The Debate About Anti-Abortion Legislation in Texas Rages On

Texas has become the focus of great media and political attention after a controversial “special session” was held on Tuesday to allow lawmakers to vote on an anti-abortion bill.

During the session, Democratic Senator Wendy Davis staged a one-woman filibuster to derail the Republican effort to restrict abortions in the state, taking up the allotted time to prevent anti-abortion legislature from being approved. Davis stood and spoke for nearly twelve hours, without a break to use the restroom, to eat, or even to lean on her podium, while the crowd showed her support in their boisterous and impassioned presence. Davis wore a back brace during the end of the filibuster.

Davis’ filibuster successfully prevented lawmakers from voting on an anti-abortion bill, though her drastic measures to do so became a point of contention between the lawmakers. The bill itself is incredibly aggressive and controversial. It is one of the most forcefully anti-abortion pieces of legislature ever created, and if passed, would force nearly all of the abortion clinics in the entire state of Texas to close, as well as enforcing other anti-abortion stipulations. Wendy Davis has achieved overnight fame as a voice advocating for all women who would be impacted by such a bill, as well as infamy in the eyes of Texas Republicans.

One day after the special session and Davis’ filibuster, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced that he would call lawmakers back into another special session starting on July 1st to try to pass the anti-abortion bill. This news comes as a disappointing setback for pro-choice activists and politicians in Texas, who passionately supported Davis on Tuesday as she spoke on behalf of the health and wellbeing of all women. Governor Perry reportedly said “Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn,” in a statement about his decision to try once again to pass anti-abortion legislature.

There is no doubt that Senator Davis is one of those Texans who values life, but she and other pro-choice advocates also fear for Texan women who will be adversely affected by anti-abortion legislature that will force hundreds of clinics across the state to close.

Texas will have the attention of the entire country next month as lawmakers come to a decision about anti-abortion legislature.

Photo credit Dallas News

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Defense of Marriage Act Ruled ‘Unconstitutional’ by the Supreme Court

Millions of people all over the country exhaled in a sigh of relief earlier this week as news of the United States Supreme Court striking down The Defense of Marriage Act was delivered. Those people cried, and embraced one another, and danced in the streets, in celebration of another small victory in a larger movement for equality of all United States citizens.

DOMA Struck Down - CNN

 

Photo from CNN

 

Before it was ruled unconstitutional, DOMA, which was enacted in 1996, allowed states to deny recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. This often equated to a barring of privileges, benefits, and basic rights for couples who were married in a state where same-sex marriage was legalized. Rights that are often taken for granted by heterosexual couples such as the ability to visit your spouse in the hospital, or being able to file joint tax returns, were not granted to same-sex couples, regardless of their legitimate union sanctioned by whichever state they were married in.

Gay rights activists, allies, same-sex couples, and pro marriage equality politicians have long urged the public to see the unconstitutionality in The Defense of Marriage Act. Because of the rights that DOMA denies same-sex couples, the federal law is in direct violation of the Fifth Amendment, in that it denies life, liberty, and property, as well as due process for same-sex couples.

The United States Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional by a 5-4 vote. Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the majority opinion, which appears to be just as influenced by the constitution as by contemporary ethics. Kennedy explained how DOMA not only denies due process to same-sex couples, but also “humiliates the children of same-sex spouses,” and makes same-sex married couples feel “less worthy” as citizens deserving of equal rights.

DOMA being overturned by the Supreme Court is a momentous marker of progress in the gay rights movement. Though there is still much work that needs to be done to achieve equal rights for all people in this country regardless of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, this ruling sparks hope for many advocates of universal equality for all.

For more quotations from Justice Kennedy’s delivery of the majority decision, take a look at this article.

U.S. Survey: Most Have Difficulty Sleeping on Sunday Nights

Nine p.m. rolls around and then before you know it, midnight has come. You’re not ready to start the working week just yet. Did the weekend go too fast? Or is it simply the Sunday blues? It’s a common occurrence in most U.S. households as a new study reveals that Sunday night is the most difficult night to fall asleep. According to online panel provider Toluna Omnibus, up to 39 percent of more than 3,000 respondents say they have trouble catching “Z’s” on Sundays.

Sleep by Flickr MacAttck

 

Photo credit Macattck

Why is Sunday so special? Sleep specialist “Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., tells The Huffington post that “social jet leg” creeps in after staying up later on most Friday and Saturday nights. Sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday mornings also shifts the entire biological clock. “When Sunday night comes around, your body is used to staying up later and sleeping later,” he tells the Huffington Post.

Another major factor is stress, says Breus. People who are employed full-time and homemakers felt the effects of stress about the week ahead. Tuesdays and Thursdays were identified as some of the easier nights to fall asleep. As tempting as it is to sleep in on the weekends, Breus says to stick to your regular sleeping schedule. He also recommends writing in a worry journal and creating to-do lists to combat stress.

 

Hillary Clinton and Harrison Ford Lead Conversation on Conservation, Julio Mario Santo Domingo Honored

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Harrison Ford open up a powerful conversation about natural resources and sustainability at the annual Conservation International Gala. Ford is the Conservation International (CI) Vice Chairman, an organization whose mission is to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for the well-being of people. The New York City event with nearly 450 guests raised more than $1.6 million dollars.

Secretary Clinton and Ford took the stage where they spoke passionately about a range of urgent environmental challenges. They also raised the issue of security threats in vulnerable regions from sub Saharan Africa, to the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia, to the low-lying atoll nations of the Central and South Pacific. Threats an challenges have risen due to resource scarcities, illegal wildlife trade and global climate change.

Ford told a story about a dinner he had with Secretary Clinton and CI co-founder, CEO and Chairman Peter Seligmann several years earlier.  Ford recounted about when he learned conservation failures abroad could become national security issues for the United States and other countries.  “We have reached a point in our human history where nature may be unable to support the weight and the appetites of the planet’s human population.  We’ve weakened the natural world’s capacity to provide us with fresh water, natural pollinators for our crops, food, botanical sources of future medicines.”

They also discussed emerging tensions resulting from the polar ice cap melt and the issue of illegal wildlife trade.

“The Arctic, I think, is one of the most important conservation issues facing the world today,” said Clinton. “Organizations like CI and others need to be knocking on the doors of governments and making it clear that it is in all of our enlightened self interest to come up with a plan for the protection, the preservation and use of the Arctic in as environmentally sustainable and responsible way as possible.”

“We have a crisis. We have a wildlife, poaching, trafficking, murdering crisis,” she warned, emphasizing the plight of African elephants, mass murdered for their ivory in an international trade that often arms militant groups and funds organized crime. “It is not only criminal enterprises but is carried out by highly armed vicious bands who sometimes arrive in helicopters with night- vision goggles and their assault weapons,” said Clinton.

Conservation International also paid tribute to former board member Julio Mario Santo Domingo with a posthumous award as Global Conservation Hero. Mr. Santo Domingo, helped raise awareness about the importance of healthy ecosystems in Latin American economies, biodiversity and people.

“He has influenced our board, influenced our organization and impacted everybody in our institution.  He was one of the most extraordinary men that I ever encountered; a citizen of the world,” said Silegmann.

“All told, with the inspiration of Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Colombia has protected with CI, ten million hectares on land and at sea, which is equal to an area four times the state of New Jersey. We are honored to recognize Don Julio Mario Santo Domingo for his vision that his native land could be a beacon on the hill for sustainability and the commitment he made to making that vision a reality.”

Julio Mario Santo Domingo’s sons, Andres and Alejandro accepted the award on behalf of their father.

“The most important lesson my father gave me is by his example: Be kind to people, be kind to everything,” said Andres Santo Domingo, dinner chairman.

Andres Santo Domingo and his wife, Lauren also help organize fundraisers for Conservation International.