2019
May
13
Monday

Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

It’s easy to dismiss monarchies – of which dozens remain, some of them purely ceremonial – as odd crystal bubbles around bloodlines in an increasingly less hierarchical world.

Some of the buzz around the rise of Japan’s Emperor Naruhito after his father’s abdication last month was about the smothering effect of role-based tradition on the new empress, Masako Owada, a former diplomat educated at Harvard and Oxford.

Still, roles shift. Values shift. Royals can earn relevance by taking nonpolitical stands on issues that matter. Charles, prince of Wales, used to be outspoken mostly about his stiff distaste for modern architecture. Last week, he and the Duchess of Cornwall met with refugee women in Berlin to talk about vocational training, as they have in Greece and Jordan.

Jordan’s Queen Rania is herself a credible advocate for cross-cultural outreach and women’s rights.

This evolution, really, is women-led. Diana, princess of Wales, was closely associated with efforts to rid the world of landmines. Today Britain’s newest royal mom, the Duchess of Sussex, has deepened a conversation about race and culture and opened the door to broad social influences on parenting and beyond.

“Thankfully, Meghan [Markle’s] clique couldn’t be farther from the sort of dodgy confidantes royal women have tended towards,” writes Harriet Walker in The Times of London. The duchess’s influencers? The likes of Amal Clooney and Serena Williams, Ms. Walker suggests. 

“We think of monarchies as if they were anchored in the past,” University of Pennsylvania researcher Mauro Guillén tells Knowledge@Wharton, “but in fact they do change, and they do adapt, and they do evolve.”

We’re watching the stock market roil after an announcement of unspecified countermeasures by China in retaliation for U.S. moves on tariffs. Now to our five stories for your Monday, including a look at abortion-debate rhetoric and at the courage behind one activist’s fight for Liberians’ land rights. 

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1. When Trump ‘unsigned’ arms treaty, it was about more than guns

Do international treaties enhance U.S. security or limit its power? That’s been a core issue under President Trump that is perceived differently by his base and U.S. allies. We look at a case in point.

Michael Conroy/AP
President Donald Trump, at a National Rifle Association forum in Indianapolis, holds up an executive order with his signature as he announces his rejection of the Arms Trade Treaty signed during the Obama administration, April 26. It was never ratified by the Senate.

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The Obama-era international Arms Trade Treaty was intended to set global standards for conventional arms transfers and deny weapons to human rights violators. The U.S. signed the treaty but never ratified it.

But President Donald Trump’s “unsigning” of the treaty in front of an NRA audience was pointed drama. Calling the treaty a threat to Second Amendment rights, he presented the image of a leader rejecting one effort after another by the international community to constrain American power and limit individual freedoms.

But for many diplomats and experts in international affairs, rejection of the treaty stands as further evidence of a U.S. withdrawal from its global leadership role in establishing norms of behavior. And this at a time the world faces a growing plate of issues, from climate change and biodiversity loss to conflict-driven migration and terrorism.

“The Arms Trade Treaty was never envisioned as a big game changer,” says Daniel Prins, at the U.N.’s Office of Disarmament Affairs. “But like other advances in international law, it is an attempt to build norms and standards that admit themselves into behaviors of countries and over time enhance those countries’ security and well-being.”

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When Trump ‘unsigned’ arms treaty, it was about more than guns

When President Donald Trump recently withdrew the U.S. imprimatur from the international Arms Trade Treaty – flinging into a crowd of National Rifle Association members the big Sharpie he’d just used to sign his order – the showmanship had no legal implications.

But the dramatic gesture was filled with symbolic meaning.

Mr. Trump said he was “unsigning” a document the United States had negotiated with other members of the United Nations and which former President Barack Obama signed in 2013.

Experts in international law noted, however, that the U.S. had never ratified the treaty – intended to set global standards for conventional arms transfers and deny weapons to human-rights violators – which had lain forgotten in the Senate for years.

In any case, they added, the signature of one president can’t be revoked by another.

But the thick black signature the president showed his appreciative audience was of course intended for a domestic political base.

Legalisms aside, the image the base was being shown was of a leader rejecting one effort after another by the international community to constrain American power and reach into sovereign nations, including the U.S., to limit individual freedoms.

The deeper meaning

For many diplomats and experts in international affairs, however, Mr. Trump’s dramatic rejection of the Arms Trade Treaty, or ATT, symbolizes something else entirely: It stands as further evidence of a U.S. withdrawal from its global leadership role and from the post-World War II notion that international cooperation does not limit America’s power and prosperity but enhances them.

“The Arms Trade Treaty was never envisioned as a big game changer that would suddenly regulate global arms exports or have a significant impact on shipments of arms to questionable regimes,” says Daniel Prins, chief of the conventional arms branch of the U.N.’s Office of Disarmament Affairs. “But like other advances in international law, it is an attempt to build norms and standards that admit themselves into behaviors of countries and over time enhance those countries’ security and well-being.”

More broadly, Mr. Trump’s move is another example of a global turn to a heightened sense of sovereignty and nationalist focus at a moment when the world faces a growing plate of issues, from climate change and biodiversity loss to conflict-driven migration and terrorism, international experts say. Such challenges can’t be addressed effectively by countries acting alone, they add, but demand multilateral cooperation.

Mr. Prins notes that the ATT, for the first time in an international treaty, draws a direct connection between the global arms trade and protection of human rights. He cites that as an “advance” in international law, not just for populations facing repression, but also for powers like the U.S. that have an interest in seeing human rights protected.

“Setting norms and standards of behavior doesn’t detract from anyone but actually enhances the position of those who were already upholding high standards,” says Mr. Prins, who was closely involved in the ATT’s negotiation and now assists in its implementation.

“So in this case, if the Arms Trade Treaty can help stop rogue regimes from shopping around for weapons,” he adds, “it becomes a benefit to arms exporters that already had the highest standards against supplying such regimes.”

‘Never surrender’ sovereignty

In announcing his rejection of the ATT at the NRA’s national convention April 26, Mr. Trump labeled the treaty a threat to Second Amendment rights and an abdication of American power. “We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy,” the president said to cheers.

Accompanying Mr. Trump’s announcement was a White House statement calling the ATT unnecessary for the U.S. and a boon to unscrupulous arms exporters.

“The ATT is simply not needed for the United States to engage in responsible arms trade,” the statement said. “America will continue to abide by United States laws that ensure our arms sales are implemented after careful legal and policy reviews.”

Noting that large arms exporters like Russia and China are not party to the ATT, the White House said the treaty “will only constrain responsible countries while allowing the irresponsible arms trade to continue.”

Jason DeCrow/AP/File
John Kerry, then U.S. secretary of state, signs the Arms Trade Treaty as Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Miguel Serpa Soares looks on during the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2013.

But for others, that perspective eschews America’s traditional role as a global leader whose power is enhanced by the rule of law and standards of behavior.

“Treaties create norms and set the rules of the road, and for many decades the United States has been a leader in that process and considered that overall it benefited from the rules-based order supported by treaties,” says Waheguru Pal Sidhu, a clinical associate professor in New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and an expert in arms control and nonproliferation.

U.S. leadership is missed

“But under the Trump administration, the U.S. is increasingly moving out of treaties, and that is doing two things,” he adds. “It is telling the world, both allies and adversaries, that [the U.S. is] basically checking out. And increasingly, it’s encouraging other groups of countries to come together to work on treaties and arrangements without the leadership of the United States, and they’re finding that it’s not easy.”

He cites the ATT as one example. Without the U.S., the mid-size arms-exporting countries of the European Union are basically alone in pressing for high global standards for arms sales, he says.

On the other hand, the U.N.’s Mr. Prins notes that more than half of U.N. member states – just over 100 – are now party to the ATT. One attraction for poorer countries is the funding and expertise made available (some of which the U.S. has been providing) to set up databases of weapons transfers, he says. Similarly, some African and Latin American countries already awash in small arms have sought assistance through the ATT in getting a handle on irregular weapons imports.  

But Dr. Sidhu adds that the Paris Climate Accords and the Iran nuclear deal are also examples of international agreements that are hobbled by a U.S. absence.

Indeed, international affairs experts increasingly cite the U.S. retreat from its traditional role as a leader of the international order as a factor in what they see as the international community’s lagging ability to address the world’s most pressing challenges.

“The United States under President Donald J. Trump continued to abdicate much of its traditional role of upholding the international order, ceding leadership in some areas to its rivals and eschewing partnering with its allies to bolster the order,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, in issuing an annual report card last week by a group of the world’s top think tanks assessing international cooperation on issues from terrorism to the global economy.

In part “as a result” of that abdication, Mr. Haass, said, “the gap between global challenges and responses grew larger” over the last year.

The value of U.S. participation

For many, that “gap” will continue to widen as the U.S. continues its retreat from global leadership, and as others – allies and adversaries – seek to fill the void.

“When the U.S. is participating in something, it bolsters the status of that something – or should I say there was a time when that was very much the case,” says John Cerone, a professor of international law specializing in human rights and international organizations at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Medford, Mass.

Now, “If the U.S. is flouting treaties, it not only makes the U.S. look bad, but it makes it easier for other states to refuse to participate, he says, “and that undermines the system of international cooperation that has been important to so much global progress.”

Professor Cerone cites the ATT as an example of a treaty of limited scope “and very deferential to national sovereignty” that seeks to establish and improve international norms of behavior, in this case advancing regulation of international trade “to keep weapons out of the hands of warlords and those who would commit genocide.”

Calling the ATT a “modest start,” he also sees it as a “helpful stepping stone” for addressing a significant global challenge.

“But that’s how things develop in international law and practice. Of course it helps if the big powers like the U.S. are on board,” he adds, “but experience shows that over time even the small stepping stones tend to develop into something more important.”

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Patterns

Tracing global connections

2. Populism tests Europe’s ‘establishment conservatives’

Tilting rightward might seem like a smart move for center-right political parties in the current political environment. But there’s evidence it may not prove a winning strategy.

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It may seem odd: Unless a Brexit deal materializes, Britain will vote in upcoming European Parliament elections. And the results will be very much worth watching, for what they’ll say about the unsettled politics of major Western democracies.

The new Brexit Party is being projected as the main winner of Britain’s vote. And it embodies a challenge facing established center-right parties: Do we fight populists or join them? Some conservative parties in Europe have chosen to tack right. But Britain’s Euro-vote seems likely to provide new evidence this strategy isn’t working.

Last fall in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, regional ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party, tried to steal some of the political clothing of the far-right Alternative for Germany, only to lose a significant chunk of its traditional voters. Last month, Spain’s center-right Popular Party forfeited more than half its parliamentary seats after trying to echo the themes of far-right populists. Britain’s Conservative Party faces a similar challenge if the Brexit Party emerges as a clear winner. And last week, Britain’s Justice secretary warned his fellow Tories to “avoid the temptation to be a populist party, which would narrow our base.”

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Populism tests Europe’s ‘establishment conservatives’

It’s shaping up as somewhere between surreal and farcical: Britain’s planned participation next week in elections for the legislature of the European Union – an alliance that the United Kingdom actually voted to leave in a 2016 referendum.

Yet unless Britain’s beleaguered prime minister, Theresa May, finds an 11th-hour compromise to get a Brexit deal through Parliament – avoiding the need to take part in the five-yearly EU vote – the results will be very much worth watching. That’s not just because of what they could mean for her Tory party, but also because of what they’ll say about the unsettled state of politics in a range of major Western democracies.

The group being projected as the main winner – the newly created Brexit Party of Nigel Farage, the anti-EU firebrand who galvanized the “leave campaign” in the 2016 referendum – is the latest embodiment of a challenge facing long-established center-right parties in Europe and in the United States as well. With nationalist, anti-immigrant, populist politicians gaining influence, “establishment” conservatives are having to ask themselves: Do we fight them or join them?

The response has varied from country to country. But as in the U.S., where congressional Republicans have been re-tailoring their policies and pronouncements to move into the slipstream of President Donald Trump’s “America First” populism, some conservative parties in Europe have chosen to tack in the direction of the far-right.

The significance of Britain’s Euro-vote is that it seems likely to provide new evidence that their strategy isn’t working, at least so far.

Last fall in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, regional ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party, tried to steal some of the political clothing of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), only to lose a significant chunk of its traditional voters. Just last month, Spain’s main center-right political force, the Popular Party, forfeited more than half its parliamentary seats after trying to echo the themes of the rising, though still fringe, far-right populists of Vox.

For the true faithful of the AfD and Vox, their pitch clearly didn’t ring true. And the PP in Spain, like the CSU in Germany, prompted many longtime supporters either to look for less extreme-sounding options or to stay home.

Britain’s Conservative Party faces a similar challenge, both from Mr. Farage and from a vocal minority of anti-EU ideologues within its own ranks who want no part of Ms. May’s effort to find a form of Brexit that manages to retain valuable economic ties with the EU.

Under ordinary circumstances, the European Parliament elections needn’t affect the Tories’ domestic political fortunes. One reason is technical. The European Parliament vote is held under proportional representation. Elections for the U.K. Parliament use a “first-past-the-post” system. That means that a group like Farage’s Brexit Party can do really well in the EU vote, but still achieve, at best, third-place showings in Britain’s national election constituencies and end up without a single seat in Parliament.

Yet since the 2016 referendum, with the failure of Ms. May and Parliament to agree on a way actually to leave the EU, Brexit has crowded out almost every other issue from national debate.

If Britain does leave, the winning candidates may not even take their seats in the European Parliament. But especially if Mr. Farage’s party emerges as the clear winner, the results are bound to cause serious infighting within the parties that do less well.

That’s especially true of the Tories, projected to suffer by far their worst showing ever in a European Parliament election. Ms. May is already under growing pressure by some of her most vocally anti-EU MPs to step down. They argue that, under a different leader, Britain could drive a better exit deal or, if that failed, simply walk away without one.

Still, not all Tory MPs agree. David Gauke, Justice secretary in Ms. May’s government, echoed her view last week that it was imperative to try to get her Brexit deal through Parliament before the Euro-vote. And perhaps with precedents like the Spanish and Bavarian elections in mind, he added a warning for fellow Tories, against drawing the wrong conclusion from a Farage victory. It was important, he said, to “avoid the temptation to be a populist party, which would narrow our base.”

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The Explainer

3. As abortion battles intensify in states, misperceptions abound

Extreme rhetoric can shape debate and influence public attitudes. We took a run at getting past the loaded language being used around one of the most contentious U.S. social and political issues. 

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Take this question: Do you think decisions about pregnancy should be between a woman and her doctor?

Now take this question: Do you think a woman should be able to walk into an abortion clinic and have an abortion in the first trimester for any reason?

If your answer changed based on the way the question was framed, you’re not alone. In talking about abortion, terminology and selective bits of context can easily push people from one position to another. “The majority of Americans, they’re highly susceptible to being influenced by the wording of the question,” says Daniel Williams, a professor at the University of West Georgia.

In reporting our series on abortion, we encountered many misperceptions and changes in attitude based on the language used. Overheated political rhetoric isn’t helping, with many states currently moving either to sharply restrict or to secure abortion access in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. This article attempts to establish some basic facts about abortion in the U.S. and the public perceptions surrounding it.   

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As abortion battles intensify in states, misperceptions abound

Take this question: Do you think decisions about pregnancy should be between a woman and her doctor?

Now take this question: Do you think a woman should be able to walk into an abortion clinic and have an abortion in the first trimester for any reason?

If your answer changed based on the way the question was framed, you’re not alone. This highlights one challenge in talking about abortion in the United States. Terminology and selective bits of context can easily push people from one position to another.

“A minority of Americans on either side [of the abortion issue] are strongly energized, while a large number are uncomfortable but flexible, depending on how the question is phrased,” says Daniel Williams, a professor at the University of West Georgia. “The majority of Americans, they’re highly susceptible to being influenced by the wording of the question.”

In reporting our series, we encountered many misperceptions and changes in attitudes based on the language used. For example, people had different reactions to a procedure described as “early termination, as recommended by a doctor” than they did to “an abortion due to fetal abnormalities.” But these statements could describe the exact same situation. 

Political rhetoric isn’t helping. Last month, at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, President Donald Trump claimed that Democrats are “aggressively pushing extreme late-term abortion, allowing children to be ripped from their mother’s womb right up until the moment of birth.” He stated that there are situations in which after the baby is born, “they wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”

PolitiFact rated this claim as false. Though there isn’t hard data on the reasons for late-term abortions, we know they are rare. Some are performed due to an immediate threat to the life of the mother, or because the infant has severe abnormalities that make survival outside the womb unlikely. In these cases, the parents and doctors must discuss whether or not to resuscitate the child if it stops breathing – something many have described as a wrenching, emotional decision. But “executing” the baby? That does not happen.

“The notion that anyone supports executing infants after birth is preposterous,” Gretchen Ely, an associate professor at the University at Buffalo’s School of Social Work and a board member for Social Workers for Reproductive Justice, told PolitiFact

At the same time, those who support abortion access often portray abortion opponents as hostile to the rights of women. Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims, a Democrat, recently drew attention for videos he posted of himself confronting anti-abortion protesters outside a Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia. 

“They’re racist, classist, bigots who NEED & DESERVE our righteous opposition,” Representative Sims tweeted with his video. In another tweet, he wrote, “Planned Parenthood protesters are scum! I’ve spent years as a patient escort witnessing firsthand the hate, vitriol, hostility and BLATANT RACISM they spew.”

Amid the extreme rhetoric on both sides, basic facts about abortion in the U.S. often get lost. This article attempts to cut through some common misperceptions surrounding the issue.

Matt Rourke/AP/File
Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims speaks at John F. Kennedy Plaza, also known as Love Park, in Philadelphia on Sept. 25, 2014. The Democratic lawmaker has drawn recent criticism for recording himself berating a woman anti-abortion demonstrator at length outside an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, calling her an ‘old white lady’ and her protest ‘grotesque.’

How does the American public feel about abortion?

In the U.S., overall attitudes surrounding abortion have remained relatively unchanged over the past 20 years. Nearly six in 10 Americans say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. What has changed is the partisan divide: today, 76% of Democrats say abortion should be legal in most cases, with only 36% of Republicans in agreement. In 1995, 64% of Democrats favored legal abortion, with 49% of Republicans in agreement.

SOURCE: Gallup
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

Several Democrat-led states have been removing certain restrictions on abortions in cases of serious health concerns. Does this mean a woman can get a voluntary abortion right up until birth in states like Massachusetts and New York? That’s not the case. Forty-three states, including those two, prohibit abortions after a certain point in the pregnancy. The only exceptions are when the health or life of the mother is at risk or because of the viability of the fetus. 

At the same time, many Republican-led states are moving to further restrict abortions. At least five states – including Louisiana, Arkansas, and North Dakota – have passed “trigger” laws, which will immediately ban abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. Georgia recently became the fourth state to pass a “heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically around the sixth week of pregnancy. In Alabama, lawmakers are poised to vote this week on a near-total abortion ban. Most of these legislative efforts are expected to face court challenges.  

Some state supreme courts, meanwhile, are issuing rulings based on their own constitutions that will stand even if Roe is overturned. In April, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state’s constitution protects a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. The bipartisan ruling focused on the state’s protection of “personal autonomy” and the ability of individuals to make their own decisions when it comes to their own bodies.

Is the abortion rate going up in the United States?

The simple answer? No. It’s actually the lowest it’s been since the 1980s.

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2006 to 2015 the total number of reported abortions decreased by 24 percent.

So what’s driving the reduced abortion rate? Like many aspects of the conversation, it’s complicated.

One factor, depending on the state, is better access to contraceptives and health care. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, most private health insurers were mandated to provide access to all FDA-approved contraceptives without cost-sharing since 2012. This, in addition to the expansion of Medicaid, made birth control more accessible and more affordable. According to the Guttmacher Institute, low-income women are more likely to have unintended pregnancies than more affluent women. With more women having access to and using birth control, the need to address an unplanned pregnancy decreases.

But wait, is it possible the abortion rate is decreasing because of more restrictions on abortion?

Depending on the state, yes. “A lower abortion rate may be a result of a decrease in abortion access services,” says Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute. “It may be because of access to health care, or it may be because of state restrictions that close abortion clinics.”

Take Texas, for example. Before 2013, the state had 42 abortion clinics. After the passage of Texas House Bill 2, which required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility where he or she performs abortions, that number went down to 21 (as of 2019). With fewer clinics, longer wait times, and less access, there is simply less capacity to provide abortion care in the state.

Globally, however, laws restricting access to abortions have little impact on reducing abortion rates. In fact, abortion rates are slightly higher in countries with more restrictive access to abortion.

SOURCE: Guttmacher Institute
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

Ms. Nash points out that many countries that restrict abortion access develop underground networks for providing illegal abortion services. This has not happened in the U.S. since 1973, when Roe v. Wade upheld the legality of abortion. In 1965, illegal abortions accounted for one-sixth of all U.S. pregnancy-related deaths.

“Highly restrictive laws do not eliminate the practice of abortion, but make those that do occur more likely to be unsafe,” a 2018 report by the Guttmacher Institute states. 

“It’s naive to think that abortion being banned means there would be no abortion. What that means is abortion would be available to those with money and means, and much less available to those with fewer resources,” Ms. Nash says.

Who is getting abortions? And when are they getting them?

Three in four abortion patients are low-income, and one of the most common reasons they cite for seeking an abortion is that they can’t afford a child. Most already have children, and most are in their 20s.  

Nearly two-thirds of abortions occur within the first eight weeks of pregnancy, with almost all abortions (91.1%) occurring within the first trimester (before 13 weeks). Some 7.6% of abortions occur between 14 and 20 weeks’ gestation, and 1.3% occur after 21 weeks, which is about halfway through the second trimester.

SOURCE: Guttmacher Institute
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

What about “late-term” abortions?

Medically and legally, there is no definition for late-term abortion. However, when that term is used, it typically means after the 21st week of pregnancy, when the fetus may be viable, or capable of living independently, outside of the womb. Because there is no technical definition, there are a lot of misperceptions around what late-term abortion really means.

The statistics of late-term abortions do only so much to clarify the issue, but they do show that they are rare: 1.3%. Very little research has been done to show why these abortions take place. In some cases, they take place due to severe medical complications that mean the fetus will not be able to live outside the womb or that risk the life of the mother. There have also been cases where women sought and received abortions later in their pregnancies because they could not get access to an abortion sooner. Statistically speaking, there is little concrete data to show the main cause of late-term abortions. This leaves room for activists on both sides of the issue to create a narrative that fits their purposes.

“We don’t have any data about abortions in the third trimester – what are they for, what are the reasons for them?” Ms. Nash says. “Not having information allows people to spread misinformation, because there isn’t solid evidence to rebut it.”

Staff writer Jessica Mendoza contributed to this report.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

Basic abortion-related terminology is often misused or misunderstood. This glossary is to be used as a reference guide, and will be updated as needed.

Abortion

Abortion is defined by the dictionary as the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, most often performed during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy. This can happen in a few different ways.

A medical abortion uses medication to end the pregnancy. It does not require anesthesia or surgery, and is most effective in the first trimester. It is sometimes referred to as a medically-induced miscarriage, and the medications used are also used to help women who have miscarried (by removing any remaining pregnancy tissue that could cause infection).

A surgical abortion is a procedure that ends a pregnancy by removing the fetus and placenta from the woman’s uterus. In the earlier stages of pregnancy, this is often done through a procedure called suction/vacuum aspiration. The procedure takes about 5 minutes and does not require anesthesia. After 16 weeks of gestation, a procedure called dilation and evacuation is performed, during which the cervix is dilated and the fetal tissue removed. It takes about 15-30 minutes. After 21 weeks’ gestation, dilation and extraction procedures are performed. These procedures are rare, and often only performed when the life of the mother is at risk or the baby has complications incompatible with life.

Abortion can also be referred to as an early termination of pregnancy. In the case of multi-fetus pregnancies, it can also be called fetal reduction or selective pregnancy reduction.

Late-term abortion

There is no medical definition of late-term abortion, although the terminology is often used in rhetoric and politics. In usage, it often comes down to the issue of fetal viability. This term has been used since Roe v. Wade, and refers to the ability of the fetus to survive outside of the womb (when supported by modern technology).

Fetus

Fetus is the medical terminology used to describe an unborn human baby more than 11 weeks after conception. At conception, the fertilized egg is called a zygote, and quickly turns into a blastocyst. In the fifth week, the pregnancy is an embryo. Then, starting in the 11th week, the embryo is referred to as a fetus.

Contraceptives

Contraceptives, or birth control, are methods designed to prevent pregnancy. There are many different forms, such as condoms, prescription pills, patches, shots, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). Other forms of birth control include abstinence and sterilization. There are also emergency contraceptives, which can be used after sex to stop a pregnancy before it starts. 

Different forms of contraceptives have different rates of efficacy. For example, the birth control pill, if taken perfectly, is 99% effective. Condoms, if used perfectly, are 98% effective; because of frequent misuse, they are actually closer to 85% effective.

Pro-choice/pro-abortion

Advocates of legalized abortion are commonly referred to as pro-choice. They believe that it should be up to the woman to decide whether or not, or when, she wants to have children. Opponents of this position may use the term pro-abortion.

Pro-life/anti-choice

Those in favor of making abortion illegal are commonly referred to as pro-life. They believe that the unborn deserve the same right to life as the mother. Opponents of this position may use the term anti-choice. Some pro-life advocates go as far as to call themselves abortion abolitionists, taking a “no compromise” stance that prioritizes what they call the sanctity of life above all.

Roe v. Wade

This 1973 landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that abortion is protected by the Constitution. However, it declared that the right to receive abortion care should be balanced with the states’ interests in regulating the practice – and states have responded in vastly different ways. Some states have worked to restrict access and regulate abortion beyond the norm of most medical procedures. Other states fully support abortion access and have passed legislation to make it as available as they deem appropriate.

“Trigger” laws

Because the U.S. Supreme Court now holds a conservative majority, there is the possibility that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. To prepare for this, some states have passed “trigger” laws, which state that the moment Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will become entirely illegal in that state. To date, six states have passed trigger laws: Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, and Kentucky.

TRAP laws

TRAP laws, or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws, single out abortion providers and create requirements typically not expected of other medical practices. This could mean requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, or have more complicated or expensive facilities than necessary to perform safe procedures. Compliance with these laws is often costly in terms of money and staff, and have resulted in the closing of many abortion facilities across the country.

Reproductive Justice

This term was coined in 1994, and is defined as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, determine the number of children to have, and to parent children in safe and sustainable communities.  

SOURCE: Guttmacher Institute
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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A deeper look

4. Age of the megadeal: Do athletes make too much money?

Pulling for Golden State in this year’s NBA playoffs? That’s a $3.1 billion franchise. It’s unsurprising that pro athletes get astronomical paychecks. Our reporter explores whether this is just what the market will bear – or a sign that society’s values are way out of balance.

Jacob Turcotte/Staff
Our cover story about sports salaries has readers responding.

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During the 1950s, Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Carl Furillo ran a Queens deli in the winter, and Hall of Fame New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle sold insurance in the summer. But these days, of course, players can afford to stick to their day jobs. In late February and March of this year, a trio of baseball stars – infielder Manny Machado, outfielder Bryce Harper, and center fielder Mike Trout – signed record-breaking megadeals that collectively topped $1 billion.

Most fans have made their peace with such sums, and they have even criticized team owners for being too “cheap” to accede to players’ contract stipulations. The simplest defense for platinum salaries is a capitalistic one – that athletes’ paychecks are the result of supply-and-demand forces. But does the public’s demand signal a value system that needs recalibrating?

“An individual’s salary is not a reflection or function of their social worth, or their value to humanity. It’s more a function of the relative scarcity of the service they provide,” says Shawn Klein, a lecturer at Arizona State University and author of The Sports Ethicist blog. “Teachers are more important, but they aren’t as scarce.”

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Age of the megadeal: Do athletes make too much money?

There were undoubtedly winter nights in the late 1950s when some of the patrons at Ruggeri’s, an Italian restaurant in St. Louis, did a double take at the sight of a short, squat man with jug-handle ears framing his familiar face bringing their meals to the table. It must have seemed terribly out of context, after all, to see him serving them dinner plates instead of crouching behind home plate. But there was no mistaking him, even out of his regular uniform. Their waiter for the evening was Yogi Berra, the All-Star catcher for the New York Yankees.

Legend has it that it was at Ruggeri’s, which has since been renamed Favazza’s, that Berra coined one of his famous malaprops in talking about a competing eatery: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” But other than coming up with memorable quotes, the Yankees superstar wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary by waiting tables. It was quite common for athletes of his era to work another job when their sport wasn’t in season. As difficult as it may be to believe now, when professional athletes’ contracts continue to skyrocket ever higher into the hundreds of millions of dollars, it wasn’t that long ago that players routinely needed a second income to help make ends meet.

ROBERT HANASHIRO-USA TODAY SPORTS/NPSTRANS/TOPPIC
Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels signed a contract extension this year that will pay him $427 million over 12 years.

Instead of spending their offseasons training or vacationing, professional baseball, football, and basketball players once tended to take their place in the traditional workforce. During the 1950s, Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Carl Furillo ran a Queens deli in the winter, and Hall of Fame New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle sold insurance in the summer. In the 1960s, Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown worked as a sales rep for Pepsi when he wasn’t breaking tackles. A few weeks after Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of the 1966 World Series, he reported to his winter job selling suits at a men’s clothing store for $150 a week. He needed the paycheck, he told reporters, “to pay for groceries, hot water, and electricity.”

Their modern-day counterparts, of course, can afford to stick to their day jobs. Today’s pro athletes are walking corporations in many cases, multimillionaires with salaries that guarantee they will never need to work again after their playing days are over. It’s not exactly a news flash that many elite pros – and lots of not-so-elite ones – earn more money in a year than the average American worker makes in a lifetime. But even observers who had long since become numb to the number of zeros in sports stars’ contracts had to raise their eyebrows at the megadeals signed by a trio of baseball stars in late February and March, a monthlong span turned into a high-stakes game of “Can You Top This?”

On Feb. 21, infielder Manny Machado signed with the San Diego Padres for 10 years and $300 million, the most lucrative contract in terms of total dollars for a free agent in baseball history (Giancarlo Stanton signed a 13-year, $325 million deal with the Florida Marlins in 2014 but that was a contract extension). A week later, outfielder Bryce Harper surpassed Mr. Machado by agreeing to a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies for 12 years and $330 million. Mr. Harper’s record stood for only three weeks, until the Los Angeles Angels announced that their star center fielder, Mike Trout, had signed a contract extension that will pay him $426.5 million over 12 years, an average annual salary of more than $35.5 million. The sudden billion-dollar spending spree brought the debate about the economic system of American professional sports back to the forefront. Familiar questions were asked: Are those hefty paychecks simply the result of the supply-and-demand forces of capitalism determining what the market will bear? Or is the fact that athletes tend to be paid so much more handsomely than schoolteachers, nurses, firefighters, and others whose work is arguably of far greater benefit a sign of an economic system with its values out of whack?

SOURCE: Major League Baseball, USA Today, Global Sports Salaries Survey 2018, Spotrac, 247 Sports, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ProPublica, New York City Fire Department, U.S. Department of Defense
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Graphic: Jacob Turcotte; RESEARCH: Timothy Broderick, Clarence Leong, Sarah Matusek

 

There was a time when the players themselves might have agreed that they were overpaid. “No athlete is worth the money he’s getting,” National Basketball Association star Elvin Hayes said in 1978, “including me.” Mr. Hayes was making $7.7 million per year when he said that, a modest sum compared with what a player of his stature would earn today. 

But as salaries have grown, athletes have become more willing to defend the amount of money they earn. “I’ve always said that the ones who should be making millions are our military men and women, our first responders, our schoolteachers,” says TNT broadcaster Charles Barkley, a former NBA player and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. “But that’s not the system we live in. These athletes are the best in the world at what they do, and they generate so much money for these leagues that it’s only right that they get their fair share.”

It seems that the public and media have also become more accepting of – or perhaps resigned to – the staggering sums handed out to athletes. (To male athletes, that is. Most female sports stars are still fighting for what they consider to be salaries worthy of their skills while their male peers are becoming multimillionaires.) Though there are still plenty of callers to sports radio talk shows who will complain that players are overpaid – usually when the expensive free agent on their favorite team fails to perform up to expectations – it’s harder to locate unbiased experts who attempt to make the case that players aren’t “worth” their salaries. To them, and to most of the general public, it is not so much a philosophical question as an economic one.

“We need to keep in mind where sports fits into today’s society and how the industry has grown,” says Leland Faust, an investment adviser and founder of a firm, CSI Capital Management, that represents professional athletes. “They occupy unique cultural real estate and unify us in a way that nothing else does. No matter where we go, sports are inescapable. The industry gets exposure across all forms of media – 24/7 radio, TV, newspapers, and the internet. Given all that, in many cases you could make the argument that professional athletes are actually underpaid.

Multimillionaire backup QBs

It’s not just the stars who are becoming wealthier than some developing nations. The three professional sports leagues in the U.S. with the highest revenues – the National Football League, the NBA, and Major League Baseball – generate so much money that even players with modest professional accomplishments often become multimillionaires. Consider NFL quarterback Chase Daniel, who has been exclusively a backup QB for all of his nine seasons in the league with the New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, and Chicago Bears. Mr. Daniel has been his team’s starter in only four of the 144 games in which he’s been on an NFL roster, each time filling in for an injured player. In other words, Mr. Daniel almost never plays. Yet during those nine years of mostly standing on the sidelines he has earned a total of $28.3 million.

JASON GETZ-USA TODAY SPORTS/NPSTRANS/TOPPIC
Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons is making $150 million over 5 years.

Together, the NFL, NBA, and MLB generated more than $30 billion in revenue last year, which means that it isn’t just the athletes who are making a fortune. Team owners are so flush with cash that their biggest problem is finding ways to spend it. Purchasing so-called superyachts, for example, appears to be the latest pricey hobby among NFL owners. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently bought a $250 million vessel that is the length of a football field and features two helipads. Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, unveiled a less expensive – merely $100 million – yacht in January that nevertheless contains what is believed to be the first certified Imax movie theater on a superyacht. Meanwhile, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank recently unveiled a $180 million yacht that features, among other luxurious amenities, a “golden dining room,” according to Business Insider.

But somehow owners’ excesses have never drawn the same scrutiny as players’, maybe because there is a far longer history of business owners amassing great wealth and spending wildly on luxuries than of athletes doing the same thing. In a span of just a few decades, the entire salary structure of professional sports has changed dramatically, transforming athletes from the middle class to the moneyed class. The occasional harmless fan grumbling notwithstanding, American sports leagues for the most part have escaped the major backlash over their income distribution that other institutions have faced, even as the U.S. is experiencing an era of rising income inequality.

SOURCE: Forbes
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Karen Norris/Staff

 

In 2015, the top 1% of families in the U.S. made more than 25 times what families in the bottom 99% did, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. That represents a reversal of a trend that saw the income gap narrow from the time of the Depression until the 1970s. Given the populist pushback against other “one percenters” by movements such as Occupy Wall Street and the backlash against the U.S. banking system after the subprime mortgage crisis, it might seem logical for athletes to draw some of the public’s ire toward the superrich. 

Instead, most fans have not only made their peace with the players’ gargantuan salaries, they have even criticized owners for being too “cheap” to accede to players’ contract demands. Yankees fans, for instance, weren’t pleased that their team decided not to seriously consider paying Mr. Harper or Mr. Machado. In fact, the breaking of the $300 million barrier by that pair was considered a fait accompli. Fans and media grew impatient for them to be signed, and when only a few franchises showed interest, there was widespread suspicion that teams were unfairly colluding to keep their salaries down. 

There was a time when a huge contract signing would have brought hand-wringing about whether player salaries were rising out of control. This time, the flurry of signings brought stories with headlines such as “5 Reasons Bryce Harper’s $330 Million Contract is a Steal for the Phillies” and in reference to Mr. Trout, “Baseball’s Best Player Deserves More Than $430 Million.”

Testy with the media

Although there is more general acceptance of players being part of the 1%, the blessing of a big contract can be at least a small curse for athletes who complain about their situations in any way. NBA stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have both been testy with the media this season, complaining about the stress of constant speculation that they planned to leave their teams, the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics, in order to become free agents and perhaps join forces next season. Commissioner Adam Silver empathized with them, saying that in general many NBA players feel depressed and lonely despite their millions. 

“That’s the stupidest thing I might have heard any commissioner say,” Mr. Barkley told ESPN in March. “These guys are making 20, 30, $40 million a year, they work six or seven months a year, [they] stay at the best hotels in the world. They ain’t got no problems. That’s total bogus.”

It isn’t necessarily bogus, of course. Wealth isn’t a guaranteed shield against psychological or emotional issues. But one of the few drawbacks to earning so much money for players is that they get less empathy for any problems.

Few workforces in the U.S. have gone from being exploited to being so wildly enriched over the past 40 years. Part of the reason that athletes made relatively modest salaries for so long is that the system was weighted in favor of the owners. In baseball, for instance, players had no ability to become free agents. Even after their contracts expired they were considered the property of the team they had played for unless they were traded or released. That kept salaries depressed because players couldn’t offer their services on the open market. 

SUE OGROCKI/AP
Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder has a salary of $207 million over 5 years.

In 1972 St. Louis outfielder Curt Flood challenged that aspect of baseball’s system, the reserve clause, with a lawsuit. Flood paid a huge price, literally and figuratively, in fighting the system. He received hate mail from fans – “four or five death threats a day,” his teammate Bob Gibson said – and he was effectively blackballed from baseball, playing only 13 more games the rest of his career. Although he ultimately lost in the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices did recommend that free agency for players should be attained through collective bargaining between the owners and players.

A few years later, that’s exactly what happened. Because of the pressure that Flood’s suit brought to the baseball owners, the players’ union was able to bargain for binding arbitration on grievances. And, finally, in 1975, when pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally agreed to play a season without a contract, arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled them free agents – able to sell their talents to any team that wanted them. Overnight, the system was transformed in favor of the players. There were media predictions that free agency would ruin the game, but in the end, the players association worked out an agreement with management, and profits rose along with salaries as fans liked the exciting new era of free agency and the players it brought to their teams. 

Soaring TV revenue

Since then the pool of money that players and owners divide has grown exponentially, and the biggest reason for that increase can be expressed with two letters: TV. In 1961, CBS, the sole network that televised NFL games, paid the league $4.65 million for broadcast rights. Today, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and ESPN all pay for the rights to broadcast part of the NFL’s schedule, and the league pulls in $3 billion in TV revenue alone each year. 

The NFL commands more TV revenue than any other league in American sports, but the NBA and MLB have also seen their television profits increase greatly. The notion of the owners and players splitting the pot no longer holds; the pot has turned into something closer to a bottomless vat, with both management and labor coming away with their bank accounts overflowing. 

The reason for the remarkable growth in what networks are willing to pay for the rights to broadcast sports lies in the generalized appeal that football, basketball, and baseball have to a wide viewership. The television audience has become increasingly compartmentalized thanks to the advent of more viewing options on cable TV and the internet. The public now divides itself into narrow groups, seeking out media that cater to specific interests – cooking, nature, politics, fashion, et al. In that landscape, the ability of sports to attract viewers across all demographic groups has become hugely valuable. 

FRANK FRANKLIN II/AP
Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is making $124 million over 13 years.

Beyond that, sports are one of the few forms of television entertainment that are still viewed almost entirely live. The rise of the DVR has changed the way people watch most television, allowing them to record shows, watch them at their convenience, and, importantly, fast-forward through commercials. But the immediacy of sports is such that viewers want to watch games as they happen, which means that advertisers get much more exposure than they do on other types of shows. Sports deliver eyeballs to ads. “If we sat here today and had just done a 20-year NFL renewal, and you asked me what’s on the top of my mind, it would be renewing the NFL in 21 years,” Eric Shanks, head of Fox Sports, told Ad Age last December.

The money has to go somewhere

The bottom line, then, is that the national attraction to sports has created a multibillion-dollar industry and quite simply, all of that money has to go somewhere. Professional athletes generally are unapologetic about a lot of it ending up in their stretch-suit pockets. “It’s funny that people ask why players make so much money but they never ask that question about owners,” says Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin, who made $31.8 million this season. “All the players are getting is our fair share.”

The average fan might wonder why both owners and players couldn’t take smaller shares and charge lower ticket, concession, and parking prices at games, but of course they are not obligated to do that.

Another argument in defense of high player salaries is that NBA, NFL, and MLB players all have an average career span of fewer than seven years, which is a small window of time to earn a living at their chosen profession. That doesn’t mean players are entitled to be exempt from having to work once their careers are over, but except for the relatively small number who are able to find work related to their sport, such as in coaching or broadcasting, many ex-players find themselves having devoted their lives to one career and then having to start building another from scratch.

The simplest defense for the platinum salaries, and the one hardest to refute, is the capitalistic one – that players, like almost everyone else, make what the market will bear. But the market is created in part by the public’s demand, and does that demand signal a value system that needs recalibrating? Ethicist Shawn Klein, a lecturer at Arizona State University and author of The Sports Ethicist blog, thinks not. “We get a little bit of sticker shock because we see $430 million to play baseball and we think, ‘What the heck is that?’” Mr. Klein says. “But an individual’s salary is not a reflection or function of their social worth, or their value to humanity. It’s more a function of the relative scarcity of the service they provide.” For example, the total number of players in the NFL, MLB, and NBA is below 2,500, while there are 3.5 million to 4 million K-12 public school teachers in the U.S. “Teachers are more important, but they aren’t as scarce,” says Mr. Klein, “and that’s reflected in the price of their service.”

This isn’t to say that there is no downside to placing outsize value on professional athletes. To impressionable young people, especially economically disadvantaged ones, money is probably the clearest measure of success, and seeing players enjoying the trappings of great wealth can warp their priorities. In addition, the attitude of entitlement some athletes display is hardly the best model for children. In 2004, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Latrell Sprewell, who had made more than $97 million during his 13-year NBA career, turned down a three-year, $21 million contract offer because he felt the team was low-balling him. “I have my family to feed,” Mr. Sprewell said. 

Despite occasional tone-deaf comments like that, most players recognize that the public considers them incredibly fortunate to be paid so much to play a child’s game, and they agree. “We’re not comparing ourselves to teachers or nurses or people like that in terms of what we do for the community,” says NFL quarterback Derek Carr, who will earn $19.9 million this season. “The reason you see players starting charities or donating money to different causes is because we know there are more important things than football or other sports. It’s a way of trying to correct that imbalance a little bit.”

Still, those monstrous salaries and the luxuries they provide might very well suggest that aspiring to be an athlete is preferable to dreaming of becoming, say, an astrophysicist or an emergency room nurse. But there is little reason to worry that society is in decline as long as there are those who aspire to careers whose value isn’t limited to the amount of money they make. “A cynic,” Oscar Wilde said, “is someone who knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing.” A society need not feel guilty over highly paid athletes as long as it recognizes that how much a ballplayer – or anyone else – earns is not the truest measure of how much he or she is worth.

SOURCE: Major League Baseball, USA Today, Global Sports Salaries Survey 2018, Spotrac, 247 Sports, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ProPublica, New York City Fire Department, U.S. Department of Defense
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Graphic: Jacob Turcotte; RESEARCH: Timothy Broderick, Clarence Leong, Sarah Matusek
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Difference-maker

Drivers of change

5. ‘Green Nobel’ winner has spent life fighting for land rights

This last piece is about using the law to preserve land rights. But more deeply it’s a compelling look at a question that some who fight must face: When your work puts your life in danger, how far do you go to pursue your goals?

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Attorney and activist Alfred Brownell tears up in his office at Northeastern University in Boston. He speaks about seeing gravesites and shrines in Liberia that were destroyed by clear-cutting. Mr. Brownell received a Goldman Environmental Prize on April 29.

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When he was a child living along the Atlantic coast in a small village in Liberia, Alfred Brownell’s friends would set traps for birds on the beach. He recalls his first act of saving nature was to set those birds free. “And I got into trouble with that. ... I got beaten up sometimes,” he says.

It was an early foray into the real danger Mr. Brownell has often faced while working for the interests of those with less of a voice. From child labor on plantations to illegal logging concessions, the scope of Mr. Brownell’s advocacy is grounded in a strong conviction in social justice.

In April, Mr. Brownell won a Goldman Environmental Prize for using his expertise in the law to protect land rights for people in Liberia and preserve their environments, in one of the world’s vulnerable biodiversity hot spots. Mr. Brownell now lives and teaches in the United States but says, “There’s nothing more I want to do now than be in Liberia. I want to be on the ground doing this work.”

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‘Green Nobel’ winner has spent life fighting for land rights

Alfred Brownell’s work has made him many powerful enemies. So when he and his family stepped off a plane in the United States on the coldest day of 2016, back home in Liberia he was a wanted man.

In more than two decades of work as an environmental law activist, Mr. Brownell has tangled with a succession of governments and multinational corporations in his country. As Liberia has sought development of its natural resources, Mr. Brownell has educated communities about their land rights and obliged companies to reform malpractice. In April he was awarded a “Green Nobel,” the Goldman Environmental Prize. But despite threats to his safety at home, Mr. Brownell wants to go back.

“There’s nothing more I want to do now than be in Liberia,” he says in his office at Northeastern University in Boston, where he is a visiting scholar teaching human rights and environmental law. “I want to be on the ground doing this work.”  

Mr. Brownell took up one cause at the insistence of a community leader who in 2011 nearly begged him to visit part of the 543,600 acres that the country’s largest palm oil producer had leased from the government. New trees were planted for the world’s most commonly produced vegetable oil, an ingredient in half the everyday packaged products that Americans buy.

After arriving in the Butaw district of Sinoe County, Mr. Brownell saw that the land had likely been “cut completely bare, like a barber giving you a clean shave,” he says. Instead of primary forest, where native tree species thrive, there had grown “a vast expanse of palm, as far as the eyes can see in the horizon.”

He met villagers who were traumatized; gravesites and shrines were bulldozed to make way for palm trees. More than just ecological loss in a biodiversity hot spot, the destruction of forests was also bringing an end to a way of life for the indigenous people.

“You should see how the palm companies desecrated those shrines, tore them apart, and put in oil palm,” Mr. Brownell says, voice shaking, tears streaming down his face. The government believes oil palm companies bring in investment and development, Mr. Brownell says. But “a chief told me he was afraid to die – because he didn’t know when he went to his ancestors what he would tell them about this land that was passed to him.”

In 2012, Mr. Brownell and his nonprofit, Green Advocates, helped disaffected locals file their first complaint to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which certifies the production of palm oil to ensure sustainable practices around the world. The complaint claimed that the palm-oil plantation developer Golden Veroleum Liberia had forcefully displaced people without adequate compensation, destroyed burial grounds, and polluted the drinking water. It prompted RSPO to place a stop work order on GVL, freezing land development in the disputed areas. GVL lost an appeal of the decision in July 2018.

Since Mr. Brownell was awarded the Green Nobel on April 29, GVL has pushed back on media reports that Mr. Brownell has protected virtually all of the concession from development. A spokesman for the Goldman Prize says that “we are happy to rebut all of their claims.” For his part, with an intimate knowledge of the case since Green Advocates filed its first complaint against the company, Mr. Brownell says that GVL’s response is “an attempt to lie itself out of a deal that is bad for the environment and bad for business.”

A social justice streak

From child labor on plantations to illegal logging concessions, the scope of Mr. Brownell’s advocacy is grounded in a strong conviction in social justice. When he was a child, living along the Atlantic coast in a small village called Robertsport, Mr. Brownell’s friends would set traps for birds on the beach. He recalls his first act of saving nature was to set those birds free. “And I got into trouble with that. ... I got beaten up sometimes.”

At university, his peers jeered at him because of his rural background, but they stopped when Mr. Brownell was at the head of the class. “As I studied law, I started looking outside and seeing the inequality, the exclusions, the discriminations, the impoverishment, the disenfranchisement,” he says. “What is the purpose of this education if we’re not going to do something for the poor?”

As a young graduate, he helped write the government’s framework environmental policies to protect and conserve parts of the Upper Guinean forests in Liberia. But he later founded Green Advocates as a vehicle through which to fight legal battles – battles that have also resulted in personal danger. In 2014, Mr. Brownell was stopped near an inspection site in the forest by a mob of more than 100 men armed with machetes and guns. A local chief intervened on Mr. Brownell’s behalf and saved his life.

“Alfred has real connection with the community and created organizations which continue to be very active,” says Kevin Murray, who was part of an international network of lawyers and human rights advocates that brought Mr. Brownell to the U.S. from Liberia.

Mr. Brownell’s departure for the U.S. in December 2016 was precipitated by a police raid on the Green Advocates office in Monrovia and the arrests of some of the staff. After Mr. Brownell’s narrow escape from Liberia, police also went to his house, where his uncle was staying, beat him, and threw him in jail.

“I see the threat is personal, yes, but I think those taking great risks are ... those who lost the land, who’s losing that history, those who face police brutality; they are the ones facing the challenges,” he says. “I’m actually the messenger trying to pass on the story so people can see what it is, and what the challenges are; they can find a way to help and support those people.”

Mr. Brownell could have lived a life of privilege as a trained lawyer in Liberia, says Mr. Murray. But “rather than become a wealthy person, he decided to use that to make a difference in people’s lives.”

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The Monitor's View

South Africa votes to turn honesty about graft into action against it

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If a global award were given to a country for being the most open about discussing corruption – as opposed to preventing it – South Africa would win hands down. It is a model of transparency and introspection about the problem. It has able judges, investigative journalists, civic watchdogs, and many others trying to expose official wrongdoing. Yet not a single member of the ruling party, the African National Congress, has been held accountable in the quarter century since the ANC ended white-only rule and took power.

That virtue of openness, nonetheless, may now pay off. The election of a Parliament on May 8 was a victory for the incumbent president, Cyril Ramaphosa, whose popularity is largely due to his anti-corruption image. After helping the ANC in its electoral win, he promised to finally purge it of “bad and deviant tendencies,” or powerful factions that have contributed to one of the world’s highest rates of unemployment.

“We are going to end corruption whether [ANC leaders] like it or not,” he said, with a hint of the battle to come within the party in choosing a new Cabinet.

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South Africa votes to turn honesty about graft into action against it

If a global award were given to a country for being the most open about discussing corruption – as opposed to preventing it – South Africa would win hands down. It is a model of transparency and introspection about the problem. It has able judges, investigative journalists, civic watchdogs and many others trying to expose official wrongdoing. Yet not a single member of the ruling party, the African National Congress, has been held accountable in the quarter century since the ANC ended white-only rule and took power.

That virtue of openness, nonetheless, may now pay off. The election of a Parliament on May 8 was a victory for the incumbent president, Cyril Ramaphosa, whose popularity is largely due to his anti-corruption image. After helping the ANC in its electoral win, he promised to finally purge it of “bad and deviant tendencies,” or powerful factions that have contributed to one of the world’s highest rates of unemployment.

“We are going to end corruption whether [ANC leaders] like it or not,” he said, with a hint of the battle to come within the party in choosing a new Cabinet.

Mr. Ramaphosa concedes he knows of no other ruling party in the world that is so honest about its corruption. Indeed, most parties running in the election had manifestos that included vows to set a moral course for the most developed economy in sub-Saharan Africa. The Cope party, an ANC breakaway group, even promised to have every South African commit to personal integrity.

The ANC’s victory margin of 57% – down from 62% in 2014 – revealed a mixed signal from voters. They backed Ramaphosa in his cleansing efforts but also suggested this may be the last time they will back the party since the end of apartheid in 1994.

“The people have told us what kind of an ANC they want: an ANC with leaders and civil servants who work to serve the people not to line their own pockets with taxpayers’ money,” the president said in his victory speech.

Youth voters in particular are more concerned about corruption and the lack of jobs than they are about the ANC’s long-past identity as a liberation movement. In the two years since Mr. Ramaphosa became president, they have watched one scandal after another being exposed, often on live TV. They have also seen ANC figures thwart prosecutors and investigators trying to end the plundering of state resources.

After years of focusing a spotlight on corruption, South Africa may have decided to extract it by the roots. In the mid-1990s, the country was rated among the least corrupt in Africa. Now it may be the most honest about its corruption. That is a big step toward returning to the promises of equality and justice made by the late ANC leader, Nelson Mandela.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Love that keeps us safe

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Today’s contributor shares a life-changing experience that showed her how God’s powerful love brings peace and protection.

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Love that keeps us safe

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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It was 2:30 a.m. when I was abruptly awakened by a loud buzzing. I staggered out of bed half asleep and, without thinking, pushed the button that unlocked the front door of the apartment building. Because of the high crime rate in the part of the city where I lived, the policy was not to let anyone unknown to us into the building at night. Yet, I suddenly realized, I had done just that.

I stood in the darkened hallway of my apartment, where I lived alone, now fully awake. I watched as the large figure of a man loomed up outside my opaque glass door. The light was on in the hallway outside my apartment, and the individual standing there was clearly visible. There was only a flimsy door between us. Panic started to overtake me.

But a saving thought came to me. I had recently been learning about the power of prayer by reading Mary Baker Eddy’s book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” In it, I’d found an idea that was especially compelling. It said, “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man …” (p. 340).

As I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, I thought about what that statement meant for me in that moment. My prayer went something like this: “Because God is my Father and is everyone’s Father, this man is my brother. And because we are brother and sister, he could not want to hurt me any more than I could want to hurt him.” After I spent a few moments praying with this idea, relief flooded over me as I felt its spiritual truth.

Then the man turned and walked away from my door. Soon I heard the front door of the building open and close. I ran to the window and saw him heading down the street. He had what looked like a metal pipe in his hand, which he tossed into the gutter as he walked off. I was so grateful that he left without doing any harm.

Had my prayers protected me? It certainly felt that way to me. What I can say for sure is that I experienced a moment where God’s actual presence was tangible. My prayers paved the way for the power of God’s love to come through and overcome the threat of violence. And because God is ever-present, divine Love itself, His disarming, protecting love is always with each of us, able to lift fear as well as defuse harmful intentions.

In the years since, this experience has profoundly changed how I pray about unsafe or violent situations in the world. What I glimpsed in that moment was a view of everyone’s real, spiritual nature as a child of God. This nature includes only good. And because we all have the same divine Parent, we are linked in brotherhood and sisterhood to everyone, everywhere. This means we’re all included in a universal family that transcends ethnic, tribal, religious, and racial discord – as well as whatever else would cause conflict or inharmony.

That’s not to say it isn’t important to be alert to our surroundings. But what if all of us also prayerfully recognized our unity with God, and therefore with one another, as the spiritual fact, as something that can be consistently demonstrated? We could begin to see our views of others transformed – to see those we know and even those we don’t know more in the light of divine Love.

The natural effect would be for each of us to feel more secure, more at peace, and even to see a lessening of violence in our communities. The promise of the healing power of this brotherly love emanating from infinite, divine Love, is here – and step by step, we can experience it.

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Viewfinder

Getting out the vote

Bullit Marquez/AP
Campaign materials litter the street as midterm elections draw to a close Monday in Manila, Philippines. The elections highlighted a showdown between President Rodrigo Duterte's allies, who aim to dominate the Senate, and an opposition fighting for checks and balances under a leader they regard as a looming dictator.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( May 14th, 2019 )


Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

Come back tomorrow. A sobering report from the United Nations indicates that 1 million species face extinction. We’ll look at whether such reports shape public perceptions in a way that actually prompts meaningful action.

Monitor Daily Podcast

May 13, 2019
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