Leaders of a small town in Texas are abandoning a proposal that would have essentially banned abortions in their community.
Mineral Wells Mayor Christopher Perricone says he proposed making his town a “sanctuary city for the unborn” after the town of Waskom became the first in Texas to do so . But at a meeting Tuesday in Mineral Wells, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Dallas, city leaders voted 5-2 to take no action at the recommendation of the city’s legal staff.
The Star-Telegram reports that earlier Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas sent a letter to Mineral Wells council members warning that its proposal was unconstitutional.
Over 6.6 million Americans lost their jobs in the first week of April due to the impact of coronavirus. In Texas, 51,000 jobs were lost in March, which is the largest decline in a single month since the Great Recession. Texas has been hit doubly hard by current events, with the crashing oil market meeting the loss of a large number of jobs in the service and hospitality industries.
Oil Market Flooded While Demand Dropped
US oil prices dipped into negative figures for the first time earlier this month due to the drop in demand for fuel. This makes it impossible for producers in Texas to make money.Kenny Istre, vice president of a machine shop in Houston, recounted customers withdrawing their orders for drilling equipment even before oil prices plummeted. Mr. Istre saw the majority of his workforce confined to their homes amidst lockdown restrictions at the same time as the oil-supply surged. “This is like a double whammy,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “They were canceling flights every day, and now people aren’t driving to work. The market is going to be flooded with oil.”
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Job Losses Across All Sectors
Meanwhile, unemployment benefits claims in Texas increased by 259,652 in the last two weeks of March, with job losses felt in businesses ranging from health care to transport, oil and gas, the hospitality sector and real estate. Houston employers reported that the local economy lost 18,200 more jobs in March than it had in February as lockdown orders forced businesses to close. Unemployment hits the individual hard, but the impact will also be felt by business owners. Texas is unique in that it doesn’t require businesses to have worker’s compensation insurance. However, employers who elected to have Texas worker’s comp insurance will be glad they took it out, as many insurance providers are helping businesses soften the blow while their operations are at a standstill.
The growth of the Texan economy has been intrinsically linked with oil since the early 1900s. This has afforded the state much prosperity, but it means it’s vulnerable to the state of the oil market. Previous blows have been cushioned by economic diversity, but with so many industries ground to a halt, the situation is much starker this time. The impact on the job market is predicted to be 0.5-1% worse in Texas than in other states due to its role in energy production.
The impact of coronavirus has been felt across the nation, but for those states whose economic well-being is also tied to the oil industry like Texas, the blow is even greater.While everything will be done to get the economy back on its feet as the pandemic slows, it’s clear that its impact will be felt for a long time.
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Several states have begun picking up the tab for family planning services at clinics run by Planned Parenthood, for a healthy lifestyle, which last year quit a $260 million federal funding program over a Trump administration rule prohibiting clinics from referring women for abortions.
States including New Jersey, Massachusetts and Hawaii already are providing new funding, and Democratic governors in Connecticut and Pennsylvania have proposed carving out money in state budgets to counter the effects of the national provider’s fallout with the Republican presidential administration.
The proposals have stirred political debates over abortion at the state level, with some opponents claiming it’s a government endorsement of abortion and an inappropriate use of taxpayer money.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont earmarked $1.2 million for Planned Parenthood in his new budget proposal. The executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference, Christopher Healy, criticized it as a purely political act.
“Where is the pressing need here to do this?” Healy said, arguing Planned Parenthood does not need taxpayer money. “They have the ability to raise money.”
Lamont said he wants to help cover an expected shortfall for Planned Parenthood to ensure women in Connecticut have access to all the health services they need. A spokesman for Lamont said the administration doesn’t want the abortion debate to stymie access to things like contraception and cervical cancer screenings.
“Look, this is the law of the land. Here in a state like this, we believe that abortion rights are right, and we believe they ought to be affordable for folks who otherwise might not have that availability,” Lamont said. “So I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Nationwide, about 4 million women across the U.S., many low-income and uninsured, were receiving services last year under the Title X federal program, including STD testing, various screenings, education and wellness exams. Planned Parenthood and some other providers decided to withdraw from the program rather than comply with what Planned Parenthood calls the Trump administration’s “gag order,” which bars clinics that participate in Title X from referring women for abortions. The move caused a money crunch for some clinics.
Since then, some of the rejected federal funds have been replenished by state or local funds in Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Vermont, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, California and New York. Hawaii’s current fiscal year budget sets aside $750,000 to partly cover a $2 million loss in Title X grant money.
In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation authorizing up to $8 million. In California, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors last year voted to cover a $482,000 expected shortfall for six Planned Parenthood clinics serving 36,274 patients. And Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, has included a $3 million line item in his proposed 2020-21 budget to also help offset the funding loss for Planned Parenthood providers.
In Oregon, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s rule, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon said the agency has been “working closely with state officials to create critical backstops and protect access to care for all Oregonians who need it, regardless of federal action on Title X,” and commended Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, for prioritizing funding for reproductive health services.
Abortion opponents have accused governors of providing the money to gain favor with an organization that often supports Democrats at election time.
In New Jersey, where Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy last month signed legislation that set aside $9.5 million in state money for family planning at Planned Parenthood, New Jersey Right to Life called it a disgraceful money grab.
“The taxpayers of NJ should not be forced to fund abortion, and make no mistake, that is what this bill will do,” Marie Tasy, the group’s executive director, said in a written statement.
Title X regulations prohibit funds from being used for abortions, with some narrow exceptions, and the money Lamont has proposed would fund Title X services and not on abortions, according to Connecticut’s Department of Public Health. Abortion opponents in Connecticut have argued for years that state funds should not be used for abortions or abortion referrals. The state’s health insurance program paid for 6,995 abortions in 2018. A Department of Social Services spokesman said Connecticut is under a court order to pay for any abortion for a Medicaid-covered woman that she and her doctor have determined to be necessary.
The state money budgeted by Lamont would not go toward abortions, as it would fund only Title X services, according to state health officials. But opponents say that regardless of where it goes, the money for Planned Parenthood makes it appear the state is outwardly advocating for abortion.
“I’m disturbed by it, that it’s now state policy to outwardly advocate it no, matter what,”said Chris O’Brien, executive director of Connecticut Right to Life.
It’s unclear how long the help from states will continue.
Jacqueline Ayers, vice president of government relations and public policy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said it’s “encouraging” that governors and state legislators are trying to fill the gap, but said the state-by-state efforts cannot replace the nearly 50-year-old Title X program.
“While we applaud leaders in the states for taking these temporary but critical steps, we must continue fighting for a nationwide solution,” Ayers said. “Only Congress has the power to permanently stop this harmful rule, and people across the country are continuing to call on them to do so.” (VOA)
A 79-year-old veterinarian from Waco, Texas has credited the Apple Watch for saving his life, after the device’s heart rate monitor notified him of atrial fibrillation.
Dr. Ray Emerson received a notification from his Apple Watch saying that it had noticed an irregular heartbeat, CBS Austin reported recently.
The notification of an irregular heart rhythm and potential atrial fibrillation is what prompted him to head to his doctor where he had an EKG and then had surgery at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center to correct the irregular rhythm.
As per report, Dr. Emerson joked that he was “too cheap” to buy the watch for himself, but now he views his Apple Watch as priceless.
There have been several examples where Apple Watch saved lives.