In the news this week: Tennessee House of Reps protest and mifepristone ban
Tennessee House of Representatives Expulsions
On March 30, three days after the mass shooting at Covenant High School in Tennessee, thousands of protestors rallied in the Tennessee State Capitol building for more gun control laws, chanting "save our kids" and other protest slogans and songs.
These protests reached the House floor. Three state legislators were protesting: Justin Jones (D-Nashville), Justin J. Pearson (D-Memphis) and Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville), all chanting "no justice, no peace." For this, all three had their committee assignments stripped by Cameron Sexton (the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives), who compared their actions to those of the 2021 Capitol Rioters, or "maybe even worse, depending how you look at it." On the same day, a motion was filed to remove Jones, Pearson, and Johnson. Prior to this, only two representatives had been expelled since 1900 (one for bribery, and the other for sexual misconduct). This motion was widely criticized as politically motivated and unprecedented. In the Tennessee House of Representatives, a two-thirds supermajority is required to expel a sitting representative. The House is currently over 75 percent Republican. On April 6, resolutions HR 63, 64, and 65 were voted on. HR 63, expelling Justin J. Pearson, succeeded 69-26. HR 64, expelling Gloria Johnson, failed 30-65. HR 65, expelling Justin Jones, succeeded 72-25. Pearson and Jones are both Black men, while Gloria Johnson is a white woman. These expulsions brought outrage, most notably from President Biden's Twitter statement: "Three kids and three officials gunned down in yet another mass shooting. And what are GOP officials focused on? Punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action. It's shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent."
Jones' and Pearson's seats are now vacant, but they are expected to be appointed the interim representatives by the local government bodies. Additionally, they will most likely win their reelections if they run, and will not be able to be re-expelled.
Mifepristone is a drug commonly paired with misoprostol to induce abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. It was approved by the FDA in 2000. It is on the core list of the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines. Medication abortions now account for over half of all facility-provided abortions. Many groups have been fighting over access to it.
Following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization Supreme Court ruling — which overturned Roe v. Wade — states once again have the power to regulate all aspects of abortion not directly protected by federal law. Although countless polls have shown that a majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal, voters have consistently voted in favor of abortion protections, and against anti-abortion measures (even in Kentucky), this new status-quo isn't enough for some anti-abortion legislators. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of Texas ruled to suspend the FDA's approval of mifepristone. As previously stated, mifepristone has been FDA-approved for over two decades. This decision essentially bans the sale of this drug nation-wide.
It is important to note the Judge Kacsmaryk, prior to being appointed as a justice by Former President Donald Trump, was an attorney for a conservative Christian legal advocacy group, and is himself anti-abortion, all of which the anti-abortion plaintiffs knew when they chose to file in his district. This is yet another example of judges trying to rule from the stand, and in essence enact decisions that have a basis only in their own beliefs. This problem is endemic across all levels of the American judiciary. The Biden administration has already appealed the case, and the case may eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court has been majority Republican since 1970 and is currently embroiled in controversy over Associate Justice Clarence Thomas' undisclosed gifts from Harlan Crow. Crow is a billionaire donor and collector of Hitler memorabilia. For the meanwhile, Washington State district court judge Thomas O. Rice ordered U.S. authorities not to make any changes that would restrict access to the abortion medication mifepristone in 17 Democratic-led states that sued over the issue. There are now two competing judgements requiring the federal government to do two completely contradictory actions. Some are saying that the Biden Administration should just ignore this ruling completely.