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Some GOP-led states target abortions done through medication

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Some GOP-led states target abortions done through medication

About 40% of all abortions in the U.S. are now done through medication — rather than surgery — and that option has become all the more pivotal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abortion rights advocates say the pandemic has demonstrated the value of medical care provided virtually, including the privacy and convenience of abortions taking place in a woman’s home, instead of a clinic. Abortion opponents, worried the method will become increasingly prevalent, are pushing legislation in several Republican-led states to restrict it and in some cases, ban providers from prescribing abortion medication via telemedicine.

Ohio enacted a ban this year, proposing felony charges for doctors who violate it. The law was set to take effect next week, but a judge has temporarily blocked it in response to a Planned Parenthood lawsuit.

In Montana, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte is expected to sign a ban on telemedicine abortions. The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Sharon Greef, has called medication abortions “the Wild West of the abortion industry” and says the drugs should be taken under close supervision of medical professionals, “not as part of a do-it-yourself abortion far from a clinic or hospital.”

Opponents of the bans say telemedicine abortions are safe, and outlawing them would have a disproportionate effect on rural residents who face long drives to the nearest abortion clinic.

“When we look at what state legislatures are doing, it becomes clear there’s no medical basis for these restrictions,” said Elisabeth Smith, chief counsel for state policy and advocacy with the Center for Reproductive Rights. “They’re only meant to make it more difficult to access this incredibly safe medication and sow doubt into the relationship between patients and providers.”

Other legislation has sought to outlaw delivery of abortion pills by mail, shorten the 10-week window in which the method is allowed, and require doctors to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions that the process can be reversed midway through — a claim that critics say is not backed by science.

It’s part of a broader wave of anti-abortion measures numerous states are considering this year, including some that would ban nearly all abortions. The bills’ supporters hope the U.S. Supreme Court, now with a 6-3 conservative majority, might be open to overturning or weakening the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established the nationwide right to end pregnancies.

Legislation targeting medication abortion was inspired in part by developments during the pandemic, when the Food and Drug Administration — under federal court order — eased restrictions on abortion pills so they could be sent by mail. A requirement for women to pick them up in person is back, but abortion opponents worry the Biden administration will end those restrictions permanently. Abortion-rights groups are urging that step.

With the rules lifted in December, Planned Parenthood in the St. Louis region would mail pills for telemedicine abortions overseen by its health center in Fairview Heights, Illinois.

A single mother from Cairo, Illinois, more than a two-hour drive from the clinic, chose that option. She learned she was pregnant just a few months after giving birth to her second child.

“It wouldn’t have been a good situation to bring another child into the world,” said the 32-year-old woman, who spoke on the condition her name not be used to protect her family’s privacy.

“The fact that I could do it in the comfort of my own home was a good feeling,” she added.

She was relieved to avoid a lengthy trip and grateful for the clinic employee who talked her through the procedure.

“I didn’t feel alone,” she said. “I felt safe.”

Medication abortion has been available in the United States since 2000, when the FDA approved the use of mifepristone. Taken with misoprostol, it constitutes the so-called abortion pill.

The method’s popularity has grown steadily. The Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, estimates that it accounts for about 40% of all abortions in the U.S. and 60% of those taking place up to 10 weeks’ gestation.

“Beyond its exceptionally safe and effective track record, what makes medication abortion so significant is how convenient and private it can be,” said Megan Donovan, Guttmacher’s senior policy manager. “That’s exactly why it is still subject to onerous restrictions.”

Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, which includes Cincinnati, says medication abortions account for a quarter of the abortions it provides. Of its 1,558 medication abortions in the past year, only 9% were done via telemedicine, but the organization’s president, Kersha Deibel, said that option is important for many economically disadvantaged women and those in rural areas.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, countered that “no woman deserves to be subjected to the gruesome process of a chemical abortion potentially hours away from the physician who prescribed her the drugs. ”

In Montana, where Planned Parenthood operates five of the state’s seven abortion clinics, 75% of abortions are done through medication — a huge change from 10 years ago.

Martha Stahl, president of Planned Parenthood of Montana, says the pandemic — which increased reliance on telemedicine — has contributed to the rise in the proportion of medication abortions.

In the vast state, home to rural communities and seven Native American reservations, many women live more than a five-hour drive from the nearest abortion clinic. For them, access to telemedicine can be significant.

Greef, who sponsored the ban on telemedicine abortions, said the measure would ensure providers can watch for signs of domestic abuse or sex trafficking as they care for patients in person.

Yet advocates of the telemedicine method say patients are grateful for the convenience and privacy.

“Some are in a bad relationship or victim of domestic violence,” said Christina Theriault, a nurse practitioner for Maine Family Planning who can perform abortions under state law. “With telemedicine, they can do it without their partner knowing. There’s a lot of relief from them.”

The group has health centers in far northern Maine where women can get abortion pills and take them at home under the supervision of health providers communicating by phone or videoconferencing. It spares women a drive of three to four hours to the nearest abortion clinic in Bangor, Theriault said.

Maine Family Planning is among a small group of providers participating in an FDA-approved research program allowing women to receive the abortion pill by mail after video consultations. Under the program, the Maine group also can mail pills to women in New York and Massachusetts.

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Florida fisherman chased by 11-foot alligator in scary video

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Florida fisherman chased by 11-foot alligator in scary video

A Florida fisherman became the bait when he was chased by an alligator in the Everglades.

GoPro video captured the near-death experience when Tommy Lee was tarpon fishing on May 8.

The 22-year-old was recording himself fishing at sunrise when an 11-foot bull alligator swam onshore. As Lee backed up, the reptile chased him through the brush, getting too close for comfort.

It “stalked me then chased me,” he told ViralHog. “The gator appeared much larger and closer in person. It got within 10 feet of me.”

At one heart-pounding moment, Lee tripped and fell to the ground, but quickly regained his footing and continued to back up.

In the two-minute video, you can hear the frazzled fisherman exclaiming, “Jesus Christ. You gotta be careful here.” But as he lost sight of the deadly creature, he retraced his steps following the animal until it splashed back in the water.

“And I am out of here,” Lee said to himself before grabbing his gear and turning off the camera.

Lee uploaded the shocking clip to his YouTube channel, Chum Dumpster, where it amassed 1.2 million views.

However, it isn’t too surprising that the sharp-toothed creature came out to play. May and June mark mating season for the more than one million alligators that live in Florida.

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KFC hackers jailed in China over $31,000 worth of chicken

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KFC hackers jailed in China over $31,000 worth of chicken

The Chinese students who scored a five-finger-lickin’ discount at Kentucky Fried Chicken — for a total of $31,000 worth of food — are going to prison.

Their scam took place in 2018 after one of them discovered a glitch on KFC’s online order platform, allowing them access to an endless supply of fried chicken.

The five college con artists involved in the grift were handed down a range of sentences by the People’s Court of Xuhui District in Shanghai, from 13 to 30 months, according to Daily Mail and recent Chinese-language reports, with fines set between $150 (1,000 yuan) and $900 (6,000 yuan).

“Being fully aware of this bug, the convicted deliberately engaged in false transactions and illegally profited from them, which constituted the crime of fraud,” court papers read, according to Australia’s 9News.

The group’s 23-year-old ringleader, identified only as “Xu,” defrauded the company out of some $9,000 (58,000 yuan). All told, they stole more than $31,000 (129,000 yuan) worth of food from Yum! Brands, which owns the KFC name.

The simple scheme involved a loophole between KFC’s app and the restaurant’s page on Chinese social network WeChat, which allowed Xu to use a voucher for free food while also being refunded. It’s been reported that Xu later began shilling out the free food he’d reaped as a side hustle.

The case has reportedly sparked debate online, according to Global Times, with some saying that a bug in KFC’s order system is on the corporation — not the customers who reaped the spoils of their mistake.

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Brood X cicadas force businesses, homeowners to take precautions

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Brood X cicadas force businesses, homeowners to take precautions

Brood X, a classification of the trillions of periodical cicadas that have descended in states across the eastern and southern U.S., has emerged after a 17-year hiatus — and already closed one restaurant.

The District of Columbia and the surrounding states of Maryland and Virginia are cicada ground zero, reporting sightings earlier than most other states. 

More of the red-eyed, singing insects will appear as ground temperatures warm to 64 degrees and experts say that the bugs come in peace. 

However, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Washington, D.C., announced this week that it was temporarily closing on May 10 in order to “combat” the bugs. 

“We have decided to pause service at Little Pearl for 4 weeks starting May 10th in preparation for ‘Cicada Season,’” Capitol Hill’s Little Pearl wrote in an email to customers, according to The Washington Post. “As we tried to get as creative as possible to combat them this year, we know in good faith that a single 100 decibel cicada will ruin anyone’s dinner experience, a ‘tsunami’ of them will be impossible to control.”

Washingtonian noted that the restaurant offered to reschedule, refund bookings or move diners’ reservations to their sister restaurant Rose’s Luxury.

Rose’s Restaurant Group owner and chef Aaron Silverman told the local magazine that Little Pearl’s closing is also “to renovate, clean, reorganize, up-train, and get all our affairs in order as the pandemic caused so many disruptions.”

In addition, he said that because around 80% of the restaurant’s seating is outdoors in a “heavily vegetative area,” it “seemed like the best window to take advantage of.”

Many businesses have decided to embrace the arrival of Brood X, selling coffee mugs and “Choco-cadas.”

Nevertheless, while the cicadas aren’t dangerous, their presence can be disruptive. 

As WCPO reported on Monday, the cicadas’ loud buzzing sounds may cause emotional or physical reactions in people with autism or with sensory issues.

Furthermore, although cicadas do not bite and are harmless to humans and property, Michigan State University entomologist Gary Parsons notes that their abundance can be a “nuisance” and that — while edible — eating too many could make pets sick.

While cicadas do not intentionally enter homes like ants and spiders, cicada eggs laid in stems and twigs of trees and shrubs often kill twigs and branches. 

Experts advise against using insecticide, as the chemicals will kill other bugs in the process.

The Baltimore Sun reported last week that an effective way to prevent damage on young trees is to enclose them with half-inch mesh netting, though the University of Maryland’s professor emeritus Michael Raupp advises planting next fall. 

Raupp told Fox News in March that people who might be afraid of cicadas should try to learn as much about them as they can.

“Hey, this is a chance to go out in your backyard and have a National Geographic special happening right there,” he said. “It’s going to be birth. It’s going to be death. It’s going to be predation. It’s going to be competition. It’s going to be better than an episode of ‘Outlander.’ There’s going to be romance in the treetops when the big boy band cranks it up.”

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