Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Comparing urban to urban ...

Thomas Edsall asks in his column in today's New York Times, "Will Liberal Cities Leave the Rest of America Behind?"  Edsall writes of
a wave of newly elected mayors from New York to Seattle has taken office committed to deploying the power of city government and aggressive wage and tax policies to attack inequality and revive social and economic mobility. 
* * * 
Harold Meyerson, the editor-at-large of The American Prospect, argues in “The Revolt of the Cities” that this insurgency is already in motion. Urban chief executives are raising minimum wages; requiring contractors to hire inner-city residents and to increase pay on municipal projects; backing local union organizing efforts; initiating or expanding pre-K schooling; extending public transit into poor neighborhoods; and requiring police to videotape contacts with citizens.
Edsall's column closes with this paragraph: 
Urban America is now on a reconnaissance mission for progressive politics. What we’re still waiting to find out is whether the policies and programs developed in the nation’s thriving urban core will prove to be broadly applicable. Can the new progressive mayors lay the groundwork for a national agenda, or will bold and innovative policy experiments that privilege New York and Seattle fail their disadvantaged cousins like Stockton, Detroit, Buffalo and Baltimore?
One interesting thing about this column is that is compares cities to other cities but completely ignores  the rural who are implicitly to be left behind--with Detroit and Stockton. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Neighborly rural rescue amidst Arkansas tornadoes

I was struck by the following description in the New York Times coverage of the tornadoes last night in central Arkansas and northeast Oklahoma.  Referring to those brought in to the Conway Medical Center, in the midst of the stricken area, Alan Blinder and Motoko Rich report:
A number of the injured brought in overnight came with the help of neighbors. 
“We had a gentleman who was strapped to a door,” [Lori Paladino] Ross [of the Conway Medical Center] said, and taken to the hospital in the back of a pickup. Another man went to the hospital twice carrying injured people in his pickup.
Of course, pickup trucks are not limited to rural areas, but two areas of Faulkner County, Arkansas, hardest hit by the storms, are rural by some measures Vilonia, population 3,815, and Mayflower, population 1,631. Certainly that quote elicited a rural image for me.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Responding to human threats to California redwoods

Two recent New York Times stories have addressed different human threats to different varieties of California redwoods.  The first story was this one by Patricia Leigh Brown about burl thieves in northern California, and the second was this one about a new plan to protect giant sequoias in Yosemite.

Brown's story, reported earlier this month, was titled "Poachers Attack Beloved Elders of California, Its Redwoods," dateline Redwood National and State Parks, California, leads with this:
It was an unlikely crime scene: a steep trail used by bears leading to a still, ancient redwood grove. There, a rare old-growth coast redwood had been brutally hacked about 15 times by poachers, a chain saw massacre that had exposed the tree’s deep red heartwood. 
The thieves who butchered this and other 1,000-year-old arboreal giants were after the burls, gnarly protrusions on the trees that are prized for their intricately patterned wood. Although timber theft has long plagued public lands, a recent spate of burl poaching, with 18 known cases in the last year, has forced park officials to close an eight-mile drive through old-growth forests, the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, at night to deter criminals.
Just 12 law enforcement rangers--one for each 11,000 acres of park--investigate the crimes, which is one reason that more night-time closures are anticipated.    

Brown also provides economic and cultural context for the crimes, featuring the tiny town of Orick, population 357 and the self-described "burlwood capital" at the southern entrance to the park.  Brown describes "a tight grain of paranoia" running through places like Orick which, not surprisingly, has seen better days.  Its school is down to just 11 students, the last mill having closed in 2009.  A 27-year-old local calls burl packing “a sad way to earn a living, but there is no industry here.”  

Brown elaborates:
The poachers, known locally as the “midnight burlers,” are motivated by a sluggish local economy and expensive methamphetamine habits, park officials say, and they have been targeting ever-bigger burls and using increasingly brazen tactics. Last year, a redwood estimated to be 400 years old was felled by thieves who wanted access to a 500-pounds.  
Paul Gallegos, the district attorney for Humboldt County, also commented on socioeconomic and cultural factors:
People still feel they have a right to extract from the forest to make a living.  But parks are a state and national resource. These trees belong to the people of the United States of America, so they are in fact stealing from them.
It's hard to say what the "raw" burls are worth, but quantifying value can mean the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony charge--in the rare case when a thief is caught.  Products like clocks that are made from burls sell in Orick's shops for $500 to $700 apiece.  Brown quotes one dealer in such goods as insisting "Everything here has been dead for hundreds of years."  

The second story, dateline Yosemite National Park, is "A Partnership to Help the Tallest Residents in Yosemite National Park."  Those tallest residents are a variety of redwoods called giant sequoias, and this story is less about law the Brown's story.  This story by Carol Pogash is about how a non-profit based in San Francisco, the Yosemite Conservancy, is financing the bulk of a $36 million project to eliminate a car park, a section of highway, and gift shop--all to reduce visitors through Mariposa Grove.  
For generations these towering trees — Sequoiadendron giganteum can grow to more than 250 feet — have endured man’s folly. In the 1800s, they were chopped for shingles, posts, pencils and souvenirs. Tunnels were carved through others for tourist amusement. For 100 years, Yosemite rangers doused fires, before learning that these redwoods — with fire-resistant bark — need fire to punch holes in the forest canopies, clear soil and spread seeds the size of oat flakes.  
Also harmful, Yosemite added a 115-car parking lot and a road, not recognizing that pavement interferes with the hydrology of the nearly 2,000-year-old trees.
Don Neubacher, the park's superintendent, explained:   
There is the possibility of slow death of some of the trees.  If we believe Mariposa Grove is important to save, then we’ve got to look at outside sources.
According to Pogash's story, officials have desired to return Mariposa Grove to a more natural state for more than 5 decades.  The western slopes of the Sierra are the only place where giant sequoias naturally regenerate.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Frontier justice revived in rural Oregon

I wrote this post last summer about the increase in neighborhood watches in nonmetropolitan Josephine County, Oregon, population 83,306.

Josephine County was back in the news this week in a segment on Jefferson Public Radio, the region's NPR affiliate.  The headline is "Citizen Volunteers Arm Themselves Against Crime in Rural Oregon," and Liam Moriarty's story provides an update on who is doing the law enforcement there in the wake of severe cuts to the county sheriff's budget.  The county has just a single deputy to patrol the 1640 square miles that make up Josephine County.  Local volunteers have stepped into the vacuum--for better or worse--and Moriarty reports that a former deputy is training some of the volunteers, including how to do things like search a building where an intruder may be hiding.

Cuts in sheriff department funding are linked to a decline in the timber industry and associated federal revenues.  When voters subsequently voted down two property tax levies, the sheriff's office staff was cut by two thirds.  Moriarty notes that he need for law enforcement is greater than one might expect in a rural area because "high unemployment, the growing use of meth and other drugs, and the sudden lack of law enforcement has fueled an explosion of burglaries, vehicle thefts and other property crimes."

Moriarty's story features two community patrol volunteers, Sam Nichols and Alan Cress.
"We're just checking this commercial building here, just to make sure there's no one hiding around it or anything," Nichols says. 
Nichols' King Cab pickup has a yellow flasher on top and signs on the doors identifying it as a Citizens Against Crime patrol. 
Cress adds:  
We're not trying to take the place of law enforcement. In fact, we have a great deal of respect for what law enforcement does. We recognize the limited resources they have, and we're just trying to keep a presence out there.
As for Sheriff Gil Gilbertson, he supports the neighborhood watches but is concerned about what the future holds.  He recalls a recent meeting:
The gentleman sitting right next to me kept repeating, 'We're not going to hire any more of you guys, we're not going to pay for you because we can do this ourselves.' Well, that really concerns me.  …  That does concern me.
Josephine County residents will again have an opportunity next month to vote on a public safety levy.  But the outcome arguably won't matter much:  
But members of the citizens groups say they've found a new sense of self-reliance. Even if the sheriff's department returns to full funding, they say, they'll continue protecting their communities.
I note that the poverty rate in Josephine County is a round 20%, which places it in the high poverty category.   It is 93.8% white.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

An economic success story from the rural South

Marketplace (American Public Media) ran this story yesterday, dateline Lincoln County, Tennessee, population 33,633.  The headline is "How One Tennessee County Kept Unemployment So Low," and in it Blake Farmer reports that Lincoln County is one of two Tennessee counties where the jobless rate has dipped below 5% in recent months.  Farmer describes the county as "rolling farmland dotted with rusty silos and wooden barns."  

Although the county has lost some employers to overseas competition, manufacturing is still big in Lincoln County.  Goodman Manufacturing is the largest manufacturing concern by far, with 1,500 employees building "heating,ventilation, air-conditioning (HVAC) units from the ground up."  The mayor of the county seat, Fayetteville, notes that some local factories are expanding, with as many as 600 new jobs being created.

Farmer notes that the county's geographical situation both helps and hurts.  It has no major transportation thoroughfares, but it is within commuting distance from thriving Huntsville, Alabama, population 183,739.  Oddly, the Census Bureau does not show Lincoln County as part of the Huntsville MSA.

Interestingly, the poverty rate for Lincoln County is 16.4%, above the national average. That seems odd for a county with such a low unemployment rate, though it could indicate that many in Lincoln County are working poor--that too many of the jobs on offer there do not lift employees above the poverty line.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rural poverty and the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty

Trip Gabriel's front-page story in today's New York Times is headlined "50 Years into the War on Poverty, Hardship Hits Back."  He reports from Twin Branch, West Virginia, in McDowell County, population 20,876 and the poorest county in the state with a poverty rate of 33.5%.  Gabriel likens McDowell County to a "rural Detroit, with broken windows on shuttered businesses and homes crumbling from neglect."  He notes that of the nation's 353 persistent poverty counties (those with poverty rates greater than 20% over the past three decades), 85% are rural. These counties are clustered in distinct regions:  in the west and southwest, on Indian reservations; Latina/os in the Rio Grande Valley; Blacks in the Deep South and Mississippi Delta, and whites in Appalachia "which has supplied some of America's iconic imagery of rural poverty since the Depression-era photos of Walker Evans."  

Gabriel continues:  
John F. Kennedy campaigned here in 1960 and was so appalled that he promised to send help if elected president. His first executive order created the modern food stamp program, whose first recipients were McDowell County residents. When President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty” in 1964, it was the squalor of Appalachia he had in mind. The federal programs that followed — Medicare, Medicaid, free school lunches and others — lifted tens of thousands above a subsistence standard of living. 
But a half-century later, with the poverty rate again on the rise, hardship seems merely to have taken on a new face in McDowell County. The economy is declining along with the coal industry, towns are hollowed out as people flee, and communities are scarred by family dissolution, prescription drug abuse and a high rate of imprisonment. 
Fifty years after the war on poverty began, its anniversary is being observed with academic conferences and ideological sparring — often focused, explicitly or implicitly, on the “culture” of poor urban residents. Almost forgotten is how many ways poverty plays out in America, and how much long-term poverty is a rural problem.
McDowell County is nearly 90% white, and it includes no metropolitan or micropolitan area.  Fewer than a third of residents are in the labor force, not only because of the loss of "good" coal jobs, but because many cannot pass drug tests.  Gabriel reports that Social Security, federal disability payments, food stamps and other federal programs comprise nearly half of personal income in the county.

Ag news from California to China

Agriculture has been in the news a lot of late, and a few stories jumped out as worthy of note on Legal Ruralism.  First, out of California, came this story about labor shortages (and therefore implicating immigration reform) and just yesterday this one in relation to the drought.  Both issues have the state's farmers in a pinch.  The labor shortage is old news, which I have written about here and here.  The drought story notes the competition for water between California's mostly urban populace and the agricultural enterprises that supply between one-third and one-half of the nation's fruits and vegetables has already pushed up food prices.
[W]hile this is not the state’s worst drought on record (that was in the 1920s), there are greater demands today on what water there is. A booming population and a sharp increase in lucrative crops like berries and nuts that require more water strain the system. In addition, environmental laws put into effect after the last major drought, in the 1970s, to protect fish and wildlife habitats have reduced the amount of water going to farmers. 
All told, more than three million acres of the nine million acres of irrigated farmland in the state will get no surface water this year other than rain, which has been scarce.
The drought is expected to cause farmers to leave up to 7 percent of the state's cropland fallow.  The USDA forecasts a 20% decline in the state's rice crop and a decline of as much as 35% in the state's cotton crop compared to last year.

Across the Pacific, the ag news is also bad, there because of soil quality.  NPR reports here.  The Chinese government recently released a report indicating that some 19% of its farmland is contaminated, mostly with heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel and arsenic. The official Xinhua news agency blames "irrigation by polluted water, the improper use of fertilizers and pesticides and the development of livestock breeding."  The report states bluntly:
The overall condition of the Chinese soil allows no optimism.
According to the Associated Press, health advocates have already "identified several 'cancer villages' in China near factories suspected of polluting the environment."  The Associated Press also asserts that the Chinese report was "previously deemed so sensitive [that] it was classified as a state secret." China's assessment spans the period between April 2005 and December 2013.  According to The Guardian, "most of the contaminated farm land is on the highly developed and industrialized east coast, but heavy metal pollution was especially bad in the country's southwest."   A Chinese agriculture official has suggested that millions of hectares of farmland could be withdrawn from production.

See the New York Times coverage of the Chinese report here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Timothy Egan suggests Western (or is it rural?) exceptionalism in reaction to Cliven Bundy

Timothy Egan's column, "Deadbeat on the Range," queries whether Tea Party and other right-wing types would respond to an urban scofflaw in the same way they have rallied around Cliven Bundy, the Nevada Rancher who is $1 million behind in payments on the land he leases from the federal government for grazing.  In doing so, Egan suggests a divide between East coasters and Westerners, and perhaps a rural-urban divide, too:    
Imagine a vendor on the National Mall, selling burgers and dogs, who hasn’t paid his rent in 20 years. He refuses to recognize his landlord, the National Park Service, as a legitimate authority. Every court has ruled against him, and fines have piled up. What’s more, the effluents from his food cart are having a detrimental effect on the spring grass in the capital. 
Would an armed posse come to his defense, aiming their guns at the park police? Would the lawbreaker get prime airtime on Fox News, breathless updates in the Drudge Report, a sympathetic ear from Tea Party Republicans? No, of course not. 
So what’s the difference between the fictional loser and Cliven Bundy, the rancher in Nevada who owes the government about $1 million and has been grazing his cattle on public land for more than 20 years? Near as I can tell, one wears a cowboy hat. Easterners, especially clueless ones in politics and the press, have always had a soft spot for a defiant white dude in a Stetson.
P.S.  Here is a straight news story that the NYTimes ran a few days after Egan's column, and here is an NPR story querying whether Bundy is a racist.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My Rural Travelogue (Part XVI): "Wild" (and rural?) Costa Rica

View of Pacific Ocean from just north  of San Pedrillo entrance to
Corcovado National Park,
 Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, April 11, 2014  
I write from the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica, featured in what is currently the fourth most emailed story in the New York Times, "In Search of 'Wild' Costa Rica." As Amy Harmon observes in her story, Costa Rica is known for its ecotourism--it's a big reason that several million people a year visit the country.  But even though I have elsewhere on this blog associated ecotourism with rurality, I had not made that leap about Costa Rica until yesterday.  Amy Harmon's feature on the Osa Peninsula was partly the cause of the leap, but so was a brochure I picked up at the resort where we are staying.  The brochure is for a company called Osa Rural Tours, the "first cooperative of rural community tourism in the Osa Peninsula."  Its slogan is "Vivi Otra Costa Rica," which as best I can tell translates to "live the other Costa Rica."  This suggests that "rural" is the other to an urban default.  This is accurate in the sense that about half of the country's population live in greater San Jose, and other large chunks live in the urbanized areas of Alajuela and Cartago--so a majority of the population are urban.  However, it is that "other," that "wild" Costa Rica that tourists flock to the country to experience.  (Our travel agent did not suggest any time in San Jose, and when we passed through, I could see why).

The cooperative bills itself as "a locally owned tour operator, that is working towards contributing to the development of communities in the Osa Peninsula, in the South Pacific of Costa Rica." The brochure continues:
Osa Rural Tours is a gateway into the Osa Peninsula, a place of natural wonders; it has won over thousands of visitors.  A place of adventure where life and culture can be found on every path.
* * * 
Purchasing services from Osa Rural Tours will aid in preserving 2,256 acres of forest in the Osa Conservation Area! 
Our Rural Tours provides 10% of protection of the total forest already protected by Rural Community Tourism in Costa Rica.  Osa Rural Tours has directly and indirectly improved the local economy. 
Creating with fundings from the Costa Rica-United States Debt Swap Fund, Osa Rural Tours aims to assist in the conservation of forests within the Osa Conservation Area.   
Photos on the brochure show wildlife, a woman grinding corn, kayaking, horse-back riding, rappelling up a huge tree, and bike riding.

Rare residence where Sierpe River meets Pacific Ocean.
Coati, Corcovado National Park
I note that the largest city on the Osa Peninsula, Puerto Jimenez, has a population of just 1,780 … which sorta' makes the modifier "rural" redundant when it comes to the entire area.  Indeed, so few people appear to live in this area dominated by the massive Corcovado National Park--especially few who are not engaged in the ecotourism business--that I think of the place more as wilderness than as rural.  One of our guide/wildlife spotters did note, however, that three families live on an island we passed, at the mouth of the Sierpe River as it enters the Pacific (photo above).  He said those families make a living mostly from collecting clams.  Others on the Osa Peninsula but outside the national park presumably also eke out a living through agricultural pursuits.  While our resort was not accessible by road (we reached it by boat from Sierpe, down the river and then along the Pacific coast), I see that a road does stretch across the Osa Peninsula to Drake Bay, just north of where we stayed, and there are some villages in that area.

Elsewhere in Costa Rica, on the Caribbean coast, in Tortuguero, one of our guides touted the advent of ecotourism in the area, suggesting that people there are much better off than when most of them relied on agriculture or the timber industry.  Tortuguera village is home to between 1200 and 1500 residents, and wikipedia indicates the most are involved in ecotourism.
Tortuguero village, Caribbean coast, Costa Rica, features small shops and eateries targeting tourists.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Country music morphs mainstream

The New York Times published this story yesterday "Young, Rich and Ruling Radio, Country Walks a Broader Line."  It came ahead of the Academy of Country Music Awards last night on CBS.  Ben Sisario writes:
Country has long been a mainstay of American music. But as the music industry continues to struggle financially and once-dominant genres like hip-hop recede on the charts, country’s audience has grown stronger, wider and younger — a fact that has not escaped the notice of media companies that have doubled down on the genre.
Sisario attributes the shift, at least in part, to the rise of "telegenic and web-savvy young stars like Ms. Swift, Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton."  He also notes the rise of Nashville's popularity, as I discussed last year here.

Sisario explains:  
While country broadcasters typically give their stations names like “The Wolf” or “The Coyote,” suggesting rural stereotypes, Lew Dickey, chief executive of Cumulus, said his new brand captured a broader and more upwardly mobile audience for the genre.
Cumulus has 460 radio stations, and it introduced the brand, Nash" last year.  Dickey explains:  
We wanted to eschew the conventional stereotypes in the format and go with something more aspirational.  Nash is cool; Nash is fun; Nash is relevant.
Sisario adds that country has been coming on strong for a decade or so, with country's audience share up about 15% among those aged 12 and up, even as the number of radio stations has remained stable.  Just five years ago, he explains, country's biggest listener share were white suburban women in their 40s. 

The story closes with this quote from Kix Brooks, formerly of Brooks and Dunn, which sold 27 million albums in the 1990s and early 2000s. Brooks now hosts a show on Nash:
I don’t think country music is hick music anymore.  It’s not hay bales and cornfields.
As country music surges and becomes, dare I say, "hip," I can't help remember this statement about "hillbilly music" from Variety Magazine in 1926, scorning it as 
'poor white trash' genera. The great majority, probably 95 percent, can neither read nor write English. Theirs is a community all to themselves. [They are] illiterate and ignorant, with the intelligence of morons.
Read more here.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Racial diversity in Appalachia

Read more on NPR's Code Switch here.  Here's the lede for Kathy Baird's story:
When policymakers and news organizations need a snapshot of rural poverty in the United States, Appalachia—the area of land stretching from the mountains of Southern New York through Northern Alabama—is the default destination of choice. Poverty tours conducted by presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Richard Nixon, almost every member of the Kennedy clan, and religious leaders like Jesse Jackson have all painted the portrait of Appalachia the same way: poor, backwards, and white.

While the economic despair and major health epidemics are an unsettling reality for the region, a glaring omission has been made from the "poverty porn" images fed to national audiences for generations: Appalachia's people of color. 
Baird quotes Dr. Aaron Thompson, executive vice president and chief academic officer for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education who grew up outside Manchester, Kentucky, which has the lowest per capita income in the state.  Thompson is an "outspoken role model[] for young people of color in his mountain home":  
When we tell the truth about Appalachia, it's only then that we tell the real story about who we are.
* * *  
There's no one story of Appalachia, no one voice. It's time for everyone to feel like they can speak up, like their story is important

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Voter turnout lower in rural Afghanistan

The headline in today's New York Times is, "Apathy and Fear of Taliban Combine to Keep Rural Voters Away from the Polls."  Here is an excerpt from Azam Ahmed's story:  
While polling centers across Kabul and other Afghan cities were celebrating record turnouts on Saturday, Tahir Khan, a tribal leader in rural Nangarhar Province, experienced a very different Election Day. 
“It was a dead zone,” he said, referring to the eastern province’s Shinwar district. “All the polling centers were closed, and people hardly left their homes.” 
The truth in Shinwar, and in some other rural areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan where the insurgency is strongest, is that the Taliban did not have to pick up their rifles to disrupt the vote on Saturday. 
* * * 
The divide between urban and rural Afghanistan has always been profound. While cities like Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif continue to blossom into populous and relatively secure places, rural Afghanistan — and in particular the ethnic Pashtun countryside, where the Taliban are strongest — has largely been left behind. 
Ahmed quotes Graeme Smith of the International Crisis Group:  
In any country caught in the jaws of a growing war, a democratic process is necessarily going to be a political contest inside pro-government enclaves and doesn’t include great swaths of the country where people are still sending messages to fight the government.  
The election celebration in Kabul creates an impression of what’s happening in the country, but we simply do not know what’s been happening in the districts today.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Literary Ruralism (Part IX): Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland

This highly acclaimed novel begins with two brothers growing up in Calcutta in the 1950s and 1960s.  Given how often I hear the word "village" used to refer to any of a wide variety of places, especially in the developing world but also in places like New England, I found this passage of particular interest.  It is at the juncture at which Subhash, the eldest son, has gone off to university:
A few months later Subhash also traveled to a village: This was the word the Americans used. An old-fashioned word, designating an early settlement, a humble place. And yet the village had once contained a civilization: a church, a courthouse, a tavern, a jail. 
The university had begun as an agricultural school. A land grant college still surrounded by greenhouses, orchards, fields of corn. On the outskirts were the lush pastures of scientifically cultivated grass, routinely irrigated and fertilized and trimmed.
p. 34.

Confronting Child Labor in Global Agricultural Supply Chains

That was the headline for an event at UC Davis School of Law today.  I moderated a panel of high-level representatives from four multi-stakeholder initiatives who are aiming, among other things, to end the "worst forms of child labor" in production of their commodities:  Bonsucro (sugarcane), Ethical Tea Partnership, International Cocoa Initiative, and Better Cotton Initiative.  Many common themes emerged from their presentations, but the two most striking to me as a scholar of law and rural livelihoods were these:  
(1) the difficulty of monitoring and regulating actions in rural places, where informal and local order dominate and 
(2) the need to alleviate rural poverty so that farmers and others in the agricultural production pipeline have more choices.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The latest on abortion access in rural America

The New York Times reports tonight that Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas will appeal a decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, handed down last week, which affirmed an earlier decision to uphold the constitutionality of S.B. 2.  I have written about it here and have forthcoming in the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law and Justice an article prompted by the Abbott case and lots of laws similar to S.B. 2 that have been passed in other state houses in the last few years.   My article, co-authored with Marta Vanegas, is titled Urbanormativity, Judicial Blindspots, and the Undue Burden Standard and I hope to have a draft available for download soon.

Here is an excerpt from Erik Eckholm's report today:
The rule, part of a sweeping anti-abortion law passed last year, requires that all clinics providing abortions at any stage of pregnancy, including nonsurgical drug-induced abortions, meet the costly building standards of ambulatory surgery centers.  
Only six of the state’s 24 abortion clinics now meet that standard, which will take effect Sept. 1.
* * *
The new suit comes less than a week after a federal appeals court refused to overturn another provision of the 2013 law that has already forced several clinics to close, leaving the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas without abortion services. That provision required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in nearby local hospitals, a rule that has proved impossible to meet in several smaller cities where clinics use visiting doctors. But the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, held that the requirement did not pose an undue burden on access to abortion since many other clinics continued to function. 
The effort to block the surgery center requirement may be more likely to prevail in the appeals court, legal experts said, if the clinics can show that it imposes still greater burdens on abortion rights, without commensurate benefits.
In other news of recent efforts to regulate abortion, John Schwartz reported earlier this week from Arizona on a federal judge's decision to block a state law that is one of the nation's most restrictive regarding the use of a particular abortion drug.  

And here is a story also from the past week on the West Virginia Governor's veto of a law that would have made it unconstitutional to perform an abortion in that state after 20 weeks of pregnancy.