As states around the country ramp up their attacks on reproductive rights, the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to rule on an Indiana law that would bar abortions based on the sex, race or disability of the fetus. The Supreme Court decision will keep in place a lower court’s injunction on the measure.
The Supreme Court, however, decided to allow Indiana’s so-called fetal burial law to go into effect, which stipulates that abortion clinics and providers must dispose of fetal remains either through burial or cremation. The measure was signed into law by then-Governor Mike Pence in 2016.
In more reproductive rights news, the sole remaining abortion clinic in Missouri says it could be shut down this week. Planned Parenthood said it filed a lawsuit after Missouri’s health department has refused to renew its state license; a judge is scheduled to hear the case today. If Planned Parenthood’s license to perform abortions is not renewed by Friday, Missouri would become the first state without an abortion clinic since 1973’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. We’ll have more on this and other reproductive rights news after headlines.
Meanwhile, Netflix is the first major studio to threaten a boycott of Georgia in the wake of its passage of a six-week abortion ban earlier this month. Chief content officer Ted Sarandos said Tuesday it would work with the ACLU to fight the law in court and would “rethink [Netflix’s] entire investment in Georgia” if the law goes into effect. High-profile filmmakers and production companies, including Kristen Wiig, David Simon, Mark Duplass, Ron Howard and Killer Films, have said they would boycott Georgia—a major hub for film and television production—because of the new law.
California senator and 2020 presidential hopeful Kamala Harris says that, if elected, she will require states trying to pass anti-abortion measures that could violate Roe v. Wade to get “preclearance” through the Justice Department similar to the Voting Rights Act. This is Senator Harris speaking to Lawrence O’Donnell during an MSNBC town hall Tuesday night about her proposed Reproductive Rights Act.
Sen. Kamala Harris: “When elected, I’m going to put in place and require that states that have a history of passing legislation that is designed to prevent or limit a woman’s access to reproductive healthcare, that those laws have to come before my Department of Justice for a review and approval, and until we determine that they are constitutional, they will not take effect.”
A coalition of LGBT and reproductive rights groups is challenging a new Trump administration rule that would allow healthcare providers to decline abortions and other services for patients based on moral or religious beliefs. Lawyers argue the rule is “unconstitutional” and “intentionally confusing.” A statement on behalf of the plaintiffs says that “The rule is intentionally unworkable for health care facilities, including hospitals, and may result in these facilities doing away with reproductive and LGBTQ services altogether to avoid losing government funding.”
Back at the Supreme Court, justices decided not to hear a challenge to a Pennsylvania school district’s policy allowing students to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender. Trans and civil rights activists applauded the news. Aidan DeStefano, a transgender graduate of Boyertown High, the school at the heart of the legal case, issued the following response via the ACLU: “By the time I graduated high school, I was using the boys’ bathroom and participating on the boys’ cross country team. I felt like I belonged and had the confidence I needed to continue with my education. I’m glad the Supreme Court is allowing schools like mine to continue supporting transgender students.”
In more Supreme Court news, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he would move to confirm a President Trump-appointed nominee to the court if a seat becomes vacant during next year’s run-up to the general elections. In 2016, McConnell led a Republican effort to block President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, arguing voters should decide whether a Democratic or a Republican president would fill the opening, based on the results of the 2016 election.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Europe must fight against the right-wing ideology that is on the rise in Europe and around the world. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour following the European Parliament elections, which saw some gains for nationalist parties, Merkel stressed the importance of learning from Germany’s own history.
Chancellor Angela Merkel: “There is to this day not a single synagogue, not a single day care center for Jewish children, not a single school for Jewish children that does not need to be guarded by German policemen. … We have to face up, indeed, to the specters of the past. We have to tell our young people what history has brought over us and others and these horrors, why we are for democracy, why we try to bring about solutions, why we always have to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.”
On Saturday, Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner advised Jews in the country to avoid wearing kippahs in public because of the rise in anti-Semitism. German government figures show that anti-Semitic hate crimes rose by almost 20% from 2017 to 2018.
In Syria, over 20 civilians were killed Tuesday as attacks in the northwestern rebel stronghold of Idlib continue by government and Russian forces. Nine children were among the dead, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The United Nations is warning that 3 million people in Idlib are caught in the crosshairs of the fighting, and blasted the international community’s lack of action in the face of the growing humanitarian crisis.
In Brazil, at least 55 prisoners were killed as fights broke out across four prisons in the northwestern state of Amazonas. Fifteen prisoners were found dead Sunday, and 40 on Monday, in what authorities say were gang-related riots. The deaths were caused by strangulation and stabbing. Leaders of the suspected gangs are being transferred to maximum-security prisons.
Brazil has the third-largest prison population in the world. According to a local human rights group, one of the prisons where riots broke out was housing more than twice its prisoner capacity. President Jair Bolsonaro, who campaigned on a law-and-order platform, has said he would “stuff prison cells with criminals.”
In more news from Brazil, a nonprofit environmental group is warning that deforestation of the Amazon rainforest increased by 20% in just the last nine months. Experts say logging and land invasion are to blame for much of the loss. President Jair Bolsonaro and his environment minister have worked to open the Amazon even further to logging, mining and agribusiness companies while violating the land rights of indigenous peoples. Earlier this month, eight former environment ministers warned that Bolsonaro’s administration was systematically destroying Brazil’s environmental policies, with one former minister saying Brazil was becoming an “exterminator of the future.”
Malaysia will send up to 3,000 tons of plastic waste back to the countries it came from, in an attempt to halt wealthier countries from dumping their used plastic under the guise of recycling. Malaysia became the world’s main dumping ground for plastic refuse after China banned its importation last year. The plastic is smuggled to unlicensed recycling plants from countries including the U.S., the U.K., France, Canada and Australia, and is causing environmental problems for surrounding communities. This is Malaysian Minister of Energy Yeo Bee Yin.
Yeo Bee Yin: “So, what the citizens of the U.K. believe that they send for recycling is actually dumped in our country. … Malaysians, like any other developing countries, have a right to clean air, clean water, sustainable resources and clean environment to live in, just like citizens of developed nations.”
Back in the United States, a $19 billion disaster relief bill continues to stall in the House as Republican Congressmember Thomas Massie objected to its passage Tuesday by demanding an official roll call vote, following a similar move last week by fellow Republican lawmaker Chip Roy. The bill passed handily in the Senate last week, but the objecting congressmembers cited the lack of border wall funding, among other reasons, for their opposition. The bill would send relief funds to Western states hit by wildfires, Midwestern states dealing with flooding, and hurricane-ravaged areas in the Southeast and Puerto Rico, as well as to farmers affected by natural disasters. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Democrats will attempt to pass the bill on a voice vote Thursday or, failing that, would pass the bill after lawmakers return from their recess next week.
Recent research shows that e-cigarettes may pose an increased risk of heart attack. A new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has found that the substance used to flavor e-cigarettes can threaten the survival and proper functioning of human cells. The study’s author says the research refutes the common perception of vaping as a safe alternative to smoking regular cigarettes. The Food and Drug Administration said last year that vaping had increased nearly 80% among high schoolers and 50% among middle schoolers over the previous year.
And in more public health news, the measles outbreak has now hit over half of U.S. states. Sixty new cases were identified over the past week, bringing the total to 940 cases in 26 states so far this year. New York has the highest number of new infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts expect the number of cases to exceed the outbreak of 1994, in which 958 cases were identified. Public health officials blame lower vaccination rates based on misinformation for the current surge in infected people. Meanwhile, Maine became the fourth state, along with California, Mississippi and West Virginia, to end most nonmedical exemptions for childhood vaccines.