One Texas case shows why women can’t rely on legal exceptions to abortion bans

“The Texas Supreme Court has ruled against Kate Cox, a 31-year-old woman who sought an abortion in the state. Previously, Cox argued that the lethal condition impacting her fetus and health risks she’d face during the pregnancy meant she qualified for the exemptions outlined in Texas’s abortion ban. The court decision, which comes after Cox left Texas to obtain an abortion, sets a disturbing new precedent in a state that already has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country.
It’s a notable ruling because it further narrows what Texas law considers medical exceptions to its abortion ban, and could have implications for other states with similar policies. Currently, abortion is broadly banned in the state, and there are limited exceptions for conditions that endanger the life of the mother or that cause “substantial impairment” of bodily functions. Given how opaque the law is, it was not clear exactly what those exceptions entailed, and though the court didn’t explicitly clarify that ambiguity in its ruling, its decision suggests that health challenges like those Cox faced — including risks to future pregnancies — don’t qualify for the exemption.

“Some difficulties in pregnancy … even serious ones, do not pose the heightened risks to the mother the exception encompasses,” the court concluded, noting that Cox’s doctor hadn’t effectively affirmed that the complications she could face — including threats to future fertility — reached the threshold for an exception to the ban.

The justices also maintained existing uncertainty when it came to providers’ prerogative to conduct abortions in the state. Some providers have refrained from giving abortion care due to fear of legal consequences: Medical professionals found in violation of Texas’s abortion law can face up to 99 years in prison as well as large fines, while those who are found to have aided in providing abortion access can face civil suits.

The court ruled that the decision about whether a condition constituted a medical emergency, and thus qualified for an exemption, should be left up to physicians and not the courts. “Under the law, it is a doctor who must decide that a woman is suffering from a life-threatening condition during a pregnancy, raising the necessity for an abortion to save her life or to prevent impairment of a major bodily function,” the decision reads. The court didn’t resolve the legal tension inherent in the fact that Cox’s doctor felt an abortion was warranted in her case while the court said it was not.”

https://www.vox.com/23997727/kate-cox-texas-abortion-ban

Infographic: Florida’s Public School Book Bans

“No state banned more books than Florida in the most recent school year, according to free expression nonprofit PEN America. Over 40 percent of school book bans in the U.S. happened in Florida, though a slight majority of Florida school districts had no bans at all. Justifications for the challenges vary, but scenes depicting nonconsensual sex are a common motivator.
PEN America’s definition of a “book ban” is admittedly broad, and all these books remain available for purchase from private sellers, but most challenges against books still end up hindering free speech and open debate. Combined, 1,098 different books were banned in Florida in the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 school years.”

https://reason.com/2023/12/14/infographic-floridas-public-school-book-bans/

The ‘Monster’ Isn’t the Drug, It’s the Prohibition

“People who disapprove of drugs want to end their use, but consumers have never demonstrated a willingness to comply. Sellers always arise to meet their demand. Drug innovation to evade prohibitionists, and making cocktails of those drugs, is inherently more dangerous than legal markets.”

“Singer attributes endless innovation in ever-stronger drugs and the rise in resulting overdoses to the competition between prohibitionists and illicit suppliers to outwit one another.
“The iron law of prohibition — ‘the harder the law enforcement, the harder the drug’—means we can expect more potent and dangerous forms of drugs to continue to arise,” he adds.

If you blend “more potent and dangerous forms of drugs” in “polysubstance use” (or just speedball it) you’re going to add risks on top of risks. The results can be tragic, but they’re less the result of drugs than they are of restrictions and prohibitions that inevitably drive consumers to seek intoxicants from illegal suppliers.”

“”Like opioids, which originally came from the poppy, meth started out as a plant-based product, derived from the herb ephedra. Now, both drugs can be produced in bulk synthetically and cheaply. They each pack a potentially lethal, addictive wallop far stronger than their precursors,” Hoffman wrote.

Why grow a crop in a field, which can be targeted for destruction by prohibitionists, when you can synthesize the active ingredients in a hidden laboratory that’s difficult to find and can be moved if necessary? And if you’re going to synthesize it, why not find ways to make it more concentrated so that large numbers of doses can be moved in compact shipments? You can always cut it at the distribution end and sell it in lower-concentration doses.

Unfortunately, illicit laboratories aren’t always as reliable as aboveboard ones and underground chemists aren’t necessarily as competent or diligent. When somebody screws up or just doesn’t care, it’s much harder to hold a criminal network to account than it is to go after a corporation that has a mailing address and a reputation to maintain. The end result, for the drug trade, is illness and death from intoxicants of unknown purity and potency, if the formulation was even safe to begin with.”

“People have always wanted to alter their consciousness in ways great and small. They will continue to want to get high no matter how much disapproval their activities draw from sober scolds. The only question is whether those getting high will acquire their intoxicants of choice from legal, responsible suppliers who have to maintain their brands and explain themselves in court, or from illegal suppliers who meet demand by any means necessary.”

https://reason.com/2023/11/15/the-monster-isnt-the-drug-its-the-prohibition/

Texas Supreme Court rules against woman who sought abortion hours after she says she’ll travel out of state

“”If Kate can’t get an abortion in Texas, who can? Kate’s case is proof that exceptions don’t work, and it’s dangerous to be pregnant in any state with an abortion ban,” Duane said.”

https://www.yahoo.com/news/texas-woman-sought-court-order-233120702.html

Ohio becomes 24th state to embrace weed legalization

“The new law allows adults over 21 to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants. The measure creates a Division of Cannabis Control, which is responsible for setting up and regulating the adult-use cannabis market.”

https://www.politico.com/news/2023/11/07/ohio-marijuana-legalization-vote-results-00125991

Some Drug Warriors Just Won’t Concede Defeat

“”If policymakers double down on the same prohibitionist policies they have employed for over 50 years, deaths from illicit drug overdoses will continue to rise. Doing the same thing repeatedly, with even more vigor this time, will not yield a different result,” Singer told lawmakers. “Prohibition makes the black market dangerous because people who buy drugs on the black market can never be sure of the drug’s purity, dosage, or even if it is the drug they think they are buying.”
Singer recommends ending drug prohibition to allow for a legal market that deals in products of known dosage and purity. A legal market won’t stop people from getting high, but it will end the escalation between punitive law enforcement on the one hand and drug innovation and potency on the other.

Short of legalization, the Arizona surgeon suggests lawmakers focus on eliminating laws that stand in the way of harm reduction, such as those that criminalize drug paraphernalia (driving users to share needles and diseases) and bar the distribution of drug test strips (rendering it difficult to identify drugs). Making naloxone available over-the-counter was a good step towards reducing deaths since it reverses the effects of opioid overdoses. That’s an approach that gets law enforcement out of the way rather than doubling down on failure.”

https://reason.com/2023/08/25/some-drug-warriors-just-wont-concede-defeat/

Did Drug Decriminalization Cause a ‘Catastrophe’ in Oregon?

“It is important to keep in mind that Oregon’s Measure 110 did nothing to address the supply of illegal drugs, which remain just as iffy and potentially deadly as they were before the initiative was approved. Decriminalization was limited to drug users, and it was based on the premise that people should not be arrested merely for consuming forbidden intoxicants. This distinction between drug users and drug suppliers is similar to the policy enacted during Prohibition, when bootleggers were treated as criminals but drinkers were not.
Measure 110 changed low-level drug possession from a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $6,250, to a Class E violation, punishable by a $100 fine. Drug users who receive citations can avoid the fine by agreeing to undergo a “health assessment” that is supposed to “prioritize the self-identified needs of the client.” That assessment might result in a treatment referral, but participation is voluntary.

Despite the limited nature of Oregon’s reform, which was not designed to reduce the hazards posed by the highly variable and unpredictable composition of black-market drugs, Stephens thinks the fact that drug-related deaths continued to rise in Oregon shows that decriminalization has failed. “In 2019 there were 280 unintentional opioid overdose deaths in Oregon,” he writes. “In 2021 there were 745.”

Stephens neglects to mention that drug-related deaths rose nationwide during that period, from about 71,000 in 2019 to more than 107,000 in 2021. The number of deaths involving opioids rose from about 50,000 to about 81,000—a 62 percent increase.

To be sure, the increase in Oregon that Stephens notes was much larger. But how does it compare to trends in other jurisdictions that did not decriminalize drug use?

Between 2019 and 2021, Oregon’s age-adjusted opioid overdose death rate rose from 7.6 to 18.1 per 100,000 residents. California saw a similar increase: from 7.9 to 17.8. In Washington, the rate likewise nearly doubled, from 10.5 to 20.5. And even in 2021, Oregon’s rate was lower than the national rate (24.7) and much lower than the rates in states such as Connecticut (38.3), Delaware (48.1), Kentucky (44.8), Maine (42.4), Maryland (38.5), Tennessee (45.5), Vermont (37.4), and West Virginia (77.2). On its face, this does not look like evidence that decriminalization is responsible for Oregon’s continuing rise in opioid-related deaths.*

While Measure 110 does not seem to have caused an increase in drug-related deaths, it manifestly did not prevent that increase.”

“a heavy drug user who steals to support his habit is not immune from criminal penalties. It also means the government can justifiably regulate what drug users do in public, where their actions might offend, incommode, or alarm people who have an equal right to use sidewalks, parks, and other taxpayer-funded facilities. Although Stephens implies otherwise, eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession does not require tolerating public drug use, defecation, or blowjobs.”

Prohibition Gave Us Tranq-Laced Fentanyl

“From the perspective of drug traffickers, fentanyl has several advantages over heroin. It is much more potent, which makes it easier to smuggle, and it can be produced much more cheaply and inconspicuously, since it does not require opium poppies. Xylazine has similar advantages: It is an inexpensive synthetic drug that can be produced without crops. And unlike fentanyl, it is not classified as a controlled substance, which makes it easier to obtain.
American drug users are not clamoring for xylazine in their fentanyl, any more than they were demanding fentanyl instead of heroin. The use of such adulterants is driven by the economics of prohibition. And as usual with illegal drugs, consumers do not know what they are getting. Whether it is vitamin E acetate in black market THC vapes, MDMA mixed with butylone, levamisole in cocaine, or fentanyl pressed into ersatz pain pills, prohibition reliably makes drug use more dangerous.

Much to the dismay of veterinarians, drug warriors alarmed by tranq have proposed treating xylazine as a controlled substance. As usual, they think the solution to a problem created by prohibition is more prohibition.”

Ohio’s Abortion Ban Is Rekindling a Century-Old Battle Over Direct Democracy

“In 2019, the heavily gerrymandered Legislature passed a deeply unpopular bill prohibiting abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — before many women know they are pregnant — without exceptions for rape or incest. The law is currently on hold, pending judicial review. In response, reproductive rights advocates secured enough petition signatures to put a referendum before the voters this November; if it passes, abortion rights will be enshrined in the Constitution, beyond the Legislature’s ability to meddle.

Given current polling, Republicans are expected to lose the November vote, so they’re trying to change the rules mid-game. The gambit is so transparent that even two former GOP governors, Robert Taft and John Kasich, have come out in opposition.”

“Since 1912, when Ohio joined other states in adopting the referendum system, voters have been able to bypass the state Legislature and amend the constitution by a simple majority. The new measure would require 60 percent support.”

Study: Banning Investors From Buying Homes Leads to Higher Rents, More Gentrification

“They found that banning investors from buying and converting housing to rentals worked in one sense: The share of investor-owned rental properties in affected neighborhoods fell, and the number of properties bought by first-time homebuyers increased.
On the other hand, however, these new homeowners tended to be richer than the renters they were replacing, and the costs of rental housing increased overall.

“The ban has successfully increased middle-income households’ access to homeownership, at the expense of buy-to-let investors. However, the policy also drove up rents in affected neighborhoods, thereby damaging housing affordability for individuals reliant on private rental housing, undermining some of the intentions of the law,” write researchers in the study published on SSRN.”