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KFF Health News' 'What the Health?': Abortion Access Changing Again in Florida and Arizona

The Host

The national abortion landscape was shaken again this week as Florida’s six-week abortion ban took effect. That leaves North Carolina and Virginia as the lone Southern states where abortion remains widely available. Clinics in those states already were overflowing with patients from across the region.

Meanwhile, in a wide-ranging interview with Time magazine, former President Donald Trump took credit for appointing the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, but he steadfastly refused to say what he might do on the abortion issue if he is returned to office.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, and Rachana Pradhan of KFF Health News.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

  • Florida’s new, six-week abortion ban is a big deal for the entire South, as the state had been an abortion haven for patients as other states cut access to the procedure. Some clinics in North Carolina and southern Virginia are considering expansions to their waiting and recovery rooms to accommodate patients who now must travel there for care. This also means, though, that those traveling patients could make waits even longer for local patients, including many who rely on the clinics for non-abortion services.
  • Passage of a bill to repeal Arizona’s near-total abortion ban nonetheless leaves the state’s patients and providers with plenty of uncertainty — including whether the ban will temporarily take effect anyway. Plus, voters in Arizona, as well as those in Florida, will have an opportunity in November to weigh in on whether the procedure should be available in their state.
  • The FDA’s decision that laboratory-developed tests must be subject to the same regulatory scrutiny as medical devices comes as the tests have become more prevalent — and as concerns have grown amid high-profile examples of problems occurring because they evaded federal review. (See: Theranos.) There’s a reasonable chance the FDA will be sued over whether it has the authority to make these changes without congressional action.
  • Also, the Biden administration has quietly decided to shelve a potential ban on menthol cigarettes. The issue raised tensions over its links between health and criminal justice, and it ultimately appears to have run into electoral-year headwinds that prompted the administration to put it aside rather than risk alienating Black voters.
  • In drug news, the Federal Trade Commission is challenging what it sees as “junk” patents that make it tougher for generics to come to market, and another court ruling delivers bad news for the pharmaceutical industry’s fight against Medicare drug negotiations.

Plus, for “extra credit” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: ProPublica’s “A Doctor at Cigna Said Her Bosses Pressured Her To Review Patients’ Cases Too Quickly. Cigna Threatened To Fire Her,” by Patrick Rucker, The Capitol Forum, and David Armstrong, ProPublica.

Alice Miranda Ollstein: The Associated Press’ “Dozens of Deaths Reveal Risks of Injecting Sedatives Into People Restrained by Police,” by Ryan J. Foley, Carla K. Johnson, and Shelby Lum.

Sarah Karlin-Smith: The Atlantic’s “America’s Infectious-Disease Barometer Is Off,” by Katherine J. Wu.

Rachana Pradhan: The Wall Street Journal’s “Millions of American Kids Are Caregivers Now: ‘The Hardest Part Is That I’m Only 17,” by Clare Ansberry.

Also mentioned on this week’s podcast:

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