Stories by Debra Rosenberg

  • A New Ambivalence

    Long a black-and-white issue, abortion is now seen more as an argument to be fostered, not settled.
  • Justice: Bench Player

    Walk down the hallway on the second floor of the Supreme Court, through the part of the massive marble building the public never gets to see, just past the chambers of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and you might think you've stumbled into a gallery. The walls of the long corridor are lined with artwork: there's a Georgia O'Keeffe print, a photograph of a Navajo woman (taken by Barry Goldwater) and a framed editorial cartoon of Lady Justice celebrating the first woman named to the Supreme Court. Turn the corner, and you'll find that woman, retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. "It wouldn't fit in my chambers," she says, pointing at the collection. When she left the court last January, she had to turn over her spacious digs to her replacement, Justice Samuel Alito. But a year later, nestled in a cozy corner office, O'Connor is still hard at work.After her surprise announcement in July 2005 that she was leaving the court, O'Connor seemed likely to follow most of her former colleagues...
  • First Comes Junior In a Baby Carriage

    Tara Rhodes always assumed her life would unfold in the usual order--she'd date her boyfriend, they'd get married and then have a kid or two. But then Rhodes, a legal secretary in Philadelphia, learned she was pregnant. She delivered a son, Jalen, five years ago. Though Rhodes's relationship never blossomed into marriage, her boyfriend stuck around--at first. But the couple split up when Jalen was 3. Rhodes, now 35, has no regrets about being a single mom. "A lot of people get married just to say they're married. But they're really unhappy," she says. Still, Rhodes hasn't given up on the idea of marital bliss. "Eventually," Rhodes says, "I would want to do it the right way."More American women than ever are putting motherhood before matrimony. New data released by the Centers for Disease Control show that nearly four in 10 U.S. babies were born outside of marriage in 2005--a new high. These unwed moms aren't all teens--last year teen pregnancies fell to their lowest levels in 65...
  • Where Is the Roberts Court on Race?

    The Roberts Court Tackles RaceCrystal Meredith had a simple wish: she wanted her son, Joshua, to attend an elementary school near their home in Louisville, Ky. But when Meredith went to enroll him in kindergarten in 2002, she bumped up against the schools’ voluntary integration policy. Designed to maintain racial balance in the once-segregated Louisville schools, the plan lets parents choose among schools in various clusters across the city. But the institutions all strive to keep the number of African-American students somewhere between 15 and 50 percent of the school population. If the number drops too low or grows too high, students of any race can be shunted to other schools.When Meredith, who is white, tried to sign up Josh, he was assigned to an elementary school that required a long bus ride across town. “The bus didn’t come anywhere near our house, so I had to drive him,” Meredith tells NEWSWEEK. A single mom, she had to cut back her hours at work so she could serve as...
  • The Military: A Renewed War Over 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

    With the democrats in control of Congress, some activists are hoping they'll add a controversial issue to their to-do list: revisiting the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military. Gay servicemembers have sought a policy change for years. Now, says Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, gay vets hope they might make some progress at a time when the military can't afford to turn away the willing and able. Last year the Pentagon discharged 742 service members for homosexuality, according to SLDN.But making a change won't be easy: gay-rights advocates have seen a troubling signal from the Pentagon. Massachusetts Rep. Martin Meehan and the American Psychiatric Association complained last June when they learned the military's disability policy classified homosexuality as a mental disorder--something the APA stopped doing in 1973. Then the Pentagon quietly reclassified it in July. Last week Meehan and the APA complained once more: homosexuality...
  • I Don't Have Any More Political Capital, And I Intend To Spend It

    President George W. Bush might have taken a "thumping" in the election last week, but that hasn't exactly made him humble when it comes to presidential appointments. First he renominated a handful of controversial judicial nominees who couldn't even get confirmed when the Senate was in GOP hands. Then he made a controversial appointment that doesn't require congressional approval: Today, the administration named Dr. Eric Keroack deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. Though it's not a high profile job, the post oversees the nation's family planning program, making sure low-income women get access to birth control. That might be an odd fit for Keroack. He is medical director of five Boston-area "crisis pregnancy centers" that use ultrasounds to convince women not to have abortions. The centers, called A Woman's Concern, also emphasize abstinence and are participating in a cam...
  • Santorum Might Have Won If He'd Just Let Himself Go Gray

    Democrats weren't the only big winners in last week's election. Abortion "grays" made gains too. "Grays" are what the Democratic think tank Third Way calls the mushy middle of the electorate when it comes to the thorny issue of abortion. Grays, who make up the majority of voters, think the procedure should be mostly legal or mostly illegal. (If you're not a "gray," according to Third Way, you're a "polar" who thinks abortion should always be legal or always be illegal.) Rachel Laser, a Third Way senior policy advisor, says that pro-life Democrats like Bob Casey--who unseated Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum--captured the gray vote and managed to neutralize a wedge issue that's hurt Democrats in the past....
  • Church Meets State

    The left often complains that evangelicals have too much influence in American life. But evangelicals themselves grumble that the politicians they help elect leave much of their agenda undone. So what impact has the religious right actually had on public policy? An overview:
  • Drama in the Court

    Even on one of the busiest news days in years—election returns trickling in, the secretary of Defense ousted, the president admitting to an electoral “thumping”—the Supreme Court delivered its own drama with today’s arguments over the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. In two cases, Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood , the government argued that Congress has the right to ban what is sees as a barbaric medical procedure. “This is not about fetal demise in utero,” said U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement in summing up his points. “This is about something far closer to infanticide.” The pro-choice lawyers arguing on behalf of abortion providers saw it differently. Priscilla Smith and Eve Gartner argued that Congress had drawn “blatantly false” conclusions in drafting the law. If the high court allows the law to stand, warned Gartner, “it would set the stage for continued legislative efforts [against abortion] … until there is nothing left.”And then there were...
  • Happy, But Not Satisfied

    Will last week’s New Jersey Supreme Court decision on gay marriage have an impact on next week’s election? The ruling opened the door to make the state the second in the nation—after Massachusetts—to allow gay marriage by finding that the legislature must offer same-sex couples some form of marriage or civil union.Gay marriage was one of the hot-button issues in 2004, but Evan Wolfson, executive director of the gay-rights group Freedom to Marry and author of “Why Marriage Matters” (Simon & Schuster, 2004) doesn’t believe it’s likely to resonate at the polls on Nov. 7. He spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Debra Rosenberg about the court decision, the upcoming vote and the struggle over gay marriage. Excerpts:What do you make of the New Jersey decision?I think it’s a very powerful decision that illustrates the difference between happy and satisfied. I’m happy to see a unanimous high court ruling that gay couples must be treated fairly. But I’m not satisfied because the high court opened the...
  • Breaking The Faith

    It was just one more thing the White House didn't need weeks before a midterm election: a tell-all book dissing the administration's dealings with social conservatives. Due out Oct. 16, "Tempting Faith," by former Bush aide David Kuo, caused a stir when MSNBC began broadcasting excerpts from an early copy last week. The book faults Bush for failing to deliver on his promises for the faith-based program and depicts a White House that publicly embraced conservative religious leaders with "hugs and smiles" but privately mocked them as "nuts," "ridiculous" and "out of control." Kuo, who served as deputy director of the White House office on faith-based initiatives for two and a half years, also writes that Bush political director Ken Mehlman issued "marching orders" to use the faith-based initiative to rally conservative voters in battleground states.Though Bush aides have dismissed other critical books as biased or poorly sourced, Kuo had been a well-respected colleague. One senior...
  • Stem Cells: A Papal Study

    This week the Holy See will hold its first official international congress on stem-cell research, an indication the Vatican isn't shying away from the science or ethics of the controversial field. Sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, the meeting will focus on alternatives to embryonic- stem-cell research, including adult stem cells and umbilical-cord-blood cells. Two of the most vocal U.S. critics of embryonic research plan to speak --David Prentice of the Family Research Council and Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Conference organizer Dr. Gian Luigi Gigli insists opponents of church doctrine will get air time, too. "We know already there are others who will present the opposite point of view," he says.At the end of the congress, the group hopes to produce a formal resolution on the best course for future therapies. Participants will also get the ultimate perk: a private...
  • Embryonic War

    It was heralded as a scientific milestone. Published in an advance online version of the scientific journal Nature, it was touted on the front pages of newspapers across the country. For the first time, scientists said last week, they had derived human embryonic stem cells using a technique that does not harm the embryo--a biological feat intended to assuage religious conservatives and break the impasse over federal funding of new embryonic-stem-cell research. "Up until now, embryonic-stem-cell research has been synonymous with embryo destruction," said Dr. Robert Lanza, the study's lead author and vice president of research and scientific development at the biotech firm Advanced Cell Technology (ACT). "I think this changes that paradigm."But within days of publication, that wasn't so clear. A more careful examination of Lanza's work showed he'd only proposed a new method, but hadn't in fact proved it worked from start to finish. And, by relying on human embryos, he still couldn't...
  • A Hot Case

    If you thought only wonks in Birkenstocks cared about global warming, think again. Last week a coalition of green activists, states and cities, religious groups, energy companies and even a ski resort filed briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency should regulate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. The EPA disagrees, arguing that when Congress passed the Clean Air Act, lawmakers never envisioned a massive greenhouse-gas control program. The court is expected to hear arguments in the case, Massachusetts v. EPA , this December. David Bookbinder, senior attorney for the Sierra Club, spoke about the case with NEWSWEEK's Debra Rosenberg. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: This has been called one of the most important environmental cases ever to come before the U.S. Supreme Court. What's at stake?David Bookbinder: What's at stake is whether or not the federal government has the authority to deal with climate change. Given that climate change is the most...
  • The Wedding March

    For Seattle-area pastor and gay-marriage opponent Joseph Fuiten, there was little time to savor the good news. Within hours after the Washington Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, to uphold the state's ban on same-sex marriage, Fuiten--who leads a 2,000-member congregation--was drafting a missive about the ruling to send to 30,000 conservative Christian voters. His goal was not to cheer the victory but rather to punish the justices who didn't join the winning side. Two of them are up for re-election this fall. "They've developed themselves a little track record on family issues," Fuiten says of the dissenting justices. "We need to give them the heave-ho."Not long ago, Fuiten imagined he'd be in a far different position. The left-leaning Washington Supreme Court had been widely expected to legalize same-sex marriage. Gay-rights advocates hoped a win would shift the debate in their favor, proving to the nation that gay marriage could exist outside staunchly liberal Massachusetts. Privately,...
  • A New Contract?

    His e-mail newsletter reaches more than 200,000 subscribers—and another 1,000 sign up every week. His 90-second radio commentary hits the airwaves on 350 radio stations and is one of the most downloaded political podcasts on iTunes. This month he's releasing a new edition of his best-selling book "Winning the Future" with added chapters on red-meat issues like activist judges and immigration reform. And his busy travel schedule includes a stop to see the "piggies" at the Iowa State Fair this summer. Is Newt Gingrich gearing up for an '08 presidential bid? He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Debra Rosenberg about the current political situation and his future plans. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: In your book, you talk about tough love for the Republican Party and say that it's time for "an intervention." What do you recommend?Newt Gingrich: I start from the premise that we have to be prepared to face the things that aren't working and to fix them. We have to understand that the country doesn't...
  • Roberts’s Rule

    The final gavel has landed, the last oyez-oyez sounded for the summer. So how did the new Roberts Supreme Court stack up? Despite this week’s contentious decisions on Texas redistricting plans and the legal rights of enemy combatants at Guantánamo, the court struck a more harmonious note overall. Under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts, the court handed down unanimous decisions in 37 of its 82 cases and agreed on the outcome in another nine, according to an analysis by Thomas Goldstein, who heads the Supreme Court practice at the Washington law firm of Akin, Gump. “There’s a combination of a new chief justice bringing people together and also the court deciding to duck hard questions while the court is in transition,” says Goldstein.In one instance, court watchers expected a firestorm over a New Hampshire abortion case heard last fall. Instead, the court decided it unanimously on the narrowest of grounds. This term there were also fewer than average 5-4 splits. “We saw...
  • Politics of the Altar

    Back in 2004, suburban Seattle pastor Alec Row-lands watched with dismay as gay couples in Massachusetts flocked to courthouses and churches, exchanged vows and walked away legally wed. Now he worries a similar scenario could unfold in his own backyard. Last year, the Washington State Supreme Court heard arguments in two gay-marriage cases of its own; a decision is expected soon. In Massachusetts, an obscure law allows only state residents to wed. But Washington has no residency requirements. So if the justices approve gay marriage--as many on both sides of the issue predict--courthouse doors would swing open to gay couples across the nation. "We will become the Las Vegas for same-sex marriage," frets Rowlands.Just two years ago, gay-marriage opponents like Rowlands were everywhere. Thirteen states passed constitutional amendments barring same-sex unions and, in Ohio, the marriage ban was widely credited with boosting turnout and propelling George W. Bush to a second term. But after...
  • A Supreme Bank Shot

    During his often mind-numbing confirmation hearings, a polished John Roberts delivered a virtual seminar on constitutional law while managing to skirt most of his own views. Senate Democrats had expected him to stonewall, but Roberts did reveal a few unexpected clues last week. He does, he said, think there is a right to privacy in the Constitution. And he allowed that some of the founding document's wording could be open to modern interpretation. Even to many liberal ears, that didn't sound exactly like a justice in the mold of originalists Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Roberts himself seemed to make that case when he declared, "I am not an ideologue."While Democrats openly wished for a better glimpse of the man who would wear the black robe, Roberts's affability and intellect left them in a quandary. Even a reliable partisan like Sen. Charles Schumer deemed Roberts "the most brilliant person who ever came before us." At least half of the eight committee Democrats claimed to...
  • Supremes: Roberts--And Then The Real Battle

    The confirmation battle over Judge John Roberts is about to take center stage. George W. Bush quickly nominated Roberts to serve as chief justice--a move the president had considered all along, according to one adviser close to the process who refused to be quoted because of the sensitivity of the deliberations. Roberts could face some tougher questioning as chief, but barring bombshells, the hearings could turn out to be a drama fit only for C-Span junkies.Far more compelling is the battle among conservatives over who'll fill Sandra Day O'Connor's spot. In a new NEWSWEEK Poll, 66 percent of those surveyed said Bush should strongly consider choosing a woman; 60 percent suggested he choose a black or Hispanic. Bush himself teasingly stirred up speculation last week by singling out his friend, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, as a contender. Last spring, after Gonzales also surfaced on the White House shortlist, social conservatives launched a lobbying campaign against him....
  • John G. Roberts: What Answers Is He Going To Give

    In 39 arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, John G. Roberts earned a reputation as an unflappable advocate for his clients. But this week, when Roberts testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in his own bid to join the high court, he'll face a different challenge. Instead of sparring with nine erudite justices interested in ferreting out fine points of the law, Roberts will confront 18 senators eager to score political points and rack up minutes on the cable news channels. While the senators will try to press Roberts for specifics on controversial topics like civil rights, abortion and congressional authority, Roberts will attempt to keep his answers as general as possible without seeming to stonewall. "There's going to be a pretty restrictive line that he's not going to cross, and some senators aren't going to be happy about it," says one person close to Roberts's confirmation team who did not want to be quoted talking about the secretive preparation process.Roberts has...
  • Plan B: Elusive Solution

    When the Food and Drug Administration announced Aug. 26 it was again delaying a decision on whether to make Plan B--the morning-after pill--available over the counter for women 17 and older, Commissioner Lester Crawford cited the problem of limiting distribution to younger teens. Now there's a growing chorus of critics questioning the agency's justification for the delay. Dr. Susan Wood, who resigned from the FDA last week in protest, tells NEWSWEEK, "It's just not convincing to me that we could not come up with a solution" to allow Plan B to be sold over the counter. Kirsten Moore of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project believes that the FDA's latest move reflects a concern about teen promiscuity, not safety. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray, with 11 colleagues, are now calling for the Government Accountability Office to release the findings of its investigation into the delay. "I'm irate," says Murray. An FDA spokesman says concern about young girls' access to the...
  • Bush's Choice

    The choice was contentious even before it was official. The name of John G. Roberts--President George W. Bush's pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor--leaked to the press about an hour before the judge appeared at Bush's side in the East Room of the White House last night. And it wasn't long before dueling e-mails from interest groups began outlining the confirmation battle to come. In their "preax"--reactions in advance--conservatives hailed Roberts as an excellent candidate. "He is brilliant, thoughtful and faithful to the law," former Bush deputy assistant attorney general Shannen Coffin said in an e-mail sent more than an hour before the announcement. Meanwhile, liberals expressed their early concerns. Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron said her coalition could not support Roberts's nomination because too little was known about the appeals court judge. "While we will be conducting a complete analysis of his record on and off the bench, an...
  • End of Term

    It was supposed to be a morning of high drama at the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices handed down the six remaining cases of the term on Monday--including several controversial decisions on the Ten Commandments and Internet file-sharing. But despite widespread speculation that ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist might use the moment to announce his retirement, the nine justices filed out of the courtroom without dropping the slightest hint of their future plans.That doesn't necessarily mean that no one's leaving the court, however. In recent history, only one justice has indicated his retirement in the courtroom--Rehnquist announced the departure of Lewis Powell from the bench in 1987. (Powell then held a noon press conference.) Others have made the news known through a discreet letter to the White House or statement released by the press office--messages that could certainly be delivered later this week or even later in the summer. (In 1990, William Brennan released news of his...
  • A BETTER SAFETY NET

    First researchers disclosed fears that popular antidepressants might increase the risk of teen suicide. Then studies linked widely prescribed arthritis painkillers like Vioxx and Celebrex to heart attacks and strokes. And government officials warned that two eczema creams used by 15 million Americans could boost the risk of certain cancers. Just open the newspaper and odds are good you'll be confronted with yet another safety scare over a prescription drug--perhaps even one in your medicine cabinet. On its Web site, the watchdog group Public Citizen now lists nearly 200 government-approved drugs that its experts believe are too dangerous to use. In dramatic testimony before Congress last fall, whistle-blower Dr. David Graham, a reviewer in the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Drug Safety, said Americans are "virtually defenseless" against unsafe drugs, and called regulators "incapable of protecting America against another Vioxx."That steady drumbeat of bad news has left...

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