gag rule article 5

The “Gag Rule”: Silencing The Right To Choose

The "Gag Rule": Silencing The Right To Choose

The Trump Administration's Attempt To Limit Women's Healthcare Access And Suppress Information About Their Health

WHAT YOU CAN DO...

By Josette Barrans

Throughout his campaign and administration, President Donald Trump has shown he does not care much about women’s rights. From his trivialization of sexual assault to his goal of overturning Roe v. Wade, it was clear that women would be in trouble once he took office. As expected, he has already enacted policies that violate women’s healthcare rights and he continues to chip away at their basic freedoms. Earlier this year, President Trump proposed the reinstatement of a decades old “gag rule” that would ban federally funded clinics from discussing abortion and preventive care[1]. Based on a policy first implemented by Ronald Reagan, the “gag rule” would also prevent clinics from sharing spaces with abortion providers as well as prevent health care providers from referring patients to clinics such as Planned Parenthood for safe and legal abortions[2]. Through this policy, women’s ability to access accurate information about their healthcare would be severely limited.

On May 30th, Trump appointed Dr. Diane Foley as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Population Affairs for the Department of Health and Human Services[3]. Foley is a long-time anti-abortion activist who believes in abstinence-only education. Her position oversees Title X, the federal grant program dedicated to family planning and preventive health services. Essentially, Foley determines recipients of Title X funding as well as managing the U.S. birth control program. Planned Parenthood clinics are one of the current prominent recipients of Title X funding, but they are not allowed to use this money to fund actual abortions. Under current US law, abortion services cannot be provided by any organization using federal funds[4]. But, Planned Parenthood uses the funding they receive to provide a wide range of healthcare services to women. Under this gag rule, however, Planned Parenthood would be exempt from receiving any Title X funding and would subsequently be unable to serve Title X patients due to the nature of their organization. Though abortion related services only constitute one aspect of what Planned Parenthood does, their existence in the organization would block any other services from receiving funding.

Planned Parenthood immediately took action to publicly oppose and fight this proposal, as this policy clearly targets progressive family planning organizations such as themselves. Though they only make up 13% of health centers funded by Title X, Planned Parenthood serves 41% of patients who receive care through Title X[5]. With this in mind, a blow to Planned Parenthood’s ability to effectively serve patients would burden a large portion of Title X beneficiaries. This policy also has a great impact on poor and uninsured women, being the ones who mainly use Title X funded services, as they can’t afford any other options. In fact, almost two-thirds of patients who use Title X are below the federal poverty line[6]. Additionally, Title X recipients are disproportionately women of color[7]. As a result, a gag rule would prevent these women from receiving information about abortions from the only clinics they can afford to visit. This rule clearly violates the relationship between a patient and doctor, as doctors are supposed to provide patients with all of their medical options and expert recommendations. Being forced to withhold certain information based on partisan preferences in unlawful and unethical. This policy hurts over four million people served by Title X[8].

One woman described the impact Title X funding had on her life. When Rhea lost her job, and health insurance with it, Title X funding at Planned Parenthood was the only way she was able to afford life saving treatment for precancerous cells found in her Pap test[9]. Rhea represents stories from millions of women that illustrate how vital Title X funding is to both people and organizations. If Planned Parenthood is cut off from this funding by the new proposal and the gag rule is implemented, patients like Rhea will be limited in their treatment options and may not even be told about many life-saving procedures. Furthermore, Planned Parenthood is the only family planning organization and birth control provider in many remote areas. Therefore, Title X patients in these locations could be left with no healthcare services[10].

As lawsuits are not permitted until the policy is finalized, Planned Parenthood cannot officially sue Trump over this proposal until its final language is released. Nevertheless, Planned Parenthood has already sued the Trump administration for several other amendments to Title X guidelines made earlier this year, stating that the amendments violated federal laws as they were arbitrary and unfair[11]. These guidelines promoted abstinence-only education and alternative methods to contraception rather than birth control. It also gave funding advantages to organizations that work with community and faith-based groups. The judge sided with Trump in this case, however, meaning that Planned Parenthood is already at a disadvantage to continue to receive Title X funding. If this new gag rule were implemented, their organization’s mission would be further damaged.

Trump’s commitment to eliminating safe and legal abortions extends beyond the scope of the nation. On his fourth day in office, Trump used an executive order to implement a global gag rule[12]. This rule prevents the US government from contributing funds to any international organizations that provide abortions, related services, or even information about abortions. The fact that this was one of his first acts as president demonstrates Trump’s explicit targeting of women’s healthcare rights.

It is easy to see what Trump is actually trying to do: limit women’s access to birth control, other methods of contraception, and safe and legal abortions. He is likely promoting this agenda to appease his conservative and religious base, as there is a large block of single issue voters whose main priority is the implementation of pro-life policy. While his previous attempt to explicitly defund Planned Parenthood was unsuccessful, this proposal is an effective back-door method of achieving his goal. Americans must not let Trump use loopholes to implement his unethical policies. By blocking access to healthcare, Trump is risking the health and lives of women around the country.

 


[1] Planned Parenthood. “What Is the Trump-Pence Administration's ‘Gag Rule?".” Planned Parenthood Action Fund, National - PPACTION, 18 May 2018. https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/blog/what-is-the-domestic-gag-rule

[2] Planned Parenthood.

[3] Planned Parenthood. “DIY Speak Up for Planned Parenthood Toolkit.” Planned Parenthood, 2018. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-south-texas/diy-speak-planned-parenthood-toolkit.

[4]Siddiqui, Sabrina. “Trump Administration to Revive Reagan-Era Abortion 'Gag' Rule.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 May 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/18/trump-administration-abortion-gag-rule-reagan-era

[5]Durkee, Alison. “Judge Sides with Trump Administration in Planned Parenthood Title X Funding Lawsuit.” Mic, Mic Network Inc., 18 July 2018. https://mic.com/articles/190323/judge-sides-with-trump-administration-in-planned-parenthood-title-x-funding-lawsuit#.ZLTAQPPb3

[6]Rovner, Julie. “Trump Proposes Cutting Planned Parenthood Funds. What Does That Mean?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 May 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/trump-proposes-cutting-planned-parenthood-funds-what-does-that-mean/2018/05/22/76a3a568-5ade-11e8-9889-07bcc1327f4b_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.85ca3ea4fc82

[7]J. Steinauer, P. Darney. Proposed changes to the Title X family planning program. Lancet, 392 (2018), p. E6. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31733-1/fulltext

[8]J. Steinauer.

[9] Rhea, Planned Parenthood patient. “Trump's Gag Rule Could Have Killed Me.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund, 2018. https://www.istandwithpp.org/trumps-gag-rule-could-have-killed-me-planned-parenthood-title-x?_ga=2.170338275.276421464.1546556242-2136533510.1542323762

[10] Rovner, Julie.

[11] Durkee, Alison.

[12]Starrs, Ann M. 2017. “The Trump global gag rule: An attack on US family planning and global health aid,” The Lancet 389(10068): 485–486. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)30270-2/fulltext

yca climate change education pic

The Attempted Distortion Of Climate Change

The Attempted Distortion Of Climate Change

The Urgent Need For Comprehensive Education In Local Schools To Address A Global Crisis

WHAT YOU CAN DO...

  • Challenge climate change deniers and promote environmental education through informative resources such as http://climatetruth.org/

By Gillian Hand

        In 2017, 350,000 American teachers received a publication from the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank based in Illinois. Titled “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” Heartland’s booklet and DVD package bombarded educators with an attempt to challenge the prevailing scientific stance on climate change.[1] Although 97% of scientists agree that climate change is happening now, unwarranted skepticism surrounding the evidence has prompted continued debates on this global crisis.[2] Calling younger generations to action, believers are fighting desperately to convince American citizens of the urgency of climate change before it is too late. Proper education will be fundamental in the fight for research and reform in a debate that will ultimately decide the fate of a world on the brink of a climate catastrophe.

        The recent climate report from the United Nations issued an ultimatum to humanity, naming climate change as the defining issue of this era and initiating a countdown of 12 years before the destruction is irreversible. Due to increased greenhouse gas emissions from industrialization, deforestation, and agriculture, the atmosphere has been filled with unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide, dangerously warming the Earth and threatening widespread environmental devastation.[3] Yet while accomplished scientists stress the urgency and sheer necessity of change in industry, land, and energy systems, far too many Americans continue to deny the existence and gravity of this international situation. The statistics are frightening: although 71% of Americans believe in global warming, only 50% think that they will be personally harmed by these changing environmental conditions.[4] Beyond this, only six in ten Americans accept that humans are the cause of climate change, while four in ten believe that the media exaggerates its seriousness.[5] To change America’s narrative on climate change, citizens must be exposed to hard evidence and potential solutions—developments that will require stronger educational programs at all levels of society.

        Currently, 19 states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, an educational guide for science content in K-12 curriculums that incorporates factual climate change instruction. These states, representing over 36% of Americans, provide students with evidence-based education on current environmental events and conditions, thereby helping them understand the stakes and consequences of a rapidly changing climate.[6] However, some states, such as Texas, West Virginia, Idaho, and Florida, have fought against the Next Generation Science Standards, electing to instead implement their own curriculums; these programs permit teachers to challenge school textbooks and dispute theories of topics like climate change and evolution.[7] While widespread teaching of climate change denial is certainly an issue that demands attention, other concerns point to the fact that many teachers lack essential comprehension of these subjects, compelling them to shy away from climate discussion in the classroom.[8] In light of the United Nations’ harsh climate report, the need for a stronger and more comprehensive education policy in relation to climate change is undeniable.

In April 2018, the Climate Change Education Act (HR 5606/S. 2740) was introduced in the Senate by Edward Markey (D-MA) and in the House of Representatives by Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH1). On the grounds that “the evidence for human-induced climate change is overwhelming and undeniable,” this Act seeks to form a new system of environmental education, altering America’s perspective on climate change in the process. In a proposed program courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Climate Change Education Act would provide learning opportunities for students along with the public at large, thereby increasing climate literacy and promoting more sustainable practices. Objectives focus on a thorough understanding of the consequences of human action as well as the implementation and explanation of new technologies and initiatives with climate-friendly benefits. With eight co-sponsors in the Senate and 23 co-sponsors in the House, the bill currently awaits reviewal.[9] Through efforts such as the proposed “Green New Deal”, an economic program that would address climate concerns, climate change is gradually gaining a stronger presence on the political stage, making it more likely that the Act will garner attention in the 116th Congress.  

In practice, the Climate Change Education Act would promote evidence-based learning in American schools and across the general population. With younger generations being hailed as the key advocates behind increased climate regulation, logical and accurate school-level education is needed to stamp out opposing and regressive arguments. Consider Texas-based teacher Eric Madrid, an educator with firsthand experience countering climate change denial in the classroom. Madrid explained that most of his students who once denounced the climate crisis as “fake news” were persuaded after viewing evidence of environmental responses to human activities, contrary to certain persistent adults who refused to stray from long-held beliefs. In response to the concern that many teachers feel uncomfortable or unprepared when teaching climate science, Madrid expressed hope that educators will soon receive more background information and resources that can make these lessons easier to teach.[10] Thankfully, the Climate Change Education Act speaks directly to these uncertainties. Using modern technologies, the program would make environmental education easily accessible for citizens of all ages by promoting initiatives in renewable energy, greenhouse gas reduction, and energy conservation. Beyond this, the Act would also aim to train teachers in climate science and help them incorporate these topics into K-12 curriculums, making educators more comfortable addressing climate issues in the classroom.[11] 

        Among the 350,000 teachers who received the Heartland Institute booklet, many chose to reject the provided materials and corresponding belief system. One called Heartland’s work “disingenuous,” while others condemned the Institute’s efforts to undermine the urgency of a global crisis. Some even chose to use the information as an example of climate change denial, highlighting the ways in which non-believers can obstruct scientific evidence in their favor.[12] Yet while these disapproving responses are certainly a sign of hope, it is concerning that teachers and schools were targeted at all; while the need for enhanced education is indisputable, it is clear that American schools have become a political battleground for climate change believers and deniers. With persisting doubt, confusion, and fear of climate change dominating the modern political landscape, it has never been more important to teach the truth. With efforts such as the Climate Change Education Act, Americans will be one step closer to halting human-caused environmental destruction, thereby providing future generations with hope of a safer and more sustainable planet.

 

 


[1] Banerjee, Neela. “Science Teachers Respond to Climate Materials Sent by Heartland Institute.” InsideClimate News, InsideClimate News, 22 Dec. 2017, insideclimatenews.org/news/22122017/science-teachers-heartland-institute-anti-climate-booklet-survey

[2] “Scientific Consensus: Earth's Climate Is Warming.” Global Climate Change, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory , 18 Sept. 2018, climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/.

[3] “Climate Change.” United Nations, United Nations, 2018, www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/climate-change/

[4] Winerman, Lea. “By the Numbers: Our Increasing Climate Concerns.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, Feb. 2018, www.apa.org/monitor/2018/02/numbers.aspx.

[5] “Americans On Climate Change.” Climate Chat, ClimateAdvocacyLab.org, www.theclimatechat.org/americans-on-climate-change/.

[6] “About the Next Generation Science Standards.” NGSS@NSTA, Nation Science Teachers Association , ngss.nsta.org/About.aspx.

[7] Day, Adrienne. “Climate Change in Schools Where It's 'Fake News'.” CNN, Turner Broadcasting System, 14 June 2017, www.cnn.com/2017/06/14/health/climat

[8] Kirk, Karin. “Teachers Dig in to Teach Climate Change.” Yale Climate Connections, The Yale Center for Environmental Communications, 9 Sept. 2017, www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2017/09/returning-teachers-dig-in-to-teach-climate-change/.

[9] “Climate Change Education Act (S. 2740).” GovTrack.us, Civic Impulse, LLC. , www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s2740.

[10] Day, “Climate Change in Schools Where It’s ‘Fake News’”

[11] “Climate Change Education Act.” Environmental Education and the 115th Congress, North American Association for Environmental Education, 27 Apr. 2018, cdn.naaee.org/sites/default/files/climate_change_education_act_-_115th_congress_-_background.pdf.

[12] Banerjee, “Science Teachers Respond to Climate Materials Sent by Heartland Institute”

voter fraud article yca

The Impact Of Voter Fraud Prevention Laws On Minority Communities

Democracy Defrauded

The Impact Of Voter Fraud Prevention Laws On Minority Communities

WHAT YOU CAN DO...

By Alexandra Bixler

The November 2016 election led to some troubling consequences for Crystal Mason, a mother of three from Fort Worth, Texas. After being released from prison for tax evasion, Mason went to her local polling place to cast her vote only to be told that her name was not on the list of known voters. Mason followed widely distributed advice and casted a provisional ballot, used to preliminarily record a vote when there are questions regarding the voter’s eligibility that must first be resolved. Within the fine print of the ballot were the words: “I understand that it is a felony of the 2nd degree to vote in an election for which I know I am not eligible.” Skimming over the warning, Mason had no knowledge that she was unable to vote due to her prior conviction. Now, she is facing 5 years in prison for attempting to cast her vote that was pending via provisional ballot.[1]

Voting rights activists have widely referred to these heavy-punishment laws as a fear tactic to prevent people from voting. In fact, Mason’s children were so traumatized by the ordeal that they now claim that they will never vote out of fear of prosecution. Public outcry became further emboldened  as the disproportionate impact of these laws became evident. While Terri Lynn Rote, who is white, committed voter fraud in the 2016 election when she attempted to vote for Trump twice, Crystal Mason, who is African-American, received a much heftier sentence. Rote was given 2 years of probation and a $750 fine, demonstrating one of the many ways voting laws impact racial minorities unfairly.[2]

Despite an array of equally troubling and similar stories, Voter ID laws and voter fraud prevention efforts are widely supported. Former Republican South Carolina governor Nikki Haley once  said:

“Requiring people to show a photo ID before they vote is a reasonable measure. It is not racist. If everyone was willing to stop shouting and stop trying to score race-baiting political points, we could reach common ground. I want everyone who is eligible to vote, to vote.”[3]

 This statement attempts to brand Voter ID laws as “common-sense” measures to prevent fraud. However, the issue is more complex than it appears.

Before further delving into issues faced by the modern voter, it is important to recognize where this country started. In 1776, voting was restricted to white men over the age of 21 that owned land. After the Civil War, the 15th amendment in 1870 gave the illusion that black men could vote, but this was not the reality. Black men, who were still impoverished, had to pay a poll tax and pass a literacy test that would often consist of decoding complicated, nearly cryptic messages. White men, if they had to undergo any literacy test at all, would be asked to explain a simple sentence.[4]

 Legal barriers served as a significant barrier for black men, but social barriers were far more dangerous. Attempting to vote subjected black men to violence and lynchings. Nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress between 1882-1968, but none passed. This demonstrates the strength of the cultural idea that blacks needed to be punished for “misbehaving”.[5]  By 1920, white women would receive the right to vote with the 19th amendment but suffragettes actively excluded minority women from their activism. Four years later, Native Americans received the right to vote. All Americans could not vote until the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, the same year the poll tax was banned. Despite these legislative achievements, blatant voter suppression still plagues our nation’s recent history. This emphasizes the importance of determining whether voter fraud prevention measures truly seek to preserve the sanctity of elections or if they are pushing Americans back.[6] 

For many it may seem difficult to believe voting laws as simple as possessing a government-issued photo ID could serve as such a challenge for voters. However, those in deep poverty are less likely to have a passport or a driver’s license, because they can’t afford a trip out of the country or a car. In fact, while 10% of Americans do not have a photo ID, this statistic spikes up to 15% for Americans that make under $35,000 a year. Shockingly, 25% of black Americans do not have a photo ID. Intentionally or unintentionally, voter ID laws hurt a very specific demographic of voters: racial minorities and low income citizens.[7] The Atlantic conducted a survey in July of 2018 asking Americans of all races about their voting experience. The study found that, while voter fraud laws are not explicitly color-focused, the outcome is. Racial minorities express having a much more difficult time voting than their white counterparts. 10-11% of minority voters were told during the 2016 election, incorrectly, that their names were not listed on voter rolls while only 5% of whites were told the same. Additionally, 15% of minority voters reporting having a difficult time finding their polling place on election day while only 5% of whites could say the same. Frighteningly, 1 out of every 10 voting hispanics reported that they were “bothered” at the polls due to anti-immigrant sentiments. This demonstrates that minority voters have to overcome both legal and social obstacles to exercise their basic right to vote, an experience white Americans do not have nearly as often.

While President Donald Trump claimed that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election, the 2016 election has 4 documented cases of voter fraud.[8] The Brennan Center of Justice’s research has also confirmed that voter fraud is not a widespread phenomena through their study, The Truth About Voter Fraud. The study concluded that Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than attempt to impersonate someone else at the polls. If the problem of voter fraud is seemingly so obsolete, it brings the question of what the purpose of strict voting laws truly are.

Democrats can rejoice in the fact that they took back the House in the 2018 midterms, but that is not to say that these restrictive laws did not play a role in hindering their success. In 2018, North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp was unseated by Republican Kevin Cramer. She won her 2012 election narrowly, by a margin of 3000 votes. Native Americans were a great help to her in this race. After this victory, the Republican North Dakota state legislature took action. By 2017, House Bill 1369 was passed, which required voters to provide residential addresses on their registration forms. Unfortunately Native Americans in reservations do not have addresses or even street names, often relying on P.O boxes instead.  Republicans have claimed that their intent with HB 1369 was to prevent out-of-state voters from committing fraud rather than intentionally disenfranchise voters. However, according to Federal Judge Daniel Hovland voter fraud in the state is “virtually nonexistent.” While the public officials that pushed this bill along claim to hold  non-discriminatory intentions, they demonstrated a gross lack of knowledge about the living situations of their constituents at best.[9]

While many Native Americans with reservation P.O. boxes were able to overcome obstacles to the polls, many did not. Some complained that county officials in charge of issuing new IDs were “unavailable” or provided faulty addresses. There were also incidents of two voters going to their polling location only to be told that the facility in Cannon Ball, North Dakota “ran out” of ballots and were redirected to a site an hour and a half away. Additional ballots were provided at their polling location, but this certainly demonstrates the hardship Natives went through to cast their vote.

Voter suppression ultimately undermines the sanctity of elections, keeps underrepresented groups underrepresented, and destroys faith in American democracy. In order to create a government where everyone is included, voter suppression must become a thing of the past.

 


[1] Pilkington, Ed. “US Voter Suppression: Why This Texas Woman Is Facing Five Years' Prison.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 28 Aug. 2018

[2] Oppenheim, Maya.“Woman Who Tried to Vote Twice for Trump Sentenced.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 18 Aug. 2017

[3] Arter, Melanie. “Gov. Nikki Haley: Voter ID Laws 'Not Racist'.” CNS News, 3 Sept. 2015,

[4] Boeckel, R. (1928). Voting and non-voting in elections. Editorial research reports 1928 (Vol. II). Washington, DC: CQ Press.

[5] Thomas-Lester, Avis. “A Senate Apology for History on Lynching.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 14 June 2005

[6] Cooper, Mary H. "Voting Rights." CQ Researcher, 29 Oct. 2004, pp. 901-24

[7] “The Facts About Voter Suppression.” American Civil Liberties Union, Aclu

[8] Bump, Philip. “There Have Been Just Four Documented Cases of Voter Fraud in the 2016 Election.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 1 Dec. 2016

[9] Astor, Maggie. “A Look at Where North Dakota's Voter ID Controversy Stands.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2018

dickey amendment

How The Prevention of Gun Violence Research Enables A Public Health Crisis

Dickey's Folly

How The Prevention of Gun Violence Research Enables A Public Health Crisis

WHAT YOU CAN DO...

  • Call your Representatives and ask them to repeal the Dickey Amendment and support the Gun Violence Research Act to restore CDC funding

By Josette Barrans

After the devastating Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012 that left 20 children and 6 staff members dead, President Obama ordered the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct research on gun violence and its causes. The call after such a terrible tragedy was “Never Again” and gun control advocates thought this would finally be enough to swing the partisan debate in their favor. Yet, since Sandy Hook, there have been 1,897 more mass shootings and zero studies conducted by the CDC on the causes of gun violence[1].

Considering that gun violence is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, one would assume this would be a public health issue of great importance to both the government and the public. However, the partisan connotations of this issue block any significant progress. Legal roadblocks instituted by pro-gun Republicans, such as the Dickey Amendment, have prevented significant research on gun control over the past 20 years. The Dickey Amendment was introduced by Arkansas representative Jay Dickey and added to the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997. This amendment states, “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control”[2]. This amendment came in response to a study conducted by the CDC in the previous year showing that having a gun in the home correlated with a higher risk of homicide by a family member[3]. Though these study results were simply factual, the NRA accused the CDC of having an anti-gun bias and convinced congressional Republicans to take action. While the amendment only restricts the CDC from advocating for a certain position on gun violence rather than blocking research on the issue, its passage had underlying implications. The bill also took $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget, which was the exact amount the agency spent on gun violence injury research in the previous year[4]. This sent a clear message to the CDC: stop any and all research on gun violence. Without proper funding, the CDC has no motivation to take that leap of faith and defy the will of Congress. Additionally, the vagueness of what kind of research is permissible combined with the halt of new studies by the CDC discouraged any other organization from funding gun violence research for most of the last 20 years.

This amendment and the CDC’s inaction have gained increasing public opposition over time. In light of many recent shootings, especially the one in Parkland, many healthcare professionals are calling for more tangible solutions to this public health crisis, such as the repeal of the Dickey Amendment. Others are turning the blame to the CDC; in 2013 more than 100 scientists signed a letter that called on the CDC to continue research on gun violence that can identify effective solutions to the crisis[5].  Jay Dickey himself regrets the chilling effect his amendment had on gun violence research, having written an article in the Washington Post discussing the importance of taking steps to reduce gun violence in 2015[6].

The CDC and other healthcare organizations are eager to conduct this research as they face both internal and external pressures to produce tangible solutions.. At least 65% of healthcare providers view gun violence as a major public health threat and wish to take action[7]. Outside advocacy groups and prominent organizations, such as the American Psychological Association and Doctors for America, are calling for gun violence research as they are well aware of the human cost of gun violence. 

Gun violence also poses an internal threat to healthcare organizations, as the cost of it alone justifies its classification as a major public health issue. According to research reported in Mother Jones, the direct and indirect costs of gun violence range from $100 billion to $229 billion dollars per year, costing each American around $700 per year[8]. These estimates don’t even take into account all the long-term costs such as continued medical issues or counselling, as they are too extensive to track.  Furthermore, the results of a 2017 study showed that gun violence research received around 1.6% of the funding you would expect considering its impact on mortality when compared to other leading causes of death[9]. With this in mind, both Americans and insurance providers continue to bear the financial burden of gun violence failing to be classified as a public health epidemic.

The lack of government funding into gun violence prevents the healthcare industry from being able to effectively promote public health and safety. Healthcare providers have seen the real cost of gun violence and know action is needed but are unable to provide Congress with accurate data on the scope of this crisis.. The primary way politicians have been convinced to change their mind on public health issues throughout history was through the presentation of scientific research[10]. Regulations were only enacted on the tobacco industry when research showing an explicit link between smoking and lung cancer was presented to lawmakers. Therefore, Congress in unlikely to do anything about gun control without clear and convincing evidence that only the healthcare industry can provide.

There has been a recent movement on both sides of the aisle to clarify that the Dickey Amendment does not actually ban research in response to outrage at the policy, which has allowed some progress to occur. The National Institute of Health has conducted gun violence studies in recent years, as their much larger budget provides them with less fear of retaliation by members of Congress[11].  While critics have insulted the CDC for their lack of political courage, the CDC has recently acknowledged that they realize they are not actually restricted from conducting research, and will conduct this research as soon as the much-needed funding is allocated to them[12]Nonetheless, President Trump still failed to provide the CDC with funds or lift the ban on advocacy despite adding a provision to the spending bill clarifying that the CDC could conduct research into the causes of gun violence, essentially changing nothing[13]. These kinds of clarifications and amendments are being used by Republicans as a guise of compromise and neutrality toward the subject when their underlying goal clearly remains to scare organizations into silence and block research that will show the danger of guns, and healthcare organizations are still feeling this pressure to stay silent. Even if research into gun violence were conducted, the studies will inherently be considered partisan by pro-gun legislators. The study that caused Republicans to create this amendment in the first place was considered biased simply for showing an obvious factual link, and current study results will likely indicate the necessity of gun control once again. Therefore, Republicans could continue to use the Dickey Amendment to block the use of these findings as evidence in Congress.

While advocating for research funding should be a top priority of Americans, the chilling effect of the Dickey Amendment is still a problem and its repeal would likely empower many organizations to conduct research without fear of backlash. By discouraging research and withholding funding, politicians with ties to the NRA are ensuring that no gun control measures will be taken, thereby allowing more mass shootings to occur. A lack of research would surely result in stagnation, resulting in more lives lost. This can no longer be a political debate - it must be a factual one.

 

 


[1] Lopez, German, and Kavya Sukumar. “Mass Shootings since Sandy Hook, in One Map.” Vox.com, Vox Media, 9 July 2018, www.vox.com/a/mass-shootings-america-sandy-hook-gun-violence.

[2] Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, Pub. L. No. 104-208 (1996).

[3] Rostron A. The Dickey Amendment on federal funding for research on gun violence: a legal dissection. Am J Public Health. 2018;108(7):865–867.

[4] Kellermann AL, Rivara FP. Silencing the Science on Gun Research. JAMA. 2013;309(6):549–550. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.208207

[5] Frankel, Todd C. “Why the CDC Still Isn't Researching Gun Violence, despite the Ban Being Lifted Two Years Ago.”The Washington Post, WP Company, 14 Jan. 2015, www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/wp/2015/01/14/why-the-cdc-still-isnt-researching-gun-violence-despite-the-ban-being-lifted-two-years-ago/?utm_term=.facf36580a24.

[6] Dickey, Jay, and Mark Rosenberg. “How to Protect Gun Rights While Reducing the Toll of Gun Violence.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 25 Dec. 2015, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/time-for-collaboration-on-gun-research/2015/12/25/f989cd1a-a819-11e5-bff5-905b92f5f94b_story.html?utm_term=.65454b1ee8dd.

[7] Jimenez, Sallie. “Health Professionals Declare Gun Violence Public Health Threat.” Nursing News, Stories & Articles, Nurse.com, 31 July 2018, www.nurse.com/blog/2018/03/05/health-professionals-declare-gun-violence-a-public-health-threat/.

[8] Pamela Behrman, Colleen A Redding, Sheela Raja, Tamara Newton, Nisha Beharie, Destiny Printz; Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) position statement: restore CDC funding for firearms and gun violence prevention research, Translational Behavioral Medicine, , ibx040, https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibx040

[9] Stark DE, Shah NH. Funding and Publication of Research on Gun Violence and Other Leading Causes of Death. JAMA. 2017;317(1):84–85. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.16215

[10] Ansari, Sobia. “Why Should Health Care Professionals Care about Gun Control?” KevinMD.com, MedPage Today, 23 Apr. 2018, www.kevinmd.com/blog/2018/04/why-should-health-care-professionals-care-about-gun-control.html.

[11] Rubin R. Tale of 2 Agencies: CDC Avoids Gun Violence Research But NIH Funds It.JAMA. 2016;315(16):1689–1692. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.1707

[12] Frankel, Todd C.

[13] Greenfieldboyce, Nell. “Spending Bill Lets CDC Study Gun Violence; But Researchers Are Skeptical It Will Help.”NPR, NPR, 23 Mar. 2018.

Free tuition article photo YCA

The Case For Free Tuition

The Case For Free Tuition

In response to the skyrocketing prices of higher education, calls for free tuition for low-income students are echoing through the American population.

WHAT YOU CAN DO...

  • Visit the Campaign for Free College Tuition to support free tuition for low and middle class income students at public colleges and universities https://www.freecollegenow.org

By Gillian Hand

In a fiercely competitive professional environment, the value of a college degree is undeniable yet concerningly unattainable for many lower-income families. A recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics had only 16% of low-income students graduating from a college or university, a condition largely due to the towering expenses of higher education.[1] In response to these dropping rates of college enrollment and completion, the price of postsecondary education has grown into a heated debate, prompting concerns about the future of our education system and the state of the American workforce.[2] As frequent funding cuts force public colleges and universities to raise their fees and tuition, higher education has become unreachable for many low and middle-class students, prompting louder calls for a revolutionary change in educational opportunity: free tuition.

With student debt rising to a record $1.5 trillion, the concept of free tuition has proved itself to be a compelling American issue. Supporters of the movement highlight the escalating costs and inevitable debts that prevent many low-income students from attending college, emphasizing how the inaccessibility of higher education damages their futures as well as the state of American society as a whole.[3] Opponents argue that the programs will in fact cause more harm than benefit; with less money in public institutions, faculty and resource capacities would decrease and funding would be repealed from important need-based financial aid programs.[4] When paired with the prospect of higher taxes and the concern that free tuition will not solve the income inequalities at the heart of the issue, these arguments push back against the movement’s efforts to make higher education accessible for lower-income Americans.

The movement for free college tuition was launched in 2005 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with the creation of the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship. With funds from anonymous donors, this initiative pledged to send graduates of the Kalamazoo public school system to in-state colleges and universities for free.[5] The Kalamazoo Promise not only produced higher levels of college enrollment among high school graduates, but also inspired twelve other states to implement free tuition programs of their own, often with specific terms and conditions. Some initiatives require applicants to maintain a certain GPA, while others ask that eligible students present clean records or pursue a specific area of study. To combat economic concerns, some programs observe a “last dollar” policy that requires students to seek federal aid — scholarships and Pell Grants — before turning to state organizations to cover the remaining tuition gap.[6] 

Following the passage of the 2018 State Budget earlier this year, New York launched a free tuition plan of its own to offer qualifying students a new path to a college degree: the Excelsior Scholarship. In an effort that has been applauded across the nation, New York state residents below the $125,000 income line now qualify for free tuition at City University and State University of New York institutions, opening doors for individuals who cannot otherwise come close to affording the skyrocketing prices of higher education.[7] 

        Naturally, these state initiatives are not perfect. While the Kalamazoo Promise was certainly a breakthrough in the drive for free tuition, there is no evidence that the program made any progress in overcoming the social mobility imbalances and income and racial inequalities that make the program necessary.[8] The Excelsior Scholarship has also produced its fair share of flaws with enrollment and completion; the program requires a minimum of 30 academic credits per year, a condition perceived to disadvantage students who work for a living or take care of children.[9] One student remarked that, as she was not appropriately informed about this requirement, she was rejected from the program due to insufficient credits from previous college semesters.[10] In addition, many free tuition programs do not include various substantial expenses such as textbooks, housing, and transportation. With these considerable costs excluded, it can grow difficult for an individual to produce necessary payments while keeping up with academic deadlines, ultimately endangering their ability to complete a college degree. To achieve the goal of equal access to educational opportunities, these complications must be recognized and righted.

Despite these programs’ shortcomings, it is clear that the free tuition movement is gaining speed at the state level. As it stands, however, there exists no federal law that creates and supports free tuition programs at the national level, keeping higher education out of reach for lower-income students across the nation. Enter H.R. 1880/S. 806, the College for All Act of 2017, a federal bill introduced to the Senate in April 2017 by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and in the House of Representatives by Pramila Jayapal (D-WA7). The College for All Act proposes to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965, making public institutions free for those below the $125,000 income level and community college costless for individuals of any income.[11] While the fear of raised  taxes has kept the Act from reviewal in the 115th Congress, the 37 Democratic co-sponsors in the House and seven Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate remain hopeful that it will be a starting point for future change and an inspiration for individual state action. These supporters plan to fund the bill with small taxes on Wall Street trades and bonds, a development that would keep the expenses off the shoulders of ordinary Americans.[12] With the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives following the 2018 election, it is more likely that the bill will gain traction during the upcoming congressional cycle despite its lack of attention since its introduction. The educational opportunities that the College for All Act offers to lower-income citizens nationwide might just be the spark that higher education needs.

        The drive for affordable education will not proceed without complications. Students who fall above the maximum income line will not be eligible for free tuition programs, and will have to continue to seek out federal grants and scholarships with problems of their own. However, the recent push for free tuition is a battle that seeks to reform higher education and shape our nation’s future; regardless of income status, every student deserves the chance to pursue a degree that will provide them with the skills necessary to enter the workforce and advance American economic interests. While states like Michigan and New York have laid the groundwork, affordable education is an American issue that should be viewed and corrected at the national level.

 

 


[1] Musto, Pete. “Low-Income Students See Low Graduation Rates.” VOA, Voice of America, 7 Nov. 2017, www.voanews.com/a/universities-focus-on-low-income-students-who-dont-graduate/4104493.html.

[2] Greenblatt, Alan. “Issues in Higher Education .” CQ Researcher , SAGE Publishing , library.cqpress.com.proxy.library.cornell.edu/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre2018102600.

[3] Hill, Catharine. “Opinion | Free Tuition Is Not the Answer.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Dec. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2015/11/30/opinion/free-tuition-is-not-the-answer.html.

[4] Page, Max, and Dan Clawson. “It's Time to Push for Free College.” National Education Association , www.nea.org/home/62740.htm.

[5] Miller-Adams, Michelle. “About the Kalamazoo Promise.” The Upjohn Institute for Employment Research , 2015, www.upjohn.org/about-kalamazoo-promise.

[6] Mercer, Marsha. “Why Free College Tuition Is Spreading From Cities to States.” The Pew Charitable Trusts, www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2018/01/05/why-free-college-tuition-is-spreading-from-cities-to-states

[7] “Tuition-Free Degree Program: The Excelsior Scholarship.” Welcome to the State of New York, 18 Jan. 2018, www.ny.gov/programs/tuition-free-degree-program-excelsior-scholarship.

[8] Ready, Timothy. “Free College Is Not Enough: The Unavoidable Limits of the Kalamazoo Promise.” Social Mobility Memos , The Brookings Institution , 29 July 2016, www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2015/06/24/free-college-is-not-enough-the-unavoidable-limits-of-the-kalamazoo-promise/.

[9] Hilliard, Thomas J. “New York State's Excelsior Scholarship Shortcomings.” Center for an Urban Future (CUF), nycfuture.org/research/new-york-state-excelsior-scholarship-shortcomings.

[10] Disare, Monica. “Among NY Students Seeking New Excelsior Scholarship, Potentially Many Who Aren't Qualified or Could Pay a Price Later.” Chalkbeat, 1 Aug. 2017, www.chalkbeat.org/posts/ny/2017/08/01/among-ny-students-seeking-new-excelsior-scholarship-potentially-many-who-arent-qualified-or-could-pay-a-price-later/.

[11] Sanders, Bernard. “S.806 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): College for All Act of 2017.” Congress.gov, Library of Congress , 3 Apr. 2017, www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/806.

[12] “H.R. 1880: College for All Act of 2017.” GovTrack.us, Civic Impulse, LLC. , www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr1880/summar

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