Tag Archive for: medication abortion

Texas judge hears case that could ban abortion pills nationwide.

Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over toxic derailment.

Russian warplane forces down US surveillance drone over Black Sea.



Texas judge hears case that could ban abortion pills nationwide

A federal judge in Amarillo, TX, heard arguments today in a case brought by anti-abortion groups seeking to ban the sale of the abortion medication mifepristone nationwide. Attorneys for the Texas-based organization Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine contends that the FDA used improperly approved the drug in 2000. The group argues that the FDA and did not adequately assess its use by girls under age 18 to terminate a pregnancy.

Mifepristone is part of a two-drug regimen used to abort a pregnancy, usually before 10 weeks gestation. More than half of all abortions in the US are managed with medication. Mifepristone also has several other approved uses that have nothing to do with abortion. These include treating uterine fibroids and managing symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome.

Department of Justice attorneys defending the FDA said that mifepristone has a proven track record of being safe and effective. The DOJ also argued that the challenge comes much too late as the drug was approved 23 years ago.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also filed an amicus brief in support of the FDA, saying mifepristone “has been thoroughly studied and is conclusively safe”.

Women’s health advocates say taking mifepristone off the market would force more women to undergo unnecessary surgical procedures. It would further overwhelm abortion clinics that are already struggling to meet the needs of women who often have to travel several states away.

Trump-appointed judge tried to keep hearing quiet

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who presided over the case, asked the attorneys involved early last week not to publicize when and where the hearing would be held. Kacsmaryk hoped to minimize press coverage and protests at the courthouse in this momentous case that could impact over 60 million women of child-bearing age in the US. The judge’s attempt to keep proceedings quiet backfired with women’s rights groups descending on Amarillo. One dressed as a kangaroo with a gavel, implying the hearing was a “kangaroo court”.

Kacsmaryk is a former Christian activist appointed to the federal bench by former Pres. Donald Trump. His court has become a venue of choice for lawsuits from numerous conservative groups. The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine incorporated in Amarillo just three months before filing suit, which many consider a case of “court shopping”.

Kacsmaryk did not issue a ruling today after four hours of arguments. The groups bringing the suit also asked Kacsmaryk for a preliminary order halting sales of the drug while their lawsuit proceeds. Kacsmaryk ended by saying he would “issue an order and opinion as soon as possible,” possibly suggesting he’s already made up his mind about the preliminary order. In anticipation of mifepristone becoming unavailable, healthcare providers are busy lining up viable alternatives.

The next stop for the losers in Kacsmaryk’s court would be the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. It’s possible the case could wind up before the Supreme Court. Even if the FDA ultimately prevails, an order from Kacsmaryk halting sales of mifepristone could complicate the lives of millions of women for months (not to mention people who use mifepristone to manage other medical conditions). 

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Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over toxic derailment

The state of Ohio has filed a civil suit against the rail company Norfolk Southern over the derailment in East Palestine last month that was responsible for releasing more than a million gallons of toxic chemicals. The state is hoping to recoup the cost of the state’s costs from the disaster. The suit wants to hold the rail company financially responsible for damage to the state’s natural resources, the cost of state emergency response and economic harm to residents.

The suit refers to the East Palestine disaster as just one of a “long string” of derailments and hazardous material incidents for which Norfolk Southern is responsible. Norfolk Southern has been responsible for at least 20 derailments since 2015 involving the release of toxic chemicals, according to the filing. The state accuses Norfolk Southern of “recklessly endangering” residents and the environment, alleging multiple violations of state and federal laws regarding hazardous waste, water pollution, air pollution and common law negligence.

Communities in western Pennsylvania were also affected by the disaster which took place less than a mile the other side of their border with Ohio. Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro issued a criminal referral to his state attorney general regarding the disaster. The attorney general’s office is still investigating whether there was any criminal conduct on the part of Norfolk Southern, but no charges have been filed.

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Russian warplane forces down US surveillance drone over Black Sea

Yesterday, an American MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed into the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula, a Ukrainian territory Russia has occupied since 2014. US officials say that the crash was the result of an encounter with two Russian fighter jets. The drone became “unflyable” when one of the jets clipped its propeller. Prior to this, the jets had been dumping fuel over the drone to try to force it down. The Kremlin denies this version of events.

The US says the drone was in international airspace when the Russian jets attacked it, but Russia insists the the drone violated their (or Ukraine’s) air space. Russia claims that the presence of the drone is further evidence of direct involvement in the Ukraine war by the US military.

Both Russia and the US have announced that they’ll attempt to recover the drone. There’s a worrisome possibility of confrontation as the two sides try to get to the drone first. Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley says he’s not sure if the drone is recoverable, claiming it sank under 4000-5000 feet of water. Milley also stressed the US has taken “mitigating measures” that would thwart Russia’s attempts to recover useful intelligence from the drone should they recover it. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed he has communicated with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu regarding the incident.

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Texas: Man sues three women for helping his ex-wife get an abortion.

Biden rushes to calm depositors after two banks collapse in two days.



Texas: Man sues three women for helping his ex-wife get an abortion

Marcus Silva of Galveston, TX, is suing three friends of his ex-wife, Brittni Silva, seeking $1 million in damages from each friend for helping Brittni to obtain abortion pills. Silva is suing them for wrongful death and conspiracy. He also intends to sue the manufacturer of the abortion pill his ex wife used when he learns what brand it was.

Attached to the lawsuit is a series of text messages between Brittni and two of the women. Brittni had filed for divorce in May 2022, the month before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Then in July 2022, Brittni discovered that she was pregnant. The text messages reveal efforts by two of Brittni’s friends to help her obtain abortion medication.

First, they sent her information about Aid Access, an organization based in Austria which sends abortion medications in the mail. After deciding that the legalities around receiving abortion medication in the mail were “murky”. Eventually, they found out they could obtain the medication in Houston, and a third woman delivered the medication to them.

Brittni then self-managed the abortion at home, concealing both the pregnancy and the termination from her estranged husband.

“Either way, he will use it against me”.

Brittni Silva (left) with two of the defendants dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

The texts also reveal why Brittni, who already had two daughters with Marcus, chose to terminate the pregnancy secretly. She feared Marcus would use the pregnancy to trap her in a marriage she was apparently desperate to leave.

Brittni confided to her friends that she was in a toxic relationship. She says “I know either way he will use it against me. If I told him before, which I’m not, he would use it as a way to try to stay with me. And after the fact, I know he will try to act like he has some right to the decision.”

In one of the texts, a friend warns Brittni, “Delete all conversations from today. You don’t want him looking through it”. The lawsuit cites this as proof the defendants sought to “destroy evidence of their crimes“.

The Silvas’ divorce was finalized in February. According to the suit, Marcus “recently learned of the defendants’ involvement in the murder of his child, and he brings suit against them for wrongful death and conspiracy”.

Marcus also alleges that 3 months after the abortion, the defendants “celebrated the murder” by dressing up as characters from the TV show “The Handmaid’s Tale” for Halloween. The show is based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood and depicts a world where women are the property of men and birth control is outlawed.


“State-sanctioned harassment”

Opponents of the Heartbeat Act and Texas’ other restrictive abortion laws have warned that the laws could enable rapists and abusers to further isolate their victims by harassing those who would help them.

Silva’s lawsuit included pictures of his ex-wife’s cellphone. The snooper’s thumb is visible at left.

Silva’s filing included pictures taken by someone of Brittni’s cellphone showing texts between her and her friends. The filing doesn’t say who took these photos or when. 

Former Texas lawmaker Wendy Davis issued a statement from Planned Parenthood Texas, saying the lawsuit “We are outraged, but we are not surprised“. The lawsuit a “direct result of the dangerous policies championed by Governor Greg Abbott and his supporters. It is state-sanctioned harassment and we will not stand for it,” Davis said.

Jonathan Mitchell, a former Texas solicitor general, is representing Marcus Silva in the suit. Mitchell was also the architect of Texas’ Heartbeat Act, which allows anyone to sue a person who helps a woman obtain an abortion after 6 weeks’ pregnancy. The suit was filed in state court in Galveston County, where Silva lives.

Joanna Grossman of the SMU Dedman School of Law in Dallas called the lawsuit “absurd and inflammatory”. No matter the outcome of the suit, Grossman says, the plaintiff and his attorneys will have succeeded in further isolating vulnerable women and girls who need help.

“Who is going to want to help a friend find an abortion if there is some chance that their text messages are going to end up in the news?” Grossman said.  “And maybe they’re going to get sued, and maybe they’re going to get arrested, and it’s going to get dropped eventually. But in the meantime, they will have been terrified”.

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Biden rushes to calm depositors after two banks collapse

Over the course of two days, Silicon Valley Bank in California and Signature Bank in New York collapsed. Silicon Valley Bank, which largely served tech start-ups and venture capital-backed firms, suffered a massive bank run starting on Wednesday when they announced a bid to raise $1.75 billion to strengthen their liquidity. This became necessary because the bank had been forced to sell off billions of dollars in investments at a loss due to recent Federal Reserve rate hikes.

While the bank’s investment portfolio was being stretched thin, its customer base was in the “bust” end of a boom-bust cycle. Tech start-ups that had received huge investment during the pandemic are now stagnating and are depending more and more on savings to meet payroll and other demands. When the bank announced its asset sell-off and recapitalization plans this week, it spooked investors and then depositors. On Thursday alone, depositors withdrew over $40 billion from SVB. Then California shut it down.

Signature Bank collapsed the day after when their depositors got spooked by the SVB failure. Signature bank has ties to the volatile crypto currency sector which is also facing a post-pandemic decline.

Depositors spent an anxious weekend wondering whether they’d be able to access their funds. Many had deposits in the bank that were greater than the $250,000 limit covered by FDIC. Today, President Biden assured depositors of both SVB and Signature that they would be made whole using funds from an insurance plan both banks were paying into. This, Biden stressed, was “not a bailout”. In the strictest sense, it is a bailout of depositors, but not of the banks’ management or investors, as happened in 2008. 

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Why do these bank failures keep happening and how could it be prevented?


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“I earned this job”: Behind-the-scenes drama in Speaker vote.

New FDA, DOJ rules will make abortion medication more widely available.

More signs of US normalizing relations with Venezuela.



“I earned this job”: Behind-the-scenes drama in Speaker vote

When Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) attended the first official session of the new Congress yesterday, he knew his fight to take the podium as Speaker of the House wouldn’t be an easy one. Since the November 2022 elections 8 weeks ago, McCarthy and his allies have been horse-trading and cat-herding to win over a small number of far-right Republican holdouts. He’s made several concessions, most notably a change to the rules that would allow just 5 lawmakers to call for a new Speaker vote.

In an attempt to rally the troops before the first vote, McCarthy held a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers. Lawmakers in the room told reporters that McCarthy told the assembly, “I earned this job. We earned this majority, and Goddammit we are going to win it today”. While McCarthy received a standing ovation, not all present were impressed. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), one of the holdouts, reportedly responded, “Bullshit!“.

There were three votes yesterday, in which each member of the narrowly-divided House was called by name and asked who they were voting for. McCarthy’s supporters seem to have gone in accepting they would lose the first vote. But surely, they thought, by the third vote, McCarthy’s opposition would have lost steam and he would prevail. Not only were they wrong about that, as the voting went on, McCarthy’s numbers got worse. 

No breakthrough

Frustrated at his losses, McCarthy led more frantic closed door meetings overnight. Speaking to NPR this morning, Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) reported there were was “no breakthrough overnight” and no new concessions to the holdouts. The House will vote again at noon today.

NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked Johnson about the possibility of striking a deal with Democrats to get past the impasse. If some Democrats don’t vote, McCarthy could theoretically squeak through with a majority. But Johnson said he wasn’t eager to ask Democrats for help with this issue. The resistance to compromise or collaboration doesn’t bode well either for today’s vote or for the prospects for the next two years of this Congress.


FDA, DOJ set rules that will make abortion medication more widely available

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will now allow commercial pharmacies to carry the drug mifepristone, commonly used for medication abortions. The use of mifepristone must be followed up with misoprostol. Currently, people wishing to mifepristone drug can only do so through a healthcare provider. It will now be possible to get a prescription either in-person or through telehealth and purchase mifepristone from a pharmacy.

The change will make it easier for women living in states with abortion bans to obtain the pills from another state. However, in states (including Mississippi) which have passed abortion bans that specifically target medication abortions, the pictures is more complicated. It’s questionable whether any state can legally ban an FDA-approved medication. Despite this, many pharmacies in states that have enacted bans have stopped carrying the drugs, even though both mifepristone and misoprostol have uses that have nothing to do with abortion or even pregnancy. 

In a separate development, the Department of Justice says that the US Postal Service can legally deliver abortion pills, even in jurisdictions where medication abortion is banned. There are already pharmacies all over the country that will mail the pills anywhere in the country as long as the purchaser has a prescription. Some overseas medication providers have reported that women who weren’t pregnant were stocking up on the pills as a precaution.

Legally, the situation remains messy and complicated, and many women still have a difficult time in accessing the medication. These moves by the FDA and DOJ should at least help to remove some logistical barriers for women seeking a medication abortion.



More signs of US normalizing relations with Venezuela

During the Trump administration, the US and many of its allies adopted a preposterous diplomatic fiction regarding Venezuela. Trump declared that Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó was in fact the president of Venezuela. This was despite the fact that Venezuela already had an elected president, Nicolas Maduro. Guaidó hadn’t even run in the last congressional election. 

As ludicrous as it was, this diplomatic fiction had wide-ranging implications for Venezuela’s government and its people. For example, at the height of the pandemic, Maduro’s government wanted to sell off some of his country’s gold to purchase needed medical supplies. The National Bank of England, which was holding the gold, refused to release. This was because the British government had recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s president.

Recently, the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia have force the Biden administration to look elsewhere for oil. This led to a thaw in US relations with oil-rich Venezuela. After a series of meetings between US officials as well as representatives of the Maduro government and opposition, the US allowed oil giant Chevron to resume work in Venezuela. 

Now, Venezuela’s opposition coalition has voted to dissolve its parallel government and remove Juan Guaidó as its leader. Maduro’s government and the opposition coalition recently signed a preliminary agreement to find a resolution to Venezuela’s political crisis. Maduro and the coalition also issued a joint statement requesting that foreign institutions holding billions of dollars of Venezuelan assets release them for the benefit of Venezuela’s people.

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Fears Roe leak argument could erode protections for LGBT rights, interracial marriage. Tennessee now among states with child hepatitis cases. Xinjiang forced labor cotton found in Adidas, Puma and Hugo Boss items.




Fears Roe leak could signal demise of gay marriage, other rights

Since the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade earlier this week, fears have arisen that Justice Alito’s argument could serve to undermine previous Court decisions permitting gay marriage and other “unenumerated” rights. Alito’s underlying argument that the 14th Amendment does not protect rights that weren’t protected when it was ratified in 1868 could have implications for a range of other past decisions. To name a few: Loving v. Virginia, which ended prohibitions of interracial marriage; Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down laws criminalizing sodomy; and Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized gay marriage nationwide.

Dems already set to campaign on Roe in mid-terms

With Democrats projected to lose heavily in the mid-terms, the leak has provided a focus for mobilizing Democratic voters this fall. Polls show that a majority of Americans favor allowing abortions, at least under some circumstances. Only 19% of Americans favor banning abortions under all circumstances. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already announced he will bring a vote next week to protect abortion access nationwide. The measure is almost certain to fail, since it would require 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster.

Prominent Republican politicians on the other hand have shied away from commenting on the substance of the leak. Instead, they have tried to direct the media narrative towards condemning the leak itself and its implications for the legitimacy of the Court. However, many conservative activists have seized on the leak to build momentum to cement further abortion bans at both state and national levels.

European doctor sees “enormous” rise in US women ordering abortion pills

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, who runs the telemedicine service Aid Access, reports seeing an “enormous” rise in demand for abortion pill prescriptions since the leak. Gomperts says that women may not currently be pregnant but are looking to stock abortion pills in their homes. “There’s been an overwhelming amount of people that reached out to us,” Gomperts says. “I think that’s a really good response. So I would say, buckle up, women in the U.S. Just get your abortion pills in your medicine cabinet, so you have it in case you need it”. Gomperts compares it to stocking Tylenol as a precaution.

If Roe is indeed overturned, many states may move to criminalize abortion medications, but Gomperts says this will not deter her. “We are going to continue helping women”, she says. But Gomperts raises other concerns. She acknowledges that “[abortion pills are] not for everybody”. It may not be safe for women with certain underlying conditions or taking some medications. Additionally, she says, some women may face language barriers in obtaining prescriptions, or be unable to have the medications safely delivered to them.


Tennessee now among states with child hepatitis cases

Officials have now identified mysterious cases of serious hepatitis in children in 10 US states:  Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Additionally, the CDC has announced it is investigating a total of 109 possible cases in 24 US states, including 5 deaths. About 90% of these cases have required hospitalization and 14% have required a liver transplant. Most of the children have since made a full recovery. The investigation is still in a preliminary stage.

Doctors and researchers are still in the dark as to the cause of the hepatitis in these cases. Over 224 such mysterious cases have been reported worldwide. So far, researchers have ruled out the typical viruses that cause hepatitis types A, B, C, D, and E. Dr. Philippa Easterbrook of the WHO says, “There’s no link to one geographic area, common exposure to particular foods or animals, travel or to toxins”. Neither does there appear to be any link to COVID or COVID vaccinations. Many but not all of the children have tested positive for exposure to common adenoviruses.

There is now a clearer picture of the timeline of these cases than officials have previously given. The Alabama cases began as far back as October 2021. Doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio are investigating a possible case back in June 2021. Dr. Jorge Bezerra of Cincinnati Children’s says his team have treated 6 such patients since December. Bezerra says he typically sees 10 cases like this in a year.

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Xinjiang cotton found in Adidas, Puma and Hugo Boss clothing

Last year, major sports and clothing brands pledged to stop purchasing cotton from China’s Xinjiang province after widespread reports of forced labor. Millions of Uighur Muslims have been forced into “re-education” and labor camps. Major cotton plantations in the region have also been found to use Uighurs as virtual slave laborers, picking cotton by hand. More than 80% of China’s cotton and a fifth of the global supply is grown in Xinjiang.

German brands Adidas, Puma and Hugo Boss were among those who pledged not to source cotton from Xinjiang, along with Nike and H&M. Previously, Adidas, Puma and Hugo Boss have all issued statements denying purchasing any cotton from the region.

Now, a team of scientists at the Agroisolab in western Germany have tested items from the three brands to see if they contained any Xinjiang cotton. The researchers used isotope analysis, a technique that archaeological researchers have refined for over a decade. Isotope analysis can narrow down the origin of many organic and some inorganic materials to a specific country or region. Items tested from all three brands were found to contain cotton from Xinjiang.

Adidas, Puma, and Hugo Boss all say they have monitored both direct and indirect suppliers to eliminate Xinjiang cotton from their supply chains. But one auditor investigating Chinese subcontractors says restrictions and lack of transparency in China make it virtually impossible to monitor every supplier and their sourcing. 

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