- 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.
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.”
Biden Issues Targeted Eviction Moratorium for Counties With High Community Transmission
While more limited than the previous eviction ban, the new policy applies to all areas with “substantial” and “high” COVID transmission, which currently includes 80% of counties that compose 90% of the population.
New Eviction Ban
Three days after the federal eviction ban expired, the Biden administration issued a new, more limited moratorium that will extend until Oct. 3.
Unlike the last freeze, the latest version announced Tuesday only pertains to areas of the country experiencing what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled “substantial” and “high” cases of COVID-19.
However, the rule still applies to the majority of the country given the new surges driven by the delta variant.
According to the CDC, 80% of counties that make up 90% of the population are currently experiencing substantial or high community transmission.
While not a full ban, many housing still advocates cheered the Biden administration, which has faced immense pressure to help the millions of Americans who risked losing their homes once the previous freeze expired.
“This is a tremendous relief for millions of people who were on the cusp of losing their homes and, with them, their ability to stay safe during the pandemic,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday.
Still, others noted that there are outstanding issues with the new policy.
First and foremost, while the moratorium covers most Americans, it does not cover all. According to reports, there are counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York that are protected from evictions while neighboring counties are not.
The county-to-county patchwork also adds another layer of confusion for many people who are on the brink of eviction or who have already been evicted.
Tenants and landlords are now scrambling to see if the freeze applies to them, and because of the temporary lapse in protection, evictions resumed in some states and cities, meaning that some people who would now be covered under the ban have already been evicted.
Perhaps the most notable obstacle is the fact that the new moratorium will almost certainly face legal challenges.
The Biden administration previously argued that it did not have the jurisdiction to extend the eviction freeze unilaterally, citing a recent decision from the Supreme Court, which ruled that the CDC could not extend the ban past July and that Congressional action was needed.
Three days before the moratorium was set to expire, Biden asked Congress to pass legislation to extend it before leaving for their August recess. Republicans blocked the effort by unanimous consent, and Democratic leaders, frustrated with the president’s last-minute demand that left them with few options, said they did not have enough support for a formal vote.
Biden, for his part, has acknowledged that any freeze that comes from his administration would face this obstacle.
“Any call for [a] moratorium based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision is likely to face obstacles,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve indicated to the CDC, I’d like them to look at other alternatives [other] than the one that is in existence, which the court has declared they’re not going to allow to continue.”
Any legal proceedings, however, will take time, meaning Congress could act before any disputes are resolved. The extended timeframe would also give state and local governments more leeway to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental aid approved in the last two stimulus packages.
Only $3 billion of the funding has been distributed due to the numerous delays and hurdles municipalities have faced while struggling to create new systems to dole out the much-needed aid.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CBS News)
Virtually All Emperor Penguins Doomed for Extinction by 2100, Study Finds
The new study comes as the U.S. The Fish and Wildlife Service moves to submit a proposal Wednesday to add the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species.
Concerns for Emperor Penguins
Nearly all of the world’s emperor penguin colonies may be pushed to the brink of extinction by 2100, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Global Change Biology.
More specifically, researchers behind the study said 98% of the colonies could be gone in the next 80 years if climate change continues causing sea ice to melt at its current pace. About 70% of colonies could die off by 2050, it added.
That is pretty huge news because Emperor penguins — the world’s largest penguin species —are a vital part of the Antarctic food chain. They prey on krill, squid, and small fish, and provide a source of food for leopard seals and killer whales.
However, the birds are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they depend on sea ice for viral activities like breeding, feeding, and molting, along with resting or seeking refuge from predators.
U.S. Moves To Protect the Species
The new study comes as the U.S. government considers adding the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to build off this new research, along with other data, for its proposal on Wednesday. Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be open to a 60-day public comment period.
If the classification is granted, the species would receive protections, including a ban on importations of the birds for commercial purposes.
“These penguins are hard hit by the climate crisis, and the U.S. government is finally recognizing that threat,” Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, told the Associated Press.
“Climate change, a priority challenge for this Administration, impacts a variety of species throughout the world,” said Martha Williams, principal deputy director of the wildlife service. “The decisions made by policymakers today and during the next few decades will determine the fate of the Emperor penguin.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (AP News)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.