Tapped: The Prospect Group Blog

Jeff Sessions Does Not Understand Domestic Violence

As the Trump administration half-heartedly attempts to clean up the mess that its family separation policy created, another regressive policy that alters who can seek asylum in the United States is now in effect.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a directive in mid-June that severely restricts the ability of asylum seekers to gain entry into the United States by citing fears of domestic or gang violence. Sessions reconsidered an already-approved asylum petition of a domestic violence survivor, known in the case as “A-B-” from El Salvador. He also overruled a 2014 precedent that recognized domestic violence as a basis for asylum, reigniting the debate on what constitutes a need for refuge.

The number of people granted asylum is actually quite small: In 2016, for every asylum applicant who succeeded, more than ten others failed. Which makes the June 11 decision even more stunning: Sessions fails to understand intimate partner violence, mislabeling it as “private” matter between a husband and wife that is limited to the domestic sphere.

Because of their “pre-existing personal relationship,” Sessions concludes that domestic violence survivors do not face persecution due to their membership in a “particular social group,” which is required to gain asylum in the United States.

Sessions ignores a simple fact: El Salvador is one of the deadliest places in the world to be a woman. It’s also been called the “murder capital of the world”: A recent study found a woman is killed there every 16 hours.

Violence in the small Central American country, particularly violence perpetrated against women, is pervasive and infects the country’s entire ecosystem. Government corruption is widespread; doctors are intimidated by the prospect of prison time from helping women who were raped obtain abortions (which are illegal in all circumstances); intimate partner violence occurs daily; and gangs commit murder and sexual violence with almost complete impunity.

And yet, the Trump administration maintains that people fleeing this violence are not refugees. Doctors Without Borders called this policy a death sentence for any woman attempting to escape her abuser.

The assumption that toughening up border enforcement will deter migrants from attempting to cross it is deeply flawed. Stricter border laws push people fleeing violence to pay higher prices to use traffickers instead, which reinforces the vicious cycle of organized crime.

The brutality that A-B- faced did not occur in a vacuum. This “private violence” is not private at all; it’s actually a public health crisis. Domestic violence affects nearly a third of women worldwide. As many as 38 percent of murders of women in the world are committed by a male intimate partner.

The World Health Organization defines intimate partner violence as “behavior by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse, and controlling behaviors.” These behaviors can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and suicide attempts. Violence can also lead to unintended physical outcomes, including pregnancies, gynecological problems, induced abortions, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Children growing up in such situations are more likely to perpetrate or experience violence later in life. There are considerable social and economic costs as well: Women facing violence can experience social isolation, loss of wages from an inability to work, lack of participation in their community, and an inability to care for themselves and their children.

But the attorney general, whose history of racist remarks led to the loss of a federal judgeship in 1986, likely failed to take such factors into consideration in his shameful ruling.

An immigration judge would usually handle an asylum case. If a woman loses her case, the matter can go before the federal Board of Immigration Appeals before being heard in federal circuit court. But in an effort to severely limit the number of people granted asylum, Sessions exploited a rarely used provision allowing him to personally override this process in the A-B- case.  

In 2016, the Board of Immigration Appeals found that A-B- did indeed qualify for asylum because she was part of a “particular social group” of women in El Salvador who are unable to leave violent marriages due the Salvadoran government’s failure to protect them.

Sessions has sent a clear message to the Central American women forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives: No matter how much abuse you’ve suffered, American immigration officials would prefer to send you back to your country to meet an almost certain death.

Maryland Democrats Still Split Over Gerrymandering after Supreme Court Punts

While the Texas gerrymandering decision commanded the country’s attention, the Supreme Court also dodged partisan gerrymandering questions in the Maryland case, Benisek v. Lamone. But Maryland’s anti-gerrymandering advocates weren’t surprised by the decision to send Benisek back to a lower court. Instead, voting rights advocates stayed focused on their ongoing efforts  to end the democracy-eroding practice by the 2021 redistricting cycle.

Benisek is unusual. In many of the cases that come before the courts, Republicans are the gerrymandering culprits. But Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District was rigged to be blue. Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley appointed the members of the redistricting committee and oversaw the 2011 redistricting effort. So in 2012, even though nearly 40 percent of the state’s registered voters are Republicans, seven out of eight seats in the House were filled by Democrats. (O’Malley was later deposed by attorneys in the Benisek case over his actions.)

But Republicans aren’t the only group contesting Democratic gerrymanders. Democrats have also taken them on. A bipartisan group of Maryland voters including Democrat Steven Shapiro, an engineer who moved into law, also sought relief from the high court over the issues presented by redistricting in the Sixth Congressional District (The high court ruled on narrower issues in a 2015 decision, Shapiro v. McManus, and took up the weightier constitutional matters in Benisek.)

These developments leave Maryland Democrats divided between those politicians who want to maintain the status quo, because gerrymandering keeps their seats safe, and others who want a system that does not skew district lines to favor one party over another.

“The majority party isn’t interested in losing control,” Ashley Oleson, administrative director of League of Women Voters of Maryland tells the Prospect. Similarly, Damon Effingham, acting director of Common Cause Maryland, explains that Maryland Democratic leaders defensively claim that they are “just evening the score a little bit”, as one of the few blue states that gerrymanders in a sea of red states that do. Effingham also explained that some legislators defend gerrymandering as “a point of leverage”, in that maybe by having blue gerrymandered state, it can be used to help “mutually disarm” all the red gerrymandered states. 

However, both Effingham and Oleson doubt that any significant changes will occur in time for the midterms. Their next big hurdle is the 2021 congressional redistricting process that will occur after the 2020 census.

Trump Administration Moves Forward on VA Privatization

Under the guise of reducing veteran suicides, the Trump administration has released a plan that could radically reshape veteran care in the United States. The stated goal is to expand mental health services for newly transitioned veterans, the proposal, which administration officials approved on May 31, contains provisions that could starve the Veterans Health Administration of needed resources, add impossible burdens to already struggling VHA staff, and privatize veteran mental health care by outsourcing it to non-VA providers. As studies have consistently shown, such private-sector providers are ill equipped to address veterans’ complex needs. 

Released on May 3, the Joint Action Plan represents an outline of how the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Homeland Security propose to implement an executive order President Donald J. Trump signed in January. The order called for providing all service-members transitioning out of the military—about 245,000 a year—with 12 months of free mental health care. The impetus behind the plan—preventing veteran suicides—and a number of things in it are praiseworthy, even essential. But according to a careful analysis by the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute, the plan could actually jeopardize the stellar suicide prevention and mental health programs that the VA has long pioneered.

The action plan stipulates that transitioning service-members will have access to 12 months of mental health benefits. Service-members must also be informed that they don’t have to seek help from the VHA and are free to go to private-sector mental health providers, if they are, for any reason, not interested in VHA care. The plan calls for some VHA oversight of these private-sector providers, but provides no funding for staff needed to monitor their care. 

The danger is that VHA veterans could be cared for by providers who may not understand their specific problems or provide evidence-based treatment for them. As studies have documented, private-sector care falls well short of the public sector in treating veterans. Unlike the care delivered at the VHA, which is well-coordinated, veteran care in the private sector would be uncoordinated and their providers largely unaccountable. Even worse, the funds to pay for expensive care in the private sector will come directly from the VHA budget. Without new congressionally approved allocations, the VHA will be forced to cannibalize existing programs to pay for the mandates.

Such threats come at a time when the VA system is already plagued by underfunding and understaffing. On June 14, 2018, the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report that once again highlights the problems created by Congress’s long-standing failure to fully fund and staff the Veterans Health Administration. Its detailed, facility-by-facility list of staff vacancies includes the mental health professionals needed to serve a growing number of veterans with serious mental health and substance abuse problems. (Seventy percent of facilities had shortages of psychiatrists and 40 percent of psychologists.) 

 The Joint Action Plan does not require that the Defense Department or others provide transitioning service-members with information about the high quality of programs the VHA has developed to deal with complex mental health problems. This kind of education is essential because any current or future problems the VHA faces provide fodder for right-wing critics—like Fox and Friends—as they churn out a steady stream of anti-VHA stories designed to convince veterans that the VHA can never serve their needs. Neither conservative nor liberal media do much reporting on the many innovations the VHA has pioneered in the delivery of integrated primary care, mental health care, or suicide prevention. Yet as studies have shown, the VHA has a far better track record on these issues than the private sector. 

The Joint Action Plan doesn’t even call for measuring whether newly discharged service-members receive such information. It does, however, recommend measuring how quickly department personnel are trained on the referral process to community-based support resources.

The plan’s defects don’t end there. Without offering additional funding, the plan requires the VA to train outreach workers and peer support staff, who then must repeatedly contact all 245,000 transitioning veterans. Staff will also have to provide care for an estimated 32,000 veterans each year. Finally, the VA will have to evaluate the success of all these and other programs.

Yet the plan does not suggest conducting an assessment of how many new VHA staff would need to be added, and thus funded, to accommodate these new caregiving and outreach responsibilities. Because twice as many veterans receive mental health treatment compared with ten years ago, VA mental health staff are already overwhelmed by their high caseloads. A recent report on VA mental health care from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine said that the VHA’s mental health-care system could be a model for the nation but that it was plagued by shortages of staff and clinical and exam space, which had created high staff burnout and turnover. Trying to accommodate thousands of new patients will lead to increased burnout and delays, which, absent attention to increased staffing, will fuel demands to outsource more and more care.   

Because the Joint Action Plan claims that its provisions will advance the laudable mission of preventing veteran suicide, it may receive support from Congress and some Veterans Service Organizations. Like the recently passed VA Mission Act, the VA Accountability Act, and many other recent measures, it is rife with intended consequences. As advocated by representatives of the Concerned Veterans for America—a Koch brothers’-backed group whose representatives now advise the VA and White House—it is, in fact, just another step down the slippery slope of VHA privatization.    

Trump Launches Full-Scale Attack on Abortion Access

Once Donald Trump claimed he would keep abortion legal if he became president. “I am pro-choice in every respect,” the real-estate developer said in a 1999 NBC interview.

What a difference 20 years makes. With a willing Republican Congress, President Trump has moved to obliterate abortion access at every turn. Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a funding bill designed to block the District of Columbia from providing monies for abortion for low-income women (Congress has the final word on the District’s budget). 

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood plans to sue the federal Department of Health and Human Services over its regressive efforts to impose an abstinence-only-until-marriage agenda on the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP), an initiative originally designed to use science-backed approaches to prevent teen pregnancy. (Abstinence-only programs do not necessarily succeed in convincing young people not to have sex.)

And on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that “crisis pregnancy centers,” which aim to persuade women to parent or consider adoption, do not have to provide information about the availability of abortion services elsewhere.

Among the most far reaching of Trump’s anti-abortion moves is his attempt to implement a domestic version of a global gag rule that bans the use of U.S. foreign aid from abortion-related services. He reinstated and even expanded the Reagan-era policy on his first Monday in office.

With a little help from staunch religious conservatives, Trump is itching to cut Title X funding from clinics that provide abortions or refer patients to other places that offer the procedure. The American version would essentially block patients from receiving comprehensive health care by preventing providers from educating their patients about abortion options, making referrals, or providing abortion care. HHS has already moved to change how it awards family-planning grants based on this new anti-abortion strategy that groups like Planned Parenthood are fighting in federal court.

Title X enables low-income people to access affordable contraception and reproductive health care. More than four million Americans rely on services funded by Title X, which include wellness exams, life-saving cervical and breast cancer screenings, birth control, education about contraception, and STI and HIV/AIDS testing and treatment. About two-thirds of these people are at or below the poverty line. 

One service Title X does not fund? Abortion care. 

The ongoing debate over abortion means that many American women live in “abortion deserts”—areas that do not offer abortion care. Some people must travel more than 100 miles to reach an abortion facility. In a recent study conducted by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, 27 abortion deserts were identified, most of which are located in the South and Midwest. The state with the largest number of deserts was Texas, known for its breakfast burritos and the DIY abortion.

Indeed, as abortion clinics shut their doors at alarming rates, Texas women have been forced to take extreme measures to access abortion, like hopping the U.S.-Mexican border to buy an over-the-counter drug, that if taken correctly will induce a miscarriage. There is a cruel irony to the fact that women living in a country where abortion is technically legal but extremely hard to access must cross the border into another country where women are frequently prosecuted and convicted for having the procedure or even miscarrying.

Additionally, many women cannot afford to travel hundreds of miles or cross borders to have an abortion. Transportation access, especially when compounded by poverty, can be a barrier, and delays due to distance or lack of transportation can force women seeking abortions even later in their pregnancies.

That Title X money is already barred from funding abortion care is probably news to Trump, who continually strives to satisfy his core supporters. However, the goals of anti-abortion activists are much more insidious. With Justice Neil Gorsuch ensconced in his Supreme Court seat, the time is ripe for anti-abortion crusaders. By working to defund Planned Parenthood as well as forcing clinics to shut down, and setting up as “crisis pregnancy centers,” pro-life activists are harming the women they piously claim to protect. 

While the final form of this this American “gag rule” is not yet clear, it will without question have dire consequences. Lapses in funding will quickly translate into lapses in quality care, especially for low-income women. This means missing months of contraception, delaying cancer and STI screenings, and possibly outright denial of care.

Access to comprehensive reproductive health care is essential for women’s economic security. According to the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, the birth control pill is responsible for 31 percent of the narrowing of the gender wage gap in the 1990s. When women can plan their families and delay pregnancy, it is beneficial not only to their own health, but that of their families as well. Improved access to birth control is also directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality. 

As the politicization of women’s reproductive care continues unabated and abortion deserts expand, women will continue to suffer.

One in Nine Full-Time Workers Remain Mired in Poverty

On the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, the Economic Policy Institute has reflected on how the campaign called attention to the injustice of povertygovernment’s ability to fight it; and the importance of raising wages to mitigate poverty. The Poor People’s Campaign also called for a government commitment to full employment. The campaign understood that it is much easier to combat poverty when everyone who can and wants to work is able to find a job. 

This is true both because work provides a source of income and because, when jobs are plentiful, workers’ bargaining power is strengthened—making it easier for them to find higher-paying jobs or to negotiate wage increases at their current jobs. The potential to reduce poverty through work depends on the availability of jobs with adequate hours and decent wages.

Over the past 30 years, large shares of U.S. workers have had jobs that have paid wages so low that, even with full-time, year-round employment, their earnings would still fall below federal poverty guideline for their family size. Figure A, below, shows the share of workers overall, and the shares of men and women workers, who have been paid poverty-level wages since 1986—the first year for which Census microdata allow for this calculation. 

A poverty-level wage is an hourly wage that would leave a full-time, full-year worker below the federal poverty guideline for their family size if they are the sole earner in the family. In 1986, 17.3 percent of workers overall (more than one in six U.S. workers) were paid poverty wages, including nearly one in four (23.2 percent of) women workers. By 2017, the share of all workers earning poverty wages had fallen to 11.4 percent. This is a significant decline from the 1995 peak of 17.6 percent, yet it still means that more than one in nine workers are being paid too little to escape poverty for their family size.

Since 1986, the largest declines in the share of workers earning poverty wages have occurred in periods when the labor market has been relatively tight, with low unemployment and jobs available for those that can work—such as from 1998 to 2001, and, more recently, from 2015 to 2017. From 2015 to 2017, the U.S. also had uncharacteristically low inflation, which made it easier for even tepid nominal wage growth to result in higher inflation-adjusted wages and thus fewer workers earning poverty wages.

Much of the overall decline has also been driven by a decrease in the share of women earning poverty wages. As women workers have grown as a share of the workforce, the relatively large improvement in their poverty-wage rate has had a growing impact on the overall poverty-wage rate. Indeed, the share of men earning poverty wages has been relatively flat. As recently as 2014, the share of men earning poverty wages was as high as it was back in 1986.

Any agenda to fight poverty should include labor market policies targeting each of the three factors affecting families’ incomes: jobs, hours, and wages. Higher minimum wages would boost hourly pay, especially for workers in low-income families; fair workweek policies would help to increase and stabilize workers’ hours; and monetary policy that prioritizes full employment, combined with a program of public job creation that targets areas of persistent high unemployment, would make jobs available to many more people.

A Great Deal for Banks, Not So Much for American Jobs

On Thursday, a bill progressives had dubbed the “Bank Lobbyist Act” was signed into law by President Trump after passing the House 258–159 this week. The bill rolls back a number of Dodd-Frank regulations in order to aid a “suffering” banking sector—even though banks have reported record-high profits this year. And while the bill was on the floor in each house, Republican leaders refused to include amendments that would have limited banks’ offshoring of American jobs.

Since the GOP tax reform passed last December, many economists have warned that it will incentivize corporate offshoring—a threat that even the Congressional Budget Office was forced to acknowledge, as I reported in April. Banks are leading the charge to offshore jobs, particularly in their call centers, laying off workers at home in order to hire cheaper, exploitative labor in other countries. The regulatory rollback Republicans passed this week threatens to put this offshoring into overdrive and only continues to put big business before working- and middle-class Americans.

An amendment to the banking bill, proposed by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren and which ultimately failed, would have made banks that offshore American jobs ineligible for the deregulations. In the House, Democratic Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin put forth a similar amendment during debate, but Republican House leaders refused to allow the amendment to be considered.

“Republicans keep passing sweetheart legislation for banks while refusing to allow any debate or votes on provisions to slow down or prevent these banks from shipping more and more American jobs all around the world,” Shane Larson, legislative director for the Communication Workers of America, said in a statement.

A number of Democrats (many of whom have received donations from the banking industry) signed on to the bill, and Republicans hope that this legislation lays the groundwork for further bipartisan gutting of Dodd-Frank—likely without consideration of banks’ disappearing U.S. jobs.

SNAP Work Requirements in Farm Bill Would Increase Hunger, Not Employment

There has been shockingly little discussion about provisions in the House Farm Bill that would drastically alter the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, and cut or eliminate benefits for about two million people. The bill is set to be voted on today (unless the House Freedom Caucus stalls it to prioritize an immigration vote).

SNAP already has work requirements that largely affect adults without children, but Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee, without any Democratic support or input, have moved forward with a bill that contains harsh new requirements for families with children, requiring recipients to diligently document work hours—at least 20 hours per week—every month.

Republicans and Trump administration officials have pointed to two studies of similar reforms in Kansas and Maine as proof that such requirements are effective in helping people find work. But an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has found that those studies are misleading because they use incomplete or misleading data. For example, the studies only looked at work rates of adults after they had been kicked off the program for not meeting new work requirements, ignoring the fact that they had worked at comparable rates even before they were sanctioned off the program.

The House bill would “undermine almost two decades of progress in simplifying, streamlining, and modernizing SNAP so it’s easy for families to use,” said Dottie Rosenbaum, senior fellow at CBPP and author of a new report on the Farm Bill, in a call with reporters.

The bill would also reinstate a “benefits cliff,” where families could lose their SNAP benefits as soon as they report higher earnings, pushing economic security further out of reach. Another provision makes it mandatory for mothers on SNAP to pursue unpaid child care, which could pressure domestic abuse survivors to rely on their abusers or leave the program. And these requirements would significantly increase SNAP’s bureaucracy and make the program more expensive and harder to navigate.

A better way to help people find good work would be to create voluntary, intensive job training programs. But these programs are extremely expensive to operate, and the funds on offer in the Republican bill don’t amount to much—just about $360 per person, per year. A good job training program that builds skills and leads to solid employment costs between $7,000 and $14,000 per person, per year, according to Rosenbaum.  

At a May 8 panel on the Farm Bill at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, House Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Conaway claimed that he didn’t want to “force SNAP on anybody who doesn’t want to meet these requirements”—instead, it seems, he’d rather force people who need help off of it. 

James Comey Talks Trump, Rudy, and Hillary

As the White House continues to blast his very existence, former FBI director James Comey rides the wave atop The New York Times bestseller list. His book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, is a tell-not-as-much-you’d-really-like-to-know account of his law enforcement career and its abrupt denouement courtesy of the 45th president. 

Predictably, Comey did not offer up much of anything new (want more about Roger Stone and Wikileaks? Keep waiting) during his recent conversation with The Washington’s Post’s Carol Leonnig in front of a rapt audience of roughly 200 people at the newspaper’s downtown headquarters. But a former FBI director is hardly going to drop stunning revelations during a public event at one of the country’s top newspapers.

Yet simply observing one of the principal dramatis personae of the Trump Era was worth the price of admission (free). The smooth, controlled, lanky ex-G-man swerved around probing questions and doubled down on his damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t defense of his Hillary Clinton’s email server decision-making.

He did discuss how the bureau wrestled with the rogue president. Asked whether FBI and Justice Department officials could ever have educated Trump on government norms and traditions, Comey responded: Maybe, but likely not. “It’s possible we could have tried to offer more instruction,” said Comey. “But he’s utterly uninterested in you telling him things about how he should do his job.” 

As Americans know well by now, what animates Trump is loyalty uber alles. Of his infamous dinner with the allegiance-demanding president, Comey returned again to the issue of educating an unschooled president, emphasizing that Trump is more interested in “a personal, transactional loyalty” than understanding anything about norms of the relationship between of the president, the FBI, and the Justice Department.

Comey’s comments about Rudy Giuliani set the room set the room chuckling as he described how impressed he was as a young prosecutor working for Giuliani, then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

“I loved that my boss was on magazine covers, standing on courtroom steps with his hands on his hips,” Comey said. “It fired me up.” But there was a dark side to Giuliani’s confidence, too: He didn’t have much humility, Comey concluded. “It’s really important for a leader to have that balance.”

Comey saved some of his harshest commentary for Clinton’s email “excesses.” He wasn’t aware, Comey noted, that any of her aides had firmly counseled her against installing the ill-fated email server.

“We didn’t investigate her leadership style,” said Comey, “but [her style] at least raises the prospect that she created a culture around herself as a leader that people wouldn’t tell her when she is full of it; it’s really important as leader to do that.”

As for his take on Trump’s complicity in the swampy dealings consuming his presidency and the cavalcade of problematic associations, from Vladimir Putin to Stormy Daniels, Comey was pure prosecutor: “It’s always struck me as strange when someone always continually denies something—it makes me interested,” he said. “His continual denial of something that’s being investigated by some of the best people in the country is strange.”

The most disturbing aspect of this historical moment for the former FBI director is the erosion of country’s norms around lying. Unlike so many news reporters and pundits who skirt the issue, Comey went straight for the jugular: “The president of the United States lies constantly,” he said, and Americans have become “numb to it,” or worse, “imitate it.”

Students Emphasize Full Scope of Gun Violence in Latest Walkout

Whether the current push for stricter gun control will translate into tangible results at the polls remains an open question. But more than two months since the Parkland shooting, it’s clear that a large swath of America’s youth remains active, engaged, and eager to make their voices heard in November.

Last Friday, for the second time in as many months, teenagers around the country engaged in coordinated school walkouts as they renewed the call for Republicans in Congress to enact stricter gun control measures. The protest, which took place on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting and included students from at least 2,600 schools nationwide, followed closely on the heels of the National School Walkout on March 14 and the broader nationwide March for Our Lives protests on March 24.

In Washington, the student-activists gathered in front of the White House and then marched to the U.S. Capitol, where a number of the walkout leaders spoke about issues facing all victims of gun violence—not just the people who die in school shootings. While longtime gun violence activists have welcomed the recent wave of marches and calls for reform precipitated by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, some have expressed warranted frustration that the current movement only gathered strength in response to a tragedy in a relatively affluent, largely white community. Multiple speakers pointed out that far less attention is paid to the high rates of gun deaths among African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color.

Another speaker, Rosie Silvers, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland, discussed what she called “the missing dialogue of this movement”: the nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths that are suicides and the high rates of suicide in the LGBT community. “Gun violence, suicide, and the LGBT community are forever intertwined,” Silvers said. Criticizing those political leaders who try to pass off gun violence as primarily a mental health issue, Silvers added, “Every single country around the world suffers from mental illness, but only we suffer from this epidemic of gun violence.”

The students also wanted to send the message that they intend to keep the pressure on politicians into November—still eons away in political terms. Jay Falk, a senior at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, turned her time at the podium into a de facto voter registration drive. “This is not a moment, it is a movement. You have to keep showing up,” she said, before telling participants to take out their phones and text a hotline that would help them find out how to register to vote. Many people obliged.

Aya Laoufir, a junior at Washington Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, said she and her peers are confident that the current movement will maintain its momentum. “A lot of us are gonna be turning 18 in the next few months,” she told the Prospect. “I think it’ll make a big difference at the polls.”

Rosie Couture, an eighth-grader at Arlington’s Thomas Jefferson Middle School described the effect that the national conversation about guns has had on her and her peers: “Parkland was a big wakeup call for us,” she said. “I hate to say it, but I was so ignorant about [gun violence] before the Parkland shooting.” While still too young to vote, Couture added that as soon as she turns 18, she “100 percent” intends to in order to make her voice heard.

The Abortion Generation Gap

A new poll from PRRI has found wide generational gaps on issues of abortion, reproductive health, and sexual assault.

“As this younger generation continues to flex its political muscles—as we saw in the response to the Parkland shooting—they could also reshape the national conversation on women’s health issues,” said PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones in a statement.

The poll, released today, found that nearly all Americans believe that health insurance plans, both private and government-provided, should cover birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Fewer than half of those surveyed, however, believe abortion should be covered under most health-care plans. Though women were generally more in favor of abortion access and wider health-care coverage, and were more likely to prioritize the issue when deciding how to vote, the bigger gaps on questions of abortion were those of age, as well as education level and political affiliation.

Of people aged 18 to 29, 65 percent said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. And while most Americans’ views on legality have remained relatively unchanged over the past decade, younger Americans were more likely to say their views on abortion have changed in recent years—overwhelmingly to a position of greater support for abortion rights, perhaps mirroring the broad leftward shift of the millennial generation.

The poll also uncovered a wide generation gap on perceptions of how difficult abortions are to obtain. Despite the fact that restrictive state policies have closed clinics across the country, sometimes forcing women to travel days or across state lines to get the procedure, nearly half of Americans said that obtaining an abortion in their community was not that difficult. But here, too, age was a stronger predictor of perceptions of availability than even gender or partisan affiliation. Nearly half (49 percent) of young people thought that local abortions were at least somewhat difficult to obtain, compared with just 26 percent of people over the age of 65. And while more than two-thirds (69 percent) of young people believe there should be abortion providers in their community, only 46 percent of seniors felt the same.

While the differences between millennials and seniors are the most glaring, the survey also highlighted different levels of support for abortion rights by race and religion, with black Americans generally more supportive and white evangelicals often, predictably, an outlier in their opposition. A pronounced gender divide also exists in perceptions of sexual assault and harassment cases. While the majority of Americans believe unreported or disbelieved cases to be a bigger problem than the specter of false accusations, nearly a third of men think that false accusations are more worrisome, especially Republican men (41 percent).

“Given this,” PRRI Director of Strategic Engagement Carolyn Davis said in a statement, “the [Republican] party is not likely to prioritize effectively combating sexual harassment or assault unless the women of the party push the GOP to action.”

Whether that is likely remains a mystery, but it’s a safe bet that it will be a while before the Republican Party catches up to the majority of the country—and especially to the younger generation—if it catches up at all.