The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to halt a Texas law that bans most abortions, ruling 5 to 4 the law can remain in effect even while legal challenges against it continue. It’s the court’s biggest break yet from the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s three liberal justices in their dissent, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing, “The court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.” All five of the justices who allowed the abortion ban to stay in effect were appointed by Republican presidents, three of them by Donald Trump.
President Biden said the Texas law “blatantly violates” the constitutional right to abortion enshrined in Roe v. Wade. It’s the most restrictive anti-choice law in the nation, barring abortions about six weeks into a pregnancy — before many people even know they’re pregnant. There is no exception for rape or incest. The law also allows anyone in Texas to sue patients, medical workers, or even a patient’s family or friends who “aid and abet” an abortion. This is Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood.
Alexis McGill Johnson: “It’s empowering really bad behavior, incentivizing really bad behavior. We’re seeing people outside of clinics documenting license plates, taking pictures of people going into clinics. And, you know, it’s having its intended effect, right? It’s trying to sow chaos and confusion and, most importantly, fear.”
Texas clinics say they’ve had to cancel most of their appointments since the law took effect Wednesday. Providers say at least 85% of abortions that they performed are now outlawed.
The remnants of Hurricane Ida swept across the northeastern U.S. overnight, bringing torrential rains, flooding and even tornadoes to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. At least nine people were killed, adding to at least six reported deaths in the South, where Ida struck as a Category 4 hurricane over the weekend. The governors of New York and New Jersey declared states of emergency. Here in New York City, subway service was halted and non-emergency vehicles were banned from streets overnight amid heavy flooding. The National Weather Service said over three inches of rain fell in Central Park over just one hour Wednesday night, likely a new record, while a tornado warning was issued for Manhattan and the Bronx.
Over 1 million customers in Louisiana and Mississippi still had no power as of Wednesday evening, and 1 million residents either had no running water or were under a boil-water order. Louisianans are also facing increasingly desperate shortages of fuel, food and other essential goods. This is a New Orleans resident who survived the hurricane.
Faith Johnson: “I’ve been a resident here all my life. I haven’t seen any change. Every time a disaster comes, we’re the last one to be served. We need ice water right now. … We don’t have no electricity. We are badly surviving through this heat. The gas lines are ridiculous long. We need our leadership to take control.”
President Joe Biden is set to visit Louisiana Friday to tour storm damage.
The World Meteorological Organization reported Wednesday that the climate crisis has spawned extreme weather that’s killed more than 2 million people over the last 50 years, with over $3.6 trillion in economic damage. Researchers found a fivefold increase in the number of extreme weather events compared to 1970.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban celebrated its victory over the United States and its NATO allies with a military parade in Kandahar Wednesday that featured dozens of U.S.-made armored vehicles and a Black Hawk helicopter. Just days after the last U.S. military transport plane left Kabul’s airport, the Biden administration said it’s exploring ways to evacuate hundreds of remaining U.S. citizens and tens of thousands of Afghan allies, including by land routes. Thousands of refugees have gathered at the border with Pakistan, overwhelming local resources. Those who’ve been able to cross are begging for international aid.
Afghan refugee: “We are 150 families. It was tough for us to cross the border. We were very oppressed, and many families are stranded there. We were unemployed and hungry. We migrated here because of poverty. And we have to be helped, because we don’t have tents and food. We have nothing. Have mercy on us.”
Meanwhile, U.S. General Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Wednesday it is “possible” the United States will coordinate with the Taliban in the fight against the Islamic State.
The United States recorded more than 210,000 coronavirus cases Wednesday as COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise. Here in New York, lawmakers have extended an eviction moratorium through January 15. New York is the first state to enact renter protections since the U.S. Supreme Court last week threw out a nationwide eviction moratorium ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Arizona, more than 1,000 healthcare workers have signed an open letter to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, pleading with them to mandate masks in K-12 schools. This week, schools in and around Phoenix reported 227 active outbreaks, with nearly 1,700 students and 450 school employees infected.
In Central Texas, the Connally Independent School District near Waco has canceled classes after two teachers died of COVID-19 in the same week. Sixth-grade social studies teacher Natalia Chansler was just 41 years old. She died Saturday just days after her colleague, 59-year-old Andy McCormick, succumbed to the disease. Their school does not require that students or teachers wear masks.
In Colorado, three police officers and two paramedics have been criminally charged in the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain in the Denver suburb of Aurora, which prompted nationwide protests. McClain, who was African American, was walking home from a store in August 2019 when someone called 911 to report a “suspicious person,” although he was not suspected of a crime. The three Aurora police officers who answered the call tackled McClain to the ground and placed him in a chokehold as he pleaded for his life, and medical responders who arrived then injected McClain with the powerful sedative ketamine. He suffered a cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and died several days later. Colorado Attorney General Philip Weiser announced the charges Wednesday.
Attorney General Philip Weiser: “Our goal is to seek justice for Elijah McClain, for his family and friends, and for our state. In so doing, we advance the rule of law and the commitment that everyone is accountable and equal under the law.”
In Nigeria, officials in the northwestern state of Zamfara have closed schools and imposed curfews, after gunmen abducted 73 high school students on Wednesday. Kidnappers have seized more than 1,000 students in northern Nigeria since December, usually demanding large ransom payments from the children’s parents.
A U.S. bankruptcy judge has approved a settlement that will dissolve Purdue Pharma, maker of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin, while ordering the Sackler family to pay more than $4.5 billion over the next decade. The agreement shields the Sacklers from future litigation over their role in fueling the opioid crisis, which has killed over a half-million people across the U.S. In a statement, Public Citizen blasted the settlement, saying, “Allowing the billionaires at the root of the opioid crisis to walk free while thousands of its victims are in prison is a catastrophic injustice.”
President Biden welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House Wednesday, warning Russia against further military incursions into Ukraine.
President Joe Biden: “And the United States remains firmly committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression and — and — our support for Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”
President Zelensky’s first White House visit came two years after then-President Trump dangled the prospect of an Oval Office visit in exchange for political dirt on then-candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump’s offer of a quid pro quo led to his first impeachment.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy warned tech and telecommunication companies not to comply with requests from lawmakers investigating the deadly January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, saying Republicans “will not forget” if they do. The House select committee has requested the companies preserve records related to the attack. McCarthy said the request was illegal, though he did not offer any legal backing for his claim.
Meanwhile, here in New York, the director of security and the controller for the Trump Organization are expected to testify before a Manhattan grand jury today as investigations continue into financial crimes at the former president’s businesses.