Inside Story America

US abortion battles

We ask if the Republican-controlled state house in Texas has gone too far in its campaign against abortion.

Thousands of protesters gathered outside the Texas state house on Monday to try and stop a sweeping bill from becoming law. The proposal would ban abortions after 20 weeks and impose strict regulations that would shut down all but a handful of abortion clinics across the vast state.

Last week, Democratic Senator Wendy Davis delivered a marathon 11-hour speech inside the legislature that helped prevent the bill from passing.  

“The alleged reason for the bill is to enhance patient safety, but what they really do is create provisions that treat women as though they are not capable of making their own medical decisions,” Davis said.

This is a policy driven by ignorance and arrogance, by theocracy and autocracy, along with a giant dollop of raw political ambition on the part of David Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor, and Rick Perry, our governor here who wants to run for president again.

by Jim Hightower, a Texas-based radio show columnist

But now, Texas governor Rick Perry has convened a special session aimed almost exclusively at passing this legislation.

“In fact, who are we to say that children born on the worst of circumstances can’t grow to live successful lives. In fact even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She is the daughter of a single woman. She was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas senate. It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example, that every life is must be given a chance to realise it’s full potential and that every life matters,” Perry said in response to Davis.

A recent poll showed that most Texans did not support these recent anti-choice measures.

Sixty-three percent of those polled last week said that the state had enough restrictions on abortion already. Just 19 percent surveyed believe the government has a right and obligation to pass more restrictions on abortion.

Nearly three-quarters of voters say the decision on whether or not to have an abortion is a personal, private one, and should be made between a woman, her doctor and her family. 

Seventy-one percent did not want lawmakers to spend more time passing abortion laws.

Eight in 10 voters said they would rather have the governor and legislature use the special legislative session to focus on “education, jobs and the economy”.

The Texas proposal is the latest in a series of attempts by Republican controlled state houses across the country to pass similar measures restricting reproductive rights.

So, has the Republican-controlled state house gone too far?

To discuss this on Inside Story Americas, presenter Shihab Rattansi is joined by: Jim Hightower, a Texas-based national syndicated radio show columnist; and Andrea Grimes, a journalist and reproductive rights activist. 

Student debt

The problem is having an economy based on selling debts to people instead of doing useful things.

by Brett Williams, author

Meanwhile, college students in the US taking out federally subsidised student loans will, this week, find themselves paying higher interest rates than even those offered by private lenders.

The US Congress determines the interest rate for federal loans, and when efforts to keep the rate at 3.4 percent fell apart last week, it doubled to 6.8 percent.  

Members of both parties have vowed to bring that rate back down before the fall semester begins in August. 

But the rate increase, even if temporary, has brought attention back to the rising cost of a college education and to the increase in student loan debt which now stands at one trillion dollars in the US.

With increasing costs, is it still worth it for students to get a higher education in the United States?

To discuss this, we are joined by: Tim Donovan; a blogger who focuses on millennial political and economic issues; and Brett Williams, the author of the book Debt for Sale: A Social History of the Credit Trap