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Texas and Ohio Move to Halt Abortions During COVID Outbreak

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  • Texas has announced that non-urgent medical procedures and surgeries must be halted as hospitals respond to the coronavirus, including abortion as one of the impacted medical services.
  • Ohio leaders made the same call, but providers like Planned Parenthood believed the wording in letters they received still allow them to provide the procedure.
  • Pro-choice advocates believe that abortion should be considered essential because it is a time-sensitive and non-elective procedure.
  • But those in favor of the mandates in Texas and Ohio believe this is necessary to help increase care capacity for coronavirus patients.

Texas Pauses Abortion Access

States like Texas and Ohio are listing abortion as one of the non essential medical procedures and surgeries that must be delayed while hospitals respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

On Sunday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an order to postpone medical procedures that were not immediately necessary in order to increase hospital bed capacity. The following day, the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement saying that this includes “procedures that are not immediately medically necessary such as orthopedic surgeries or any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased demands for hospital beds and has created a shortage of personal protective equipment needed to protect health care professionals and stop transmission of the virus,” the statement further explained. According to Paxton’s office, postponing these procedures will free up these tools so they can be used for doctors and patients facing problems created by COVID-19. Any failure to comply with this order can lead to penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time.

Ohio’s Mandate

Texas is not the only state to make a mandate of this nature. Over the weekend, Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost sent a letter to Women’s Med Center and a Planned Parenthood chapter saying they, too, had to stop abortions for the time being. 

“You and your facility are ordered to immediately stop performing non-essential and elective surgical abortions,” the letter said, according to CBS News, which obtained a copy. “Non-essential surgical abortions are those that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of a patient.”

Yost’s letter did not state specific punishments but did say that if facilities do not follow these instructions, “the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures.”

However, some providers found the language in Yost’s mandate flexible enough for them to still be able to carry out abortions. Planned Parenthood’s Southwest Ohio Region chapter released a statement saying they would still be providing the service. 

We are complying with the Ohio Department of Health’s order regarding personal protective equipment, which requires hospitals and surgical facilities to stop providing non-essential surgeries and procedures and take other steps to reduce the use of equipment,” they wrote. “Under that order, Planned Parenthood can still continue providing essential procedures, including surgical abortion.”

Uncertainty in Other States

Other states have taken measure to pause non essential healthcare, including Maryland. In terms of abortion, Maryland did not make it clear if abortion was deemed non essential or not. According to a Washington Post reporter, when Governor Larry Hogan was questioned about whether or not it did, he “appeared to say yes.”

There have been no specific clarifications on this, though. His office also made remarks suggesting that he would not be the deciding factor on whether or not this measure includes abortion.

Louisiana was also among the many states putting a hold on non emergency procedures, and a pro-life organization in the state said this would stop abortions at one of the few remaining providers in the state. The Center for Reproductive rights denied this and said that clinic was in fact still open.

Responses 

Putting abortion access on the chopping block during an already politically tense moment has led to frustration for many. Some believe that cutting back on the procedure is an unproductive solution to helping care core COVID-19 because only 4% of abortions are done at hospitals, according to the Abortion Care Network.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology also released a joint statement defending access to abortion during these times. Their message was put out before states like Texas and Ohio announced their plans in hopes of preventing states from taking these measures. 

“Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care,” the joint statement read. “It is also a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible. The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.”

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, an organization at the center of a major ongoing Supreme Court case, also released a statement condemning these kinds of rules. 

“Emergency actions during a global pandemic should advance health and safety for us all, not force people to delay much-needed care and possibly exacerbate their health situations by doing so,” Miller wrote. “Patients cannot wait until this pandemic is over to receive safe abortion care.”

On the other side, some pro-life advocates think temporarily banning the procedure is necessary to help treat coronavirus patients. Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life told the New York Times that when Texas made this mandate, leaders were not “singling out any particular procedure or any segment of the health care industry.”

“The bottom line is, these abortions must be delayed,” he said. 

Pro-Life Louisiana released a statement of their own, encouraging abortion providers to not give the service. 

“We suggest that instead of fighting Louisiana emergency health and safety regulations, the abortion facilities pitch in to fight COVID-19 and its effects by donating much-needed personal protection equipment to local emergency rooms,” it wrote. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (The Hill)

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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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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