Category Archives: World

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The Historic Place Where Literary, Political Worlds Intersect

A relatively modest, independently owned bookstore in Washington has become a standout on the cultural scene in the U.S. capital. It’s called Politics and Prose. Since opening in 1984, it’s managed to survive the age of online book buying and thrive as a magnet for some of the world’s highest profile authors, from former Presidents Clinton and Obama, to J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie and photographer Annie Leibovitz. Ani Chkhikvadze stopped by Politics and Prose to learn more about its success.

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Fate of Kansas Ban on Telemedicine Abortions Uncertain

Kansas clinics still don’t know whether it will be legal for them to offer telemedicine abortions in January. Meanwhile a state-court judge Friday derided the upcoming ban as an “air ball” that can’t stop doctors from providing pregnancy-ending pills to patients they don’t see in person.

An abortion rights group seeking an order to block the ban found its request enmeshed in larger legal battles over abortion. Attorneys for the state raised the question of whether other state laws might block telemedicine abortions, and District Judge Franklin Theis held off on issuing an order.

​Suit: Ban unconstitutional

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit last month on behalf of Trust Women of Wichita, which operates a clinic there that performs abortions. Since October, some patients seeking abortion pills have consulted with offsite doctors through teleconferencing, and the clinic hopes to start providing abortion pills to women in rural areas without having them come to Wichita.

The center argues that the new law violates the state constitution by placing an undue burden on women seeking abortion and singling out abortion for special treatment as part of broader policies otherwise meant to encourage telemedicine.

“The use of telemedicine right now for medication abortions is extremely important,” said Leah Wiederhorn, an attorney for the center. “It’s a way for women to access this type of health care during a time when there are a lot of hostile laws that are meant to shut down clinics across the country.”

Seventeen other states have telemedicine abortion bans, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a group that advocates for abortion rights. The new Kansas law says that in policies promoting telemedicine, “nothing” authorizes “any abortion procedure via telemedicine.”

But Theis said the law doesn’t give a prosecutor any avenue for pursuing a criminal case. While the state medical board could act against the clinic’s doctors, the judge added, “There’s no jeopardy yet.”

Few clinics

Kansas has no clinics providing abortions outside Wichita and the Kansas City area. The Republican-controlled Legislature has strong anti-abortion majorities, and the state has tightened restrictions over the past decade.

Lawmakers have tried three times to ban telemedicine abortions. In 2011, a ban was part of legislation imposing special regulations on abortion clinics that critics said were meant to shut them down. Providers sued and Theis blocked all of the regulations. The case is still pending.

Legislators passed a law in 2015 requiring a doctor to be in the same room when a woman takes the first of two abortion pills. The Center for Reproductive Rights argues that it’s covered by the 2011 lawsuit over clinic regulations and has been blocked by Theis. Though the judge said he’s inclined to agree, state attorneys argued that it is in effect, even if it hasn’t been enforced.

The anti-abortion group Kansans for Life filed a complaint Friday against the Wichita clinic with the state medical board, asking it to investigate its “illegal” telemedicine abortions. Jeanne Gawdun, the group’s senior lobbyist, called them “dangerous.”

“Where’s that important physician-patient relationship?” Gawdun said. “It’s not there.”

​Few complications

A study of abortions in California, published in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ journal in 2015, said less than one-third of 1 percent of medication abortions resulted in major complications.

The Kansas health department has reported that in 2017, nearly 4,000 medication abortions were reported, or 58 percent of the state’s total, all in the first trimester. It’s not clear if any were telemedicine abortions.

Wiederhorn said banning telemedicine abortion would be a hardship for the clinic’s patients because its doctors, while licensed in Kansas, are outside the state and can spend only two days a week in Wichita. Also, many women in rural areas would face hardships in getting medication abortions without telemedicine, she said.

But Assistant Attorney General Shon Qualseth said: “We’re just theorizing on what could happen.”

 

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Fate of Kansas Ban on Telemedicine Abortions Uncertain

Kansas clinics still don’t know whether it will be legal for them to offer telemedicine abortions in January. Meanwhile a state-court judge Friday derided the upcoming ban as an “air ball” that can’t stop doctors from providing pregnancy-ending pills to patients they don’t see in person.

An abortion rights group seeking an order to block the ban found its request enmeshed in larger legal battles over abortion. Attorneys for the state raised the question of whether other state laws might block telemedicine abortions, and District Judge Franklin Theis held off on issuing an order.

​Suit: Ban unconstitutional

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit last month on behalf of Trust Women of Wichita, which operates a clinic there that performs abortions. Since October, some patients seeking abortion pills have consulted with offsite doctors through teleconferencing, and the clinic hopes to start providing abortion pills to women in rural areas without having them come to Wichita.

The center argues that the new law violates the state constitution by placing an undue burden on women seeking abortion and singling out abortion for special treatment as part of broader policies otherwise meant to encourage telemedicine.

“The use of telemedicine right now for medication abortions is extremely important,” said Leah Wiederhorn, an attorney for the center. “It’s a way for women to access this type of health care during a time when there are a lot of hostile laws that are meant to shut down clinics across the country.”

Seventeen other states have telemedicine abortion bans, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a group that advocates for abortion rights. The new Kansas law says that in policies promoting telemedicine, “nothing” authorizes “any abortion procedure via telemedicine.”

But Theis said the law doesn’t give a prosecutor any avenue for pursuing a criminal case. While the state medical board could act against the clinic’s doctors, the judge added, “There’s no jeopardy yet.”

Few clinics

Kansas has no clinics providing abortions outside Wichita and the Kansas City area. The Republican-controlled Legislature has strong anti-abortion majorities, and the state has tightened restrictions over the past decade.

Lawmakers have tried three times to ban telemedicine abortions. In 2011, a ban was part of legislation imposing special regulations on abortion clinics that critics said were meant to shut them down. Providers sued and Theis blocked all of the regulations. The case is still pending.

Legislators passed a law in 2015 requiring a doctor to be in the same room when a woman takes the first of two abortion pills. The Center for Reproductive Rights argues that it’s covered by the 2011 lawsuit over clinic regulations and has been blocked by Theis. Though the judge said he’s inclined to agree, state attorneys argued that it is in effect, even if it hasn’t been enforced.

The anti-abortion group Kansans for Life filed a complaint Friday against the Wichita clinic with the state medical board, asking it to investigate its “illegal” telemedicine abortions. Jeanne Gawdun, the group’s senior lobbyist, called them “dangerous.”

“Where’s that important physician-patient relationship?” Gawdun said. “It’s not there.”

​Few complications

A study of abortions in California, published in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ journal in 2015, said less than one-third of 1 percent of medication abortions resulted in major complications.

The Kansas health department has reported that in 2017, nearly 4,000 medication abortions were reported, or 58 percent of the state’s total, all in the first trimester. It’s not clear if any were telemedicine abortions.

Wiederhorn said banning telemedicine abortion would be a hardship for the clinic’s patients because its doctors, while licensed in Kansas, are outside the state and can spend only two days a week in Wichita. Also, many women in rural areas would face hardships in getting medication abortions without telemedicine, she said.

But Assistant Attorney General Shon Qualseth said: “We’re just theorizing on what could happen.”

 

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Late Guatemalan Girl Dreamed of Sending Money to Family

The 7-year-old Guatemalan migrant girl who died in U.S. custody this month was inseparable from her father and had looked forward to being able to send money home to support her impoverished family, relatives said  Saturday. 

Nery Caal, 29, and his daughter Jakelin Caal Maquin were in a group of more than 160 migrants who turned themselves in to U.S. border agents in New Mexico on Dec. 6. Jakelin developed a high fever and died two days later while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. 

 

“The girl said when she was grown up she was going to work and send dough back to her mom and grandma,” said her mother, Claudia Maquin, who has three remaining children, speaking in the Mayan language Q’eqchi’ and betraying little outward emotion. 

“Because she’d never seen a big country, she was really happy that she was going to go,” she added, explaining how her husband had gone to the United States to find a way out of the “extreme poverty” that dictated their lives. 

 

Corn stood behind her palm-thatched wooden house, and there were a few chickens and pigs in the yard. The mother was dressed in a traditional blouse and held a 6-month-old baby in her arms. 

A family photograph at the house showed Jakelin smiling and looking up at the camera, wearing a pink T-shirt with characters from the cartoon series Masha and the Bear. 

Hard lives

 

Deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations has made subsistence farming increasingly hard for the 40,000 inhabitants of Raxruha municipality, where the family’s agricultural hamlet of San Antonio de Cortez lies in central Guatemala, local officials said. That has spurred an exodus of migrants.  

Setting out on Dec. 1, Caal and his daughter traveled more than 2,000 miles (3,220 km) so Jakelin’s father could look for work in the United States, said her mother, who learned of the girl’s death from consular officials. 

 

Almost 80 percent of Guatemala’s indigenous population is poor, with half of those people living in extreme poverty. The mayor of San Antonio de Cortez described the Caal family as among the worst off in the village. 

 

Mayor Cesar Castro said in recent months that more and more families were uprooting to try to reach the United States, often selling what little land they owned to pay people traffickers thousands of dollars for the trip.

“It’s not just the Caal family. There are endless people who are leaving,” Castro said. “I see them drive past in pickups, cars and buses.” He said most of them came back in the end, often penniless after being dropped off by traffickers, caught by authorities and deported. 

 

Jakelin’s death has added to criticism of U.S. of President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies from migrant advocates and Democrats in the U.S. Congress. 

 

The U.S. government defended Jakelin’s treatment, and said there was no indication she had any medical problems until several hours after she and her father were taken into custody. 

 

Inseparable 

 

Domingo Caal, Jakelin’s grandfather, said she had gone on the journey because she did not want to leave her father. 

 

“The girl really stuck to him. It was very difficult to separate them,” said Domingo, 61, wearing muddy boots and a faded and torn blue shirt.  

Jakelin’s uncle, Jose Manuel Caal, said he had heard she was ill before she died, but he had expected her to recover. “The girl’s death left us in shock,” he said. 

 

The family hopes the girl’s father can remain in the United States. 

 

“What I want now is for Nery to stay and work in the United States. That’s what I want,” said his wife. 

 

A Guatemalan consular official told Reuters on Friday that Caal told him he had crossed the border planning to turn himself in to U.S. authorities, and would try to stay. 

 

Record numbers of parents traveling with children are being apprehended trying to cross the U.S. border with Mexico. In November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers detained 25,172 members of “family units,” the highest monthly number ever recorded, the agency said. 

 

Parents with children are more likely to be released by U.S. authorities while their cases are processed because of legal restrictions on keeping children in detention. 

 

Caal remains in the El Paso, Texas, area, where his daughter died after being flown by helicopter to a hospital there for emergency treatment when she stopped breathing. 

 

A brain scan revealed swelling and Jakelin was diagnosed with liver failure. She died early in the morning on Dec. 8, with her father at the hospital, a CBP official said. 

 

U.S. authorities are investigating the death.  

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Late Guatemalan Girl Dreamed of Sending Money to Family

The 7-year-old Guatemalan migrant girl who died in U.S. custody this month was inseparable from her father and had looked forward to being able to send money home to support her impoverished family, relatives said  Saturday. 

Nery Caal, 29, and his daughter Jakelin Caal Maquin were in a group of more than 160 migrants who turned themselves in to U.S. border agents in New Mexico on Dec. 6. Jakelin developed a high fever and died two days later while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. 

 

“The girl said when she was grown up she was going to work and send dough back to her mom and grandma,” said her mother, Claudia Maquin, who has three remaining children, speaking in the Mayan language Q’eqchi’ and betraying little outward emotion. 

“Because she’d never seen a big country, she was really happy that she was going to go,” she added, explaining how her husband had gone to the United States to find a way out of the “extreme poverty” that dictated their lives. 

 

Corn stood behind her palm-thatched wooden house, and there were a few chickens and pigs in the yard. The mother was dressed in a traditional blouse and held a 6-month-old baby in her arms. 

A family photograph at the house showed Jakelin smiling and looking up at the camera, wearing a pink T-shirt with characters from the cartoon series Masha and the Bear. 

Hard lives

 

Deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations has made subsistence farming increasingly hard for the 40,000 inhabitants of Raxruha municipality, where the family’s agricultural hamlet of San Antonio de Cortez lies in central Guatemala, local officials said. That has spurred an exodus of migrants.  

Setting out on Dec. 1, Caal and his daughter traveled more than 2,000 miles (3,220 km) so Jakelin’s father could look for work in the United States, said her mother, who learned of the girl’s death from consular officials. 

 

Almost 80 percent of Guatemala’s indigenous population is poor, with half of those people living in extreme poverty. The mayor of San Antonio de Cortez described the Caal family as among the worst off in the village. 

 

Mayor Cesar Castro said in recent months that more and more families were uprooting to try to reach the United States, often selling what little land they owned to pay people traffickers thousands of dollars for the trip.

“It’s not just the Caal family. There are endless people who are leaving,” Castro said. “I see them drive past in pickups, cars and buses.” He said most of them came back in the end, often penniless after being dropped off by traffickers, caught by authorities and deported. 

 

Jakelin’s death has added to criticism of U.S. of President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies from migrant advocates and Democrats in the U.S. Congress. 

 

The U.S. government defended Jakelin’s treatment, and said there was no indication she had any medical problems until several hours after she and her father were taken into custody. 

 

Inseparable 

 

Domingo Caal, Jakelin’s grandfather, said she had gone on the journey because she did not want to leave her father. 

 

“The girl really stuck to him. It was very difficult to separate them,” said Domingo, 61, wearing muddy boots and a faded and torn blue shirt.  

Jakelin’s uncle, Jose Manuel Caal, said he had heard she was ill before she died, but he had expected her to recover. “The girl’s death left us in shock,” he said. 

 

The family hopes the girl’s father can remain in the United States. 

 

“What I want now is for Nery to stay and work in the United States. That’s what I want,” said his wife. 

 

A Guatemalan consular official told Reuters on Friday that Caal told him he had crossed the border planning to turn himself in to U.S. authorities, and would try to stay. 

 

Record numbers of parents traveling with children are being apprehended trying to cross the U.S. border with Mexico. In November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers detained 25,172 members of “family units,” the highest monthly number ever recorded, the agency said. 

 

Parents with children are more likely to be released by U.S. authorities while their cases are processed because of legal restrictions on keeping children in detention. 

 

Caal remains in the El Paso, Texas, area, where his daughter died after being flown by helicopter to a hospital there for emergency treatment when she stopped breathing. 

 

A brain scan revealed swelling and Jakelin was diagnosed with liver failure. She died early in the morning on Dec. 8, with her father at the hospital, a CBP official said. 

 

U.S. authorities are investigating the death.  

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Lawmakers to Visit Detention Site in Wake of Girl’s Death

U.S. lawmakers will travel to New Mexico in the coming week as they search for answers about how a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died while in federal custody. 

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Friday that it would lead a delegation on Dec. 18 to Lordsburg Station in Lordsburg, N.M., the detention center Jakelin Caal Maquin was en route to, along with her father and scores of other migrants detained with them on the night of Dec. 6, after being taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Jakelin died in an El Paso, Texas, hospital 27 hours later of what medical officials preliminarily determined to be “sepsis shock,” according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Her official cause of death has not yet been released. 

Symptoms of sepsis, or septic shock, can include extremes in body temperature, lethargy and restlessness. Official accounts indicate the girl received a quick assessment, as all people taken into custody do, before waiting for hours to be transported to the next detention facility with the group.  

​Minors transported first 

 

Among the 163 people detained that night in a remote area of southern New Mexico, near the Antelope Wells Port of Entry, were 50 unaccompanied minors, who were transported to Lordsburg Station first, according to DHS. 

 

It was en route to Lordsburg that Jakelin’s symptoms worsened, according to the government’s timeline of events.  

“This is not who we are or who we want to be as a nation,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement Friday that included an open invitation to lawmakers to join the visit. “We must understand what led to this child’s death and how these stations are equipped to protect the health and safety of those seeking refuge at our borders.” 

 

Jakelin crossed into the U.S. with her father, Nery Caal, 29, after traveling from Raxruha in Alta Verapaz, northern Guatemala. The father and daughter left home on Nov. 30.   

Guatemalan media reported the girl’s mother and three siblings remain in Raxruha, citing an interview with Tekandi Paniagua, Guatemala’s consul in Del Rio, Texas.

 

Language barrier 

 

Prior to the bus ride to Lordsburg, Caal signed a form indicating Jakelin did not have health issues. However, there may have been a language barrier. 

 

CBP said border agents provided Spanish interpretation to fill out the English-language form. However, a Guatemalan official in Texas told Univision that Jakelin’s father is a native speaker of the Mayan language of Ke’chi, also called Q’eqchi’.

The Guatemalan press also reported on the potential language problem. A consular official told El Pais that Caal said he “doesn’t fully understand Spanish” and has received consular services in Q’eqchi’.

 

It can be challenging for U.S. personnel to find Q’eqchi’ interpreters even during normal business hours, a DHS staffer with experience interviewing Guatemalan migrants told VOA on condition of anonymity.  

 

“It’s a difficult thing,” the staffer said, describing the need to schedule “relay interviews” with a Q’eqchi’ interpreter who interprets to Spanish, then a Spanish interpreter who speaks in English to the U.S. government employee, a process that often involved a full 24 hours of planning. 

 

More questions than answers 

 

The girl’s death on Dec. 8 was not initially made public by CBP or DHS. The Washington Post first reported the story on Dec. 13.  

Since then, the agencies have made several public comments and provided a timeline about the events leading to Jakelin’s death. In a Facebook statement, DHS related that according to the girl’s father, she “had not been able to consume water or food for days” before her death. 

 

The Office of the Inspector General at DHS announced Friday that it would be investigating Jakelin’s death. 

 

U.S. House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi said Friday that in addition to the DHS inspector general’s investigation, “Congress will also investigate this horrific tragedy to ensure the safety and security of every child.”

 

Additionally, a letter sent Friday by six members of Congress, including New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and acting DHS Inspector General John V. Kelly raised the issue of why CBP did not report the death of an individual in its custody within 24 hours as required. 

 

The lawmakers requested, in part, details and a full investigation into Jakelin’s death, as well as a meeting with the commissioner.

 

McAleenan testified before Congress this week but made no mention of the death.  

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Lawmakers to Visit Detention Site in Wake of Girl’s Death

U.S. lawmakers will travel to New Mexico in the coming week as they search for answers about how a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died while in federal custody. 

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Friday that it would lead a delegation on Dec. 18 to Lordsburg Station in Lordsburg, N.M., the detention center Jakelin Caal Maquin was en route to, along with her father and scores of other migrants detained with them on the night of Dec. 6, after being taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Jakelin died in an El Paso, Texas, hospital 27 hours later of what medical officials preliminarily determined to be “sepsis shock,” according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Her official cause of death has not yet been released. 

Symptoms of sepsis, or septic shock, can include extremes in body temperature, lethargy and restlessness. Official accounts indicate the girl received a quick assessment, as all people taken into custody do, before waiting for hours to be transported to the next detention facility with the group.  

​Minors transported first 

 

Among the 163 people detained that night in a remote area of southern New Mexico, near the Antelope Wells Port of Entry, were 50 unaccompanied minors, who were transported to Lordsburg Station first, according to DHS. 

 

It was en route to Lordsburg that Jakelin’s symptoms worsened, according to the government’s timeline of events.  

“This is not who we are or who we want to be as a nation,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, chairman-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement Friday that included an open invitation to lawmakers to join the visit. “We must understand what led to this child’s death and how these stations are equipped to protect the health and safety of those seeking refuge at our borders.” 

 

Jakelin crossed into the U.S. with her father, Nery Caal, 29, after traveling from Raxruha in Alta Verapaz, northern Guatemala. The father and daughter left home on Nov. 30.   

Guatemalan media reported the girl’s mother and three siblings remain in Raxruha, citing an interview with Tekandi Paniagua, Guatemala’s consul in Del Rio, Texas.

 

Language barrier 

 

Prior to the bus ride to Lordsburg, Caal signed a form indicating Jakelin did not have health issues. However, there may have been a language barrier. 

 

CBP said border agents provided Spanish interpretation to fill out the English-language form. However, a Guatemalan official in Texas told Univision that Jakelin’s father is a native speaker of the Mayan language of Ke’chi, also called Q’eqchi’.

The Guatemalan press also reported on the potential language problem. A consular official told El Pais that Caal said he “doesn’t fully understand Spanish” and has received consular services in Q’eqchi’.

 

It can be challenging for U.S. personnel to find Q’eqchi’ interpreters even during normal business hours, a DHS staffer with experience interviewing Guatemalan migrants told VOA on condition of anonymity.  

 

“It’s a difficult thing,” the staffer said, describing the need to schedule “relay interviews” with a Q’eqchi’ interpreter who interprets to Spanish, then a Spanish interpreter who speaks in English to the U.S. government employee, a process that often involved a full 24 hours of planning. 

 

More questions than answers 

 

The girl’s death on Dec. 8 was not initially made public by CBP or DHS. The Washington Post first reported the story on Dec. 13.  

Since then, the agencies have made several public comments and provided a timeline about the events leading to Jakelin’s death. In a Facebook statement, DHS related that according to the girl’s father, she “had not been able to consume water or food for days” before her death. 

 

The Office of the Inspector General at DHS announced Friday that it would be investigating Jakelin’s death. 

 

U.S. House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi said Friday that in addition to the DHS inspector general’s investigation, “Congress will also investigate this horrific tragedy to ensure the safety and security of every child.”

 

Additionally, a letter sent Friday by six members of Congress, including New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and acting DHS Inspector General John V. Kelly raised the issue of why CBP did not report the death of an individual in its custody within 24 hours as required. 

 

The lawmakers requested, in part, details and a full investigation into Jakelin’s death, as well as a meeting with the commissioner.

 

McAleenan testified before Congress this week but made no mention of the death.  

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Republicans Say Little About Obamacare Ruling

Republican lawmakers have been mostly silent on Friday’s court ruling that the Affordable Care Act, known commonly as Obamacare, is unconstitutional. Democrats, however, have said they’ll hold the GOP to its commitment to retain popular provisions of the law, such as guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing health conditions. 

“The GOP spent all last year pretending to support people with pre-existing conditions while quietly trying to remove that support in the courts,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a tweet Saturday. “Next year, we will force votes to expose their lies.” 

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who will assume the speaker’s role next year, said the House “will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the lifesaving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy” the law. 

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas ruled Friday that a change in tax law last year eliminating a penalty for not having health insurance invalidated the entire ACA. The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the ACA will remain the law during the appeal.  

U.S. President Donald Trump had promised during his presidential campaign to dismantle the ACA, a program that made affordable health insurance available to millions of Americans.  

‘Great news’

The president took to Twitter Friday night:  “Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!” 

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the judge’s decision “vindicates President Trump’s position that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Once again, the President calls on Congress to replace Obamacare and act to protect people with pre-existing conditions and provide Americans with quality, affordable health care.”  

Americans with pre-existing conditions, before ACA, faced either high premiums or an inability to access health insurance at all.  

Schumer said in a statement Friday that the ruling “seems to be based on faulty legal reasoning, and hopefully it will be overturned. Americans who care about working families must do all they can to prevent this district court ruling from becoming law.”   

“Today’s misguided ruling will not deter us,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the leader of an alliance of states opposing the lawsuit, said in a statement Friday.  “Our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and well-being for all Americans.”  

New law unlikely for now

Some legal observers believe Congress is unlikely to pass a new law while the case is in the courts. Many senior Republican lawmakers have said they did not plan to also strike down provisions such as pre-existing condition coverage when they repealed the law’s fines for people who can afford coverage but remain uninsured. 

If the case reaches the Supreme Court, it would be the third time the high court considers a challenge to ACA provisions. The law’s opponents lost the first two cases. 

Polls have regularly shown wide public support for the guarantee of health insurance coverage regardless of pre-existing health conditions, an issue Democrats successfully leveraged in last month’s midterm elections to win control of the House of Representatives.

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Republicans Say Little About Obamacare Ruling

Republican lawmakers have been mostly silent on Friday’s court ruling that the Affordable Care Act, known commonly as Obamacare, is unconstitutional. Democrats, however, have said they’ll hold the GOP to its commitment to retain popular provisions of the law, such as guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing health conditions. 

“The GOP spent all last year pretending to support people with pre-existing conditions while quietly trying to remove that support in the courts,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a tweet Saturday. “Next year, we will force votes to expose their lies.” 

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who will assume the speaker’s role next year, said the House “will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the lifesaving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy” the law. 

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas ruled Friday that a change in tax law last year eliminating a penalty for not having health insurance invalidated the entire ACA. The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the ACA will remain the law during the appeal.  

U.S. President Donald Trump had promised during his presidential campaign to dismantle the ACA, a program that made affordable health insurance available to millions of Americans.  

‘Great news’

The president took to Twitter Friday night:  “Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!” 

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the judge’s decision “vindicates President Trump’s position that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Once again, the President calls on Congress to replace Obamacare and act to protect people with pre-existing conditions and provide Americans with quality, affordable health care.”  

Americans with pre-existing conditions, before ACA, faced either high premiums or an inability to access health insurance at all.  

Schumer said in a statement Friday that the ruling “seems to be based on faulty legal reasoning, and hopefully it will be overturned. Americans who care about working families must do all they can to prevent this district court ruling from becoming law.”   

“Today’s misguided ruling will not deter us,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the leader of an alliance of states opposing the lawsuit, said in a statement Friday.  “Our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and well-being for all Americans.”  

New law unlikely for now

Some legal observers believe Congress is unlikely to pass a new law while the case is in the courts. Many senior Republican lawmakers have said they did not plan to also strike down provisions such as pre-existing condition coverage when they repealed the law’s fines for people who can afford coverage but remain uninsured. 

If the case reaches the Supreme Court, it would be the third time the high court considers a challenge to ACA provisions. The law’s opponents lost the first two cases. 

Polls have regularly shown wide public support for the guarantee of health insurance coverage regardless of pre-existing health conditions, an issue Democrats successfully leveraged in last month’s midterm elections to win control of the House of Representatives.

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