Apr 10, 2023 - Podcasts

Abortion's way back to the Supreme Court

If you thought the Supreme Court was done with abortion, two major rulings might thrust the debate back to the highest court less than a year after Roe v. Wade was struck down.

  • Plus, housing politics in the suburbs.
  • And, the Masters wraps up without Tiger Woods.

Guests: Axios' Oriana González, Caitlin Owens and Jeff Tracy.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Margaret Talev, Robin Linn, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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MARGARET: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Monday, April 10th.

I’m Margaret Talev, in for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: Housing politics in the suburbs. Plus, the Masters wraps up without Tiger Woods. But first, abortion rights may be on the fast track to the U.S. Supreme Court - again. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

Abortion rights may be on the fast track to the U.S. Supreme Court

MARGARET: If you thought the Supreme Court was done with abortion, two major rulings might thrust the debate back to the highest court in the land, less than a year after Roe v. Wade was struck down. Oriana González is following this next phase of the abortion fight. Oriana, thanks for joining us.

ORIANA GONZÁLEZ: Thanks for having me, Margaret.

MARGARET: There were two major rulings on abortion on Friday that seemed to contradict one another – one in Texas and the other in Washington State – what happened?

ORIANA: So the Texas ruling comes from a conservative judge known as Matthew Kacsmaryk. He's a Trump appointee. In his ruling, he specifically says that he is staying or putting on hold the FDA's approval of mifepristone, which is a commonly used abortion pill. On the other hand, we have a judge in Washington, another federal judge, Thomas Rice, who is telling the FDA that it cannot suspend its approval of mifepristone. And it actually cited with an argument from the plaintiffs in that case, saying that if the approval of mifepristone were to go away, it would alter the status quo.

MARGARET: So both of those federal rulings cannot exist in perpetuity at the same time. Is that why everyone thinks this is gonna eventually end up back at the Supreme Court?

ORIANA: Exactly. So these are two mutually exclusive conflicting rulings, and so it makes it almost inevitable that the Supreme Court is going to have a final say on this. It's also important to mention that on the Texas ruling, the Biden administration already appealed that ruling that's now being considered by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which, as you know, Margaret, it's more conservative leaning. On the other hand, when we're looking at the Washington case, the Biden administration, as of Sunday afternoon, has yet to appeal that ruling.

MARGARET: So we have been talking here about medication abortions. How common are medication abortions versus surgical abortions?

ORIANA: Medication abortions are incredibly common in the U.S., actually. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which is a research organization that focuses on reproductive health, found that over half of U.S. abortions occur via abortion pills.

MARGARET: The drug that we've been talking about, mifepristone, is this only used for medical abortions?

ORIANA: Not at all. The FDA first approved mifepristone back in 2000. That was 23 years ago. It's used for miscarriage, and in fact, it's also used for other medical conditions. But it's definitely more commonly known as an abortion pill.

MARGARET: Oriana, we already have kind of a patchwork of different laws for different states. How do these rulings impact the states where abortion is currently protected as a right?

ORIANA: Kacsmaryk’s ruling is a national preliminary injunction, which means that regardless of where a patient or provider is located, it takes effect there. So take, for example, states like California, New York, New Jersey. These are states that have codified abortion rights to their loss or potentially to their state constitutions. Kacsmaryk’s ruling is specifically saying that mifepristone will not be available in those states, regardless of what law a state has.

What I'm hearing from sources in terms of what happens now as we're kind of in a limbo is that abortion providers are either going to start focusing on surgical abortions or potentially in another medical regimen known as the misoprostol-only regimen, which is the use of another abortion pill to be able to do medication abortion.

MARGARET: Do you have any doubt that this case will go to the Supreme Court

ORIANA: I think it's bound to happen. I, I thought the ruling, the Texas ruling, by itself was going to end up at the Supreme Court, but now these two conflicting rulings happening at the same time, it seems incredibly likely that the Supreme Court will once again have the final say on what happens on abortion in the U.S.

MARGARET: Axios’s Oriana Gonzalez. Thanks so much for joining us.

ORIANA: Thanks for having me.

MARGARET: In a moment, fierce debates over housing in the suburbs.


Housing politics in the suburbs

MARGARET: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Margaret Talev in for Niala Boodhoo.

As the nation's housing crisis continues to get worse, some lawmakers are looking to the suburbs. But the idea of building more housing in some communities is sparking a backlash, as Axios’ Caitlin Owens writes. Hi, Caitlin.


MARGARET: Two Virginia suburbs real close to D.C. are actually on the front lines, Arlington, Virginia, and Alexandria. What are advocates there asking to do?

CAITLIN: So in Arlington, the county board actually approved these changes, which is basically changes to zoning laws. Those laws tell you how you're allowed to use land. And right now in Arlington, most of the city is single family use only, which means you have a lot of standalone houses with a yard. The city council, the change that they just approved would allow denser housing development. So the idea is to create some kind of housing that's between a high-rise apartment building and a single family home for the millions and millions of Americans who can't afford to buy a home right now, but want something that's more than a high-rise. So like, think like duplexes or small, six unit apartment buildings.

Right now, a lot of that dense housing is happening in cities themselves. But the idea would be to allow some of it to happen in the burbs. And so this was really controversial because people who lived in these suburbs were worried about the impact that would have on them on their housing prices, the local infrastructure, that could come with making that kind of change. You know, having watched the Arlington debate play out one of the driving factors in opposition to the ideas is that people just don't want their neighborhoods to change.

MARGARET: So Caitlin, this isn't only happening in the Virginia suburbs though, right?

CAITLIN: What's so interesting about this to me is as I was reporting this, I realized it's happening all over the country. One of the researchers I talked to spoke about how this used to be kind of a big city, coastal, elite, like very expensive city problem, like New York, D.C., Seattle, but especially in the post-pandemic years as the price of housing spiked, this is emerging as a solution all around the country.

So, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just signed an affordable housing bill into law that would include zoning changes. There's a push in Montana to do something along these lines. It's not partisan, it's not red or blue, well, and this is why it's so popular, Margaret, to do zoning reform. It doesn't cost anything, right? You're just allowing more private developers to come in and build housing. And so that's something I think we'll all be looking at over the next few years.

MARGARET: Caitlin Owens is Axios Senior Policy Reporter. Thanks, Caitlin.

CAITLIN: Thanks Margaret.

The Masters wraps up

MARGARET: The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia wrapped up Sunday evening. Who performed well? Who didn’t perform at all? Axios’ Jeff Tracy has been watching.

JEFF TRACY: Jon Rahm won his first masters and second major championship overall going 12 under for the tournament to win by four strokes over Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson, who tied for second. That continues a scorching hot start to the year for the 28-year-old Spaniard who's now won four of the nine tournaments he's entered since the calendar flipped to 2023.

It also capped a rain soaked weekend in Augusta, where play was suspended on both Friday and Saturday before the sun came out for the final. Koepka and Mickelson's excellent weekends were notable because they are two of the most famous names in LIV golf, the Saudi-backed tour that launched last year and created a rift in the professional golf landscape.

The co- runners up got to second place in very different ways though. Koepka looked like he was heading towards a fifth major championship after holding the 54 hole lead. But he struggled on Sunday while playing alongside Rahm in the final pairing. Mickelson, on the other hand, was phenomenal shooting a seven under 65, which is the lowest score in any masters round by a player over 50. And, at 52, he's the oldest player with a top five finish at the Masters.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Tiger Woods, who withdrew from the tournament before play resumed on Sunday after aggravating a previous foot injury. His limp was noticeable on Saturday, not only from the foot, but from his surgically repaired leg that he nearly lost in a car accident two years ago. But in classic Tiger fashion, he still found a way to make history this weekend, tying the Master's record with his 23rd consecutive made cut. The record he tied belongs to Fred Couples, who actually made some history of his own this weekend. At 63, he became the oldest player ever to make the cut at the Masters.

MARGARET: That’s Axios sports reporter Jeff Tracy.

And that’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Margaret Talev, in for Niala Boodhoo. Thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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