No time for abortion
Texas, Ohio, and Mississippi
Republican governors in Texas, Ohio, and Mississippi outlawed most abortions this week, saying the bans follow a nationwide call to halt elective surgeries amid the Covid-19 crisis. Texas imposed a monthlong ban and threatened fines of $1,000 or 180 days in jail for any doctor continuing to perform abortions, unless a procedure 20 weeks into a pregnancy benefits the woman’s health. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine claimed his policy is mainly a “deterrent” to keep people home, yet Ohio sent warnings to abortion clinics in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Dayton. Texas and Ohio clinics said they would defy the orders, arguing that abortions are extremely time-sensitive. Mississippi did not specify what repercussions its lone abortion clinic could face. As at least 25 states have limited surgeries in an effort to conserve medical resources, Democratic-controlled New York, New Jersey, and Washington deemed abortion an essential surgery.
Not a cure
A man died and his wife was in critical care this week after they ingested non-medication chloroquine phosphate, confusing a fish-tank cleaner with a chemical promoted by President Trump as a treatment for Covid-19. The couple, both in their 60s, had watched televised briefings in which Trump said chloroquine, found in a decades-old malaria treatment, was a “game changer” that had shown “very, very encouraging results” to treat coronavirus—though it has seen only very limited testing. Trump later tweeted that the medicine should “be put in use IMMEDIATELY.” The couple, whose names have not been released, were not symptomatic but were “afraid of getting sick,” the wife said. They took a chloroquine product used to treat their koi fish. Within 20 minutes, the husband experienced severe respiratory problems and the wife started vomiting. “This is a heartache I’ll never get over,” she said.
Limits of sanity
The Constitution does not require states to allow a defendant to argue that he should be ruled insane because mental illness kept him from understanding his actions were wrong, the Supreme Court ruled this week. The case involved a Kansas man who was convicted in 2011 of killing his two daughters, estranged ex-wife, and her grandmother. His attorneys said he couldn’t distinguish right from wrong because of extreme obsessive-compulsive episodes. Justice Elena Kagan joined the court’s five conservatives, writing that the “relationship between criminal culpability and mental illness” is up to states, “as legal and moral norms evolve.” Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Utah have also eliminated this form of insanity defense. The court postponed oral arguments on its March docket, including a potential landmark case over subpoenas for President Trump’s financial records.
Back to school
About 1,700 Liberty University students returned to campus from spring break this week, bucking a national effort to empty dormitories in response to Covid-19. Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. said 5,000 of the 15,000 students at the evangelical Christian school could come back, and faculty and staff were directed to report unless they were ill. Although classes have been moved online, dorms, academic buildings, the library, and campus fitness center remain open. Lynchburg Mayor Treney Tweedy termed the decision “reckless,” and longtime English professor Marybeth Davis Baggett called it “a recipe for disaster.” The school identified an old hotel nearby where ill students could be quarantined. Falwell said students have a right to room and board “they’ve already paid for,” but some said the outspoken conservative is taking cues from President Trump. “Jerry literally follows anything that Trump says,” one Liberty senior said.
New York City
Former Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg was sued by campaign workers after canceling plans to keep them on staff through the November election. After Bloomberg dropped out earlier this month, having won only the caucuses in American Samoa, he pledged to keep some staff employed under a new Super PAC that would back the eventual nominee. Bloomberg scrapped that plan, opting instead to give $18 million to the Democratic National Committee along with offices he’d rented through November. The former New York City mayor and multibillionaire spent $900 million on the race, rapidly building a national operation by offering above-market salaries, generous benefits, and the expectation that the jobs would continue regardless of how his candidacy fared. Two separate lawsuits filed against Bloomberg seek class-action status on behalf of the campaign’s roughly 2,000 laid-off employees.
Bad role model
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tested positive for the coronavirus this week after neglecting to self-quarantine for six days while awaiting results. Senators from both parties scolded Paul, an ophthalmologist, for meeting with colleagues, casting votes, playing golf, and even working out in the senators-only gym after getting tested. Paul was the lone senator to oppose a coronavirus relief package last month, and he opposed paid sick leave as part of the emergency response. Paul, 57, was tested after attending a Louisville fundraiser where at least three attendees later tested positive. GOP Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah are under 14-day self-quarantine after being exposed to Paul, who’s home in Kentucky and says he’s asymptomatic. He refused to apologize, saying he only got tested because his damaged lung puts him at risk. “This is a case study of what not to do,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). ■