The Weekly Pulse, June 13-19: Health News You Should Know

For The Weekly Pulse (a revisit of an old Ms. column!), we’ve scoured the most trusted journalistic sources—and, of course, our Twitter feeds—to bring you this week’s most important news stories related to health and wellness.

In this edition of The Weekly Pulse, we do a deep-dive into Black health risks; the Trump administration’s relentless attacks against LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights; a SCOTUS win for the trans community; and the most recent updates for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Racism is a Public Health Crisis. Black Health is in Jeopardy:

+ According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans between the ages of 18 and 49 are twice as likely to die from heart disease than white Americans. Black Americans between 35 and 64 are also 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, three times more likely to have kidney failure and 60 percent more likely to have diabetes than white Americans—all conditions that leave individuals at increased vulnerability for contracting COVID-19.

(Peter Chin-Hong MD @PCH_SF / Twitter)

+ Caught in the cross-hairs of the COVID-19 global pandemic and national crisis of police brutality, grief exists as yet another risk to Black mothers and their health.

+ Black trans people are also subject to increased health risks due to discrimination. Moreover, Black LGBTQ+ identifying individuals—especially Black trans women—are disproportionately the target of violent hate crimes.

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Trump’s Attack on Trans Rights Thwarted by SCOTUS Ruling:

+ On June 12, the Trump administration announced its final decision to roll back Section 1557 of Affordable Care Act, which protects transgender patients from discrimination. Under the previous Obama-era regulations, medical providers could not refuse care to a trans person because of their gender identity. 

Notably, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the decision during Pride Month and on the anniversary of the tragic mass shooting of 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fl. 

In a joint press release, the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus and Democratic Women’s Caucus responded to the decision:

“To finalize a rule that will embolden discrimination […] is both cruel and unconscionable.”

+ Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling just three days later announcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ employees from discrimination in the work place. It is not immediately clear how the ruling will affect the HHS’s decision, but legal experts say that the precedent set by the Supreme Court’s ruling will likely provide the grounds for favorable decisions on future cases involving LGBTQ rights.

COVID-19 Updates:

+ Despite the upward weekly trends in the number of new daily coronavirus cases in 21 states and stagnant weekly trends in eight states, many state and local governments are continuing to reopen their economies and relax stay-at-home orders. 

However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned the pandemic “isn’t over” and pointed out, “We’re still at the beginning of really understanding [the novel coronavirus].”

In the meantime, President Trump told Fox News in an interview, “We won’t be closing the country again.” 

In fact, President Trump still plans to move forward with his campaign rally at an indoor venue in Tulsa, Okla., on June 20—despite warnings from local health officials to postpone the rally out of fear it could become a “super spreader” event. (Perhaps President Trump should take note of the success of women-led countries in responding to the pandemic.) 

+ Meanwhile, researchers are racing to learn more about COVID-19. One study found people under twenty years old are half as susceptible to the virus compared to people over the age of twenty. In another study, the drug dexamethasone was shown to increase survival rates in one-third of patients on ventilators and one-fifth of patients receiving supplemental oxygen.

+ Finally, although vaccines for the novel coronavirus are likely many months away, a senior Trump administration official announced they expect health insurers will not charge patients copays for the vaccine. 

Reproductive Rundown: 

+ The Trump administration has attacked previous patient protections under the Affordable Care Act by issuing a rule that impedes upon health care discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ patients and patients who have received an abortion. 

+ Over 100 U.S. representatives have sent a letter to the FDA urging them to lift mailing restrictions for medications used for abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic. This body represents the largest group of officials to publicly address support for removing the unnecessary barriers. 

+ On Monday via Zoom, Judge Steven C. Jones heard arguments in regard to Georgia’s controversial abortion law passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in 2019. The unnecessary law bans abortions as early as six weeks by choosing to recognize a fetus as a person; however, Judge Jones temporarily blocked the law from going into effect back in October until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling on a similar Louisiana abortion case.

+ On Friday, the Tennessee legislature passed a bill banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected—generally after six weeks of gestation. Multiple lawmakers in Tennessee have made it clear one of the goals of the bill is to bring a court case to the Supreme Court in the hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade.

Tennessee Senator Mike Bell (R.-Riceville), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, commented, “We know something on its face is going to have to be unconstitutional to challenge Roe … that’s part of it. But we want to give our bill the best chance possible to get there.” He went on to state that the bill will create “multiple shots” for Tennessee to bring the case to the Supreme Court.

+ Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate have passed a last-minute, 24-hour waiting period for abortions. If enforced, the law would prevent individuals looking to receive an abortion from receiving the procedure during their initial visit and force them to accrue additional expenses through travel and care. 

+ A survey by three universities highlights that 57 percent of Americans believe the Louisiana abortion restriction—June Medical Services v. Russo—violates constitutional rights.

+ A new study from NARAL found that in the first half of 2019, 77 percent of media coverage about abortion used a politically-focused lens instead of portraying it as a health care issue.

+ Researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham found that transmission of COVID-19 between new mothers and infants is relatively low, as researchers were able to see that COVID infection rates did not increase with vaginal births, breastfeeding or other close contact.

About and

Corinne Ahrens is a recent graduate of The American University where she studied Political Science with a specialization in Gender, Race, & Politics as well as Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Corinne has been writing for Ms. since October 2019 and is a former Ms. editorial intern. She currently works at Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy in their Philadelphia office.
Giselle Hengst recently graduated from Vanderbilt University with degrees in Women's & Gender Studies and Medicine, Health, & Society. She is currently an editorial and social media intern at Ms. magazine.