The Weekly Pulse, June 20-26: 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 take a look at the newest updates on the coronavirus pandemic; accelerating abortion attacks; the connection between racism, demonstrations and Black health; as well as recent risks to reproductive health.

The Weekly Pulse, June 20-26: Health News You Should Know
A June 26 “White Coats for Black Lives” protest in Greenville, N.C. (@giselleblair4 / Twitter)

Coronavirus Pandemic Surging

+ Since the beginning of the pandemic, public health officials have been warning reopening the economy too soon—especially without widespread mask wearing, frequent hand washing, social distancing and testing capabilities—would lead to an uptick in cases of COVID-19. So it’s no surprise that on Wednesday, June 24, the United States experienced the highest single-day increase in coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with more than 34,000 new cases reported. 

The stock market reacted by falling 2.6 percent—proving reopening the economy does little good without a firm control on the pandemic. 

Because of the United States’ failure to adequately address the pandemic, the European Union is planning to bar travel from the United States. The U.S. currently has almost 2.4 million coronavirus cases and over 120,000 COVID-19 related deaths, which is more than any other country.

+ In addition to the larger U.S., the state of Texas saw its highest ever single day increase in cases on Wednesday, June 24. That same day, Governor Greg Abbott told the public “closing down Texas again will always be the last option.” However, by Thursday, Gov. Abbott announced a “temporary pause” in the state’s plan to enter the next phase of reopening the Texas economy. In certain regions—particularly in Houston—hospitals are struggling to keep up as intensive care units are close to or exceeding maximum capacity. As of June 25, Texas had reported 129,654 cases, with 2,279 COVID-19 related deaths.

+ New York, Connecticut and New Jersey are now requiring travelers entering from states where the coronavirus outbreak is high to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the “joint-travel advisory” currently applies to visitors from North and South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Texas, Arizona and Utah. 

All About Abortion 

+ The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is expected to release its decision on June Medical Services v. Russo this month. The case stemmed from a challenge to a Louisiana TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) law. The ruling has the potential to be the most consequential SCOTUS decision on abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973. 

Importantly, laws that restrict or ban access to abortion are inherently classist and racist because they disproportionately harm low-income women and women of color—particularily Black women. TRAP laws burden women by making abortions difficult to afford and difficult to obtain by requiring women to travel longer distances for care. 

Due to a variety of economic and social disparities, Black women have abortions at a higher rate than white women. Black women are disproportionately criminalized for seeking an abortion in places where it is restricted. Furthermore, Black women seeking abortions are subject to seeing racist anti-abortion signage, like a billboard in New York that read, “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American Is in the Womb.” 

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+ A six-week abortion bill passed by Tennessee lawmakers earlier this month is being challenged in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood. Providers have asked the judge presiding over the case to temporarily halt implementation of the law while the case is being litigated.

In Iowa, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are suing after the legislature passed a bill that requires people seeking an abortion to wait 24 hours between patient’s initial appointment and receiving the abortion. 

In Mississippi, the legislature passed a bill that bans abortion based on the sex, race or genetic abnormalities in the fetus, such as Down Syndrome. The move is not a surprise, given the state’s history of chipping away at abortion rights.

Racism, Demonstrations and Black Health 

+ Demonstrations in response to police brutality and racism have raised fears of a spike in Coronavirus cases.  However, research shows that Black Lives Matter protests have not led to a spike in cases. 

A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research used data from over 300 protests in the country’s largest cities and “found no evidence that Coronavirus cases rgew in the weeks following the beginning of the protests. In fact, researchers determined that social distancing behaviors actually went up after the protests—as people tried to avoid the protests altogether.”

A June 19 Black Lives Matter protest in Chicago. (@RichieRequena / Twitter)

+ Though it is easy to point out potential risks for demonstrations, experts have noted that racism is a health crisis when it deeply affects physical or mental wellbeing, certain illnesses or conditions disproportionately impact Black patients and research has shown that there are discrepancies when it comes to Black versus white patient care. 

Reproductive Risks

+ A recent report from the Guttmacher Institute shows the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on sexual and reproductive health, including: childbearing preferences; contraceptive use; access to contraception; telemedicine for contraceptive care; and exposure to intimate partner violence. 

While sexual and reproductive health care impacted by COVID-19 has been overwhelmingly affected by the pandemic, “these effects have not been evenly distributed and tend to be felt by groups bearing the brunt of existing inequities.”

Some of the study’s key findings:

  • One-third of women said they wanted to get pregnant later or wanted fewer children because of the pandemic—with Black women (44 percent) and Hispanic women (48 percent) more likely than white women (28 percent) to say so.
  • One-third of women said because of COVID-19, they were forced to to delay or cancel their visit to a health care provider for sexual and reproductive health care, or had trouble getting their birth control. “Such barriers to timely care were more common among Black (38 percent) and Hispanic (45 percent) women than among white women (29 percent), and more common among queer women (46%) than among straight women (31 percent).”
  • Sixteen percent of women reported experiencing intimate partner violence so far this year.

+ One in three individuals struggled to get birth control and other reproductive health care due to the coronavirus, with delays and cancelations hindering professionals’ ability to care for patients. 

+ Despite what some believed would be an inevitable ‘baby-boom’ following spring lockdown precautions, the coronavirus pandemic also has proved itself to be more of a ‘baby-bust’ by reducing expected births by up to 50,000. 

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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.