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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Sets Up Showdown on Medicaid Abortion Ban

A new ruling from the court could massively change abortion law in the state.

An abortion rights protest with dozens of people in the photo. A large pink sign in the foreground reads "My body my choice." Another in the background threatens that "You will lose" if you wage war with women. (Part of the text is cut off.)

The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court ruled Monday that a 40-year-old law banning Medicaid from covering abortions could be considered discriminatory based on sex, and sent the case back to a lower court, setting up a battle to establish financial coverage for the procedure.

The case stems from the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1982, which prohibits Medicaid from covering abortions unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or it puts the patient’s life at risk. A state Supreme Court ruling three years later established that the law is not a form of sex discrimination, meaning it cannot be challenged under the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment.

In 2019, a coalition of seven state abortion providers filed a lawsuit arguing that the law discriminates based on sex and therefore violates the ERA. The plaintiffs urged the justices to recognize that the state constitution guarantees people the right to abortion access.

On Monday, the justices stopped just short of stating a constitutional right to abortion, but they did rule 3–2 that the state’s ERA applied to Medicaid coverage of abortion access. Justices Christine Donohue and David Wecht, who were in the majority, said that “the right to reproductive autonomy, like other privacy rights, is fundamental.”

In the 219-page majority opinion, Donohue wrote that “the right to make healthcare decisions related to reproduction is a core important right encompassed by the enmeshed privacy interest protected by our Charter.”

“Whether or not to give birth is likely the most personal and consequential decision imaginable in the human experience. Any self-determination is dependent on the right to make that decision,” she said.

Justice Kevin Dougherty, who concurred with the overall majority decision, called Donohue and Wecht’s argument “incredibly insightful.” But he said he felt the gist of the current case was too narrow to decide the constitutionality of abortion.

Donohue noted that refusing to cover abortion discriminates against people trying to exercise the right to reproductive autonomy and therefore violates state constitutional protections against discrimination by the government.

“The government does not bear a constitutional obligation to provide medical care to the indigent, nor is the government required to financially support the exercise of a fundamental right, including a woman’s exercise of her right to reproductive autonomy,” Donohue wrote.

“However, once the government chooses to provide medical care for the indigent, including necessary care attendant to pregnancy for those women exercising their right to reproductive autonomy who decide to carry a pregnancy to term, the government is obligated to maintain neutrality so as not to intrude upon the constitutional right to full reproductive autonomy, which includes the right to terminate a pregnancy.”

The case will now return to the lower Commonwealth Court to determine if Medicaid should cover abortion and if abortion is constitutionally protected. The state government must prove that banning Medicaid from covering most abortions does not violate the ERA.

David Cohen, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, told The New Republic that the Pennsylvania government has a “very high bar” to clear to justify Medicaid excluding abortion coverage after this ruling.

The government must prove it has a “compelling state interest” in prohibiting Medicaid from covering abortion, and no other “less intrusive methods” to implement the policy, Cohen, who is also a constitutional law professor at Drexel University’s Kline School of Law, explained. The “least intrusive method” is a way of analyzing laws to determine whether they do the least amount of harm possible in achieving the measure’s stated goal.

“The court said that [the law] is a form of sex discrimination and that sex discrimination under the state’s Equal Rights Amendment needs to be very strictly scrutinized,” Cohen said. “But it’s not an absolute bar. It’s not like the court didn’t say all sex discrimination is prohibited. It’s just a very difficult hurdle for the state to overcome.”

Kyrsten Sinema Stuck Taxpayers With a Massive Private Jet Tab

A new report shows the Arizona senator loves private jet travel a little too much—and she’s totally OK with using taxpayer money to pay for it.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema has spent an outsize portion of her U.S. Senate office budget on charter private jets.

The former Green Party turned Democrat turned independent politician has reportedly spent roughly $210,000 of her $4.1 million taxpayer-funded budget on private jet travel, shipping herself and her staff around the country, according to a public records analysis by The Daily Beast.

Since 2020, Sinema has booked at least 11 private trips, with almost half of them occurring in 2023 alone. Nearly all of the flights were chartered for travel within the boundaries of Arizona, shuttling Sinema and her staff around the state on one- or two-day trips, reported the Beast.

On August 8, 2023, Sinema flew herself and four staffers from Washington to the Grand Canyon with Florida-based Monarch Air Group—which cost a whopping $50,250—for a national park law signing featuring President Joe Biden and other federal and state politicians.

While it isn’t against the rules for lawmakers to use their annual budgets for private air travel, there are several reasons why it’s problematic. Being scrupulous with your money means you can stretch your budget further and spend taxpayer money, instead, on things like hiring extra aides and staff to help accomplish the job you were elected for.

In Sinema’s case, the Arizona lawmaker has spent more on private jets in just one year than she paid practically every member of her staff. Her flight to the Grand Canyon alone cost nearly as much as the annual income of her deputy press secretary or her military and veterans affairs representative, according to reports by the secretary of the Senate.

Arizona’s other Senate representative, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, has never used his Senate budget for privately chartered jets, despite the fact that he is more often than not traveling to the same locations as Sinema, according to the Beast.

Watch: GOP Congresswoman Tries to Take Credit for Bills She Voted Against

Representative Maria Salazar freaked out after being reminded how she actually voted on the funding projects.

Representative Maria Salazar wears a blue blazer and red glasses. She is speaking outside and gesturing with her index finger raised.

Florida Representative Maria Salazar said she doesn’t remember voting against two key pieces of legislation—even though she’s regularly claimed credit for their successes in her congressional district.

In an interview on CBS News Miami, Salazar aggressively skirted direct questions about her voting record on the CHIPS and Science Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, at one point telling the host that she needed to speak to her staff to remind her of her voting record in Washington, D.C.

“The money that you talk about—the $40 million that you bring back to the district—sometimes that money comes from bills that you voted against,” pressed CBS News’s Jim DeFede. “You voted against the CHIPS Act and yet you praise the fact that the south Florida climate resilience tech hub is going to be started in Miami, right? You voted against the infrastructure bill and you talk about all the money that comes back to the airport.”

“So, at the same time that you’re taking credit for the money that you bring back to the district in Washington, you’re voting against these projects on party line votes,” he added.

“Listen I, that was, I think, last cycle, I cannot really remember right now, but just look, just look at the Americas Act,” Salazar started before DeFede cut her off, asking why she doesn’t want to explain her vote.

“I mean right now, and I’m not trying to be a politician, there’s so many bills that I’ve introduced and I know that many of them—,” Salazar continued while DeFede interjected again that she had voted against the bills.

“I understand and, but, the—OK. Sometimes I vote, and sometimes I don’t, but let’s look at the positive, let’s look at the $40 million that I brought, and let’s look at the dignity,” she said, still trying to take credit for the funding she voted against.

Conservatives Go Next-Level Crazy With Taylor Swift Super Bowl Conspiracies

Now that the Kansas City Chiefs have made it to the Super Bowl, the far right is freaking out about Taylor Swift again.

Travis Kelce throws his arm around Taylor Swift's shoulders. They're standing on the football field smiling. Kelce wears a cap and a shirt that says "AFC Champion Chiefs Are All In." Taylor Swift wears a red sweater and red lipstick.
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The far right is convinced that the Super Bowl will be rigged in favor of the Kansas City Chiefs so that Taylor Swift can get more attention before she endorses another competition-rigger, President Joe Biden.

The Chiefs defeated the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night and will go on to defend their Super Bowl champions title. Much of the buzz around the recent Chiefs games, though, is due to the presence of music superstar Swift, who is dating the Chiefs’ tight end, Travis Kelce.

The relationship has won her no friends on the right, for reasons of staggering strangeness. But this new wave of acrimony has got to be the weirdest yet.

Former presidential candidate and current Donald Trump toady Vivek Ramaswamy tweeted Monday that he wonders “who’s going to win the Super Bowl next month.”

“I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall,” he continued. “Just some wild speculation over here, let’s see how it ages over the next 8 months.”

Ramaswamy was replying to a tweet from Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, who managed to link Swift to billionaire George Soros, Republicans’ favorite scapegoat. (It’s worth noting that Swift has enough money to rig a football game on her own.)

Since the Chiefs’ victory Sunday night, other right-wing accounts have also accused Swift of being an “op.” Far-right activist Jack Lombardi insisted Swift and Kelce would use the extra media attention to endorse Biden, while conservative podcast host Mike Crispi claimed they would announce their endorsement during the half-time show.

Georgia GOP district chair Kandiss Taylor said Swift uses “witchcraft” that is “demonic, evil, and Luciferian.” Meanwhile, in its rush to bash Swift, Fox News pulled a 180 on acknowledging climate change is real, and accused Swift of making things worse with her private jet travel to the game.

Not all the hate is directed at just Swift. Republicans also dislike Kelce because he has promoted vaccines, Bud Light beer, and Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest.

But Swift is the target of the majority of GOP vitriol. In early January, Fox News contributor Stewart Kaplan claimed she was a Democratic psyop, after Swift posted on social media encouraging people to register to vote.

Swift rarely weighs in on politics, instead tending to encourage her fans to act without telling them how to do so. She did endorse Biden in 2020 but has given no indication that she intends to throw her support behind any candidate this time around.

The reason why conservatives get so up in arms about Swift, as Edith Olmstead wrote for The New Republic in September, shortly after Swift and Kelce went public as a couple, is “less about the content of her political worldview and more about her vast, earth-moving popularity.”

“It’s not because she is rich, famous, and beautiful,” Olmstead noted. “It’s because of her vast influence over a younger demographic that conservatives have famously struggled to attract or exert an influence upon themselves.”

Trump Tears Into Auto Union Leader After Losing Endorsement to Biden

Donald Trump is beyond pissed after losing the UAW’s endorsement.

David Becker/Getty Images

Donald Trump lit into the president of the United Auto Workers after the union endorsed Joe Biden ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

During a Sunday appearance on Face the Nation, UAW chief Shawn Fain explained why the powerful organization chose to throw its weight behind Biden. Fain said Biden “has always bet on the American worker and stood with the American worker,” particularly during his presidency. Trump, meanwhile, “has a history of serving himself and standing for the billionaire class.”

Trump exploded at Fain on social media Sunday night, which is a great way to get someone to start liking you and change their presidential endorsement.

55% of the industry has already left the U.S., and the rest will soon be following if I am not elected President,” Trump wrote on TruthSocial. “Shawn Fain doesn’t understand this or have a clue. Get rid of this dope & vote for DJT. I will bring the Automobile Industry back to our Country.”

Since becoming UAW president less than a year ago, Fain has had a banner time at the union’s helm. He organized a series of escalating strikes against the so-called Big Three: General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler). The strike, the first ever conducted against the trio, was wildly successful. Autoworkers won huge contract gains, and the outcome prompted Honda and Toyota to hike workers’ pay.

The UAW endorsed Biden last week after months of withholding its support. Fain stressed during his Sunday interview that the endorsement had to be earned.

Joe Biden has a history of serving others, and serving the working class, and fighting for the working class, standing with the working class,” Fain said.

Trump, on the other hand, has for nearly two decades repeatedly disparaged the working class, undermined union demands for better working conditions, and blamed laborers for downturns in the economy. He even “cycled through White House staff like toilet paper,” Fain said, a sign of how little he cares for others.

“I can’t fathom any union would support Donald Trump for president,” Fain said.

Republican Lawmakers Urge Biden to Directly Attack Iran Right Now

Republicans in Congress are trying to push us closer to the brink of war.

Senator Lindsey Graham wears a suit and speaks at a podium, gesturing with his hand. A blurry Tom Cotton is in the background.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

GOP hawks are demanding that President Joe Biden hit back against Iran after a drone strike from an Iran-backed militia killed three American soldiers and injured at least 34 U.S. personnel at a Jordan base on Sunday.

“I am calling on the Biden Administration to strike targets of significance inside Iran, not only as reprisal for the killing of our forces, but as deterrence against future aggression,” Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement just hours after the news broke.

“The only thing the Iranian regime understands is force. Until they pay a price with their infrastructure and their personnel, the attacks on U.S. troops will continue,” he added. “Hit Iran now. Hit them hard.”

Other members of Republican leadership—who have spent months stalling on supplying aid to two other war fronts America is already involved in—showed similar bloodlust.

“He left our troops as sitting ducks, and now three are dead and dozens wounded, sadly as I’ve predicted would happen for months,” said Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. “The only answer to these attacks must be devastating military retaliation against Iran’s terrorist forces, both in Iran and across the Middle East. Anything less will confirm Joe Biden as a coward unworthy of being commander in chief.”

Senate Minority Mitch McConnell issued a similar statement, highlighting that all eyes are on Biden as to whether he will “exercise American strength to compel Iran to change its behavior” and impose “serious, crippling costs” for Iran’s “front-line terrorist proxies” and the country’s sponsors “who wear American blood as a badge of honor.”

Senator John Cornyn specifically called for the U.S. military to “target Tehran,” the capital city of Iran, before later backtracking to say that he meant the “IRGC and Quds Force terrorist facilitators.”

“The head of the snake is Iran,” Representative Don Bacon, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, told Axios. “We should find smart Iranian targets that are low risk of our aircraft getting shot down and teach Iran a lesson.”

The Iranian government denied involvement in the attack on Monday.

Biden has vowed to retaliate against Iran for the attack, though foreign policy experts believe he is likely weighing a “Goldilocks” response—not too hard that it would incite a full-fledged war or escalate the situation in Gaza but not too soft that it prolongs the conflict, according to The New York Times.

E. Jean Carroll Vows to Use Her $83.3 Million on Something Trump Hates

E. Jean Carroll just won a massive defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump—and she knows exactly what she’s going to do with the money.

E. Jean Carroll
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Writer E. Jean Carroll revealed Monday she has some big plans for the $83.3 million Donald Trump owes her for defamation.

Trump owes Carroll the massive amount for defaming her in 2019 after she revealed he sexually abused her in the mid-1990s. A jury awarded Carroll $7.3 million for damage to her reputation, $11 million for emotional harm, and $65 million for punitive damages.

In a Monday morning interview with Good Morning America, Carroll described the overwhelming “elation” she felt after the verdict. When asked if she knew what she wanted to do with the money, Carroll said she had an idea.

“I’d like to give the money to something Donald Trump hates,” she said. “If it will cause him pain for me to give money to certain things, that’s my intent. Well, perhaps a fund for the women who have been sexually assaulted by Donald Trump.”

Carroll is far from the only woman to accuse Trump of sexual assault, with at least 26 other women accusing Trump of some form of misconduct. Carroll’s lawsuits were the first to make it to a courtroom. Trump has vehemently denied all of the allegations, aiming particular vitriol at Carroll, including multiple times during this most recent trial.

In fact, even after the verdict was handed down, Trump continued to insist that he had never met Carroll before and to share negative posts about her on TruthSocial.

Trump now owes Carroll a total of $88.3 million. In May, a separate jury unanimously found Trump liable of sexual abuse and battery against Carroll and of defaming her a different time. That jury recommended Carroll be awarded $5 million in damages.

Pro-Trump Network OAN Sent Sidney Powell Explosive Email on Smartmatic After 2020

Smartmatic lawyers are accusing One America News Network of possible “criminal activities.”

Sidney Powell wears a black turtleneck and a cheetah print cardigan. This is a closeup while she is speaking.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Former Trump attorney Sidney Powell

While Donald Trump and his associates were peddling election fraud schemes in an effort to undermine the 2020 presidential election results, pro-Trump broadcast network One America News was operating its own mission to sabotage voting machine company Smartmatic.

In the immediate aftermath of the January 6 Capitol riot, OAN’s chief executives passed along a volatile email to Trump attorney Sidney Powell that included a spreadsheet of Smartmatic’s employees with their company passwords.

The sender of the January 8, 2021, email was identified by CNN as OAN president Charles Herring, via public materials related to Smartmatic’s case and court documents from other 2020-related lawsuits.

Lawyers for Smartmatic related to a federal judge that the contents of the full email and its attached spreadsheet suggest that OAN executives “may have engaged in criminal activities” because they “appear to have violated state and federal laws regarding data privacy,” per CNN.

“OAN denies that its executive team ‘may have engaged in criminal activities.’ This vague accusation is a clumsy attempt to smear OAN and to divert attention from Smartmatic’s own misconduct,” OAN lawyer Charles Babcock told the outlet.

Another legal filing by an ex–Dominion Voting Systems employee accuses Herring’s father, OAN founder Robert Herring, of forwarding a similar spreadsheet to Trump’s wannabe friend, election-denier and broke MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. The filing, from a defamation case against Lindell, specifies that the email contained “password information for employees of several voting systems providers.”

The court documents do not make clear how OAN accessed Smartmatic’s records or whether the passwords distributed to Trump’s allies were accurate.

OAN is already in boiling water in regard to its election denialism. The bite-size network—which has struggled financially since it was dropped by practically every cable provider, from DirecTV to Verizon—competed in a race to the bottom with Fox to seed election lies. That could put the MAGA station in the tank for a gigantic settlement payout like Fox, which last year paid out a historic $787 million settlement to Dominion for its election lies.

Nancy Pelosi Blasted for Bizarre Smear About Pro-Palestinian Activists

Pelosi wants the FBI to investigate pro-Palestinian protesters.

Representative Nancy Pelosi wears a purple blazer and is speaking while seated.
Jemal Countess/Getty Images for TIME

Representative Nancy Pelosi accused pro-Palestine protesters of having links to Russia and called for the FBI to investigate them.

During a Sunday interview with CNN’s State of the Union, Pelosi was asked if she was worried that younger voters would abandon President Joe Biden due to his resistance to a cease-fire.

For them to call for a cease-fire is Mr. Putin’s message,” Pelosi said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what he would like to see.”

“I think some of these protesters are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some, I think, are connected to Russia.”

When asked if she thought some of the pro-Palestinian protesters were Russian plants, Pelosi said, “I don’t think they’re plants. I think some financing should be investigated. And I want to ask the FBI to investigate that.”

Israel’s constant bombardment of Gaza has killed more than 26,500 people, primarily women and children, since October 7, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The vast majority of Americans, particularly younger voters, support a cease-fire. Growing numbers of lawmakers have also begun to call for an end to the fighting, but the White House continues to back Israel.

Pelosi’s comments sparked immediate backlash. The executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, called Pelosi’s claim “delusional” and her call for an FBI investigation “downright authoritarian.”

Sadly, Rep. Pelosi’s comments echo a time in our nation when opponents of the Vietnam War were accused of being communist sympathizers and subjected to FBI harassment,” he said in a statement.

“Instead of baselessly smearing those Americans as Russian collaborators, former House Speaker Pelosi and other political leaders should respect the will of the American people by calling for an end to the Netanyahu government’s genocidal war on the people of Gaza.”

Many people on social media were quick to point out the hypocrisy of Pelosi’s comments. The majority of people who support a cease-fire are politically neutral or left-leaning, including thousands of Black American pastors, Doctors Without Borders, and according to some polls, 80 percent of Democratic voters.

Others pointed out that the specific call for an FBI investigation marked a dangerous shift in the government’s stance on involving law enforcement against anti-war efforts. Widespread crackdowns against pro-Palestine speech have been compared to a new wave of McCarthyism.

Biden’s refusal to call for a cease-fire could well cost him in November. His popularity among young voters has dropped dramatically, primarily due to his stance on Israel. Biden’s campaign manager traveled last week to Detroit, which has a large Arab-American community. Many of the community leaders refused to meet with her over Biden’s Gaza policies.

Judge in E. Jean Carroll Trial Gives Jury Ominous Warning After Damning Trump Verdict

Judge Lewis Kaplan thanked the jurors for their verdict on Donald Trump—and then warned them about how to stay safe.

Donald Trump in the courtroom. Others stand around him, including his legal team and a security guard.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Judge Lewis Kaplan had just a few short words to share with the jury moments after they issued a whopping $83.3 million verdict against Donald Trump in the defamation case brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

“My advice to you is that you never disclose that you were on this jury,” Kaplan said.

That foreboding warning—which sounds more like something you’d expect to hear in a trial against a mob boss rather than a former president—is just one of many extraordinary measures that Kaplan has taken to keep his jury safe. Prior to the trial’s start, Kaplan also decided to keep the jury partially sequestered and fully anonymous, instructing them not to use their real names even with one another.

Trump proved moments after the trial that there’s a good reason for the extra precautions, launching into a social media diatribe in which he claimed he would be attempting to appeal the decision.

“Absolutely ridiculous! I fully disagree with both verdicts, and will be appealing this whole Biden Directed Witch Hunt focused on me and the Republican Party,” Trump posted on Truth Social. “Our Legal System is out of control, and being used as a Political Weapon. They have taken away all First Amendment Rights. THIS IS NOT AMERICA!”

Trump was already found liable for sexually assaulting Carroll. With fines from the previous trial, he now owes Carroll a total of $88.3 million.