Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer

Reporter

Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent the last year hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

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Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

Tort Reform Brings More Doctors to Texas, But Only for Rich People

| Fri Oct. 19, 2007 1:44 PM EDT

In 2003, Texas voters approved a ballot initiative known as Proposition 12 that helped radically restrict state residents' ability to sue doctors or nursing homes that killed or injured them. Insurance company lobbyists had claimed doctors were fleeing the state because of lawsuits and high malpractice insurance premiums, threatening access to care. Proposition 12 was supposed to fix all that. Not only would doctors rush to Texas for its friendly legal climate, but, supporters claimed, obstetricians would move en masse to the 152 poor, rural Texas counties that had no ob/gyn to deliver local babies.

The New York Times recently declared Prop 12 a huge success because doctors (ob/gyns in particular) are supposedly flocking to Texas now that they don't have to worry about getting sued. One thing the Times didn't point out, though, was that the number of those new ob/gyns who've moved to rural, underserved Texas is exactly zero.
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The Texas Observer this month crunched the numbers, and came to the not-so-startling conclusion that while there may be more doctors in Texas thanks to tort reform, virtually all of them moved into the state's richest suburbs, which were already well-stocked with highly paid specialists. As it turns out, doctors don't shun the Texas sticks because of lawsuits but because they'd just rather live closer to Starbucks and their golfing buddies.

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Does Barbie Eat Fries?

| Fri Oct. 19, 2007 12:14 PM EDT

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Back in June, under fire for marketing junk food to children, McDonalds pledged to become more socially responsible. The company insisted that it didn't need to be regulated by the government. It would do its part to fight the childhood obesity epidemic by producing new advertising that included "healthy lifestyle messages" for kids.

Well, here's what they've come up with: A Barbie on rollerblades in every Happy Meal. The plastic sex-kittens are part of a new promotion to get little girls to consume the 700 calories and 28 grams of fat that are the average Happy Meal. But hey, Barbie is rollerblading!

Preteens on the Pill?

| Thu Oct. 18, 2007 3:59 PM EDT

A student health center at a middle school in Portland, Maine, recently voted to make birth control pills and patches available to students treated at the center. For those of you who don't remember, middle schoolers range in age from 11 to 13. While making contraceptives more widely available is a noble goal, doesn't an 11-year-old girl seeking birth control pills cry out for a visit from social services? After all, girls that young rarely have 12-year-old partners.

Obviously it's better to have preteens on the pill than pregnant, but still, the news that five kids told the middle-school nurse in Portland that they were having sex last year seems worth more intervention that just a pack of Ortho-Novum....

The New Face of Christian Legal Education

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 2:10 PM EDT

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Regent Law, the Christian law school founded by Pat Robertson, is moving forward with disciplinary action against student Adam Key (left, showing off his "Due Process" tattoo). Key ran afoul of school authorities after posting on his Facebook page a video of Robertson scratching his forehead with his middle finger. Regent has banned Key from campus and is forcing him to undergo a psychiatric exam by a doctor of the school's choosing.

The whole episode reflects the Religious Right's utter lack of a sense of humor. Key talked to Above the Law blogger David Lat yesterday about his recent suspension and his background (which includes a stint as a pro wrestler). Here's what Key had to say about Robertson and his pending psych exam:

"I will undergo this psychiatric exam after Regent forces Pat Robertson to undergo one. Truly, what's crazier... disagreeing with the administration, or hearing voices that tell you about hurricanes that don't happen, and the impending apocalypse?"

Clearly they're never going to let this kid loose on campus again...

Mukasey Is a Bore

| Wed Oct. 17, 2007 12:47 PM EDT

Two hours in to the confirmation hearing for attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have pestered the former judge about everything from his view of the COPS program (Feinstein) to his stance on obscenity prosecutions (Orrin Hatch, of course). So far, Mukasey hasn't shown many signs of life. He looked as though he was barely tolerating Iowa senator Charles Grassley, who has shown a remarkable amount of concern about the False Claims Act.

It's hard to see how the committee will take a chunk out of this guy. The president couldn't have found a blander (and more humorless) nominee. If boring=competence, Mukasey shouldn't have any trouble getting confirmed.

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