Indy Digest: March 16, 2023
A Texas judge could soon restrict access to an abortion drug—and not just in Texas, but across the nation.
Yes, even here in California.
Was the FDA wrong to approve a drug that’s used in nearly all medication abortions in the U.S.—and should the drug, mifepristone, be taken off the market? Those questions were argued in court Wednesday, in a case heard by controversial federal Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas.
If the lawsuit succeeds, it could have sweeping repercussions — for abortion providers and patients across the nation, as well as for the FDA’s drug-approval process. At least 25 states have filed amicus briefs in the case.
A coalition of anti-abortion medical groups and doctors called the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine sued the FDA back in November, saying the abortion pill mifepristone was improperly approved two decades ago as part of a two-drug protocol that’s used to end pregnancies in the first trimester.
Attorneys from the Justice Department argued on behalf of the FDA at Wednesday’s hearing, as did lawyers for the drug company Danco, which makes mifepristone.
That intro doesn’t cover all of the nuances of what’s going on here, so I highly recommend reading the whole story. However, I’ll share one more excerpt that’s revealing on a number of levels:
Lawyers for the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine argued that the FDA’s approval relied on an obscure regulation for drugs used to treat serious illnesses.
“Pregnancy is not an illness,” attorney Erik Baptist said as he argued that mifepristone was improperly approved.
Lawyers defending the FDA countered that pregnancy can be life threatening for some patients, and they said regardless of whether pregnancy is described as an illness or a condition, the wording is irrelevant in terms of whether the drug is safe.
Justice Department lawyer Julie Straus Harris pointed out that mifepristone has been used in the U.S. for decades and that taking it off the market would cause harm to patients who rely on this drug.
Judge Kacsmaryk asked Straus Harris what she made of the fact that Republican attorneys general from more than 20 states—states that have tried to restrict abortion following last summer’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade—filed a brief in the case saying that the wide availability of abortion pills undermines those state restrictions.
Straus Harris responded that this argument is beside the point. She said the FDA approval simply confirmed the drug’s safety and effectiveness and doesn’t require anyone to prescribe it or take it.
“The plaintiffs are the ones who are trying to dictate national policy” with this lawsuit, she said.
It’s also worth noting that the judge deciding this case, in NPR’s words, has “longstanding ties to conservative religious groups, and his critics accused the group behind this lawsuit of judge shopping.”
I mention this for two reasons: First, if Kacsmaryk agrees with the plaintiffs and grants a nationwide injunction, that will have a very real effect on some women in the Coachella Valley.
Second: As we’ve discussed in this space, some locals shrug at news of restrictions being pushed by right-wing ideologues in other states, because restrictions elsewhere doesn’t affect them.
To those locals, I say: Wake up. This case proves that these moves could affect us all—even in the sunny Coachella Valley of California.
From the Independent
Wrongdoing or Railroaded? Former Riverside County Sheriff’s Lt. Sam Flores Offers Evidence That He Was Wrongly Fired and Prosecuted for Bribery
By Kevin Fitzgerald
March 14th, 2023
Former Riverside County Sheriff’s Lt. Sam Flores and his legal team claim the bribery case against him has been built using sworn untruths, manipulated documents, internal intimidation and bullying, and more.
CV History: Nellie Coffman, Founder of the Desert Inn, Is Often Considered the ‘Mother’ of Palm Springs
By Greg Niemann
March 15th, 2023
Nellie Coffman—ill and seeking the healthful properties of the desert air—arrived in Palm Springs in December 1908, with her husband and older son. She would go on to become the founder of The Desert Inn, which became world renowned.
WFH Workplace Comedies: Remember Working in an Office? If Not, These Streaming Shows Will Remind You
By Bill Frost
March 15th, 2023
In honor of working at home, here are some of the best workplace comedies you can stream.
The Weekly Independent Comics Page for March 16, 2023!
March 16th, 2023
Topics touched upon this week include stray kittens, Phil Donahue, George Soros, ’80s music—and more!
On the Scene: Tools for Tomorrow Gala Honors Roost Lounge Owners (Nonprofit Submission)
By Suzanne Fromkin
March 16th, 2023
Tools for Tomorrow honored the owners of The Roost Lounge for their philanthropy benefitting charities from the Cathedral City Senior Center to Angel View, Martha’s Kitchen and more.
• In Palm Springs, the most recent wastewater testing shows that the amount of SARS-CoV-2 is down for the second straight week: “The average of 536,718 copies (per liter) from the previous week went down to an average of 423,266, copies/L for March 6 and 7.”
• But down in Indio, the most recent wastewater testing shows that the amount of SARS-CoV-2 is ticking up.
• Water restrictions are being lifted in a lot of Southern California. The Los Angeles Times reports: “Citing improvements in available supplies, the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has decided to end an emergency conservation mandate for agencies in Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties that rely on water from the State Water Project. However, officials urged residents and businesses to continue conserving, and to prepare for expected cuts in supplies from the Colorado River. The announcement follows an onslaught of atmospheric rivers that have dumped near-record snowfall in the Sierra Nevada and pushed the state‘s flood infrastructure to its limits.”
• I’ll present this Press-Enterprise story here sans further comment. The headline is “Critical race theory consultant hired for $15,000 by Temecula school board.” An excerpt: “Christopher Arend, a former school board member in Paso Robles, will teach six, two-hour, sessions for two days covering the history of critical race theory and will discuss the Temecula school board’s December resolution banning the academic framework. Temecula schools’ ban was based on a 2021 resolution passed in the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District. The sessions will occur during the day, meaning that many teachers will have to leave their classrooms and be replaced by substitutes or other teachers. Edgar Diaz, president of the Temecula Valley Educators Association, said the average rate of $140 per day for substitutes taking over for each teacher attending the seminars could cost the district an estimated additional $15,000—and bring the total estimated cost to a maximum of $30,000.”
• Meanwhile, closer to home: We’re learning more about what happened in Palm Springs regarding the razing of Section 14. The Palm Springs Post reports: “More than 500 pages of documents were pulled from a city storage area following several public records requests and uploaded to the city’s website Monday. Within the records is evidence of efforts by city staff to fully detail controlled burns between 1965 and 1967 on a one-square-mile section of land in the center of the city owned by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. … (Homes) became the target of removal as the tribe gained the right to enter into long-term leases with those interested in developing the land for commercial use. Documents show efforts to remove hundreds of those structures in the 1960s were done in meticulous fashion and in coordination with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).”
• Local restaurateurs, take note. From a news release: “For a second year, LGBTQ+-owned and ally-owned restaurants, cafes and bars serving food can once again gain some valuable assistance from the ongoing partnership formed by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), Grubhub … and the Desert Business Association (DBA), the Coachella Valley’s LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce. The application period opened for the NGLCC Community Impact Grant Program, made possible by a grant from the Grubhub Community Fund. The grants are expected to range from $10,000 to $25,000, and funds can be used for things like updating/purchasing new equipment, marketing and PR services, employee development, and updating of current infrastructure. … Coachella Valley and Riverside County-based restaurants, cafes, and bars that serve food, and are owned by LGBTQ+ or allied persons, are encouraged to submit a grant application, which will close on Wednesday, April 5, 2023. For eligibility requirements, and how to apply, go to www.nglcc.org/ghgrant.”
• Most people who know me will tell you that fashion is, uh, not my thing. However, if it’s your thing, get ready to spend a lot of time on El Paseo starting tomorrow (Friday, March 17) for Fashion Week El Paseo. Our friends at KESQ News Channel 3 have some details here, or you can head to www.fashionweekelpaseo.com for a complete schedule of happenings through March 23.
• And finally … American Veterans (AMVETS) Post 66 in Palm Springs is looking for volunteer drivers. From a news release: “The drivers will drive a nine-passenger van known as the “AMVETS Express” from Cathedral City and Palm Springs to the Loma Linda VA Hospital and then return to the desert. The driver will work one day per week. The van departs Cathedral City about 6:30 a.m. and returns to the desert in the afternoon of the same day. The van operates Monday through Friday. Applicants for the position of driver do not have to be veterans. Applicants are required to study a training manual and pass a complete physical exam. The drivers cannot be over age 70. The drivers are volunteers and are not paid a salary. … The AMVETS Express takes homeless veterans and veterans who are having a mental health crisis to the hospital. We also transport many disabled veterans who cannot drive a car. For many veterans the AMVETS Express is the only way for them to receive their medical care. … Because we only have three drivers right now on some days we cannot operate for lack of a driver. To apply please call AMVETS Post 66 Commander Tom Swann Hernandez at 760-324-5670.”
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