Paxton Smith, a graduate of Lake Highlands High School, scrapped her pre-approved draft to respond to Texas’ “heartbeat” bill.
What We Know:
- Smith’s initial speech discussed the effect of the media on adolescents and had been approved by the school administration to be read at the ceremony. However, when Governor Greg Abbott signed the abortion bill to law a week and a half before graduation, Smith refused to stay silent.
- The bill outlaws abortions performed after the presence of a heartbeat in the fetus. This can happen as early as 6 weeks after conception and typically before any signs of pregnancy have occurred. It would also allow anyone to sue abortion providers or anyone involved for up to $10,000.
- During the speech, Smith expected to be cut off or to have her diploma withheld. She was able to freely speak for the three minutes provided to her. “I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace,” she said, “when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights.”
- Despite being allowed to speak, Lake Highlands High School said it will better monitor what students choose to discuss on the podium. They insist that Smith’s words do not reflect the views of their staff. Celebrities and political figures from all over the nation have applauded the teen for her courage and message.
This took guts. Thank you for not staying silent, Paxton. https://t.co/DlwEgmMRGN
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 2, 2021
Smith urged fellow students to take advantage of any opportunity to have their voices heard, “Say what you want to say, and say what you feel.”
California Awards $15 Million To Victims For Destroyed Embryos
A jury awarded around $15 million to five victims who lost their eggs or embryos in a storage malfunction at Pacific Fertility Center on March 4, 2018.
What We Know:
- A failure in a cryogenic storage tank destroyed 3,500 eggs and embryos at the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco. The case is the first of its kind to award damages to individuals who lost the chance to have biological children. Three of the victims were women who lost eggs and the other two were a married couple whose embryos were compromised.
- Both the clinic and Chart Industries Inc, the company that manufactured the storage tank, were cited in the lawsuit. A manufacturing defect in the controller arm that read the levels of liquid nitrogen in the tank was at fault. Chart Industries was aware of this defect after the tank was sold but did not recall the equipment.
- The jury ruled that Chart Industries was 90% responsible and negligent. The remaining 10% of fault was placed on Pacific Fertility Center. Damages awarded were to cover the pain, suffering, and emotional distress the victims suffered as well as the cost of the genetic material.
- Victims described the emotional turmoil during the trial. Chloe Poynton, 39, testified, “It’s really painful to be at a baby shower celebrating someone else’s family being built and knowing inside you’ll never get that.”
- A similar failure on the same day occurred in a Cleveland suburb and ruined over 4,000 eggs and embryos. Following both of these catastrophic events, clinics around the nation meticulously reviewed their procedures in hopes of preventing the same result. Other lawsuits have been filed in hopes of receiving compensation for the tragedies.
Adam Wolf, an attorney who specializes in cases like this concerning genetic material, applauded the decision. “These families have suffered an unspeakable loss and still struggle every day with the tragedy that took place more than 3 years ago at Pacific Fertility Clinic,” he said.
Senate Confirms Zahid Quraishi as First Muslim Federal Judge in the U.S.
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Zahid Quraishi as a U.S. District Judge of New Jersey, making him the first Muslim American to hold the position in U.S. history.
What We Know:
- Quraishi, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was approved by the Senate with an 81-16 vote, receiving all present Democratic votes and 34 Republican ones. He is currently a U.S. magistrate judge for the District of New Jersey, has worked as a federal prosecutor, and served two tours in Iraq.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), stated, “[Quraishi] is a man of integrity, a consummate public servant, and a trailblazer for Asian Americans and Muslim Americans across this country who dream of one day presiding over a court of their own.”
- President Joe Biden nominated Quraishi in his first group of judicial nominations back in March. Biden focused on diversity with his group of nominees, including three African American women for the openings in the Circuit Court and the first women of color to serve as a federal judge in the District of Maryland.
- Democrats and progressives expressed their excitement and gave their congratulations to Quraishi via social media. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) stated that Quraishi was an “excellent addition to the court,” and his confirmation is a “reflection of America’s ideal of religious freedom.” Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that they need to expand on demographic and professional diversity, and confirming Quraishi was an example of that.
Congratulations to Zahid Quraishi, who will be the first Muslim federal judge! Proud to have voted in favor of his confirmation. https://t.co/TN2gpeEnWl
— Senator Gary Peters (@SenGaryPeters) June 10, 2021
- According to The New York Times, The Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized Quraishi’s time while in Iraq and his involvement with former President George W. Bush’s second term. They called Quraishi a “detention legal adviser” during a time when prisoner abuse in Iraq was out of hand.
- The civil rights group also called out the judge’s involvement with ICE throughout Bush’s last two years of office. They wrote the Senate a letter begging them to take a look into Quraishi’s actions during this time and consider them before they voted. Quraishi received the Bronze Star for his time in service.
Along with confirming Quraishi, the Senate also advanced the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Jackson is at the top of the list for the Supreme Court if a vacancy appears.
Keystone XL Pipeline Project Cancelled
Developer TC Energy terminated the project Wednesday after failing to persuade President Biden to reverse his permit cancellation from January.
What We Know:
- Former President Donald Trump gave the project a green light after stagnation from the Obama administration. Construction began last year on the 1,200-mile pipeline that would have moved 35 million gallons of crude oil daily. The pipeline would have connected Nebraska to other pipelines on the Gulf Coast.
- Biden canceled the border-crossing permit on his first day in the White House, which has been considered a win for activists. Concerns that burning oil sands crude could make climate change effects worse or harder to reverse were a major part of the decision.
- TC Energy warned that this decision would lead to the layoff of thousands of union workers. Attorney generals from 21 states went on to sue to overturn Biden’s decision as the pipeline would have created thousands of construction jobs. Robin Rorick, Vice President of midstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute, stated, “This is a blow to U.S. energy security and a blow to the thousands of good-paying union jobs this project would have supported.”
- The Canadian government had invested more than $1 billion into the project. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau objected to Biden’s decision which has caused tension between the U.S. and Canada. Alberta officials reached an agreement with TC Energy to exit the deal and they plan to try and recoup the investment.
- Activists are counting this as a major win in their fight for environmental justice. A lot of credit is being given to indigenous communities that have engaged in this fight for years. “We stood hand-in-hand to protect the next seven generations of life, the water, and our communities from this dirty tar pipeline,” the Indigenous Environmental Network said in a statement.
Biden’s decision to revoke the permit aligns with the environmental initiatives of his administration. David Turnbull, Strategic Communications Direction at Oil Change International, said, “The cancellation of Keystone XL is a reminder that this project was never needed and never in public interest, and that it is time for the fossil fuel era to rapidly come to a close.”
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