Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The News & Observer of Raleigh on a state law banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy:
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It may be necessary to stop calling North Carolina’s Republican legislators “lawmakers.” Too often what they make doesn’t hold up as law.
On Tuesday … a federal judge struck down North Carolina’s ban on abortions for women who are more than 20 weeks pregnant.
The ban dates back to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, but it came under challenge by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood after Republican lawmakers decided to tighten its restrictions in 2015 with changes that took effect in 2016. Until then, the law had allowed abortions after 20 weeks to protect the health of the mother based on the judgment of her doctor. Proponents of tighter restrictions said the health exception was being abused to get around the ban.
Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, a Republican from Apex, said at the time that the ban was “full of holes.” The Republican fix was to require that exceptions be allowed only to prevent a woman’s death, or in cases where a delay “would create serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.” Any exceptions related to a mother’s psychological or emotional health were eliminated.
Abortion after 20 weeks represents about 1.5 percent of abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health and rights.
U.S. District Judge William Osteen Jr. ruled that the North Carolina ban does not comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling that viability cannot be set at a fixed number of weeks. Instead, the Supreme Court has said, viability should be determined by a doctor, since it can vary with each pregnancy. Osteen added that the ban “criminalizes all non-emergency abortions performed after twenty weeks, without regard to the type of procedure or how the abortion is obtained.”
The judge stayed his ruling for 60 days to give legislators time to appeal or pass new legislation. Other restrictions in the 2016 legislation included extending the abortion waiting period from 24 to 72 hours and requiring that doctors who perform abortions after 16 weeks send ultrasound images to the state. Those provisions are not affected by the judge’s ruling. …
In what should be good news for both sides, more effective and more affordable contraception is helping to reduce the incidence of abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortions peaked in 1985 at 1,588,550. In 2014, the number dropped to 936,200. The rate of abortions has fallen sharply from 29 percent of pregnancies in 1982 to 14 percent in 2014.
North Carolina would do well to encourage this trend by supporting women’s health instead of restricting their rights.
News & Record of Greensboro on an NCAA commercial:
Some college basketball players are calling out the NCAA for an ad that paints a misleading portrayal of a day in the life of a “student-athlete.” Good for them.
The 30-second ad has been in heavy rotation during NCAA Tournament games and portrays the athlete’s daily routine as almost idyllic: classes, a run, a game, a visit to the library after the game and then a restful night’s sleep with a peaceful smile on his face. “If you have the talent and the dedication to succeed in school and in sports,” a voice-over says at the end, “we’ll provide the opportunity.”
But a number of players in the tournament who were interviewed last weekend by The News & Observer of Raleigh were not impressed.
North Carolina Tar Heel forward Cameron Johnson, whose team plays Auburn on Friday night in the Sweet 16, would like to know what planet that guy lives on. The daily routine of a college athlete, Johnson, a graduate student who also is the Tar Heels’ leading scorer, “ain’t a breezy existence.” It’s work.
Johnson added: “I mean, the guy is kind of floating through (his day).”
Said one of Johnson’s teammates, Sterling Manley, “That is not the life of an athlete by any means.”
Other players were more succinct. “Completely inaccurate, honestly,” said an Iowa forward, Tyler Cook.
What the ad doesn’t show, of course, are the early morning workouts before class. Games that may begin at 10 p.m. (to maximize TV ratings and revenue) and may end well after midnight, followed by news conferences and media interviews. And sore muscles and injuries.
When is an athlete supposed to be a student after all of that?
And for all this, you get paid nothing while coaches, schools, TV networks, shoe companies and the NCAA cash in.
NCAA President Mark Emmert, by the way, makes an annual salary of $2.4 million, a 42 percent increase over his 2015 pay, USA Today reports. …
The day-in-the-life ad, incidentally, is one of a number of NCAA ads that promote the ideal of “the student-athlete.” But it’s worth remembering how that term came to exist. As wrapped as it is today in noble visions of Rhodes Scholars with deadly jump shots, the words student and athlete were first hyphenated as a legal strategy to help colleges avoid paying worker’s compensation to injured athletes …
Of course, you could argue that athletes already are handsomely paid with access to a free college education. (The average annual cost to attend, say, Duke, is $71,764.)
Yet, a student who gets a comparable deal with an academic scholarship does not typically generate millions of dollars for his or her school. The average basketball player in a big-time program does and is not being paid commensurate with the revenue he brings in.
So, yes, even as we enjoy the next round of March Madness, we should view those ubiquitous day-in-the-life ads for what they are: not real.
Just ask the people who are actually living those days.
The Fayetteville Observer on absentee ballot security:
We’ve got candidates campaigning. We’ve got issues. We’ve got voters and an election schedule. The do-over race for the 9th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives has all the necessary pieces in place.
All but one thing: We don’t have reforms that will increase the security of the absentee ballot process — the reason why we’re in this encore political performance.
Perhaps we don’t need to worry much about cheating in this election. Safe to expect many more official eyes on this one than usually monitor our elections. The State Board of Elections will be a presence in the district, well before the early voting begins. Board officials have already made it clear there will be more training for at least Bladen County’s board of elections, where security lapses were on display during last year’s election. State and federal investigations of an alleged illegal “ballot harvesting” operation are still underway and further shenanigans seem unlikely when there is so much scrutiny.
But still, we’re not seeing any sense of urgency in the General Assembly to fix what went wrong in Bladen, Robeson and perhaps other counties. The Republican majority of lawmakers, who have made voter ID and other security reforms their consuming passion for nearly a decade, have yet to show the same fervor for making absentee ballot fraud equally difficult, despite the fact that it’s the one place where we have seen real election fraud on a relatively large scale. The ballot harvesting operation allegedly run by political operative McCrae Dowless may have altered or destroyed hundreds, or even thousands, of absentee ballots. The operation may have tipped the election to former GOP candidate Mark Harris.
… This month, State Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach made several recommendations to the House Elections and Ethics Law Committee. Her board’s investigation of the last election, she said, showed how the activities of outside groups collecting ballot request forms can lead to abuses.
Strach asked the panel for legislation that would prohibit third-party groups from paying workers for each request form they collect, because that can lead to workers increasing their pay by fabricating requests. Those collectors should also be required to turn in those request forms in timely fashion and be penalized if they fail to deliver them to the local elections board.
Strach also suggested that harvesting operations could be discouraged by simply providing prepaid mailing envelopes with absentee ballots, which would make individual voters more likely to mail in the ballot rather than handing it over to a campaign operative, as happened in Bladen and Robeson counties. She asked for tougher penalties for violations of absentee-ballot laws, which now are misdemeanors …
And she made one more request, which also is the most important: She needs better state funding for her office, so she can increase the number of employees who administer elections and investigate possible violations. …