- A federal judge blocked Georgia’s controversial “fetal heartbeat” law, which bans abortions after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
- The judge claimed this rule was unconstitutional and was created to “de facto ban abortion.”
- A similar but even stricter version of this law, which made no exceptions for rape or incest, was also temporarily blocked in Tennessee just an hour after the governor signed it. Now, the rule could only go into effect after a lawsuit filed against the state is heard.
- In another case, a U.S. District Judge also suspended a rule that required patients to go to a clinic or hospital in order to get an abortion pill. Many thought this was a risk due to the pandemic, and now, for the duration of the public health emergency, people can receive that medication in the mail.
Georgia Law Deemed Unconstitutional
As strict abortion laws across the country continue to pose a threat to Roe v. Wade, three individual court rulings on Monday morning upheld abortion rights across different cases.
Back in 2019, Georgia passed a “fetal heartbeat” law, which bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Heartbeats can usually be heard six weeks into a pregnancy, however, most people do not even know they are pregnant after just six weeks. Because of this, the legislation was hit with lawsuits and backlash.
The law has been held up in court and was temporarily blocked by District Judge Steve C. Jones in October. On Monday morning, Jones officially deemed this law, H.B. 481, unconstitutional.
“The Court rejects the State Defendants’ argument that the statutory purpose solely concerns ‘promoting fetal well-being,” he wrote, explaining that the context surrounding the law “lends support to Plaintiffs’ argument that the purpose of H.B. 481 was to ban or de facto ban abortion.“
Jones also wrote that women have a constitutional liberty to have some freedom to terminate a pregnancy, and he vowed that it was the court’s duty to uphold such liberties.
The lawsuit was brought forward against the state by lead plaintiff SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, an organization committed to fighting for reproductive rights. The American Civil Liberties Union also filed the suit, along with several other groups.
“This win is tremendous, and it is also makes a very bold statement,” Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong, said in a statement. “No one should have to live in a world where their bodies and reproductive decision making is controlled by the state. And we will continue to work to make sure that is never a reality in Georgia or anywhere else.”
The Georgia Life Alliance has promised to appeal the ruling. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp also said the fight to “protect the innocent unborn” in the state is not done.
Tennessee Law Temporarily Blocked
In Tennessee, a similar, but even stricter rule was temporarily blocked by a federal judge just an hour after Governor Bill Lee signed it. This legislation not only banned abortions after six weeks, but it also made no exceptions for rape or incest, and only offering flexibility if the mother’s life was in danger.
This law also requires doctors to give the mother information about the fetus, allow them to hear a heartbeat, conduct an ultrasound, and more before going through with the procedure. Doctors would also have to refuse the procedure at any time if they knew the reason for the abortion had to do with the fetus’ sex, race, or a diagnosis of down syndrome. Clinics would have to post signs saying that it is possible to reverse a chemical abortion, despite the fact that there is no medical consensus on whether or not this is even true.
When signing the law, Lee called it “arguably the most conservative, pro-life piece of legislation in the country.”
However, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood both filed a lawsuit against the state over the legislation. The law remains in legal limbo until a hearing for the suit is held and cannot go into effect unless it is deemed constitutional.
Abortion Pill Access Ruling
Monday’s third major ruling came from U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland, who suspended a federal rule that requires a person to physically visit a hospital or medical office in order to obtain abortion pills.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and several other groups sued the Food and Drug Administration to overturn the rule, citing that it is a risk for patients to do so during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Several states tried to intervene in the suit, but Judge Chuang rejected their efforts.
Now, those seeking an abortion via mifepristone and misoprostol, the two pills in question, can receive the mediation in the mail or via delivery for the duration of the public health emergency.
“The In-Person Requirements, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a medication abortion and that may delay or preclude a medication abortion and thus may necessitate a more invasive procedure,” Judge Chuang wrote. “Particularly in light of the limited timeframe during which a medication abortion or any abortion must occur, such infringement on the right to an abortion would constitute irreparable harm.”
According to the Associated Press, more than 4 million people in the U.S. have used mifepristone and misoprostol to end an early pregnancy. In 2017 these pills accounted for 39% of all abortions in the U.S.
“People should not be forced to risk unnecessary exposure to a deadly virus in order to access essential medication that has a proven track record of safety,” Alexis McGill Johnson the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood said in a statement.
“Suspending the FDA’s in-person requirements on mifepristone is an important step toward health equity as we continue to weather this public health crisis.”
See what others are saying: (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) (Tennessean) (Associated Press)
Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”
- 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)
Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”
- 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)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- 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.