June 29, 2022

Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas about the coronavirus and other timely topics for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

This post from a Texas physician caught my attention:

In May, when the impending Supreme Court decision was leaked and it seemed certain that a ruling against the constitutional protection for abortions was on the way, online searches for “vasectomy” rose. Google documented that trend.

But notice that since Friday’s decision, there has been very little change, except in some states where anti-abortion laws are in effect or will be soon.  Google searches for “female sterilization options” are also on the rise after a significant spike in May.

(Google Trends)

The New York Times reports:

Planned Parenthood Southeast in Atlanta was getting more calls than usual from people concerned that their options surrounding pregnancy were diminishing, said Lauren Frazier, a spokeswoman. “They want to know how many birth control pills they can stockpile,” said Ms. Frazier, who said there also were questions about emergency contraception, vasectomies and tubal ligations.

Drugstores limiting sales of Plan B pills

In this May 2, 2013 photo, pharmacist Simon Gorelikov holds a generic emergency contraceptive, also called the morning-after pill, at the Health First Pharmacy in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

CVS, Walmart and Rite Aid are all limiting over-the-counter contraceptive pills after the Supreme Court ruling ignited a run on sales. CVS said it has an adequate supply of the pills but wants to be sure it could provide “equitable access and consistent supply on store shelves.” Walgreens, meanwhile, is not limiting sales of the pills.

So-called Plan B or morning-after pills temporarily interfere with ovulation and prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual activity. As Kaiser Family Foundation explains, abortion pills are different.

Why some blame late Justice Ginsburg for the abortion ruling

This is an interesting line of thought. Some people who are upset about the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling are blaming late Justice Ruth Ginsburg for not retiring while Barack Obama was president so Democrats would have had a shot at placing a sympathetic justice on the court. That one seat would not have changed this eventual vote, but it is an interesting take on retirement timing.

Companies worry about controversial abortion conversations at work

The Morning Brew newsletter mentioned how nervous some employers are about employees having conversations about the news of the day:

Meta says no abortion talk at work. On Friday, the tech giant reiterated its policy of barring employees from having “social, political, and sensitive conversations” in the company’s internal messaging platforms. It first sent a memo to employees on May 12 after the leaked draft opinion was published, arguing that discussing abortion openly raises the risk of a “hostile work environment.”

Patagonia and Live Nation, on the other hand, said they’d provide bail to employees who are arrested while protesting.

The Washington Post reports:

Walt Disney, JPMorgan Chase and Dick’s Sporting Goods said Friday they would cover employee travel expenses for abortions in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade, joining the ranks of corporate giants scrambling to adjust to the new reality.

Disney said the “family planning” benefit would be extended to any worker who cannot access care where they live, including “pregnancy-related decisions.” The company employs 195,000 worldwide, including roughly 80,000 in Florida.

Dick’s Sporting Goods will reimburse as much as $4,000 in abortion travel expenses “to the nearest location where that care is legally available” for employees, their spouses and dependents in states where access is restricted, chief executive Lauren Hobart announced on Friday on LinkedIn.

“We recognize people feel passionately about this topic — and that there are teammates and athletes who will not agree with this decision,” Hobart said. “However, we also recognize that decisions involving health and families are deeply personal and made with thoughtful consideration. We are making this decision so our teammates can access the same health care options, regardless of where they live, and choose what is best for them.”

State abortion laws will cause friction between states

NBC News explores the upcoming problems when one state bans abortions and the next one embraces people who cross borders to get medical care. NBC compared this moment to the legal issues the nation faced during the Civil War:

Experts say it is conceivable that a person could be wanted for a felony in an anti-abortion rights state but protected from extradition in a pro-abortion rights state. The governor of Massachusetts has already imposed rules forbidding state officers from cooperating in abortion investigations. California’s governor signed a bill seeking to protect from civil liability anyone providing, aiding or receiving abortion care in the state. Texas law, however, lets private citizens sue out-of-state abortion providers, and Missouri is considering a similar law.

“What we had in the years leading up to the Civil War was a failure of what lawyers call comity, the idea that states will respect other states’ laws” for reasons of courtesy, consideration and mutual respect, said Ariela J. Gross, a professor of law and history at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. “That starts to break down when you have these really stark differences over an issue involving a fundamental right, and that’s what happened in the years leading up to the Civil War.”

After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, federal statutes required Northern states to assist Southern slave owners and their bounty hunters in capturing enslaved people who had escaped north to states that had banned slavery. But many Northern states passed laws to impede cooperation and enforcement.

The parallel to abortion is that “you literally are pursuing people across state borders for seeking medical care that is legal,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. “It’s a completely mind-blowing concept.”

Gas stations putting a $100+ hold on debit cards

Don’t be surprised when, even if you are putting $30 worth of gas in your car, your gas station puts a hold on $125. That means the gas station is holding your money just in case you overdraft and the station is left holding the bag. Banks call it a “pre-authorization” hold. Hotels have been doing it for years when you pay for a room with a debit card. Usually, the hold is lifted after 24 hours, but it also means that you have to have enough in your account to cover it.

How some Black families lost generational wealth

Axios Charlotte has a story that I suspect you could tell in many cities around the country. The story is about how cities took land that was part of thriving Black communities and bulldozed what was there in the name of development. Now, years later, the is worth a fortune.

Here are a few passages:

An Axios review of some deed records reveals that homeowners, churches and other institutions were forced to sell property for a fraction of what some of Charlotte’s most prime real estate is worth now.

Many deeds listed the same sale price — $100. That was a standard practice for deeds in the post-war era, historian Michael Moore tells me. So, it’s difficult to ascertain how much those property owners were actually compensated.

One of Charlotte’s most successful Black families at that time, the Alexanders, were paid just $13,000 for property at what was then 415 East Stonewall Street (now Brooklyn Village Avenue), near the NASCAR Hall of Fame. That’s according to Moore, who, despite the deed listing $100 for the sale price, calculated the true price using the revenue stamps in an analysis for Axios.

Using an inflation calculator, we determined that the four Alexander brothers and their wives brought in the equivalent of $125,823 in today’s dollars from the Stonewall Street sale, total.

The property that includes the NASCAR Hall of Fame is now worth $197 million, per county property records, $29.5 million of which comes from the land alone.

The first place I would look to pursue these stories might be where interstates, especially bypass interstates, were built around cities. Time and again you will find they split once-thriving Black enterprise areas.

Why is owning a home getting less and less attractive compared to renting?

A new report by the John Burns Real Estate Consulting firm details the cost of renting versus owning a home. The new calculations show how, compared to history, the cost of owning a home has gotten completely out of whack.


The report says:

A little over a year ago, the monthly cost of owning (as we calculate it*) and renting were virtually identical. Now, owning a home costs $839 more per month than renting. This differential is almost $200 higher than at any time since the turn of the century.

While rents have been rising too, the disparity between rising homeownership costs and rising rents has been greatest where home prices have accelerated the most. Raleigh-Durham, Nashville, Denver, Tampa, and Phoenix have all witnessed the biggest disparity in increasing homeownership versus rental costs, as shown below. We expect rental demand to be particularly strong in these 5 growing markets this coming year.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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