Month: July 2013

Of course we want to close all abortion clinics

Prochoice advocates fear that the wave of abortion restrictions sweeping through state legislatures are part of a broader strategy to completely abolish a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy – and they’re right. The restrictions vary from state to state. North Dakota’s governor recently signed a law that could stop an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected. A federal judge temporarily blocked it, saying the measure was “clearly unconstitutional.” Texas just finished a much publicized debate about its new law that includes banning abortions after 20-weeks. Its opponents are readying legal challenges now. In Alabama, we have a new law that requires abortion doctors to have agreements with nearby hospitals to admit their patients if something goes wrong during an abortion. It’s called having admitting privileges, but it appears our state’s hospitals don’t want anything to do with abortions or the doctors performing them. “For a variety of reasons that differ depending on the hospital, they (the abortion doctors) cannot obtain local privileges,” reads the complaint filed in federal court in July by Planned Parenthood Southeast, which runs abortions clinics in Birmingham and Mobile, and Reproductive Health Services, which runs an abortion clinic in Montgomery. “The purpose and effect of this requirement, which is wholly unnecessary and unreasonable, is to impose a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking abortion prior to viability, in violation of their constitutional right to privacy.” So, without nearby hospitals allowing admitting privileges, the abortion doctors couldn’t perform the procedures, clinics would lose…

Drill, ‘Bama, Drill!

The nationwide oil and natural gas boom you’ve been reading about may be coming – in a small yet profitable way – to the Deep South, and Alabama should ready itself for the potential opportunities that may bubble up. Alabama produced nearly 10,000 barrels of crude oil last year – an increase of more than a third since 2010 – sharply reversing a two decade decline in production, according to the Institute for Energy Research. The growth was made possible by oil companies applying new technology to old wells, many of which are located in the Black Warrior Basin in the northwestern quadrant of the state. Alabama was ranked 14th among the states in oil production last April by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Not too shabby – and there’s room to grow. In 2011, the EIA also ranked Alabama 14th in natural gas production. Much of that comes from the offshore wells dotting the horizon off the coasts of Mobile and Baldwin Counties, but the state has many onshore wells, too, and our future may be in something else entirely: shale formations. The natural gas boom experienced in northern states comes from deposits trapped in rock formations known as shale. It wasn’t cost effective to extract this gas a decade ago, but new technologies – and rising prices – have changed everything. Through a process called hydraulic fracking water is pumped into the shale and the gas is released, collected and separated. Environmentalists oppose the practice, but it…

Why conservatives need a (partially) viable Democratic Party

Liberals seeking a future in Alabama politics don’t have many options nowadays, but that’s not all good news for conservatives. If the state’s Republican Party is the only game in town, it’s bound to attract all sorts of players – including liberals. Liberals seeking elected office here are at a disadvantage, with 50.6-percent of Alabamians calling themselves conservatives and only 14.6-percent liberals, according to a Gallup survey released last February. That’s a 36-point spread in favor of conservative candidates. Those odds probably discourage many politicians from running as Democrats – even as conservative ones. On another level, liberals who want to work in politics as aides, advisors or campaign consultants have even fewer options. Thirty-years ago young liberals stood a better chance than young conservatives of landing politically-appointed jobs in Montgomery or with the state’s Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. There were also many well-funded and abundantly staffed liberal-leaning advocacy groups, lobbying shops and consulting firms looking for talent. These jobs are important because they help identify, train and strengthen a party’s bench of future leaders. Now there’s not a single Democrat in statewide office, their once supermajorities at the State House are gone and Republicans comprise eight of Alabama’s nine member Congressional delegation. There’s even talk that the Democrats may fail to run credible candidates for statewide offices next year. Meanwhile, the state’s Democratic Party establishment is a house divided after its leaders clashed about control and budget issues, creating competing organizations in the aftermath. Now the once dominant…

An inconvenient skepticism of global warming survives

Global warming skeptics are often met with baffled looks similar to Al Roker’s expression when he learned on the Today Show that a third of Americans believe it’s a hoax. “Wow,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. Less jovial climate change activists try to silence the opposition altogether, as Al Gore does by telling journalists to stop quoting skeptics – implying they’re too crazy to warrant equal space. Some assume global warming skeptics are uneducated, stupid or maybe even villainous. They coined the label “global warming denier” to associate skeptics with holocaust deniers. It’s not a convenient opinion to hold, even in conservative Alabama. In Montgomery, Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh’s opposition to global warming-inspired regulation is said to place her on the wrong side of history with George Wallace and the segregationists. Elsewhere in the state, respected climate experts John Christy and Roy Spencer, both of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, are derided as being members of a “Flat-Earth Society” because they question significant parts of the theory. Despite the heated rhetoric, many global warming believers are probably more like Roker: surprised and genuinely curious why people remain skeptical in the face of near expert consensus. Well, here are my three reasons: First, I don’t blindly trust the experts on such important issues. My critical-thinking Jesuit professors at Spring Hill College in Mobile taught me otherwise. “Ask questions,” they’d say. “And think for yourself.” It’s about the degree of consequences. I don’t know much about engines,…

Pastors should declare independence from government marriage

Last week’s Supreme Court rulings in favor of gay marriage brought a conflict of conviction to the hearts of many conservatives. Most of us are instinctively sympathetic to causes involving liberty; we like it when government gets out of people’s lives. But we’re also mindful of traditions, and most conservatives believe that marriage between one man and one woman is the social foundation and economic engine of civilization. Many of our faiths teach against gay marriage, too, and some of us agree as a matter of conscience. We shudder to stand against a particular freedom, but for many the issue isn’t chiefly about gay couples marrying. It’s about government eroding marriage, and not just by redefining its meaning. Government’s permissive divorce laws and incentives for poor mothers to remain unmarried, for instance, have wrecked families. Sure, marriage wasn’t redefined last week, but it’s just a matter of time. Until then, what should be the strategy for those who love liberty but support traditional marriage? Many say: Pass legislation, hold referendums and file appeals. Maybe so, but perhaps there’s another way. Perhaps we should just walk away from the issue altogether. Let’s leave the government to its definitions, and choose instead to focus on what truly defines and binds our marriages — our faith. Let’s establish a clear distinction between traditional and government marriages. How do we do this? To begin with, like minded pastors could stop signing state marriage licenses. This is where the church and state intersect on the…