Could an abortion compromise save Republicans?
The Friday Pulse Check
Good morning and happy Friday. Here is a look at some of the healthcare headlines from around the world in our weekly e-newsletter we call The Friday Pulse Check.
In the news:
Abortion legislation enters the Senate
We are now less than two months away from the 2022 midterms and we’ve discussed some of the issues that voters care about most here and on the FLATLINING Podcast. Ron and I have also discussed polling and whether or not we can consider it reliable in this election. If the polling is to be believed, abortion is not a winning issue for Republicans right now. So why did Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduce a 15-week abortion ban in the Senate this week? Perhaps it is a long shot to spur the Republican base or give legitimacy to the claim that there was an attempt at a compromise, but it may prove ill-fated. Senator Graham will be on FOX News Sunday this weekend and the new host, Shannon Bream, said on my local FOX affiliate this morning that she intends to ask him why. I’ll have more thoughts on this below. Read more from CBS News.
Updated COVID-19 boosters
The COVID-19 booster shots, designed for the omicron variant of the virus, have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (for emergency use) for a few weeks now. We have had a consistent opinion of the COVID-19 vaccines here at FLATLINING, but we are open and welcoming to hear interesting ideas about what its outcome means for healthcare and healthcare policy in the United States. The new shots come at a time when the White House has toyed with the idea of annual COVID-19 shots; similar to how influenza is combatted in the US. A new op-ed in the Los Angeles Times discusses how well these omicron-specific vaccines will work in real-world circumstances. The writers point out the new shots clear the “safe and effective” bar but question whether the updated vaccines are (at least to some extent) a marketing scheme. Read more from the Los Angeles Times.
Martha’s Vineyard doctors
Martha’s Vineyard has been in the news this week. Hmm, I wonder why. Anyway, while all of that is going on, the Washington Post is reporting that it is becoming more and more difficult for practices to hire doctors to work on the wealthy island mostly because of the cost of living. It is an interesting contrast to how rural, poor America deals with its physician shortage. There the cost of living is not high, but the pay isn’t either. Read more in the Washington Post.
Preventative care becomes controversial
On the FLATLINING Podcast this week, Ron and I discussed a recent court ruling regarding the Affordable Care Act. For those who have followed the court saga of Obamacare, they’ll recognize this judge’s name. Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled that the way the federal government determines what counts as no-cost preventative care. He also ruled that covering HIV detection and prevention treatments violates the religious freedom of employers who are required to cover preventative care for their employees in their health plans.
As Ron and I discussed, it challenges the precedent created by Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that non-profit, religious organizations (such as churches, schools, religious orders, etc) are effectively exempt from covering care that violates their religious beliefs. Previously the court has also ruled that those types of institutions can be more selective of their employees who may disagree or live lifestyles contrary to the religious beliefs of the organization (see Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrisey-Berru, and Kristen Biel v. St. James School). This is often called the ministerial exception.
For-profit employers, however, are required to follow Equal Opportunity laws that bar employment discrimination on a number of fronts. Similarly, it seems likely to us that they will have to follow the rules of the Affordable Care Act when it comes to covering certain preventative care.
It is important to note that the care mentioned in this case is different from the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. case which determined that for-profit employers are not required to cover contraceptive medicines or treatments.
It is an interesting discussion you won’t want to miss. Plus, how might long-COVID affect the US labor force? Check it out on this week’s episode of the FLATLINING Podcast.
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Lindsey Graham’s 15-week abortion ban
As I mentioned above, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced legislation in the US Senate this week that would do two things. First, it would codify abortion into federal law and would limit abortions to the first fifteen weeks of gestation. The fifteen-week limit is similar to several European countries; France and Denmark have a fourteen-week ban, Italy has a ninety-day ban, and Portugal has a ten-week ban.
Also mentioned above was the fact that abortion is not polling well for Republicans ahead of this midterm. So why would Senator Lindsey Graham bring it up when it could potentially give more messaging firepower to Democrats?
I believe this is a calculated risk. Senator Graham could be banking on the notion that it will stir Republicans and independents enough to go out and vote for Republicans. About half of the country is pro-choice and the other half is pro-life; both of those categories overlap into all political parties (whether or not political parties accept that is another question).
By introducing legislation, he could be trying to appeal to what he sees as the lowest common denominator. If the polling is to be believed, which says most Americans disagree with the Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center case, he is offering a “both and” option.
I do want to point out that the text of the bill has not been released at the time I wrote this. There are two ways it could work out. The first way is that Congress sets a limit on abortion that states can make earlier but not later. The second way is that it federally legalizes abortion but places a fifteen-week limit across the board. My analysis regards the second way.
The headline most of the newspapers and cable news outlets are running today is “Senator Graham introduces fifteen-week ban on abortion.” If if the bill is the second option I described above, the headline could be “Senator Graham proposes federal law legalizing abortion.” That would grab the attention of moderate Democrats, independents, and moderate Republicans who do not want to see outright bans but are fine with some restrictions.
Republicans running for office recognize that even most Republican voters don’t want an outright ban on abortion and would rather opt for restrictions. There is no better example right now than here in Michigan. Abortion will literally be on the ballot in November and Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon has avoided the topic since winning the primary in August. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, meanwhile, hammers Ms. Dixon’s “no-exceptions” statements.
Rich Lowery, editor-in-chief of the National Review, wrote in Politico this week that Senator Graham’s proposed legislation has pushed Republicans (strangely, in my opinion) into a “case of sudden-onset federalism.” They do not want to touch this sticky baby because of hyper-charged bases on both sides.
Right now, FiveThirtyEight is saying Republicans have a 72% chance of taking back the House and a 30% chance of taking the Senate.
Could his strategy backfire and drop those Republican chances in November, particularly for the House? Maybe. Abortion is still not in the top few issues right now influencing most voters; the economy and healthcare are. Abortion is certainly a more emotional topic for a lot of voters, but if we could vote about abortion or grocery store prices, I think most Americans would vote for lower costing food.
Is Senator Graham’s proposal unique right now? Definitely. Without a doubt, there is a strong base of pro-life Republicans and independents that want to see abortion completely outlawed in the United States (it has more to do with views on the human person than it does on women, trust me; fact-free zone). There is an equally strong base that wants no limits on abortion; just look at the ballot proposal here in Michigan.
Like most of the news these days, I think this will have its words written and spoken over the weekend among the newspapers and talk shows. Though Senator Graham’s proposal seeks to bring people back to the middle with a compromise many can agree with, I don’t think most people will care.
Staying with Senator Graham, he introduced legislation this week that would categorize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. That bill comes as Ukrainian and international investigators uncover a mass grave in Izium. More than 400 bodies were discovered, some showing signs of torture. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces have found mass graves in Bucha, Mariupol, and now Izium. He said. “Russia leaves death everywhere. And it must be held accountable for it.” Read more from the PBS Newshour.
As a TikTok trend that recommends slathering your face with Vaseline in a process now called “slugging” continues to go viral, I am again reminded that the internet has brought out the dumbest in us. Fortunately for me and you, though, it also gives us unfettered action to the newest scientific studies. In a recent study published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, the journal of the Alzheimer’s associate found that multivitamins could help prevent cognitive decline. The results come from the conclusion of a three-year trial that also determined taking cocoa extracts had no effect on cognitive decline. Read more in Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Also in our final thought, come meet Ron Howrigon, Allie Morsberger, and me at the ASCENT 2022 conference in Portland, Oregon next week. Fulcrum Strategies will have a booth at the conference and Ron will be speaking. Learn more and register here.
Have a good weekend and maybe I’ll see you next week in Portland, Oregon.