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News brief: abortion-rights poll, Buffalo hearing, NATO membership

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The unprecedented leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion has thrown abortion rights back in the spotlight of American politics.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The document signaled the court's conservative majority is ready to roll back five decades of what has been a bedrock of American law. Now the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that about two-thirds of Americans oppose overturning the landmark Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the United States.

MARTIN: With us now to discuss the survey's findings, NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thanks for being here.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: So a majority of Americans want to keep Roe in place, huh?

MONTANARO: Well, yeah. As you guys noted, roughly two-thirds, 64% of Americans, say they do not support overturning Roe v. Wade. But 68% are in favor of some degree of restrictions on abortion rights. That includes a slim majority of Democrats. Which restrictions, though, draw some differences of opinion. About 6-in-10 think abortion should be allowed at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Others believe it only should be legal in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the pregnant person is at stake. But only 9% think it shouldn't be allowed under any circumstance. When we looked at some of what's being considered in the States, we found that people are largely in favor of providing safe havens for those seeking abortions from out of state. People don't want to let private citizens sue abortion providers. And it's very unpopular to make abortion a crime. Respondents are split, though, when it comes to a 15-week ban and the mailing of abortion-inducing pills.

MARTIN: What does this survey say about how this leak out of the court could affect midterm elections? I mean, does either party come away with any kind of advantage?

MONTANARO: They do. Democrats are seeing a bit of an advantage. We should note, though, that the draft decision could differ from how the court ultimately rules.

MARTIN: Right.

MONTANARO: For now, Democrats have the edge not just because most people want - don't want Roe overturned, but also because when it comes to the contents of the leak, 66% of Democrats say it makes them more likely to vote. Compare that to just 40% of Republicans who said so. Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll, thinks that's a big deal.

LEE MIRINGOFF: It definitely has some focus as no other issue in the recent months has. And to have a gap of that magnitude over the Republicans is something that, you know, at this point, should not go unnoticed.

MONTANARO: Also, we saw a reversal from last month on who people said they would choose to vote for if the election were held today. Forty-seven percent said they'd choose a Democrat, 42% said a Republican. That's a net eight-point boost for Democrats from last month. Of course, this is nationally, not in the battleground districts, where Democrats acknowledge Republicans have the advantage right now.

MARTIN: So then you have to ask, will Democratic voters stay animated? I mean, it's one thing to be really exercised about this in the moment. But does that animation carry over into November?

MONTANARO: Yeah, it's a key question. President Biden got a bounce after his State of the Union address, but that receded. I asked Miringoff if he sees anything in this that could make this more long lasting or not.

MIRINGOFF: My sense of it is that this is not going to be one of those issues that shows up and vanishes soon thereafter because so many of the states are going to then have a key decision-making role in what the policy is within their jurisdiction.

MONTANARO: Now, what we know for sure is that abortion is a potentially huge wild card in this election. We'll see what the Supreme Court actually decides. But right now, the leak is, at least in the short run, firing up Democrats.

MARTIN: NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, thank you.

MONTANARO: Hey, you're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: The 18-year-old white man accused of killing 10 people and wounding three others in a shooting rampage appears in court this morning in Buffalo, N.Y.

FADEL: The attack took place at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Most of the victims were Black. The state's governor is promising changes to combat what she calls domestic terrorism.

MARTIN: NPR's Cheryl Corley has been reporting on this story. She joins us now from Buffalo. Good morning, Cheryl.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: Let's start with the suspect. He pleaded not guilty in a quick arraignment last week. What can we expect from today's hearing?

CORLEY: Well, today is what's called a felony hearing. And that's where they determine whether there's enough evidence for trial. Payton Gendron, as you mentioned, is charged with first-degree murder. And, like, this is an open-and-shut case - but it's not that simple, according to District Attorney John Flynn.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN FLYNN: Emotions are high. I understand the rawness of this matter. However, I do not operate in the court of public opinion. I operate in a court of law. And this defendant is innocent until proven guilty.

CORLEY: And Flynn says more charges may come, however, after a grand jury convenes and investigates the shooting. There's a 45-day window for that to occur. And the clock starts ticking today.

MARTIN: I mean, we heard Flynn say the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. We just have to note, though, the shooting at the supermarket was livestreamed on a social media channel before getting removed. And the suspect, apparently, wrote a racist document that was posted online. I mean, are those things going to be factors in the trial?

CORLEY: Well, you know, it really depends on whether they are admitted in court. And the battle over evidence always plays out in trials. County board association selected attorneys in private practice to represent the suspect. And what evidence is allowed is sure to be an argument between the defense and prosecutors if the plea remains the same and if the case moves forward.

MARTIN: So let's talk about what the governor of New York is doing. Kathy Hochul has moved, along with the state attorney general, to go after social media companies. Tell us more.

CORLEY: Well, the governor said the nation's biggest threat is the mainstreaming of hate speech and white supremacy and easy access to military-style weapons and ammunition. She sent a referral letter requesting the attorney general, Letitia James, to investigate social media platforms, Twitch and 4Chan and others that were, apparently, used to amplify the attack. And Hochul also signed an executive order that sets up a domestic terrorism unit.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KATHY HOCHUL: They'll develop the best practices for law enforcement, for mental health professionals, for school officials to address the rise in homegrown extremism. And we'll make sure that they're trained to know how it occurs, where it occurs and how to stop it.

MARTIN: So in addition to this focus on social media, the governor has also announced this plan for tighter gun controls. What can you tell us?

CORLEY: She wants state lawmakers, really, to close gun law loopholes that she says allows specialty guns to be sold without permits and just a whole package. And in the midst of all this, the community is mourning. There have been vigils held all week. And tomorrow, a funeral will be held for 67-year-old Heyward Patterson, one of the 10 victims.

MARTIN: NPR's Cheryl Corley reporting from Buffalo. Cheryl, thank you.

CORLEY: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: OK. So Finland and Sweden, historically neutral countries, have made this very historic decision to apply for NATO membership. But Turkey says, not so fast.

FADEL: Now, Turkey is already a NATO member. And President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to keep the two Nordic countries out of the military alliance. All 30 NATO allies have to approve a new member. Meanwhile, the leaders of Finland and Sweden meet with President Biden today.

MARTIN: NPR's Peter Kenyon is in Istanbul and joins us. Hey, Peter.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: So Russia's war in Ukraine has put Finland and Sweden noticeably on edge. They want into NATO. Why is Turkey blocking them?

KENYON: Well, it's basically Mr. Erdogan - President Erdogan is accusing both countries of sheltering terrorists, harboring terrorism. Now, he's talking about the PKK, Kurdistan Workers' Party. These are Kurdish separatists Turkey's been fighting for decades. The PKK has been designated a terror organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU. Yesterday, Erdogan addressed Sweden in a speech to Turkish lawmakers. He said, quote, "you won't hand over terrorists, but you want to join NATO. How can we say yes to a security organization that is devoid of security?" as he put it. So that's the general basis of his opposition.

MARTIN: Just explain how significant it is that Sweden and Finland have moved to join NATO.

KENYON: Well, on one level, it's pretty much formalizing an arrangement that's already been in place on the ground. Both countries have closely cooperated with NATO for years. But as you mentioned, this is happening in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a move that has rocked Europe and that has forced this historic move by Sweden and Finland - I mean, giving up neutrality policies they've held since the early 19th century primarily out of concern that Putin won't stop with Ukraine. For its part, Moscow is saying it's got no problem with either Scandinavian country. And, really, this has nothing to do with Turkey. But Erdogan appears to see an opportunity to gain concessions before he's willing to approve their accession to NATO. And this is happening, of course, against the backdrop of Turkey's failed attempts to join the European Union. Both Sweden and Finland have backed Turkey's bid, another reason Ankara might be supporting them to get into NATO. Although, those two countries' support isn't enough to overcome objections by France and Germany.

MARTIN: I mean, so what does this Turkish opposition mean in practice? Like, do they - could they actually thwart Finland and Sweden's plans here?

KENYON: It seems very unlikely at the moment. I say that because almost all the Turkish officials involved say they want to approve their accession into NATO. But first, they want these security concerns addressed. So the question is, will they or won't they? On its face, there shouldn't be any huge change. Even Erdogan, who's taken the hardest rhetorical line, says he would be happy to see them in there if their concerns are met. And presumably, if Turkey did veto the membership, both Finland and Sweden would continue to cooperate. But that would certainly not reflect well on Turkey. And some speculate that it could push Ankara closer to Moscow.

MARTIN: How does the relationship between the U.S. and Turkey play into this?

KENYON: Well, it's no secret Erdogan's ties with former President Donald Trump were considerably closer than his ties with President Biden. The big thorn in the relationship is Turkey's purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia. It's refusing to give them up even after getting kicked out of the F-35 fighter jet program. At the moment, Ankara's fallback position is F-16 fighter jets. And that remains stuck in Congress. On the other hand, Turkey remains a crucial frontline NATO ally, strategically located in a tough neighborhood between Syria and Iran, controls crucial strategic waterways. So there are certainly reasons on both sides to preserve the relationship.

MARTIN: NPR's Peter Kenyon reporting from Istanbul. Peter, we appreciate you. Thanks.

KENYON: Thanks, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF L'INDECIS' "STAYING THERE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.