, Joe Romm noted at ThinkProgress (5/22).

The actions taken thus far by the Trump administration to gut the EPA budget, to prevent EPA from relying on science in its decision-making, and to undo regulations aimed at protecting public health and a livable climate have already led to the agency’s own staff “openly mocking” Trump’s “callous” policies, as one retiree explained. But for conservatives like Ebell, the disaster is that the administration, and particularly EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, are doing far too little.

In Ebell’s eyes, the impending disaster is that the administration isn’t moving fast enough to kill the Paris climate deal and the 2009 EPA finding that carbon dioxide endangers public health and welfare.

FIRST RULE OF PIPELINES: THEY LEAK. The Dakota Access Pipeline isn’t even finished yet, but it’s sprung a leak. Charles Pierce noted at (5/11) that, according to Dakota Media Group, a leak occurred in a surge pump in a pump station in rural Spink County, S.D., and spilled 84 gallons of crude oil in April.

Richard B. Kuprewicz said pipeline pump stations are typically built in such a way that oil releases stay within the station boundaries. He is a pipeline infrastructure expert and incident investigator with more than 40 years of energy industry experience.

“The releases in the pump station are better than having it on the main line. It sounds like it occurred during the process of commissioning the line,” Kuprewicz said. “As far as this happening during the start-up, I don’t want to make it sound like a major event, but the fact that you had oil leaving the tank says there’s something not right with their procedures. They might have been trying to hurry,” he said.

Vicki Granado, spokeswoman for the Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners, said the spill was due to a malfunction during the line fill process.

“Before a line goes into service you have to fill it with crude oil first,” she said.

Granado said the line-fill process should be finished within the next few weeks and the pipeline should be in service by June 1.

Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist with state Department of Environment and Natural Resources Ground Water Quality Program, said all the crude oil was recovered through absorbent materials and was contained in drums, then put back into the line. Dakota Access was responsible for cleaning up the spill, which it has done, he said.

Of course, Pierce noted, Energy Transfer Partners may have been distracted because they were also busy cutting a big check in Ohio for another not-necessarily-major event. From ThinkProgress:

“Last month, construction on the 800-mile Rover pipeline discharged more than two million gallons of a clay-like substance used for drilling into wetlands in a rural area about an hour south of Cleveland. ‘It’s a tragedy in that we would anticipate this wetland won’t recover to its original condition for decades,’ Ohio EPA spokesman James Lee told ThinkProgress. ‘And had [ETP] more carefully followed best practices and been prepared to respond to the bentonite release, this likely would not have occurred on the scale that we are dealing with now.’… ETP denied any wrongdoing in a statement emailed to ThinkProgress. ‘We have placed a great deal of focus and importance on our construction and mitigation efforts,’ a spokesperson said. ‘We are not out of compliance with any of our permits. It is unfortunate that the Ohio EPA has misrepresented the situation and misstated facts in its recent comments.’”

GINGRICH PUSHES DISCREDITED CONSPIRACY THEORY ABOUT DEATH OF DNC STAFFER. Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich joined Fox and Friends on Sunday (5/21) to pivot from the deepening investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia to baseless conspiracy theories about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

After Gingrich and the hosts bemoaned the media’s “presumption of guilt” toward Trump, Gingrich was asked whether Robert Mueller, appointed this week as special counsel overseeing the investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, might shed some light on the truth, Kiley Kroh reported at ThinkProgress (5/21).

Gingrich, a staunch Trump supporter, replied that it would depend on the scope of the investigation before quickly shifting gears to the unsolved murder of Rich, claiming without evidence that he was “assassinated.”

“At the same time, we have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee, who apparently was assassinated at 4 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like… 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments,” Gingrich said.

“Nobody’s investigating that, and what does that tell you about what’s going on? Because it turns out, it wasn’t the Russians. It was this young guy who, I suspect, was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee. He’s been killed, and apparently nothing serious has been done to investigate his murder. So I’d like to see how Mueller is going to define what his assignment is and if it’s only narrowly Trump the country will not learn what it needs to learn.”

As Dave Weigel detailed in the *Washington Post*, the spread of conspiracy theories around Rich’s murder, driven by Fox News, showcases how quickly fake news can take root. Rod Wheeler, a Fox News legal commentator, claimed to have evidence linking Rich to Wikileaks (5/15), but no evidence followed and the story was quickly debunked.

Rich’s family denounced the rumors and demanded a retraction from Fox. The family’s lawyer sent Wheeler a cease and desist letter (5/18), saying his “improper and unauthorized statements, many of which are false and have no basis in fact, have also injured the memory and reputation of Seth Rich and have defamed and injured the reputation of the members of the family.”

Nonetheless, right-wing media, led by Fox News, and social media continued to push the conspiracy theories. Even after the story was debunked, Sean Hannity proceeded to claim there were “explosive developments in the mysterious murder of former DNC staffer Seth Rich that could completely shatter the narrative that in fact Wikileaks was working with the Russians, or there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”

This week’s barrage of explosive reports regarding Trump’s handling of the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia presented a significant challenge for the pro-Trump media, Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel explained (5/18).

In the 17 hours following the report that Trump had disclosed highly classified intelligence to Russian officials, Warzel identified four key phases of the pro-Trump media’s response: the quiet period, blaming the usual suspects/dismissal, changing the news cycle, close the loop/merge the dueling news cycles. Breitbart, Drudge, and Fox all seized on conspiracy theories around Rich’s murder and unproven ties to Wikileaks; the stories were then tied together with suggestions that “the initial Washington Post story was part of a nefarious plot to crowd out the news cycle and distract from the real news of the day — no matter that the Fox 5 report on Seth Rich came hours after the Washington Post scoop.”

In the meantime, Jerome Corsi, Washington bureau chief for Alex Jones’ right-wing Infowars conspiracy website, tweeted that he has White House press credentials, Aaron Rupar noted at ThinkProgress (5/22).

Corsi is one of America’s most prominent “birthers” — the conspiracy theory about Barack Obama’s birth certificate that brought Donald Trump to political prominence in 2011. That same year, Corsi wrote a book entitled, *Where’s the Birth Certificate? The Case That Barack Obama Is Not Eligible To Be President*. In 2004, Corsi co-authored a book baselessly smearing then-Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for his military service, which included two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star Medal, and a Bronze Star.

In January, Corsi announced that he was leaving another fringe website — WorldNetDaily — for Infowars, a site that relentlessly spread the conspiracy theory that the 2012 school shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was a hoax. Trump reportedly consulted with Corsi when pushing the notion that Obama’s birth certificate was fake.

In recent days, Corsi — like Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich — has been pushing the conspiracy theory that a former DNC staffer was murdered because he was responsible for sending DNC emails to WikiLeaks, Rupar noted.

RIGHT-WING ATTACKS ON PLANNED PARENTHOOD ARE WORKING. Last summer the anti-choice movement was dealt a serious blow when the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot use medically unnecessary regulations as a pretext to shut down abortion clinics. But that doesn’t mean the religious right has given up on its mission to make sure that women who have sex are punished with unwanted pregnancy for it, Amanda Marcotte wrote at Salon (5/22). Under President Donald Trump, anti-choicers are redoubling efforts to destroy Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the country, which not only makes abortion harder to receive but, as an added bonus for the forced-birth brigade, will also cut off many thousands of low-income women from access to contraception.

In May, Iowa’s Republican Gov. Terry Branstad signed an appropriations bill that bars women on Medicaid from receiving any non-abortion services from clinics that offer abortion. The move is forcing four of the state’s 12 Planned Parenthood clinics to close.

Texas pulled off a similar move in 2011, passing a law refusing to let Medicaid patients use Planned Parenthood for any services. In response, the Department of Health and Human Services pulled millions of dollars of Medicaid family planning funding from the state because refusing to let a willing provider offer services to Medicaid patients violates federal regulations.

Coincidentally, Texas maternal mortality rates nearly doubled between 2010 and 2014, a study in the August 2016 journal *Obstetrics and Gynecology* found. The state’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity reported in July 2016 that 189 Texas mothers died less than a year after their pregnancy ended between 2011 and 2012 — the culprits were mostly heart disease, drug overdoses and high blood pressure. But the Texas Legislature, which is dominated by Republicans, has paid little attention to the problem.

Maternal deaths have been sparingly mentioned during the legislative session, overshadowed by issues such as child welfare, the so-called “bathroom bill” and sanctuary cities, Marissa Evans wrote for the Texas Tribune (2/28).

But with Trump in the White House, Texas is petitioning the government to retrieve its Medicaid money back without having to let Planned Parenthood be part of the roster of providers. Branstad’s move suggests that Iowa Republicans are also hopeful that the federal government will simply let states violate long-standing norms that allow women on Medicaid to choose the best provider for them.

“We have seen what happens in states like Texas, and now in Iowa, when politicians attack access to care at Planned Parenthood — it’s devastating, and sometimes deadly, for the women who are left with nowhere to turn for care,” said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, the chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement.

From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2017


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