Apr 17, 2023 - Podcasts

The Supreme Court takes on abortion pills

It’s another pivotal week for the U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to abortion access. A ruling by the Supreme Court on Friday has temporarily blocked lower court rulings restricting the abortion pill, mifepristone.

  • Plus, where the highest unemployment rates in the country are.
  • And, violence in Sudan as two rival military factions fight for control.
  • Also, exactly how fast the world’s fastest marathon runner actually is.

Guests: Axios' Oriana González and Alex Fitzpatrick.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, 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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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Monday, April 17th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: where the highest unemployment rates in the country are. Plus, exactly how fast the world’s fastest marathon runner actually is. But first, today’s One Big Thing: the U.S. Supreme Court and the abortion pill.

The U.S. Supreme Court and the abortion pill

NIALA: It's another pivotal week for the U.S. Supreme Court when it comes to abortion access. A ruling by the Supreme Court late on Friday has temporarily blocked lower court rulings restricting the abortion pill. That's mifepristone - but the Supreme Court's stay is just until this Wednesday.

Axios’ Oriana González has been covering all the legal challenges around the abortion pill and is here with what happens after Wednesday. Hi Oriana.


NIALA: Oriana, so the Supreme Court didn't issue an opinion. Justice Samuel Alito just ordered that the lower court rulings are on hold. Is that normal?

ORIANA: It's very normal. It's very procedural. The court has done this in the past, Justices have issued, stayed on rulings before that, actually don't reflect how they end up ruling in the end. However, in this particular case, so Samuel Alito was the justice that did the order. He did two things: First off, was say that the lower court rulings blocked or stayed until Wednesday. And the other thing that he did was ask the anti-abortion groups in the case, the ones that had originally brought the lawsuit in Texas, to reply to the emergency application that the Justice Department and the manufacturer of mifepristone, Danco, brought to the Supreme Court.And they are required to reply by tomorrow afternoon.

So what we're likely to see this week is first off a response from the anti-abortion groups as to why they think mifepristone restrictions should be imposed. And then at some point on Wednesday, or in the next couple days, we'll probably hear from the Supreme Court as to what they decide to do next. They could potentially bring their restrictions back, or they could order them back to the lower courts to decide. So we will really see what happens this week.

NIALA: This has to deal with conflicting lower court rulings. You mentioned Texas. What's the latest with that one then?

ORIANA: The Texas ruling is the one that's related to the first case that we all heard about. The anti-abortion groups had brought in a case in Amarillo, Texas to Matthew Kacsmaryk, and they had argued that the FDA approval of mifepristone was not properly done and that it should be taken away. Kacsmaryk ultimately ruled that he was blocking the approval, meaning that mifepristone wouldn't be available even in states where abortion is protected.

NIALA: But then there's also a court case in Washington state that said the opposite?

ORIANA: Exactly. People have been calling this the dueling rulings of abortion pills. So what we saw in the Washington case was Democratic attorneys general are challenging the FDA and they are playing almost the opposite game. They were saying that restrictions that mifepristone has were unfair because the drug was deemed safe and effective. In that case, a federal court again in Washington State, said that the FDA could not roll back access to mifepristone because doing so would alter the status quo. And the issue now for the FDA is that it's basically in between two conflicting orders, and it has to obey both. Otherwise, it's going to be the agency held in contempt with the court.

NIALA: And is that why the Supreme Court stayed everything until Wednesday?

ORIANA: Exactly. I am expecting the Supreme Court to step in, ending the conflicting nature and creating like a clear path as to what happens with mifepristone at some point this week. I assume since this is stayed until Wednesday, the court would likely say something before or shortly after.

NIALA: Meanwhile, Oriana, you've been reporting on how different states that want to support the right to abortion have been stockpiling mifepristone pills. Will this ruling affect that?

ORIANA: It could potentially affect that. So we have Massachusetts and Washington, our stockpiling mifepristone. And on the other hand we have California and New York, focusing on misoprostol. And the reason why they're focusing on misoprostol is because misoprostol can be used on its own abortion, for medication abortion. States have sovereignty when it comes to the practice of medicine and pharmacy.

NIALA: Oriana González is a healthcare reporter for Axios.Thanks Oriana.

ORIANA: Thanks, Niala.

NIALA: In a moment, going deeper into how the national unemployment rate looks different at the city level.


Where the highest unemployment rates in the country are

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

The country's unemployment rate was 3.5% as of March. That's down 0.1 percentage point from the previous month, and 0.1 percentage point year over year. But it's easy for individual cities to have different pictures and all of that gets lost in the big national number. Axios’ Alex Fitzpatrick has been breaking down unemployment rates at the city level to find out where the jobs are.

Hi, Alex.

ALEX FITZPATRICK: Hi. Always good to be here.

NIALA: Alex, can you tell us what cities have the highest unemployment rates across the country?

ALEX: Las Vegas is the staggering outlier there. They've got an unemployment rate of 5.7%, which is significantly over that national number that you just mentioned. And then following that is Chicago at 4.4%, LA ,uh, at 4.3 and Houston, also at 4.3.

NIALA: And what about the lowest cities?

ALEX: Uh, Miami has the lowest unemployment rate at 2.2%, uh, and after that it's Minneapolis at 2.4 and Tampa Bay at 2.5.

NIALA: So that's a pretty big difference, 2% to 5%. What did you learn about why some cities are faring better than others?

ALEX: Yeah, it's very much a case of, you know, what's happening in each of those cities in particularly. You know, Vegas, I think the story there is, it's a little bit tough to tell. I think a large part of it is that the travel and tourism and leisure industry there has not really recovered fully from Covid yet. Although of course, some of the cities that are doing well are like Miami and Tampa, which are also tourist destinations. So, you know, it's tough. You can't just say like, oh, cities that rely on tourism and travel are doing badly, because that's not really the case. It's more individual than that.

NIALA: And what made you wanna look into this?

ALEX: The national unemployment level gets talked about so much. Uh, but there's just such distinction between cities and communities that get lost if all you're looking at is the national figure. The split between Vegas at 5.7% and Miami at 2.2% really speaks to that issue. So you have to look a little bit closer to tell, I think more interesting stories, uh, about what's happening economically in these cities across the country.

NIALA: And I guess on the face of it, 5.7. 5.7 just for historical comparison, is still a pretty good unemployment rate?

ALEX: It is. But then again, you compare that to these cities that are doing really well and obviously Vegas could be doing better. There's a natural unemployment level at the national end city level, um, but 5.7 compared to even the national average, but also some of these cities that are really, really low. It's just, it's high, for where we are as a country right now.

NIALA: Alex Fitzpatrick writes Axios’ What's Next Newsletter. Thanks, Alex.

ALEX: Sure.

Violence in Sudan as two rival military factions fight for control

NIALA: Dozens of civilians in Sudan were killed over the weekend, casualties of heavy fighting between two rival military factions vying for control of the northeastern African nation. The fatalities included three employees of the UN World Food Programme.

Here are three things to understand about what’s going on in Sudan now:

First, there were high hopes for democracy in Sudan just a few years ago after protests led to the overthrow of authoritarian leader President Omar al-Bashir. But now - two rival military generals representing the army and a notorious paramilitary force - the RSF - are fighting for control of the country.

Second - this conflict is happening within Sudan - but with the involvement of a few other countries - which U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to on Saturday.

ANTONY BLINKEN: It's a fragile situation. There are other actors that may be pushing against that progress, but, this is a real opportunity to finally carry forward the, um, civilian-led transition and one that we and, and other countries are, are trying to, uh, to bolster.

NIALA: Third - a CNN investigation last year found that Russian forces were colluding with the generals to transport gold out of Sudan in exchange for military support. Axios’ Barak Ravid reported yesterday that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are trying to mediate a cease-fire.

Exactly how fast is the world’s fastest marathon runner

NIALA: And - one final thing before we go.

Today is the Boston Marathon, it’s been ten years since the deadly bombing that took place during the world’s oldest 26.2 mile race.

And this morning - all eyes are on world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, a two-time Olympic champion from Kenya. Last September, his new world record running the Berlin marathon was 2 hours, 1 minute and 9 seconds.

To understand Kipchoge’s pace - that’s a 4 minute, 37 second mile - 26 times.

As always, I am amazed by EVERYONE running today - no matter what their pace is.

That’s it for us. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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