Alabama abortion law discussed at Alma

ZACH CARPENTER
STAFF WRITER

On Mar. 10, Dr. Wasserman, Associate Chair of the History Department and Dr. Blanchard, Chair of the Religious Studies Department had a spirited discussion about abortion hosted by the Chapel. Their discussion comes at a time when it seems as if everyone has an opinion on the issue and they hoped that their open dialogue would spark more discussions between people in the future.

Dr. Blanchard defended the pro-choice point of view throughout the discussion while Dr. Wasserman defended the pro-life point of view. Both of them believe that just because two people have opposing views does not mean that they cannot come together and have a civil discussion between one another.

Their discussion comes at a time where the abortion debate has again entered the forefront of political discourse in the United States following the passage of a near total ban on abortions in the state of Arkansas.

The law, which does not have exceptions for incest or rape would ban all abortions in the state of Arkansas. It also includes penalties of 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine for any woman who has an abortion. The law is currently slated to go into effect on Aug. 2 barring any judicial intervention.

“Taking away women’s resources doesn’t stop abortions, it just stops safe abortions, and in those instances you’re losing two lives rather than one,” said Abigail Zerbe (‘23).

“Abortion is a healthcare and fundamental right for all women…the government has no place in a woman’s reproductive system,” said Brenna Smith (‘24).

“The first point I think is at the root of abortion is about personhood; the personhood of a fetus,” said Blanchard in her opening statements.

“The second question is who should be responsible for making a decision, who gets to decide whether a person can have an abortion?” said Blanchard.

The issues of personhood and individual choice go all the way back to the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which formally legalized abortion across the United States. Since its passage Roe has faced many legal challenges including Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 which was the last direct challenge to the ruling.

“Abortion is a very difficult topic to discuss,” said Wasserman in his opening statement.

As Wasserman stated, abortion has remained a very contentious issue that many people have very strong beliefs about. Because of its direct implications on people’s lives, many people harbor strong feelings one way or the other about the issue.

“I think that people often forget the difference between pro-life and pro-choice is that pro-choice is about the choice. It’s not about having an abortion but about being able to choose to do what’s best for you,” said Anika Reid (’23).

“If life starts at conception then terminating a pregnacy is the same as taking a [human] life,” said Wasserman in his defense of the pro-life argument.

The discussion between Wasserman and Blanchard continued in a civil manner and even featured questions from a few of the students who tuned into the event. The event was also moderated by Dr. Andrew Pomerville (Class of ‘01) and Chaplain of Alma College.

“I think [the topic of abortion] is necessary to model a dialogue between people who disagree on something that isn’t just spewing hatred,” said Blanchard following a student question on the importance of having an open discussion between two sides.

“We really need to step out of our personal beliefs and try to see from the other side’s point of view in order to have productive dialogue between both sides,” said Smith.

“I thought that it was important to show that with controversial [issues] like these we should be able to talk about them with one another,” said Wasserman in his concluding statement.

The event concluded with both Wasserman and Blanchard challenging others to begin a dialogue between each other on issues even if you do not agree with the other side.

Syrian Civil War reaches decade mark

ZACH CARPENTER
STAFF WRITER

WESTON HIRVELA
GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Following a recent escalation in violence Syria is again in the spotlight of world politics. On Feb. 27 President Joe Biden ordered an airstrike on two locations in Syria in response to an attack carried out by Iran against U.S. backed forces in Iraq.

One of the two airstrikes was called off at the last minute by Biden after intelligence received a report that there were women and children present at the location. The attack that was carried out left one ISIS fighter dead and another two injured.

The airstrike marks the first time Biden has chosen to use military intervention overseas and comes at a time where he is trying to keep the delicate balance of power within the region.

Congressional Democrats were quick to criticize Biden for authorizing the attacks while Republicans applauded the action. Progressive Democrats have called for a deescalation of U.S. involvement in the Middle East citing the staggering cost of life caused by the seemingly never ending wars.

Biden defended his decision to go ahead with the airstrike citing that he did not wish to further escalate tensions in the region but did wish to protect U.S. interests in the region.

The U.S. has had a long history in the region going back to the first invasion of Iraq following their takeover of nearby Kuwait in 1990. More recently ISIS has dominated the region, specifically Syria, creating a major humanitarian crisis and displacing millions from their homes.

According to the International Red Cross 13 Million Syrians currently rely on humanitarian aid for survival, a staggering three-quarters of the war torn country’s population. Many have been forced to become refugees in far away European countries.

Recent reports from Save the Children a not-for-profit organization that focuses on humanitarian aid for children reported that 33% of children interviewed in Syria would rather live in another country and 86% do not wish to return to their home.

Complicating efforts for a deescalation of violence in the region is the growing threat ISIS once again poses. Although their physical Caliphate was defeated in Dec. 2018 following a yearslong offensive by U.S. backed Kurdish forces to reclaim large swaths of land that had been captured in 2014 and 2015 by ISIS fighters.

The Syrian Civil War itself began in 2011 as a facet of the greater Arab Spring movement in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Protesters across the region rose up against oppressive dictatorial regimes, resulting in the overthrow of some and violent responses by others, such as Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria.

In recent years, the U.S. has faced an uphill battle containing the spread of ISIS and attempting to stop the Assad regime from committing more human rights violations against the residents of Syria.

The U.S. has also had the support of such allies as Britain and the greater European Union but other countries such as Russia have complicated efforts by backing the Assad government.

On Mar. 7 a Russian warship bombed an oil drilling site in Northern Syria further complicating peace efforts in the already delicate region. At least four people were killed in the blast and 24 others were injured.

Another factor complicating the civil war is COVID-19. The virus has struck the entire world sparing no one, including war-torn Syria. On Mar. 8 both President Asad and his wife tested positive for COVID-19. An additional 26,000 people have been recorded as positive in the country and a little over 1,000 have perished.

Although the numbers seem low it has been difficult for officials to compile accurate numbers due to competing forces controlling different regions within Syria’s borders. Vaccine distribution has also been slow in the country due to the competing factions.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonia Guterres on Mar. 10 called the situation in Syria a” living nightmare” and highlighted the need for more humanitarian aid to go to the region, especially during the pandemic.

Trump acquitted by Senate

ZACH CARPENTER
STAFF WRITER

Donald Trump’s second articles of impeachment were taken up by the United State’s Senate on Feb. 9, for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol in Washington D.C.

Trump had already been impeached in the House of Representatives on Jan. 14 while still in office.

Trump was charged for having, “threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power and imperaled a coequal branch of government.” On those grounds, in a 232-197 vote that included 10 GOP Representatives who chose to vote to impeach Trump. The articles of impeachment were then sent to the Senate to be taken up at trial at a later date.

The trial began with a debate on whether or not the trial itself was constitutional, with House Impeachment Managers arguing it was constitutional to impeach a former president and Trump’s defense arguing it was not. Following eight hours of debate the Senate voted 56-44 to continue forward with the impeachment trial based on the legal precedent it was constitutional.

“The purpose of impeachment is to either expel a person from federal office if they are seen as dangerous to the Republic because they’re corrupt or because they’re dangerous to democracy itself,” said William Gorton, Associate Professor of the Political Science department.

In the case of Trump, Impeachment Managers appointed by the House of Representatives attempted to make the case before the Senate that Trump’s words were directly responsible for inciting the violence at the Capitol. They also argued that because of Trump’s outsized role in the leadup to the riot he should be disqualified from serving in future federal office.

Prosecutors opened their argument by saying that in his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse in Washington D.C., Trump addressed his supporters saying, “if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” They also argued that statements such as that directly motivated his supporters to march towards the Capitol building in order to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote.

The subsequent hours saw the death of four people directly as a result of the violence and occupation of the Capitol by pro-Trump supporters.

Trump’s defense team argued that his words alone did not incite the riot and that the rioters acted on their own accord, having planned it in advance of Trump’s speech. They also argued that Democrats had been attempting to remove Trump from office since the beginning of his presidency and this was just another attempt to prevent him from holding the office in the future.

“I think that the second impeachment of Trump was just political theater and a useless waste of taxpayer’s money,” said Sawyer Hill (‘23).

Following a combined 32 hours of arguments from Impeachment Managers and Trump’s defense team the Senate had to decide whether or not to call witnesses in the trial. They ultimately decided not to, paving the way for a vote on whether or not to convict given all the evidence.

“After carefully listening to all the evidence presented in this trial, it is overwhelmingly clear that Donald Trump violated his oath of office by inciting a violent, deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol

and our democracy,” said Sen. Gary Peters (‘80) (Local 4 News). Both Sens. Peters and Stabenow of Michigan voted to convict Trump.

In a final vote of 57-43, the Senate voted to acquit Trump on the charge of inciting a riot. The vote marked the first time in U.S. history that a president has been impeached and acquitted twice. The vote also shows the loyalty many GOP Senators still have for Trump, even after he has left office.

“I think [the impeachment] was super predictable,” said Anika Ried (‘23). “He should have been convicted if only to stop him from holding federal office ever again.”

“[Trump] remains very popular with the Republican base…I imagine he’s going to start holding rallies again in anticipation of running for president again in 2024,” said Gorton.

Since the acquittal Trump has also been permanently banned from most social media platforms including his previous go-to Twitter, potentially complicating future campaigns.

Moving forward with the investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Congress has created a bipartisan investigative committee focused on understanding how rioters were able to get past security and into the Capitol. More hearings are scheduled for the near future.

Abrams among Nobel Peace Prize nominees

JORDYN BRADLEY, ZACHARY CARPENTER
SPORTS EDITOR, STAFF WRITER

Stacey Abrams–who rose to the forefront of American politics during the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election–was among nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize. The award is given out yearly to the person or organization deemed to have done the most to promote peace and democracy around the world.

Throughout the 2020 General Election, Abrams worked tirelessly through her non-profit, Fair Fight Action, which sought to increase voter turnout around Georgia, specifically with minorities who have long been oppressed within the state.

Through her efforts, Georgia flipped from Republican to Democrat during a presidential election for the first time since 1992 when Bill Clinton beat George H. W. Bush.

Additionally, she helped to lead Democrats John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to wins in their January 2021 runoff election over incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, respectively.

“[Abrams] is being nominated for her work with voter registration…Voter suppression is illegal in this country, and there isn’t much, if any in Georgia in the year 2020,” said Matt Garland (‘23), a resident of Georgia.

“Were there to be legal voter suppression against American citizens and she did something about it, I’d feel a lot better about the nomination being given.”

According to Fair Fight’s website, they seek to, “promote fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourage voter participation in elections and educate voters about…their voting rights.”

“I find it inspiring that her loss in [2018] drove her to start Fair Fight Action and become the face and facilitator of promoting crucial nonviolent change via the ballot box in 2020,” said Maya Dora-Laskey, professor of English, when asked her thoughts on the nomination.

Abrams was nominated by Lars Haltbrekken, a leading member of the Socialist Party of Norway.

Rounding out the list of others nominated for the award were: The Black Lives Matter movement for their role in fighting for racial justice and spreading racial awareness in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police (among others), Greta Thumberg for her role in spreading awareness about the dangers of climate change, Alexei Navalny for standing up to an oppressive regime in Russia and Jared Kushner for normalizing relationships between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, as well as other Middle Eastern nations.

“The shortlist isn’t usually prepared until March, so this is the unfiltered list and presents us with a contradictory range simultaneously grim and risible,” said Dora-Laskey.

“On this year’s list we have Stacey Abrams and Donald Trump who have been public with their disagreements and do not concur on issues and policies from the confederate flag to taxation or voting rights.”

Previous winners of the award from the United States include Barack Obama in 2009, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Additionally, Al Gore won the award in 2007 and Jimmy Carter won in 2002, rounding out the winners from the United States during the 21st Century.

Beyond holding the distinction of being among few who have been named throughout history, the award also comes with a payout of 10 million Swedish Crowns (about 1.4 million dollars), a medal and the title, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

“The Nobel Peace Prize announcement is definitely a world-event and confers a lot of attention on the recipient(s),” said Dora-Laskey.

However, with a list of 210 people and 107 organizations nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize this early, that list has the opportunity to grow even more before the winner is announced in October.

“Given that thousands of people, including university professors, are able to nominate candidates, the nomination itself doesn’t account for much,” said Dora-Laskey.

“When we hear about the nominees it’s usually from the nominees or nominators–not from the Nobel committee, so the evidence to support their claims are somewhat circumstantial.”

Still, the list of nominees that was made public on Feb. 1 is drawing the attention of people around the world.

With 2020’s election results still looming, eyes are on Abrams to see what is to come. According to close allies of Abrams, she is strongly considering another run at Governor of Georgia in 2022, likely setting the stage for another election against current Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who won by a mere 50,000 votes the last time the two faced off.

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