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ER visits for suicide attempts, overdoses, domestic violence soared during first part of pandemic: study



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During the coronavirus pandemic, more Americans have been visiting emergency rooms for overdoses, suicide attempts, and domestic abuse, according to a study published Wednesday.

A study of almost 190 million U.S. emergency department (ED) visits found that “visit rates for mental health conditions, suicide attempts, all drug and opioid overdoses, intimate partner violence, and child abuse and neglect were higher in mid-March through October 2020 […] compared with the same period in 2019.”

The report released by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) says its findings suggest that priorities for ED care and use shifted due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public health. This shift, the study says, underscores “mental health, substance use, and violence risk screening and prevention needs during public health crises.”

The study states that the pandemic and the lockdown measures first implemented in March 2020, as well as the social and economic issues made worse by both, “may affect mental health, suicidal behavior, substance use, and violence.”

Throughout the pandemic, a litany of reports and studies have found that, outside the virus, the pandemic is wreaking havoc on Americans’ health because of the variety of implications stemming from being cooped up at home for long periods of time without much, if any, in-person socializing.

For instance, back in October, an Ohio county’s coroner’s office reported a 73.4% surge in overdose deaths during the first six months of last year, with fentanyl comprising the lion’s share of those deaths.

RELATED: 73% uptick in overdose deaths in 2020 so far in Ohio county: Coroner’s report

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Supreme Court rules anti-abortion doctors lack standing to sue FDA



Supreme Court

In a unanimous decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the anti-abortion doctors who challenged the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the abortion pill mifepristone lack the standing to sue the federal agency. This ruling preserves the FDA’s existing approval of the drug.

The opinion, authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, emphasized that the plaintiffs presented “several complicated causation theories to connect FDA’s actions to the plaintiffs’ alleged injuries in fact.” However, none of these theories were sufficient to establish Article III standing, which requires a personal stake in the dispute.

National Review reports the lawsuit was filed in November 2022 by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on behalf of the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine and four pro-life doctors. The plaintiffs claimed that the FDA had no authority to approve the two-pill chemical-abortion regimen under Subpart H, a federal code section allowing expedited approval for drugs treating “serious or life-threatening illnesses.” They argued that pregnancy is not an illness but a normal physiological state.

The plaintiffs also challenged the FDA’s 2016 and 2021 decisions to relax restrictions on mifepristone, such as increasing the gestational age for its use, reducing required office visits, allowing non-doctors to prescribe the pills, and permitting mail delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abortion opponents expressed disappointment with the decision. Erin Hawley, a lawyer with ADF, criticized the FDA for allegedly endangering women by allowing the use of mifepristone without in-person medical supervision. Ingrid Skop from the Charlotte Lozier Institute and Katie Daniel from Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America echoed similar sentiments, stressing their concerns about the safety of mail-order abortion drugs.

President Joe Biden, however, applauded the decision, highlighting the ongoing risks to women’s rights to necessary medical treatment in many states.

Justice Kavanaugh’s opinion stated that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate a direct injury that would force them to participate in abortion procedures against their conscience. He added that concerns about the potential for increased emergency room visits did not justify legal standing.

Kavanaugh noted that doctors and citizens opposed to FDA regulations should seek changes through legislative and executive branches rather than the courts. This decision aligns with a previous lower court ruling that found the legal challenge was filed too late, beyond the statute of limitations.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, suspending the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. This decision was subsequently overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which restored access to the drug. The Supreme Court’s stay ensured that the drug remained available while legal proceedings continued.

Democratic lawmakers welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley described it as a “major relief & victory for anyone who has ever or will ever need essential medication abortion care.” Senator Elizabeth Warren criticized the challenge as baseless and underscored the safety and effectiveness of chemical-abortion pills. She warned of ongoing efforts by Republicans to impose a nationwide abortion ban and called for continued protection of reproductive freedom.


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