Independent voters and abortion rights
A look at "good cause" eviction laws, and the push to weaken child labor laws
I’m writing this newsletter from Cleveland. It’s my first time in the city and I’m here for a special reason — I’m one of 15 journalists participating in this four day reporting fellowship on public policy issues that affect children. It’s hosted by the National Press Foundation and the speakers have been really tremendous so far. Topics have ranged from reporting on the child welfare system and child victims of violence to covering the bills aimed at gender affirming care and the post-covid public school enrollment decline. There are future sessions coming on juvenile justice, social determinants of health in child healthcare, and others. I’ve learned a lot already and definitely hope to take some of the information and ideas and turn them back into stories when this year.
Yesterday the Pulitzer Prize winners were announced. I am so, so proud of my friend Caroline Kitchener, who covers abortion for the Washington Post. She won the national reporting Pulitzer (!) and I just can’t speak more highly of her work in this area and how greatly deserved this huge honor is. I’ve learned so much from her reporting over the last year. Building relationships with other smart empathetic and thoughtful reporters is something I’d recommend to anyone thinking of working in journalism, and it’s even better when they’re working hard on the same tough issues as you.
If you are not familiar with Caroline’s work, I would suggest these incredible pieces to get familiar:
—She led an episode on This America Life recently with some of the best audio journalism I’ve ever heard
—She profiled a Texas teen who was unable to get an abortion due to her state ban and now has twins.
—She wrote about two women who experienced life-threatening pregnancy complications in Florida and were turned away from the hospital because of Florida’s abortion ban. One nearly died.
—She covered the covert network of activists bringing abortion medication to the U.S from Mexico
Ok those are some of my favorites. Still kvelling! Follow her here.
I have three new Vox stories to share:
The first looks at new polls that suggest significant numbers of pro-choice independents remain confused about where Republicans and Democrats stand on abortion rights. The data comes as many activists have been urging Biden to speak more clearly on the issues, since while his administration has done much to defend abortion rights, the president himself is still clearly uncomfortable talking about it, and mostly relies on euphemisms and surrogates. I look more closely at other research on independents and abortion, and spoke with pollsters and activists about what they think ahead of 2024.
Some readers said they found it depressing and/or discouraging, but I think it’s worth reiterating that when Roe was the law, leaders did not have to invest very much in trying to change what individual voters thought about abortion. And they didn’t. Far more resources and energy was spent challenging unconstitutional bills and waging reproductive rights fights in the courts. It’s really only now that abortion rights has turned more squarely to the ballot box that figuring out how to reach specific groups of voters, and what kinds of messages and tactics work best, has become more important. I wrote last fall about how that work was really happening for the first time for pro-choice men, and this might end up being a new dimension of that kind of work. We’ll see. Can read the new story here.
The second story looks at a new wave of tenant activism aimed at passing what are known as “good cause” eviction bills (they’re sometimes also referred to as “just cause” bills, or eviction “for cause”.) While they vary from place to place, in essence they’re essentially new efforts to codify what landlords could legally evict tenants for, and/or for what reasons they could choose not to renew a tenant’s lease. Many also seek to limit how much a landlord could raise rent in a year. These efforts come as most of the pandemic-era eviction protections (I wrote about those last year) are expiring and evictions are on the rise. I look at states where these bills have passed or been introduced, the available research we have on the “good cause” protections, and explain why landlord/real estate groups have been fighting back. You can read the new story here.
And lastly I wrote an explainer on what the heck these new bills taking aim at youth labor laws are all about. I wanted to understand some of the motivations for the bills that have been cropping up in states like Arkansas, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio, and understand the implications — especially since we’ve been seeing some disturbing headlines recently about federal investigators finding migrant children illegally employed in dangerous jobs, and even last week investigators revealed they found two ten year olds working in McDonald’s. This afternoon one of my fellowship sessions is actually focused on looking more at these child labor issues so I might leave here with some follow-up reporting ideas. You can read that here.
Thanks as always for reading and I so appreciate all your thoughts and suggestions. With Twitter getting worse and worse, I might start sending some other recommended articles and books I read/podcasts am listening to in future newsletters, if that would be of interest! Let me know.