Abortion pill providers are fielding high-volume requests from Texans who want to safely terminate their pregnancies

abortion pill
  • More patients from Texas are asking abortion providers about a pill to end their pregnancy since the rollout of SB8.
  • SB8 is a restrictive abortion law that went into effect on September 1.
  • The law prohibits anyone from obtaining an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

Telehealth and healthcare providers are seeing upticks in the number of Texans asking for medical abortion pills to end their pregnancies, suggesting Texans are desperate to find ways to skirt the restrictive SB8 law.

The law, which went into effect September 1, prohibits anyone from obtaining an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. That’s a point at which most people do not yet know they are pregnant.

In response, Texans who need an abortion have been looking for alternative approaches to getting one, like traveling out of state.

At online abortion clinic Hey Jane, the number of patients from Texas calling in to get an abortion pill more than doubled from August to September, a timeframe that aligns with the law’s rollout.

Mobile reproductive health clinic Just the Pill also saw a “slight uptick” in patients from Texas, Medical Director Julie Amaon told Insider.

“We have had a slight uptick in Texas patients, but we have not been able to see any of them here,” Amaon said.

That’s because most people are flocking to neighboring states like Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Just the Pill has options set up for people living in or willing to travel to Minnesota or Montana. The company has begun contacting clinics in states neighboring Texas to help people in the area get access to an abortion pill.

For immigrants and people who have commitments like work or children, traveling out of state to get an abortion is not a viable option.

Sometimes buying abortion pills is also not an option.

Abortion pills can cost hundreds of dollars. Just the Pill provides abortion care for $350 per patient, and the clinic does not accept insurance.

“It’s a ton of money, and trying to get your funds together is one of the principal reasons for delaying getting an abortion,” said Columbia University reproductive rights scholar Carol Sanger in an interview with Insider. “You have no one to lend it to you.”

Reproductive companies are struggling to bring abortion access to Texans

Abortion provider Choix is working to set up telehealth opportunities in states bordering Texas.

“We want people to have as many options as possible for how and when they can get abortion care, especially given how overwhelmed many brick and mortar clinics are that surround Texas,” Choix Co-Founder Cindy Adam told Insider.

Abortion-inducing medication is becoming an increasingly common way to end a pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization. But the medication is getting harder to obtain.

In September, Republican Governor Kristi Noem issued an order to restrict access to abortion medication in South Dakota. Under the order, an in-person examination is required before a state-licensed physician can dispense or prescribe an abortion pill to a patient. The medication is also blocked from being delivered or provided in schools and on state property.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott is doubling down and making pills harder to obtain. Starting December 2, a separate bill signed just weeks after SB8 went into effect will restrict abortion-inducing medication. Physicians will be allowed to provide abortion pills to people who are seven weeks into a pregnancy, down from 10 weeks.

The law will also prohibit physicians from mailing an abortion pill to Texans.

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Gas leaks, rodents, asbestos: 10 military families in Texas sued their landlord over unsafe living conditions in base housing

Vacant homes dot the landscape in the Medina Annex at the Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, where some families say they still wait for repairs.
Vacant homes dot the landscape in the Medina Annex at the Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, where some families say they still wait for repairs.

  • Attorneys for the military families said the living conditions were “contaminated and appalling.”
  • One family alleged their housing conditions led to a member of the household developing a lung mass.
  • Several families alleged they had to dispose of their property due to mold and asbestos exposure.

Air Force and Army families stationed at three military bases in Texas – Fort Bliss, Lackland Air Force Base, and Sheppard Air Force Base – are suing their privatized housing landlord over alleged “contaminated and appalling” living conditions, including insect and rodent infestations, toxic mold, asbestos, and lead-based paint, the Military Times reported.

Attorneys representing the families filed a complaint on June 8 against their landlord, Balfour Beatty Communities LLC, and its associated companies. The complaint alleged that Balfour Beatty “concealed harmful housing conditions” before the families signed their lease and performed inadequate repairs to “cover up the extent of the dilapidation” when complaints were made.

Several families named in the lawsuit said the alleged unsafe living conditions negatively affected their health.

The Clarkes, a family stationed at Fort Bliss, alleged that the contamination of their home led them to experience repeated respiratory and pneumonia infections and strep throat. They said one member of their family developed a mass in her lung and began receiving regular iron and immunoglobulin infusions.

Another family, the Roellchens, were stationed at Lackland Air Force Base, where they said their kitchen had a severe cockroach infestation and black mold. Roxanne Roellchen told Reuters she noticed a cockroach crawling on a feeding tube that belongs to her son who has special needs.

Many families also claimed they lost some or all of their personal property that was damaged or unusable due to problems within the home, such as asbestos, toxic mold, and water damage. The complaint does not specify the amount of damages that the families are seeking.

“Mold pervades and grows in the houses. The moisture content of walls contributes to the ever-present moldy conditions, and without repair will only continue to get worse. HVAC systems leak as well and flood the houses. Rodents and insects pervade the walls and, in many cases, the living spaces,” the complaint said.

Insider has reached out to Balfour Beatty for comment.

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Biden administration brings Texas abortion law back to the Supreme Court

department of justice building
  • Biden’s Department of Justice has filed application to block the controversial Texas abortion ban.
  • A federal appeals court last week issued a ruling allowing Texas’ strict abortion ban to remain.
  • Courts, including the US Supreme Court, have so far allowed it to stand.

President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice has filed application asking the Supreme Court to block the controversial Texas abortion ban, court documents show.

A federal appeals court last week issued a ruling allowing Texas’ strict “heartbeat” abortion ban to stay in place for now.

Texas’ law, which is known as Senate Bill 8 and went into effect on September 1, bans abortions when fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which happens around six weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Courts, including the US Supreme Court, have so far allowed it to stand thanks to its highly unusual enforcement mechanism.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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Australian politician rips into Sen. Ted Cruz for mocking COVID-19 vaccine requirements: ‘We don’t need your lectures, thanks mate’

US Sen. Ted Cruz R-TX, asks questions to Mr. Steve Satterfield, Vice President, Privacy & Public Policy, Facebook, Inc. as he testifies during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on September 21, 2021.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas

  • An Australian politician slammed Sen. Ted Cruz after he mocked his government’s vaccine mandate.
  • “Individual liberty matters. I stand with the people of #Australia,” Cruz tweeted.
  • “When it comes to COVID, I’m glad we are nothing like you,” Michael Gunner replied.

An Australian politician on Sunday sharply rebuked Sen. Ted Cruz after the Texas Republican mocked his COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Australia’s Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner announced last Wednesday that anyone who serves the public, such as workers in retail, hospitality, gyms and other customer-facing industries, must get their first shot against the coronavirus within a month. Failure to comply could result in a $5,000 fine.

Cruz responded to the news on Twitter that he loves “the Aussies” and their “history of rugged independence is legendary” but the “Covid tyranny of their current government is disgraceful & sad.”

“I’ve always said Australia is the Texas of the Pacific,” he added. “Individual liberty matters. I stand with the people of #Australia.”

Days later, Gunner hit back at Cruz in a lengthy follow-up statement, questioning the senator’s knowledge of the COVID-19 situation in the Australian region.

“Nearly 70,000 Texans have tragically died from COVID. There have been zero deaths in the Territory. Did you know that?” Gunner replied on Twitter to Cruz.

“We have been in lockdown for just eight days in 18 months. Our businesses and schools are all open. Did you know that?” the Australian politician continued.

Gunner went on to further criticize Cruz’s comments, writing: “We don’t need your lectures, thanks mate. You know nothing about us. And if you stand against a life-saving vaccine, then you sure as hell don’t stand with Australia.”

“I love Texas (go Longhorns), but when it comes to COVID, I’m glad we are nothing like you,” Gunner added.

Cruz’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The Republican senator has been similarly critical of vaccine mandates in the US. Last week, he and several conservatives claimed that vaccine requirements for airline workers had contributed to flight cancellations. Southwest Airlines and its labor union dismissed the theory, citing weather conditions and air traffic control issues as reasons for the delays.

Cruz has also previously introduced legislation that would ban vaccine and mask mandates. Public health officials have recommended mask-wearing to help curb the spread of the virus and vaccinations to help prevent severe hospitalization and death.

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GOP-led Texas House approves new district maps that favor Republicans even more and strip away seats in Hispanic and Black areas

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan gavels in the 87th Legislature’s special session at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas.

  • The GOP-led Texas House approved new district maps on Sunday that favor Republicans.
  • The maps would strip seats in Hispanic and Black areas, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
  • US Senate Democrats have been trying to clamp down on gerrymandering efforts across the country.

The Republican-led Texas House approved new district maps on Sunday that give Republicans an even bigger advantage in the state’s congressional representation and strips away seats in Hispanic and Black areas, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The new map would add up to two more seats to Republicans’ already crushing 23-13 edge.

The seats would remove the only majority Black district in the state and reduce the Hispanic-majority districts from two to just one.

Democrats have repeatedly objected to the proposed districts, drawn by the Texas Senate, arguing that the GOP failed to acknowledge increases in Latino, Asian, and Black populations as a result of the 2020 census, the report said.

Several Democrats told The American-Statesman that they believe the map won’t hold up against federal court scrutiny.

“It’s mean-spirited. It’s disingenuous. It’s racist,” Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, told the paper.

Efforts to curb gerrymandering continue nationwide

US Senate Democrats have been trying to clamp down on gerrymandering efforts across the country by introducing legislation that gives judges more ground to reject maps deemed unfair toward one political party, The Hill reported last month.

One proposed bill – The Freedom to Vote Act – creates tests that courts would use to block the use of gerrymandered maps, and it requires the courts to immediately toss out any maps that don’t pass.

Courts would have to evaluate maps using two tests, one that is based on the number of votes “wasted,” or received beyond the 50 percent needed to win each district, The Hill reported.

The other evaluates partisan bias by determining the percentage of seats each party would wil under a map where the same number of Democrat and Republican votes were cast, according to the Hill.

The two tests produce a percentage and anything over a 7 percent rating would need to be blocked by the courts.

“It essentially puts states on notice that if they go overboard in enacting egregiously unfair congressional redistricting plans, that federal courts would have clear direction for how to deal with those situations,” Jeffrey M. Wice, a senior fellow at the New York Census & Redistricting Institute at New York Law School, told The Hill.

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A luxury car dealership is accused of firing an employee who warned others about a COVID-19 outbreak, telling him ‘his only job was to fix cars’

The Rolls-Royce Ghost.
The Rolls-Royce Ghost.

  • Hi Tech Motorcars is accused of firing a worker in December 2020 who warned others there was a COVID-19 case.
  • “I feel it is important to inform all employees of the current situation,” the man wrote in an email.
  • The company sells cars from Audi, Maserati, Porsche, Aston Martin, Bentley, Lotus, and Rolls-Royce.

When a worker at a high-end car dealership in Austin, Texas, learned one of his colleagues had tested positive for COVID-19, he did what the company would not: tell others. He was fired within the hour, according to a lawsuit filed by the US Department of Labor, management telling him that “his only job was to fix cars.”

In the lawsuit, filed this month in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, the department says the whistleblower is due back pay and punitive damages, arguing that his only offense was warning others about a threat to their health at Hi Tech Motorcars in Austin, Texas – which is no crime at all.

“This employee acted out of real concern for their safety and that of their coworkers, and their actions are protected under federal law,” the Labor Department’s John Rainwater said in a statement.

According to the October 6 complaint, the employee was distressed to learn in December 2020 that there had been an outbreak at the car dealership, which sells high-end vehicles from Porsche, Bentley, and Rolls-Royce. Management did nothing to inform others of their potential exposure, according to the lawsuit, so the employee did it himself.

“It has come to my attention that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19,” the man wrote in an email to staff. “I feel it is important to inform all employees of the current situation.”

Within the hour, the employee was fired, the company maintaining that he had outed the employee who had tested positive – which, the Department of Labor says, he did not.

Defendants are accused of violating federal whistleblower protections enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which encourages workers to report potential health hazards at the workplace. If found guilty, the dealership could be forced to provide back pay and punitive damages.

An attorney for Hi Tech Motorcars did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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A federal judge in Texas said United must pause its vaccine mandate for employees seeking a medical or religious exemption

United employee with vaccination
  • A Texas judge told United it must pause its plan to put workers who requested an exemption on leave.
  • The temporary order follows a lawsuit filed by 6 United employees who say the mandate is discriminatory.
  • United defended its policy, saying vaccinations work and most of its US workforce has gotten one.

A federal judge in Texas ordered United Airlines to temporarily pause its plan to put unvaccinated workers on leave if they requested a medical or religious exemption from complying with the company’s strict vaccine mandate.

On Tuesday, US District Judge Mark Pittman blocked United’s vaccine mandate for workers who requested an exemption, effectively keeping them on the company payroll, reported CNN. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by six United employees in September who said the company’s plan to put employees who requested an exemption on temporary leave was not a reasonable accommodation, but rather a punitive action that could lead to termination.

The employees, which include two pilots and one flight attendant, accused the airline of discrimination against workers who requested accommodation, saying the policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act, according to the lawsuit.

Pittman’s restraining order, which expires on October 26, is only a temporary halt to United’s policy while he hears more arguments on the case.

“The court is not currently ruling on the merits of the parties’ arguments on these points,” Pittman said in his order. “Rather the court seeks simply to avoid the risk of irreparable harm to the parties and to maintain the status quo while the court holds an evidentiary hearing.”

About 3% of United’s 67,000-strong US workforce, which is about 2,000 employees, requested a religious or medical accommodation in response to the company’s strict vaccine mandate. Last month, United created a new rule outlining how it would handle these cases once the deadline for getting vaccinated passed, which was September 27. According to the airline, employees with an approved exemption would be put on temporary leave until the airline established COVID safety protocols, while those whose request was denied would be fired. Worker pay would depend on their individual collective bargaining agreements.

While the order is temporary, Mark Paoletta, the attorney for the six employees, said he is pleased with the judge’s ruling.

“United Airlines’ refusal to provide reasonable accommodations to its vaccine mandate violates the federal civil rights protections of our clients, the hard working men and women at United,” said Paoletta. “We look forward to our clients’ rights be permanently protected.”

In response, United defended its mandate, emphasizing that vaccines work and only a small number of its employees are holding out on getting the shot.

“Vaccine requirements work and nearly all of United’s U.S. employees have chosen to get a shot. For a number of our employees who were approved for an accommodation, we’re working to put options in place that reduce the risk to their health and safety, including new testing regimens, temporary job reassignments and masking protocols,” United told Insider.

Over 99% of United’s US workforce has been inoculated since the company mandated the vaccine on August 6, with only 232 holding out on getting the shot. On Wednesday, United CEO Scott Kirby told CBS Mornings those unvaccinated employees are being fired for not complying with the policy.

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American Airlines and Southwest, both based in Texas, says they’ll still mandate COVID-19 vaccines despite Gov. Abbott’s order

Southwest Boeing 737-800
Southwest Boeing 737-800

  • On Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott banned any entity from imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
  • Two major airlines, American Airlines and Southwest, are headquartered in Texas.
  • On Tuesday, both airlines said they would still require COVID-19 vaccines.

Southwest and American Airlines, both based out of Texas, said they’d still mandate COVID-19 vaccines a day after Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order banning any entity from requiring the vaccine.

“We’re reviewing all guidance issued on the vaccine and are aware of the recent Order by Governor Abbott. According to the President’s Executive Order, federal action supersedes any state mandate or law, and we would be expected to comply with the President’s Order to remain compliant as a federal contractor,” Southwest spokesperson Brandy King said in a statement to Insider. “We will continue to follow all Orders closely and keep our Employees updated on any potential changes to existing policies.”

King was referencing a requirement issued by President Joe Biden’s administration last month that requires federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 8.

In a statement to Insider, an American Airlines representative said they’re also reviewing Abbott’s executive order, but for now they “believe the federal vaccine mandate supersedes any conflicting state laws, and this does not change anything for American.”

On Monday, Abbott called on the state legislature to pass a law banning any entity, including private businesses, from imposing COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Abbott’s executive order and those like it “fit a familiar pattern that we’ve seen of putting politics ahead of public health.”

Psaki said the administration intends to “implement and continue to work to implement” vaccine requirement “across the country, including in the states where there are attempts to oppose them.”

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A Texas state agency removed a suicide hotline and resources for LGBT youth from its website after Gov. Greg Abbott’s primary opponent accused him of advocating for transgender people

Greg Abbott
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

  • A Texas state agency removed online LGBT resources after Gov. Abbott’s challenger mocked the site.
  • Emails obtained by the Houston Chronicle reveal the webpage was taken down in response to the criticism.
  • The website remains offline as a review is “ongoing.”

A Texas state agency disabled a website that included a suicide hotline and resources for LGBT youth after Gov. Greg Abbott’s primary election opponent accused the lawmaker of advocating “for transgender ideology,” records obtained by the Houston Chronicle show.

Don Huffines, a businessman and former state senator, is running against Abbott for the Republican Party’s gubernatorial nomination as Abbott sinks to the lowest approval ratings of his career.

In late August, Huffines published a video on Twitter attacking the governor for allowing Texas Youth Connection, a division of the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services, to host a suicide prevention hotline and other resources meant to help queer kids on its website, including a section of the site titled “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.”

“These are not Texas values, these are not Republican Party values,” Huffines says in the video. “But these are obviously Greg Abbott’s values.”

Hours after Huffines’ video began gaining traction on social media, first, the “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” webpage was deleted.

Shortly thereafter, the entire Texas Youth Connection website was also disabled. The website for Texas Youth Connection is an offshoot of Family and Protective Services. It aims to help kids prepare for life after foster care and included resources for housing and education, in addition to LGBT identity, according to the Chronicle.

The website has since been replaced with a message that reads, “The Texas Youth Connection website has been temporarily disabled for a comprehensive review of its content. This is being done to ensure that its information, resources, and referrals are current.”

A screenshot of the current landing page for the Texas Youth Connection website.
A screenshot of the current landing page for the Texas Youth Connection website.

Nearly two months later, employee emails obtained by the Chronicle through a public records request reveal that Department of Family Protective Services employees discussed removing the “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” webpage on the Texas Youth Connection website as a direct response to Huffines’ video, right before the page was taken offline.

According to the outlet, the agency’s media relations director Marissa Gonzales emailed a link of Huffines’ video to the department’s communications director Patrick Crimmins 13 minutes after it was posted.

“FYI. This is starting to blow up on Twitter,” Gonzales reportedly wrote.

Crimmins then reached out to the agency’s web and creative services director saying, “we may need to take that page down, or somehow revise content,” the Chronicle reported.

The entire Texas Youth Connection website remains “temporarily disabled” as of Tuesday.

In a statement to the Chronicle, Huffines took credit for the site’s removal.

“We aren’t surprised that state employees who are loyal to Greg Abbott had to scramble after we called their perverse actions out,” Huffines told the newspaper. “I promised Texans I would get rid of that website and I kept that promise.”

Crimmins, who serves as the department spokesman, told Insider that a content review “is still ongoing,” but did not answer specific questions about why the site had been taken down.

This is not the first time Abbott and the state government have been pressured to restrict resources for the transgender community in 2021.

Miffed after the state legislature failed to pass a law restricting transgender children from accessing transition-related care, the governor pledged to find an alternative route in July.

The governor also acquiesced and added plans to create a law restricting transgender kids from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity after hounding from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s vaccine mandate ban won’t make airlines or other large businesses drop their plans, legal experts say

greg abbott texas
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Monday banning vaccine mandates in the state.
  • Legal experts told Insider the order is unlikely to have an impact on large businesses that will have to comply with a proposed federal vaccine mandate.
  • Law professor Dale Carpenter called Abbott’s order “more of a political statement than a legal statement.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning vaccine mandates in the state is unlikely to have much of an impact on large businesses looking to require their employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, legal experts told Insider.

After the Republican governor’s executive order was announced on Monday, Insider spoke to legal experts at Southern Methodist University (SMU) and the University of Houston who said that President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large businesses will supersede Abbott’s order as soon as it becomes official.

Biden announced last month that the Department of Labor was developing a rule to require companies with more than 100 employees to have their workers get vaccinated or face weekly testing.

The president also signed an executive order requiring all federal executive branch employees to be vaccinated, as well as federal contractors and their employees.

Dale Carpenter, a law professor at SMU, said that he expects companies that have already started making their employees get vaccinated will continue to do so, because the Biden administration’s proposed mandate will eventually “preempt” Abbott’s order.

Carpenter called Abbott’s order “more of a political statement than a legal statement.”

“Ultimately, I don’t think it will have a real legal effect,” he said of Abbott’s executive order.

Abbott’s order raises specific questions about Texas-based American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, since both are government contractors that fall under the purview of Biden’s vaccine mandate executive order. American is giving employees until November 24 to get vaccinated or face termination. Both airlines issued statements on Tuesday saying they wouldn’t be calling off their mandate plans, according to Reuters.

“According to the president’s executive order, federal action supersedes any state mandate or law, and we would be expected to comply with the president’s order to remain compliant as a federal contractor,” the Southwest statement, obtained by Insider, read.

David Crump, a law professor at the University of Houston, said airlines have the power to ignore the state mandate because it’s trumped by the federal order.

“The supremacy clause to the Constitution says that federal law is the ‘supreme’ law of the land, and state laws give way to it,” Crump said. “The state mandate is of no effect in that case.”

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