Florida Tech student fatally shot in armed confrontation with officers, police say

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(FLORIDA) — A Florida Institute of Technology student who was reportedly wielding a knife at students on campus was fatally shot by officers Friday night, authorities said.

Police officers and school security responded shortly before 11 p.m. to reports of a man on the Melbourne campus “armed with a knife and assaulting students,” the Melbourne Police Department said.

The incident began at Roberts Hall, a freshman residence hall, according to school officials.

Officers confronted the man, identified by police as 18-year-old Alhaji Sow, in a campus building “armed with an edged weapon,” the department said.

Sow “lunged” at a police officer with his weapon during the confrontation, and the officer and a school security officer both fired their weapons, striking him, according to Melbourne police.

Officers attempted lifesaving measures but the student died at the scene, police said.

The Melbourne police officer who fired his weapon was injured during the incident, police said. No other injuries were reported.

Shortly after midnight, the school issued a shelter-in-place alert and advised people to avoid the area due to police activity on campus. The order was lifted around 3 a.m., though students were advised to avoid Roberts Hall and Campbell Hall, another residence hall, due to the investigation.

The shooting was an “isolated incident” and there is no further threat to the campus, police and school officials said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting. The officer is a five-year veteran of the force, police said.

Sow, of Riverdale, Georgia, was a sophomore at the university studying aeronautical science, school officials said.

In a statement Saturday morning, Florida Tech said it “continues to collaborate with law enforcement’s ongoing investigation.”

The school said it is arranging support services Saturday for students and others in the community.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Member of ‘Jena Six’ speaks out on race and the justice system 15 years later

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(LOUISIANA) — Bryant Purvis was just 17 when he became a part of the “Jena Six.”

He and five other Black teens were accused and later convicted of attacking a white student at a high school in Jena, Louisiana, a town with a large majority of white residents, after a series of racially charged incidents there.

The case against the teens became for many a symbol of racial discrimination in the justice system — attempted murder charges for what supporters called a schoolyard fight. The charges were later dramatically reduced.

Purvis, now 32, maintains he was not involved in the fight. He has since dedicated his time talking to students about racial injustice as a motivational speaker. He also authored the book, “My Story as a Jena 6,” in 2015, but is now focused on his future beyond the “Jena Six” label.

“At the time, it was just so much emotion,” Purvis, who now lives in Dallas and has a 9-year-old son, told ABC News.

“It was more extreme because I knew I didn’t commit the crime. So, once I found out the charges, knowing where I was in Jena, I just didn’t see it coming out good.”

15 years later

Dec. 4 marks the 15th anniversary of the arrest of the Jena Six: Purvis, Carwin Jones, Jesse Ray Beard, Robert Bailey Jr., Theo Shaw and Mychal Bell.

At the beginning of the 2006 school year, several Black students were sitting under a tree at Jena High School where white students usually congregated, according to the ACLU, which advocated on behalf of the Jena Six. A day later, three nooses were left hanging from a branch on the tree, and three white students were temporarily suspended, the ACLU reported, despite the principal’s recommendation to expel them.

Later that year, a white adult at a gas station pulled a shotgun on three Black teens, including Bailey, but the teens were the ones charged in the case — for taking the gun and bringing it to police, according to a 2009 Good Morning America report.

On Dec. 4, 2006, six Black teenagers, now known as the Jena Six were accused of beating up a fellow white student Justin Barker, who was hospitalized and suffered a swollen eye and a concussion, according to Barker’s family.

He said in interviews years later with The Associated Press that he didn’t know why he was attacked.

The Black teens were arrested and charged with second-degree battery, which was later upgraded to second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy to commit attempted murder, despite Barker returning to a school function hours later, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which represented one of the teens and helped arrange the defense for another.

Supporters argued the charges were far too serious for the severity of Barker’s injury, sparking a massive protest and litigation efforts to have the charges reduced, SPLC said.

Bell, then 16, was charged as an adult and pleaded guilty to second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit second-degree battery. However, his conviction was later overturned after a judge ruled he should have been tried as a juvenile. Bell still received an 18-month detention sentence.

The other five pleaded no contest in an agreement that reduced their charges to a misdemeanor simple battery and did not admit guilt or involvement. Each one of them was fined $500 and served a week of unsupervised probation.

“We recognize that the events of the past two and a half years have also caused Justin and his parents tremendous pain and suffering, much of which has gone unrecognized,” the teens said in a prepared statement read in court, according to SPLC. “We hope our actions today help to resolve this matter for Justin, Mr. and Mrs. Barker, and all others affected, including the Town of Jena.”

DA said race not a factor

The district attorney at the time, Reed Walters, claimed race wasn’t a factor in the charges.

“It is not and never has been about race,” Walters said, according to an AP report at the time. “It is about finding justice for an innocent victim and holding people accountable for their actions.”

Local activists disagreed.

“From racial profiling to unequal punishment in school to potential misconduct by authorities, the Jena Six case causes great concern,” Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said in a 2007 statement.

“It is time to fully examine the facts surrounding this case to determine if any racially motivated misdeeds have taken place. Considering the concerns that the Jena Six bring up, we must redouble our commitment to equal protection — not just in Jena, but across Louisiana and the rest of the country.”

Thousands came out to protest during their trials in 2007. Demonstrators were furious with disparities in the criminal justice system, which they said often resulted in harsher, more unjust charges and sentences for Black people compared with white people.

Trying to move on

Following the incident and their convictions, the other men too wanted to move on — some going to college, others entering the labor force. Shaw also maintained his innocence, claiming he was not involved in the fight.

Purvis said racial division and segregation had long been an issue in Jena, for as long as he could remember, but the experiences of the Jena Six shined a national spotlight on the tensions that were building up.

“I would say we kind of put pressure on the officials and everybody that run the town to make a change,” Purvis added. “We brought a lot of attention to the community … A lot of other things that happened leading up to that fight that really weren’t publicized.”

Years later, Purvis has a message for Black men about ongoing injustice in America: “Carry yourself in the right manner, and don’t let one situation define who you are.”

“Things are gonna happen to you,” he added, “but it’s not about what happened — it’s how you respond.”

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With so many unknowns about omicron, when will we have answers?

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(NEW YORK) — The latest COVID-19 variant of concern, omicron, first reported to the World Health Organization from South Africa last week — and now detected throughout the U.S. — continues to worry many Americans with still much unknown about the virus.

Health authorities continue to urge calm as scientists across the globe search for answers.

“Right now, we’re really in a state of knowledge acquisition,” said Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts. “We really need to know more. We need to know how pathogenic it is. We need to know how transmissible it is and we need to know whether or not it evades antibody responses induced by the vaccines.”

Experts caution that answers to those questions may not come for months.

“What’s going to happen is our band of confidence is going to narrow over time as opposed to saying in this amount of time we will have an answer. And that’s what we have to recognize,” said John Brownstein, epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We just need to have some patience,” Brownstein added.

When will we know about omicron transmission?
Researchers, however, expect to have estimates for transmissibility “probably ahead of some of the other questions that we have,” said Brownstein.

In a press conference Wednesday, WHO COVID technical lead, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, said there is some suggestion omicron may be more transmissible but it’s too early to say definitively. “We expect to have more information on transmission within days, not necessarily weeks,” Van Kerkhove said.

“Based on the data collected through surveillance, we have a rough estimation of the proportion of infections that relate to omicron where you can start to make basic estimates of transmissibility very quickly,” said Brownstein.

During the White House COVID-19 briefing on Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, said as more omicron cases are detected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be able to model how the new variant will spread, similar to how quickly CDC predicted the delta variant would spread from the initial 3% to 4% of cases to nearly all cases.

“We really don’t know what’s going to happen, how well it is going to compete or not compete with delta, but we will know as more cases occur and what the doubling time of the relative percentage of omicron versus delta will be,” Fauci said.

When will we know how effective current COVID-19 vaccines are on omicron?
The Food and Drug Administration said in a statement on Tuesday it is working “as quickly as possible” to evaluate the potential impact of omicron on current treatments, vaccines and tests and said it expects to have answers in the next few weeks.

If a modification to current vaccines is necessary, vaccine manufacturers say they are prepared to make those modifications quickly.

In a statement on Sunday, Pfizer and BioNTech said they have been monitoring the effectiveness of their vaccine against emerging variants and if a “vaccine-escape variant emerges” they expect to be able to make a “tailor-made vaccine against that variant in approximately 100 days, subject to regulatory approval.”

Matt Barrows, Moderna’s senior director of manufacturing told ABC News that the company has the capacity to produce an omicron-specific booster vaccine within a month if it becomes necessary. He said experiments testing the efficacy of their current vaccine against omicron are ongoing and will take at least two to three weeks.

“Although we haven’t proven it yet, there’s every reason to believe that if you get vaccinated and boosted that you would have at least some degree of cross protection, very likely against severe disease, even against the Omicron variant,” said Fauci.

When will we know if omicron causes more serious illness?
Learning if this version of the virus is deadlier could take many months, experts say.

“We don’t even know if omicron will have the ability to overtake delta and we’re dealing with a delta surge right now. There’s a lot of ifs and a lot of open questions,” said Brownstein.

Currently, the delta variant is driving nearly all cases across the U.S., with 99.9% of cases in the country from the delta variant.

Health officials are encouraged by the mild symptoms the omicron cases are experiencing so far. According to health officials, the man who tested positive for omicron in Minnesota is fully vaccinated and had been boosted in early November. The woman identified in Colorado is also reported to be experiencing only mild symptoms and was fully vaccinated, however not boosted.

Early cases identified in South Africa have also reported no severe disease according to local officials. “Right now it does not look like there’s a big signal of a high degree of severity, but it’s too early to tell,” said Fauci, in an interview with CNN.

As of today, there are more than 400 confirmed cases of Omicron in over 30 countries across the globe, including in the US. As scientists work on getting more answers, experts are urging to not wait and get vaccinated or boosted if eligible.

“As it stands now with the information we have, you do the best with the information you have in front of you and that information says that you get an incredible advantage by getting that booster,” said Brownstein.

Barouch said that the only way to stop new variants is to vaccinate people across the globe.

On Friday, the White House announced that it’s shipping out 11 million more vaccines worldwide in an effort to increase vaccination around the world. The U.S. has shipped 291 million doses so far and President Joe Biden announced plans Thursday to provide 200 million more doses worldwide in the next 3 months.

“Currently, sub-Saharan Africa has less than a seven percent vaccination rate. And so it’s not a surprise that new variants are emerging in that part of the world,” Barouch said. “The only way to stop these variants is to have a widespread vaccination campaign that really reaches all four corners of the planet.”

Esra Demirel, M.D., is an OB-GYN resident physician at Northwell Health-North Shore University Hospital & LIJ Medical Center and is a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.

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As delta continues to surge in Pennsylvania, hospital officials urge vaccination

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(PENNSYLVANIA) — Omicron has been making headlines as cases of the new COVID-19 variant continue to be detected in the United States. While the strain is concerning, health officials are heeding that delta continues to fuel widespread transmission and is a problem now.

That’s the current case in Pennsylvania, where the number of daily confirmed COVID-19 infections crossed 10,000 Friday for the first time since the state’s winter wave.

In the past week, the number of COVID-19 cases, case rates, hospitalizations and patients on ventilators have all gone up, according to state data. Amid its latest surge, Pennsylvania has one of the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rates in the U.S.

“We continue to see a tremendous amount of COVID-19 patients,” Dr. Eugene Curley, the medical director of infectious disease for WellSpan Health, which has six acute care hospitals in south-central Pennsylvania, told ABC News.

One month ago, there were about 250 COVID-19 patients total being treated across the six hospitals; on Friday, that number was 310, Curley said. The peak, during last year’s winter surge, was around 430, he said.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which operates over 35 hospitals throughout Pennsylvania, has seen its second-highest number of COVID-19 patients since the pandemic began, hospital officials said. As of Friday morning, there were 779 patients with active COVID-19 infections admitted across all UPMC facilities; the peak, in December 2020, was 1,250, UPMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Donald Yealy told ABC News.

“Across our system, we’re at about two-thirds to three-quarters of what that peak is,” he said. “So it is very, very brisk.”

The state’s current surge has been building since late summer, Yealy said. It reached a peak in late September before “there was the beginning of a pullback in activity,” Yealy said.

“That pullback no longer exists and we are back on essentially an upward trajectory,” he continued.

It’s hard to predict if Thanksgiving gatherings will have an impact on hospitalizations; holidays are a “wild card,” Curley said. But many people in the state have no protection against COVID-19, Yealy noted, which will help fuel transmission.

Statewide, around 41% of residents have still not gotten fully vaccinated, according to federal data. Within some counties, that percentage is in the 60s, state data shows.

Unvaccinated people continue to represent the vast majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including those who are in intensive care units, state and hospital data shows.

For the 30 days ending Nov. 2, nearly 75% of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 were unvaccinated, according to state data.

Across WellSpan’s six acute-care hospitals, over 90% of COVID-19 patients in the ICU and on ventilators since early September have been unvaccinated, the health system said this week.

“Those numbers just reinforce what we already know — is these vaccinations are safe and effective,” Curley said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has urged people to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.

“In Pennsylvania and around the country, the vaccine is still our strategy, so get your shot,” the governor said last week on KDKA-AM radio, according to The Associated Press.

A renewed push for vaccination and boosters has come amid the spread of omicron, which has concerned scientists due to its large number of mutations. The variant has been detected in at least 11 states — including Pennsylvania, where the state’s first case was identified Friday in a man from northwest Philadelphia, health officials said.

For Curley, if concerns around the omicron variant encourage people to get vaccinated, that’s a good thing. But he warned that delta “is here now.”

“People need to get vaccinated for that reason,” he said. “If you’re out there and you’re eligible to be vaccinated, get vaccinated now because of delta.”

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, echoed that sentiment on Friday in an interview on CNN.

“We now have about 86,000 cases of COVID right now in the United States being diagnosed daily and 99.9% of them, the vast majority of them, continue to be delta,” she said. “And we know what we need to do against delta. And that is get vaccinated. Get boosted if you’re eligible and continue all of those prevention measures, including masking.”

It is too soon to tell if omicron will overtake delta as the predominant variant in the U.S., she said. Though either way, the actions will likely remain the same, experts say.

“The truth of the matter is, both delta, which is the predominant variant now, and omicron are easily transmitted. And so the concerns are really not changed all that much, and the actions that we all need to take remain exactly the same,” Yealy said. “Get vaccinated, wear a mask indoors and in crowds, keep a little distance and if you get sick, don’t go out with others and get tested as quickly as possible.”

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Parents of Michigan school shooting suspect plead not guilty, held on $500K bond each

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(MICHIGAN) — The parents charged in connection with this week’s deadly shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan each pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter Saturday in their first hearing since being taken into custody in the middle of the night while hiding in Detroit.

The couple was captured early Saturday following an hourslong search after they did not turn themselves in for their scheduled arraignment Friday afternoon, according to law enforcement officials.

The attorney for James and Jennifer Crumbley, who could be seen fighting back tears during the arraignment, had said Friday they were returning to town for their court date after detectives announced they were trying to locate the couple. But the duo remained missing late Friday and the U.S. Marshals Service joined in on the search.

The couple was caught by the Detroit Police Department when a business owner called 911 after spotting the suspects’ car in their parking lot and Jennifer Crumbley standing next to it, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. She fled the area on foot, but the couple was located in a commercial building after an extensive search of the area. They were taken into custody “without incident,” Detroit Police Chief James White said at a 3 a.m. press conference, and were unarmed.

White said the duo was “aided in getting into the building” and some charges might be filed against the person who let them inside. He also said it was “very likely” they were trying to flee to Canada.

The Marshals Service had announced a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to their arrests.

At Saturday’s arraignment, the judge ordered they each be held on $500,000 with no 10% bond and will submit to drug testing and be fitted with a GPS monitor if they are able to meet bond. They were also asked to surrender any weapons to the sheriff’s office.

Shannon Smith, who is representing Jennifer Crumbley, repeatedly said her clients were not fleeing prosecution and planned to turn themselves in Saturday morning, a categorization that Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald disputed.

“While it’s human nature to want to find someone to blame or something to point to or something that gives us answers, the charges in this case are intended to make an example and send a message,” Smith and James Crumbley’s lawyer, Mariell Lehman, said in a statement Saturday. “The prosecution has very much cherry-picked and slanted specific facts to further their narrative to do that.”

McDonald recommended the $500,000 bond, saying, “These are not people that we can be assured will return to court on their own.”

The parents were each charged Friday with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Their son, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, allegedly used his father’s semi-automatic handgun in the Tuesday shooting that killed four and injured seven.

“They could have stopped it and they had every reason to know he was dangerous,” McDonald said during the hearing Saturday.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the Crumbleys’ attorney would make arrangements for their arrest if charges were issued, and when the warrants were issued Friday, “detectives immediately moved to arrest the couple,” the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said.
The attorney told police “she had made repeated attempts to reach them by phone and text without success,” the sheriff’s office said.

Bouchard said, “The action of fleeing and ignoring their attorney certainly adds weight to the charges. They cannot run from their part in this tragedy.”

The couple’s attorneys then said in a statement: “The Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety. They are returning to the area to be arraigned. They are not fleeing from law enforcement.”

In a response to the statement by the attorneys for Jennifer and James Crumbley, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said it was not aware that the couple was returning to be arraigned.

“If they are, it’s news to us,” Undersheriff Mike McCabe told ABC News, saying authorities still don’t know where the couple is located.

McDonald confirmed Saturday that the couple had withdrawn $4,000 from an ATM in Rochester Hills on Friday morning before going missing.

Jennifer and James Crumbley are due back in court in Dec. 14.

Earlier on Friday, McDonald at a news conference outlined an alarming and violent note Ethan Crumbley allegedly drew hours before the shooting that prompted his parents to be called to the school. She also stressed the importance of responsible gun ownership.

“While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to this, to the events on November 30, and it is my intention to hold them accountable,” McDonald said.

Ethan Crumbley was with his father when he bought the 9 mm Sig Sauer pistol on Nov. 26, McDonald said. The teen posted photos of the gun on social media, writing, “Just got my new beauty today,” she said. Jennifer Crumbley also posted online about testing the gun out with her son, McDonald said.

A teacher saw Ethan Crumbley researching ammunition in class days before the shooting, the prosecutor said. School officials contacted his parents, but they didn’t respond, McDonald said. However, according to the prosecutor, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son, writing, “lol, I’m not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught.”

According to McDonald, the morning of Tuesday’s shooting, Ethan Crumbley’s teacher saw an alarming note on his desk. McDonald described the note as “a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words, ‘The thoughts won’t stop, help me.’ In another section of the note was a drawing of a bullet with the following words above that bullet, ‘Blood everywhere.'”

“Between the drawing of the gun and the bullet is a drawing of a person who appears to have been shot twice and bleeding,” she said. “Below that figure is a drawing of a laughing emoji. Further down the drawing are the words, ‘My life is useless,’ and to the right of that are the words, ‘The world is dead.'”

Ethan Crumbley was removed from the classroom and his parents were called to the school, McDonald said. By the time a counselor obtained the drawing, the teen had allegedly altered it, McDonald said.

“At the meeting, James and Jennifer Crumbley were shown the drawing and were advised that they were required to get their son into counseling within 48 hours,” she said. “Both James and Jennifer Crumbley failed to ask their son if he had his gun with him or where his gun was located and failed to inspect his backpack for the presence of the gun, which he had with him.”

The parents left school while Ethan Crumbley returned to class, likely with the gun in his backpack, McDonald said.

Once news broke of a shooting at the school, McDonald said Jennifer Crumbley texted her son, “Ethan, don’t do it.”

James Crumbley called 911 to report that a gun was missing from his house and said he believed his son may be the shooter, McDonald said.

Authorities determined James Crumbley’s semi-automatic handgun was stored unlocked in a drawer in his bedroom, McDonald said.

McDonald said involuntary manslaughter is “the strongest possible charge that we could prove” against the suspect’s parents.

“These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and also send a message that gun owners have a responsibility. When they fail to uphold that responsibility, there are serious and criminal consequences,” she said.

Ethan Crumbley has been charged as an adult with one count of terrorism causing death; four counts of first-degree murder; seven counts of assault with intent to murder; and 11 counts of possession of a firearm in commission of a felony.

A judge entered a not guilty plea for Ethan Crumbley on Wednesday. His next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 13.

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Amy Coney Barrett raises adoption in abortion case hearing that poses challenge to Roe v. Wade

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(WASHINGTON) — When the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday over a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a headline-making line of questioning came from the court’s newest justice, Amy Coney Barrett.

Barrett, a conservative justice appointed last year by former President Donald Trump, questioned whether adoption rather than abortion could resolve the “burdens of parenting” noted in Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the two major Supreme Court rulings on abortion that protect a woman’s right to end a pregnancy before fetal viability.

Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, the Supreme Court has never allowed states to prohibit the termination of pregnancies prior to fetal viability outside the womb, roughly 24 weeks, according to medical experts.

During Wednesday’s arguments, Barrett, a mom of seven with two adopted children, questioned Julie Rikelman, a Center for Reproductive Rights attorney arguing against Mississippi’s 15-week ban, about safe haven laws, which protect parents from criminal prosecution if they leave unwanted infants at designated places, like hospitals. All 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have enacted safe haven legislation, but rules and regulations vary by state, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau.

“Insofar as you and many of your amici focus on the ways in which forced parenting, forced motherhood, would hinder women’s access to the workplace and to equal opportunities, it’s also focused on the consequences of parenting and the obligations of motherhood that flow from pregnancy,” said Barrett. “Why don’t the safe haven laws take care of that problem?”

“It seems to me that the choice more focused would be between, say, the ability to get an abortion at 23 weeks or the state requiring the woman to go 15, 16 weeks more and then terminate parental rights at the conclusion,” she said. “Why — why didn’t you address the safe haven laws and why don’t they matter?”

Rikelman responded by pointing out the unique risks that pregnancy alone carries, saying in court, “We don’t just focus on the burdens of parenting, and neither did Roe and Casey. Instead, pregnancy itself is unique. It imposes unique physical demands and risks on women and, in fact, has impact on all of their lives, on their ability to care for other children, other family members, on their ability to work.”

It is a point echoed by reproductive physicians, who say talking about adoption in place of abortion misses the realities of people’s lives and the dangers of pregnancy.

If the Supreme Court were to uphold the Mississippi ban, as the conservative majority appeared headed toward, legal scholars say it could clear the way for stringent new restrictions on abortion in roughly half the country.

“‘I’m unfortunately not surprised that adoption was brought up so much, because I think people feel that pregnancy is this non-issue medical condition,” said Dr. Leilah Zahedi, a Tennessee-based maternal fetal medicine specialist and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health. “It’s very infuriating to be honest, because it shows their ignorance in the fact that pregnancy is not an uncomplicated condition for the majority of the United States.”

“Pregnancy is probably one of the most dangerous things a woman does in her life, bar none,” she said.

The U.S. is also a particularly dangerous place to give birth. It has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries, according to a 2020 study from the Commonwealth Fund, a healthcare policy-focused nonprofit organization.

Black women are three to four times more likely to die during childbirth or in the months after than white, Asian or Latina women, while Indigenous women are two to three times more likely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Physicians like Dr. Nisha Verma, a board-certified OBGYN who provides abortion care, point out that abortion, on the other hand, is “incredibly safe.”

“The risk of childbirth is as high as 10 times higher than the risk of abortion,” said Verma, also a fellow with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “That’s a lot of risk to ask someone to take on.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists was among 25 medical organizations who together filed an amicus brief in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case that is now before the Supreme Court, arguing the Mississippi law is “fundamentally at odds with the provision of safe and essential health care, with scientific evidence, and with medical ethics.”

Providers like Verma also point to statistics showing that restrictions on abortion impact people who are the most vulnerable to complications from pregnancy and childbirth.

Around 75% of abortion patients are low-income residents, and nearly 60% of U.S. women of reproductive age live in states where access to abortion is restricted, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights organization.

In her response to Barrett, Rikelman cited the maternal mortality statistics in Mississippi alone, saying, “It’s 75 times more dangerous to give birth in Mississippi than it is to have a pre-viability abortion, and those risks are disproportionately threatening the lives of women of color.”

In addition to the physical risks people face during pregnancy, there are also other factors to consider, like the lack of safeguards for pregnant people in the U.S., experts say.

The U.S. does not have universal health care and does not provide universal child care. And as the Supreme Court weighs its decision on the Mississippi law, the U.S. remains the only industrialized, modernized country in the world without federally mandated paid family leave, according to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The House of Representatives last month passed a social spending plan that includes four weeks of paid family leave, eight weeks less than what was in the original spending package proposed this year by President Joe Biden. But that bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, with Sen Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a critical vote, opposed to the paid leave provision.

“Abortion is not an isolated political issue,” said Verma, weighing in on Justice Barrett’s specific comments on adoption. “I think the way that adoption was presented as just this easy alternative to abortion completely disregards the real experiences that people are having. It’s a decision that’s happening in the context of people’s lives.”

In the majority of cases when providers talk to pregnant people about the option of abortion, they also provide them with information on the option of adoption, according to Verma. She said, in her experience, a person’s decision on their own pregnancy is not one made lightly, and is not one made without considering all options.

“The decision-making process is different for every person, but it is a decision that people are making carefully and intentionally with all of the information and in the context of their own lives,” she said. “It’s not something that we can impose on people.”

Verma continued: “I see patients all the time making decisions to have an abortion from a place of love and compassion.”

There were over 620,00 legal induced abortions in the U.S. in 2019, the most recent data available, according to the CDC. At the end of the same year, 2019, there were around 122,000 children waiting to be adopted out of the U.S. foster care system, government data shows.

Overall, just over 110,000 adoptions took place in the U.S. in 2014, the most recent data available, according to the National Council for Adoption, a national advocacy organization that promotes adoption.

Ryan Hanlon, acting CEO and president of the National Council for Adoption, said the organization does not have a position on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

Speaking specifically on safe haven laws, Hanlon said the goal should be to meet pregnant people and provide them with comprehensive information before they would find themselves in what he described as the “crisis” of leaving a child under the law.

“Safe haven laws can be a really wonderful thing, but by the time we’ve gotten to that point, we’ve already experienced a crisis,” he said. “What I would hope for any woman who’s experiencing an unplanned pregnancy is that she’s getting information and support well before then, and for those women who do choose to place their child for adoption, that they are getting support before, during and after the birth.”

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

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Appeals court weighs whether Justice Department should substitute for Trump in defamation suit

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(NEW YORK) — A federal appeals court on Friday peppered the Justice Department with questions over whether it’s appropriate for the department to substitute for former President Donald Trump in the defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll.

Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist, sued Trump in November 2019 after he denied raping her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s. Trump claimed Carroll wasn’t his type and made up the story to sell a new book.

The Justice Department is appealing the ruling of U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who in October rejected the DOJ’s bid to replace Trump as the defendant in the case.

The DOJ’s Mark Freeman conceded during arguments on Friday that “the former president made crude and offensive comments” when he responded to Carroll’s rape accusation, but that he spoke in his capacity as president, therefore allowing the U.S. government to take over as the defendant, shielding Trump from personal liability.

“Any president facing a public accusation of this kind in which the media is very interested would feel obliged to answer questions from the public, answer questions from the media,” Freeman said during oral arguments before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “It is part of the responsibility of a public official to address matters of grave interest to the public.”

One of the appellate judges, Denny Chin, suggested that the context and content matters.

“Shouldn’t we be parsing the individual comments to see whether they’re serving the country?” Chin asked. “Who is he serving when he says ‘She’s not my type?'”

Another member of the three-judge panel, Guido Calabresi, questioned what law determines whether Trump was acting within the scope of his employment.

“We don’t have any cases that tell us,” Calabresi said.

Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, said that Trump was obligated to respond to Carroll’s accusation.

“When somebody says he did a heinous crime 20 years ago, he needs to address it,” Habba said.

Carroll’s attorney, Joshua Matz, said Trump “acted in pursuit of private motives” and that Carroll should be allowed to hold him personally accountable.

“A mere denial is not the same as ‘I didn’t rape her and she’s too unattractive for me to have done it,'” Matz said.

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Blizzard warning issued for Hawaii with at least 12 inches of snow forecast

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(HONOLULU) — A blizzard warning has been issued for Hawaii, with at least 12 inches of snow forecast this weekend.

The warning is in effect for the Big Island summits from 6 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Sunday local time.

In addition to blizzard conditions, wind gusts over 100 mph are also expected, according to the alert issued by National Weather Service Honolulu.

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” the alert said. “Blowing snow will significantly reduce visibility at times, with periods of zero visibility.”

“The strong winds will likely cause significant drifting of snow,” it added.

A blizzard warning for tropical Hawaii may come as a surprise, but snow is not uncommon; the summits of the Big Island’s Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes reach nearly 14,000 feet in elevation.

Also on the radar this weekend is rain — a flood watch has been issued for all Hawaiian islands through Monday afternoon, as a prolonged period of heavy rainfall is anticipated over the weekend.

“Flash flooding caused by excessive rainfall continues to be possible,” the alert said.

“Landslides may also occur in areas with steep terrain,” it warned.

The “very active weather” in Hawaii is due to what’s known as the kona low, a seasonal cyclone that pulls moisture from the south, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Ari Sarsalari.

“The coverage of the precipitation is going to get a little more intense into the weekend,” Sarsalari said in a video update Friday. “This is going to be a lot of rain, so be prepared for some flooding issues.”

The slow-moving kona low is expected to bring the “greatest potential for heavy rain” over Maui and the Big Island, NWS Honolulu said.

Elsewhere in the United States, a storm system is expected to sweep from the northern Rockies to northern Great Lakes, bringing a blast of snow and gusty winds later this weekend. Winter storm watches and warnings have been issued from Montana to northern Wisconsin, where more than a half a foot of snow is possible this weekend.

Strong, gusty winds will also impact parts of the northern Rockies later Saturday into Saturday night. High wind alerts are in effect from Great Falls, Montana, to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

ABC News’ Dan Peck and Max Golembo contributed to this report.

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Kevin McCarthy defends Rep. Lauren Boebert, downplays House infighting

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(WASHINGTON) — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., attempted to downplay the tumultuous week in the Republican conference on Friday, acknowledging only that some of his hard-right members distract from the GOP midterm message in their feuds with Democrats and each other but not condemning the anti-Muslim rhetoric from his member that set off the most recent controversies.

“It’s things we would not want to deal with,” he said of the controversies over the last few weeks surrounding comments and social media posts from Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona.

“It’s [distracting from] things the American people want to focus on: stopping inflation, gas prices and others,” he said. “Anything that deviates from that causes problems.”

The infighting this week began when Boebert’s remarks that likened Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., to a terrorist first appeared on social media. Boebert tweeted an apology to “anyone in the Muslim community I offended” but refused Omar’s request to make a direct public apology to her.

“She apologized publicly, she apologized personally,” McCarthy suggested of Boebert’s comments, defending the lawmaker.

According to both Omar and Boebert, Omar hung up on Boebert in their private phone call because, Omar said, she refused to apologize directly and Bobert, instead, demanded she apologize for “anti-American” sentiments.

McCarthy did not specifically address the content of Boebert’s bigoted remarks that set off the exchange.

The second feud of the week broke out soon after between Greene and Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., a freshman who has loudly and repeatedly criticized some of her far-right colleagues.

After Mace condemned Boebert’s remarks in a CNN interview, Greene referred to her as “trash” and a “RINO” or “Republican in name only,” calling her “pro-abort” because Mace, a rape survivor, supports access to abortion in cases of rape and incest.

Mace responded on Twitter with taunting emojis to Greene, calling her “crazy” and “insane.” The feud continued even after McCarthy met with both women in private: Greene claimed to have spoken with former President Donald Trump about supporting a primary challenger against Mace next year.

The escalating series of attacks left moderate Republicans grumbling and worried that McCarthy’s refusal to publicly condemn his far-right members’ antics could further embolden them and inject more chaos into the midterms and hurt Republicans’ increasingly likely chances of taking the House next year.

McCarthy, who needs to keep both wings of his party happy to win the speaker’s gavel next year, had a different take.

“We’re going to be quite fine,” he predicted brightly.

McCarthy’s press conference comes hours after more than 40 House Democrats called for Boebert to be removed from her committee assignments “following her Islamophobic comments and incitement of anti-Muslim animus.”

“There must be consequences for vicious workplace harassment and abuse that creates an environment so unsafe for colleagues and staff that it invites death threats against them,” said the statement from Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, Congressional Asian Pacific American Chair Judy Chu, D-Calif., Congressional Equality Caucus Chair David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., and signed by 36 other members of the Progressive Caucus.

If the House does take action against Bobert, it would follow Green and Gosar being stripped from their committee assignments, as well as Gosar becoming the first congressional lawmaker to be censured in more than a decade last month after he tweeted an edited Japanese cartoon depicting violence against Democrats.

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Kevin McCarthy defends Rep. Lauren Boebert after anti-Muslim remark, downplays House infighting

Win McNamee/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., attempted to downplay the tumultuous week in the Republican conference on Friday, acknowledging only that some of his hard-right members distract from the GOP midterm message in their feuds with Democrats and each other but not condemning the anti-Muslim rhetoric from his member that set off the most recent controversies.

“It’s things we would not want to deal with,” he said of the controversies over the last few weeks surrounding comments and social media posts from Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona.

“It’s [distracting from] things the American people want to focus on: stopping inflation, gas prices and others,” he said. “Anything that deviates from that causes problems.”

The infighting this week began when Boebert’s remarks that likened Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., to a terrorist first appeared on social media. Boebert tweeted an apology to “anyone in the Muslim community I offended” but refused Omar’s request to make a direct public apology to her.

“She apologized publicly, she apologized personally,” McCarthy suggested of Boebert’s comments, defending the lawmaker.

According to both Omar and Boebert, Omar hung up on Boebert in their private phone call because, Omar said, she refused to apologize directly and Bobert, instead, demanded she apologize for “anti-American” sentiments.

McCarthy did not specifically address the content of Boebert’s bigoted remarks that set off the exchange.

The second feud of the week broke out soon after between Greene and Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., a freshman who has loudly and repeatedly criticized some of her far-right colleagues.

After Mace condemned Boebert’s remarks in a CNN interview, Greene referred to her as “trash” and a “RINO” or “Republican in name only,” calling her “pro-abort” because Mace, a rape survivor, supports access to abortion in cases of rape and incest.

Mace responded on Twitter with taunting emojis to Greene, calling her “crazy” and “insane.” The feud continued even after McCarthy met with both women in private: Greene claimed to have spoken with former President Donald Trump about supporting a primary challenger against Mace next year.

The escalating series of attacks left moderate Republicans grumbling and worried that McCarthy’s refusal to publicly condemn his far-right members’ antics could further embolden them and inject more chaos into the midterms and hurt Republicans’ increasingly likely chances of taking the House next year.

McCarthy, who needs to keep both wings of his party happy to win the speaker’s gavel next year, had a different take.

“We’re going to be quite fine,” he predicted brightly.

McCarthy’s press conference comes hours after more than 40 House Democrats called for Boebert to be removed from her committee assignments “following her Islamophobic comments and incitement of anti-Muslim animus.”

“There must be consequences for vicious workplace harassment and abuse that creates an environment so unsafe for colleagues and staff that it invites death threats against them,” said the statement from Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, Congressional Asian Pacific American Chair Judy Chu, D-Calif., Congressional Equality Caucus Chair David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., and signed by 36 other members of the Progressive Caucus.

If the House does take action against Bobert, it would follow Green and Gosar being stripped from their committee assignments, as well as Gosar becoming the first congressional lawmaker to be censured in more than a decade last month after he tweeted an edited Japanese cartoon depicting violence against Democrats.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.