Overnight Healthcare

Health Care — GOP avoids federal abortion ban questions

Demonstrators protest outside of the U.S. Supreme Court
Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

Karine Jean-Pierre will be replacing White House press secretary Jen Psaki later this month, making her the first openly gay person and the first Black woman to hold the key administration role. 

Today in health, we’re looking at Republican senators reluctant to speak on the leaked Supreme Court draft that would overturn Roe, even as it would deliver a huge victory for their party. 

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Peter SullivanNathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Senate GOP ducks federal abortion ban questions

Senate Republicans are dodging questions about whether they would seek restrictions or bans on abortion at the federal level if the Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision and the GOP wins back congressional majorities. 

The strong possibility the GOP could get such a chance was signaled this week when Politico published a leaked draft ruling by five conservative Supreme Court justices. The draft would overturn Roe, though Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday said it did not represent the final views of the court. 

The draft would leave abortion laws up to individual states — or the federal government, should it act on a nationwide law. Republicans hope to take back majorities in the House and Senate this fall and are seen as having good odds to do so given a string of issues hounding President Biden. 

But Republicans are not eager to discuss a push for federal abortion limits.   

“Let’s see how this shakes out,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said when asked if he supported a federal abortion ban.    

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he did not want to “speculate” about what might happen before the decision is formally released.   

The reticence reflects the risk of a political backlash if Roe v. Wade is overturned and if Republicans go a step further and enact restrictions on the federal level, rather than leaving the issue entirely to each state.   

“They’re like the dog that caught the bus,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “They know they’re on the wrong side of history. They know they’re on the wrong side of where the American people are. They know they’ll pay consequences in the 2022 elections. Their spin-masters are telling them to avoid the subject.” 

Read more here

Biden adviser: Overturning Roe would hurt economy 

White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein argued in a new CNN interview that the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion would have a devastating impact on the economy for women in conservative states. 

“Financially, it’s like losing a job,” Bernstein told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Thursday.

“It’s like being evicted, it’s like losing health insurance, it’s like going to the hospital in terms of its impact on their finances.” 

He added that it would disproportionately impact lower income people. 

“If you are a wealthy person in a place without access, you can probably get yourself to a place where you can access an abortion,” he said. “All of these costs will fall most severely on those who are unable to access abortion should Roe come down.” 

Bernstein said during the CNN interview that his research found “when you deny access to reproductive rights in general, but abortion rights in particular to women, they have persistently worse economic outcomes.” 

The Supreme Court is currently weighing the Roe ruling in a Mississippi case. A draft opinion in favor of overturning the nearly five-decade-old Roe abortion decision was leaked to Politico this week.

Politico reported that a majority of the Supreme Court justices privately voted in February to upend the landmark 1973 Roe case but such a decision has not be finalized by the court. 

Read more here

WHO: TOTAL DEATH TOLL FROM COVID-19 ALMOST 15 MILLION 

Almost 15 million deaths were caused either directly or indirectly by COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, according to a new World Health Organization (WHO) estimate, far higher than the previously reported total.   

The estimate of 14.9 million deaths is more than double the previous figure of roughly 6 million. The new totals focuses on “excess mortality,” meaning deaths both directly caused by COVID-19 itself, and indirectly, such as when someone dies from heart attack because hospitals were overwhelmed due to the pandemic.   

“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said in a statement.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”   

The release from the World Health Organization comes as the U.S. death toll from the virus approaches 1 million, a staggering amount itself.   

The daily number of new deaths in the U.S. has fallen to one of the lowest points of the pandemic, at around 375 per day, according to a New York Times tracker. But that is at risk of ticking up again at least somewhat as more infectious subvariants of omicron spread in the United States.   

BILL TO MAKE ABORTION A CRIME OF HOMICIDE IN LOUISIANA ADVANCES 

In light of the leaked Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the Louisiana House of Representatives advanced a bill Wednesday that would criminalize abortions and classify the procedure as homicide. Louisiana already has trigger laws in place that would immediately ban abortion statewide if Roe gets overturned. 

Read more here

FDA: ‘No evidence’ second pill has more benefit

While Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid does offer a reduction in hospitalization and deaths, there is currently “no evidence” to suggest that prolonging and repeating a course of the drug has any more benefit, according to an FDA official. 

John Farley, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday that there is currently “no evidence of benefit at this time for a longer course of treatment” of Paxlovid. 

Farley was responding to reports of patients testing positive for COVID-19 following a round of Paxlovid after initially testing negative at the end of treatment. 

A round of Paxlovid is administered as three tablets — two tablets of nirmatrelvir and one tablet of ritonavir — taken twice a day over five days. Farley said extending this to 10 days or beginning a second round for patients with “recurrent COVID-19 symptoms” has not been shown to have added benefit. 

Farley’s remarks go directly against what Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in an interview this week. Bourla told Bloomberg in an interview that patients who experience a relapse in COVID-19 symptoms should start “a second course, like you do with antibiotics, and that’s it.” 

Read more here

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Prisons didn’t prescribe much Paxlovid or other Covid-19 treatments, even when they got the drugs (Stat
  • Draft abortion opinion renews urgency on over-the-counter birth control (Politico
  • J&J Sues Drug-Benefit Middleman Over Use of Drug-Cost Assistance Program (Wall Street Journal)  

STATE BY STATE

  • Removing federal abortion-rights protections may spark new legal fights between states (NPR)  
  • Cities Mobilize for Roe Reversal by Strengthening Abortion Safe Havens (Bloomberg
  • 72 Hawaii public schools to be tested for lead in drinking water (Honolulu Star-Advertiser

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

To understand life after Roe v. Wade, look to Texas 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

VIEW FULL VERSION HERE

Tags Biden Chuck Grassley Jared Bernstein Jen Psaki John Roberts Karine Jean-Pierre Lindsey Graham

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video