Abortion, Afghanistan, COVID-19, the opioid epidemic and climate change: Top opinion reads

From the Texas heartbeat law, to the continuing fallout from Afghanistan, and climate change, here are some of our top columns you may have missed.


In today's fast-paced news environment, it can be hard to keep up. For your weekend reading, we've started in-case-you-missed-it compilations of some of the week's top USA TODAY Opinion pieces. As always, thanks for reading, and for your feedback.

— USA TODAY Opinion editors

1. There's chaos and risk in Afghanistan exit, but Biden critics are getting it mostly wrong

By David Rothkopf

"The intellectual dishonesty in critiques of how President Joe Biden is handling the U.S. departure from Afghanistan has been off the charts. That's not to say some of them are not warranted. They certainly are. The swift fall of Kabul to the Taliban was predictable, and there is a case that we should have been better prepared for it. And there is no doubt that the risks we faced were great, as shown by the Kabul airport attack last week that claimed the lives of at least 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops."

2.  I wrote about why I got a COVID vaccination. Then I was fired from my job.

By Daniel Darling 

"Christians are told, elsewhere, to demonstrate courage for their convictions and many, throughout the ages, have been sent to their deaths because they refused. Unity isn’t papering over abuse and misconduct in our midst, a convenient cover for malfeasance. Unity isn’t ignoring injustice and evil in the world."

3. George Orwell, meet Greg Abbott: Texas abortion law is an un-American infringement of rights

By The Editorial Board 

"This totalitarian system was put in place because abortion opponents thought they had come up with a clever way to prevent courts from stopping the law before it went into effect. By making everyone the prosecutor for the law, the Texas Legislature made it hard to figure out who abortion rights advocates could take to court to stop enforcement."

Mike Thompson, USA TODAY

4. How are our kids doing with COVID? Lean in and listen. They've been telling us all along.

By Connie Schultz

"Just how influential can we be in a child’s life? In 2010, Highlights asked children to name whom they most admired and aspired to become. Seventy percent of the responses identified parents, grandparents and teachers. Celebrities didn’t make up even 5%."

5. Apologies, committees, but little action on reparations: Database on state, city progress

By Eileen Rivers

"A substantial number of cities and states have created committees, commissions and task forces (call categorized as task forces in the data below) to study slavery, racism and their effects on Black people today. Some have even issued apologies. But hardly any of those committees have produced recommendations for repair. And even fewer communities have taken substantive action for African Americans."

6. If Texas leaders want to protect life, where are masks, vaccines, resources for kids?

By Suzette Hackney

"Let’s take a look at American logic today. Mask mandates for adults and students during a raging COVID-19 global pandemic? That’s an egregious infringement on individual freedoms. ... Access to a legal abortion in Texas after six weeks gestation? Nope. My, how quickly the 'my body, my choice' crowd can vacillate. When is it OK to control my body? The hypocrisy is endless. And enraging."

Mike Thompson, USA TODAY

7. America's opioid epidemic kills, but so does taking away much-needed pain medication

By Dr. William Cooke

"The isolation and emotional distress caused by the pandemic have not been the sole driver of the increase in overdoses and suicides in recent years. These “deaths of despair” have been rising for years. Starting in the 1990s, physicians had been encouraged, even threatened, to aggressively treat pain with prescription opioids. This led to an epidemic of overprescribing that peaked in 2012, when doctors prescribed enough opioids for every adult in the United States to have their own bottle of pills."

8. COVID and wildfires gave us an education instead of a vacation. We'll never be the same.

By Jill Lawrence

"This is not a first-world rant against the inconvenience of climate change and a virus we can’t seem to beat. Rather, it’s a look at lessons learned and not learned – about the folly of betting against nature, science and, in particular, the frightening fires that seem remote on the East Coast but often dictate life in the West. It's about the friction between a husband and wife with different tolerances for masking, crowds and indoor vs. outdoor dining, as they traveled through a patchwork of pandemic regulations in three states."

9. Hold rogue police accountable: Supreme Court needs to be clear about qualified immunity

By The Editorial Board 

"In August, a federal appeals court in Denver took the Supreme Court’s signal and ran with it. A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that qualified immunity did not protect a corrections officer who violated a Muslim inmate’s First Amendment right to obey the dictates of his religion. A sergeant at a Denver intake center forced the inmate to shave his beard, grown for religious reasons, threatening him with solitary confinement if he refused."

10. I'm a junior, and I’ve experienced only one 'normal' semester of college

By Abigail Anthony 

"My entire sophomore year was virtual. I declared a Politics concentration without ever stepping inside the Politics department building. I completed group assignments with peers living in different countries. I received letters of recommendation from professors I’d never spoken to face to face. I joined an Eating Club ... whose building I had entered only twice. I didn’t meet my future husband over Zoom (or, at least, I don’t think I did)."