(Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak) Protesters in front of the Supreme Court rally on March 25, 2015, as the court heard oral arguments in the challenge to the ACA's requirement that employee health insurance include access to contraceptives. O n January 1, Oregon became the first state to allow women to obtain birth control without a prescription . Under the new law, women 18 years and older can go to their local pharmacies, fill out a questionnaire, and receive a year’s supply of oral contraceptives. It’s not a true “over the counter” transaction, but women no longer have to make a trip to a doctor’s office for a prescription. Reproductive-rights activists who have advocated over-the-counter birth control for decades say that the new Oregon law is a win for public health. “Birth control is critical to health-care services,” says Megan Donovan of the Washington, D.C.–based Center for Reproductive Rights, an international advocacy group. Over half of pregnancies in the United States are...
Associated Press Sentencing reform legislation would release prisoners from incarceration, but the plan says little about what comes next. A broad bipartisan coalition on Capitol Hill has rallied behind a sweeping criminal justice overhaul aimed at ending mass incarceration, which costs the nation $80 billon per year, a plan that would slash the nation’s bloated prison population. But largely unanswered in those reforms is the question of what happens to prisoners once they are released. For those freed from prison or jail, getting out is just the first step. What comes next can be a daunting reentry process fraught with built-in obstacles to employment and family reunification. If criminal justice reforms are to work, experts say, they must be accompanied with policy changes that remove institutional barriers to reentry that stigmatize prisoners once they are released. It’s a large population. Approximately one in three Americans has some sort of a criminal record, according to an...
Independent senator and Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders has launched a tour of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), in an apparent bid to reach out to young black voters who so far favor Hillary Clinton in the polls.
In visiting HBCUs, Sanders is casting the spotlight on institutions that have given black students, who have been protesting racial discrimination on campuses across the country, a vital safe space. As Darrick Hamilton wrote in the Fall 2015 issue of TheAmerican Prospect, HBCUs provide “safe and nurturing spaces for thousands of students,” but “are at risk of extinction” due to fiscal shortfalls.
After facing criticism from black voters that Sanders has a racial injustice blind spot, the campaign took drastic action last August by releasing a lengthy and detailed racial justice policy platform. “It is an outrage that in these early years of the 21st century we are seeing intolerable acts of violence being perpetrated by police and racist acts of terrorism by white supremacists,” it reads.
Sanders’s education platform, which calls for tuition-free and debt-free colleges, appears tailor-made to draw support from college students and may also resonate particularly with black students at severely underfunded HBCUs. Despite gains in wealth, employment, and education, the racial wealth gap persists, making college affordability a big problem within the black community, as Hamilton explains in the Prospect.
Because young college students played a crucial role in helping elect and re-elect President Barack Obama, it’s little wonder that the Sanders campaign has selected HBCUs for his next campaign tour.
HBCUs still matter to black students, notes Hamilton in the Prospect: “Given ... the ongoing societal presumption of black inferiority maintained by many college faculty and administrators, HBCUs have not outlived their purpose—indeed, their need calls for greater strengthening.”
For years, one of the federal obstacles that has most frustrated gun safety advocates is an old prohibition on gun violence research. Without robust data on the impact of guns, safety advocates say, policymakers are unable to respond effectively to the epidemic of gun violence plaguing the nation.
On Tuesday, President Obama issued an executive order that not only tackles that problem head on but also reforms and expands background checks on firearm sales and commits $500 million towards increasing mental health access. Most importantly, the order directs the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and Justice to develop and increase research into gun safety technology.
Prior to this executive order, Congress had stymied effective gun violence research. In 1996, Arkansas Republican Jay Dickey (who has since reversed his position) added a rider to a budget bill that stripped the Centers for Disease Control of its funding for gun violence research. After the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Obama ordered the CDC to begin researching gun violence prevention, but the agency still lacked funding and remained fearful of a backlash from Congress.
The research component of the new executive order bypasses the CDC by assigning those three federal departments the task of researching safety technology. These new technologies aim to minimize accidental discharges and trace lost or stolen guns.
After Obama’s emotional speech on his executive orders, Republicans were quick to weigh in. “No matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the Second Amendment,” said Speaker Paul Ryan in a statement. “We will conduct vigilant oversight. His executive order will no doubt be challenged in the courts.”
Though Congress seems poised to fight Obama on gun control, advocates applauded the move. But, without Congress pushing for the CDC to research the gun violence epidemic, Obama’s order directing the three departments to research safety technologies can only go so far.
According to Ted Alcorn, the research director at Everytown—a nonprofit organization aimed at ending gun violence—researching gun violence is of life-and-death importance. “We won’t identify and implement measures that put a true dent in our country’s extraordinary rate of gun deaths,” he told The American Prospect, “without broad, sustained investment in research.”
AP Photo/Susan Walsh Akira Lee, a senior at Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C., fills out a college enrollment application at her school in Washington, November 14, 2013. T he usual college application includes SAT scores, high school transcripts, and essays, but many high school students may not realize that more than half of colleges also use another, more secretive form of screening: a criminal background check. A full 66 percent of colleges and universities conduct background checks as part of the admissions process, according to a December report titled, “Removing Barriers to Opportunity for Parents With Criminal Records and Their Children,” released by the Center for American Progress. In most cases, the university employees doing the checks have no training on how to use background checks, and no written policies to guide them. College officials say that the checks enhance public safety. When the University of Washington was considering adding criminal background...