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It’s been less than a week since the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion and each passing day has produced more questions than answers. Doctors, employers, lawmakers, district attorneys, and women are all confused about what is allowed and when. And things won’t be sorted out for some time, it appears.

Meanwhile, Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed a gun bill that’s likely to do more on the mental health front than it is to curb mass shooting incidents. But if it curbs gun suicides, that would be a big step forward for public health.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, and Victoria Knight of KHN.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • As the country grapples with the repercussions of the Supreme Court’s decision last week, conservative states are moving quickly to outlaw abortion. Ambiguities in many state laws have slowed down the march, but about 21 to 26 states seem likely to largely or totally ban abortion within weeks or months.
  • Even in the states that don’t move quickly to make the details of the restrictions firm, many providers who perform abortions are concerned about their liability and have closed up shop.
  • The Biden administration has offered tough talk about the need to keep access to abortion care, but officials have not provided specifics about what the federal government can do to help residents in states with bans.
  • Some progressive Democrats are calling for the federal government to allow abortions on federal property in those states, but that would likely conflict with long-standing prohibitions on federal funding for most abortions — common in many spending laws.
  • Some key leaders of the anti-abortion movement, including former Vice President Mike Pence, are pushing to continue their campaign, including promoting a measure to make it illegal nationwide. That risks a strong backlash since nearly two-thirds of Americans say in polling that they support the right to abortion in some form.
  • Abortion rights supporters are looking to medication that can end a pregnancy early on as a strategy to help women in states banning abortion. But many of those states are trying to outlaw the use of those pills, and the conflict will likely end up in court.
  • The FDA on Thursday endorsed a recommendation from an advisory panel that the covid vaccine be reconfigured this fall to include protection against the original virus and new strains of the omicron variant. That will mean the vaccine will be offered without clinical trials in humans.
  • The FDA announcement did not say who would be the target audience for the new vaccine. That will be determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also this week, Rovner interviews KHN’s Angela Hart, who reported and wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” about identical eye surgeries that came with two very different bills. If you have an enormous or outrageous medical bill you’d like to send us, you can do that here.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: The Washington Post’s “Women Are Still Underrepresented in Clinical Trials,” by Erin Blakemore

Margot Sanger-Katz: The Washington Post’s “This Texas Teen Wanted an Abortion. She Now Has Twins,” by Caroline Kitchener

Sarah Karlin-Smith: The Miami Herald’s “Why Should You Stop Frolicking in Miami-Dade Floodwater? It’s Probably Full of Poop,” by Alex Harris

Victoria Knight: Insider’s “2,000 Leaked Documents and Employees Say Silicon Valley Healthcare Startup Cerebral Harmed Hundreds of Patients and Prescribed Serious Medication With Abandon,” by Shelby Livingston and Blake Dodge

Also discussed on this week’s podcast:

The Atlantic’s “America Is Sliding Into the Long Pandemic Defeat,” by Ed Yong

Health Services Research’s “Medication Abortion: A Perfect Solution?” by Nichole Austin

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KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.


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Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.