News Brief: Afghan Bombing, Deadly Force, Title X Changes
NOEL KING, HOST:
More than a thousand people were gathered in a hall in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, on Saturday night to celebrate a wedding.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Yeah. And among them was a suicide bomber. The blast left 63 people dead and almost 200 wounded. Responsibility for this attack has been claimed by the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan.
KING: Diaa Hadid covers Afghanistan and Pakistan for NPR. She's on the line. Hi, Diaa.
DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Good morning.
KING: So what else do we know about this terrible tragedy at the wedding?
HADID: So far we know that a suicide bomber walked into a packed wedding celebration in a hall in Kabul late Saturday or early Sunday morning. And he detonated his explosives belt near where the wedding band was playing. He killed 60 people, including 14 members of the bride's family, and wounded dozens more people. ISIS claimed responsibility. They said they were attacking Shiites, a Muslim sect they see as worthy of death by any means. And it's the deadliest bombing this year in Kabul. So even by the standards of the Afghan conflict, this was a terrible incident.
KING: Particularly bad. Yeah. How active is the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan? How often do they do this kind of thing?
HADID: They have struck regularly at Afghan civilians, particularly Shiites. They have a toehold in the country in Kabul and on the border with Pakistan. And that kind of tells you something about how complicated this conflict in Afghanistan has become because it's ISIS attacking civilians - largely Shiites - and other people they see as against their incredibly violent interpretation of Islam. We have ISIS fighting the Taliban. We have the Taliban fighting foreign forces, and we have them fighting Afghan national security forces.
And also, ISIS identified this bomber as being from Pakistan. And that complicates an already tense relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. And it feeds into the fear of critics who accuse Pakistan of fostering instability by allowing these cross-border attacks. And to be clear, Pakistan has condemned this attack and continues to condemn attacks in Afghanistan.
KING: But this all happened as the U.S. and the Taliban are conducting these talks that are aimed at the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. What does a large, very significant attack like this mean for those talks, if anything?
HADID: Right. I mean, some people here think that what ISIS is trying to do is remind people that it exists. It's asserting its presence through shedding the blood of civilians. And it does come at a time of negotiations between the Taliban and Afghanistan.
And Trump has referred to those negotiations over the weekend. And he said, quote, "some things" would be announced over the next few weeks. He said Afghanistan didn't want to become a laboratory for terrorism and said that there would likely be a continuing presence of counterterrorism forces in the country, presumably to help Afghan national security forces crack down on ISIS and other militant groups operating in the country.
KING: I guess that brings up a really important question. I mean, this attack on the wedding was completely brazen. Do people in Afghanistan feel safe right now?
HADID: As far as we can tell, they don't feel safe. And it's a reminder that when foreign forces - if and when they do leave Afghanistan, the war isn't going to be over for Afghan civilians. They're going to face the brunt of these sorts of attacks. And it's not clear if Afghan security forces can protect them without the help and support of foreign forces. And we still don't know if the Taliban will renounce its attacks on security forces and government workers as well.
KING: NPR's Diaa Hadid. Diaa, thanks so much.
HADID: Thank you, Noel.
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KING: All right. California's governor, Gavin Newsom, is expected to sign into law today a measure that would raise the bar for when police officers can use deadly force.
GREENE: Yeah. So this bill comes in response to the numerous times when deadly police force killed unarmed black men, including Stephon Clark last year in Sacramento. This legislation, we should say, did not come easy. It involved a lot of compromise between activists, law enforcement and also lawmakers.
KING: Ben Adler from Capital Public Radio in Sacramento has been following all of this. He's on the line. Good morning, Ben.
BEN ADLER, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.
KING: So tell us about this law - or this expected law. What's it going to mean exactly?
ADLER: It is definitely fair to call it a compromise. And the whole debate boils down to two words - necessary and reasonable - and how they are defined. Right now, deadly force is justified in California if a reasonable officer would have acted similarly in that situation - so in other words, what a typical officer would do based on his or her training. When the law takes effect in January, that standard is going to change to when the officer reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary.
KING: OK. So necessary is the key word here. How does that change things?
ADLER: Well, the bill leaves interpretation up to the legal systems on necessary, so that could take a little bit of sorting through. There are other parts of this deal. And by the way, that was part of the compromise, leaving it up to the legal system to figure it out. The officer's conduct leading up to the shooting is going to be considered, but so too will the suspect's behavior. And there is a separate bill that creates new training standards for officers and money in the state budget to pay for that training. That was a big priority of law enforcement.
KING: As David mentioned, there was a lot of compromise here. How did lawmakers manage to go ahead and get this all done?
ADLER: Well, Stephon Clark, of course, was killed by Sacramento police in his grandmother's backyard in March of last year. Officers said they thought Clark had a gun when, in fact, he was holding a cellphone. This past March, the Sacramento County district attorney and the California attorney general each decided, after separate investigations, not to charge the officers who shot Clark.
Protesters, activists, civil liberties groups - they all demanded a new use of force standard. Law enforcement groups pushed back. And really, Noel, it took both sides realizing that neither of them had the votes to get all of what they wanted, along with pressure from the state's leaders, in order to hammer out a deal.
KING: So just briefly, is anyone actually happy about this? Or does it feel like both sides kind of won a little, lost a little?
ADLER: I think both, to some extent. And everyone is certainly trying to spin it as, look, this was good for what - you know, we got what we were looking for.
KING: Ben, police using deadly force obviously has become an issue across the country. I mean, I'm thinking of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Eric Garner in New York. When you look at this law, do you think it has the potential to change how other states approach their rules on when the police can use force and how?
ADLER: As you just touched on, there's a little disagreement in terms of how the new - how far the new law actually goes. Backers argue it's one of the strongest, if not the strongest in the nation even though they didn't get everything they wanted. And yet, other blue states - and sometimes even national Democrats - often look to California as both an example and a precedent. Other states discussing this issue and, just this past weekend, a new state working group in Minnesota held its first hearing on use of deadly force. And we'll be watching other states like Minnesota as well.
KING: Ben Adler of Capital Public Radio. Ben, thanks so much.
ADLER: You're welcome.
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KING: In order to get federal funding, reproductive health clinics have to follow certain rules. And as of today, those rules are changing.
GREENE: Yeah. The focus here is Title X. That's the federal program that funds family planning and preventive health services. A federal court ruled on Friday in favor of a Trump administration policy barring clinics that receive federal funding under Title X from providing abortions or referring patients to abortion providers. As a result, some family planning health care providers, like Planned Parenthood, are considering leaving the program altogether.
KING: NPR's Sarah McCammon covers reproductive rights, and she's with me now. Good morning, Sarah.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.
KING: All right. So let's start with Title X, this large federal grant program. What changes are coming to it exactly?
MCCAMMON: So today is a key deadline set by the Trump administration for recipients of Title X funds to confirm that they're making a good faith effort to comply with new Trump administration rules for the program. And that does mean it's very likely that a substantial number of health care providers around the country that provide these services - most notably Planned Parenthood clinics - are going to withdraw from Title X by the end of the day.
And, Noel, this is a big program - $286 million a year. It covers contraceptive services, STD screenings and other services for low-income people. And under the new rules, any group that provides abortions or advises patients on how to get them - unless it's a case of rape, incest or a medical emergency - will no longer be able to receive Title X funds.
KING: Why is Planned Parenthood saying that they're not going to comply with the rule?
MCCAMMON: Well, they call it a gag rule. And I spoke to Planned Parenthood's acting president, Alexis McGill - excuse me - Alexis McGill Johnson. And she said the rule interferes with the doctor-patient relationship.
ALEXIS MCGILL JOHNSON: Imagine if you show up as a patient to a health center, and the doctor's only ability is to refer you to prenatal care. And you may have already decided that you would like to have an abortion. Federal regulations will ban that doctor from actually giving you the advice and referring you to abortion.
MCCAMMON: And Planned Parenthood made a last-ditch plea last week to a federal appeals court asking the court to block the rule. That request was turned down on Friday. And Planned Parenthood says this effectively forces them out of Title X, which is a big deal because Planned Parenthood has been a major part of the program since it began decades ago. They say they serve about 40% of the 4 million Title X patients nationwide. And it's not just Planned Parenthood. For example, Maine Family Planning, which is the only Title X grantee in Maine, has also said they will leave.
KING: How is the Trump administration responding to all of this? Are they showing any give?
MCCAMMON: Well, they say that all providers of reproductive health care through Title X just need to comply with the rule and stop either performing abortions or referring patients for them if they want to stay in the program. HHS said in a statement last week that Planned Parenthood is, quote, "actually choosing to place a higher priority on the ability to refer for abortion instead of continuing to receive federal funds to provide a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services to clients in need of these services."
So the rule is a big victory, though, for opponents of abortion rights who've pushed for a long time to cut all public funds to Planned Parenthood. And this weekend, a spokeswoman for one anti-abortion rights group, SBA List, told me that Planned Parenthood is demonstrating their commitment to performing abortion by this.
KING: OK. So it doesn't sound like a compromise is on the horizon here. What does this mean for the patients who use Title X? These are mostly, largely, overwhelmingly, low-income people, right?
KING: What do they do now?
MCCAMMON: Not totally clear what happens next. I'm told that, you know, these organizations can't continue to patch through with private funds indefinitely, so it could mean a delay in getting some services. Groups that support the rule change, though, point out that there are lots of other organizations that provide this care. But a lot of patients are used to going to Planned Parenthood and similar organizations, so it's a big shift.
KING: NPR's Sarah McCammon covers reproductive rights. Sarah, thanks so much for being with us.
MCCAMMON: Thank you.
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