Supreme Court changes fuel moves to protect abortion access

A vast swath of West Texas has been without an abortion clinic for more than six years. Planned Parenthood plans to change that with a health center it opened recently in Lubbock.

It’s a vivid example of how abortion-rights groups are striving to preserve nationwide access to the procedure even as a reconfigured Supreme Court — with the addition of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett — may be open to new restrictions.

Planned Parenthood has made recent moves to serve more women in Missouri and Kentucky, and other groups are preparing to help women in other Republican-controlled states access abortion if bans are imposed.

“Abortion access in these states now faces its gravest ever threat,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s president. She said the new health center in Lubbock “is an example of our commitment to our patients to meet them where they are.”

The clinic opened on Oct. 23 in a one-story building that had been a medical office and was renovated after Planned Parenthood purchased it. To avoid protests and boycotts that have beset some previous expansion efforts, Planned Parenthood kept details, including the clinic’s location, secret until the opening was announced.

Planned Parenthood says the health center will start providing abortions — via surgery and medication — sometime next year. Meanwhile, it is offering other services, including cancer screenings, birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

Planned Parenthood closed its previous clinic in Lubbock, a city of 255,000 people, in 2013 after the Texas Legislature slashed funding for family planning services and imposed tough restrictions on abortion clinics.

That law led to the closure of more than half the state’s 41 abortion clinics before the Supreme Court struck down key provisions in 2016. There were no clinics left providing abortion in a region of more than 1 million people stretching from Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle south to Lubbock and the oil patch cities of Odessa and Midland.

Women in Lubbock faced a 310-mile (500-kilometer) drive to the nearest abortion clinic in Fort Worth.

Anti-abortion activists have been mobilizing to prevent the return of abortion services to Lubbock — and are not giving up even with the new clinic’s opening.

“Lubbock must not surrender to the abortion industry,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz, a West Texas native who attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock and is now communications director for Texas Right to Life.

Her organization has backed a petition drive trying to persuade the City Council to pass an ordinance declaring Lubbock a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” Abortion opponents hope that designation would lead to either enforcement efforts or lawsuits seeking to block abortion services.

Thus far, the City Council has declined to adopt the ordinance, but activists say they have enough signatures to place it on the ballot in a local referendum.

Texas is one of several red states where Planned Parenthood has sought to expand abortion access. Earlier this year, its health center in Louisville, Kentucky, began providing abortions after obtaining

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Poland’s Constitutional Court Has Effectively Banned Abortion, But We Will Not Stop Fighting For Our Fundamental Rights

Polish Abortion Protests Continue - Day Seven
Polish Abortion Protests Continue – Day Seven

A Pro-Choice activist holds a smoke flare during a protest in Krakow’s Market Square. Women’s rights activists and their supporters staged their seventh day of protests in Krakow and all over Poland, opposing pandemic restraint, to express their anger at the ruling of Polish Supreme Court, which tightened the already strict abortion laws. Credit – Artur Widak—NurPhoto via Getty Images

Poland’s anti-abortion laws have always been among the most restrictive in Europe. Until this week the procedure was only permitted when the pregnancy posed a threat to the woman’s life; if there was a fatal fetal abnormality or in cases rape or incest.

However on Oct. 22 the country’s constitutional court ruled that a fatal fetal abnormality was not justification for terminating a pregnancy and violates the constitution. For the over 10 million women of reproductive age in Poland, this ruling effectively puts in place a complete ban on abortion.

According to official data, just over 1,100 legal abortions are performed annually in Poland–98% of which are in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities. The procedure prevented further pain and suffering for both the woman and the fetus.

While the court’s ruling has not yet come into force, many Polish hospitals have already stopped carrying out terminations. Women with scheduled procedures are having their appointments canceled. Women with a diagnosis of fatal fetal abnormality are not being provided with information and don’t know where to find help, left alone with their tragic news. At the Federation for Women and Family Planning we are getting calls from men asking for help for their wives or partners. The women are often so devastated they are unable to speak.

We try to support them as much as possible and there are some doctors who support them too. After our campaigning some hospitals have again begun to perform abortions but it is only a drop in the ocean of what is needed.

The ruling is an outrageous violation of women’s human rights. Women are being treated like living incubators. We do not have any rights, not even the fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Polish Constitution: the right to health, the right to private life, the right to equal treatment.

Not one word was said in defense of women during the debate. The fetus, called the “conceived child,” has the rights of an already existing life. During the Tribunal’s debate the most cruel statement was that we cannot “kill a conceived child” just because its birth would “reduce the comfort of a woman’s life.”

Forcing a woman to give birth to a child with severe, irreversible conditions is cruelty. Whether or not to keep the pregnancy should be the decision of the woman, or the woman and her partner. They will be the only ones to bear the traumatic consequences of this decision.

The politicians of the ruling party in Poland allowed the politicized Tribunal to issue what is a cruel and shameful decision. They hoped that the

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Barack Obama says Trump trying to dismantle ACA through Supreme Court

In his new memoir, Obama says his push for the Affordable Care Act was personal

President Obama wants Americans to understand the history of the Affordable Care Act. In a long-form piece for The New Yorker, Obama details the history of healthcare in the country, defines the purpose of the plan and the fight to get the bill signed into law.

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But Donald Trump has been vocal about his dislike for the government-based health care plan that provides health insurance for many Americans. He plans to create his own that will be “better” than Obama’s, per CNN. The issue is set to appear in front of the Supreme Court a week before Election Day.

Obama took to his Twitter on Monday with a message and a link to The New Yorker story for his 124 million followers.

“In the middle of a pandemic, this administration is trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court. Here’s how Joe and I fought to expand health care, protect millions of Americans with preexisting conditions, and actually get it done.”

Obama opens up the piece by detailing why a government based healthcare system was important to him. He says it was bigger than politics – it was personal.

“My interest in health care went beyond policy or politics; it was personal, just as it was for Teddy. Each time I met a parent struggling to come up with the money to get treatment for a sick child, I thought back to the night Michelle and I had to take three-month-old Sasha to the emergency room for what turned out to be viral meningitis. I remembered the terror and the helplessness we felt as the nurses whisked her away for a spinal tap, and the realization that we might never have caught the infection in time had the girls not had a regular pediatrician we felt comfortable calling in the middle of the night. Most of all, I thought about my mom, who had died in 1995, of uterine cancer.”

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Amy Coney Barrett To Be Supreme Court Justice
While holding photographs of people who would be impacted by the elimination of the Affordable Health Care Act, Democratic Senators, from L-R, Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) speak to reporters at the end of the first day of the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on October 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)em

During the final presidential debate, Trump told the audience his healthcare bill will “always protect people with

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Upcoming Supreme Court Ruling Could Jeopardize Health Insurance for People with COVID

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—and President Donald Trump’s controversial nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill her seat—have ignited concerns over how a court with a six-to-three conservative majority might rule on an upcoming case on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Barrett’s confirmation this Thursday. On November 10 the court will hear Texas v. California. That case will decide whether to uphold a lower court’s ruling that the ACA’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance makes the entire act unconstitutional—or to declare that the mandate is “severable” from the rest of it. If the ACA as a whole is struck down, 20 million people in the U.S. would lose their insurance. Even if it is partially struck down, up to 129 million could lose protections for preexisting conditions—including the more than eight million who have had COVID-19. If she is confirmed before the case is heard, Barrett has given no assurances that she will vote to uphold the landmark health care law.

Many legal scholars say the case for nixing the entire ACA is very weak. But even if the court severs the mandate from most of the law—as Justice Brett Kavanaugh and others have hinted—and strikes down only parts of it, that decision could still do significant damage because the ACA is so intricately tied to the health care system, a number of experts say. Invalidating the law would “throw the nation into economic chaos, in addition to people not having health insurance,” says Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, a professional organization that promotes public health. “The unintended consequences of even a small tinkering of the ACA could have enormous implications.”

In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius that the ACA’s individual mandate was constitutional because the penalty for not being insured could be considered a tax. But in 2017 Congress passed a tax bill that lowered the penalty to $0, beginning in January 2019. As a result, Texas and other states filed a civil suit claiming the mandate was unconstitutional in 2018. A federal judge in Texas ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and nonseverable, making the entire law unconstitutional—but he did not overturn it. The decision was appealed and eventually made it to the Supreme Court, which is now preparing to hear the case.

A range of different outcomes is possible, according to Katie Keith, a part-time research faculty member at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University and a principal at the consulting firm Keith Policy Solutions. First, the court will have to determine whether the plaintiffs have standing to challenge the mandate. “If the answer is no, the case kind of goes away,” she says. Second, it must decide whether the mandate is constitutional or not. “Reasonable minds could disagree,” she says, but the case also goes away if the mandate is found to be constitutional.

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Appeals court upholds Kentucky abortion law requiring clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a Kentucky law that requires abortion clinics to have written agreements with a hospital and ambulance service in case of medical emergencies.

The 2-1 ruling from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a 2018 district court ruling that found the law, first passed in 1998, violated constitutionally protected due process rights.

EMW Women’s Surgical Center first challenged the law in 2017 after a licensing fight with then-Gov. Matt Bevin (R). EMW was the only clinic that provided abortions at the time, and Bevin claimed that it lacked proper transfer agreements and took steps to shut it down.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky joined the suit later on, claiming that Bevin had used these transfer agreements to block its request for a license to provide abortions. After Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear took office in 2019, the two clinics were allowed to provide abortions.

The court wrote that the “district court erred in concluding that Kentucky would be left without an abortion facility,” according to The Associated Press, and dismissed the clinics’ argument that they were at risk of closing. It further said that the law allows clinics to apply for a 90-day waiver if they are denied a licensing agreement, which they could theoretically reapply for and continue to operate.

“(We) must presume that the Inspector General will consider waiver applications in good faith and will not act ‘simply to make it more difficult for (women) to obtain an abortion,’” the ruling read.

In his dissenting opinion, Judge Eric Clay wrote that it “condones the evisceration of the constitutional right to abortion access in Kentucky.”

“At the end of the day, no matter what standard this Court is bound to apply, the majority’s decision today is terribly and tragically wrong,” he wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, which represented the clinics, said in a statement that Kentucky’s law means abortion providers have to navigate “needless red tape every 90 days” and warned that the state could be the first without any abortion providers if the governor refuses to grant the waiver.

“This is what it looks like when politicians chip away at protections under Roe — pushing medically unnecessary laws that jeopardize abortion access without ever overturning Roe,” Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said in a statement.

“It must be stated that we are in a dangerous moment for abortion rights and what this moment calls for is leadership to put all people before politics and do what’s necessary to ensure every person has access to the care they need and deserve,” Charbonneau added.

Abortion rights have become a hot-button issue this election, as Democrats worry that the impending Senate confirmation of Judge Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettRepublicans increasingly seek distance from Trump Overnight Health Care: Pfizer could apply for vaccine authorization by late November | State health officials say they need .4B for vaccination effort | CDC: Blacks, Hispanics dying of COVID-19

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Affordable Care Act: Trump keeps chipping away at Obamacare with only weeks until the election — and a Supreme Court hearing

The administration this week approved Georgia’s waiver request to provide Medicaid coverage to certain low-income residents if they work or participate in other qualifying activities for at least 80 hours a month. It’s the latest state to receive permission to require work as a condition of coverage, though implementation elsewhere has been halted by federal courts or state officials.

Also, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it had completed its review of Georgia’s more controversial request to make fundamental changes to the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange. The agency, which opened the door for states to create alternatives to Obamacare in 2018, is still finalizing the terms for approval.

The Peach State, which has the nation’s third highest uninsured rate at 13.4%, is the first to seek this enhanced power to reshape its individual market.

Georgia and federal officials say that these efforts will make coverage more available and affordable to residents, but consumer advocates say they are the latest attempts to undercut the law.

“It’s a road map of what they would allow were the ACA to be struck down and were they to win election again,” said Judy Solomon, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

These moves come as health care takes center stage in the 2020 presidential campaign. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign has hammered Trump for trying to take down the landmark health reform law and its protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Trump has repeatedly said he has a replacement plan that would continue those safeguards but has yet to produce one.
Also, Trump’s Justice Department is backing a coalition of Republican-led attorneys general, who argue that Obamacare’s individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional after Congress reduced the penalty for not having insurance to zero as part of the 2017 tax cut law. As a result, the entire health reform law must fall, they argue. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on November 10.
The administration has pursued multiple avenues to overturn the Affordable Care Act in its first term. After efforts to repeal the law in Congress failed in 2017, officials started undermining it from within, including shortening the annual enrollment period to obtain coverage on the exchanges and slashing the budget for outreach and assistance. It also broadened the availability of alternative plans, primarily short-term health insurance policies that typically have lower premiums but are allowed to base coverage and premiums on people’s medical histories.
Also, officials took the unprecedented step in 2018 of allowing states to institute work requirements in Medicaid, a longtime Republican goal. However, the effort has been set aside by federal courts in four states, prompting the six others that had received approval (prior to Georgia) to stop implementation. Another eight states are awaiting permission from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

What Georgia wants to do

Georgia is not looking to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The waiver only applies to those earning up to

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Taxpayers, not company, will pay for massive Exide toxic cleanup, under plan OK’d by court

A bankruptcy court ruled Friday that Exide Technologies may abandon its shuttered battery recycling plant in Vernon, leaving a massive cleanup of lead and other toxic pollutants at the site and in surrounding neighborhoods to California taxpayers.



a train is parked on the side of a building: Portions of the shuttered Exide Technologies facility, in Vernon about 5 miles outside of downtown Los Angeles, are wrapped in white plastic to prevent the release of lead and other harmful pollutants. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)


© (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)
Portions of the shuttered Exide Technologies facility, in Vernon about 5 miles outside of downtown Los Angeles, are wrapped in white plastic to prevent the release of lead and other harmful pollutants. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

The decision by Chief Judge Christopher Sontchi of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Delaware, made over the objections of California officials and community members, marks the latest chapter in a decades-long history of government failures to protect the public from brain-damaging lead, cancer-causing arsenic and other pollutants from the facility.

The plan’s confirmation only deepens a fiasco that has subjected working-class Latino communities across southeast Los Angeles County to chronic and dangerous levels of soil contamination and made the area a poster child for environmental injustice.

Community groups have fought for years with the company and its environmental regulators to restrict harmful pollution, shut down illegal operations and clean up the toxic mess. The property’s abandonment compounds the challenges of addressing ongoing health risks to young children and others living nearby, where thousands of yards remain riddled with lead, a powerful neurotoxin with no safe level of exposure.

The decision followed a two-day court hearing with testimony from environmental regulators, company consultants and officers and health experts, much of it about the threats to the environment and the public from abandoning a hazardous facility with the remediation unfinished. The recycling operation, located about 5 miles from downtown Los Angeles, has not been fully demolished and remains partially enclosed in a temporary, tent-like structure designed to prevent the release of lead and other toxic pollutants.

In his verbal ruling, Sontchi concluded it is not an imminent threat to the public.

“The entire property is not sort of a seething, glowing toxic lead situation,” Sontchi said.

“We have a very dangerous element that will cause long-term health effects” and takes time to accumulate, he said. “I don’t think any of that indicates there’s an imminent, immediate harm to the general public if this property is abandoned.”

State officials blame decades of air pollution from the plant, which melted down used car batteries until its closure five years ago, for spreading lead dust across half a dozen communities, including Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Commerce and Maywood. The area contains more than 100,000 people.

A state-led cleanup has so far removed contaminated soil from 2,000 residential properties, as well as as well as parks, day-care facilities and schools. But thousands more have yet to be cleaned in the largest remediation project of its kind in California.

The Trump administration, through the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, supported Exide’s plan, which also leaves behind toxic sites in several other states. Those sites too remain a threat to public health and

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