Fifth Circuit Court knocks down Texas abortion ban | The Latest | Gambit Weekly

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Tuesday evening a Texas law banning the most common and safest type of second trimester abortion, marking an unlikely victory for reproductive rights advocates from one of the most conservative appeals courts. 

The statute effectively outlawed the dilation and evacuation procedure, known as D&E, in which doctors open the cervix and remove fetal tissue from the uterus. The law would only allow the procedure, the one usually used for abortions after 14 weeks of pregnancy, if the “fetal demise” occurs in the uteruswhich would require an invasive additional step for doctors and women that is not part of a typical D&E. 

In its Whole Woman’s Health v. Ken Paxton decision, the Fifth Circuit ruled that the law unduly burdens a woman’s constitutionally-protected right to obtain a previability abortion” because it “requires a woman to undergo an additional and medically unnecessary procedure to cause fetal demise before she may obtain a dilation and evacuation abortion.”  

Louisiana passed a similar law in 2016, with exceptions only for a serious health risk to the mother, but it is not currently in effect. Several other states have had their own bans challenged in courtincluding Alabama, Kansas and Oklahoma. It is unclear if the ruling will apply to Louisiana and Mississippi, which are also in the Fifth Circuit’s jurisdiction and have similar bans on the books. 

The Texas law started out as a bill banning a late-term abortion procedure that was already outlawed at the federal level in 2003 and forbidding the sale or donation of embryonic and fetal tissue. But after several amendments, the final form of the law had many other parts, including requiring the burial or cremation of embryonic and fetal tissue. The D&E ban, however, was the biggest change. 

The law also included criminal penalties for doctors who did not adhere to it. 

Eight licensed abortion clinics and three abortion providers challenged the Texas law, and the Fifth Circuit, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, ruled in their favor and against the state of Texas. 

The ruling in favor of abortion rights comes as Louisiana residents begin to vote on whether they want to add an amendment to the state constitution declaring it does not include the right to abortion. It also comes in the midst of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearings. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Barrett would give the court and even stronger anti-abortion majority, which could impact decades of future abortion legislation. 

Barrett is from Louisiana.

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Coronavirus struck Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Will Latinos strike back with their votes?

Slowly, the strength that drained from Irene Morales’ body in her summer battle with Covid-19 is returning. What she won’t get back are her brother, her sister, her father and her aunt, all taken as the coronavirus has swept through Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

The erasure of Morales’ family and Covid-19’s ruthlessness also wiped away her indecision about the presidential candidates. Her vote will pay respect to her family; she’ll be voting for Joe Biden, she said.

Speaking of President Donald Trump, Morales, 75, of Rio Grande City in Starr County, said: “It’s a little disappointing when I hear him say: ‘Don’t be afraid of Covid. Nothing has happened.’ Well, thank God. How lucky for him that he didn’t suffer. … Why have so many other people died? This the true Covid.”

Texas opened early voting Tuesday. Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs announced 16.9 million people had registered to vote—up 1.8 million from 2016, as of the latest numbers. In the four Rio Grande Valley counties — Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr and Willacy —registrations are up at least a combined 76,770.

But the numbers looming large in this part of the state are those that tell the story of the toll of the coronavirus.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

The four core counties of the Lower Rio Grande Valley had logged nearly 70,000 coronavirus cases by Monday; nearly 3,000 people had died. Nearby Webb County, home to Laredo, and Zapata County, both on the border, added more than 14,700 more cases and 303 more deaths.

“There is not one person in Hidalgo County that hasn’t been affected by this horrible virus,” Hidalgo County Democratic chair Norma Ramirez said. That includes her. The virus killed Sergio Muñoz Sr., a former state legislator who was the county party’s vice chair, in July.

IMAGE: Irene Morales (Courtesy Irene Morales)
IMAGE: Irene Morales (Courtesy Irene Morales)

For Democrats to tip the election in Texas — the last Democratic presidential nominee to win the state was Jimmy Carter in 1976 — they’ll need improved turnout and more voters from the state’s almost all-Latino lower Rio Grande Valley and parts of South Texas. The counties are Democratic strongholds.

Community groups working to register and turn out voters, mostly through phone calls and texts, but also with some door-to-door work, say the virus’ devastation has become a motivator. They said Latinos are recognizing not only that their community has been devastated by the disease, but also that the years of inequities they have put up with worsened the impact of the coronavirus in the region.

Unemployment numbers here rose to levels not recorded since before 2000. Vehicle and foot traffic on the international bridges — the area’s economic engine — has been curtailed, hitting the border cities’ retail sectors that profit from Mexican shoppers.

The area already is far poorer than other parts of the state. It contends with high prevalences of diabetes and obesity, and about 30 percent of adults in three of the counties don’t have health insurance.

El Paso Is New Texas Hot Spot; U.S. Death Gap Seen: Virus Update

Jen Apodaca, organizer for the Detained Migrant Solidarity Comittee, poses for a portrait in her car after she participated in a caravan protest around Immigration and Customs Enforcement El Paso Processing Center to demand the release of ICE detainees due to safety concerns amidst the COVID-19 outbreak on April 16, 2020 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Paul Ratje / Agence France-Presse / AFP) (Photo by PAUL RATJE/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images)

Jen Apodaca, organizer for the Detained Migrant Solidarity Comittee, poses for a portrait in her car after she participated in a caravan protest around Immigration and Customs Enforcement El Paso Processing Center to demand the release of ICE detainees due to safety concerns amidst the COVID-19 outbreak on April 16, 2020 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Paul Ratje / Agence France-Presse / AFP) (Photo by PAUL RATJE/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images)

PAUL RATJE, Contributor / Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images

(Bloomberg) — Texas dispatched 75 nurses, respiratory specialists and other medical personnel to El Paso in response to a surge in Covid-19 cases, Governor Greg Abbott said on Monday. Masks and other personal protective equipment are also being delivered.

El Paso reported 424 new cases that pushed the city’s cumulative total to 6,145. The border town is seeing cases climb at a similar rate to Houston, which has almost five times El Paso’s population.

“This surge in medical personnel and PPE will help support El Paso’s hospitals and first responders as we mitigate the spread of this virus,” Abbott said in a statement.


The El Paso region has a higher percentage of hospital beds occupied by virus patients than anywhere else in Texas, according to state health department figures.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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Texas Dems highlight health care in fight to flip state House

Texas Democrats are making health care the heart of their final pitch as they look to flip the state House, which Republicans have held since 2002.

In a “contract with Texas” that Democrats are rolling out Thursday and which was shared first with The Hill, the party is touting policies it would try to enact should it flip the net nine seats it needs to gain control of the chamber. The central pillar of the plan is expanding Medicaid in Texas, which has the highest number and rate of uninsured people in the nation, as well as boosting coverage for children and making care for women more equal. 

The party is betting that voters in the state who normally rank health care as a top issue will be even more receptive to messages around expanding coverage in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the Lone Star State particularly hard. And after Democrats across the country won in a “blue wave” in 2018 fueled by promises to improve coverage, Texas Democrats are confident their strategy will work. 

“I think we have seen for a while now, before the pandemic, before any of us heard of coronavirus, that health care was a top-ranked issue, really across the country. Certainly in the 2018 elections, health care was a key issue that year,” said state Rep. Chris Turner, chair of the Texas House Democratic caucus. “But this year, with this pandemic, with the health care crisis that is affecting everyone, it’s just through the roof right now. People expect policymakers to address health care access.” 

The heart of the Democrats’ “Affordable Health Care for Every Texan” plan is providing coverage for 2.2 million more residents by expanding Medicaid, which the party says would also lower premiums and prescription drug prices for all Texans. Estimates from the party gauge that Texas would receive $110 billion in federal money over a decade if Medicaid is expanded. 

The plan also calls for expanding coverage for children by extending children’s Medicaid “through 12 months of continuous eligibility to align with [the Children’s Health Insurance Program].”

Lastly, Democrats look to bolster women’s health care by ensuring access to abortion — including by ensuring clinics that offer the procedure receive proper funding — and reducing maternal mortality rates, including bringing down the disproportionate rate at which Black mothers die during childbirth.

The party is also eyeing other health care-related legislation, including bills to strengthen protections for people with preexisting conditions if ObamaCare is repealed and ending surprise medical billing.

Texas Democrats have long lamented Republicans’ policies on health care in the state, including their refusal to expand Medicaid and work to curb abortion access, but indicate those efforts would face reenergized resistance if they win back the state House.

“Without the gavel, we haven’t been able to dictate the tone and tenor of what happens on the floor, so this time around we will be able to keep divisive and hurtful legislation off the floor and we’ll

Texas Family Sues to Keep 10-Month-Old Baby on Life Support After Hospital Says He’s Brain-Dead

gofundme Nick Torres

A family in Texas is suing a children’s hospital to keep their baby on life support, after he was declared brain dead by doctors.

Nick Torres, 10 months, was taken to a Texas hospital on September 24 after he was found unconscious and unresponsive in a bathtub, CNN reported. He was transferred from the hospital’s intensive care unit and taken to Texas Children’s Hospital.

Within the week, doctors declared Nick brain dead, court documents obtained by CNN reportedly said.

But Nick’s parents, Mario and Ana Patricia Torres, believe that because their son’s heart is still beating on its own, he has a chance to live.

The couple has sued the hospital to keep Nick on life support, alleging in a complaint obtained by CNN that the hospital had been “rushing to make a decision.”

RELATED: Couple of 56 Years Die Hours Apart After Furnace Malfunctions Inside Their Illinois Home

The Texas Children’s Hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit’s senior medical director Dr. Matthew Musick said in court documents that Nick’s “current condition and physiological changes have nothing to do with the presence of oxygen provided by the ventilator. In addition, these changes cannot be stopped or slowed by the ventilator or any other service,” CNN reported.

The Torres’ sought an injunction against Texas Children’s and more than $1 million, CNN reported, though a judge denied it. Mario and Ana Patricia were given more time to file an accelerated appeal, and all sides were given until 5 p.m. Wednesday to present evidence to the court, according to the outlet.

The hospital maintains that it is “indisputable medical fact” that Nick showed “signs of postmortem deterioration,” court documents said, according to CNN, and that he had “developed progressive signs of organ failure, including cardiac failure.”

RELATED: Man, 25, Dies After Falling 250 Feet from Ariz. Cliff While Taking Photos

The hospital said that multiple evaluations, including one from the Texas Medical Center, showed “complete cessation of all spontaneous brain activity,” deeming Nick dead according to state law, CNN reported.

Texas Children’s Hospital told PEOPLE’s in a statement, “Our hearts are with the entire Torres family as they go through this unimaginable situation. We know losing a child is incredibly difficult for any family. Texas Children’s seeks to provide the most compassionate and appropriate care possible to every patient we serve.”

The Torres’ attorney Kevin Acevedo told CNN that the case is “about life and death, what we believe and who gets to choose when a child is taken off life support.”

“Do the parents choose, or do the doctors choose? And when the doctors don’t agree with the parents, who gets to decide?” Acevedo said. “And those are the issues that are at the heart of this case.”

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The First Black Dentist in Texas

Marcellus Cooper was born into slavery, in Dallas, on February 12, 1862. His mother was Black, his father was White, and his owners were the Caruth family. He went to grade school in a freedman’s town in what is now Lake Highlands. He was the treasurer of a Black library association and worked in a Jewish-owned department store while saving money for dentistry school. He opened a practice in a sanitarium operated by Texas’ first Black surgeon before moving to a building designed by Texas’ first Black architect.

Now, 91 years after his death, Cooper is set to get a historical marker on land that once belonged to his former owners.    

In the 1860s, John Caruth and his Confederate veteran sons, William and Walter, were one of the largest slave-holding families in Dallas. Cooper was born a slave on their plantation to Sallie Lively, also a slave, and a White man, also named M.C. Cooper. Less than one year after Cooper’s birth, on January 1, 1863, slaves in Texas were freed de jure, but they wouldn’t be freed de facto until June 19, 1865. The Caruths’ former slaves spread out, forced by vagrancy laws to form freedman’s towns such as Upper White Rock, in present-day Addison, and the Fields Community, in present-day Merriman Park. Cooper commenced school in Little Egypt, a freedman’s town in present-day Lake Highlands, but moved with his father to Springfield, Missouri, where he completed high school.

Cooper returned to Dallas after high school and hired on at Sanger Brothers Department Store. By January 1888, Cooper was serving as the treasurer of the Lincoln Library Association. Although records of the association are sparse, a January 31, 1888, Dallas Morning News article reported that “the best element of the colored people [who attended its events] spoke highly of the enterprise, and said that if the colored people are to be elevated it must be through the means of those intellectual and financial levers which have served in elevating other races.”

By 1891, after working for 11 years in the Sanger Brothers wholesale department, Cooper had saved sufficient funds to study dentistry at Meharry Medical College, in Nashville, Tennessee, the first medical school in the South for Blacks. A lack of records leaves us imagining why he chose that field and why he left what was presumably a good job where he was beloved. But news of his move was big enough that the paper covered it. “On the eve of his departure for Nashville,” the News reported on September 29, 1891, Sanger Brothers’ Black employees presented him with a gold-headed cane “in token of their appreciation.”

Dr. Cooper returned to Dallas in 1896, after finishing dental school, and opened an office on Commerce Street.


It is startling to think about what Cooper was able to accomplish, given the fierce racism he faced during the three decades he lived in Dallas after earning his doctorate. In addition to the use of vagrancy laws to force Black people into isolated

Boil-water notice lifted from Texas city where microbe found

LAKE JACKSON, Texas (AP) — A boil-water notice was lifted Tuesday from the drinking-water system of a Houston-area city where water tainted with a deadly, microscopic parasite was blamed for the death of a 6-year-old boy.

In a statement, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said Lake Jackson officials lifted the notice Tuesday after disinfectant levels in the drinking water were documented to be above the state requirements. Also, water samples tested negative for harmful bacteria.

However, the TCEQ urged users of Lake Jackson’s water to avoid getting it up their noses to reduce the risk of infection by the brain-eating microbe naegleria fowleri.

The boil-water notice was issued late last month after several days of flushing of the Brazosport Water Authority’s water delivery system. The flushing was ordered after three of 11 samples of the Lake Jackson’s water tested positive for the deadly flagellate.

One sample came from the home of Josiah McIntyre, the 6-year-old boy whom doctors said died earlier this month after being infected with the brain-eating parasite, city officials said.

The deadly amoeba does not cause an infection if it is in water that a person drinks as it is killed by normal levels of stomach acid. However, people can be infected when water containing the microbe enters the body through the nose

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued a disaster declaration for Lake Jackson, has said all indications point to the case being isolated and that the suspected problem in the boy’s death was traced back to a splash pad. The TCEQ said it and the city will conduct daily monitoring for the microbe going forward.

The Brazosport Water Authority initially warned eight communities on Sept. 25 not to use tap water for any reason except to flush toilets. It lifted that warning the next day for all communities but Lake Jackson, where the authority’s water treatment plant is situated. The advisory also was canceled for two state prisons and Dow Chemical’s massive Freeport works.

The ban was lifted in Lake Jackson on Sept. 27 but replaced with the boil-water notice.

Naegleria fowleri is a free-living microscopic amoeba, or single-celled living organism commonly found in warm freshwater and soil, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It usually infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. From there it travels to the brain and can cause a rare and debilitating disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis.

The infection is usually fatal and typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places such as lakes and rivers. In very rare instances, naegleria infections may also occur when contaminated water from other sources (such as inadequately chlorinated swimming pool water or heated and contaminated tap water) enters the nose.

“This is a terrible tragedy that made something that was rare, and even vanishingly rare, actually happen,” said John Hellersedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

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Local doctor named Texas Dentist of the Year

Dr. Gary M. Schwarz

HARLINGEN — Early on, Dr. Gary M. Schwarz was originally inspired to become a farmer like his father.

However, after his parents recommended he become a doctor or a dentist because of his love for biology, he became inspired to pursue a career in dentistry and oral surgery.

Schwarz grew up in the Valley and now has offices in Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco and McAllen.

To him, being a dentist and oral surgeon is a very rewarding career that helps make a difference in people’s lives.

On Sept. 17, Schwarz was selected as the 2020 Texas Dentist of the Year at the Texas Academy Awards celebration.

“Upon being announced the 2020 Texas Dentist of the Year, I am so shocked and I am so touched,” Schwarz stated. “I want to extend my thanks to the Rio Grande Valley Dental Society, Rio Grande Valley AGD, Rio Grande Valley Study Club and the Academy of General Dentistry. Most importantly, thank you to my staff, my beautiful wife and thank God. God is good.”

According to a press release from the Texas Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), this award is considered the most prestigious honor a Texas dentist can earn.

He was nominated by the Rio Grande Valley AGD and chosen from among 14 nominees by a panel of judges.

Nominations are received from local components of the Texas AGD and district dental societies from all areas of Texas.

The winner is determined based on contributions to dentistry, service to the community, dedication to principles of continuing education and other activities that indicate character and excellence.

The Texas AGD selects a dentist every year to honor as the Texas Dentist of the Year.

According to the press release, judges believed two dentists were deserving of the award this year and presented it to both Schwarz and Dr. C. Roger Macias of San Antonio.

“Schwarz has been deeply involved in organized dentistry for as long as he has been in practice and has served on all levels — local, statewide and national,” the press release states.

Schwarz received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry in 1978.

Early in his career, Schwarz met and studied with Dr. P.I. Brannemark.

According to the press release, this opportunity allowed Schwarz to open an implant center and begin mentoring dentists by providing a platform for regular and frequent continuing education programs.

“From the time he first started his practice, Schwarz’s mission has always been to take good care of anyone who came through the door,” the press release states.

According to the press release, Schwarz has been profoundly influenced by his mentor, Dr. D. Lamar Byrd who believed oral surgery was an essential service to the community, and with that came added responsibility.

“To this day, I believe it was sage advice and I have always conducted my practice with this core ethic in mind,” Schwarz stated.

Most recently, he served as president of

A Texas family lost four members to Covid-19. Now they want to save others from heartbreak.

The coronavirus had already killed Nieves Salas Solis’ mother and brother when he called his daughter from a hospital bed with a chilling message: “I’m next.”

Nieves, 62, who grew up in Dallas and in recent years lived in a Mexican border town doing community outreach, had a high fever and shortness of breath. It was mid-August, and he had managed to drive himself to a hospital in Harlingen, Texas, where doctors confirmed that he had Covid-19. But their efforts to clear his lungs were not working, said his daughter, Ana Alonso.

Ana knew her father was grieving his mother, Eva Solis-Salas, 89, who died Aug. 6, and a brother, Ruperto Salas Solis, 67, who died Aug. 10, after their own brief battles with the coronavirus.

IMAGE: Ana Alonso and Eva Solis-Salas (Ana Alonso)
IMAGE: Ana Alonso and Eva Solis-Salas (Ana Alonso)

But the thought of losing him, too, was unimaginable. Nieves was a “health freak” who ran up to 5 miles a day and had no underlying medical conditions, Ana said. Decades earlier, he had nearly become a professional boxer, turning down the opportunity only because Eva — a single mother to Nieves and nine other children — was afraid he would get hurt.

From her home in Mesquite, Texas, Ana begged her father to stay upbeat.

“You still have to fight,” she said she told him over FaceTime. “I said, ‘What do you have to say?’ And my dad put his hand up, and he flipped off the camera, and he said, ‘This is what I have to say to Covid.’ He kept saying, ‘F— Covid!'”

Nieves was always joking around, Ana said, and seeing his sense of humor from the hospital gave her hope. But his condition worsened, and on Aug. 22, he succumbed to the illness.

The Salas Solis family had now lost their matriarch and two of her sons. But their heartbreak was not over: On Sept. 15, another son, Raul Salas Solis, 64, also died of Covid-19 after having been hospitalized for more than a month.

The four deaths in less than six weeks, reported Tuesday by the Dallas Observer, shattered the close-knit family, which includes Eva’s approximately 32 grandchildren, 59 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great-grandchildren. One of Eva’s grandchildren, Jahaziel Salas, also experienced another loss from the disease: His father-in-law, Alfredo Nava, died of Covid-19 earlier in the summer.

“It’s been very, very tragic for our family, and I honestly still think that we haven’t fully processed everything,” said Ana, 40, who co-teaches seventh grade. “Somehow, it needs to be turned into awareness.”

That is what their late relatives would have wanted, Ana said. Helping others was in their blood: About five years ago, her father moved from Texas back to his birthplace, Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas, Mexico, retiring from work as a warehouse manager to dedicate himself to helping families in need of medical care and education.

Nieves lived next door to his mother in Valle Hermoso, while another son, Ruperto, lived with their mother. A third son, Raul, ran

Approximately 40 percent of babies born with sickle cell disease in Texas are in Houston

There are about 180 babies born with sickle cell disease in Texas each year, and approximately 40 percent (70 children) are born in Houston.

The Houston Health Department said in a press release that of the estimated 100,000 Americans living with the condition, approximately 7,000 are Texans, and Houston has more diagnoses than in any other region.

Sickle cell disease is a rare genetic blood condition that ultimately causes organ damage, including severe episodes of pain that can last up to a week and can result in multiple hospitalizations throughout a lifetime.

Kennedy Cooper is one of the estimated 1,500 children in Houston living with the disease. In a blog post for Texas Children’s Hospital, Cooper shared her journey, recalling moments where she felt ashamed to take medicine in front of friends and had to miss out on activities she loves because of her condition.

COVID IN PEOPLE OF COLOR: Texas’ tallying method further confirms that COVID-19 is deadlier for Black and Hispanic people


“It’s not really fun to take medicine in front of friends at sleepovers,” she shared. “I’ve tried countless techniques to avoid this, including sneaking my medicine bag into the bathroom while others were distracted or waiting until everyone was sleeping to take my medicine. I’ve also had to turn down invitations to countless pool parties because the pool temperature was usually never warm enough for me.”

She’s able to shrug if off most of the time, “but sometimes you just can’t help but notice how different you are from everybody else,” she said.

Dr. Titilope Fasipe, chair of the Houston Sickle Cell Collaborative, is also a sickle cell patient. She was diagnosed at age 1, and wants every child to know that they can still lead a long, fulfilling life.

“I’m one of the ones who made it to adulthood and I’m happy, but I’m also respectful of the fact that so many more did not, and that’s part of what pushes me at times,” she said, as reported by KPRC Click2Houston’s Haley Hernandez.

Fasipe said we need more research and treatments for “this devastating disease that affects so many people in our community.”

If you want to learn more about the disease, the sickle cell collaborative and health department will host their 2020 Sickle Cell Advocacy Summit on October 8.

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