Editorial Roundup: Texas

San Antonio Express-News. Sept. 3, 2021.

Editorial: Troubling implications of egregious abortion law

There are so many egregious layers to Texas’ ban on abortions, it is hard to know where to begin.

There is the blatant hypocrisy of state leaders such as Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who fashion themselves as the champions of “life,” but only for the unborn. When it comes to children too young to be vaccinated, they have fought universal masking in schools that would help keep these kids safe from COVID-19.

And there is the U.S. Supreme Court’s timorous conservative majority, which in the middle of the night let stand a law that blatantly violates precedent, hiding behind procedural and technical language, noting their order “is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law.”

Which is, of course, the very reason why Texas’ abortion ban should have been stayed, a point Chief Justice John Roberts made in his dissent: “I would grant preliminary relief to preserve the status quo ante — before the law went into effect — so that the courts may consider whether a state can avoid responsibility for its laws in such a manner.”

And this brings us to the law itself, which so neatly confines women to unwanted pregnancies, while incenting Texans to surveil and prosecute medical providers or even Uber drivers who happen to take someone to an appointment.

There will be no abortions after six weeks, which is before many women know they are pregnant. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. Even in a state like Texas where views on abortion are deeply split and many oppose abortion, this is too far. Polling has shown most opponents of abortion support exceptions for rape and incest, as well as when the woman’s life is in danger.

The law will disproportionately affect low-income women. Women who can’t leave Texas to have an abortion in another state because they lack the financial means or time will be left to carry an unwanted pregnancy or will attempt an illegal abortion — because, as the research shows, abortions happen whether they are legal or not.

Illegal abortions fell dramatically after the Supreme Court made the procedure legal in 1973. As the Guttmacher Institute, which studies and promotes policies for sexual and reproductive health, notes, a 1976 report from what is now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “illegal procedures in the country plummeted from around 130,000 to 17,000 between 1972 and 1974. The number of deaths associated with illegal abortion decreased from 39 to five in that same time period.”

To enforce the new law in their state, Texans must act as abortion bounty hunters, suing health care providers, women’s family members, friends and even Uber drivers with rewards of up to $10,000. It’s an absurdity best explained by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s scathing dissent:

“The Act authorizes any private citizen to file a lawsuit against any person who provides an abortion in violation of the Act, ‘aids or abets’ such an abortion (including by paying for it) regardless of whether they know the abortion is prohibited under the Act, or even intends to engage in such conduct. Courts are required to enjoin the defendant from engaging in these actions in the future and to award the private-citizen plaintiff at least $10,000 in ‘statutory damages’ for each forbidden abortion performed or aided by the defendant.”

This invasion of privacy, intrusion into the most personal of decisions and invitation for frivolous lawsuits should trouble all Texans. So should the possibility that this template — delegating the enforcement of laws to private individuals — could be applied to other settings, say, voting.

The abortion discussion is often framed in stark terms, but in reality it is deeply nuanced. One could support abortion rights but never personally choose to have one. One could oppose abortion but allow exceptions for rape and incest or severe medical complications. The landmark “Turnaway Study” from the University of California in San Francisco has shown women who are denied abortions are more likely to be tethered to abusive relationships, suffer from pregnancy complications and poor physical health, and live below the poverty line.

None of this nuance is reflected in Texas’ abortion ban. Abortion under Roe v. Wade has been a constitutional right for women in the United States. But for all intents and purposes that no longer applies in Texas.

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Abilene Reporter News. Sept. 1, 2021.

Editorial: Don’t sit out school board decision on masks; stand up for students

It’s not so much that the Abilene ISD board of trustees voted not to require masks of students, teachers and faculty, It’s how it happened.

With all eyes on the board Monday night, it cited possible legal issues as its reason not to ask all on campus to mask up.

Two trustees voted in favor of a district mandate. Three did not.

That left trustees Cindy Earles and Angie Wiley.

They abstained. What?

This is what they were elected for. This is the tough part of the job.

A police officer or firefighter may have routine days. But he or she is one incident away from protecting the public. The same with our military. Most days at Dyess Air Force Base are quiet. But in minutes, a B-1 bomber o C-130 hauler could be scrambled for a mission halfway around the world.

That is what you sign up for.

Wiley said she could not vote against her belief for a mask mandate. So don’t. Or do, because it’s in the best interest of the district.

We needed seven votes, not five. This is not recusing yourself for a conflict of interest, such as your brother-in-law owning the company that submits a project bid. This is voting for the course of the school district, which is why you were elected.

While we believe masks should be required again — let’s not say “mandate,” because no one likes a mandate and, honestly, it can’t be enforced — we’d better respect the board’s decision if everyone had weighed in, as elected officials should.

The district already changed its tune at the start of the year, after they heard local health leaders speak seriously about the rise in COVID-19 cases. They dropped “optional,” which carried no weight, and returned to “highly recommended.”

What we’re fighting

Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates among public entities, including schools, went into effect June 5. When school was out and state COVID-19 cases in the state had declined.

That decision didn’t seem like a big deal then, but it is now. Three months make a difference.

Cases in Taylor County are spiking and the Delta variant is targeting youngsters. Hendrick Health moved its dial to 6; there is no 7.

At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, we worried for older folks and those with health issues. Now it’s our kids. Especially since vaccinations for kids under age 12 are not advised.

As we started back to school, going back to full classrooms, full hallways, full cafeterias and full gyms raise the odds of a child getting COVID-19.

Already, two AISD classrooms have been shut down — Bassetti and now Austin elementaries, Students are sent home for 10 days.

But there is no at-home learning program in place.

Parents are rightly concerned about their child’s health and education. The efforts by schools to teach kids during this pandemic has been admirable, but time will tell the effect of a pandemic that has bitten chunks out of three school years.

Locally, the health community has raised the alarm. We had worked our way back down the dial, freeing hospital beds and, some days, reporting few new cases.

Now, it’s going the other way, with 337 news cases reported Wednesday - 48 in the AISD as of Tuesday, and 230 active cases in the district.

In Abilene, we respect law enforcement. Likewise, we respect our health leaders. When those folks speak, we listen.

That has been key at a time when many in the community dismiss the pandemic and insist personal “freedoms” trump caring for the community.

Some Abilene ISD leaders are not listening. We understand their challenge, but we need to rise to it. And if that means putting local health ahead of a governor’s order, we need to do it. Other districts are doing so, and the legal waters are muddy at best.

Why survey parents and not listen to more than 60% responding in favor of masks? Worried about funding? What if more than 60% of parents pull kids from school?

To worry about what might happen is not the right approach. We need to address what is happening.

Abbott should know this first hand. He tested positive. But politics seems to matter most.

This is a teaching moment, too

Some local anti-maskers said that if the school board didn’t adhere to the governor’s ban, it would be teaching kids to break the law.

Rather, this is more like a conscientious objection. Talk to your kids about it; not every situation is easily defined.

There is a difference when you stand up for your community.

And that’s what we need to be doing.

Dr. Barry Moak in a letter to the editor wrote what others are thinking: “The 2-3-2 vote by the AISD board of trustees Monday was more than disappointing. It heralds a period in which our board seems to have lost its way.”

We return to a point we made Sunday. We want local control. We didn’t believe stringent state mandates in 2020 applied to Abilene. Let us decide what’s best here, we said.

Turn that around. A state ban on mask mandates is counter to what we need to do here, now.

Don’t abstain in a crisis. Stand up.

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The (McAllen) Monitor. Aug. 29, 2021.

Editorial: Lives at risk: Refugee, immigrant reform can’t be delayed any longer

Many people say the United States can’t possibly handle the hundreds of thousands of Central Americans and others who remain massed along the U.S.-Mexico border and several detention centers awaiting responses to their request for refugee status and U.S. residency. Now we have to deal with new waves of refugees from Afghanistan.

All this, plus the normal immigration that hasn’t diminished while refugees have swarmed to the Land of Freedom, only add to the difficulties our nation faces in trying to apply immigration policies that have been ignored for decades.

Congress members returning from their summer recess need to address this issue immediately. Although the immediate need raises the likelihood that the resulting policy won’t be as well thought out as it should, it can’t be delayed any longer.

The need for action was critical even before the recent waves of refugees; the United States has received an average of 100,000 asylum seekers every year. Nor are large influxes uncommon. Many Americans surely remember the Vietnamese resettlement in the 1970s and the Mariel boatlift that brought about 150,000 Cuban and Haitian refugees here in 1980. Smaller surges have come from the former Yugoslavia, Africa and even the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

All of these groups settled successfully into our society, and have become major contributors to our nation’s growth and success.

Public opinion polls show that most Americans are willing to accept those fleeing persecution, even though some continue to resist a greater foreign presence in this country. Some have suggested blocking our borders, and instead paying other countries to accept the refugees. Their argument is that the refugees surely will feel more at home in countries closer to their homes, with more familiar people and cultures. The reality, however, is that most want to resettle here, drawn by our reputation for political, religious and economic freedom.

Many of those who welcome them have backed up their opinions with action and monetary support. Countless people in the Rio Grande Valley and elsewhere have donated time, items and money to aid the efforts of Catholic Charities and other organizations that are helping refugees build new lives here.

That help likely would be even greater with better immigration policies. Many fear doing more because of hostile pronouncements coming from Austin and Washington, such as Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that state troopers pull over any vehicle they suspect might carry migrants — an obvious order for racial profiling — that could make people hesitate to help get immigrants to migrant assistance centers, immigration offices or even healthcare facilities if medical care is needed. Assistance by private individuals and organizations would lessen the burden on government agencies if clear policies let them know what they could and couldn’t do.

Officials’ failure to address our immigration laws adversely affects more and more people every day. In the name of basic humanity, we implore lawmakers to begin working on immigration reform immediately.

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Waco Tribune. Sept. 5, 2021.

Editorial: Our politicians stirring a pot of anger, distraction

A reassuringly cool breeze ushered in Labor Day weekend across Central Texas, even as our collective societal temperature has skyrocketed. State politicians including those representing Central Texas have decided the best way to fight abortion is to step back from the fracas themselves and unleash Texans to sue their neighbors and co-workers for cash if they suspect they’ve helped facilitate such procedures. And despite the pleas of our men and women in blue, these same politicians have scrapped any state requirement that one sufficiently know gun laws and gun proficiency to carry a firearm.

Through a bill passed largely along party lines and sent to the governor, these same politicians seek to intimidate teachers enough that they’ll think twice about how forcefully they teach matters of race and racism — everything from the Dred Scott decision to Jim Crow laws. Ironically, this bill arises even though legislators passed a similar bill this spring and educators insist they don’t teach much-debated “critical race theory.” But our governor is anxious to bolster his conservative credentials ahead of a contested primary election. Thus another bill.

Meanwhile, many of us marvel at the hundreds of thousands of Americans in neighboring, hurricane-battered Louisiana seeking food, shelter and power this holiday weekend. Despite assurances by our state politicians in 2011, Texas’ own independently run power grid nearly collapsed in a winter storm several months ago, leaving millions of us in the cold and costing our economy between $80 billion and $130 billion. State politicians again claim the grid is fixed; consumer groups and energy experts warn otherwise.

Put all this together and you have a state government less engaged with the practical necessities of protecting commerce and ensuring the public welfare, more interested in pursuing radicalized notions such as keeping transgender people out of bathrooms and off sporting teams, deputizing Texans to sue one another for cash prizes over abortion allegations and threatening election workers with criminal penalties for failing to implement tedious and questionable voting restrictions.

Whether in the state or federal arena, we are increasingly stunned by the noisy excesses of our elected representatives who nonetheless get elected and reelected. We put these people in office. If we don’t like the product they produce, we must put aside almighty party loyalties and vote the scoundrels out, if only to teach the parties a lesson about what’s tolerable, and what’s not.

Even in the record turnout of 2020, nearly 35 percent of registered voters in our county didn’t show up at the polls. It’s no wonder the political product is radicalized, more about ideology than practical, common-sense solutions for the population at large. Our apathy at the polls leaves them with no checks or balances. We can’t do a thing about guns, but we can now sue someone we don’t know on suspicion of helping someone else get an abortion. We give lip service to making substantive changes to how our electrical grid operates, yet the real regulatory language is not yet on paper even as we move past Labor Day.

To quote “Game of Thrones,” winter is coming.

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Dallas Morning News. Sept. 3, 2021.

Editorial: Horned frogs are making a comeback. No, not those horned frogs

The Horned Frogs are making a comeback. Not the purple and white kind you find at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth. That breed is threatened by the changing climate in the Big 12 Conference. No, the actual horned frogs — horny toads, Texas horned lizards, or Phrynosoma cornutum. Those little guys recorded a milestone last month in the long effort to restore their decimated numbers.

On Aug. 11, a Facebook page managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department featured a photo of a tiny hatchling thought to be descended from horned lizards bred in captivity at the Fort Worth Zoo.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time that Texas Horned Lizards that were reintroduced as captive-reared hatchlings have successfully reproduced in the wild,” the page read.

Horned lizards have been threatened in Texas since the 1970s. Nathan Rains, a wildlife diversity biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, said the species has “virtually disappeared” from some parts of the state where it was once “widespread and abundant.” Numbers have declined because of loss of habitat and displacement of native harvester ant populations by invading fire ants, Rains said. Harvester ants are the preferred food for horned lizards.

Since 1993, when Texas recognized the horned lizard as its official state reptile, researchers have been trying to grow the population through programs that track animals or protect habitat. Rains described a broad coalition that has formed around saving the lizards. In 2008, Texas Christian University began a genetics research project. From 2011 to 2016, the Fort Worth Zoo conducted a pilot study to test ways of reintroducing lizards to the wild. To date, more than 500 captive-raised hatchlings, most from the Fort Worth and Dallas zoos, have been released at the Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Mason County.

Texas Parks and Wildlife spokesman Tom Harvey said horned lizards are one of 1,300 threatened species the department is working to protect. He said efforts to bolster the horned lizard population will continue, with the next release of hatchlings scheduled for this month.

The horned lizard isn’t out of the woods yet. While biologists are celebrating this milestone, they warn there is much more work to do.

“Biologists remain optimistic that continued research and restoration work will ultimately lead to self-sustaining wild populations,” Rains said.

As the national paper of Texas, and one that fought many battles with Fort Worth newspaperman Amon G. Carter, we’re not all TCU fans, but we’re cheering for these horned frogs.

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