Overnight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Supreme Court weighs abortion restrictions

Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

There was certainly plenty of health news today, between a monumental abortion case and the first detected omicron case in the U.S. Most Supreme Court justices seemed open to upholding Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban as they heard oral arguments on the highly anticipated case. 

For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan (psullivan@thehill.com), Nathaniel Weixel (nweixel@thehill.com) and Justine Coleman (jcoleman@thehill.com). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4, @NateWeixel and @JustineColeman8.

Let’s get started.

Court weighs new limits on abortion rights

A majority of Supreme Court justices appeared poised to consider setting new limits on the right to abortion during oral arguments Wednesday over a Mississippi law that takes direct aim at the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. 

The Mississippi law at issue, which bans virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, conflicts with the nearly five-decade-old rule that says states cannot prohibit abortion prior to when a fetus can live outside the womb, known as fetal viability, which occurs around 24 weeks.

But on Wednesday, the court’s conservatives, who constitute a six-member majority on the bench, posed sharp questions about how firmly rooted Roe’s viability standard is in the Constitution.

“Why should this court be the arbiter rather than Congress, the state legislatures, state supreme courts, the people, being able to resolve this? And there'll be different answers in Mississippi than New York, different answers in Alabama than California, because they're two different interests at stake and the people in those states might value those interests somewhat differently,” Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughVoting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities Supreme Court agrees to hear case on HS coach's suspension over on-field prayers The Supreme Court, vaccination and government by Fox News MORE said. 

Gravity: The scene of dueling pro- and anti-abortion activists protesting outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday underscored the enormous stakes and political gravity of a case that sits at the intersection of women’s health and bodily autonomy, deeply held religious beliefs about the sanctity of human life and the potential cost for the court's legitimacy if the justices depart from past abortion rulings that have been relied upon for generations.

Chief Justice John Roberts, along with fellow conservatives Kavanaugh and Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettSupreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine-or-test mandate for employers Conservative justices seem skeptical of Biden vaccine mandates Congressional Progressive Caucus backs measure to expand Supreme Court MORE, are seen as key votes in a case that conservatives and anti-abortion activists see as their best chance in decades to undermine or even overrule Roe and related decisions.

The 2018 Mississippi law — which has been paused during litigation — is just one of hundreds of abortion measures that state legislatures passed recently, many with the explicit goal of overturning Roe. The uptick in state abortion restrictions coincided with the Supreme Court’s rightward shift that now includes three nominees of former President TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE.

Read more here.


The U.S. remains among the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth. Help prioritize the health of our nation’s moms and babies by joining the #BlanketChange movement today at BlanketChange.org.

First US omicron case detected in California 

Officials on Wednesday said a case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus was found in California. The individual was a San Francisco resident who had returned from a trip to South Africa last week.

The person is fully vaccinated, but has not received a booster, and was experiencing only mild symptoms, said White House chief medical adviser Anthony FauciAnthony FauciPublic health expert: Biden administration needs to have agencies on the 'same page' about COVID Trump slams Biden, voices unsubstantiated election fraud claims at first rally of 2022 DeSantis says he disagreed with Trump's decision to shut down economy at start of pandemic MORE. The person returned to the U.S. on Nov. 22, but did not test positive until Nov. 29.

The person has been in self quarantine since the positive test, and all close contacts have tested negative, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During a press briefing shortly after the case was disclosed, Fauci urged Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and said that those who are eligible should get their booster shots, describing the vaccines as the best protection against the virus and the omicron variant.

“We know what we need to do to protect people,” Fauci told reporters while encouraging Americans to wear masks in congregate settings to prevent the spread of the virus.

"[T]he fact is that people should wind up getting vaccinated and boosted if they’re eligible for a boost. I keep coming back to that because that’s really the solution to this problem," Fauci said.

Defending travel ban: The timing of the infection is likely to draw more criticism of the administration's ban on travelers from southern African countries, which officials said they put in place as a way to try to slow the spread of the variant into the U.S.

The person entered the U.S. four days before South Africa even announced the discovery of the variant, and tested positive the same day the Biden administration's ban on travelers from eight African countries took effect. But Fauci said the travel restrictions were still necessary to buy time and understand more about the virus.

Read more here.


Nearly 30 percent of unvaccinated respondents said that the emergence of the new omicron variant has made them consider COVID-19 inoculations, a Morning Consult survey released Wednesday found.

About 11 percent of unvaccinated adults polled said that they "definitely" would consider getting vaccinated as a preventative measure against omicron, while 19 percent said that they "probably" would consider COVID-19 shots.

Not convincing everyone: Still, 42 percent of the unvaccinated adults surveyed said that "definitely" would not get vaccinated. 

Along party lines, 30 percent of Democratic men said that they would consider getting the vaccine to protect against the omicron variant, and 29 percent of Democratic women agreed. 

Just 4 percent of Republican men and 6 percent of Republican women responded "yes, definitely" when asked about getting vaccinated as a preventative measure against the strain.

Read more here.


The U.S. remains among the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth. Help prioritize the health of our nation’s moms and babies by joining the #BlanketChange movement today at BlanketChange.org.

WHO chief blasts travel bans 


The World Health Organization (WHO) chief on Wednesday called it “deeply concerning” that African countries are being “penalized” with travel bans after detecting and reporting the omicron variant.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked Botswana and South Africa on Wednesday for alerting authorities to the new variant of concern “so rapidly,” while criticizing how nations like the U.S. have responded with travel restrictions. 

“It is deeply concerning to me that those countries are now being penalized by others for doing the right thing,” he said in a press briefing, noting that travel bans alone will not stop the variant from spreading.

“Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of omicron, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” the WHO chief added. 

Instead, Tedros said nations should take “rational, proportional" precautions to prevent the spread of omicron variant, including screening passengers before and after travel and using quarantine for international visitors. 

These actions could help “reduce or at least delay” the spread of the variant, Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said, noting broad travel restrictions alone cannot be effective.

Read more here


Investing in Maternal & Infant Health—Thursday, December 2 at 1:00 PM ET

According to the CDC, over 700 women die of pregnancy complications annually and nearly two-thirds of these deaths are preventable. U.S. maternal mortality rates are moving in the wrong direction, and disparities run rampant, with Black women being up to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women. On Thursday, December 2, Rep. Alma AdamsAlma Shealey AdamsAdams: Maternal health is in 'a crisis within a crisis' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud Overnight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Supreme Court weighs abortion restrictions MORE (D-N.C.), Rep. Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerThe fates of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump Pelosi: McCarthy has 'obligation' to help Jan. 6 investigation West Virginia lawmaker slams GOP colleague over support for infrastructure law MORE (R-Wash), CDC Division of Reproductive Health Director Dr. Wanda Barfield, and more join The Hill for a discussion on improving access to quality maternal and infant health care throughout the country.  RSVP today.


President BidenJoe BidenCarville advises Democrats to 'quit being a whiny party' Wendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Sullivan: 'It's too soon to tell' if Texas synagogue hostage situation part of broader extremist threat MORE marked World AIDS Day on Wednesday by announcing new actions to end the HIV epidemic in the United States, focused on prevention, equity, and eliminating stigmas.

“I want to make sure that everyone in the United States knows their HIV status, that everyone with HIV receives high-quality care and treatment that they deserve, and that we end the harmful sigma around HIV and AIDS,” Biden said at an event at the White House.

“It shouldn’t matter where you live in the country or how much money you make. We have to respond across the board to the HIV epidemic everywhere and support all people living with HIV,” he added. “And critically, this strategy takes on racial and gender disparities in our health system that for much too long have effected HIV outcomes in our country.” 

The Biden administration unveiled an updated strategy on Wednesday, which provides a roadmap for the federal government through 2025 to reduce HIV infections, improve treatment, lessen health care inequities and combat discrimination and stigmas.

The administration asked Congress for $670 million for the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the United States initiative and reestablished the Office of National AIDS policy.

Read more here.




That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s health care page for the latest news and coverage. See you Thursday.