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Pro-Choice Advocates Sue Georgia Over Fetal Heartbeat Law

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  • Pro-choice advocates and abortion providers are suing Georgia over the state’s new “fetal heartbeat” law, which would make abortion illegal after six weeks.
  • The lawsuit, filed by American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and others, claims that Georgia’s ban is unconstitutional.
  • It also argues that the ban will disproportionately hurt low-income women and women of color in a state with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.
  • The lawsuit is one of several other challenges against states that have passed similar abortion laws in the last year.

Federal Lawsuit

Abortion providers and pro-choice advocates filed a lawsuit against Georgia on Friday to block the state’s new “fetal heartbeat” law, which they argue is unconstitutional. 

The law, which was signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp last month, would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Heartbeat activity typically starts around six weeks, which critics of the law have noted is before many women know that they are pregnant.

Set to go into effect in January 2020, the law, known as H.B. 481, would be one of the most restrictive abortion measures in the United States.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the abortion care provider SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and several other providers.

The plaintiffs argue that the law is unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion federally.

“H.B. 481 criminalizes pre-viability abortions in direct conflict with Roe v. Wade [sic] and nearly half a century of Supreme Court precedent reaffirming Roe’s central holding,” the plaintiffs said in the lawsuit

“H.B. 481 will prevent Georgians from exercising their fundamental constitutional right to decide whether to have an abortion prior to viability and will threaten other critical medical care for pregnant women.”

Maternal Mortality & Women of Color

The lawsuit also says that the law is “an attack on low-income Georgians, Georgians of color, and rural Georgians, who are least able to access medical care.”

The plaintiffs note that Georgia already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country and that black women are especially impacted. 

A new study from the Center for Disease Control published last month found that, “Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women were about 3 times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause as White women.”

The lawsuit argues that if the ban goes into effect, women will be forced to travel out of state to get an abortion. It also argues that those who are unable to do so will be forced to either give birth against their will or seek an illegal and unregulated abortion.

“In a state with a critical shortage of medical providers and some of the highest rates of maternal and infant deaths, especially among Black Georgians, politicians should focus on expanding access to reproductive care, not banning abortion before someone even knows they’re pregnant,” Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project said in a statement.

Legal Challenges in Other States

Georgia is one of several states that have recently passed restrictive abortion laws this year, though none have gone into effect yet.

Many of the laws have already been challenged in courts, and some have been blocked by judges. The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged a similar six-week ban in Mississippi, which was blocked by a judge early last month. 

The ACLU has also challenged six-week abortion bans in Kentucky and Ohio, as well as a ban in Alabama that makes it illegal for doctors to perform abortions at any stage of pregnancy unless there are extreme health concerns.

However, anti-abortion activists and lawmakers welcome legal challenges, which they hope to eventually bring to the Supreme Court in order to directly challenge Roe v. Wade.

Gov. Kemp, who is named in the lawsuit, knew that the law would be challenged.

“I realize that some may challenge it in a court of law,” Kemp said at bill’s signing ceremony. “But our job is to do what is right, not what is easy. We are called to be strong and courageous, and we will not back down. We will always continue to fight for life.”

Georgia officials have not yet responded to the lawsuit publicly. When asked for a response, the Georgia Attorney General’s office told NPR on Friday, “that it cannot comment on pending litigation.”

See what others are saying: (NPR) (CNN) (NBC)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban

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  • President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil. 
  • Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
  • The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions. 

Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.

That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.

Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.

The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”

It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead. 

Biden To Block Trump’s Order

Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.

“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.  In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.

With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect. 

It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.

Source: Whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions

Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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