Sunday Reads – June 26, 2022
A week of history and change. In the last 5 days, we’ve learned that any number of people — from courageous elections worker Lady Ruby to the U.S. Attorney General — dealt with and stood up against lies, crushing persuasion and harmful threats to bring us through the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to a peaceful transition of power after the 2020 election. The Supreme Court reworked at least three long-standing legal directives and Georgia had its primary runoff. And that was just some of the news.
Dive in, the water’s hot.
Georgia and women’s health care
After a decision draft leaked from the Supreme Court a few weeks ago, few were surprised by the Friday ruling that said the federal government could not protect a woman’s right to end a pregnancy, a 50-year precedent of federal law. That work would be left to the individual states. Nearly 1 in 4 American women get an abortion before the age of 45, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive health policy. In Georgia, the “heartbeat bill” is waiting for final approval through the courts and, late Friday, state Attorney General Chris Carr requested the U.S. Appeals Court for the 11th District to end its injunction and allow the law to take effect, banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
This move spotlights the sad condition of women’s health care in Georgia, home to the nation’s second-highest death rate for women from any cause related to pregnancy and/or childbirth. Black women are nearly three times more likely to die during childbirth than their white counterparts. Researchers noted that in Georgia 1 in 3 of the maternal deaths had little or no prenatal care. According to the state Department of Public Health, 70% of Georgia’s maternal deaths from 2012 to 2016 were preventable. In recent years, the March of Dimes gave Georgia a grade of F for maternity care. Earlier this year, the Georgia General Assembly did pass laws to study the causes of the high maternal mortality and to specifically allow for Medicaid to cover a woman for up to a year after giving birth. Those moves occurred only after a Georgia House of Representatives Study Committee on Maternal Mortality found in 2019 that 93 rural counties have no hospital with a labor and delivery unit and no rural counties have a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.
Reporters Kate Griem and Sonia Chajet Wides spent the weeks before the decision researching Coastal Georgia’s post-Roe v. Wade landscape and what it means to women who will need reproductive care in a state that already ranks consistently in the bottom of rankings for maternal health care. Read Griems’ and Chajet Wides’ story for a look at what lies ahead for Coastal Georgia women who seek information about or to terminate pregnancy.
Justices rewire other laws
- Miranda warning: The U.S. Supreme Court spiked more than one precedent last week, it also eliminated a long-accepted shelter for people who may have been treated unfairly when arrested. As all “Law & Order” fans know, the Miranda warning read to a person picked up on any charge lets them know they have the right to remain silent and have an attorney present during questioning. Since 1966, police or officials who didn’t respect those rights could be punished. Now, they’ll still have to give the Miranda warning at an arrest, but officers and officials won’t be held accountable for violating them.
- Gun rights: The justices also ruled last week to strike down a New York gun law dating back to 1913 that said citizens should have a specific reason to get a gun license to carry a concealed weapon. For the majority, Savannahian and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas said the Constitution protects a person’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense. Our nonprofit colleagues at The Trace have a wrap-up on what that means for licensing across the country as various state laws may now be in play just as President Biden signed Congress’ first attempt to tighten gun laws since 1994.
And then there were 2
Georgia U.S. House District 1 represents all of Coastal Georgia and its neighboring counties. That elected official has the job of taking its citizens’ voices to Washington to be counted. So, it’s an important race for all of us. Last week in the primary runoff, Savannah lawyer Wade Herring won the Democratic nomination and in November will face 4-term incumbent Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, a former state legislator and Pooler mayor. Herring decided to run because he was incensed after Carter sided with Trump loyalists on Jan. 6 in an attempt to disqualify Georgia’s Electoral College votes. Carter has said in an interview with The Current that he objected to the state’s vote because he disagreed with the Georgia Secretary of State’s decision to send absentee ballot applications to every state voter during the pandemic. He said it was a decision that should have been made by the legislature.
On Tuesday, we heard during the U.S. House Jan. 6 Committee hearings that a secret slate of Republican Georgia electors and their votes — along with those of Arizona and Pennsylvania — were ready to substitute for the legitimate Democratic ones had the objections by Carter and other delegation members succeeded. The combined efforts from other states’ false electors would’ve changed the Electoral College count to a Trump win.
Another Carter note: In a bit of closure, reporter Mary Landers wrote about the quiet end of Rep. Carter’s two-year dispute with Camden County over his tax bill on a large tract of undeveloped land. To end Carter’s lawsuit, the county froze his tax assessment for 2020, 2021, 2022 and saved Carter $27,000. The story maps the changing assessments and tax bills before the settlement.
Campaign funds get scrutiny
With the runoff’s end, we see a jump in political conversations about endorsements and funding. The most recent candidate in the spotlight is Gov. Brian Kemp. Georgia’s LGBTQ leaders are urging Kemp to reject an endorsement by Frontline Policy Action, an anti-gay Christian lobbying group. Reporter Nick Sullivan writes that the organization encourages its supporters to push back against gay Pride month and characterized the LGTBQ community agenda as designed to “normalize sin.” The endorsement came after Kemp signed laws designed to ban transgender girls in high school sports and prohibit classroom discussions about “divisive concepts.”
The governor also took lumps from Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams who released ads about Kemp’s donations from Bryan County gunmaker Daniel Defense, which has given $52,000 over the years. The company is most recently known for manufacturing and selling a weapon online to the 18-year-old in Uvalde, Texas, who used it to kill 19 students and 2 teachers.
Your second cup: Medical debt
Think of 5 neighbor families you know, including yours. Of those, at least 2 have long-term medical debt that affects their household choices every day as well as their abilities to fix or buy a car, a house or get additional health care they need. This spring, Kaiser Family Foundation partnered with National Public Radio to research and examine the impacts of medical debt on U.S. families. Rising health care costs are now pushing many into serious debt, and the series of stories and data charts tell those stories. The Kaiser Health News and NPR work Diagnosis: Debt explains the toll, the scale and the heart-wrenching sacrifices families make every day.
Another deep source on the topic, the Medical Policy Scorecard, is full of data and its takeaway is that 1 in 5 people have medical debt that affects their ability to get credit. The scorecard was produced through Innovation for Justice, a social justice innovation lab housed at the University of Arizona and the University of Utah. The scorecard ranks states on policies and statutes that are designed to protect consumers from medical debt and its consequences. If you want to skip the openers and see how Georgia stacks up, here’s the specific link.
P.S. Next week, your Reads editor will be celebrating a long July 4 holiday with hot dogs, fireworks and baseball. Reads will return July 10 with guest appearances from The Current’s summer interns and reporting fellows. Brace yourselves.
Pro-abortion advocates worry about returning to a pre-Roe era in which cultures of silence made illegal abortions taboo and unsafe. They are concerned that restricting abortion access will exacerbate the inequitable patchwork of women’s healthcare that already poses risks to mothers’ lives.
US Rep. Buddy Carter paid $2.1 M for his Camden property but has his assessment frozen at $274,000.
It’s Pride Month in Georgia. But Gov. Brian Kemp faces criticism from LGBTQ leaders for accepting an endorsement from anti-LGBTQ group.
Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG Power) has filed a lawsuit against Georgia Power in Fulton County Superior Court asserting its right to trigger a 2018 agreement freezing its capital costs in building two additional nuclear reactors at the plant south of Augusta.
Georgia, Arizona elections officials describe calls, visits, emails, threats following counts where Trump lost.
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