The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana law that would have curtailed access to abortions in the state, and that was nearly identical to a measure the court overturned in Texas in 2016.
The ruling is a win for advocates of abortion access, who feared the case could pave the way for states to impose greater restrictions on the procedure. And it could have had far-reaching effects in Texas where there are more than 6 million reproductive age women. More than 53,800 abortions were performed in Texas in 2017, including 1,1,74 for out-of-state residents, according to government data. The GOP-controlled Legislature routinely introduces regulations restricting abortion access, and the state's Republican attorney general recently fought to enforce a near-total ban during the coronavirus outbreak.
Monday's decision was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the liberal justices to strike down the Louisiana law. He had dissented in the 2016 decision that found Texas' restrictions placed an undue burden on a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.
"The result in this case is controlled by our decision four years ago invalidating a nearly identical Texas law," Roberts wrote.
The case is seen as a harbinger of how a reconstituted U.S. Supreme Court may rule on abortion issues going forward. Since the Texas case was decided in 2016, the Court's ideological center has shifted to the right with the addition of Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch — both appointed by President Donald Trump, who pledged to appoint pro-life justices who would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
At issue in Monday's decision is a Louisiana law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It's strikingly similar to a Texas law the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in 2016 saying there was no proof the requirement better protected women's health. At the same time, “sufficient evidence" showed the admitting-privileges requirement shut down about half the abortion clinics in the state — more than quadrupling the number of reproductive age women living more than 150 miles away from one.
While the requirement was in effect in Texas, the number of abortions performed in the state declined from around 63,000 in 2013 to 54,000 the next year, according to government data.
In neighboring Louisiana, where some 10,000 women seek abortions each year, one clinic and one doctor would be left to perform the procedure if the admitting privileges requirement went into effect, the law's challengers said.
State officials say admitting-privileges are meant to protect women's health and ensure doctors are qualified. But advocates of abortion access say it is medically unnecessary because the procedure rarely results in hospitalization. When complications do arise, they often occur after the woman has left the clinic, critics of the law say. And admitting privileges are denied for reasons unrelated to the doctors' abilities; abortion providers, for example, can face difficulties qualifying for them because their patients are transferred to the hospital so infrequently, those critics said.
In the case decided Monday, lawyers challenging the Louisiana law argued it is a carbon copy of the Texas requirement, which was struck down for imposing an undue burden on women seeking abortions. The state's lawyers said the facts in Louisiana are different, and that clinics and doctors lack the legal standing to challenge the law for their patients.
Advocates of abortion access celebrated the ruling, but expressed worry about future fights over the procedure.
“We're relieved that the Louisiana law has been blocked today but we're concerned about tomorrow," said Nancy Northup, head of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a nonprofit that represented the Louisiana abortion providers. “Unfortunately, the Court's ruling today will not stop those hell-bent on banning abortion."
The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
The surge in Austin's COVID-19 cases is overwhelming the public health system trying to fight community spread.
"We can't get people tested right now," said Dr. James Marroquin, an internal medicine doctor practicing in Austin. "To me, that's a scandal."
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Austin's COVID-19 fatality drops as treatment improves, testing expands, cases among young people rise
The mortality rate for COVID-19 patients—defined as reported deaths per confirmed cases—in Austin has dropped from 3.6% at the end of April to 1.8% on June 22, a decrease that the city attributes both to better treatments and to a rising number of cases among young people, who are more likely to recover.
Travis County COVID-19 mortality by age<div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2950699" data-url="https://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/2950699/embed"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div><p>Austin Public Health began offering its free service to residents regardless of symptoms on June 5, following mass protests against police brutality, and many residents have taken advantage of the opportunity.</p><p>Between June 15-21, more than 3,000 people were tested by APH, up from 2,400 the week prior.</p><p>More testing means the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is closer to the actual number—and the death toll is proportionally smaller.</p><p>Dr. DeVry Anderson, chief medical officer of St. David's South Austin Medical Center, said the falling mortality rate is also due to <a href="https://austonia.com/Coronavirus/austin-coronavirus-hospitals/higher-exposure-for-health-care-workers" target="_self"><u>better treatment options</u></a> for COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized.</p><p><span></span>These treatments include:</p><ul><li>convalescent plasma therapy</li><li>the antiviral drug remdesivir</li><li>improved ventilator management</li></ul><p>Another development is that doctors are more familiar with how to treat COVID-19 patients than they were in early March.</p><p>"Having physicians and staff that have gotten, not comfortable, but now understand how to treat and care for these patients, I think it's seamless in the way we transition those [patients] to higher levels of care," Dr. Anderson said.</p>
Travis County COVID-19 mortality by race<div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2950719" data-url="https://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/2950719/embed"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div><p>Deaths also vary by race and ethnicity, with a larger proportion of Black and Hispanic residents who contract COVID-19 dying from it.</p>
Travis County COVID-19 mortality by ethnicity<div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2950729" data-url="https://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/2950729/embed"><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script></div>
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Austin and the Cybertruck: Tesla eyes Texas, home of the pickup, for Elon Musk's latest unique creation
Cybertruck<p>The vehicle features "a nearly impenetrable exoskeleton" made of stainless steel, "vault-like storage" and an "ability to pull near infinite mass," according to the company's website.<br></p><p>Now available for preorder, production of the Cybertruck is expected to begin in late 2022. The price ranges from $39,900 to $69,900, depending on the motor type, with a self-driving add-on available for $8,000.</p><p>When Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Cybertruck on Nov. 21 at an event in Los Angeles, it prompted much feedback on its design.</p>
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Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued a "Stay Home, Mask, and Otherwise Be Safe" order, effective from noon today until Aug. 15, requiring all individuals to wear masks and social distance. The order prohibits outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday requiring all Texans to wear masks "over the nose and mouth" in public spaces. It applies to counties with at least 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases and reverses the governor's previous policies.
Exceptions<p>The governor's order provides some exceptions to the mask mandate, including:</p><ul><li>People who are under 10 years old or have a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask.</li><li>While eating, exercising outside, swimming, voting or driving alone or with a member of the same household.</li></ul><div>See a full list of the exceptions <a href="https://open.texas.gov/uploads/files/organization/opentexas/EO-GA-29-use-of-face-coverings-during-COVID-19-IMAGE-07-02-2020.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>.</div>
A reversal<p>This order represents a reversal for Abbott, who previously refused local jurisdictions the right to mandate masks and limit gatherings despite repeated pleas that he do so.</p><p>Earlier this week, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe <a href="https://austonia.com/Coronavirus/austin-surge-" target="_self">sent Abbott a letter</a> asking the state to enforce mandatory masking, prohibit social gatherings of more than 10 people, roll back business occupancy and allow local officials to issue stay-home orders as needed.</p><p>"In summary, the rapid increase in cases has outstripped our ability to track, measure and mitigate the spread of disease," he wrote.</p><p>Austin Mayor Steve Adler, along with the mayors of eight other large Texas cities, also sent Abbott a letter, <a href="https://austonia.com/Coronavirus/texas-face-masks" target="_self">on June 16</a>, asking for the authority to impose a mask requirement.</p><p>The next day, Abbott allowed local jurisdictions to require businesses to mandate masks among employees and customers.</p><p><em>This story is developing and has been updated.</em></p>
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The coronavirus pandemic has altered or canceled summer plans for many. We asked you earlier this week, "What are your travel plans this summer?" The majority voted "staying home."