Where U.S. Battles Over Abortion Will Play Out In 2019

With Democrats now in control of the U.S. House of Representatives, it might appear that the fight over abortion rights has become a standoff.

After all, abortion-rights supporters within the Democratic caucus will be in a position to block the kind of curbs that Republicans advanced over the past two years when they had control of Congress.

But those on both sides of the debate insist that won’t be the case.

Despite the Republicans’ loss of the House, anti-abortion forces gained one of their most sought-after victories in decades with the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Now, with a stronger possibility of a 5-4 majority in favor of more restrictions on abortion, anti-abortion groups are eager to get test cases to the high court.

And that is just the beginning.

“Our agenda is very focused on the executive branch, the coming election and the courts,” says Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony List. She says the new judges nominated to lower federal courts by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate, reflect “a legacy win.”
The Trump administration

While Congress is unlikely to agree on reproductive health legislation in the coming two years, the Trump administration is still pursuing an aggressive anti-abortion agenda — using its power of regulation.

A final rule is expected any day that would cut off a significant part of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding — not from Medicaid but from the Title X Family Planning Program. Planned Parenthood annually provides family planning and other health services that don’t involve abortion to about 40 percent of the program’s 4 million patients.

Battles Over

State capitols

Abortion opponents having pushed through more than 400 separate abortion restrictions on the state level since 2010, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights think tank. In 2018 alone, according to Guttmacher, 15 states adopted 27 new limits on abortion and family planning.

Federal courts

The fate of all these policies will be decided eventually by the courts.

In fact, several state-level restrictions are already in the pipeline to the Supreme Court and could serve as a vehicle to curtail or overturn Roe v. Wade.

Among the state laws closest to triggering such a review is an Indiana law banning abortion for gender selection or genetic flaws, among other things. Also awaiting final legal say is an Alabama law banning the most common second-trimester abortion method — dilation and evacuation.

Democrats’ Health Care Ambitions Meet The Reality Of Divided Government

In her first speech as speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi made it clear that she knows that health care is key to why voters sent Democrats to Congress.

“In the past two years the American people have spoken,” Pelosi told members of Congress and their families who were gathered Thursday in the House chamber for the opening day of the session.

“Tens of thousands of public events were held, hundreds of thousands of people turned out, millions of calls were made, countless families, even sick little children — our little lobbyists, our little lobbyists — bravely came forward to tell their stories and they made a big difference,” said Pelosi, a California Democrat.

What is the Democrats’ mandate?

“To lower health care costs and prescription drug prices and protect people with pre-existing medical conditions,” she said to applause.

In their campaigns last year, Democrats promised to protect the Affordable Care Act, and the access to coverage that it guarantees for many people. Many Democrats went further, running on the promise of “Medicare-for-all.”

But now that Democrats control the House, their ambitions are meeting up with reality.

With the Senate in Republican hands and President Trump having promised to repeal the ACA, Democrats’ ability to make sweeping health policy changes is limited.

Instead, they’ll likely rely on hearings and turn to the courts to try to influence health policy and shore up the ACA.

Pelosi started on Day 1.

Just hours after her speech, House Democrats voted to intervene in a lawsuit in an effort to protect the Affordable Care Act. The House will join several state attorneys general in appealing the ruling of a federal district judge in Texas that the law is unconstitutional.

Health Care

And Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., head of the Energy and Commerce Committee, announced a hearing on the impact of the ruling. He said he intends to hold lots of hearings to review the Trump administration’s actions around the ACA — actions he calls “sabotage.”

“At a time when the Trump administration is doing all the sabotage of the ACA, I think the focus really has to be on trying to prevent the sabotage and making sure the ACA is strengthened,” he said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office.

That “sabotage” includes Trump’s decision to stop reimbursing insurance companies for discounts they’re required by law to give to their lowest-income clients, Pallone said.

“That energy can now shift to examining what the administration is doing and putting forth other ideas and other proposals, some of which might generate bipartisan agreement,” she said.

Pallone is hopeful that Republicans may support some measure to shore up the ACA. In the last Congress, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., proposed bills that would restore those payments to insurers, and he backed a plan to create a reinsurance program that could help reduce premiums.

Pallone acknowledged Democrats’ plans are much less ambitious than the “Medicare-for-all” proposals that many of his colleagues touted during their campaigns.

“I just think it’s unlikely that we could ever pass it,” he said. “So I don’t want to prioritize that.”

A Blue Clue In Medieval Teeth May Bespeak A Woman’s Artistry Circa A.D. 1000

Tiny bits of blue pigment found in the teeth of a medieval skeleton reveal that more than 850 years ago, this seemingly ordinary woman was very likely involved in the production of lavishly illustrated sacred texts.

The unexpected discovery, described in the journal Science Advances, astonished scientists who weren’t setting out to study female artists in the Middle Ages. It adds to a growing recognition that women, and not just monks, labored as the anonymous scribes who painstakingly copied manuscripts and decorated the pages to dazzle the eye.

This particular woman lived in a small religious community at Dalheim, Germany. Little is known about life there, says Christina Warinner of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany.

“Basically all that remains are the stone foundations. A broken comb was found, but almost nothing else,” Warinner says. “There are no books that survived. There’s no art that survives. It’s known only from a handful of scraps of text that mention it in passing.”

She and a colleague were examining the teeth of skeletons from this community’s cemetery to see what had been preserved in the dental calculus, or tartar. Tartar forms from sticky plaque that traps remnants of food, bacteria and even pollen and then hardens over time.

“It’s really an extraordinary material,” Warinner says. “It’s actually the only part of your body that fossilizes while you’re still alive.”

It is true that simply grinding lapis lazuli can produce fine, airborne dust that ends up on the lips and in the saliva, the researchers found — because Radini tried it herself.

However, given the small size of this religious community — only around 15 people — it’s likely that this artist produced her own materials rather than making them for sale or for someone else.

Medieval Teeth

“You’re going to be creating your own pigments and using your pigments,” Cyrus says. “This individual may, in fact, have been doing both of those activities.”

In Cyrus’ view, this finding is extraordinary.

“It is a brand-new kind of evidence for scribal activity, and one that we haven’t been on the alert for,” she says. “We now know that evidence from teeth, and other skeletal remains, can really point towards what the daily life of a particular monastery was like. That will lead us to ask different questions when we’re doing excavations and combine different kinds of evidence to get a better understanding.”