KHN’s ‘What is Health?’: A world without ‘Row’


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It has been less than a week since the Supreme Court revoked the constitutional right to abortion and each day has created more questions than answers. Doctors, employers, legislators, district attorneys and women are all confused about what and when to approve. And for some time things won’t be sorted, it will appear.

Meanwhile, Congress has passed and President Joe Biden has signed a gun bill that could do more on the mental health front than prevent mass shootings. But if it prevents gun suicide, it will be a big step for public health.

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

Among the takeaways of this week’s episode:

  • As the country jumps in response to last week’s Supreme Court decision, conservative states are rapidly moving toward abolishing abortion. The ambiguity of many state laws has slowed progress, but about 21 to 26 states are likely to ban abortion widely or completely within weeks or months.
  • Even in states that aren’t moving fast enough to reinforce the details of the restrictions, many providers who perform abortions are concerned about their liability and have closed stores.
  • The Biden administration has offered to talk harshly about the need to have access to abortion care, but officials have not specified what the federal government can do to help residents of the states with the ban.
  • Some progressive Democrats are urging the federal government to allow abortions on federal property in those states, but this will likely conflict with long-standing restrictions on federal funding for most abortions – many spending is common in law.
  • Some key leaders of the anti-abortion movement, including former Vice President Mike Pence, are urging them to continue their campaign, including promoting a measure to make it illegal across the country. It risks a strong backlash because nearly two-thirds of Americans say they support the right to abortion in one form or another.
  • Abortion rights advocates are looking at drugs that could end early pregnancy as a strategy to help women in states where abortion is banned. But many of these states are trying to outlaw the use of those pills and the conflict will likely end in court.
  • The FDA on Thursday backed a recommendation from an advisory panel that the covid vaccine be reconfigured this autumn to include protection against new strains of the original virus and the Omicron variant. This means that people will be vaccinated without a clinical trial.
  • The FDA announcement did not say what the target audience would be for the new vaccine. This will be determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also this week, Rovner interviewed KHN’s Angela Hart, who reports and writes the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” about identical eye surgery that comes with two different bills. If you have a huge or objectionable medical bill that you would like to send us, you can do so here.

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

Julie Rovner: “Women still under-represented in clinical trials,” by Erin Blakemore

Margot Sanger-Katz: “This Texas teenager wanted an abortion,” the Washington Post reported. She now has twins, ”by Caroline Kitchener

Sarah Carlin-Smith: The Miami Herald’s “Why would you stop flirting in the Miami-Dead Floodwater? It’s probably full of excrement, ”by Alex Harris

Victoria Knight: Insider’s by Shelby Livingston and Blake Dodge “2,000 leaked documents and staff say Silicon Valley healthcare startup has harmed hundreds of patients with cerebral palsy and advised serious medication with abandonment.”

Also discussed in this week’s podcast:

Atlantic’s “America Is Sliding Into The Long Pandemic Defeat,” writes Ed Young

Health service research “Medicinal abortion: a perfect solution?” By Nicole Austin


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