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Abortion rights advocates turn their attention back to SCOTUS
As DOJ seeks emergency relief on its medication abortion appeal from the Supreme Court less than a year after Dobbs, leaders in the reproductive freedom movement look to galvanize public support.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Abortion rights leaders and activists will flood the steps of the Supreme Court this afternoon to protest a decision this week from a federal appeals court to restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone after a district court judge in Texas issued a ruling that would completely ban the FDA-approved drug from the market.
Who’s involved: Planned Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, ACLU, National Women’s Law Center, All* Above All and more.
What to expect: NARAL President Mini Timmaraju will cover the short- and long-term actions the abortion rights movement need to take to restore access to abortion care and our democracy, according to a source familiar with the planning of the event.
“Recognizing the urgent threat it poses to reproductive freedom and our democracy itself, NARAL and our partners have been working side-by-side to shine a light on the stakes of this case,” NARAL Pro-Choice America spokesperson Ally Boghun said in a statement to Supercreator. “Mifepristone is safe and effective. And the impact of [Judge Matthew] Kacsmaryk’s ruling could be both sweeping and horrifying.”
Flashback: As I reported earlier this week, Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, earlier this week framed the anti-abortion movement’s attack on medication abortion as part of an acute crisis of democracy after the expulsions of Justin Jones and Justin Pearson in the Tennessee state House last week, inaction on gun violence in the wake of another mass shooting in Kentucky on Monday, and the relentless torrent of anti-LGBTQ legislation targeted at young people.
DOJ appeals to SCOTUS: After the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals late Wednesday evening decided to reduce the window during which mifepristone can be used from 10 to seven weeks and block a pandemic-era policy that made the drug available by mail, the Justice Department on Thursday announced it would seek emergency relief from the Supreme Court.
What they’re saying: “The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA to deny in part our request for a stay pending appeal,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “We will be seeking emergency relief from the Supreme Court to defend the FDA’s scientific judgment and protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care.”
The view from the House: “Extreme MAGA Republicans know that their radical anti-abortion views are too unpopular to win elections,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a statement. “So they’re using the courts to carry out their extreme agenda as they attempt to institute a nationwide abortion ban.”
What’s next: The Supreme Court — with its 6–3 conservative supermajority — isn’t obligated to fast-track the case simply because DOJ asked. It’s currently unclear if the court has an appetite to take on another controversial case on abortion less than a year after its Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.
Related: “How far will the Supreme Court go this time?” (Irin Carmon / NYMag) … “Why the GOP can’t moderate on abortion pill bans” (Eric Levitz / NYMag)
DeSantis signs six-week ban in the dark of night: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida late Thursday night quietly signed a six-week abortion ban that state legislators passed earlier in the day.
We’ve seen this before: DeSantis earlier this month signed a bill behind closed doors that will allow Florida residents to carry guns almost anywhere without a state permit after July 1 except for airports, courthouses and other government buildings.
The only people who witnessed the signing were members of the National Rifle Association and news of the event was first released to Fox News.
At the time, the DNC said DeSantis did so because he knows the legislation could be dangerous for Florida families.
The politics: The path for most Republicans not named Donald Trump will be to try to outflank him on the far right to peel off support from loyalists of the twice-impeached now-indicted former president before moderating to the center during a general election.
But DeSantis, who hasn’t announced he’ll run for president yet, has moved Florida so out of step with the rest of the country on issues like abortion, immigration, public education and the economy that it will be hard to defend himself against attacks against his record on the national stage.
Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary: “ The ban flies in the face of fundamental freedoms and is out of step with the views of the vast majority of the people of Florida and of all the United States.”
Jamie Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee: “This ban will be one of the strictest in the country and is the latest salvo of abortion extremism as 2024 Republican hopefuls work to out-MAGA each other — and remind America that Republican control would bring us closer to a nationwide abortion ban.”
Elisabeth Smith, director of state policy and advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights: “This bill threatens to end abortion almost entirely amid a growing public health crisis. If this ban takes effect, Floridians would be stranded in a vast abortion desert and forced to travel over 1,000 miles to get an abortion.”
Where’s Ron: The governor next week will travel to DC for a “meet-and-greet” with Republican lawmakers to lobby for their support in advance of an expected summer launch of his presidential campaign. He’s also soon expected to travel to New Hampshire and South Carolina, two early nominating states on the presidential primary calendar.
FYI: Vice President Kamala Harris next Tuesday will travel to Reno, Nevada to participate in a moderated conversation on the administration’s work to protect reproductive freedom.
The c-word: Harris called the current abortion care landscape a crisis earlier this week before a meeting with the White House Reproductive Healthcare Access task force: “I do believe that America is facing a healthcare crisis after the Dobbs decision, and then given what has happened most recently in the court in Texas.
It’s not just medication abortion that’s at stake: Harris said that the decisions by the First Circuit and district court second-guess the FDA’s medical experts and endangers all medications — including chemotherapy drugs, asthma medicine, blood pressure pills and insulin — if they were to stand.
“This decision threatens the rights of Americans across the country, who can look in their medicine cabinets and find medication prescribed by a doctor because the FDA engaged in a process to determine the efficacy and safety of that medication,” Harris said in a statement.
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IN THE KNOW
Schumer rolls out ambitious plan to regulate AI
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday announced a broad regulatory framework to prevent artificial intelligence from damaging the US while making sure America advances and leads the sector’s innovation.
“The Age of AI is here and here to stay,” Schumer said in a statement. Now is the time to develop, harness and advance its potential to benefit our country for generations.”
Schumer added that he worked with leading AI practitioners and thought leaders to develop the framework.
Schumer’s framework is organized into four guardrails: Who, Where, How, Protect.
Schumer’s office said the first three guardrails will focus on informing users, reducing potential harm and giving the government the data it needs to properly regulate the industry.
The final guardrail will focus on aligning the technology with American values to create a better world.
Schumer will refine the framework in the coming weeks with academics, advocacy groups, industry stakeholders and the government.
After the relevant Senate committees have their say, Schumer hopes senators — including Republicans — can put forward a comprehensive legislative proposal for consideration.
“[T]here is much more work to do and we must move quickly,” Schumer said. “I look forward to working across the aisle, across the industry and across the country and beyond, to shape this proposal and refine legislation to make sure AI delivers on its promise to create a better world.”
Top House Dem asks TikTok’s CEO to answer follow-up questions
The top Democrat on one of the most powerful House committees on Thursday sent a letter to TikTok’s CEO following up on his testimony at a contentious congressional hearing last month.
Frank Pallone of the House Energy and Commerce Committee requested written responses to nine questions from Shou Zi Chew to address the panel’s concerns that TikTok collects, uses, shares and sells consumer data and allows advertisers to specifically target users, including teenagers.
“Across the industry, platforms have leveraged this highly unregulated market to aggregate troves of data on hundreds of millions of citizens, which can be used for targeted advertising or sold to third parties who exploit that data for their own commercial interests,” Pallone wrote. “These industry-wide concerns are heightened when it comes to TikTok given your Beijing, China-based parent company and its susceptibility to the Chinese Communist Party’s influence.”
At last month’s hearing, committee members from both sides of the aisle expressed contrasting concerns: Republicans were focused on TikTok’s parent company ByteDance’s relationship with the Chinese government. Democrats, on the other hand, zeroed in on issues of mental health, algorithmic bias, misinformation, and threats to democracy.
But they were united in their deep frustration towards Chew for what they characterized as a level of evasiveness that betrayed his repeated promises of transparency.
Supercreator covered the hearing from the US Capitol.
The committee has requested responses to the questions on April 27.
WH hosts maternal health discussion to mark Black Maternal Health Week
The White House on Thursday convened eight state legislative leaders to discuss their work to advance legislation to improve maternal health as part of Black Maternal Health Week.
The leaders discussed bills that would expand access to midwives and doulas, establish and strengthen maternal mortality review committees, improve maternal mental health and ensure workplace protections for pregnant women and mothers.
President Biden has requested more than $470 million in next year’s federal budget to support ongoing implementation of a plan that provides a whole-of-government strategyto combatting maternal mortality and morbidity, reducing persistent disparities, and improving the overall experience of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum for women in this country.
His budget also requires all states to provide continuous Medicaid coverage for 12 months postpartum, which would eliminate gaps in health insurance. More than 30 states and the District of Columbia have already implemented or will implement a 12-month extension of Medicaid postpartum coverage.
“As we continue our work to make pregnancy and childbirth safe, dignified, and joyful for all, let us remember that health care should be a right and not a privilege,” Biden said in a proclamation to mark Black Maternal Health Week. “Let us give thanks to the extraordinary maternal health care workforce, which serves its patients and their families every day. And let us join in common cause to end the tragedy of maternal mortality once and for all.”
Scott flip flops on abortion again
As I reported in yesterday’s 2024 Watch, Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina on Wednesday declined in four different instances to take a firm position on whether he supported a 15-week abortion ban, a proposal put forward from Sen. Lindsey Graham, his South Carolina colleague in the Senate, in the wake of last summer’s Dobbs decision.
Scott clarified his stance on Thursday morning when he told a New Hampshire TV station that he would support a 20-week ban if elected president.
But by evening, Scott had hedged back to the 15-week limit that he refused to explicitly endorse just a day earlier.
Every Republican — especially those running for elected office in 2024 — knows they’re going to be asked this question. And the fact that the party is unable to coalesce around a unified message lets you know how toxic the issue is for them as Republican-controlled state legislatures and federal courts make it harder to receive abortion and miscarriage care.
The problem for Republican candidates is that the issue — and the questions — aren’t going away. And as I wrote on Thursday:
The best way to get reporters to stop asking you questions you don’t want to answer is to articulate a clear position that inspires confidence within the coalition you’re trying to build. In that sense, Scott still has some work to do.
In fact, the entire Republican Party does ahead of next year’s election.
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EYE ON THE WORLD
Report: Ukraine is unconcerned about leaks even after US intel breach
The FBI arrested a suspect in its investigation into a massive leak of classified documents that revealed American national security secrets about the war in Ukraine, spy agencies in the Middle East and intelligence in China and Africa.
While in Ireland, President Biden told reporters that he was concerned that the leak happened but less worried about the threat to national security because the documents didn’t contain any details that are of grave consequence right now.
Ellen Knickmeyer and Hanna Arhirova at AP News report that Ukraine shares the president’s lack of worry because it’s kept its most sensitive plans on the country’s military operations within a tight circle that excludes few if any US officials.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin agreed: “They have a great plan ... but only President Zelenskyy and his leadership really know the full details of that plan,” he said to reporters in Washington after speaking with his Ukrainian counterpart.
Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive against Russia has reportedly been delayed due to weather, slow equipment deliveries and a dwindling supply of ammunition.
BY THE NUMBERS
The number children of undocumented immigrants brought here as kids — known as DACA recipients — who will be eligible for Medicaid and Affordable Care Act coverage if a proposed rule by the Biden administration is approved.
More details: “Biden expands health care coverage to 600K DACA recipients” … Watch: President Biden’s video announcement … Read: Former President Barack Obama’s response
All times Eastern:
President Biden departed Dublin, Ireland this morning (6:45 a.m.) to travel to County Mayo (8:15 a.m.) to tour the Sanctuary of Our Lady Knock (9 a.m.) and Mayo Roscommon Hospice (10:30 a.m.) before traveling from County Mayo (11:45 a.m.) to North Mayo Heritage Center Landing Zone (12:15 p.m.) to visit the North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Centre’s Family History Research Unit (12:30 p.m.). Biden will travel from there (3:25 p.m.) to Saint Muredach’s College Landing Zone (3:40 p.m.) to speak to the people of County Mayo (4:15 p.m.). Then the president will travel from County Mayo (6:05 p.m.) to Dover, Delaware (7:05 p.m.) en route to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for the weekend.
Vice President Harris will travel from Washington, DC (9:20 a.m.) to New York City (10:25 a.m.) to speak at the National Network Convention (12 p.m.). Harris will travel from NYC (2:20 p.m.) and arrive in Los Angeles at 8:30 p.m.).
The House and Senate are out.
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