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Roe v. Wade effectively dead in Texas after Supreme Court fails to act

“The harm this law will cause will be insurmountable for too many Texans, particularly Black, Latino, Indigenous people & low income people.”

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U.S. Supreme Court (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – A Texas law that is considered the most restrictive in the nation banning abortion procedures after six weeks of pregnancy- a period when many women are unaware that they are pregnant, went into effect after midnight when the U.S. Supreme Court failed to step in and issue an injunction halting it from taking effect.

Attorneys for Texas abortion providers had filed a last-minute emergency plea to the Supreme Court on Monday, after the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Sunday had denied a request to block the law and then canceled a hearing scheduled for Monday in Austin, Texas before a U.S. District Court, where at least 20 abortion providers had hoped to testify against the law.

The Washington Post reported that lawyers for abortion providers told the Supreme Court that the statute, known as Texas Senate Bill 8, would “immediately and catastrophically reduce abortion access” in Texas and probably force more clinics to close. The law is unconstitutional, they say, because it conflicts with the court precedents that prevent states from banning abortion before a fetus would be viable outside the womb, usually around 22 to 24 weeks.

In addition to preventing abortions after detection of an unborn child’s heartbeat; the bill further authorizes a ‘private civil right of action,’ that would allow members of the general public to sue those who might have violated the restrictions, which providers call a bounty hunting scheme, the Texas Tribune noted.

Individuals who are sued under the ban could be required to pay the person who brought the lawsuit at least $10,000 for each abortion the defendant was involved in the Post noted.

“In less than two days, Texas politicians will have effectively overturned Roe v. Wade,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement Monday. “We have filed an emergency motion in the Supreme Court to block this law before clinics are forced to turn patients away. Patients will have to travel out of state – in the middle of a pandemic – to receive constitutionally guaranteed healthcare. And many will not have the means to do so. It’s cruel, unconscionable, and unlawful.”

The High Court could still grant a request from abortion providers to halt the law. The law effectively eliminates the guarantee in Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions that women have a right to end their pregnancies before viability, abortion providers said, and that states may not impose undue burdens on that decision, according to the Post.

“The harm this law will cause will be insurmountable for far too many Texans, particularly Black, Latino, Indigenous people, those with low incomes, and Texans in rural areas who already face significant barriers to care,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement. “We are asking the Supreme Court to uphold fifty years of precedent and ensure Texans won’t be denied their constitutional right to abortion.”

The White House issued a statement by President Joe Biden Wednesday;

Today, Texas law SB8 went into effect. This extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century.
 
The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes. And, outrageously, it deputizes private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion, which might even include family members, health care workers, front desk staff at a health care clinic, or strangers with no connection to the individual.
 
My administration is deeply committed to the constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly five decades ago and will protect and defend that right
.” 

In a brief filed on July 30 by 12 Republican Governors, that was joined by 228 Republican members of the U.S. House in a separate brief, all asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, which protects women’s reproductive rights to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

This most recent push by Republicans comes as the high court is set to hear Mississippi’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, based on the Mississippi law that bars most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. There are no provisions for rape or incest either. 

The Governors from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas and South Carolina signed the brief.

The arguments made are chilling and pose a direct threat to the many members of the LGBTQ community who have a vital interest in reproductive freedom and choice.  Substantial research has documented that lesbian youth, in particular, are at high risk of unwanted pregnancy due to sexual coercion and attempts to hide their sexual orientation,” Shannon Minter, the Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), told the Blade on July 30.

“And more broadly, the same groups and officials who are attempting to turn back the clock on women’s freedom are also seeking to roll back equality for our communities. Every LGBTQ person in this country has a stake in this case and in the ongoing battle for the fundamental right to make personal decisions free of government intrusion and control,” he added. 

An openly gay member of the U.S. House, Congressman Mondaire Jones, (D NY-17) who is an attorney and social justice activist tweeted about the SCOTUS lack of action:

California Governor Newsom weighed in also issuing a statement Wednesday:

I am outraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed Texas’ ban on most abortions to take effect. Silently, in the dead of night, the Supreme Court has eviscerated the fundamental protection of a woman’s right to choose that Roe v. Wade has protected for the last 50 years. In California, we will ensure that women continue to have access to critical health care services, including abortion, and California will continue to lead the nation in expanding access to reproductive and sexual health care. And I will continue to appoint judges and justices who will faithfully follow the Constitution and precedent to uphold people’s rights, unlike this disappointing inaction from the high court.

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Mississippi

Art used to spotlight people of color lost to AIDS in the South

National AIDS Memorial, Southern AIDS Coalition created Change the Pattern exhibit

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The National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition have announced a new initiative to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS among communities of color in the South. (Photo courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial)

The National AIDS Memorial has joined forces with the Southern AIDS Coalition to stage a series of art exhibitions and educational forums to honor Black and Brown people in the South who have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

The initiative, titled Change the Pattern, began in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday with curated quilt exhibitions, displays, educational forums, advocacy, storytelling and quilt-making, according to a press release from the National AIDS Memorial. A $2.4 million grant from the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., funded Change the Pattern.

More than 500 hand-stitched quilt panels from the area were featured in what the National AIDS Memorial says is “the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever” in Mississippi.

“By creating an empowering message and safe spaces for conversation, we can uplift, inspire and make progress toward ending the HIV epidemic, challenge cultural stigmas and continue the legacy of advocacy that the quilt represents,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham in the release. 

Change the Pattern was announced in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day during the Southern AIDS Coalition’s annual Saving Ourselves Symposium that took place in August. 

The conference, which was heavily attended by LGBTQ activists from the South, featured 100 quilt panels, and attendees participated in quilt-making workshops to make new quilt panels representing their loved ones.

Interested LGBTQ advocacy organizations in the South were invited to apply for funding to support local quilt-making workshops in their communities so as to ensure that the legacies of Black and Brown people are captured through newly-sewn panels on the quilt through the Memorial’s Call My Name program, according to the National AIDS Memorial press release. 

The application process opened on Sept. 15 with up to 35 eligible organizations receiving as much as $5,000 to support hosting local workshops. 

The first major Change the Pattern Quilt was founded 35 years ago as a visual representation of the need to end stigma and provide equitable resources to communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS, according to Southern AIDS Coalition Executive Director Dafina Ward.

“Change the Pattern is a call to action and change in the South,” said Ward. “Quilt-making has such a deep cultural connection in the Black community and in the South. The sharing and telling of these powerful stories through the quilt, coupled with advocacy and open dialogue, can help end HIV-related stigma and bring the stories of those we’ve lost to light.”

As the Change the Pattern initiative occurs, conversations about how to handle health epidemics within LGBTQ communities of color have become national topics, especially with the prevalence of monkeypox cases amongst Black gay men.

Despite earlier panic about the disease, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a report released on Wednesday said that individuals who were vaccinated against the disease were less likely to be affected over the summer compared to those who weren’t. 

The effectiveness and duration of immunity after a single dose, however, is not known, and few individuals in the current outbreak have completed the recommended two-dose series, according to the report. 

The most recent CDC data reports that 25,509 monkeypox cases have thus far been confirmed in the U.S. Only one death has been reported.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Doctor, transgender spouse indicted for passing information to Russia

Jamie Lee Henry first active-duty Army officer to come out as trans

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Jamie Lee Henry and their spouse Anna Gabrielian (Photos from social media)

A federal grand jury on Wednesday handed down an indictment of a Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist and her spouse, a doctor and major in the U.S. Army, with conspiracy and for the disclosure of individually identifiable health information related to their efforts to assist Russia in connection with the conflict in Ukraine.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland in a press release stated Anna Gabrielian, 36, and her spouse, Jamie Lee Henry, 39, both of Rockville, Md., both of whom had secret clearances, were attempting to provide medical information about members of the military to the Russian government.

Gabrielian and Henry met with an individual they believed to be associated with the Russian government, but who was, in fact, an Federal Bureau of Investigation Undercover Agent.

Court documents indicate Gabrielian told the FBI agent posing as a Russian operative that she had previously reached out to the Russian Embassy by email and phone, offering Russia her and her spouses’ assistance.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Gabrielian told the FBI agent that, although Henry knew of Gabrielian’s interaction with the Russian Embassy, she never mentioned Henry’s name to the Russian Embassy.

In the narrative released by the U.S. Attorney’s office, on Aug. 17, 2022, Gabrielian met with the FBI at a hotel in Baltimore. During that meeting, Gabrielian told the FBI she was motivated by patriotism toward Russia to provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail. 

She proposed potential cover stories for her meeting with the “Russians” and stressed the need for “plausible deniability” in the event she was confronted by American authorities. Gabrielian also told the FBI that, as a military officer, Henry was currently a more important source for Russia than she was, because they had more helpful information, including how the U.S. military establishes an army hospital in war conditions and information about previous training provided by the U.S. military to Ukrainian military personnel. 

Henry identifies as a “transgender military physician” on their Twitter account.

Henry received public attention in 2015 after becoming the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as trans.

Henry was at one point a member of SPARTA, the nation’s largest nonprofit representing actively-serving trans U.S. servicemembers. A spokesperson for SPARTA, in an emailed statement commenting on the announcement of the arrest and indictment of Henry and their spouse told the Washington Blade:

“Transgender people are as diverse as the societies to which they belong. One’s gender identity neither increases nor decreases a propensity towards alleged criminal activity.”

As stated in the indictment, Gabrielian is an anesthesiologist and worked at Medical Institution 1 in Baltimore.  

Henry, a major in the U.S. Army who held a secret-level security clearance, is Gabrielian’s spouse and a doctor. During the time of the alleged conspiracy, Henry worked as a staff internist stationed at Fort Bragg, the home of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, headquarters of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the Womack Army Medical Center.

Gabrielian was scheduled to have initial appearance at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brendan A. Hurson. Henry is also expected to have an initial appearance today, although a time has not yet been set.

Full statement from SPARTA:

“SPARTA, a non-profit advocacy organization representing transgender Service members in the United States, is saddened to learn of the arrest and indictment of Jamie Lee Henry, an officer in the U.S. Army and a medical doctor.

SPARTA has long advocated for the inclusion and total equity for transgender persons throughout the United States uniformed services. Today, thousands are serving honorably and authentically at home stations worldwide.

The actions alleged in the indictment do not reflect Henry’s identity as transgender. Their alleged actions are those of an individual and should not be taken as a representation of transgender people broadly or transgender members of the military specifically.

All people in the United States are entitled to the same rights, including due process and the presumption of innocence in this case. SPARTA does not condone any actions alleged in the indictment and expects the process to play out fairly and equitably as it would for anyone accused of a crime.”

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The unvaccinated are 14 times more likely to contract monkeypox: health officials

Guidance updated to allow shots in places other than forearm

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U.S. health officials are celebrating data finding the monkeypox contraction is lower among people who are vaccinated.

U.S. health officials are celebrating preliminary data on the vaccine used in the monkeypox outbreak, which has led them to conclude eligible persons who didn’t get a shot were 14 times more likely to become infected than those who are vaccinated.

The new data, as described by health officials on the White House monkeypox task force during a call with reporters on Wednesday, comes as the overall number of new cases of monkeypox is in sharp decline, although considerable racial disparities persist in the remaining cases as Black and Latino people are overrepresented in the numbers.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, said during the conference call the preliminary data — collected from 32 states between July 2022 and September 2022 — provides an early shapshot of the effectiveness of the vaccine and cause for optimism on the path forward.

“These new data provide us with a level of cautious optimism that the vaccine is working as intended,” Walkensky said. “These early findings and similar results from studies and other countries suggest even one dose of the monkeypox vaccine offers at least some initial protection against infection.”

Walensky during the conference call admitted the data is incomplete in numerous ways. For example, the data is based on information on individuals who have obtained only the first shot as opposed to both shots in the two-shot vaccination process. (The data showing positive results from individuals who have only one shot contradicts previous warnings from the same U.S. health officials that one shot of the monkeypox vaccine was insufficient.)

The data also makes no distinction between individuals who have obtained a shot through subcutaneous injection, a more traditional approach to vaccine administration, as opposed to intradermal injection, which is a newer approach adopted in the U.S. guidance amid the early vaccine shortage. Skeptics of the new approach have said data is limited to support the idea the intradermal injection is effective, particularly among immunocompromised people with HIV who have been at higher risk of contracting monkeypox.

Not enumerated as part of the data were underlying numbers leading health officials to conclude the unvaccinated were 14 times more likely to contract monkeypox as opposed to those with a shot, as well as any limiting principle on the definition of eligible persons. Also unclear from the data is whether individual practices in sexual behavior had any role in the results.

Despite the positive data on the monkeypox vaccine based on one shot, U.S. health officials warned during the conference call the two-shot approach to vaccine administration is consistent with their guidance and more effective.

Demetre Daskalakis, the Biden administration’s face of LGBTQ outreach for monkeypox and deputy coordinator for the White House monkeypox task force, made the case that for individuals at risk obtaining a second dose is “really important.”

“So we see some response after the first [shot] in the laboratory, but the really high responses that we want to really get — that you know, level 10 forcefield as opposed to the level five forcefield — doesn’t happen until the second dose,” Daskalakis said. “So the important message is this just tells us to keep on trucking forward because we need that second dose at arms that people haven’t gotten the first should start their series of two vaccines.”

Also during the call, health officials said they would be expanding opportunities for vaccines as pre exposure prophylaxis, as opposed to practices in certain regions granting vaccines in their limited supply to individuals who meet certain criteria or have had risk of exposure.

The Centers of Disease Control & Prevention, officials said, is also updating its guidance to allow injection of the vaccines in places other than a patient’s arm.

Daskalakis said fear of stigma about getting a noticeable shot in the forearm after obtaining a monkeypox vaccine was a key part of the decision to issue the new guidance on implementation.

“Many jurisdictions and advocates have told us that some people declined vaccine to monkeypox because of the stigma associated with the visible but temporary mark often left on their forearm,” Daskalakis said. “New guidance from CDC allows people who don’t want to risk a visible mark on their forearm to offer a vaccine on their skin by their shoulder or their upper back. Those are areas more frequently covered by clothes.”

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