News·5 min read

Daily Skimm: SCOTUS, Elijah McClain, and Driver’s Licenses

Debra Sweet, holds up a sign as she joins people gathered for a reproductive rights rally
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September 2, 2021

SCOTUS Has Spoken

The Story

Roe v Wade is officially under fire.


Yesterday, the Supreme Court finally spoke out about Texas’s controversial abortion ban. And refused to block it. It’s one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country – banning the procedure as early as six weeks (before many women even know they’re pregnant). The law also makes no exceptions for cases of incest or rape. Abortion providers filed an emergency application, hoping SCOTUS would block the law – which President Biden said “blatantly violates” the Roe v Wade precedent. But that didn’t happen.

So what happened?

In a 5-4 decision, the Supremes said the abortion providers didn’t make their case. Adding that they didn’t address the "complex and novel" questions. The three liberal justices dissented, along with Chief Justice John Roberts. The law had already gone into effect during their ‘moment of silence,’ sparking outcry around the country. In Texas, abortion providers – who worked up until the deadline to help dozens of patients – are turning people away. And are reportedly referring them out-of-state, where clinics are opening their doors to help. As are many other orgs. But the worst is yet to come.

What do you mean?

Aside from banning more than 85% of abortions in the state, Texas’s new law incentivizes private citizens (from across the US) to turn into ‘anti-abortion vigilantes’ – allowing them to sue Texans for violating the law or helping someone get the procedure. (Whether they’re just giving someone a ride to the clinic, giving them money for the abortion, or a clinic performing the procedure.) And plaintiffs could win at least $10,000 for every successful lawsuit. Biden said he would work to “protect and defend” the rights established under Roe v Wade. But his admin fell short of providing actionable steps.

What can be done?

SCOTUS didn’t weigh in on the law’s constitutionality. Meaning, it can still be challenged in state courts. But by design, that’ll be difficult. That’s because the law isn’t enforced by state officials, but regular people – making it harder for abortion providers or clinics to figure out who they can sue to overturn it. Abortion advocates have vowed to continue to fight, calling on supporters to phone their representatives to stand against abortion bans. But many are fearful for the long road ahead.

Tell me more.

This was one of the first abortion cases to come before the solidly conservative bench since Justice Amy Coney Barrett replaced the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And there’s more on the docket. This fall, the Supremes are taking up a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. If their ruling on Texas’s ban is any sign of the future, Roe v Wade – which, reminder, established a woman's right to an abortion before fetal viability (think: around 24 weeks) – could get overturned. And it’s not just at the federal level. 2021 is reportedly the worst legislative year for abortion rights since Roe v Wade (1973). Over 165 abortion bans have been intro’d, and 97 abortion restrictions enacted.


The Supreme Court’s decision is a major win for anti-abortion advocates, who’ve been trying to chip away at Roe v Wade. Now, eyes are on whether Dems in Congress will spring into action to save women's rights – and whether that starts by abolishing the filibuster or packing the court.

And Also...This

Who could be seeing justice…

Elijah McClain’s family. Yesterday, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser (D) announced a 32-count indictment against three police officers and two paramedics in McClain’s death. In 2019, the 23-year-old Black man died after police in Aurora, Colorado, put him in a chokehold and paramedics injected him with ketamine. Back then, a coroner’s report listed his death as "undetermined." And a local DA said there wasn't enough evidence to charge anyone. In 2020, the case gained renewed interest, after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. And Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) ordered the state AG to 'look into it.' Now, the five are facing charges. Including counts of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

  • Reactions: The Aurora Police Association is defending the officers, saying they "did nothing wrong." McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, said she is “grateful” that her son is going to have justice.

  • Reforms: Since McClain's death, the state has banned chokeholds and limits paramedics’ use of ketamine to sedate people. But at the fed level, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has yet to pass.

What took many by surprise...

Ida's remnants. Yesterday, the tri-state area was rocked by strong winds and torrential rain brought on by what was left of Hurricane Ida. The weather prompted NY and NJ governors to declare a state of emergency. Flash floods and tornadoes hit the region, killing at least eight people and leaving subway systems and trains shut down. The NOAA apparently recorded a 1-in-500 year rainfall event in NYC's Central Park. Unsurprisingly, many are pointing fingers at climate change. 

  • Ida's Path: Before Ida hit the northeast, it struck Louisiana and surrounding states. Thousands of people there are still without power, water, or gas. And the death toll in the region has climbed to six. 

What people are talking about…

Purdue Pharma. Yesterday, the company accused of fueling the opioid epidemic was dissolved after a judge conditionally approved a wide-ranging bankruptcy settlement. The settlement will distribute more than $4 billion over about nine years to fund drug treatment and prevention programs. But critics say it comes with a huge catch — some legal immunity. (Meaning: The Sacklers, aka the owners of Purdue Pharma, will be shielded from future opioid-related lawsuits.) They also would apparently not have to admit wrongdoing for their role in the epidemic — which earned them more than $10 billion from Purdue. Meanwhile, nine states objected to the settlement's terms, and several are planning to appeal.

What's got many saying 'please, don't waste'...

COVID-19 vaccines. This week, a report found that over 15 million coronavirus vax doses in the US have been thrown away since March 1. And that state govs and pharmacies (think: Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, and Rite Aid) are to blame. It all comes as the US plans to roll out boosters amid the delta wave. And as many developing nations can’t even get their hands on doses. The report doesn’t explain why the doses are being thrown out. But production errors could play a role.

What’s taking action…

Reddit. Yesterday, the online discussion site banned a forum known for spreading anti-COVID-19 vaxx content. But Reddit only did so after 135 subreddits went 'dark' to protest the site's inaction against COVID-19 misinformation. Truth hurts. 

What’s got us singing along to Olivia Rodrigo…

A digital driver’s license.

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