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The Next Battle in the Abortion Wars Is over Mifepristone and Misoprostol

The Journal of the American Medical Association on Internal Medicine is now publishing articles on Google searches. In the 72 hours after Politico leaked the draft opinion on the Dobbs case, Google searches for abortion medications went up 162% compared to the 72 hours prior to the publication. That week there were 350,000 searches for "abortion pills." Searches for "mifepristone" and "misoprostol" also shot up.

The article reports that searches were most common in states that were expected to ban abortions, largely or entirely. Nebraska was the biggest "winner" here, with the biggest increase in searches. The article also suggested that people may start stockpiling the drugs for future use in anticipation of their becoming harder to obtain. Major pharmacy chains are worried about hoarding and are starting to ration Plan B, an emergency contraceptive that blocks pregnancies. CVS and Rite Aid are limiting purchases to three pills per customer while Walmart allows up to 10.

The authors are worried about people stocking up on abortion medication and using it incorrectly, based on false information on the Internet and without consulting a physician. They believe Google has a responsibility to put accurate information from reliable sources on top in any search.

The 162% jump after the leak is small potatoes compared to what happened on June 24. Here is the Google trends graph for June.

Google searches for abortion pills, there were
relatively few for most of the month and then a massive spike on June 24

From the beginning of June up to and including June 23, the number daily searches was basically constant. On June 24, it shot up 12x, or 1200%. Note that this graph is not the absolute number of searches but the relative number with the high point scaled to 100. Could this bump have been related to the release of the Supreme Court's final decision on Dobbs, which was released on June 24? Google isn't saying.

It is pretty obvious that if anyone can find a clinic online that will prescribe mifepristone and misoprostol and e-mail the prescription to a mail-order pharmacy, the bans on abortions in dozens of states won't mean all that much. At least, not for women who can afford the cost of the consultation and the pills (and there may be pro-choice groups that will provide subsidies for poor women). This means that states that really want to ban abortions are going to have to try to do something to stop this. Going after out-of-state providers is never going to work because courts in state A will never accept lawsuits that say someone in state B did something that is illegal in state B but is perfectly legal in state A (and see next item).

This is pretty much going to force states to go after the women who get the abortions, rather than the provider. This represents a huge change from the current practice, in which it is the clinics and doctors that are the ones prosecuted. It is also a dangerous approach, since it will also catch many women who had spontaneous miscarriages. Does any state, even Mississippi or Alabama, want to put women who had miscarriages in prison? That could be the result, with extremely bad publicity. Also, do they really want to imprison a 13-year girl who was raped by her father? The PR on that is going to be horrendous and lead to a movement to weaken the laws. But if rape becomes an exception, a certain number of desperate girls and women are going to concoct (false) stories about how they were raped on the street and the rapist ran away and they didn't get a good look at him. How are juries going to react to girls and women who claim they were raped by a stranger who then ran away? States don't want these kinds of trials, which is why they always went after providers in the past. But if modern providers are out-of-state and out-of-reach doctors and pharmacies, and the only thing the states have left is to go after the girls and women, with the possible result of changing public opinion. All it takes is one 13-year-old girl who was raped and has a lawyer good at PR. (V)

Californians Will Vote on Abortion in November

Considering how blue California is, it is rather unlikely the legislature will suddenly ban abortion or contraception, but the state's lawmakers aren't taking any chances. They have passed a bill to put a question on the ballot in November asking the voters if they want to amend the state's Constitution to read in part: "[T]he state shall not deny or interfere with an individual's reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives." If the measure passes, future legislatures would not be able to ban abortion without again amending the state Constitution, which is much more difficult than just passing a law.

The ballot measure isn't the only way California has responded to Dobbs. Assembly Bill 1666 shields abortion clinics and patients from civil and financial penalties imposed by other states. So if, say, Utah passed a bill making it a crime under Utah law for any Utah resident to get an abortion in another state, any attempt to enforce that in a California court would be tossed out immediately. This would not protect a Utah resident who went back to Utah after a California abortion, but it would protect the clinic against a lawsuit from the Utah AG. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) signed the bill a few days ago.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D), one of the bill's co-authors, said: "If the last 72 hours has taught us anything, it is that we can't assume a right we've had for 50 years will be available for us in the future." (V)

Democrats Are Spending Millions to Protect Sens. Murray and Bennet

Democratic leaders are keenly aware that they are potentially up against a red wave. Joe Biden is historically unpopular, inflation is raging, and more. As a consequence, they are now worrying about the reelection of senators not only in swing states like Arizona and Nevada, but also in deep blue states like Washington and Colorado. For example, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who has won five Senate elections with margins of 8, 16, 12, 5, and 18 points respectively, and who is running in a state Joe Biden carried by 20 points has spent $1 million in ads so far in a race against Tiffany Smiley.

Smiley is a farm girl who has never run for public office before and her main argument for becoming a senator is that her husband was seriously injured in Iraq so she should join the Senate to help injured veterans. And five-term winner Murray is scared of her—in a deep blue state. To make it worse, Murray is the #2 Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, while Smiley would be the lowest-ranked Republican if she wins and is put on the VA Committee.

In Colorado, Democrats spent like drunken sailors to try to get the GOP to nominate Ron Hanks, a super-far-right Republican, to face Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). It didn't work. Moderate Joe O'Dea (R), who focused on crime and inflation, not the 2020 election, won. He will be a much more formidable challenger to Bennet.

These actions show that Democrats are only scared in the well-known swing states, but maybe even in blue states where Republicans nominate a sane candidate. Polls shows the races in Washington and Colorado to be uncomfortably close rather than blowouts for the Democrats.

One weapon both of these Democrats and others have was handed to them by the Dobbs decision. Anti-choice candidates are not popular in blue states and all Democrats are going to campaign by saying that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to get his old job back and pass a law banning abortion nationwide and the only way to stop that is to make sure Democrats control the Senate. Also, in Washington and Colorado, the Democratic senators have lots of money in the bank and Republicans might ultimately decide that fighting for Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire are more important than going after longshots in deep blue states. (V)

Giuliani's Biggest Legal Exposure May Be in Georgia

Rudy Giuliani's actions to keep Donald Trump in power, even though he lost the election, may come back to haunt him, especially in Georgia. The problem there is the investigation being conducted by Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis. That investigation started with the infamous "just me find 11,780 votes" phone call from Donald Trump to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), but has since branched out.

In particular, Willis is looking at Giuliani's appearance before the various committees of the Georgia state legislature in Dec. 2020. He spent hours testifying and peddling all manner of crazy conspiracy theories. He falsely claimed there was massive fraud in Georgia and the legislature should just forget the election results and name its own slate of electors. Unfortunately for Giuliani, lying to the legislature under oath is a state crime.

Giuliani hadn't been worrying about this too much until today. He was mostly busy campaigning for his son, who was running for the Republican nomination for governor of New York. Junior lost by 20 points. Now Dad will be freed to try to save his own neck in Georgia.

Guiliani has plenty to worry about now. At least seven hours of his testimony in Georgia were recorded and the special grand jury Willis empaneled has undoubtedly seen the whole thing. In addition to the more obvious charges, Willis could indict Giuliani for conspiracy or racketeering. And the video isn't the only piece of evidence. When the New York State appellate court suspended Giuliani's law license last year, it issued a 33-page report explaining itself. The report mentioned Giuliani's activities in Georgia 35 times, including false statements made under oath. We suspect that each grand juror has been given a copy of that report to read as homework.

One especially damning statement Giuliani made in Georgia is that the Dominion voting machines altered thousands of votes and swung the election. Unfortunately for Giuliani, every single vote was later hand-counted and the results were virtually identical to the machine count. Giuliani provided no evidence that there was anything wrong with the hand count, and thus no evidence for the machine count either. However, he did say: "Its not my job in a fast-moving case to go out and investigate every piece of evidence that's given to me." In other words, because things are moving fast, it is OK for me to pass along lies because I don't have the time to check whether what I am saying is true. Good luck with that before a jury. But Giuliani should have known there was a problem when Georgia's Deputy Secretary of State Gabriel Sterling (R) told him to stop it. Sterling testified to that effect in public last week.

In short, like Trump, Giuliani has a big problem in Georgia. And we don't know for sure if AG Merrick Garland will go after Giuliani but it is likely that Willis will. (V)

Meadows and Giuliani Deny Asking for Pardons

On Tuesday, Cassidy Hutchinson testified under oath that both Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows asked for pardons in January 2021, just before Donald Trump left office. Yesterday, both of them denied having requested pardons. However, neither was under oath when asked. Telling a baldfaced flat-out lie to a reporter is not a crime. Giuliani is a lawyer and former prosecutor and knows that very well. Meadows is probably making a good guess here, although he might have asked Giuliani for some free legal advice.

Whether they asked for pardons is important because no one asks for a pardon unless he or she believes they may have committed a crime. A request might be enough to establish "corrupt intent" for acts that are crimes only if the defendant knows they are crimes. If either one were to say under oath that he never asked for a pardon when he actually did, that would be another crime (perjury). The Select Committee sent Meadows a subpoena and he refused to show up. He got away scot free thus far, as the Justice Dept. has refused to indict him for ignoring the subpoena. Giuliani hasn't been subpoenaed (yet). Other Trump associates, including Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro, have been charged. Meadows appears to have avoided the DoJ because he cooperated some, before he clammed up. It's not clear why he changed course, from "cooperative" to "non-cooperative," but he was undoubtedly under a lot of pressure from TrumpWorld. This may explain why the Committee was so eager to get Hutchinson on TV while she was amenable to cooperating.

Since Meadows and Giuliani both deny having asked for pardons, Hutchinson's testimony may not be enough to help convict them for crimes they may have committed unless other witnesses can be found who corroborate her testimony. Depending on how the requests were made, there may not be other witnesses. If Meadows or Giuliani simply asked Trump when nobody other than Hutchinson was around, there obviously won't be other witnesses. Of course, if they put something in writing or other witnesses were around, that would be a different story. In a court case, they could be asked about the pardons under oath, but it is likely they would lie if they felt there was no way to prove they were lying. (V)

Justice Breyer Is Hanging Up His Robe Today

After 27 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer, a Bill Clinton appointee, is exiting while still alive. He has informed the White House that he is out of there at noon today. He was subjected to an intense pressure campaign to leave while a Democrat was president and the Democrats controlled the Senate. He held off for a while, but the 83-year-old managed to avoid dying before his retirement, unlike Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose decision to keep on keepin' on helped pave the way for the 6-3 conservative majority.

Breyer was a consistent liberal his whole time on the Court. He was not a firebrand, though. He focused on how the law could work for ordinary citizens. He often questioned the death penalty and wrote a well-noted dissent on a 2015 case involving death by lethal injection.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has already been confirmed by the Senate and will be sworn in as his replacement shortly after he is officially gone. While the Court is not in session in the summer, sometimes emergency rulings are needed—for example, to stay an execution scheduled for the next day. She will not change the ideological balance of the Court, but she makes history as the first Black woman justice.

Jackson is joining a Court in turmoil. Some of the decisions it released this month are extremely unpopular. It is inevitable that next term will have more cases that are equally controversial, especially since Justice Clarence Thomas is champing at the bit to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges and Griswold v. Connecticut. For some odd reason, he seems less enthusiastic to take the axe to Loving v. Virginia although the reasoning behind it is the same as the others. Jackson is in a minority of three, so she won't be able to author any opinions on hot-button cases, but maybe she'll be in the majority on some obscure corporate patent case and the chief will throw her a bone.

One result of replacing Breyer with Jackson is that the gender balance on the Court is now 4-5 for the first time ever. Also, all three Democratic appointees are women. That has never happened before. The three women have different backgrounds. Jackson is Black, Justice Elena Kagan is Jewish, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor is Puerto Rican. Nevertheless, the three will no doubt try very hard to work together and write pointed dissents on many 6-3 cases. (V)

John Wood Enters the Missouri Senate Race

So far, 21 people have filed for the Senate in Missouri as Republicans. Only 11 people have filed as Democrats. John Wood, senior counsel for the Select Committee, felt that with only 32 people to choose from, Missourians didn't really have enough options, so yesterday he filed to run as an independent. Literally, he said: "Missouri deserves better. Missouri needs another option."

Wood is a lifelong Republican and a conservative. Democrats are elated. This means there will be two Republicans in the race in November, Wood and the person who survives the knock-down drag-out GOP primary. That could result in Republican votes being split. Since Missouri does not have runoffs, if the Democrat gets more votes than both Wood and the Republican, the Democrat wins.

Wood's potential for being a spoiler depends largely on who wins the Republican primary. In most polls, disgraced former governor Eric Greitens has a small lead, despite his being forced from office just before the state legislature was able to impeach him for blackmailing his hairdresser, with whom he was having an affair. If he gets the nomination, Wood will get a lot of votes from Republicans who can't stomach Greitens. In the most recent poll, state AG Eric Schmitt (R) has a small lead. But he is Trumpier than hell and so far to the right that some moderate Republicans might also vote for Wood, again splitting the conservative vote. If Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) wins the nomination, there is no reason to think many Republicans will defect from her and she will probably win the general election. If Democrats want to engage in some fun ratf*cking, they should send money to Greitens' campaign.

The Democrats' biggest problem is that nobody has ever heard of any of their candidates and none of them have the background Senate candidates usually have (e.g., member of the House, member of the state legislature, mayor of a big city in Missouri, etc.). Two candidates stand out, however. Lucas Kunce is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Missouri Law School. He later served in the Marine Corps, with one tour in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. He left active duty with the rank of major. If you can't find a mayor, a major is a pretty good second option.

The other serious candidate is Trudy Busch Valentine. Her claim to fame is that she is the daughter of August Busch, the fellow who built Anheuser-Busch into the largest brewing company in the world. She is a nurse and philanthropist, which means she has lots and lots of money inherited from dad. She is running on a platform of helping families and the middle class. The fact that she can self-fund is very important because national Democrats aren't going to put any money into Missouri when there are more winnable races in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (not to mention defending incumbents). But if she gets the nomination and puts tens of millions of her own dollars in the race, she could actually win, especially in a three-way race with Greitens as the Republican nominee. The primary is on August 2. (V)

Which States Are the Most Independent?

Independence Day is coming up soon. That's when Americans hang King George III in effigy or whatever. Independence and self-reliance have historically been valued traits in America. However, the amount of independence varies a lot from state to state. WalletHub has produced a report on how the several states rank in terms of independence. In terms of total scores, the five most independent states are Utah (1), Colorado (2), Massachusetts (3), Virginia (4) and Nebraska (5). The five least independent states are South Carolina (46), Alaska (47), Mississippi (48), Louisiana (49), and Kentucky (50).

The total scores are a weighting of three subscores. First is financial dependency, which uses factors including share of adults with a 3-month rainy day fund, share of adults saving for their children's college, poverty rate, share of millennials living with their parents, foreclosure rate, bankruptcy rate, etc. On this metric, the five most independent states are New Hampshire, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Colorado. The five least independent states are New Mexico, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi in dead last.

Second is dependency on the government, which includes dependence on Uncle Sam, share of households on food stamps, share of people in subsidized housing, and tax freedom day (the day of the year on which taxpayers have earned enough to pay all their taxes). The most independent states are Kansas, Utah, Delaware, Iowa, and Colorado. The least independent states are Kentucky, New Mexico, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Alaska bringing up the rear.

Third is job-market dependency. The factors here are industry variety, job growth rate, unemployment rate, underemployment rate, job creation rate, etc. The most independent states are Utah, Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Indiana. The least independent states are Nevada, Maryland, Wyoming, Connecticut, and New Mexico. This is a bit of an odd measure though. California, for example, ranks 43, probably because it has only four major industries (agriculture, computers/information technology, tourism, and entertainment), but all are extremely strong.

The story linked to above has a variety of other metrics and how independent the states are in them. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun29 The 1/6 Committee Hearings, Day 6: Baby, You Can't Drive My Car
Jun29 About Those Seized Phones...
Jun29 By the Way, There Were Some Elections Yesterday
Jun29 Supreme Court Restores Louisiana Map
Jun29 Finland and Sweden, Come on Down
Jun28 Surprise Hearing for the 1/6 Committee
Jun28 Johnson Keeps Flopping Around
Jun28 Is Eastman a Criminal?
Jun28 SCOTUS Did It Again
Jun28 What a Bill Protecting Abortion Might Look Like
Jun28 Paging Joe Biden, Part I: Crickets
Jun28 Paging Joe Biden, Part II: Howard Stern for President
Jun27 How Will Dobbs Change America
Jun27 House Republicans in Swing Districts Are Worried
Jun27 Can Biden Do Anything about Roe?
Jun27 Blue City D.A.s in Red States Won't Prosecute Abortion Providers
Jun27 Noem Plans on Banning Telehealth Abortions
Jun27 States Can Sometimes Undermine the Supreme Court with Their Own Laws
Jun27 Elections in Five States Tomorrow
Jun27 Gun Bill Becomes Gun Law
Jun27 New Polls on Roe and Trump Published
Jun27 What Do Polls Measure?
Jun26 The End of Roe: Reader Comments
Jun26 The End of Roe: Reader Questions
Jun25 The End of Roe
Jun25 The End of Roe: What the Pundits Are Saying
Jun24 The 1/6 Committee Hearings, Day 5: The People vs. Donald Trump
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Jun24 ...And the Supreme Court Promptly Sets It Back By a Couple of Miles
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Jun23 Select Committee Has Received New Evidence
Jun23 The Top One-liners from Tuesday Hearing
Jun23 Trump Is Now Attacking McCarthy over the Select Committee
Jun23 The Supreme Court Is Tearing Down the Wall between Church and State
Jun23 Democrats Gearing Up to Make Abortion the Big Issue in the Midterms
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