One Journalist’s Take on the Opioid Crisis

by Greta Feldman

Image available here.

In July 2017, journalist Emily de la Bruyère traveled to two small towns in southwestern Ohio to report on the opioid epidemic and its impact on families and communities. Her five-part series produced intimate ethnographies, but she made clear what most already knew—this issue is not confined to any one place or demographic.[1] At the same time, however, it weighs especially heavy on impoverished and depressed communities. I recently spoke with Emily to better understand the national narrative and how local, state and federal governments are addressing the crisis.[2] She made several notable points which are important in considering the issue at large:

 

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What a Government Shutdown Means for Low-Income Children

To learn more about government benefits that protect children, check out From Welfare to Work: What the 1996 Welfare Reform Initiative has Meant for Children, by Erin Holland, available on Westlaw.

by Molly Thornton

In the weeks leading up to the government shutdown in January of 2018, President Trump issued a series of tweets in which he warned that a government shutdown would have a devastating effect on the nation’s military.[1] In reality, much of the Department of Defense would continue working during a shutdown, continuing “operations necessary for the safety of human life or the protection of property.”[2] In addition to exaggerating the effect of a government shutdown on the military, President Trump’s tweets completely ignored a group that is far more vulnerable to the effects of a shutdown than the military: low-income children.

When the federal government last shut down in 2013, the Republican-led House refused to pass an appropriations bill unless President Obama and the Democrat-led Senate would agree to a budget that eliminated funding for the Affordable Care Act.[3] Lasting a period of sixteen days, the shutdown had a significant negative impact on a number federally-funded programs on which low-income children and their families rely. One such example is the program Head Start,[4] which operates centers that prepare low-income children for success in Kindergarten.[5] Without funding to pay employees, Head Start centers across the country were forced to close for up to nine days, affecting over 6,300 low-income children and their families.[6]

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Snack or Starve: The Debate Surrounding Nestlé Selling Processed Food in Brazil

To learn more about food security among people living in poverty in rural countries, check out Poverty, Food Security, and the Right to Health, by Robert S. Lawrence, Iris Chan, and Emily Goodman, available on Westlaw and LexisNexis.

by Zachary Karlan

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Image available here

Nestlé is by far the largest food and beverage company in the world.[1] In September of 2017, the New York Times published “How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food,” in which it explains how Nestlé employs Brazilian citizens to deliver its products right to the front door of approximately 250,000 households.[2] Nestlé and other companies have aggressively adopted a presence in developing countries like Brazil to combat declining sales in more economically developed nations.[3] This door-to-door delivery model makes it simple for the poorest Brazilians to access food, especially those who do not live near a supermarket.[4] Although not currently in service, Nestlé used to have a floating barge that would deliver food to villages in the Amazon.[5] According to the company, Nestlé serves 700,000 “lower income consumers” who benefit from “products enriched with vitamin A, iron and zinc—the three major nutritional deficiencies in Brazil.”[6] On its face, Nestlé and other multinational companies who employ a similar model for global expansion appear to provide an objectively good service: Providing poor individuals with food that might not otherwise be accessible and at a price they can afford. However, studies show that Brazil is facing a serious obesity problem due to the abundance of processed foods from companies like Nestlé.[7] This should force us to question whether this program is truly helping the poor.

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Embracing the Ambiguity in Special Education Law

by Josette Barsano

Children living in poverty are more likely to be exposed to risk factors that hinder functional development and thus have a heightened need for special education services.[1] As a special education teacher in a low-income school district, one of the greatest challenges I faced was navigating the gray areas that govern the right of every student to receive, as the law stipulates, the “appropriate” educational and related services that are essential for them to progress academically.[2]  In my experience, the ambiguity surrounding what “appropriate” really means and how it should apply to each unique student was the source of heated debate. After sharing my concern of this opaqueness in the law with my Assistant Principal, she surprisingly advised that instead of bemoaning the lack of concrete definitions and processes, I should embrace the ambiguity. In her wisdom, she explained that there is much opportunity to effectuate meaningful change in the veil of vagueness. In contrast, stringent guidelines can lead to cookie-cutter outcomes that may not always serve the best interests of individual students with special needs. Time and again this approach led me to find consensus in situations where I thought it might not be possible, and it was instrumental in my success in collaborating with parents, teachers and administrators.

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Defend the Affordable Care Act, Lather, Rinse, Repeat

by Deborah Steinberg

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Photo by Deborah Steinberg

The Senate Gallery was packed for 1:00 a.m. on a bleak Thursday night, or more accurately Friday morning. It was a relief just to sit down, after we had been rallying outside the Capitol for six hours. Of course, these six hours were piled on top of night after night, week after week, of standing with disability rights groups, reproductive rights organizations, people fighting for transgender equality, and thousands of other individuals fighting to keep the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the current structure of Medicaid in place.[1] No one believed the 2010 law was perfect, but the ACA was the first successful effort to regulate the health insurance market and ensure that low- and middle-income families as well as people with pre-existing conditions could access affordable and comprehensive care.[2] So we had fought, seemingly nonstop, for months to prevent these consumer protections from being repealed, as the Republican Party had been promising to do for the seven years since Obamacare was signed into law. It had been a long summer.

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House v. Burwell and the Cost-Sharing Catastrophe

by Deborah Steinberg

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Photo of U.S. Capitol Building, available here

Before there was “Repeal and Replace,” there was House v. Burwell.[1] In 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives filed a lawsuit against the Democratic administration in the U.S. District Court for D.C. for allegedly failing to implement several provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).[2] A simple majority of Republican Representatives passed a House Resolution giving Speaker Boehner the authority to sue the Executive Branch to commence the litigation,[3] which is currently on hold at the appellate level.[4] Rejecting the majority of the allegations, the district court ruled in favor of the House of Representatives on its claim that the Obama administration was unconstitutionally funding the ACA because the House never appropriated certain payments.[5] The Court critically erred both in granting standing to the House and in denying the administration’s motion for summary judgment, and in so doing violated judicial precedent and the Constitution.[6] Consequently, the House Republicans could prevent lower and middle-income Americans from obtaining their entitlements provided under the ACA.[7] The lawsuit demonstrates the Republican effort to sabotage the ACA without the fear of political accountability while simultaneously creating additional barriers to the accessibility of affordable healthcare.

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How a Billionaire President Could Impact the Working Class

by Desiree Tims

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President Donald Trump Official Photo, available here

On November 8, 2016, the United States elected its forty-fifth President of the United States.[1] The historic presidential election of Republican Nominee, Donald J. Trump, who is a real-estate billionaire, sparked a national debate between those who support and oppose him due to his divisive campaign rhetoric and political inexperience.[2]

Polling data revealed that Trump received an overwhelming amount of support from working-class white voters.[3] Trump’s thematic “Make America Great Again” slogan was followed by his campaign promises to reinforce law and order, restrict immigration and reduce taxes.[4] Trump has many working-class supporters—some who yearn for the return of high-paying hourly factory jobs—as well as high-income supporters who deeply desire a change to the federal tax code.[5] Furthermore, Trump’s self-declaration as the “law and order candidate” has fueled the debate on criminal justice reform, racial disparities, and equitable application of law.[6]

President-elect Trump’s impact on working-class Americans remains to be seen, but here are three issues that could come to bear during his time in office:

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Forty Years of Restrictions on the Health-Care Rights of Low-Income Women

By Kate Vlach

September 30 marks the fortieth anniversary of the passage of the Hyde Amendment, a provision that has drawn a line between rich and poor when it comes to the constitutionally protected right to abortion.[1] Named after its main proponent, Rep. Henry Hyde, the Hyde Amendment bans federal Medicaid dollars from paying for abortion services in almost all cases.[2] The law’s practical effect means that women with financial resources have the right to choose when and whether to become parents, while women in poverty are left with a right in name only. If a low-income woman cannot afford the cost of an abortion procedure, she is denied a meaningful choice about whether to carry a pregnancy to term.

Medicaid is a publicly funded insurance program designed to meet the health needs of those who cannot afford medical care.[3] Yet, in Harris v. McRae, the Supreme Court held that Congress could exclude medically necessary abortion services from the Medicaid program under the Hyde Amendment.[4]According to the Court, this categorical denial of health services did not violate the Constitution because the freedom to choose does not come with “a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail [one]self of the full range of protected choices.”[5]  It reasoned that “although government may not place obstacles in the path of a woman’s exercise of her freedom of choice, it need not remove those not of its own creation. Indigency falls in the latter category.”[6]

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Combating Food Deserts: Targeting Food Insecurity through Community Development Initiatives

by Maxamillia Moroni

Residents of Ward Three in Washington, D.C., which covers the upper Northwest quadrant of the District, have the highest average household incomes and the lowest rates of obesity in the city. Ward Three is also home to eleven of the District’s full-service grocery stores, amounting to one store for every 7,343 people. Conversely, residents of Wards Seven and Eight, which span the Southeast quadrant of the city, have the lowest average household incomes and the highest rates of obesity. In these Wards, there is one grocery store for every 20,415 residents.[1]  High poverty rates and limited access to healthy, wholesome foods are indicative of the food insecurity facing residents of many major metropolitan areas. While food insecurity is a mere symptom of larger, systemic issues facing our populations, targeted solutions that address food deserts can provide the foundation for broader community development.

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Stigma Not Science: The Prosecution and Punishment of Drug Use During Pregnancy

by Rebecca Besaw, Staff Editor, GJPLP

Combining claims of fetal personhood and the war on drugs, prosecutors and judges have come together to deny pregnant women full protection under the law. Through severe and direct punishment for drug use during pregnancy, these state actors continue the tradition of the war on drugs by targeting low-income people and people of color for prosecution.[1] 
According to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a non-profit organization that specializes in this issue, at least 45 states have attempted to prosecute pregnant women based on a theory of harm to the fetus.[2]

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