The next abortion battleground – POLITICO

programming notes: We’ll be off next week for the holidays but will return to your inboxes on Wednesday, Jan. 4.

OMNIBUS AMENDED — Before the bill cleared the Senate on Thursday, senators voted to add more than a half-dozen amendments to the bill, including major policy provisions that would expand federal protections for pregnant workers and nursing mothers, in addition to helping 9/11 families. Expect a House vote today on the bill and amendments.

EYES ON VIRGINIA — The spotlight is on a special election for a Virginia state Senate seat, another example of the overturning of Rowe driving politics across the board, POLITICO’s Megan Messerly reports.

The winner of the January election will fill the seat vacated by Republican Jen Kiggans, who was elected to Congress in November.

And while the race doesn’t threaten the Democrats’ majority in the chamber, anti-abortion and abortion-rights groups are spending big to affect the outcome, believing it could impact people’s access to the procedure.

Abortion up to the third trimester remains legal in Virginia, but Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, has proposed prohibiting the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Youngkin doesn’t have the votes to do that, but Democrats’ narrow majority in the state Senate has put the race between Virginia Beach City Councilman and former NFL safety Aaron Rouse, a Democrat, and Navy veteran Kevin Adams, a Republican, in the national spotlight.

The election shows how granular abortion-focused groups are getting — and how important state politics is becoming for the issue — in the post-Rowe era.

WELCOME TO FRIDAY PULSE — and happy holidays! What health stories are you going to be watching in the new year? Let us know at [email protected] and [email protected],

TODAY ON OUR PULSE CHECK PODCASTKatherine Ellen Foley talks with Ruth Reader about the state of artificial intelligence in health care and why it hasn’t reached its promise yet.

MOTHER’S RIGHTS MAKE THE CUT — The Senate voted overwhelmingly to expand the rights of mothers to pump milk at work, POLITICO’s Nick Niedzwiadek reports.

Offered as an amendment to the year-end omnibus package, The PUMP Act was included after a 92-5 vote.

The bill had been held up before in part because of the airline industry being concerned about how the law might be implemented in the confines of a plane.

If passed, the provision would build significantly on the requirements from the Affordable Care Act in 2010, including tens of millions of salaried workers who were excluded in the earlier law.

A CLOSER LOOK AT MENTAL HEALTH IN THE OMNI — The mental health and addiction policies in the year-end package, largely taken from the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act, are the largest ever investment in mental health and addiction, supporters said.

The bill includes provisions to expand and modify mental health programs and grants, as well as bolstering efforts to prevent and treat substance abuse.

Other items in the omnibus include expanding Medicare coverage for mental health telecare, marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors.

NIH BUDGET BOOST — The National Institutes of Health would see a budget increase of around $2.5 billion, or about 6 percent.

That funding includes more money for cancer research, with the National Cancer Institute getting an increase of over $400 million.

MODERNIZING PUBLIC HEALTH DATA SYSTEMS — Congress’ year-end package includes $175 million for upgrading public health information infrastructure.

That’s $75 million more than last year’s budget, and this year’s bill also includes provisions from the Improving Data Accessibility Through Advancements (DATA) in the Public Health Act — focused on increasing quick, accurate data sharing among local, state and federal health departments.

LIFE EXPECTANCY DIPS — Life expectancy in the US dropped last year to its lowest level since 1996, continuing a slide that began in 2020, Krista reports.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows US lifespans to be well below other similar nations after years of public health crises.

While Covid-19 played a role in the decline, experts said it had a “domino effect” that stretched well beyond deaths solely associated with the virus.

Overdose deaths—already a severe problem—were affected by the pandemic, further shortening the US life expectancy.

The combined crises mean people born in the US in 2021 can now expect to live 76.4 years, wiping out roughly a generation’s worth of gains. In 2019, the figure was 78.8.

CDC RELEASES STREP ADVISORY — The CDC issued a health advisory Thursday notifying clinicians of the rise in invasive group A strep infections in the US.

An increase in pediatric infections was reported by a hospital in Colorado in November, followed by more reports in other states. Similar cases in Europe have caused scarlet fever and led to several deaths.

The number of cases remains relatively low, the agency said, but are still being investigated.

The advisory highlighted the increased seasonal risk for infection — alongside rising caseloads of Covid, RSV and flu — and emphasized the importance of early detection and treatment.

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT APPROVES VACCINE INVESTIGATION — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a statewide grand jury requested by Gov. Ron DeSantis to investigate what he called misleading claims made by vaccine manufacturers and the Biden administration during the Covid-19 pandemic, POLITICO’S Arek Sarkissian reports.

DeSantis has said it’s against the law to mislead the public, particularly regarding drug safety, and asked the court to empanel a grand jury to investigate the shot and messaging about it.

The court filing brings up statements from executives of the companies that made the vaccine and President Joe Biden saying vaccines would help stop the pandemic and prevent infections.

Most of the medical community, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FDA and Johns Hopkins, have emphasized that the Covid vaccine is safe and effective in reducing the risk of infection and protecting against serious symptoms.

AIR POLLUTION DAMAGES THROWN OUT — The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled Thursday that a person with air pollution-related health problems can’t sue their government for damages, POLITICO’s Nicolas Camut reports.

But individuals may sue their respective countries for not following EU rules on air pollution and request they adopt new measures, the court said.

The decision comes after a French resident claimed his health declined because of worsening air quality in Paris, arguing that it stemmed from the French government breaching EU pollution rules.

The New York Times’ Sarah Kliff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg report on how NYU’s ER favors donors and trustees.

The Atlantic’s Katherine J. Wu writes about the role of nasal vaccines in China.

Kaiser Health News’ Bernard J. Wolfson writes about the push for more enforcement of staffing regulations.

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