To Tackle Climate Change, We Need To Update Democracy


Article by Mark Baldassare and Cheryl Katz: “…Engaging the public through direct democracy can provide an antidote to the widespread government distrust and extreme political polarization that is currently paralyzing the nation. As shown by the overwhelming and bipartisan support for the outcome of a ballot measure such as Proposition 20’s Coastal Commission, statutes enacted through the initiative process have the potential to stand the test of time. State lawmakers, in turn, feel the weight of public opinion and are loath to tinker with laws that have received majority endorsement. 

The seeming intractability of citizens’ initiatives could be seen as an argument against direct democracy. This was exemplified by recent failed propositions aimed at changing the low commercial property tax rates set by the 1978 Proposition 13 (i.e. 2020 Proposition 15) and at ending the ban on affirmative action programs established by the 1996 Proposition 209 (i.e. 2020 Proposition 16). One reason these efforts were doomed is that proponents failed to engage with the public on such controversial policy issues and did not overcome voters’ inherent skepticism. When voters are dubious about a measure’s intentions or outcome, the default is to say “no” — shown by the historical initiative pass rate of 35%.            

“Giving citizens agency in tackling the planet’s most pressing issue stands to motivate them to adopt difficult measures and make the lifestyle changes required.”

Another form of direct democracy is citizens assemblies, in which a large group of randomly selected members of the public engage in guided discussions and make policy recommendations. When applied to climate change, giving citizens agency in tackling the planet’s most pressing issue stands to motivate them to adopt difficult measures and make the lifestyle changes required. For example, political scientist Carsten Berg’s analysis of the citizens’ assemblies convened for the European Union’s Conference on the Future of Europe in 2022 describes how participation engendered a sense of group purpose and spurred collaboration toward a common goal. 

Direct democracy tools can help overcome the public’s feelings of helplessness in the face of the climate crisis and generate a shared sense of responsibility for mitigation. A 2022 research report examined the emotional experiences of participants in a 2020-21 Scottish citizens’ assembly convened to address the question of how Scotland could “tackle the climate emergency in an effective and fair way.” Compared to the general population, writes Lancaster University researcher Nadine Andrews, assembly members had “higher levels of hopefulness and optimism, lower levels of worry and overwhelm, and a lower proportion reporting that their emotions about climate change were having a negative impact on their mental health,” while participating in the process. Participants told Andrews they felt a sense of agency and empowerment to change their behavior and take “urgent climate action.”  

While invaluable for promoting climate justice, however, citizens’ assemblies have lacked the authority to create policy. As Berg points out, the outcome of the Future of Europe deliberations was non-binding, had a small reach and received little public attention. And Andrews found that participants’ hope and optimism about tackling climate change dropped in the wake of the Scottish government’s lackluster response to the panel’s report. The outcome of any such effort in California will need to be much more results-oriented…(More)”.

The region that’s experimenting with government by lottery


Article by Hugh Pope: “If we are trying to fix our “broken politics”, is the solution really just another set of politicians? If the electoral system is at fault, might the process of government work better if it were run by a group of randomly selected citizens?

Liesa Scholzen is a politician whose constituents are the 70,000 German speakers on Belgium’s eastern border. People with an interest in new political systems are paying close attention to Scholzen’s hilltop parliament in Eupen, Ostbelgien. That’s because in 2021, as part of its Citizens’ Dialogue initiative, Ostbelgien inaugurated the world’s first official, permanent legislative body chosen not by votes, but by lottery. 

Scholzen’s visitors come from round the world to learn about this new process of sortition, but Scholzen herself mostly looked bemused by their enthusiasm. “I’m just a part-time politician. And I’m a citizen too!” she reminded her audience of around 50, who had come to hear her talk about the strange new politics.

Ostbelgien’s new system takes some getting used to. It’s named “The Citizens’ Dialogue” and is led by a standing council of citizens, drawn by lot. The 24-member council serves for 18 months, and they choose the topics which are then debated by separate Citizens’ Assemblies. These assemblies have 25-50 members, also chosen by lot, who make their recommendations following two to three days of deliberation. Members meet in the evening or at weekends, and receive expenses plus €50 to €95 (£44-£84) per session. All participants are chosen from the German-speaking community. 

So has it caught on? Ostbelgien’s Citizens’ Dialogue may be “well known internationally, but here some people don’t know it exists,” Scholzen explained to her visitors. “They haven’t had a real impact… When the first Citizens’ Assembly report came in, we told them: ‘You just can’t do it that way. It won’t work.’ So we just changed [some parts of] it… The Citizens’ Dialogue is still in its kinderschuhen, its ‘children’s shoes’.”

Indeed, it is only in the past decade that the worldwide movement for democracy by sortition began gaining momentum. Most of the 50 enthusiasts who gathered for an “autumn school” in Eupen, including myself, believe that it has the potential to break the logjam in governance caused by dysfunctional electoral systems. But progress has been slow…(More)”.

California Governor Signs Sweeping Children’s Online Safety Bill


Article by Natasha Singer: “California will adopt a broad new approach to protecting children online after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill on Thursday that could transform how many social networks, games and other services treat minors.

Despite opposition from the tech industry, the State Legislature unanimously approved the bill at the end of August. It is the first state statute in the nation requiring online services likely to be used by youngsters to install wide-ranging safeguards for users under 18.

Among other things, the measure will require sites and apps to curb the risks that certain popular features — like allowing strangers to message one another — may pose to younger users. It will also require online services to turn on the highest privacy settings by default for children.

“We’re taking aggressive action in California to protect the health and well-being of our kids,” Governor Newsom said in a statement that heralded the new law as “bipartisan landmark legislation” aimed at protecting the well-being, data and privacy of children.

Called the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, the new legislation compels online services to take a proactive approach to safety — by designing their products and features from the outset with the “best interests” of young users in mind.

The California measure could apply to a wide range of popular digital products that people under 18 are likely to use: social networks, game platforms, connected toys, voice assistants and digital learning tools for schools. It could also affect children far beyond the state, prompting some services to introduce changes nationwide, rather than treat minors in California differently…(More)”.

Making Government Data Publicly Available: Guidance for Agencies on Releasing Data Responsibly


Report by Hugh Grant-Chapman, and Hannah Quay-de la Vallee: “Government agencies rely on a wide range of data to effectively deliver services to the populations with which they engage. Civic-minded advocates frequently argue that the public benefits of this data can be better harnessed by making it available for public access. Recent years, however, have also seen growing recognition that the public release of government data can carry certain risks. Government agencies hoping to release data publicly should consider those potential risks in deciding which data to make publicly available and how to go about releasing it.

This guidance offers an introduction to making data publicly available while addressing privacy and ethical data use issues. It is intended for administrators at government agencies that deliver services to individuals — especially those at the state and local levels — who are interested in publicly releasing government data. This guidance focuses on challenges that may arise when releasing aggregated data derived from sensitive information, particularly individual-level data.

The report begins by highlighting key benefits and risks of making government data publicly available. Benefits include empowering members of the general public, supporting research on program efficacy, supporting the work of organizations providing adjacent services, reducing agencies’ administrative burden, and holding government agencies accountable. Potential risks include breaches of individual privacy; irresponsible uses of the data by third parties; and the possibility that the data is not used at all, resulting in wasted resources.

In light of these benefits and risks, the report presents four recommended actions for publishing government data responsibly:

  1. Establish data governance processes and roles;
  2. Engage external communities;
  3. Ensure responsible use and privacy protection; and
  4. Evaluate resource constraints.

These key considerations also take into account federal and state laws as well as emerging computational and analytical techniques for protecting privacy when releasing data, such as differential privacy techniques and synthetic data. Each of these techniques involves unique benefits and trade-offs to be considered in context of the goals of a given data release…(More)”.

Selected Readings on the Intersection of Data, Abortion Care, and Women’s Health


By: Uma Kalkar, Salwa Mansuri, Andrew J. Zahuranec

As part of an ongoing effort to contribute to current topics in data, technology, and governance, The GovLab’s Selected Readings series provides an annotated and curated collection of recommended readings on themes such as open data, data collaboration, and civic technology.

In this edition, we reflect on the intersection between data, abortion, and women’s health following the United States Supreme Court ruling regarding Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which held that there was no constitutional right to abortion and decided that individual states have the authority to regulate access to abortion services. In the days before and since the decision, a large amount of literature has been produced both on the implications of this ruling for individuals’ data privacy and the effects on women’s social and economic lives. It is clear that, while opinions on access to abortion services are often influenced by deeply held attitudes about women’s bodily autonomy and when life begins, data has critical importance both as a potential source of risk and as a tool to understand the decision’s impact.

Below we curate some stories from news sources and academic papers on the role of data in abortion services as well as data-driven research by institutions into the effects of abortion. We hope this selection of readings provides a broader perspective on how data and women’s rights and health intersect.

As well, we urge that anyone seeking further information about abortion access visit www.ineedana.com via a secure site, and preferably via a VPN. For those looking for menstrual apps, Spot On by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America saves data locally on phones, does not provide information to third parties, and allows for anonymous accounts.

The readings are presented in alphabetical order.

***

Data & Privacy Concerns

Conti-Cook, Cynthia. “Surveilling the Digital Abortion Diary: A Preview of How Anti-Abortion Prosecutors Will Weaponize Commonly-Used Digital Devices As Criminal Evidence Against Pregnant People and Abortion Providers in a Post-Roe America.” University of Baltimore Law Review, forthcoming. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3666305

  • In this four-part article, Conti-Cook discusses the history of health data rights and the long-standing ways in which digital evidence produced by pregnant people has been used to prosecute their actions. She discusses how digital technologies help prosecutors lay charges against those seeking abortions and how they help “ the state see[k] control over [them] by virtue of their pregnancy status” by digitally surveilling them.
  • The author examines how “digital, biometric, and genetic surveillance” serves as a vehicle to “microtarget” historically oppressed communities” under a patriarchal and racist social structure.
  • She also discusses how online searches relating to pregnancy termination and abortion, location and tracking data, site history, wearable devices, and app data can be factored into risk assessment tools to assess social service outcomes and federal prosecutions.
  • Conti-Cook ends by reviewing digital hygiene strategies to stop the use of personal data against oneself and foster a more critical use of digital tools for reproductive and pregnancy-related health needs.

Diamant, Jeff, and Besheer Mohamed. “What the Data Says about Abortion in the U.S.” Pew Research Center, June 24, 2022. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/06/24/what-the-data-says-about-abortion-in-the-u-s-2

  • In the aftermath of the overturn of Roe v. Wade (1973), the Pew Research Center published a compilation of facts and statistics about abortion care in the United States obtained through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Guttmacher Institute.
  • The piece describes shifting trends pertaining to the number of legal abortions conducted each year in the United States since the 1970s, the abortion rate among women, the most common types of abortions, and the number of abortion providers over time. It describes, for example, how the procedure has generally declined at “a slow yet steady pace” since the early 1990s. It also notes that the number of providers has declined over time.

Paul, Kari. “Tech Firms under Pressure to Safeguard User Data as Abortion Prosecutions Loom.” The Guardian, June 25, 2022, sec. US news. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jun/25/tech-companies-health-data-security-abortion-prosecution

  • Paul writes about the concerns of abortion and civil rights activists on how data collected about individuals through apps and online searches might incriminate those seeking or providing abortion services. It notes how geo-location data used by tech companies can make “it easy for law enforcement officials to access incriminating data on location, internet searches, and communication history.”
  • While period tracking apps have received significant attention, the article notes that companies such as Meta, Uber, Lyft, Google, and Apple have yet to publicly announce how they would respond to law enforcement requests on abortion evidence.
  • The piece finally includes a recommendation from the digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation that companies preemptively prepare “for a future in which they are served with subpoenas and warrants seeking user data to prosecute abortion seekers and providers.” It suggests end-to-end encryption as a default, refraining from collecting location information, and allowing anonymous or pseudonymous access to apps.

Nguyen, Nicole, and Cordilia James. “How Period-Tracker Apps Treat Your Data, and What That Means If Roe v. Wade Is Overturned.” Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2022. https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-period-tracker-apps-treat-your-data-and-what-that-means-if-roe-v-wade-is-overturned-11655561595

  • Nguyen and James provide an extensive analysis of the ways that period tracking apps track, collect, store, and share data about women’s fertility and menstrual cycle. Following Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), which overturned Roe v. Wade (1973), there has been significant public concern about the (re)use of the data these apps collect.
  • They detail different kinds of data that could be subpoenaed from period trackers and the terminology that users can search for in an app’s privacy policy to understand how their data will be used. It describes, for example, what it means to when Terms & Conditions outline how they will “encrypt” (that is, to scramble into an incoherent string of code), “share” or “sell” (data can be given to third parties such as advertisers), and respond to “requests” (companies may notify the user when a court or government data asks for data).
  • The article closes with an overview of the most-downloaded fertility apps — including Flo, Apple Health, Clue, FitBit, Glow, and Natural Cycles — and where they stand on data privacy.

Sherman, Jenna. “How Abortion Misinformation and Disinformation Spread Online.” Scientific American, June 24, 2022. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-abortion-misinformation-and-disinformation-spread-online/

  • In Scientific American, Sherman writes an opinion piece on the growth of online dis- and misinformation in the aftermath of Dobbs. She summarizes how, according to current data-driven research, much of the information people find online about abortion is not reliable and that the highest volume of online searches about abortion tends to be in those states with the most restricted access.
  • Despite much research on abortion, Sherman notes “a lack of access to quality information or care” online, especially for marginalized communities. She also summarizes the results of studies on social media and search engines. In one 2021 study, searches for “abortion pill” tended not to yield scientifically accurate and moderately accessible information.
  • Another study cited in the article found that half of the web pages surfaced by Google on abortion contained misinformation. This appears to be by design — with false information about “abortion pill reversal” and abortion practices generating large revenues for platforms like Facebook.

Data on the Impact of Abortion Access

Amador, Diego. “The Consequences of Abortion and Contraception Policies on Young Women’s Reproductive Choices, Schooling and Labor Supply.” Documento CEDE №2017–43 (2017). https://ssrn.com/abstract=2987367

  • Amador analyzes aggregate provider data from the Guttmacher Institute to assess the relationship between contraceptive use, abortion, schooling, and labor decisions of US women. The dataset follows a sample of women born between 1980 and 1984, with data from interviews starting in 1997 and ending in 2011.
  • A counterfactual model based on the data suggests that a perfectly enforced ban on abortions would raise the rate of standard contraceptive use for women 9.1%. The fraction of children born to single mothers would increase from 30% to 34% while the average amount of schooling after high school would decrease by 3.1%. The number of women with college degrees would drop by 1.8% age points. The estimated average loss in lifetime earnings for women who would have at least had one abortion was estimated at USD 39,172.
  • The author also assesses the impact that free contraception would have, suggesting a 15.7 decrease in pregnancies per 1000 women and an 11.6 reduction in abortions per 1000 women. Accumulated schooling after high school increased by an estimated 3%. An assessment of mandatory counseling laws found that the long-run effect of these laws on women ages 18 to 30 was a 10% decrease in abortion rates.
  • The author concludes that policies such as an abortion ban and free contraception have important effects on schooling and lifetime earnings but only a moderate impact on labor supply.

ANSIRH. “Introduction to the Turnaway Study.” ANSIRH, March 2020. https://www.ansirh.org/sites/default/files/publications/files/turnawaystudyannotatedbibliography.pdf

  • This fact sheet summarizes various analyses stemming from the Turnaway Study, the first study to rigorously examine the effects of receiving abortion services versus being denied access to them. The study is an initiative by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a program within the UCSF Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. It examines 1,000 women seeking abortion from 30 facilities around the country, with interviews conducted over five years.
  • Studies conducted with the dataset find that the most common reason for women to seek an abortion was not being able to afford a child and/or not having a suitable partner/parent involved to assist with childrearing. Most women don’t feel pressured by counseling that occurs in clinics but find it less helpful when it is state-mandated. Half of all women report seeing anti-abortion protestors at clinics and greater contact with them tends to be more upsetting.
  • Studies also suggest no evidence that abortion causes negative mental health outcomes, although being denied an abortion is associated with elevated anxiety and stress and lower self-esteem. Those who receive an abortion experience “a mix of positive and negative emotions in the days after […] with relief predominating.” The intensity of the emotion diminishes over time but over 95% of women report “abortion was the right decision for them at all times over five years after.”
  • Carrying an unwanted pregnancy tended to be associated with worse outcomes for women’s physical health and socioeconomic status. Women denied abortion who later gave birth reported more chronic pain and rated their overall health as worse. Economic insecurity for women and their families increased almost four-fold. In terms of education, women who received abortions tended to have higher odds of having positive one-year plans while women denied abortions were no more or less likely to drop out of school.

Donohue, John J., and Steven D. Levitt. “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime Over the Last Two Decades.” The University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper №2019–75 (May 2017). https://ssrn.com/abstract=3391510

  • This paper primarily argues that legalizing abortion in the 1970s had positive consequences in the significant reduction of crime even two decades later, in the 1990s. In particular, the paper suggested an approximate 20% decrease in crime rates between 1997 and 2014. Not only is abortion legalization a crucial factor but perhaps one of the most crucial ones in the significant reduction in crime rates (see Donohue and Levitt, 2001).
  • A particularly crucial aspect of the data collected was that it took close to a decade for the “number of abortions performed to reach a steady-state” attributed to the variability and heterogeneity of state-level data due to the variability and dynamic nature of evolving abortion legislation and abortion reform.
  • Moreover, the effect of abortion on crime rates was only incrementally visible as “crime-aged cohorts” were gradually exposed to legalized abortion. Donohue and Levitt’s work supports the abortion-crime hypothesis — that increased access to abortion would decrease crime.

Frost, Jennifer J., Jennifer Mueller, and Zoe H. Pleasure. “Trends and Differentials in Receipt of Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in the United States: Services Received and Sources of Care, 2006–2019.” The Guttmacher Institute, June 24, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1363/2021.33017

  • This report describes trends in reproductive and sexual health care across the United States over a 13-year period as told by the National Survey of Family Growth, the only national data source that contains detailed information on sexual and reproductive health. It finds that some 7 in 10 women of reproductive age (44 million people) make at least one medical visit for sexual and reproductive health care each year. However, disparities exist — Hispanic women are less likely to receive care than White women, and the uninsured are substantially less likely to receive care than privately insured women.
  • It further finds that publicly funded clinics were a critical source of care for young women, lower-income women, women of color, foreign-born women, women on Medicaid, and women without insurance.
  • The report also finds that the Affordable Care Act increased the number of women receiving contraceptive services by 8% among women with private providers. There was a complimentary drop among women receiving contraceptive care from publicly funded clinics.

Hill, J. Jackson IV. “The Need for a National Abortion Reporting Requirement: Why Both Sides Should Be in Support of Better Data.” Available at SSRN (May 2, 2014). https://ssrn.com/abstract=2306667.

  • Hill writes a paper urging organizations to improve the status of abortion reporting in the United States. Examining statistics collected by the Centers for Disease Control and the Guttmacher Institute, the author finds serious deficiencies, including a lack of voluntary reporting from states, conflicting requirements (or unenforced requirements) about what data is collected, and an absence of timely data.
  • After the passage of Roe, state legislatures attempted to mandate abortion reporting and monitoring; however, concerns over the safety of women’s choice, undue administrative hurdles, and issues over pervasive data collection made it difficult to impose a standardized, non-intrusive, and anonymized data collection practice.
  • Hill argues that these data gaps and paternalistic methods of collecting data have had consequences on the ability of policymakers to make decisions around abortion policy and undermine the public’s knowledge on the issue. He assesses the feasibility of federally regulated abortion data and potential other strategies for achieving reliable, uniform data. He proposes two avenues for a “comprehensive, uniform abortion data” set: a ‘command’ option that requires states to provide and collect abortion information for a federal database or a ‘bribe’ option that monetarily incentivizes states to provide this information.

Knowles Myers, Caitlin, and Morgan Welch. “What Can Economic Research Tell Us about the Effect of Abortion Access on Women’s Lives?” Brookings, November 30, 2021. https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-can-economic-research-tell-us-about-the-effect-of-abortion-access-on-womens-lives/

  • Knowles Myers and Welch write on what current economic research suggests about abortion access on women’s reproductive, social, and economic outcomes.
  • Comparing Alaska, California, Hawaii, New York, Washington, and the District of Columbia (states which repealed abortion bans prior to Roe) to other states, research suggests states that repealed abortion bans had between a 4–11% decline in births relative to the rest of the country — with effects particularly large for teens and women of color. Studies also suggest that abortion legalization reduced the number of teen mothers by 34% and reduced maternal mortality by 30–40%, with little impact on white women.
  • Additional studies indicate that abortion access has a large impact on the circumstances under which children are born. Various studies find that abortion legalization reduced the number of unwanted children, cases of neglect and abuse, and the number of children living in poverty. It also improved long-term outcomes by increasing the likelihood of child attendance in college.
  • Other studies find that abortion and pregnancy have substantial impact on women’s economic and social lives, with pregnancy frequently lowering women’s wages. This fact has substantial implications for “low-income mothers experiencing disruptive life events.” Based on various studies, the authors argue that “access to abortion could be pivotal to these women’s financial lives.”
  • While abortion is driven by views on women’s bodily autonomy and when life begins, the authors find a clear causal link between access to abortion and “whether, when, and under what circumstances women become mothers.” All studies suggest that access to abortion can have substantial implications on education, earnings, careers, and life outcomes. Restricting or eliminating access would diminish women’s personal and economic lives along with that of their families.

Maxmen, Amy. “Why Hundreds of Scientists Are Weighing in on a High-Stakes US Abortion Case.” Nature 599, no. 7884 (October 26, 2021): 187–89. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-02834-7

  • A piece by Amy Maxmen for Nature summarizes a recent amicus brief filed by more than 800 scientists and several scientific organizations providing data-driven research into how abortion access is an important aspect of reproductive health.
  • It notes, for example, more than 40 studies suggesting that receiving an abortion does not harm a woman’s mental or physical health but that being denied an abortion can result in negative financial and health outcomes. It also cites a 2019 study of nearly 900 women who “who sought but were unable to get abortions reported higher rates of chronic headaches and joint pain five years later, compared with those who got an abortion,” while a similar 2017 study finds no similar physical or psychological effects.
  • A separate amicus brief submitted to the Court by about 550 public health and reproductive health researchers described how unwanted pregnancies can result in worse health outcomes. It also can disproportionately harm the physical, mental, and economic well-being of Black people according to a separate study.
  • An additional amicus brief filed by economists notes several studies that found that “abortion legalization in the 1970s helped to increase women’s educational attainment, participation in the labor force and earnings — especially for single Black women.”

Myers, Caitlin, and Ladd, Daniel. “Did parental involvement laws grow teeth? The effects of state restrictions on minors’ access to abortion.” Journal of Health Economics, 71, (2020): p.102302. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3029823

  • A paper by Caitlin Knowles Myers of Germany’s IZA Institute of Labor Economics and Daniel Ladd of the University of California, Irvine compiles data on the location of abortion providers and enforcement of parental involvement laws. The researchers seek to assess the impact of laws requiring parental approval for an abortion have on minors seeking abortions.
  • The paper concludes that parental involvement laws may have contributed to a modest decline in teen births (a 1.4% reduction) during the 1980s and 1990s but a 2.8% increase from 1993 to 2014 in women aged 15 to 18.
  • It further finds that laws with an avoidance distance (the distance minors have to travel to avoid parental involvement and can seek an abortion confidentially) have significant effects. In the 1980s, a parental involvement law with an avoidance distance of 100 miles decreased teen births by 1.48%. A parental involvement law with a 400-mile avoidance distance, about a day’s drive, increases the teen birth rate by 4.3%.

Popinchalk, Anna, Cynthia Beavin, and Jonathan Bearak. “The State of Global Abortion Data: An Overview and Call to Action.” BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health 48, no. 1 (January 1, 2022): 3–6. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsrh-2021-201109.

  • Popinchalf and colleagues at the Guttmacher Institute write in the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health on the urgent need for data on abortion incidents and access to examine disparities in people’s ability to safely terminate a pregnancy.
  • The authors note that the three sources of data on abortion are official statistics, surveys of women, and scientific studies. However, stigmatization and varying legal access undermine the quality of this data and can lead to substantial under-reporting. Even in high-income countries, there can be significant variation in the frequency with which data is published. This variation in quality and availability exacerbates inequities by limiting the number of experiences that can be studied.
  • The authors argue that data availability and quality of abortion care can be improved by investing in country-level surveys and scientific studies. It also argues for reducing stigma through community and provider messaging as it can hinder the accuracy and completeness of datasets.

Tierney, Katherine I. “Abortion Underreporting in Add Health: Findings and Implications.” Population Research and Policy Review 38, no. 3 (June 1, 2019): 417–28. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-019-09511-8

  • Tierney notes that there is substantial evidence that abortion is significantly underreported in the United States, especially among Black women and those in lower socioeconomic classes.
  • She supplements this review with her own evaluation of the abortion data in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), finding that the dataset captures only 35% of expected abortions. Examining data from 1994–1995, 1996, 2001–2002, and 2008–2009, she found severe abortion underreporting; however, there were no significant differences between race/ethnicity, age, or time of abortion and underreporting.
  • Tierney argues that this fact means that Add Health is no better than other surveys in collecting abortion data. She also argues that this underreporting, likely caused by stigma, has substantial implications for research and that researchers should be cautious with self-reports of abortion. Figures need to be evaluated, contextualized, and used with caution.

“If Everybody’s White, There Can’t Be Any Racial Bias”: The Disappearance of Hispanic Drivers From Traffic Records


Article by Richard A. Webster: “When sheriff’s deputies in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, pulled over Octavio Lopez for an expired inspection tag in 2018, they wrote on his traffic ticket that he is white. Lopez, who is from Nicaragua, is Hispanic and speaks only Spanish, said his wife.

In fact, of the 167 tickets issued by deputies to drivers with the last name Lopez over a nearly six-year span, not one of the motorists was labeled as Hispanic, according to records provided by the Jefferson Parish clerk of court. The same was true of the 252 tickets issued to people with the last name of Rodriguez, 234 named Martinez, 223 with the last name Hernandez and 189 with the surname Garcia.

This kind of misidentification is widespread — and not without harm. Across America, law enforcement agencies have been accused of targeting Hispanic drivers, failing to collect data on those traffic stops, and covering up potential officer misconduct and aggressive immigration enforcement by identifying people as white on tickets.

“If everybody’s white, there can’t be any racial bias,” Frank Baumgartner, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina of Chapel Hill, told WWNO/WRKF and ProPublica.

Nationally, states have tried to patch this data loophole and tighten controls against racial profiling. In recent years, legislators have passed widely hailed traffic stop data-collection laws in California, Colorado, Illinois, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, D.C. This April, Alabama became the 22nd state to enact similar legislation.

Though Louisiana has had its own data-collection requirement for two decades, it contains a loophole unlike any other state: It exempts law enforcement agencies from collecting and delivering data to the state if they have an anti-racial-profiling policy in place. This has rendered the law essentially worthless, said Josh Parker, a senior staff attorney at the Policing Project, a public safety research nonprofit at the New York University School of Law.

Louisiana State Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, attempted to remove the exemption two years ago, but law enforcement agencies protested. Instead, he was forced to convene a task force to study the issue, which thus far hasn’t produced any results, he said.

“They don’t want the data because they know what it would reveal,” Duplessis said of law enforcement agencies….(More)”.

NativeDATA


About: “NativeDATA is a free online resource that offers practical guidance for Tribes and Native-serving organizations. For this resource, Native-serving organizations includes Tribal and urban Indian organizations and Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TECs). 

Tribal and urban Indian communities need correct health information (data), so that community leaders can:

  • Watch disease trends
  • Respond to health threats
  • Create useful health policies…

Throughout, this resource offers practical guidance for obtaining and sharing health data in ways that honor Tribal sovereignty, data sovereignty, and public health authorityis the authority of a sovereign government to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. As sovereign nations, Tribes have the power to define how they will use this authority to protect and promote the health of their communities. The federal government recognizes Tribes and Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TECs) as public health authorities under federal law. More.

Inside you will find expert advice to help you:

Evaluation Guidelines for Representative Deliberative Processes


OECD Report: “Evaluations of representative deliberative processes do not happen regularly, not least due to the lack of specific guidance for their evaluation. To respond to this need, together with an expert advisory group, the OECD has developed Evaluation Guidelines for Representative Deliberative Processes. They aim to encourage public authorities, organisers, and evaluators to conduct more comprehensive, objective, and comparable evaluations.

These evaluation guidelines establish minimum standards and criteria for the evaluation of representative deliberative processes as a foundation on which more comprehensive evaluations can be built by adding additional criteria according to specific contexts and needs.

The guidelines suggest that independent evaluations are the most comprehensive and reliable way of evaluating a deliberative process.

For smaller and shorter deliberative processes, evaluation in the form of self-reporting by members and/or organisers of a deliberative process can also contribute to the learning process…(More)”.

Adopting Agile in State and Local Governments


Report by Sukumar Ganapati: “Agile emerged initially as a set of values and principles for software development formalized in 2001 with the Agile Manifesto. For two decades, it helped revolutionize software development. Today, Agile approaches have been adapted to government services beyond software development, offering a new way of thinking and delivering in areas such as project management, policymaking, human resources, and procurement. 

The basics of Agile and associated methods have been covered in previous IBM Center for The Business of Government reports. These reports provide a good overview of Agile principles, use of Lean, and application of user-centered design. They provide insights into the evolution of Agile adoption in public sector over the last two decades. This new report, Adopting Agile in State and Local Governments, by Sukumar Ganapati of Florida International University, examines the adoption of Agile among state and local governments. State and local governments have increasingly adopted Agile methods in the last decade, applying them across a range of applications. At the same time, they vary widely in terms of their maturity levels in the adoption and implementation.

Professor Ganapati identifies three broad phases in this lifecycle of Agile maturity among public agencies in general.  The three phases are not clear cut, with distinctive breaks between where one phase ends and the next one begins. Rather, they could be conceived as a continuum, as public agencies evolve through the lifecycle of implementing Agile. The report highlights the evolution of the use of Agile methods in two states (Connecticut and California) and two local cities (New York and Austin). The cases show the rich contextual evolution of Agile and how the methods are applied for using technology to streamline enterprise processes and to address social policy problems. The four case studies show different trajectories of adopting Agile in state and local governments. The strategies for adopting and implementing Agile methods broadly differ in the three lifecycle phases of infancy, adolescence, and adulthood. The case studies offer lessons for enabling strategies to adopt Agile across these three phases…(More)”.

Institutionalizing deliberative mini-publics? Issues of legitimacy and power for randomly selected assemblies in political systems


Paper by Dimitri Courant: “Randomly selected deliberative mini-publics (DMPs) are on the rise globally. However, they remain ad hoc, opening the door to arbitrary manoeuvre and triggering a debate on their future institutionalization. What are the competing proposals aiming at institutionalizing DMPs within political systems? I suggest three ways for thinking about institutionalization: in terms of temporality, of legitimacy and support, and of power and role within a system. First, I analyze the dimension of time and how this affect DMP institutional designs. Second, I argue that because sortition produces ‘weak representatives’ with ‘humility-legitimacy’, mini-publics hardly ever make binding decisions and need to rely on external sources of legitimacies. Third, I identify four institutional models, relying on opposing views of legitimacy and politics: tamed consultation, radical democracy, representative klerocracy and hybrid polyarchy. They differ in whether mini-publics are interpreted as tools: for legitimizing elected officials; to give power to the people; or as a mean to suppress voting…(More)”.