South Carolina State House.

South Carolina’s Abortion Debates: A Game of Ping Pong

By Katie Gu

On January 5, the South Carolina Supreme Court permanently struck down Senate Bill 1 (S.B. 1), also known as the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, which banned most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy. The decision was issued just five days before the state’s General Assembly returned for 2023, setting into motion a game of ping pong between the state branches of government in South Carolina’s abortion debates. 

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ACCRA, GHANA: April 23, 2020 - The testing of samples for the coronavirus in a veterinary lab in Accra, Ghana.

Does It Really Matter How the COVID-19 Pandemic Started?

By Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, much air time and social media space has been allocated to the lab leak vs. natural spillover dispute regarding the origins of SARS-CoV-2.

To summarize briefly, the question is whether the pandemic was caused by a leak from a biosafety level (BSL) four lab in Wuhan, China, or whether it arose naturally as a consequence of a virus jumping from a bat to an animal and then to humans.

Given that the “truth” will likely never be known, and certainly not provable, the question becomes: is it important to seriously consider the lab leak theory?

The answer, I suggest, is an unabashed yes — but not for the reason you might think. The question is important prospectively, not retrospectively. Debating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic is a fool’s errand. Considering laboratory accidents writ large, however, is important, as they remain a potent threat to international biosecurity.

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privacy curtain around hospital bed.

Lessons in Health Data Privacy from the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act

By Katie Gu

The past may hold important lessons for our uncertain future of health privacy for patients, physicians, and hospitals in the face of abortion subpoenas post-Dobbs

In returning the legality of abortion back to states, the Supreme Court’s decision has paved the path towards greater surveillance of sensitive health data contained in patient medical records. This stark increase in privacy risks for individuals seeking reproductive care resembles the shifts in patient privacy protections nearly twenty years ago following the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (PBAB). 

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Boston, MA, US-June 25, 2022: Protests holding pro-abortion signs at demonstration in response to the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

Physician-Led Advocacy for the Future of Reproductive Health Care

By Katie Gu

The American Medical Association (AMA) recently adopted new policies aimed at protecting access to reproductive health care and reducing government interference in medical practice. As the nation’s most prominent professional medical association, the AMA’s unified stance brings a stronger physician-led voice in reproductive health care advocacy in the aftermath of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Care Organization.   

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Medical armored personnel carrier. Medical cross on the armor of an armored vehicle against the background of the flag of Ukraine at exhibition ARMS AND SECURITY - 2021. Kiev. Ukraine - June 18, 2021.

Sutures for Ukraine: The Medical Case for City Diplomacy

By Vrushab Gowda, Leslie Appleton, and Jesse Ehrenfeld

The war in Ukraine has brought nothing less than an unmitigated humanitarian catastrophe. Health care infrastructure has been deliberately — and systematically — targeted by Russian forces since the very outset of the invasion. Hospitals have been bombed, internal displacement has uprooted providers from their communities, and rail lines have come under sustained bombardment from cruise missiles, hindering the resupply of frontline towns. All of this has exacerbated the demands on an already fragile health care system, which strains to keep up. The Ukrainian people urgently need practical solutions.

Enter city diplomacy. In parallel to official channels of federal aid, American cities can play a decisive role in supporting their Ukrainian counterparts under threat. An “Adopt-a-City” campaign could leverage preexisting ties within a sister cities context (like Los Angeles and Kiev, if approved), which can be bolstered and intensified. Where these relationships do not exist, they can be created. New York could “adopt” Odessa. Atlanta, Kharkiv. Houston, Dnipro.

City departments of health would take center stage throughout all of this. Unlike howitzers, ammunition, electrical grids, and water supplies, medical aid is readily portable across international lines and can be concentrated in urban settings. An “Adopt-a-City” platform would provide a unified vehicle for channeling it, permitting American cities to render material and infrastructural assistance alike.

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Denver, Colorado, USA 9-21-20 Amtrak Train crossing through the Colorado Rocky Mountains with peak Fall Colors in September.

Could Amtrak’s Quiet Car Be a Model for COVID-19 Travel Policies?

By Terri Gerstein

Consider the quiet car. Some Amtrak trains have a designated car for people who want a hushed environment in which to work, read, or sleep. Passengers who want quiet choose the quiet car. People who don’t want quiet sit elsewhere. In short: people want different options for travel, and Amtrak threads the needle, accommodating varying needs.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this same approach could be taken in relation to masking. While the science is clear that universal masking is the best way to reduce the virus’ spread, highly vocal opponents have made masks a thorny subject for political leaders. Mask mandates are gone, at least for now. As such, Amtrak, airlines, public transit, and other transportation companies should provide must-mask options for passengers who need or want them.

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Single strand ribonucleic acid.

The Secret World of mRNA: HDT Bio Corp v. Emcure and Access to Next-Gen mRNA

By Aparajita Lath

The future of public health in an “RNA world” is on trial in a trade secrecy dispute worth $950 million currently being fought before the District Court of the Western District of Washington, Seattle between HDT Bio Corp. and Emcure Pharmaceuticals.

The trade secrets at issue concern an improvement over existing mRNA technology called “self-amplifying RNA” or “saRNA.” saRNA are effective at much smaller doses and lower costs. The saRNA technology is being used to develop vaccines for COVID, Zoster, Zika and Rabies.

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Green parking meter reads "expired."

How the Unpredictable Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 Infection Pose a Challenge That Tort Law Cannot Meet

By Jennifer S. Bard

The longer the pandemic continues, the more obvious it is how effective the sweeping federal and state laws shielding medical providers from malpractice associated with COVID-19 have been. Few cases have been brought, and so far there is no record of successful judgements or settlements.

Even without these statutes, proving negligence in COVID-related cases would be exceptionally difficult, given the ever-evolving virus and treatment options. Still today it would be hard to prove that any good faith attempt at care was unreasonable and that there was a causal link to greater harm — both necessary to demonstrate negligence.

But, at some time in the relatively near future, this will change. The declared public health emergency will end, and with it the federal and remaining state blanket liability protections. A standard of care will develop and issues involving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19 will become the subject of tort litigation.

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SAINT LOUIS, MO. - August 2, 2021: A protestor holds a sign reading "Evictions Are Violence" at a protest held days after the federal eviction moratorium expired.

U.S. Eviction Policy is Harming Children: The Case for Sustainable Eviction Prevention to Promote Health Equity

By Emily A. Benfer

Without a nationwide commitment to sustainable eviction prevention, the United States will fail the rising number of renter households at risk of eviction. Worse still, the country will set millions of children on the path of long-term scarring and health inequity.

A staggering 14.8% of all children and 28.9% of children in families living below the poverty line experience an eviction by the time they are 15. For children, eviction functions as a major life event that has damaging effects long after they are forced to leave their home. It negatively affects emotional and physical well-being; increases the likelihood of emotional trauma, lead poisoning, and food insecurity; leads to academic decline and delays; and could increase all-cause mortality risk.

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Los Angeles, California / USA - May 1, 2020: People in front of Los Angeles’ City Hall protest the state’s COVID-19 stay at home orders in a “Fully Open California” protest.

The Supreme Court Threatens to Undermine Vaccination Decisions Entrusted to the States

By Donna Gitter

In 2021, the Supreme Court articulated in Tandon v. Newsom a legal principle that threatens to upend over a century of legal precedent recognizing the authority of state governments to ensure public health by mandating vaccines.

The ruling lays the groundwork for courts to force states to include religious exemptions to mandatory vaccines whenever they include secular exemptions, such as medical ones.

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