Personal Health

South Carolina’s all-male conservative Supreme Court rules abortion ban is constitutional

South Carolina’s newly all-male conservative Supreme Court reversed its prior ruling on Wednesday, finding the state’s strict six-week abortion ban is constitutional.

“Writing for the new majority, Justice John Kittredge acknowledged that the 2023 law,” which bans abortion at six weeks, the Associated Press reports, “infringes on ‘a woman’s right of privacy and bodily autonomy,’ but said the state legislature reasonably determined this time around that those interests don’t outweigh ‘the interest of the unborn child to live.'”

In January, justices on South Carolina’s Supreme Court had ruled the state’s ban on abortion was unconstitutional because it violated the right to privacy.

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In February, the court’s only woman justice retired, making South Carolina the only state in the nation with an all-male Supreme Court.

The Associated Press at the time called it “a development that comes amid increasing Republican scrutiny of the court that narrowly struck down the conservative state’s abortion ban last month.”

“The Republican-led Legislature chose Judge Gary Hill to replace the high court’s lone female justice, Kaye Hearn, who had reached the court’s retirement age and who wrote the leading opinion in the 3-2 ruling overturning the state’s 2021 abortion ban,” the AP noted. “Hill was the only candidate for the position remaining after two female candidates, Judges Stephanie McDonald and Aphrodite Konduros, dropped out on Jan. 17, which was the day candidates could begin seeking legislators’ support. Although nominees have previously left such races when they decided they lacked the votes, the departures have not often happened so swiftly.”

READ MORE: 'He's in for quite the ride': John Eastman surrenders at Atlanta jail while facing possible disbarment

In May, South Carolina Republican Governor Henry McMaster signed a new six-week abortion ban into law “without any notice, which had left dozens of people seeking abortions in limbo and created the potential for a legal abortion becoming illegal as a doctor performed it,” NBC News had reported.

A judge had placed a temporary hold on the law, allowing the state’s Supreme Court to review it in June.

Tuberville targeted by retired colonel for 'kneecapping America’s military' over Pentagon abortion policy

U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville‘s holds on more than 300 military promotions is creating an “unsafe” situation and “undermining” U.S. military readiness, according to the Secretary of Defense, with one retired U.S. Air Force Colonel stepping up to call the Alabama Republican lawmaker a “traitor.”

Sen. Tuberville has been blocking every military promotion requiring Senate confirmation since February, an act that affects not only those officers but their families, and those who would be promoted to fill their role, along with their families. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin lamented on Monday that the U.S. now faces the “unprecedented” situation of not having Senate-confirmed leaders atop three military service branches: Army, Navy, and Marines.

The Alabama Senator claims his reason for blocking the promotions is a response to the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing service members who need to travel out of state to obtain abortion services. That policy was put in place after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, and some Republican-led states began enacting abortion bans.

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Moe Davis is an outspoken attorney and former administrative law judge known for resigning as the Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay over his opposition to waterboarded prisoners being charged – waterboarding is considered torture by Davis and many authorities, and is also considered illegal and a possible war crime.

On Monday Col. Davis declared, “Thanks to Tommy ‘Tantrum’ Tuberville, the Army, Navy & Marine Corps do not have confirmed leaders and hundreds of other senior military officers are in limbo. If you think the @GOP gives a rat’s ass about America’s military and nat’l security, you’re a special kind of stupid.”

He also nicknamed Sen. Tiberville “Traitor Tubbs.”

“Because of @SenTuberville, the Army, Navy & Marine Corps lack leaders, so who bankrolls Traitor Tubbs?” he asked. Davis answered his own question, listing companies including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, FedEx, John Deere, TMobile, CSX, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others.

Davis slammed Lockheed Martin in particular.

“It’s a disgrace that defense contractors and those who love to be seen waving the flag and talking about how they support the troops bankroll the lone senator who is single-handedly kneecapping America’s military. They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk,” he wrote.

He widened his attack to include other top military contractors, and included an image of the wall of photos of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now missing three top leaders.

See Col. Davis’ social media post above or at this link.

Ohio voters reject GOP 'power grab' aimed at thwarting abortion rights amendment

Ohio voters on Tuesday decisively rejected a Republican-authored measure that would have made it more difficult to amend the state constitution through the ballot initiative process, a billionaire-funded effort aimed at preempting a November vote on abortion rights.

If approved by voters, the measure known as Issue 1 would have raised the threshold for passage of a constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 60%. The measure also would have imposed more stringent signature requirements for Ohio ballot initiatives.

The GOP proposal—which was the only item on the ballot in Tuesday's special election—failed by a vote of 43% to 57%, according to the Ohio secretary of state's office.

"Issue 1 was a blatant attempt by its supporters to control both the policy agenda and the process of direct democracy," said Rachael Belz, the CEO of Ohio Citizen Action, one of the groups that mobilized in opposition to the proposal. "When they forced Issue 1 onto the ballot, they awakened a sleeping giant and unleashed a movement. And that movement isn't going away tomorrow. It will continue to build and grow and to carry us through to victories in November and beyond."

The Republican push for Issue 1 drew national attention given the implications for both the democratic process and reproductive rights in Ohio, where abortion is currently legal through 22 weeks of pregnancy—though the state GOP is working to change that.

A proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in November would codify the right to abortion access in the Ohio constitution, stating that "every individual has a right to make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one's own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion."

Frank LaRose, Ohio's Republican secretary of state and a U.S. Senate hopeful, said in June that Issue 1 was " 100% about" preventing passage of the abortion rights amendment.

Recent polling indicates that around 58% of Ohioans back the proposed amendment—a level of support that would have been insufficient had Issue 1 succeeded.

"From defeating Issue 1 tonight to submitting nearly twice the amount of signatures needed to get a measure protecting abortion access on the ballot in November, Ohio voters have made clear that they will settle for nothing less than reproductive freedom for all," Mini Timmaraju, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement late Tuesday.

"Republicans should be ashamed of their efforts to subvert the will of voters," Timmaraju added. "Seeing this measure defeated is a victory for our fundamental rights and our democracy. We're grateful to our partners on the ground for their tireless efforts to secure abortion rights and access. We look forward to fighting by their side to lock this fundamental freedom into law in November."

The Republican attack on the ballot initiative process in Ohio is part of a nationwide GOP effort to limit direct democracy as the party—emboldened by the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court—continues its effort to roll back abortion rights and other freedoms.

According to a March tally by election analyst Stephen Wolf, Republicans have recently tried to make it harder to pass citizen-led ballot initiatives in at least 10 states, including Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas.

"In the many states where the GOP has refused to take action, activists have used ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid, raise the minimum wage, secure abortion rights, protect the right to vote, curb gerrymandering, legalize marijuana, promote gun safety, and more," Wolf wrote. "How have Republicans reacted to this? By trying to make it harder to pass initiatives in the first place."

Catherine Turcer, executive director of Common Cause Ohio, said Tuesday that "since 1912, Ohioans have had the right to collect signatures and bring proposed constitutional amendments directly to voters."

"This is an important check on the state legislature, hyperpartisan politicians, and special interests who did everything they could to take away that right," Turcer added. "It was the hard work and resilience of Ohioans of all parties that prevented the destruction of a foundational right we've held for 110+ years."

"Tonight's results," Turcer said, "are a resounding victory for Ohio voters who helped stop this power grab by the state legislature and Secretary of State Frank LaRose."

Jamie Raskin nails GOP at Covid hearing: Lab leak 'would only deepen Trump's culpability'

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) warned Republicans that former President Donald Trump's culpability for Covid-19 deaths "would only deepen" if their theory about a lab leak in China was true.

Raskin made the remarks during a Tuesday House Oversight hearing into the origins of Covid-19.

"We are all interested in finding out the origins of the Covid-19 epidemic to make sure that such a nightmare never happens again to us," Raskin began. "Some people think that the finding that it all started with a lab leak would somehow absolve Donald Trump of his lethally reckless response to the pandemic. Of course, his response was dangerously dysfunctional regardless of how it got started."

The Maryland Democrat pointed out that Trump's former adviser, Dr. Deborah Birx, "said that we lost hundreds of thousands of American lives because of the flaws in the response."

IN OTHER NEWS: Trump has set up an 'embarrassing' trap for his own lawyers: national security attorney

"But even if the virus came from a lab, as indeed it could have, we don't know that yet, that would only deepen Donald Trump's culpability because he was the one who repeatedly and enthusiastically praised China's early handling of the pandemic and assured us that he was working closely with President Xi on the response to it," Raskin added. "So let's just get the facts straight and leave all the political myth-making aside."

Watch the video below or at this link.

How executives and well-connected investors make exquisitely timed trades in health care stocks

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox


Series: The Secret IRS Files

Inside the Tax Records of the .001%

The case was a bold step for the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In 2021, the agency accused Matthew Panuwat of insider trading. Five years earlier, he had learned that his own company, a biopharma operation called Medivation, was about to get acquired. But instead of buying shares in his employer, he bought options in a competitor whose stock could be expected to rise on the news. The agency says he made $107,000 in illicit profits.

For the first and so far only time, the SEC filed a case that accuses an executive of using secret information from his own company to trade in the stock of a rival. “Biopharmaceutical industry insiders frequently have access to material nonpublic information” that impacts both their company and “other companies in the industry,” Gurbir Grewal, the commission’s director of enforcement, warned in announcing the case. “The SEC is committed to detecting and pursuing illegal trading in all forms.”

One of the cornerstones of the agency’s case against Panuwat is that Medivation had a policy that explicitly barred employees from buying or selling competitors’ stock based on company information not available to ordinary investors.

It wasn’t just Panuwat who risked violating Medivation’s policy, a trove of confidential IRS data obtained in recent years by ProPublica shows.

It was also his then-boss, CEO David Hung.

The records show Hung traded frequently in the stock and options of pharmaceutical companies, betting tens of millions of dollars on the rise or fall of shares of dozens of such firms, some of which were direct competitors with his company. Several of his trades came just before news about a rival that he could have learned about in his position as CEO. In one case, he traded ahead of news he personally announced.

The size of Hung’s trades dwarfs those that got his subordinate, who has denied any wrongdoing, in the crosshairs of the SEC.

Hung’s spokesperson acknowledged the CEO has learned nonpublic information about competitors, but denied that information ever informed any of his dozens of trades.

Earlier this year, ProPublica revealed that some executives with access to nonpublic industry informationhad made remarkably well-timed transactions in the securities of their direct competitors and partner companies. Securities law experts said many of the trades, which in some instances rapidly delivered millions of dollars in profit, warranted examination by regulators. The transactions ranged across sectors: from energy to toys, paper products to mortgage servicers.

But one industry stood out for both its frequency and variety of questionable trades: biotech and other relatively small health care enterprises such as medical device makers and drug companies. Dozens of wealthy executives and well-connected investors reported superbly timed stock trades in such companies, including in businesses they competed with or had personal ties to.

ProPublica has analyzed millions of transactions documented in the tax records of the wealthiest taxpayers, including many of the nation’s top business leaders. A high proportion of these trades involved plain vanilla investments, with long-term holdings of blue chip stocks and the like. But a minority of the transactions displayed what experts say are hallmarks of potentially suspicious trading.

Finding well-timed trades was only a starting point for ProPublica’s analysis. We then scrutinized transactions that occurred just before market-moving news, particularly those that represented a departure from an investor’s previous investing pattern, because they either had hardly if ever traded a particular company's stock, were trading an unusually high dollar amount or were making use of risky options for the first time. We examined whether those people had any possible nonpublic means of obtaining information about the companies whose stock rose or fell at an opportune moment. We provided anonymized descriptions of these trades to academics, former prosecutors and former SEC officials, and focused on those they said should have garnered the attention of regulators.

Among the notable examples:

The chairman of a biotech company bought shares in a corporate partner just as the partner was reaching the final stages of secret negotiations to be purchased.

The chairman of a bone health company made aggressive bets on a medical technology firm run by an adviser to his board just before its sales took off, netting him $29 million in a series of options trades.

A wealthy investor with ties to a niche area of cancer research personally traded, for the first time ever, in a company in that sector just before it was taken over. He bought high-risk options that earned him a quick $1 million in profit.

An information edge can be lucrative in any industry, but especially so in the health care sector. Many of its companies are built around only one or a handful of products, making their shares particularly volatile and ripe for profit by investors with inside knowledge. Biotechs and other up-and-comers face clear make-or-break moments: Clinical trials, signals from regulators or takeover rumors can cause wild swings in share prices.

Since beginning to report on our massive trove of IRS records in 2021, ProPublica has analyzed the data and used it as the basis for a series of articles, The Secret IRS Files, that reveal the many ways in which the tax code favors the rich and how the ultrawealthy exploit those advantages.

The IRS data also included millions of records of wealthy taxpayers’ stock and options trades, provided by the brokerages that handled the trades. While the SEC routinely reviews stock trading data from brokers and exchanges, the agency does not have access to IRS data, which in many ways is more comprehensive. (A spokesperson for the SEC declined to comment for this article.)

The securities experts said there is no fixed definition of what makes a trade suspicious and worthy of further investigation. A propitious trade for a relatively small amount, for example, might still warrant scrutiny if the investor has a tie to the company. One excellently timed trade is less noteworthy if the investor frequently trades in that security. A trade with a modest return could still be problematic if it came before news the investor knew about in advance or set in motion. And even if a trader’s investment strategy in a stock wasn’t ultimately successful, a single lucrative trade could still be deemed illegal.

The experts interviewed by ProPublica about the trading patterns examined in this story said that while each should trigger closer scrutiny from regulators, the question of whether they would lead to any action would depend on a host of additional factors. They noted that stock trades are generally deemed to violate insider trading laws only when multiple elements are met. The trader must have had information, not yet publicly known, that would affect the company’s share price. And the trader, or the person who provided the tip, must have had a duty not to disclose the information or use it for personal benefit.

ProPublica’s records give no indication as to why investors made particular trades or what information they possessed. The wealthy investors named in this story either denied their trades were improper or did not comment.

The personal trading policy for Medivation, the multibillion-dollar company Hung ran, was particularly explicit. It warned its employees to be careful trading the shares of competitors because Medivation’s employees possess nonpublic information that can affect those companies’ stock prices as well. “For anyone to use such information to gain personal benefit,” the policy stated, “is illegal.”

But ProPublica’s data show Hung, who has led a number of biopharma companies and has been described in the press as a master dealmaker, risked violating the company’s policy by trading in the securities of competitors. During the decade-plus in which Hung led Medivation, most of his proceeds from securities transactions in companies other than his own involved the pharma sector.

With timely trading, he sometimes scored gains of hundreds of thousands of dollars or managed to avoid a calamitous loss. (The records show that he sometimes lost money as well.)

Securities experts with whom we described his trading patterns and high-ranking role (but not his name) said the investments appeared to show a top executive capitalizing on information not available to the average investor.

In July and August 2011, Hung’s tax records show, he sold more than a million dollars’ worth of stock in a company called Dendreon. Dendreon was then producing a promising prostate cancer therapy that Hung’s firm was competing against, working to get their own drug to market. The day after Hung sold the last of his two roughly half-million-dollar tranches of Dendreon stock in August, the company’s share price fell 67% because of poor sales and a lack of initial enthusiasm from doctors about its prostate cancer drug.

Industry experts said that when a pharmaceutical is in late-stage development, as Medivation’s drug was at the time, the company will normally have its representatives examine the competitive landscape, including surveying doctors’ offices about rival drugs. And business-side employees of companies, even competitors, frequently mingle and trade gossip at conferences.

A few months later, in October 2011, Hung again bought shares of Dendreon, but quickly made a U-turn days after, selling those shares off for about $150,000, essentially the same price he had bought them for. A week later, Hung announced that his company had learned that trials had gone so well for its own prostate cancer therapy that the drug was going to start being offered even to participants who had been given a placebo. “These results are both an important step toward making this life-extending potential treatment available to the prostate cancer community and a significant milestone for our company,” Hung said in a press release at the time.

Just as Hung announced his company’s promising results, Dendreon released lackluster quarterly earnings. Its stock fell 37%.

David Nierengarten, an analyst who covered both companies at the time, told ProPublica the earnings report caused most of the fall, but part of it could also be attributed to Medivation’s clinical trial results, which posed a threat to Dendreon’s market share. Hung’s spokesperson said that Hung did not know the outcome of his company’s clinical trials when he sold Dendreon’s shares.

Hung sold Dendreon shares on almost two dozen occasions over six years, with most of the trades for less than $150,000. Hung’s spokesperson denied he had any relevant nonpublic information when he made his Dendreon trades.

In one instance, tax records show Hung traded a competitor’s stock ahead of news he himself disclosed that experts said would likely qualify as material.

On Aug. 24, 2015, Hung announced that Medivation was acquiring a cancer-fighting medication from a company called BioMarin. The drug was one of a handful of cutting-edge new drugs that Hung hailed as an “exciting class of oncology therapeutics.”

What Hung didn’t say was that on the same day his company finalized the acquisition — but three days before the public announcement — he made a purchase in his personal stock trading account. He bought about $8 million in shares of Clovis Oncology, a company that was separately developing a drug in the same treatment category, known as “PARP inhibitors.”

After the acquisition, the pharmaceutical trade press noted that there was growing interest in this class of drugs. Hung’s deal marked the first big acquisition of a PARP inhibitor.

“Obviously all the PARPs are going to pop,” said Nierengarten, the analyst who covered Hung’s company. Clovis is a small company reliant on a small number of drugs, “so it’s really going to pop,” he said.

And it did. In the week after the Medivation agreement was announced, Hung’s stock purchase paid off: The price of Clovis shares increased by about 11%, a rise experts attributed partly to Hung’s drug acquisition.

By the time Hung sold the shares the next month, he netted $1.25 million in profit.

Hung’s spokesperson defended the trades, saying Hung did not believe Medivation’s acquisition of BioMarin’s drug would affect the share price of a company that made a drug in the same class.He also said most of the stock’s rise came in the days after the news of the acquisition, not the day of, which he said indicated Hung’s profit was attributable to other factors.

The Clovis shares that Hung bought represented the final step in what records show was a series of complex transactions involving what are known as stock options — arrangements to buy or sell a security at some future date. In April 2015, Hung started selling Clovis “put options.” That meant he was entering into a contract that gave another investor the right to sell Clovis shares to him in the near future at a specified price. It was essentially a bet by Hung that Clovis shares would remain at roughly the same price or rise (a sophisticated and unusual transaction for a typical retail investor).

In April and May, Hung sold a small number of his contracts. In June and July, he began selling more frequently and in larger quantities: 17 times as many contracts as he had sold in the previous two months. According to his spokesperson, this was around the time Hung was approached to buy BioMarin’s drug.

The expiration dates for the options were staggered. A large group of his contracts expired on the same day he finalized the drug acquisition.

At that moment, Hung had two choices, both seemingly unpleasant. According to his spokesperson, he likely could have paid cash to end the contracts, which would have resulted in an immediate loss since the options were for a higher stock price than Clovis was trading at on that day. The contracts also allowed him to buy the specified number of shares, a seemingly bad deal since he would pay anywhere from $75 to $85 per share for stock that was trading at less than $73.

But on that day, Hung knew something the market didn’t: that his company was about to announce it was buying Biomarin’s drug.

Hung bought about $8 million worth of Clovis shares. After his company’s announcement, Hung was in the black in a matter of days, even after he bought at the inflated price. The option trades had worked out beautifully. He sold the shares the next month, turning that $1.25 million profit.

Hung’s spokesperson pointed out that, taking into account all of the Clovis options he sold that year, Hung actually lost about $100,000. The time horizon for some of the contracts was much longer, with expiration dates into the following year. Hung, he said, held on to some of his contracts and ultimately lost money when the price of Clovis shares declined significantly a few months later. The spokesperson also said that someone trying to capitalize on nonpublic information could do so more efficiently by buying shares in a company rather than through a complicated series of options trades.

ProPublica described Hung’s options dealing in Clovis, without revealing his identity, to Dan Taylor, a professor at the Wharton School and a leading insider-trading expert. “The trades in question seem at best highly unethical and at worst they may be illegal,” Taylor said. “I would caution any and all executives from engaging in the behavior described here. There's significant legal jeopardy if that behavior was brought to the attention of regulators.”

Harry Sloan did not make his name in the health care industry. He came to prominence in Hollywood.

But in 2017 Sloan made a sizable bet on Juno Therapeutics, a Seattle-based biopharma company focused on cancer treatments.

Sloan had never personally invested in Juno before. There’s also no sign in his tax records, which span the years 1999 to 2019, that he purchased options to invest in other companies.

But on Dec. 14 and 15, 2017, he did both for the first time in ProPublica’s tax data. He bought more than a quarter-million dollars of Juno call options, a contract giving him the right to buy the stock at a specific price. The options were “out of the money,” meaning the price was well over what the stock was trading at at the time. The bet would pay off only if Juno stock jumped significantly.

Options, especially out-of-the-money options like the ones Sloan bought, are risky but can carry huge rewards. You can win big if the stock price rises above the purchase price set by the contract. If Amazon stock sells for $125 a share, an option to buy a share at $130 is worthless at the expiration date unless the market price jumps above $130. If Amazon stays at $125, you’ve spent money for nothing. But if it soars to $175 a share, you stand to make a lot from a small investment.

Sloan’s timing proved prescient. The public didn’t know it yet, but December 2017 was a hugely significant moment in Juno’s history. The company had been privately negotiating to sell itself to Celgene, a leader in the field of cancer treatments. On the same days that Sloan bought his options, Celgene significantly raised its offer and Juno agreed to be taken over.

When The Wall Street Journal broke the news of the imminent acquisition a month later, Juno’s share price skyrocketed from $46 a share to $69, its largest one-day increase ever, and Sloan quickly cashed in. He sold much of his first tranche of options for $677,000. In two decades of records, it was the largest sale he’d made in a security of a company where he hadn’t been an insider.

In all, he claimed more than $1.1 million in profit from his Juno trades, a 450% return on the cost of his options.

Of the 251 trading days in 2017, there were only a dozen other days where Sloan could have purchased options and seen the stock’s price increase as much as it ultimately did over the short period he held the bulk of his position.

Through a spokesperson, Sloan, who has been a prominent fundraiser for presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle, declined to answer questions from ProPublica, instead providing a brief statement: “Any insinuation of unethical or improper activity here is false, and contrary to the reputation Mr. Sloan has developed over the course of his lifetime.”

ProPublica provided an anonymized description of Sloan’s trades to a former SEC commissioner, two former SEC attorneys and two leading insider trading academics. All five said this sort of fact pattern could draw scrutiny from regulators because of how well-timed the trades were, and how anomalous compared to Sloan’s trades before and after.

"If you see out-of-the-money call options, no prior history of trading in that name, excellent timing and a large profit, generally yes, I would expect that to draw attention from regulators," former SEC Commissioner Allison Herren Lee said.

A remarkably timed trade may be even more suspicious, she said, if a trader had some sort of personal tie to the niche industry the company is in.

Though much of his career was in Hollywood — Sloan had been an entertainment lawyer and eventually became CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — he is not without his connections to biotech and the subsector Juno was in. Sloan knew Arie Belldegrun, one of the leaders in the field of “CAR T-cell” therapy, a novel cancer treatment in which human cells are modified to attack cancer cells. It is the same niche that Juno specialized in. Sloan and Belldegrun were both active in art philanthropy, backing the same Los Angeles art museum at least as far back as 2013; Belldegrun’s wife co-hosted a VIP screening in 2011 for a movie produced by Sloan’s wife. And Sloan donated $3.2 million to Belldegrun’s lab at UCLA in 2017.

Belldegrun was previously CEO of Kite Pharma, a Juno competitor, before selling his company just months before Juno was acquired. Around the time that Sloan was investing in Juno call options, Belldegrun was starting a new CAR-T company. (Four years later, in 2021, Sloan helped take public a biological engineering firm called Ginkgo Bioworks. One of his partners in that venture was Belldegrun.)

There is no evidence that Sloan and Belldegrun ever discussed Juno. Belldegrun did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Robert Stiller made his fortune off smoking paraphernalia and coffee. He helped launch E-Z Wider, rolling papers used for joints and cigarettes, before founding Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, the multibillion-dollar company that helped popularize K-Cup coffee pods. That role propelled him to business celebrity, as Forbes declared him “entrepreneur of the year” in 2001.

After Stiller left Green Mountain, he served as chairman of the board of AgNovos, a bone health startup. There, the board Stiller led hired a special adviser: Stephen MacMillan, an experienced medical technologies executive. By the end of 2013, MacMillan was named CEO of Hologic, another medical technology company, but he stayed on at AgNovos as a special adviser to Stiller.

Within a few months, Stiller began investing in Hologic for the first time — and aggressively.

On 33 days between March 2014 and January 2015, he bought a total of $9.8 million in call options in MacMillan’s company. Each was a win, netting him a combined $29 million in profit, almost a 300% return. Stiller’s tax records show no indication that he purchased options in companies other than Hologic and Green Mountain from 1999 to 2019.

The rise in Hologic’s share price was driven largely by revenue growth from its innovative line of mammogram devices, which are more effective than standard breast scans because they provide a three-dimensional view that helps reveal smaller tumors before they’ve grown. The company began reporting particularly strong growth from that product line in late April 2014, after Stiller’s first purchases. The excitement around the product grew from there, as the line continued to beat Wall Street’s revenue expectations and more studies affirmed its effectiveness. The company would have noticed orders picking up months before revenue numbers were announced, according to an industry expert who asked not to be named to avoid antagonizing industry contacts.

Stiller began buying call options in early March.

Reached by phone, Stiller said he invested in Hologic because he had confidence in MacMillan, but said MacMillan never shared detailed information about the company’s inner workings with him. “I would ask him, ‘How are things going?’ and he’d say, ‘Good,’” Stiller said. (MacMillan did not respond to requests for comment.)

Stiller said he thought he had purchased options in other companies during that period as well, but couldn’t name examples. He said he might have also bought shares of Hologic in addition to options, though he didn’t know when.

He acknowledged that buying call options in a company run by someone he knew, before it announced good news, “might not look good” and said that in retrospect he might have refrained. “I always have acted under the highest ethical shit, and I understand insider trading, and I would never do it, and I would never ask anybody else to do it,” Stiller said. “It’s just not in my DNA.”

Even by Stiller’s account of his discussions with MacMillan, his trades risked running afoul of the law. ProPublica described Stiller’s trades, without identifying him, to Chip Loewenson, a longtime white-collar defense attorney who has handled insider trading cases.

“What you described sounds like it could be insider trading,” Loewenson said. “Even if you take his word for it, that all he asked is how it’s going, and he says it’s going well, that could be material nonpublic information.” As Loewenson described it, a one-word answer about how a company is faring could be polite chitchat — or it could carry meaning. “Is that something a reasonable investor would want to know? If you think you're getting an honest answer, yes.”

In 2018, Jim Mullen, a veteran biopharma executive who previously was CEO of biotech powerhouse Biogen and chairman of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, became chairman of the board of Editas Medicine, a firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that uses gene editing techniques to treat rare diseases. (Mullen stepped down earlier this month after his term ended.) The publicly traded company collaborates with Celgene to use its technology to develop cancer therapies.

Mullen’s tax records show he had unsuccessfully traded in and out of Celgene before in relatively small amounts, but on Dec. 18, 2018, he made his biggest purchase ever of the company’s shares: $73,000 worth, almost as much as all his other past purchases combined.

His timing was excellent.

Celgene was at the time in secret negotiations to be acquired by pharma giant Bristol Myers Squibb. The day before Mullen bought the shares, Celgene had expanded the circle of people who knew about the takeover talks. According to subsequent SEC filings, Celgene informed an unidentified pharma company about the potential acquisition in hopes of soliciting a higher competing bid. The action also raised the risk that the secret talks might leak. (The company that was approached, which would have had to be orders of magnitude bigger than Editas to consider buying Celgene, declined to make a competing offer.)

The next day — the same day Mullen bought shares in Celgene — Celgene’s executive committee decided to move forward with Bristol Myers.

Two weeks after Mullen’s purchase, the deal was announced, sending Celgene’s shares soaring, and ultimately earning Mullen $46,000 in profit and a return of more than 60%.

Mullen and Editas did not respond to requests for comment.

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'Worst' Trump-appointed judge set to oversee $1.8 billion dollar case that could bankrupt Planned Parenthood

One of the "worst" Trump-appointed judges is set to oversee a case involving a $1.8 billion dollar lawsuit against Planned Parenthood, according to VOX.

In the report, VOX's Ian Millhiser offered a brief overview of Kacsmaryk's history of ruling on abortion-related cases.

"A longtime opponent of abortion, birth control, and homosexuality, Kacsmaryk has handed down decisions attacking the right to birth control and attempting to nullify the federal ban on LGBTQ discrimination by health providers," Millhiser wrote. "His opinion trying to ban mifepristone faulted the FDA for failing to consider a 'study' which found that 77 percent of women who submitted anonymous blog posts to a website called 'Abortion Changes You' reported a 'negative change.'”

READ MORE: 'She knows what she’s doing': Democrat likens Marjorie Taylor Greene attack to 'why Emmett Till was killed'

Millhiser also challenged Kacsmaryk's distortion of the laws.

"Kacsmaryk seems to be uniquely incapable of distinguishing what the law actually says from what he wishes that it says," Millhiser wrote. "And now he will hear an attack on Planned Parenthood that only gets more ridiculous the deeper one digs into the Doe case."

Per the news outlet, "The case, known as Doe v. Planned Parenthood, alleges that Planned Parenthood and its affiliates in Texas and Louisiana engaged in a years-long scheme to defraud those states’ Medicaid systems."

Millhiser went on to explain how the lawsuit's damages were calculated, totaling a staggering $1.8 billion.

"When you add up the money the reproductive health provider allegedly owes, plus the various fines and penalties they could be hit with, Planned Parenthood estimates that they could be ordered to pay as much as $1.8 billion, more than enough to bankrupt Planned Parenthood Federation of America — the national organization that unites Planned Parenthood’s local affiliates — and wipe out its affiliates in Texas and Louisiana," he explained.

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Millhiser argued that the lawsuit lacks merit as he explained why "no sensible judge" would entertain the case.

"No sensible judge would hold that a litigant can be bankrupted because it acted consistently with a federal court order while that order was in effect," he But this case is being heard by Matthew Kacsmaryk, who’s spent his brief time on the bench acting as a rubber stamp for virtually any conservative litigant who comes to him seeking a court order."

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Florida AG — wife of a DEA agent — accused of 'not standing with the people' as she vows to fight legal pot

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, the wife of a Drug Enforcement Administration special agent, is being accused of “not standing with the people” after she vowed last week to fight a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, Politico reports.

The group Smart & Safe Florida, which is spearheading the ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in the Sunshine State, currently has 786,747 signatures for its ballot question. As the Washington Examiner reports, “to get the ballot question before voters, it will need to receive a number of signatures equal to that of eight percent of the votes cast in the last presidential election, which is equal to more than 885,000 people.”

According to Politico the measure "still needs to get an all-clear from the Florida Supreme Court" in order to go before Florida voters. At least 60 percent of Florida voters would have to vote for legal weed in order to make it law.

READ MORE:GOP tries to keep abortion rights off ballot after major losses: 'Can’t win, so they cheat'

But if Moody has her way, the question of legal weed won’t even make it on the ballot in Florida. Last week, Moody filed an petition with the Florida Supreme Court saying “she would argue that the proposed ballot summary of the amendment is misleading,” Politico reports.

In her letter to the Court, Moody requested an opinion “as to whether the proposed amendment ‘Adult Personal Use of Marijuana’ complies with the single-subject requirement” of the Florida Constitution and “technical requirements in section 101.161(1)” of the Florida Statutes. That statute dictates constitutional amendments “be printed in clear and unambiguous language” and “not exceeding 75 words in length,” among other requirements.

"I believe that the proposed amendment fails to meet the requirements of Section 101.161(1), Fla. Stat., and will present an additional argument through briefing at the appropriate time," Moody said in the letter.

READ MORE:Former Michigan House GOP lawmaker charged in marijuana licensing bribery scheme

In a statement, Smart & Safe Florida said it “respectfully disagrees” with Moody’s challenge.

“We believe the ballot language,” Steve Vancore, a spokesperson for the medical marijuana company Trulieve, told Politico. Trulieve, which is bankrolling Smart & Safe Florida, “[expects] a positive ruling” from the state supreme court, Vancore said.

Critics of the attorney general spoke out against her decision to challenge the language of the initiative.

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“Once again our Attorney General is on the wrong side of history, wrong side of this issue and is not standing with the people." Florida Democratic Party chair Nikki Fried, a former Florida agriculture commissioner, told Politico. "Another attack on our democracy."

For Fred Grimm, a Fort Lauderdale journalist, there’s a clear driving force behind Moody’s fight against legal marijuana: 2024.

“Republicans don’t want pot as a running mate to Joe Biden on the Florida ballot,” Grimm wrote last Friday. “Because marijuana can do what Joe Biden can’t — rouse the apathetic wing of the Democratic Party.”

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“The GOP’s faux populists know ballot questions like these would have coattails long enough to blow up an election,” he added.

'Stop trampling on women’s rights': Twitter users react to anti-abortion bills’ brutal defeats in red states

In two deep red states, South Carolina and Nebraska, draconian anti-abortion proposals were blocked in state legislatures on Thursday, April 27.

In the GOP-controlled South Carolina State Senate, a bill that would have banned almost all abortions was defeated. And in the Nebraska State Legislature, a vote to end debate on a proposed six-week abortion ban and let the bill proceed failed by a single vote.

Jo Giles, director of the Women's Fund of Nebraska, was pleasantly surprised and was quoted by the Associated Press (AP) as saying, "Wow! This was unexpected, but we're so glad to have this win. We have fought so hard. This bill is not what the majority of women in this state wanted."

READ MORE: Supreme Court stays order banning abortion drug mifepristone

Twitter has been full of reactions, and many users have commented that the bills didn't run into problems in swing states or purple states but in deep red states.

Right-wing firebrand author Ann Coulter is anti-abortion but believes that post-Roe v. Wade, abortion restrictions are going too far and hurting the Republican Party. In response to the news from South Carolina and Nebraska, Coulter tweeted, "Two Republican legislatures failed to pass abortion restrictions this week - South Carolina (near total ban) and Nebraska (6-week ban). Currently, both states allow abortions up to TWENTY-TWO WEEKS. Why not go with a 15-week ban and win???"

John Iadarola of "The Young Turks" described the fate of the South Carolina and Nebraska bills as "a reminder that the GOP's position on reproductive rights is wildly unpopular even in red states."

Twitter user Toni Webb, @GoCubaStudents, "Republicans should stop trampling on women's rights, whether they agree with abortion or not. Republicans guaranteed a Blue Tsunami in 2024 when they blocked ratification of the ERA this week."

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis signs six-week abortion ban into law

@Bennydiego posted, "Abortion bans in deeply conservative Nebraska and South Carolina both fell short of advancing in close legislative votes amid heated debates among Republicans, yet another sign that abortion is becoming a difficult issue for the GOP."

CAP Action tweeted, "This is a major win in the battle against MAGA Republicans’ extreme abortion bans — but the fight continues." And the Global Justice Center posted, "Local resistance against these horrific abortion bans is both inspiring and instructive for all of us fighting for a world that respects our fundamental human right to bodily autonomy. Solidarity to everyone fighting for their communities.

Buzz Machine's Jeff Jarvis, @jeffjarvis, described South Carolina and Nebraska as "political cynicism yields to political pragmatism."

READ MORE: This 'Orwellian' 1870s law could help Republicans enforce a nationwide abortion ban: report

GOP tries to keep abortion rights off ballot after major losses: 'Can’t win, so they cheat'

Last year, after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the federal right to abortion, voters in Kansas, California, Michigan, Vermont, Kentucky, and Montana used the ballot initiative process to show their support for reproductive freedom, both by defeating GOP-backed anti-abortion measures and approving constitutional amendments aimed at preserving abortion access.

Those losses for anti-abortion Republicans and their wealthy backers have led the party to ramp up its attacks on the ballot initiative process itself in several states.

As The New York Timesreported Sunday, "The biggest and most immediate fight is in Ohio, where a coalition of abortion rights groups is collecting signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that would prohibit the state from banning abortion before a fetus becomes viable outside the womb, at about 24 weeks of pregnancy."

"Organizers were confident that the measure would reach the simple majority needed for passage, given polls showing that most Ohioans—like most Americans—support legalized abortion and disapprove of overturning Roe," the newspaper continued. "But Republicans in the state legislature are advancing a ballot amendment of their own that would raise the percentage of votes required to pass future such measures to a 60% supermajority. The measure has passed the Ohio Senate and is expected to pass the House this week."

The Republican initiative—which is backed by right-wing special interest groups such as the Buckeye Firearm Association, Ohio Right to Life, the Center for Christian Virtue, and the American Center for Law & Justice—would require just a simple-majority vote to pass, and it is expected to appear on the ballot in August.

The special election will mark a dizzying reversal for Ohio Republicans, who moved to effectively eliminate August elections last year due to their high costs and extremely low turnout.

"The side that wins is often the one that has a vested interest in the passage of the issue up for consideration," Frank LaRose, Ohio's Republican secretary of state and a supporter of the GOP attack on the ballot initiative process, wrote in testimony on August elections last year. "This isn't how democracy is supposed to work."

The GOP attack on direct democracy in Ohio, where abortion is heavily restricted, resembles efforts underway across the country. In January alone, Missouri Republicans introduced a dozen bills aimed at undercutting the ballot initiative process and weakening citizen lawmaking.

Democracy Docket noted that two of the Republican-authored resolutions in Missouri would, like the proposed amendment in Ohio, "raise the threshold to approve constitutional amendments to 60%."

According to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC), at least 139 bills that would impact the ballot initiative process have been introduced in state legislatures this year.

"Efforts to undermine and weaken ballot measures have been increasing since the 2016 election in response to progressive wins and people-powered democracy at the ballot box," BISC said. "In many states, some politicians and wealthy special interests are trying to make it harder for voters to propose and pass ballot initiatives under the cover of so-called 'reforms.' These attacks have escalated and have become more nuanced, sophisticated, and would have deeper impacts on the initiative process."

While efforts to limit the ballot initiative process succeeded in some states last year, they failed elsewhere. As Common Dreamsreported, South Dakota voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have raised the threshold for passage of most ballot measures from a simple majority to 60%.

In Michigan, Republican lawmakers attempted to have an abortion rights ballot initiative tossed even though organizers collected a record-shattering number of signatures from state residents. The GOP sabotage effort was blocked in court, and Michigan voters ultimately approved the proposition in November by a decisive margin.

But Republicans elsewhere are plowing ahead. The Times reported Sunday that "the North Dakota legislature this month approved a bill boosting the signature requirement for proposed constitutional amendments and requiring them to win approval in both primary and general elections."

"And in Arkansas, after voters last fall soundly rejected a constitutional amendment proposed by the legislature stiffening the requirements to get a measure on the ballot, the legislature simply passed new requirements as state law. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the law last month."

The Arkansas law more than tripled the number of counties where signatures must be collected for a citizen initiative to qualify for the ballot.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, tweeted Sunday that Republicans are attacking the ballot initiative process because "they know that the American people will vote to ensure access to reproductive care."

As the Times reported, "Republicans in Ohio have said openly that their efforts to make ballot amendments harder to pass are aimed at blocking abortion rights. They are putting their measure on the ballot in August, typically a time of low turnout. It will not include the word 'abortion,' which abortion rights supporters say will make it hard to engage their voters."

The ACLU of Ohio warned that the Republican amendment would "enact minority rule" in the state.

"Republican lawmakers pushing these efforts want 41% of voters to block ballot initiatives that 59% of voters support," the group said. "This is not democracy."

GOP rep. echoes AOC’s call for Biden to 'ignore' Texas judge’s ruling on abortion pill

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) on Monday echoed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in calling on the Biden Administration to “ignore” a federal judge’s ruling that suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) 23-year-old approval of the abortion pill mifepristone.

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. Northern District of Texas on Friday invalidated the FDA’s circa-2000 approval of mifepristone. The New York Times reports the judge’s preliminary injunction also invalidated “the FDA’s subsequent decisions that expanded the use of mifepristone in terminating early pregnancies.”

Speaking with CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez called Kacsmaryk’s ruling “an extreme abuse of power” and “extraordinary example of judicial overreach.” The New York Democrat also said the ruling made “a mockery of our system, a mockery of our democracy and a mockery of our law.”

READ MORE: Even Ann Coulter admits that 'strict' GOP abortion bans are going too far

The executive branch has an enforcement discretion,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

As Axios reports, Mace on Tuesday told CNN she agrees the approval of mifepristone rests with the FDA.

“I support the usage of FDA-approved drugs even if we might disagree,” Mace said. “It’s not up to us to decide as legislators or even the court system”

READ MORE: Liberal victory in Wisconsin Supreme Court race is a 'five-alarm warning to Republicans': WSJ editorial board

“So I agree with ignoring [the ruling] at this point,” she added.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday appealed Kacsmaryk's "misguided" decision.

READ MORE:'Republicans may be in big trouble': The abortion issue keeps getting worse for GOP

'Despicable': Idaho becomes first US state to restrict interstate travel for abortion care

Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Wednesday made his state the first in the U.S. to restrict interstate travel for abortion care by signing legislation that aims to prevent minors from traveling to obtain an abortion without parental consent.

The Republican-authored law, H.B. 242, creates a new crime of "abortion trafficking" and establishes a minimum two-year prison sentence—and a maximum of five years—for anyone found guilty of committing it.

The law defines a perpetrator of "abortion trafficking" as "an adult who, with the intent to conceal an abortion from the parents or guardian of a pregnant, unemancipated minor, either procures an abortion... or obtains an abortion-inducing drug for the pregnant minor to use for an abortion by recruiting, harboring, or transporting the pregnant minor within this state commits the crime of abortion trafficking."

"It shall not be an affirmative defense to a prosecution... that the abortion provider or the abortion-inducing drug provider is located in another state," the measure's text states.

Little has said the law, which would empower Idaho's Republican attorney general to override local prosecutors if they refuse to enforce the restrictions, does not bar adults from traveling to obtain abortion care for themselves.

Current Idaho law bans nearly all abortions, meaning the new measure will, in practice, impact those traveling within Idaho to assist a pregnant minor in obtaining abortion medication from out of state and those crossing state lines to help a minor receive abortion care.

As HuffPost's Alanna Vagianos noted, the law "could apply to a grandmother driving a pregnant minor to the post office to pick up a package holding medication abortion or target an older brother driving a pregnant minor to a friend's house to self-manage an abortion at home."

With the draconian restrictions set to take effect in less than 30 days, abortion rights groups are vowing to fight as other states are likely to follow Idaho's lead. Last July, Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have protected the right to travel for abortion nationwide.

Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates West said Wednesday that "yet again, Idaho's governor disregarded constituents and signed H.B. 242 into law, creating the nation's first crime of so-called 'abortion trafficking,'"

"This legislation is despicable, and we're going to do everything in our power to stop it," the group added. "This bill criminalizes an adult assisting a young person accessing abortion care with the intent of concealing the abortion from their parent. While most young people include their parents in the decision to get an abortion, some are in dangerous, abusive situations."

"Idaho lawmakers have slipped under the radar with some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country," the group continued. "Now, they're using an incredibly serious term like trafficking to talk about young people traveling with trusted adults to access a legal procedure in another state."

Idaho healthcare providers and advocacy organizations, including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, announced Wednesday that they are suing Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador over his claim in a recent legal opinion that Idaho law prohibits medical providers from "either referring a woman across state lines to access abortion services or prescribing abortion pills for the woman to pick up across state lines."

"Idaho law requires the suspension of a healthcare professional's license when he or she 'assists in performing or attempting to perform an abortion,'" Labrador wrote.

The advocacy coalition opposing that interpretation warned Wednesday that it "goes far beyond Idaho's law and is an extreme attempt to prevent healthcare providers from giving information to patients and to prevent Idahoans from accessing legal health care in another state."

"This is a five-alarm fire," said Rebecca Gibron, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai'i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky. "Banning abortion wasn't enough for anti-abortion extremists in Idaho; they now want to ban where you go, what information you're legally allowed to obtain, and even what health care providers can say."

"Attorney General Labrador’s opinion is an egregious extension of Idaho's abortion ban. We won't stand for it," Gibron added. "Everyone across the country should be paying attention to this extreme attempt at government overreach to control our movements in and out of the state, control free speech, and access to information. This opinion should worry you even if you don't live in Idaho.”

Ruling by Texas GOP judge could imperil millions of Americans

A Texas federal judge has voided Obamacare’s requirements that insurance companies cover the full costs of life-saving HIV prevention and treatment drugs, claiming requiring Christian employers to do so violates their rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

In that same ruling on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, who has a lengthy history of deciding against LGBTQ people and in favor of the far Christian right, also voided requirements insurance companies, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), cover other life-saving medications and procedures including cancer screenings, mental health services, and diabetes treatments, although for reasons unrelated to religion.

“In September,” Reuters reports, “O’Connor held that the US Preventive Services Task Force, which determines what qualifies as a covered preventive measure under the ACA, can’t validly do so because its members aren’t subject to Senate confirmation and their recommendations aren’t reviewed by constitutionally appointed government officials.”

Thursday’s decision is an extension of Judge O’Connor’s September ruling, in the same case, Braidwood Mgmt., Inc. v. Becerra.

Slate’s legal expert Mark Joseph Stern calls Judge O’Connor’s ruling “nothing short of catastrophic to the U.S. health care system.”

READ MORE: New Poll Sends Trump Damning Message About 2024 if He’s Criminally Indicted

“Millions of Americans, including many pregnant women, will have to forgo basic care if it is upheld,” he adds.

The case was brought by Dr. Steven Hotze, a far-right Republican activist and religious extremist who has attacked the LGBTQ community for decades. Last fall The New York Times identified Braidwood Management’s owner as “Dr. Steven F. Hotze, a well-known Republican donor and doctor from Houston, has previously challenged the Affordable Care Act on other grounds.”

The Times reports in that September ruling in this same case, Judge O’Connor wrote: “The PrEP mandate substantially burdens the religious exercise of Braidwood’s owners.” O’Connor, The Times added, wrote “that Dr. Hotze believes that covering PrEP drugs ‘facilitates and encourages homosexual behavior, intravenous drug use and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman.'”

HIV is not exclusive to people who engage in same-sex intimate relations, drug use, or sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman.

In 2015, Dr. Hotze compared same-sex marriage to the Holocaust and gay people to murderers, defending his belief that Texas should ignore the impending Supreme Court ruling that found same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage.

Just two weeks ago Dr. Hotze was “kicked out of a state senate session,” The Daily Beast reported, “after he called transgender people ‘pedophiles.'”

“Major medical and patient groups,” Bloomberg Law reported on Thursday, “had argued that a nationwide order would jeopardize health care for millions of Americans, leading to preventable deaths and higher costs for treating diseases that could have been detected earlier by free screenings.”

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According to Forbes, Judge O’Connor’s ruling on Thursday also voids required coverage for other “preventive services,” including “screenings for such cancers as breast cancer, colorectal cancer, cervical cancer and lung cancer, diabetes screenings, various screenings and interventions for pregnant people, statin use to prevent cardiovascular disease, vision screening for children and more.”

And yet, Judge O’Connor’s decision tossed “other arguments that tried to invalidate the contraceptive mandate in the ACA, so coverage for contraception will remain unaffected by Thursday’s ruling.”

The Biden Administration is expected to appeal, and according to Forbes because insurance policies are generally in effect for a calendar year, it’s unlikely any possible changes would be implemented before January.

Meanwhile, Judge O’Connor in 2019 overturned protections written into ObamaCare for transgender people, ruling they violate the religious rights of healthcare providers who hold religious beliefs that oppose the existence of transgender people.

Three years earlier, in 2016, O’Connor – who at that point already had a record of opposing LGBT rights – handed down a 38-page order in a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on behalf of 13 states, blocking the Obama administration from enforcing its guidance that said public schools should allow transgender students to use restroom and locker rooms based on their gender identity.

'A phenomenal disservice': OB/GYN blasts 'failure of the medical community to prioritize' menopausal women

When 2024 GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley proposed a mental fitness test for older politicians, her critics slammed the proposal as ageist. Many of those critics were Democrats, yet some Never Trump conservatives argued that Haley's messaging was terrible in light of the fact that many Republican voters are over 50.

Quite a few feminists have argued that as women age in the United States, they have to deal with ageism and sexism at the same time. That includes the way in which menopause is handled.

In an op-ed published by the Daily Beast on March 27, Dr. Mary Claire Haver (an OB-GYN) laments that women experiencing symptoms of menopause have often been treated dismissively in the medical community.

READ MORE:There's no such thing as law to police trans women that wouldn’t ultimately hurt all women

"The 'It's all in her head' medical mantra was very much alive and well," Haver explains. “If she was found to be postmenopausal, we would offer hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and send her on her way. If she was transitioning into menopause, well, we offered nothing."

The OB-GYN points out that in the United States, "one-third of the female population" is "peri- or postmenopausal." Yet many doctors, according to Haver, have done medicine a "phenomenal disservice" because of their "failure" to "prioritize…. menopausal women."

"A large part of this stems from the cultural guilt associated with growing, which holds that once women lose their fertility, they must be withered, washed-out, and unworthy," Haver observes. "Sadly, the negative societal perceptions of menopause and failure of the medical community to prioritize the health of this large group of individuals has resulted in a knowledge gap among women entering this phase of their lives, which could have a substantial negative influence on their overall quality of life."

Nonetheless, Haver describes some positive developments.

READ MORE:Nikki Haley's proposed 'mental competency test' panned as 'ageist' and 'absurd'

“Fortunately, there is hope on the horizon," the OB-GYN notes. "There has been an explosion over the past decade in the number of women telling their stories on social media and finding more sympathetic listeners, in the form of other women. Unwilling to accept the status quo and suffer in silence, this generation of menopausal women is sharing their journeys, names of helpful healthcare providers, as well as functional strategies for navigating this time in their lives…. Celebrities such as Naomi Watts, Angelina Jolie, Michelle Obama, and Salma Hayek are all openly discussing their own menopause journeys, thus helping to lift the secret, shame, and taboo surrounding this transitional time…. Change is coming in science, too. The North American Menopause Society is promoting groundbreaking menopause treatment research, offering training and certification in menopause care, and providing a helpful list of certified providers on its website."

READ MORE:How OB-GYNs are 'at the forefront' of the fight for abortion rights

Read The Daily Beast'sfull article at this link (subscription required).

Idaho Republicans want to keep doctors from treating ectopic pregnancies

“We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!” exclaims a disgruntled philosopher in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The philosophers had banded together to protest the advancement of computer science, which they believed was imposing entirely too much clarity on the existential mysteries that gave them job security.

The Idaho GOP and a coalition of antichoice groups in the state are taking a similar tack regarding the state’s murky and punitive abortion law.

This session, two Republican state legislators introduced a bill that would clarify key concepts in the state’s felony abortion ban. These include defining when an abortion is necessary to save the life of the pregnant person, and confirming once and for all that it’s not a felony to treat ectopic and nonviable pregnancies and to remove fetuses that have died.

It would also stop doctors who perform life-saving abortions from automatically being dragged before a judge to plead medical necessity as an affirmative defense.

Whatever happens with the felony abortion ban, Idaho doctors risk devastating lawsuits for treating one of the most common and dangerous gynecological emergencies: ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancies are fertilized eggs that implant outside the uterus. These rogue ova will never become babies and they can kill the patient if they’re allowed to swell like a tumor on a speedrun.

It’s all about the uncertainty. A doctor doesn’t know if she’s going to get sued by a vengeful ex for treating an ectopic pregnancy, but it could happen. Uncertainty can be even more paralyzing than a clear-cut but draconian rule.

Rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty can paralyze doctors while letting legislators off the hook for self-evidently stupid and unpopular policies, like forcing patients to wait in agonizing pain until their fallopian tubes rupture and their abdomens fill with blood. Or for letting bacteria rot their uteruses, and surge through their bodies, because their doomed fetus still has a heartbeat.

The Idaho Republican Party sent out an email Tuesday night claiming that the proposed changes were a ruse by doctors to “have more leeway to perform abortions in Idaho.” The head of the far-right Idaho Family Policy Center fretted in an email to supporters that a “special interest group” had drafted some of the language.

That group is the Idaho Medical Association, an utterly mainstream group that has been promoting medical excellence in the state since 1893. A hearing on the bill has been postponed amid the antichoice outcry.

The chilling effects of Idaho’s abortion laws are already being felt.

The only hospital serving a town of 9,000 people recently announced that it would no longer deliver babies in part because of the abortion ban. Families will soon have to drive 45 miles to deliver their babies. It was always a challenge to attract qualified doctors to small rural towns, but Idaho’s abortion politics are accelerating the brain drain. Doctors are fleeing the state because they don’t want to live in legal limbo. They don’t want to have to choose between satisfying their professional ethics and obeying the law. The law is so vague that it chills doctors who don’t even do abortions.

We’ve seen in state after state that exceptions to save the life of the pregnant person offer little practical protection. When a doctor might face a lengthy prison term, he or she will probably find an excuse to delay care, even when it endangers the life of a patient.

Even the antichoice movement is tiring of the charade. Instead of grappling with the ethical implications of denying life-saving care, national antichoice groups have started promulgating the absurd lie that abortion is never medically necessary.

In 2022, the Idaho Republicans voted nearly four to one to amend their party platform to criminalize all abortions, including lifesaving terminations. An exception for ectopic pregnancies was proposed and rejected.

When the goal is cruelty, uncertainty is a valuable commodity, and Idaho antichoicers have rallied to defend it.

This deadly fungus spread at an 'alarming rate' during the COVID-19 pandemic: CDC

In 2020 and 2021, the dominant health crisis in the United States and other countries was COVID-19 — a disease that, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has killed more than 6.8 million people worldwide. That includes over 1.1 million fatalities in the U.S.

Although COVID-19 is still high contagious in March 2023, it isn’t as deadly as it was two or three years ago. Millions of people have been vaccinated, and most of 2023’s COVID-19 infections have not been fatal or required hospitalization.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. had another health crisis in 2021 — albeit one that didn’t receive as much attention as COVID-19. The CDC, on Monday, March 20, announced that a deadly fungus spread at an "alarming rate" during the pandemic.

READ MORE:How gonorrhea became more of a drug-resistant 'superbug' during the COVID-19 pandemic

New York Times reporter Matt Richtel, in an article published on March 20, explains, "The fungus, called Candida auris, preys primarily on older people with weakened immune systems and is particularly dangerous because it resists treatment by common antifungal medications. C. auris was first reported in the United States in 2016, showing up most notably in New York and Illinois, where public health officials hoped they could contain it by rigorous screening and infection control in long-term care facilities and nursing homes. But over the course of 2021, state and local health departments around the country reported 1474 clinical cases, about a 200 percent increase from the nearly 500 cases in 2019."

Candida auris, Richtel reports, is "now in half the 50 states, many with just a handful of cases, but with higher concentrations in California, Nevada, Texas and Florida." The journalist adds that according to CDC data, 2377 infections were reported in the U.S. in 2022.

Richtel observes, "It is likely that the coronavirus pandemic worsened the spread of C. auris, CDC officials said. With attention focused on COVID-19, less emphasis was put on screening for C. auris…. C. auris is not a particular threat to young healthy people, whose immune systems can fight it off, but can be transported on skin and clothing. Those who contract it can experience typical infection symptoms, like fever and chills that can intensify absent treatment. The fungus commonly strikes older patients, particularly those who have many visits or prolonged visits to health care facilities, where it can be hard to clean or eradicate."

READ MORE: 'A big fat target': Analysis explains how DeSantis could use the COVID-19 pandemic as a 2024 'secret weapon'

Read the New York Times' full report at this link (subscription required).

Doctors warned her pregnancy could kill her — then Tennessee outlawed abortion

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Series: Post-Roe America

Abortion Access Divides the Nation

One day late last summer, Dr. Barry Grimm called a fellow obstetrician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center to consult about a patient who was 10 weeks pregnant. Her embryo had become implanted in scar tissue from a recent cesarean section, and she was in serious danger. At any moment, the pregnancy could rupture, blowing open her uterus.

Dr. Mack Goldberg, who was trained in abortion care for life-threatening pregnancy complications, pulled up the patient’s charts. He did not like the look of them. The muscle separating her pregnancy from her bladder was as thin as tissue paper; her placenta threatened to eventually invade her organs like a tumor. Even with the best medical care in the world, some patients bleed out in less than 10 minutes on the operating table. Goldberg had seen it happen.

Mayron Michelle Hollis stood to lose her bladder, her uterus and her life. She was desperate to end the pregnancy. On the phone, the two doctors agreed this was the best path forward, guided by recommendations from the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, an association of 5,500 experts on high-risk pregnancy. The longer they waited, the more complicated the procedure would be.

But it was Aug. 24, and performing an abortion was hours away from becoming a felony in Tennessee. There were no explicit exceptions. Prosecutors could choose to charge any doctor who terminated any pregnancy with a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If charged, the doctor would have the burden of proving in front of a judge or jury that the procedure was necessary to save the patient’s life, similar to claiming self-defense in a homicide case.

The doctors didn’t know where to turn to for guidance. There was no institutional process to help them make a final call. Hospitals have malpractice lawyers but do not typically employ criminal lawyers. Even local criminal lawyersweren’t sure what to say — they had no precedent to draw on, and the attorney general and the governor weren’t issuing any clarifications. Under the law, it was possible a prosecutor could argue Hollis’ case wasn’t an immediate emergency, just a potential risk in the future.

Goldberg was only a month into his first job as a full-fledged staff doctor, launching his career in one of the most hostile states for reproductive health care in America, yet he was confident he could stand in a courtroom and attest that Hollis’ condition was life-threatening. But to perform an abortion safely, he would need a team of other providers to agree to take on the same legal risks. Hollis wanted to keep her uterus so she could one day get pregnant again. That made the operation more complicated, because a pregnant uterus draws extra blood to it, increasing the risk of hemorrhage.

Goldberg spent the next two days trying to rally support from his colleagues for a procedure that would previously have been routine.

Vanderbilt declined to comment for this article, but Hollis’ doctors spoke to ProPublica in their personal capacity, with her permission, risking backlash in order to give the public a rare view into the dangers created when lawmakers interfere with high-stakes medical care.

First, Goldberg and a colleague tried the interventional radiology department. To lower Hollis’ chance of bleeding, Goldberg wanted doctors to insert a special gel into the artery that supplied blood to her uterus to reduce its flow. But that department’s leadership didn’t feel comfortable participating.

Next, they approached a maternal-fetal medicine specialist who a week earlier had said he would be able to provide an injection to stop the fetus from growing and decrease blood flow. But once the law went into effect, that specialist grew uneasy, he told ProPublica. He asked that his name not be used because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The specialist would have to do the procedure in a room of nurses and scrub techs with an ultrasound image projected on the wall — all potential evidence that could be used against him in a trial. He thought about his family, what it would mean to go to prison. “I’m so disappointed in myself,” he told Goldberg and his colleague as he refused to participate.

That night, Goldberg went home and buried his face into the soft fur of his 100-pound Bernedoodle dog, Louie. He believed strongly that knowing how to perform an abortion was a necessary part of health care; he’d spent two years training in Pittsburgh to have the skills to help people like Hollis. Now he felt like everyone was leaving him alone with the responsibility. He worried about being able to manage that massive bleed alone.

He felt sick when he told Grimm his decision: “It’s too dangerous,” he said.

Grimm felt a mix of anger, fear and sadness burning beneath his ribs. He could scarcely believe the situation. Raised Christian in the deep South, he had never agreed with abortion as a moral choice. But as an OB-GYN whose patient was in mortal peril, he couldn’t begin to comprehend what politicians were thinking. He had told Hollis an abortion ban was coming, but had thought there would be an exception for cases like hers that came with high risks.

He knew Hollis would have difficulty traveling. It began to sink in: The families who would most starkly bear the consequences of the law would be those with little means, whose fragile stability could be disrupted by any unexpected hurdle.

He collected himself as he dialed Hollis. It was Aug. 26, the day after the ban went into effect.

It was also Hollis’ 32nd birthday. She was at her job as an insulator apprentice, monitoring her co-workers as they wrapped rolls of fiberglass around pipes, when she saw Grimm’s name flash on her phone. She headed outside, her long hair coiled under a hard hat, her stomach churning.

The past month had been a dizzying, sickening whirlwind of thrill, then worry, then stubborn hope, then all-consuming terror. She didn’t want to lose her pregnancy, but she didn’t want to die. She had anguished over the decision, prayed about it with her husband, gotten a second opinion and gone around and around with Grimm.

Now, as she stepped outside to take the call, all she wanted to hear was her doctor’s usual calm reassurance and the plan for her care.

But Grimm’s voice was heavy as he began:

“I’m so, so sorry.”

Few Tennessee lawmakers stopped to consider the ramifications when they gathered in 2019 to pass what would wind up being one of the nation’s most severe abortion bans.

It was a trigger law, just words on paper as long as federal abortion rights granted by a 1973 Supreme Court ruling remained in place. “It wasn’t like Roe v. Wade was on the verge of being overturned,” said state Sen. Richard Briggs, a heart surgeon who co-sponsored the bill. “It was theoretical at that point.”

To many, the ban seemed like a publicity stunt. It didn’t even get much pushback from doctors or abortion-rights advocates.

But the influential anti-abortion group National Right to Life was following a strategy.

For decades, the group’s leaders have written and lobbied for model legislation aimed at injecting their particular vision of morality into abortion regulations around the country. In many conservative states, they exert a stranglehold on politics, publishing annual scorecards to track lawmakers’ votes on anti-abortion legislation and funding primary challengers against candidates they don’t consider committed enough.

Invigorated by President Trump’s conservative Supreme Court nominations starting in 2018, they pushed so-called “trigger bans,” designed to go into effect in a future where Roe was overturned. It’s an approach Bob Ramsey, a Republican legislator in Tennessee at the time, likened to throwing spaghetti at the wall “to see what sticks.”

Republican lawmakers knew that voting against the abortion ban bill could spell political peril.

“Unfortunately, it's all about the next election,” Ramsey said. “We didn’t get together and debate the morality of pro-choice or the confusion for medical providers. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion.” In the end, he abstained, and lost his next primary to an opponent who castigated him for not being anti-abortion enough.

But the law sailed through without Ramsey, on party lines.

The Supreme Court’s decision came on June 24, 2022. Tennessee’s abortion ban kicked in two months later. Overnight, procedures that had not been considered “abortion” by many, but simply part of reproductive health care, were a crime. That included offering dilation and evacuation procedures to patients whose water broke too early or who started bleeding heavily in their first trimester. Terminating dangerous pregnancies that never result in a viable birth, like those that settle inside a fallopian tube or develop into a tumor, was also technically an abortion. Each case now presents doctors with an ethical dilemma: Provide the patient the standard of care accepted by the medical community and face a potential felony charge, or try to comply with the broadest interpretation of the law and risk a malpractice case.

National Right to Life considers Tennessee’s abortion ban its “strongest” law, and the group’s Tennessee lobbyist has said the law should only permit abortions that are urgently necessary, such as for someone bleeding out, and not allow those “to prevent a future medical emergency.”

Gov. Bill Lee has defended the law as providing “maximum protection possible for both mother and child.” But some who voted in favor of the bill have since acknowledged they didn’t read it closely or understand how completely it tied the hands of doctors. Briggs, the bill’s co-sponsor, has advocated for changes and lost the endorsement of Tennessee Right to Life.

Tennessee’s ban and others triggered across the country are already unleashing havoc. The uncertainty over how the vague standards will be treated in the courts has created a chilling effect on patient care, doctors and other experts say. Though most bans contain exceptions for abortions necessary to prevent a patient’s death or “a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” data suggests few people have been able to access abortions under those exceptions.

ProPublica reviewed news articles, medical journal studies and lawsuits and found at least 70 examples across 12 states of women with pregnancy complications who were denied abortion care or had the treatment delayed since Roe was overturned. Doctors say the true number is much higher.

Some of the women reported being forced to wait until they were septic or had filled diapers with blood before getting help for their imminent miscarriages. Others were made to continue high-risk pregnancies and give birth to babies that had virtually no chance of survival. Some pregnant patients rushed across state lines to get treated for a condition that was rapidly deteriorating.

Dr. Leilah Zahedi-Spung, a maternal-fetal specialist who left Tennessee in January because of the trigger ban, said that after the law went into effect, she referred an average of three to four patients out of state every week for abortion care to address high-risk conditions she could no longer help with.

But, she said, not everyone has the resources or ability to leave the state for an abortion.

Raised in the depths of Tennessee’s opioid epidemic in a family haunted by addiction, Hollis’ earliest memory is of clutching her baby brother when she was 5 years old, as her alcoholic father flipped tables. When she was 9, she said, her mother’s boyfriend gave her drugs and read her the Bible before he molested her. By 12, she was living with a teenage boyfriend and babysitting his brothers in exchange for hydrocodone pills.

At 21, Hollis began having children: first a son and then two daughters. At 27, when she had her third child, she was trying to stay sober. But the father of that child, Chris Hollis, showed up to the hospital high on opioids. The Department of Children’s Services drug tested him and took custody of all of Hollis’ children.

If her life with her kids had been chaotic, hustling to survive in the pill mill economy and dealing with multiple arrests, her life without them was a black hole of shame and self-hatred. She gave in to drugs and fights and ended up living on the street; one day, in September 2019, she landed in the hospital after an attempted suicide. Three days later, she was a passenger in a car crash that killed a close friend. It was at that moment that she decided she wanted to live. She went from the hospital to rehab.

When Grimm met her in 2021, at a clinic for mothers with opioid use disorder, she was pregnant with her fourth child and sober. He believed Hollis could stay that way; she was sufficiently exhausted by her cycles of addiction. He often used her progress forging a new path for her family to inspire other mothers in the program. He liked her fast-talking boldness and how she owned her past. She liked the way he listened and didn’t judge.

After baby Zooey arrived in February 2022, it seemed to Hollis like life was finally gathering momentum. She had reconnected with Chris Hollis, who she first befriended working at Wendy’s as a teenager. She had always known he held a flame for her, from the time he offered to take her duties cleaning the Frosty machine. Over the years they broke up and reconnected multiple times.

Now both in recovery, they had gotten married, rented a house in Clarksville, a small town near a military base, and joined a church. Together, they ran a small vinyl siding business. Hollis managed the accounting and worked a factory job for extra income. She began to study for her peer recovery specialist certification, imagining a day when she would help other mothers climb out of addiction. She hoped to save enough money to buy a house and eventually pay lawyers to get her other children back.

But three months after Zooey’s birth, Hollis faced a major setback.

Someone accused her of leaving her daughter unsupervised in a car outside a vape shop, records show. Hollis disputed it, but the Department of Children’s Services put Zooey in the custody of her cousin while they investigated the allegation of child endangerment. Hollis and her husband moved out so the cousin could live at their family home.

Then, in July, Hollis was shocked to learn she was pregnant again; she’d just begun taking birth control pills, but it might have been too recent for them to be effective. Her first call was to Grimm, who worried that a pregnancy this soon, on top of four previous C-sections, put her at risk of developing a cesarean scar ectopic pregnancy. By Hollis’ eight-week ultrasound in early August, Grimm’s worst fears were confirmed.

Her life was at risk, he told her. Her pregnancy could rupture and cause a hemorrhage in the first trimester. It was almost certain to eventually develop into a life-threatening placenta disorder. There was little data to predict whether the baby would make it. If it survived, it was sure to be born extremely early, spend months in critical care and face developmental challenges. He offered to schedule an abortion for two days later. If they moved quickly, the procedure would be relatively straightforward. But Hollis needed time to think.

She’d felt a faint thrill when she learned about the tiny life inside of her. Building a family with her husband in their fragile new stability had felt like a chance to redeem herself. Abortion went against her beliefs. What if this was her last chance to have another child?

Grimm gave her his cell phone number. “Want you to know this is so difficult,” he texted. “With you, no matter what you decide.”

It was the second opinion, two weeks later, that convinced her. Doctors at another hospital confirmed her condition was, indeed, life-threatening and already worsening. One of the only places in Tennessee equipped to handle a pregnancy as complicated as hers was Vanderbilt.

“Honey,” her husband told her, “I can’t lose you.”

On Aug. 24, about two weeks after learning the diagnosis, she messaged her doctor:

“Dr. Grimm, me and my husband need to talk to you. We have really thought about everything and we need you to call us.”

But two days later, Hollis paced outside her workplace listening to Grimm break the news that the other doctors had backed out “due to the current legal climate.”

The only thought Hollis could muster was no. No no no no no. This could not be happening.Not now.

She squeezed her thumb in her fist as Grimm explained that Vanderbilt couldn’t offer an abortion that would try to preserve her uterus — only a hysterectomy that would end the pregnancy and extinguish any chances she could ever get pregnant again. Grimm told ProPublica it was his understanding that ending the pregnancy this way would comply with the law’s provision for avoiding irreversible impairment to a major bodily function. Other doctors involved in her care confirmed they felt their only option for providing an abortion was to sterilize her.

Grimm told Hollis they could help her arrange to travel out of state, where doctors could perform an abortion and possibly save her uterus. Each day that passed would make that more difficult. Going to Pittsburgh, where Goldberg had connections, was her best option, but would require days of travel to complete paperwork and comply with Pennsylvania’s state-mandated waiting period.

Hollis felt trapped in a different kind of risk calculation: At the same time the state was trying to force her to keep her pregnancy, it was also threatening to take away her daughter.

Already, she and her husband hovered over their phones in case Zooey’s case workers needed their attention. She worried she might be accused of abandonment if she left. She also feared losing her job. Her bosses at the factory had laid her off for “personal reasons” after learning she was pregnant for a second time in less than a year, she said. She had just started a new job and relied on it to help pay two rents and $9,000 for a lawyer to fight to keep Zooey. She didn’t know where she would get money for a sudden trip anyway.

She hung up with Grimm, went back inside and cried for the rest of her shift.

As the months passed, Tennessee’s medical community grappled with the real world implications of the new legal landscape.

Vanderbilt, the largest hospital in the state and a private institution, promised its doctors it would pay to defend against any criminal charges and was able to resume offering limited medically indicated abortion care, according to multiple doctors. Vanderbilt declined to comment.

Goldberg and his colleagues’ approach evolved. They began to admit nearly every patient and make each specialist individually assess them. It was costly and time-consuming, but Goldberg believed it made a difference for medical providers to have to look a patient in the eye before refusing to participate in their care. If they agreed an abortion was appropriate, he wrote up long defenses of the patient’s condition and had three other doctors sign off.

Still, almost weekly, Goldberg found himself having to turn away patients he believed should qualify for medically indicated abortion care. He and his colleagues also noticed that doctors at smaller hospitals, who had far less support, seemed to be treating complex cases as hot potatoes and sending them to Vanderbilt. That delayed care for patients. Goldberg worried about those who might not get transferred in time.

ProPublica spoke with 20 Tennessee medical providers about life under the ban, on condition of anonymity because they feared professional and personal repercussions; some said that they had witnessed a new trepidation in their ranks. “I’ve seen colleagues delay or sit on assessing the clinical data longer when they know the diagnosis is probably ectopic,” one said, referring to pregnancies that implant outside the uterine cavity, which are always life-threatening. “People were like, 'I don’t want to be involved because I don’t want to go to prison,'” said another. “It’s crazy — even assessing the patient or having a role in their care makes people scared.”

Meanwhile, Goldberg’s wife, a therapist who asked that her name not be published to protect their family’s privacy, was hearing from a number of pregnant patients who had bled for weeks, but didn’t understand why. Their providers hadn’t mentioned the word “miscarriage” or offered dilation and evacuation procedures. Instead they were told, “Let your body do what it’s going to do.”

Once the ban went into effect, Hollis felt doctors in Tennessee were afraid to touch her. A few days after her conversation with Grimm, overwhelmed, she texted him: “Schedule a hysterectomy.” He asked her to call him, but before she could, she began to feel an intense pain that made her double over.

She went to an emergency room near her home, but left after an hour without being seen. She drove to Vanderbilt and told workers she was at risk for a placenta disorder, the complication Grimm had told her she was showing signs of developing, hoping to to get seen more urgently. “Nobody even looked at me after that,” she said. She remembered waiting for hours in triage, crying and incontinent, until she gave up and headed to a third hospital, which gave her antibiotics for a urinary tract infection. Doctors had spent weeks explaining her condition was life-threatening; she didn’t understand how she could be left to sit in a waiting room.

She never brought up the hysterectomy again. “I thought the law meant I couldn’t have one,” she said. Grimm didn’t follow up about the text and said he always remembered Hollis emphatically saying she wanted to try to preserve her fertility.

As friends and coworkers began to ask her about her visible pregnancy, Hollis acted excited. But there was nothing happy about the experience. She constantly worried about what her husband and Zooey would do if she died, and called up the Social Security Administration and her union to find out what kind of survivor benefits existed. She moved through her days trying to pretend she wasn’t pregnant. It was the only way to keep the overwhelming fear at bay and continue working. Then, in mid-November, her employer laid her off, saying it couldn’t accommodate the work restrictions required by her doctor.

At regular appointments, Grimm watched in horror as her placenta began to bulge and threaten her bladder, an expected consequence of a cesarean scar ectopic pregnancy. She was exhibiting all the signs of developing placenta percreta, the worst form of a placenta disorder, a condition that makes high-risk specialists shudder. Delivery requires massive blood transfusions, often necessitates removal of the bladder and carries a 7% chance of death.

Grimm didn’t know what to do for Hollis other than to lower his boundaries and try to support her whenever she needed him. Her texts came at all hours — about her problems sleeping, her concerns about paying rent, her worries about the baby’s movement and the pains she felt. She had not been at her company long enough to qualify for disability leave and begged him to help her appeal: “I’m not sure what else to do, I am running out of time and I’m scared.”

In the end, he couldn’t offer much more than directing her to social workers and sharing earnest platitudes: “You’re the bravest person I know,” he told her.

Grimm’s wife noticed the weight he carried home. He found it difficult to be present, zoning out at his kids’ sports games and leaving the dinner table to respond to calls. The culture of medicine assumed that doctors always had the answers and could never make mistakes. But Grimm felt helpless and wrestled with feelings of shame. In his darkest moments, he wondered if a different doctor would have somehow done better by her.

Grimm had always stayed out of politics. But in conversations with family and friends, he began to share more about his work for the first time. Many in his circle abhorred abortion and thought they supported the idea of a ban. He tried to explain that it was more complex. “If this was your wife or my wife in these really intense situations, they'd be fine, because you have the resources,” he told them. “But some people don’t. And they’re going to be forced into these impossible situations where they could die.”

He knew of doctors who had left the profession after losing a pregnant patient. He wondered if this would be his quitting moment.

On Dec. 8, Hollis started bleeding. She was nearly 26 weeks pregnant. She insisted on driving herself to Vanderbilt, an hour away from her home; her husband joined her in the passenger seat and panicked when she started to pass out. They called 911, and an ambulance drove her the rest of the way.

Dr. Sarah Osmundson, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, was on call that day. She worked exclusively with the most difficult pregnancies, where every decision was a calculation between a pregnant patient’s health and the chances of delivering a healthy baby. It was her job to help patients make an informed decision. Over the years, she said, she had seen some women choose to accept the risks of a dangerous diagnosis and die as a result. But since the law went into effect, patients were arriving at her office asking why they were being counseled all: “It doesn’t matter,” they told her. “I don’t have a choice.”

She could tell Hollis was scared; she felt afraid as well. While she and her colleagues worked to help patients go out of state, she knew of some with cancer, heart conditions, preeclampsia or fatal fetal anomalies who felt forced to continue their pregnancies under the law. She feared it was only a matter of time until one of them died from the complications. She hoped it would not be Hollis.

She wanted Hollis to stay in the hospital for monitoring, but Hollis begged to go home. Zooey’s child welfare case had been closed in October, and she didn’t want to be away from her baby any longer than necessary. She had Christmas presents to wrap, bills to pay and a nursery to set up before her new baby arrived. On top of everything, her fridge was empty and her washer and dryer had stopped working.

Osmundson gave Hollis her phone number, and the hospital released her after three days, planning for her to return in two weeks, when her pregnancy had reached seven months.

But less than two days later, in the early morning hours of Dec. 13, Hollis’ husband woke to screaming. He ran to her and slipped in her blood, which was pooling on the ground. Hollis had bled through her pants, soaking her socks and the rug by the front door. She and her husband texted photos to Osmundson, who became convinced an emergency cesarean needed to happen as soon as possible.

As soon as Grimm’s phone rang, he was wide awake. He lay in bed in the dark, calling the hospital and refreshing his phone for updates. At any moment, he knew, Hollis could bleed to death.

Hollis’ husband called an ambulance, and they took her to a local hospital to be stabilized and airlifted. But bad weather meant the helicopter couldn’t fly. Finally, two hours later, they returned to the ambulance, which drove her to Vanderbilt.

Hollis was relieved to see Grimm waiting in his scrubs. He held her hand as they wheeled her into the operating room, which was filled with a surgery team of nearly 20 doctors. She looked pale and petrified. “We will be right there with you the whole time,” he told her.

To Hollis, the doctors around her looked as scared as she was. The anesthesiologist told Hollis to count backwards from 10, but instead she prayed.

Once Hollis was under, Grimm helped make the incision. Typically, patients emerge from a C-section with a small, horizontal cut below their bikini line. But this delivery called for a vertical gash that stretched up past her navel so doctors could have full exposure to her uterus. It allowed them to see where the bleeding was coming from and gave them the best chance to control it.

Careful not to disrupt the placenta, which was attached to the bladder and ballooning outward, Grimm gently removed a baby girl. She emerged weighing one pound and 15 ounces, limp and unable to breathe on her own. Doctors dried and intubated her, wrapped her and placed her under a radiant warmer to try to keep her organs from shutting down. No one knew if she would survive.

Then, Dr. Marta Crispens, a gynecological oncologist trained to deal with big tumors, began work on removing the uterus. The placenta started gushing blood again. This was what made the condition so frightening: There was no predicting the level of bleeding and whether it could be contained in time. The intensity in the room ratcheted up. It seemed to Grimm like hours passed as he helped Crispens stanch the bleeding, though it was only minutes.

Hollis was given a blood transfusion. Finally, the operation ended. Hollis and her daughter had made it through alive.

As the doctors cleaned up, there were the usual back pats and shared congratulations between a team that had united to make it through a life-saving surgery. But they could all recall similar cases where things didn’t end as well.

“I’m glad she’s OK,” Osmundson recalled saying in the moment. “But it’s a tragedy that this happened — this is not a win.”

Crispens felt everyone in the room was traumatized. “This is going to drive people out of the medical profession,” she thought. “We took an oath — we have to be able to take care of these women before they get to this point.”

Grimm left the room, peeled off his scrubs and wept.

When Hollis awoke from surgery, he was holding her hand.

Baby Elayna spent the first week of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit, enclosed in a plastic crib that resembled an aquarium. Nurses bustled in and out to the sound of beeping that monitored the baby’s fluctuating breathing and heart rates.

Her skin was pink and translucent, wires and patches poked out from all over her body, and her tiny face was covered with a breathing machine. Nurses told Hollis that Elayna was too fragile to be held. Hollis could only stick a latex-gloved hand through a hole in the crib to feel Elayna’s penny-sized grip on the tip of her finger. Over that first week, doctors monitored Elayna’s brain for bleeding and poured a protein into her breathing tube to help her lungs open and close.

Though Elayna's survival seemed assured, she faced significant hurdles. About 80% to 90% of babies born at 26 weeks survive. Of those, about 40% end up with brain injuries. Over the first two years of life, 12% may develop cerebral palsy, and some have vision, hearing and intellectual development issues. Elayna would be particularly vulnerable to flu and other respiratory illnesses. About half of babies born prematurely get readmitted to the hospital within the first two years. The cost of her care, which included more than two months in the NICU, would come out of the taxpayer-funded state Medicaid program.

After four days, Hollis had to leave Elayna in the hospital and go home. There was no availability in charity housing for parents of NICU babies, and she needed to take care of Zooey.

Then, three days later, sheriff’s deputies showed up at Hollis’ door and took her to jail.

Though the child welfare case had been closed, now prosecutors were charging her with a felony over the same allegation that she left Zooey unattended in a car. She faced eight to 30 years in prison. She paid $6,000 in bail, erasing the savings she and her husband had hoped to use for parental leave. A judge’s order prohibited her from having any contact with Zooey, so her husband took over child care. With nowhere to go, Hollis spent the night in her car outside the hospital, going inside for Elayna’s feedings.

As Elayna’s lungs developed, her breathing improved. Every time Hollis managed to hold her daughter to her skin, her heart practically burst. She marveled at the fight inside such a small being and scribbled notes in a NICU progress book.

But her unrelenting challenges kept pulling her away. She and her husband quickly maxed out their $400 credit card limit on new legal fees and were down to a few dollars to pay for gas. Hollis knew she needed to get back to work.

Three weeks after Elayna’s birth, she returned to her job as an insulator apprentice and a punishing new routine: waking up at 4 a.m. to drive to the construction site an hour away, where she worked a 10-hour day for $16 an hour. Some evenings she went to school for her apprenticeship. Other nights she led an online Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to bolster her application for a peer recovery specialist certificate. She had finally been approved for housing near the hospital. Every chance she could, she ended the day with Elayna, but often she just had to catch up on sleep.

Then she got a call from the Department of Children’s Services. They were opening a new case because THC had been detected in Elayna’s umbilical cord. Hollis believed it was due to delta-8, a synthetic THC legal in Tennessee that doctors recommend avoiding during pregnancy. Hollis said she took it after the stress of her first hospitalization to help her sleep; she considered it less dangerous than the heavy antidepressant drugs her doctors had prescribed. Grimm wrote a letter to the department in her defense; he saw THC as a minor issue and emphasized her consistent negative tests for deadly drugs.

Sometimes, Hollis felt gripped with anger over her situation. The way she saw it, the same system that had forced her to risk her life offered little support to help her family stabilize in the aftermath. She wasn’t sure where to direct the blame, letting it spill out on her husband, other relatives and sometimes Grimm. She resented that she hadn’t understood enough about the law early enough to make a different decision. If she had been able to get an abortion, she thought, “my life could be so different right now.”

She heard that lawmakers were considering a change to the abortion law, to make it clear it was not a crime for doctors to provide abortion care in order to prevent life-threatening emergencies. “I’m so glad I have my baby,” she wished she could tell them. “But this was a risk I didn’t have any choice in taking.” She knew others wouldn’t be as lucky. On Tuesday, the state legislature is scheduled to consider bills aimed at creating clear medical exceptions. Tennessee Right to Life has strongly opposed it.

Elayna grew bigger and passed new milestones: Doctors found no bleeding in her brain. She began to breathe on her own and take in small amounts of milk. She was moved to a private room, where Hollis could sleep on a cot.

One night in early February, Hollis kissed Elayna, stretched out on the cot and tried to sleep amid the beeping, whirring and cries of babies in other rooms. Her mind was filled with worries about what life would look like once they left the safety net of the hospital, with its around-the-clock care and endless supply of formula and miniature diapers. She worried about managing it all, and about what could happen if she made another small mistake. She couldn’t bear losing either of her daughters and hadn’t even had a moment to process the loss of her uterus.

She drifted off and slept as the nurse fed the baby at midnight. Her iPhone alarm barely roused her at 3:30 a.m., time to get up for work.

On Feb. 23, the hospital told Hollis she could take her daughter home.

Elayna weighed four pounds and 12 ounces, still the size of one of Zooey’s dolls. Nurses removed all the wires attached to her and tested her to make sure she could keep her head up in her car seat. A nurse handed Hollis a stack of papers that contained instructions on feeding and bathing a premature baby and appointments for eye doctors, heart and liver specialists and neurological providers.

Hollis gently placed Elayna in her car seat and buckled her in. She tried to focus on today. It was Zooey’s first birthday, and the court had allowed them to live together again. Her husband was bringing home a cake and Hollis was desperate to have a moment to celebrate with her family. That night, relatives stopped by to greet the baby.

But about a week later, Elayna began showing signs of respiratory distress. One night, she suddenly stopped breathing. Hollis performed CPR until police officers arrived and saved Elayna’s life.

Two ambulance rides later, Elayna was airlifted to Vanderbilt. Over the following days, doctors found she had rhinovirus and outfitted her with a breathing machine. They told Hollis it was possible Elayna could have a bacterial infection, such as meningitis, in the fluid around her brain. To find out, they would need to do a spinal tap, but they worried it would destabilize her further. As Elayna’s condition worsened, Hollis wasn’t able to hold her because it might deplete her energy.

Hollis stayed as long as she could, but too much was waiting for her back home and she hated seeing her baby suffering. She whispered a quiet blessing and left Elayna in the pediatric intensive care unit, cocooned under the glow of a warming lamp.

'Bordering on judicial misconduct': Right-wing judge tries to keep key abortion pill hearing secret

Ahead of a major hearing scheduled for Wednesday in a closely watched case which could further limit abortion access across the United States, reproductive rights advocates and journalists are decrying what one attorney called a right-wing judge's "informal gag order... bordering on judicial misconduct."

U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk is scheduled to preside over the first hearing in a case brought by right-wing group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in Amarillo, Texas on Wednesday, with lawyers for the organization arguing that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should never have approved mifespristone for medication abortion use in 2000, and the U.S. Justice Department opposing that claim. ADF aims to force the FDA to revoke its approval.

As The Washington Post reported Saturday, the right-wing judge scheduled the hearing last Friday in a call with lawyers on both sides, and in what one expert called a "very irregular" move, directed the attorneys to keep the hearing under wraps in order to minimize the possibility of protests.

Kacsmaryk also said he would delay putting the hearing on the public court docket, as judges usually do to keep the public and media informed about developments. He indicated he would make the hearing public knowledge only on Tuesday evening, making it difficult for Texans and members of the media to travel to Amarillo from other parts of the state and country. The city is a five-and-a-half hour drive from Dallas, the closest major Texas city; a nearly four-hour drive from Oklahoma City; and served by few daily direct flights.

At Law Dork, journalist Chris Geidner pointed out that Kacsmaryk violated the requirements he claims to uphold in his own courtroom. The "Judge Specific Requirements" on his page at the website for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas include that Kacsmaryk "heavily disfavor[s] sealing information placed in the judicial record."

"Going further, Kacsmaryk's requirements highlight the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit's rulings that recognize 'the public's right to know' about what's going on in our courts, requiring litigants to explain—with signed declarations—why 'the risks of disclosure' would 'outweigh' that right of the public to know what's happening in court," noted Geidner. "In order to even consider sealing anything on his docket, Kacsmaryk requires litigants to 'explain that no other viable alternative to sealing exists.'"

Kacsmaryk said Friday on his call with the attorneys that he was requesting they keep information about the hearing secret "as a courtesy," but Geidner said on Saturday that he "in effect, if not in actuality, put a gag order on the parties."

"This is a civil case with huge national implications challenging public, some long-standing, government actions," tweeted Geidner. "The affirmative decision to hide public notification of a hearing set on Friday until Tuesday night explicitly to decrease the chances of the public learning of the hearing in an attempt to decrease public participation is so unacceptable it is simply not judicial behavior."

Following the hearing, Kacsmaryk could hand down a ruling at any time. A decision in favor of ADF would immediately force abortion clinics across the U.S. to shift to providing only surgical abortions—which account for fewer than half of abortions in the U.S. each year—or medication abortions using only misoprostol.

ADF has argued that the U.S. government ignored evidence of harmful side effects of mifepristone when it approved the drug in 2000, but medical experts say misoprostol-only abortions carry greater risks of side effects like cramping and bleeding. Using misosprostol without mifepristone is also somewhat less effective at ending a pregnancy.

The FDA is arguing in the case that it has rigorously reviewed the safety and effectiveness of mifepristone as it has repeatedly reaffirmed its authorization of the drug in the past 23 years, and said in a court filing that revoking its approval would "cause significant harm, depriving patients of a safe and effective drug that has been on the market for more than two decades."

'Repulsive and morally repugnant': Virginia judge slammed for using antebellum slavery law in embryo ruling

In the antebellum South — before the U.S. Civil War and the abolition of slavery — Virginia was a slave state. And it had laws governing the treatment of slaves.

In 2023, a judge in Fairfax County, Virginia is drawing vehement criticism after referencing that 19th Century law in a case involving a divorced man and his ex-wife who are in disagreement over two embryos that have been frozen. Virginia resident Honeyhline Heidemann, who is 45, wants to use the embryos, but her ex-husband, Jason Heidemann, objects.

Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Richard E. Gardiner, the Associated Press (AP) reports, has ruled that human embryos can be considered property or "chattel." And he based his decision in part on that 19th Century law.

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Gardiner, according to AP reporter Matthew Barakat, "conducted a deep dive into the history of the law" and "found that before the Civil War, it also applied to slaves."

"The judge then researched old rulings that governed custody disputes involving slaves, and said he found parallels that forced him to reconsider whether the law should apply to embryos," Barakat reports in an article published on March 9. And Gardiner wrote, "As there is no prohibition on the sale of human embryos, they may be valued and sold, and thus may be considered 'goods or chattels.'"

Susan Crockin, a legal scholar at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., slammed Gardiner for his argument in the embryo case and told AP, "It’s repulsive and it's morally repugnant."

Solomon Ashby, president of the Old Dominion Bar Association, was also critical of the judge but was not as biting as Crockin. Ashby told AP, "I would like to think that the bench and the bar would be seeking more modern precedent."

READ MORE:'White grievance and straight-up racism' survey speaks volumes about MAGA attitudes: conservative

Read the Associated Press' full report at this link.

Women denied abortions sue Texas to affirm exceptions to the laws

Five Texas women who say they were denied medically necessary abortions are suing the state, seeking to clarify when the procedure is permissible under state law, The New York Times reported Monday.

The lawsuit will be formally announced at a press conference Tuesday, where the women will share their experiences navigating life-threatening pregnancy complications in the largest state in the nation to ban abortion.

The plaintiffs are not asking the courts to overturn Texas’ abortion bans, but rather to affirm that doctors can provide abortions in cases where continuing the pregnancy would be unsafe, or if the fetus is unlikely to survive outside the womb, the Times reported.

Texas’ abortion laws allow doctors to terminate pregnancies only to save the life of the pregnant patient. There have been several bills filed to widen those exceptions to allow abortion in cases of rape or incest, or pregnancy anomalies that make the fetus incompatible with life, but they are not expected to advance in the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Lauren Hall, one of the plaintiffs named in the suit, was thrilled when she learned she was pregnant. But at her 20-week anatomy scan, she learned that her fetus was developing without a skull, a lethal fetal anomaly known as anencephaly.

Hall’s doctor said they couldn’t help her, she told The Texas Tribune in September. She would have to remain pregnant until she miscarried or delivered a baby that could not survive outside the womb.

Or, the doctor quietly suggested, Hall and her husband could leave the state.

“And she said, ‘If you do that, don’t tell anybody why you’re traveling, don’t tell your jobs, don’t tell anyone at the airport,’” Hall told the Tribune. “Which sounds extreme, but Roe had just been overturned. Everyone was so scared.”

This tragic, earth-shattering news, and the unimaginable choice she now faced, sparked a mental health crisis, Hall said. But she worried that telling a health care provider about her situation would invite more questions and, potentially, legal repercussions.

Hall and her husband eventually cobbled together the money to buy last-minute flights to Seattle, where she was able to get an abortion. Hall said many people in her life had no idea how narrow the exceptions in the law were until she experienced it firsthand.

“They were just all shocked, like, ‘Surely, there’s an exception for this,’” Hall said. “It just didn’t occur to them that a ban would include cases like this.”

One of the other plaintiffs, Amanda Zurawski, learned at 17 weeks of pregnancy that she was miscarrying and at a high risk for infection. But the fetus still had a heartbeat and her life wasn’t in danger, so she was sent home until she became septic.

Zurawski, who attended the State of the Union in February as First Lady Jill Biden’s guest, was left physically and emotionally scarred by the delay; one of her fallopian tubes is permanently closed, and, she told the Times, she’s terrified as she resumes in vitro fertilization treatment.

The lawsuit will be filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York legal group that has led many of the recent legal fights to protect abortion access. The Center for Reproductive Rights unsuccessfully challenged Texas’ Senate Bill 8, which in 2021 banned abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, and argued on behalf of Jackson Women’s Health Organization in the case that overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.

The group says this new Texas suit is the first lawsuit brought by people who have had their pregnancy care directly impacted by new, post-Roe abortion laws.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this in the nation, having people with pregnancy complications having to sue the state,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the Times. “It puts a face on the reality of what it means when you criminalize abortion care. It shows that abortion care is health care.”

Disclosure: The New York Times has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at

'Control — that’s all they care about': How Tennessee’s 'unconstitutional' anti-abortion law imperils women

For many years, feminists and abortion rights activists warned that if the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturned Roe v. Wade, women experiencing unplanned pregnancies would not be the only ones suffering — women facing doomed pregnancies would suffer as well. And sure enough, that has come to pass since the High Court overturned Roe with its 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Tennessee is among the red states that has been rolling back abortion rights since the Dobbs decision. In an article published by the Daily Beast on February 28, journalist Michael Daly takes a close look at the case of Allie Phillips, a 28-year-old Tennessee woman who was 19 weeks into her pregnancy when she found out that the fetus was suffering from a rare condition called holoprosencephaly or HPE.

Phillips is an example of a married woman who wanted to be pregnant but now finds herself carrying a doomed fetus that she is not allowed to legally abort in her state.

Fetuses with HPE, according to Phillips' doctor, have only a 3 percent chance of survival. In addition to HPE, Daly reports, the fetus that Phillips is carrying has "abnormalities in the kidneys and the bladder" and a heart with "only two chambers rather than four."

READ MORE:The abortion pill, abortion bans and Republican policies that kill

Philips told the Daily Beast that after receiving the bad news, "I immediately began crying, like out loud crying…. I asked, 'Is there any treatment?' (The doctor) said, 'Unfortunately, there's nothing that can fix all these defects.'"

Phillips' doctor told her that medically, aborting the doomed fetus was an option but said that legally, "in Tennessee, I can't offer you advice if you choose that route. That is something you would have to do your own research on.'"

Phillips told the Daily Beast, "We risk having a stillborn or giving birth only for her to just die shortly after delivery. I don't want to bring her into this world to suffer for an hour or two just so I can say I held her…. Life was like a living nightmare."

Phillips' options include either continuing with a doomed pregnancy or having an abortion in a different state, but the latter option can be financially difficult — just as abortion rights activists warned it would be if Roe were overturned.

READ MORE: Federal judge says there may still be a constitutional right to abortion: report

"On Monday, (February 27)," Daly explains, "Phillips made calls to abortion providers in New York and Illinois. She and her husband make too much money to qualify for financial assistance, but not enough that the prospective expense isn't daunting, especially when compounded by the cost of airfare and a hotel. One quote in Illinois for the procedure at 20 weeks was $1500, going up to $2500 in the 21st week. They decided on a facility in Manhattan that said it would cost $1050 at 20 weeks…. Phillips and her husband will be setting from Tennessee for New York next week to do what they must do, but cannot do at home thanks to Gov. Bill Lee and the conservative Republicans who are now running her home state."

Although Phillips was hoping to give birth to another healthy child — she has a five-year-old daughter named Adalie — the Tennessee resident is a scathing critic of the GOP-sponsored anti-abortion law in her state.

Phillips told the Beast, "Control — that's all they care about.… Politicians should not be making any laws that limit medical treatment for anyone. It's unconstitutional and a violation to my basic civil and human rights. Banning abortions doesn't stop them. It bans safe abortions and makes it nearly impossible for some women to receive life-saving care. Women will die because of these laws. Doesn't seem very pro-life, if you ask me."

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Read The Daily Beast's full report at this link (subscription required).

Here’s the real reason Republicans are doubling down on abortion bans — even though Roe cost them big

If there was one inescapable takeaway from the midterm elections, it was this: Abortion is a losing issue for Republicans.

Despite reams of historical evidence suggesting November 2022 was going to produce a "red wave," Democrats racked up dramatic wins, seizing state and federal offices and retaining control of the Senate. Much of the post-election data on why was messy— except when it came to abortion. On that issue, study after study showed that support for abortion rights after the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June was a major — and often deciding — factor. The implicit political advice to Republicans couldn't be clearer: Back off the draconian abortion restrictions. They've done no such thing, however.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) passed a resolution on Monday calling for more attacks on reproductive rights, arguing that the reason Republicans lost so many races in November was that the party wasn't anti-abortion enough. "Instead of fighting back and exposing Democratic extremism on abortion, many Republican candidates failed to remind Americans of our proud heritage of challenging slavery, segregation, and the forces eroding the family and the sanctity of human life," read the resolution. To fix the problem, the RNC argued, Republicans need to pass even harsher anti-abortion laws, such as banning first trimester abortions. This resolution was one of the first orders of business after Ronna McDaniel won a fourth term as chair of the RNC, showcasing how serious GOP leadership is about doubling down on anti-choice politics.

Why Republicans would want to go harder on an issue that most data shows hurts them at the polls is puzzling, initially. But a new study from PerryUndem, which specializes in crafting nuanced polls that dig into the deeper motivations of American voters, suggests why that might be. Their numbers show that, even as the country has grown more progressive on gender and sexuality, sexist views among Republican voters have only grown more entrenched. In addition, the data makes it clear that the driving force behind anti-abortion policies is a belief that women are not smart or moral enough to be allowed control over their own bodies.

"The research tells us that anti-abortion attitudes" have little to do with "babies or when life begins," Tresa Undem, the co-founder of PerryUndem, told Salon. Instead, "views are about one's fundamental beliefs toward women." When it comes to Republicans, "they hold the most hostile sexist views."

In other words, to keep the GOP base motivated to donate, volunteer, and vote in elections, the Republican party needs to appeal to sexist attitudes. The most effective way to win over misogynist voters is to attack reproductive rights.

As the study shows, the single best predictor of whether someone opposes abortion rights is if they subscribe to negative stereotypes about women and/or are committed to "traditional" gender roles. It's not just that anti-choice respondents were far more likely than pro-choice respondents to believe that "women are too easily offended" or "white men are the most attacked group in the country right now." Abortion opponents were also more likely to deny that it's rape if a man forces himself on his wife. A majority of anti-abortion respondents also believed men understand the biology of abortion better than women do. Over two-thirds of people who support abortion bans agreed "it bothers me when a guy acts like a girl," while only 28% of pro-choice people disliked men they perceive as effeminate.

Feminist writer Jill Filipovic summarized the findings by arguing that Republicans are "almost comically insecure when it comes to gender and gender roles," and tend to view women as "overly-sensitive, irresponsible and immoral, ruining the natural order of things, and in need of male authority."

Undem singled out one poll question in particular, which asked if "there are many irresponsible women who will decide to have an abortion up until the moment of birth." The factually correct answer to this question is "no." As family practitioner Dr. Meera Shah told Salon after failed Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz invoked this myth during a debate, "That's just not something that happens," and it "doesn't even make sense," because you can't "abort" a pregnancy that is full-term. You just deliver the baby.

"It's absurd," Undem said, "to believe that one woman, let alone 'many,' will decide to have an elective abortion, at say 39 weeks carrying around an 8-pound baby, out of irresponsibility." And yet their polling data shows that nearly 8 out of 10 people who oppose abortion rights believe a sexist myth that defies not just medical science, but common sense.

The PerryUndem research comports with another study published in Political Psychology in November, which examines the attitudes about abortion among self-described libertarians, who mostly tend to vote Republican. Researchers found that this group opposed reproductive rights, but only for women. They supported laws giving men veto power over women's abortions, as well as "financial abortion" laws that allow a man to opt out of financially supporting a child if a woman refuses to abort a pregnancy. Libertarians, researchers found, have "support for men's and not women's reproductive autonomy."

These findings help explain why Republican candidate for Georgia's Senate seat, Herschel Walker, lost very little Republican support during the 2022 election, despite widespread reports that he had demanded that two ex-girlfriends get abortions. The issue isn't abortion, but women's autonomy. If the perception is that a man made the abortion choice for a woman, most Republican voters will not hold it against him at the polls.

Sexist stereotypes about things other than abortion often get attached to bills restricting reproductive rights. In Tennessee, for instance, a bill allowing rape victims to get abortions comes with a poison pill provision that will likely prevent most, if not all, requests for the exception: If a patient makes a "false report or statement," they can go to prison for a minimum of three years. But, as journalist Jessica Valenti points out, "women across the country have been accused—and arrested!—for making false reports for reasons as simple as a police officer didn't believe them." So-called "false" allegations are often quite true, but victims get snared by the myth that women make up rape accusations to get revenge or conceal their own sexual activity. In reality, false rape reports are estimated to be about .5% of overall rape numbers. Lying about rape to the authorities is vanishingly rare. Fear of being accused of lying, however, will likely prevent women from seeking help.

On January 15, a Planned Parenthood in Peoria, Illinois was set on fire, causing what the clinic says is over a million dollars in damages. Soon authorities arrested a 32-year-old man named Tyler Massengill who admitted to the arson after initially denying the charges. The reason for the attack he gave? He was still bitter over an ex-girlfriend getting an abortion a full three years ago. Sure enough, reporters soon dug up Massengill's extensive arrest record, which included two charges of domestic battery. Massengill took his behavior to the next level, but, as the PerryUndem data shows, this controlling attitude towards women is all too common, especially among Republican voters.

These sexist views are "why Republicans can succeed using the rhetoric they do," Undem told Salon. Republicans know that there's no substantive voting constituency for their economic policies. Tapping into this anger over women's economic and social gains allows the party to reach voters who would not be motivated by spending cuts to Social Security or tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. So while most Americans may reject the misogyny that underpins abortion bans, the anti-choice message is tapping a larger group of voters than Republicans could otherwise access. If they give up sexism now, they risk losing their core voters without necessarily getting new ones to replace them. Misogyny has been central to the Republican brand for too long, it turns out, for them to risk changing course now.

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