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Wednesday
Jul182018

Donating vacation time to new moms is a trendy co-worker baby shower gift

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Forget the traditional office pool to buy a coworker who is expecting a baby a car seat or stroller.

The new trend is to give a pregnant coworker some of your own vacation time to add days to her maternity leave.

Angela Hughes, of Kansas City, Missouri, was less than a year into her job in the registrar’s office of a private college when her daughter was born two months early.

Hughes did not qualify for any paid maternity leave because she was so new at her job. She said she never took a day off during her entire pregnancy so she could save as much vacation time as possible for after the baby was born.

Her boss, sensing her stress, donated 80 hours of her own paid time off to Hughes through a policy at the college allowing the practice. More coworkers followed suit and, in the end, Hughes had eight weeks of paid maternity leave, almost all of which was donated by coworkers.

Hughes used four weeks of the leave immediately after her cesarean section and then another four weeks when her daughter, Bella, was discharged from her hospital's neonatal intensive care unit nearly three months after her birth. Bella is now 1.

“It took a weight off of my family’s shoulder,” Hughes of the donated vacation time. “Having a baby is a huge adjustment anyway but having a premature baby, my emotions were all over the place.”

The donated vacation time may also have saved her health insurance because she was able to take time off as paid rather than unpaid leave, Hughes said.

“It really, really meant a lot to me,” she said of her coworkers’ generosity. “I was very surprised because I had not been with the company very long. I was extremely appreciative and very humbled.”

The United States is the only country among 41 industrialized nations that does not mandate paid maternity leave, according to 2016 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Things are looking up for some new moms, but it depends on the employer. The prevalence of paid maternity leave increased significantly between 2016 and 2018, from 26 percent to 35 percent, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2018 Employee Benefits Survey.

The decision on whether or not to allow employees to donate their paid time off is left up to individual employers and governments.

The 2018 Employee Benefits Survey, which is not a scientific study, found that 15 percent of U.S. employers allow employees to donate paid time off to coworkers.

State launches 'Maternity Leave Donation Program'
Jessie Sampson, 31, of Nebraska, like Hughes in Missouri, benefited from this new trend.

Sampson, who works for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, took advantage of a new policy that allows state employees to donate vacation days specifically for coworkers' maternity leave.

Under the new program, Sampson was able to take 12 weeks of paid maternity leave with her second son, Liam, thanks to her coworkers.

Nebraska does not offer state employees dedicated paid maternity leave.

"I had more bonding time with my child and I was able to establish a much better breastfeeding routine," Sampson said. "That’s time [my colleagues] could be spending relaxing and to give it to me to spend time with my child, I’m really grateful for that."

In contrast, when Sampson gave birth to her older son, Gram, by C-section three years ago, she was able to take only eight weeks of maternity leave, mostly unpaid.

Nebraska's maternity leave donation program, enacted in January by Gov. Pete Ricketts, allows new moms who work for the state to receive donated time once they have used their own accrued sick time.

Employees within a state agency where a new mom works get an email that they can reply to and anonymously donate their paid time off. The new mom then finds out during her maternity leave how much additional time she has received.

"I went in thinking I wouldn’t get any donated time so I could plan for that," said Sampson, who said she gets around 12 days of paid sick and vacation time each year. "I figured anything I got would be an awesome bonus."

Nebraska's policy came about in part after Gov. Ricketts' chief human resources officer, Jason Jackson, began working with a pregnant employee in his office to develop a new work-life balance for her that would "not have a disruption to her earning potential."

"That was one of the data points that we were looking at, saying, 'Hey, this is a more generalizable issue for women in state government,'" Jackson told "GMA." "We were searching for solutions to that problem that would enable women and expectant mothers to be able to better balance their career in public service and continue their career in public service while also being able to provide care for their child in those first weeks after childbirth."

State governments set their own guidelines on time off for employees and some, like Nebraska, have no dedicated paid family leave program for either new mothers or fathers.

The federal government -- which also does not have a dedicated paid family leave program -- has a voluntary leave transfer program that allows employees to donate annual leave directly to coworkers who have had a family or medical emergency (including childbirth) and have exhausted their own paid leave.

Improving the work-life balance for women

It makes sense that employers are doing what they can to improve the work-life balance for women.

Seventy percent of mothers with children under 18 participate in the labor force, and among that group, over 75 percent are employed full-time. Moms are the primary or sole earners for 40 percent of households with children under 18 today, compared with 11 percent of households in 1960, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

"Across industry – public sector or private – employers are increasingly recognizing we’re doing ourselves a disservice when, through our own policies, we push women out of the workforce before they would otherwise elect to make those life decisions on their own," Jackson in Nebraska said. "If we can make those choices easier ... then we’ll continue to benefit from their talents and their service and their dedication to the state."

Since Nebraska began the program in January, nearly 15,000 of its state employees have taken part, either by donating time or accepting it as a new mother.

"My sister had kids 15 months apart and with the first child she took six weeks off and with the second she took even less time than that, and she’s a nurse," Sampson said. "So I think about other jobs like the one my sister had and jobs I’ve had previously had, and I just feel lucky that [Nebraska] put this program in place."

Jackson, the state's chief human resources officer, said he has not heard criticism from employees who want a "more robust [paid maternity leave] offering" instead of the more piecemeal approach of allowing donated time.

He noted that the maternity-leave donation program is of no cost to taxpayers or the state because employees are using paid time off that will be lost if not used.

"The [paid time off] being granted to the beneficiary is already a liability that the state has, so it costs no money and allows us to do something substantive for the women in our workforce to continue their careers," Jackson said. "I think everybody recognizes that this is a step in the right direction."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jul172018

Woman stung 200 times after being swarmed by thousands of killer bees expected to survive

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- It was a scene straight out of a horror movie -- a woman covered from head to toe in a shroud of angry killer bees.

They attack her eyes and nose, crawling into her mouth when she opens it to scream. The stings only intensify as she tries to protect her head.

Horrified people stand around her. Unable to move closer, unable to help.

"It was so horrendous. It was awful. And I felt so powerless. There was nothing I could do," Cynthia Emmett, an onlooker, told ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

This was the shocking sight firefighters arrived to on Monday morning after responding to a call about a bee attack in Orange County, California.

A day after the attack, the victim is still in critical condition but is expected to survive, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito told ABC News.

The woman, known only as Maria, was stung at least 200 times by thousands of hybrid Africanized honey bees (Apis mellifera scutellata), also sometimes referred to as "killer bees," said Nicole Sorenson of Bee Busters, the company called in to remove the bees after Monday's attack.

These kinds of bees, which make up 70 percent of the bees found in the region, are extremely aggressive and can form their very large nests in proximity to humans, such as in chimneys, sprinkler boxes or -- as was the case in this incident -- in gas meters, Sorenson told ABC News.

By the time firefighters arrived at the scene of the attack, there was no time to wear protective gear. So firefighters entered the area unprotected, used a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher to spray on the bees, and ran with the woman until they were far enough from the bees, authorities said.

Two of the firefighters were stung badly enough to be admitted to hospital, but they received medical care and were released for active duty the same day.

The victim, Maria, was a housekeeper. The owner of the house, Sara, witnessed the attack and was stung as well, ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles reports.

"She was screaming and I was telling her, 'Move from the bees. Come over here.,'" Sara said, displaying her swollen arms where the bees attacked her too. "But she was covering her head."

Sara said she did notice a few bees in the area but didn't think anything of it, according to the report.

Sorenson of Bee Busters warned that people often don't take the threat from bees seriously enough.

"North American bumblebees are going extinct, however honeybees are at an all-time high," she said. "We get a lot of calls from people who want to relocate these bees, and it's very hard to explain to them that these are the kinds of bees that do exactly what happened to this woman. We want to alert the community that this is a real and present danger."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jul172018

Less than half of US school districts test drinking water for lead: Report

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Only 43 percent of school districts in the United States test for lead in drinking water used by students in 2016 or 2017, according to a federal government report released Tuesday.

The report from the Government Accountability Office also found that of the 43 percent of school districts that test for lead in drinking water 37 percent found elevated levels above the level requiring action. The remaining 41 percent of districts said they did not test for lead and 16 percent of districts surveyed did not know if they tested for lead, according to the report.

No level of lead exposure is considered safe for children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Lead can cause developmental delays, damage to the brain and nervous system, lower IQ, and hyperactivity.

The majority of the school districts that found elevated levels of lead took action, according to the report, including replacing water fountains, taking water fountains out of service, or installing water filters.

There is no federal law that requires schools to test for drinking water but multiple states require or provide funding for testing.

The CDC says that as many as 535,000 children ages 1 to 5 have levels of lead in their blood that are high enough to cause health problems.

Though the GAO report indicates that lead contamination could be a problem in hundreds of schools around the country, the crisis in Flint, Michigan is still one of the most well-known cases of lead exposure in the country. Michigan recently stopped distributing bottled water to Flint residents, saying that the water tested below lead levels that require action. But many residents are still concerned that they could be exposed to lead.

Several Democratic lawmakers separately asked the GAO to look into lead testing in schools. The Democrats, which included members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, called the findings "disturbing and unacceptable" in a statement.

In response to the report, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Education agreed to promote lead testing in schools and provide guidance for school districts that need to address lead levels in drinking water.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jul162018

1-year-old boy dies after being left in stifling hot car for over 8 hours

WPLG-TV(PEMBROKE PINES, Fla.) -- A 1-year-old boy died after being left in a stifling hot car for over 8 hours, officials said.

The 17-month-old was found in a car in a Pembroke Pines, Florida, parking lot Friday, Pembroke Pines Sgt. Adam Feiner told ABC News Saturday, adding that he’d been there for 8.5 hours.

The temperature climbed to 93 degrees that day. The heat index -- or what it feels like with humidity -- was 103 degrees.

Police and fire crews responded around 5 p.m., police said, but CPR wasn't effective and the boy was later pronounced dead.

"Leaving a child inside a car is a year-long hazard, but it is especially deadly during the summer months when temperatures can climb above 100 degrees within minutes," the Pembroke Pines police said in a statement. "Always double check your vehicle after you park for loved ones or pets.

"Our prayers go out to the deceased and their family during this difficult time," the police department added.

The boy's parents had not been charged as of Saturday morning, Feiner said.

The family’s name has not been released and authorities did not immediately respond Monday to ABC News’ request for comment.

Children's bodies heat up much faster than adults and children's internal organs begin to shut down after their core body temperature reaches 104 degrees, according to a report from the National Safety Council.

On an 86-degree day, for example, it would take only about 10 minutes for the inside of a car to reach a dangerous 105 degrees, the report added.

This marks the 24th child to die in a hot car in the United States this year, according to the organization KidsAndCars.org, and the second child to die this way in Florida in 2018.

Florida ranks No. 2 in the country for child hot-car fatalities, the organization said, with 89 deaths since 1992. 

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Jul162018

Dr. Whitney Bowe answers all of your bug spray questions

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While it can be hard to navigate the evolving world of insect repellent and know what chemicals are safe to be lathering on your children, it's also imperative that you remember the bug spray if your family is spending time outdoors this summer.

Everyone knows mosquito bites can be a nuisance, but what they may not realize is that insect-borne diseases from mosquito, flea and tick bites have also tripled in recent years, according to a 2018 analysis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Whitney Bowe,  a dermatologist and the medical director of integrative dermatology, aesthetics and wellness at Advanced Dermatology, P.C., broke down everything you need to know for "Good Morning America" when shopping for or applying bug sprays.

Initially, Bowe recommends looking for one of three active ingredients in sunscreen, which she based on the most recent tests done by Consumer Reports. The ingredients to look for are DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or picaridin. All three are safe when used as directed, even for pregnant women, according to Bowe.

In addition, the same way we look for an SPF number when buying sunscreen, Bowe recommends looking for a concentration number when purchasing insect repellent. For DEET, you want to look for products between 15 and 30 percent -- that’s the sweet spot that gives you the best efficacy while minimizing potential risks and side effects.

For picaridin, 20 percent is the magic number, but you want to make sure it's in spray form because the picaridin lotions and wipes often didn’t work as well. And for oil of lemon eucalyptus, they found that a spray with 30 percent concentration performed very well.

Here, Bowe breaks down everything you need to know about buying and applying bug spray, and answers some of the most commonly-asked questions about insect repellents.

Q: What’s the safest way to apply bug spray to my face?

Dr. Bowe: I recommend that you spray the bug spray into your hands first and then smooth onto your face. I do not recommend that you let young children handle bug spray on their own. Instead, follow the same spray-into-your-hands technique and then smooth onto your child’s skin, being careful to avoid skin close to the eyes or the mouth. I like to pat a small amount on my daughter’s forehead and cheeks only. Children often put their hands into their mouths or touch their eyes, so it’s best not to apply bug spray on your child’s hands because you don’t want to risk accidental ingestion or contact with the eyes.

Q: If I have a cut, wound, or irritated skin, is it safe to apply bug spray to the area?

Dr. Bowe: I do not recommend applying repellents on broken or irritated skin. Be mindful of cuts and scrapes on your children as well! When the skin is broken or irritated, the bug spray ingredients can penetrate more deeply and that’s when you run into side effects such as rashes on the skin.

Q: Should I use a combination sunscreen plus bug spray product? It seems like this would be so easy because it’s a two-in-one!

Dr. Bowe: Even though this seems like such an easy and time-efficient approach, I do not recommend using combination products in this situation. The reason is because sunscreen is typically reapplied every two hours in order to effectively protect your skin. However, bug spray most often should not be reapplied this frequently. So, you might be overexposed to the chemicals in the bug repellent if you use such a combination product. Furthermore, some studies suggest that insect repellent can actually decrease the effect of sunscreen by up to 30 percent!

Q: At what ages is it safe to use DEET and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus on children?

Dr. Bowe: The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC do not recommend using DEET on children under 2 months old. Concentration is key here, particularly when using this ingredient on children. For DEET, I recommend looking for products between 15 percent and 30 percent so that you are optimizing efficacy while minimizing risks. Of course, follow the guidelines on your particular repellent. In contrast, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend using Oil of Eucalyptus on children under 3 years old! That’s a very large leap from two months and is often surprising to parents, given that oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is a natural option. I recommend that my patients use a spray containing a 30 percent concentration, as this is the level that tested as most effective, according to Consumer Reports.

Q: What are the risks associated with using DEET?

Dr. Bowe: Many of my patients -– and even my family members -– are very concerned about the dangers of using DEET. According to a Consumer Reports survey, only one-third of adults believed that DEET was a safe option for adult usage, and even fewer adults believed that it was safe for use on children. These concerns are fueled by news stories about death and toxicity arising from DEET usage. However, according to Consumer Reports, it is estimated that since 1960, the incidence of seizures linked to potential DEET exposure was one per 100 million uses. Many of the reported cases of death or seizure actually involved a misuse of the products, including ingestion. When it comes to selecting bug repellents for your family and loved ones, your comfort level is key -– this is something I always tell my patients. The most important thing is to educate yourself about the facts and studies surrounding these options and to select the one that is the best fit for your personal beliefs and preferences. However, I would not recommend letting fear in the absence of facts guide your decisions when it comes to protecting your family from insect-borne illnesses.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Jul142018

Where states stand on legalizing recreational and medical marijuana

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While marijuana is illegal under federal law, a patchwork of state laws across the country determines where you can and cannot legally smoke pot.

Vermont’s law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana went into effect on July 1.

After Oklahoma’s ballot initiative, the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana is on the ballot in several other states this year. In November, an initiative to legalize recreational pot will be on the ballot in Michigan and an initiative to legalize medical marijuana will be on the ballot in Utah.

States where recreational marijuana is legal

With Vermont’s marijuana legalization law now in effect, nine states and the District of Columbia have now either legalized the sale of pot or decriminalized its use.

Colorado and Washington made history in 2012 as the first states in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana after voters in those states approved ballot initiatives. In both states, marijuana can be purchased and used recreationally by people over 21 years old, but it is still legal to smoke it in public space or drive under the influence of marijuana.

Since then, voters in five additional states have legalized both the sale and use of recreational marijuana: Oregon and Alaska in 2014 and Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts in 2016. Many of these states have also levied a tax on marijuana sales.

Pot sales began this year in California after voters also approved Proposition 64 in 2016. The state was the first to legalize medical marijuana in 1996.

The district attorney in San Francisco has retroactively applied the measure, tossing out thousands of marijuana convictions.

Washington, D.C. approved initiative 71 in 2014, which allows people over 21 to possess two ounces of pot, use it on private property, and give it as a gift. However, the sale of marijuana and its use in public spaces is still an illegal offense for which one can be arrested.

Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a completely legislative process when its governor signed H.511 into law in January. Under the law, which went into effect on July 1, selling marijuana is still illegal in the state.

States where medical marijuana is legal

Oklahoma is the most recent state to legalize medical marijuana with the recent approval of State Question 788. After the ballot question was passed, Gov. Mary Fallin, who opposed the initiative, said in a press release that “this new law is written so loosely that it opens the door for basically recreational marijuana.”

The state is among the most conservative to legalize medical marijuana.

Since 1996, 21 other states have legalized medical marijuana. State laws vary in how tightly they regulate its sale and its use, although most only allow its use for specified conditions and require patients and their caregivers to have a licensed use card.

Most states have set up dispensaries to distribute medical marijuana, although several have restrictions the number of dispensaries and some only allow them to be nonprofits.

Delaware, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Arizona extend legal protections to medical marijuana cardholders from other states.

Arizona, where the state’s medical marijuana initiatives narrowly passed, has one of the more strict set of restrictions on who can be granted a medical marijuana card. State courts struck down a law aimed at prohibiting college students from having medical marijuana cards, but in June they ruled that hashish isn’t included in the law.

Laws in New York and West Virginia still prohibit smoking pot. Both allow people to consume marijuana in pills or as vapor, while West Virginia also allows tinctures, topical creams and patches.

Louisiana’s medical marijuana laws go into effect in August. Ohio’s medical marijuana law goes into effect in September, while Arkansas’s dispensaries are expected to be operational next year after being paused for pending litigation.

States where most recreational and medicinal marijuana use is illegal

In 20 remaining states, marijuana use is completely illegal with most still classifying the drug as a schedule I narcotic as it is under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Four states prohibit marijuana in all of its forms, while the remaining 16 allow the use of cannabidiol oil for medical research into its ability to treat epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Idaho prohibit all marijuana use. In Idaho, a bill that would legalize cannabidiol oil was vetoed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter in 2015.

States that allow cannabidiol oil range from Texas to Wyoming. Cannabidiol oil and other low THC products provide some of marijuana's medicinal benefits but won’t get you high.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jul132018

Girl with 3-D hand closing in on goal of throwing out the first pitch at all 30 MLB stadiums

Courtesy Dawson Family(HENDERSON, Nev.) -- Hailey Dawson is on a mission.

The 8-year-old from Henderson, Nevada, wants to be the first person to throw out the first pitch at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums across the US.

And, she's well on her way: On Thursday, she took the mound at Fenway Park, donning a Boston Red Sox uniform. The crowd went wild.

Thursday's pitch at Fenway Park marked No. 21, leaving just nine more to go. Last week, she threw out the first pitch at a Mets game and at Yankee Stadium too.

All of these pitches aren't just to get into the record books. They are also to raise awareness for Poland syndrome, a rare birth defect that caused her to be born without three fingers on her right hand and without a right pectoral muscle.

When she was 4, Hailey and her family began working with the engineering team at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The team took a mold of Hailey's hand and used a 3-D printer to make a robotic arm. It was held together and controlled with fishing line.

The team refitted Hailey every few months as she grew. With physical therapy, she learned to write her name and then to throw a ball. Then, her baseball-loving family -- dad Greg, mom Yong and brother Zach -- got the idea about her throwing the first pitches.

Hailey threw the first pitch for a minor league team in Las Vegas in 2015. She threw the first pitch that year at Baltimore’s Camden Yards for her favorite team, the Orioles. She also threw the first pitch this year for the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Each time, she meets with the players and then walks to the mound. Her effort is also helping to raise money for UNLV so that the team can create and donate hands similar to hers.

"I want people to know that if I can do it you can do it," she told ABC News Friday.

She plans to finish with the Angels on Sept. 16.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jul122018

Ebola survivors suffer 'severe' neurological and psychiatric effects, new study finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- People who survive Ebola may suffer "severe" neurological and psychiatric problems long after they recover from the virus, according to a new study published Wednesday.

Some cases of "post-Ebola syndrome" were so debilitating that the individual was left unable to participate in family life or even care for themselves, according to the study, which was published online at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infectious Diseases journal.

"We knew that a disease as severe as Ebola would leave survivors with major problems," said Janet Scott of the University of Liverpool, who co-led the research. "However, it took me aback to see young and previously active people who had survived, but were now unable to move half their bodies, or talk, or pick up their children."

The devastating Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, between 2014 and 2016, killed more than 11,300 people.

The researchers in this study looked at notes on more than 300 Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone, one of the nations most affected during the region's epidemic. Of those, 34 patients who met neurologic criteria were then invited to take part in a joint neuro-psychiatric clinic in the capital Freetown in 2016. The group had full neurological examinations, psychiatric screening and specialist exams, including brain scans.

The depth of the patients' psychological and neurological issues became apparent as the researchers analyzed the results. Many survivors still experienced a wide range of symptoms, including chronic migraines and stroke, as well as depression and anxiety.

"We found a broad set of neurological and psychiatric symptoms, from minor to extremely severe and disabling, are present in Ebola survivors well over a year after discharge from hospital," said Patrick Howlett of King’s College London, a lead researcher on the study.

The most frequent neurological problems among the survivors studied were migraine-type headaches, stroke and nerve damage, while the most common psychiatric diagnoses were major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, according to the study.

"Our findings suggest that there is also a need for better understanding of the psychiatric and psychological consequences of Ebola virus disease," said Stephen Sevalie, a psychiatrist at 34 Military Hospital in Freetown, where the clinic was based.

The study has shed new light on post-Ebola syndrome and the long-term effects the initial illness has had on these survivors' lives. Researchers said the findings highlight a need for doctors with specialized training to help the remaining survivors.

"Our findings support the need for larger, case-controlled studies," Scott said. "Post-Ebola syndrome is not going away, and those with the condition deserve better treatment."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul112018

FDA hosts public meeting to make case for oversight on lab-grown meat

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the first steps of introducing a new class of so-called "slaughter-free" meat, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will host a public meeting on Thursday to discuss the phenomenon surrounding lab-grown meat, also referred to as “cultured meat” or “in vitro meat.”

Lab-grown meat is exactly what it sounds like, beef made straight from the test tube. Cultured meat is achieved by collecting the stem cells of animals and are multiplied using “non-traditional food technologies."

At Thursday's meeting, the FDA will face the following question: How does the government define and regulate a product like "cultured meat?"

The animal cell culture industry has been in development since the early 2000s but start-up companies believe they're ready to place the product on the market by 2020. FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb said in a statement that the technology for "cultured meat" could open the door to developing other unconventional food products.

The FDA, which oversees the safety of most foods, will make a case on Thursday for its right to oversight of the meat product over the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a government branch that regulates a majority of the meat and dairy industries.

"Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA has jurisdiction over 'food,' which includes 'articles used for food' and 'articles used for components of any such article,'" the FDA wrote. "Thus, as a starting point, both substances used in the manufacture of these products of animal cell culture technology and the products themselves that will be used for food are subject to the FDA’s jurisdiction."

One of the only U.S. based companies developing "cultured meat" is based in San Francisco, Memphis Meats has been backed by Bill Gates and Tyson Foods. The company says they are making meat that is better for animals and uses significantly less land, water, and energy than traditional methods, according to the website.

Eric Schulze, vice president of product and regulation for Memphis Meats, told ABC News they look forward to participating in the meeting at FDA.

"Memphis Meats believes that stakeholders across government, including FDA and USDA, and the meat and poultry industries should work together to clarify how the existing regulatory framework applies to clean/cultured meat while supporting innovation," Schulze said.

A USDA spokesperson said the agency looks forward to working with the FDA on the issue, but no USDA representatives were listed on Thursday's meeting agenda.

"As these new products begin to emerge in the marketplace, we look forward to working with the FDA and the public to tackle these issues," the spokesperson said in a statement.

However, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) says the USDA should regulate this new kind of meat. Danielle Beck, NCBA director of Government Affairs wrote in a statement that the group looks forward to their participation in the public meeting to advocate for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), an agency of the USDA.

"The Food and Drug Administration’s announcement disregards the [...] USDA's significant scientific expertise and long-standing success in ensuring the safety of all meat and poultry products," Beck wrote in the statement. "Under the current regulatory framework, FDA plays an important role in terms of ensuring the safety of food additives used in meat, poultry, and egg products. All additives are initially evaluated for safety by FDA, but ultimately FSIS maintains primary jurisdiction."

Other organizations like the United State’s Cattlemen Association (USCA) have argued that "in-vitro meat" is not actually meat.

Earlier this year, the USCA filed a petition to the USDA arguing that cultured meat should not be labeled as meat because of nature of how it is made.

"Such products, which are not derived from animals born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner, should not be permitted to be marketed as 'beef,' or more broadly as 'meat' products," USCA stated.

The FDA hopes to address these concerns in the meeting and evaluate "new areas of food innovation and establishing guidelines on how new technology can safely advance."

The federal agency is now taking public comment on this matter here.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul112018

Roe v. Wade could face legal challenge with new SCOTUS: National Women’s Law Center

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump's appointment of a new, conservative Supreme Court justice could have a major impact on a number of federal laws, but pro-abortion rights groups fear Roe v. Wade could be one of the biggest to be overturned.

The landmark abortion case has been the law of the land for more than 45 years now, but the shifting balance of the nation's highest court after the retirement of its longtime swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, may mean more solidly conservative rulings in the future.

Earlier this week, Trump announced he had tapped U.S. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his latest Supreme Court justice pick. The question of abortion rights came up when Kavanaugh was put forward for his position on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006. At the time, he said that the existing standard should continue.

"On the question of Roe v. Wade, if confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, I would follow Roe v. Wade faithfully and fully. That would be binding precedent of the Court. It’s been decided by the Supreme Court," Kavanaugh said during the 2006 hearing.

But when Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pressed Kavanaugh to give his personal opinion of Roe, Kavanaugh did not directly answer, instead saying that the Supreme Court had upheld Roe "repeatedly" and that it would not be "appropriate" to share his own views.

Pro-abortion rights groups are still concerned that as a whole, a more conservative-leaning court would be open to the idea of overturning Roe.

Here’s a look back at the controversial court case that guaranteed women the right to safe and legal ways to end unwanted pregnancies, and the possible legal landscape for abortion rights moving forward.

Who was Jane Roe?

The identity of the woman at the heart of the landmark case was initially kept private, with the name Jane Roe used in the court battle. Roe was later identified as Norma McCorvey, who died in February 2017.

McCorvey's journey to becoming Jane Roe began after she tried to have an abortion while pregnant with her third child. It was 1969, and McCorvey was 22 and living in Texas. She initially claimed to have been raped, which might have allowed her to have an abortion legally since Texas law made exceptions for cases of rape and incest. But she later publicly acknowledged that had been a lie.

McCorvey was put in touch with two Texas lawyers who were building a case against state laws that banned abortion and her case was attached to their suit as it moved through the court system.

The original case

Roe v. Wade was first argued in December 1971, re-argued in October 1972, and decided on Jan. 22, 1973, when it became the law of the land.

The court ruled in favor of Roe, with a vote of seven justices siding with her and two against. Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the majority opinion, saying that an individual’s right to privacy, as enumerated in different forms in both the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, is “broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

The two justices who opposed legalizing abortion were Justice Byron White, who wrote the dissenting opinion, and Justice William Rehnquist.

In his dissent, White wrote that the majority's opinion “values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life that she carries.”

The ruling effectively prohibited states from banning abortion before a fetus could be considered viable outside of the womb.

But the ruling also said that “a state can regulate abortions prior to viability so long as it doesn’t place an undue burden on the woman's right to abortion,” Erwin Chemerinsky, a dean and law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told ABC News.

That part of the decision allows states to prohibit abortions after viability, except in certain cases.

But the ruling did not come in time for the real Roe to terminate her pregnancy. McCorvey gave birth to her third child, whom she put up for adoption.

McCorvey later went public and wrote an autobiography in 1994 expressing her support for a woman's right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

She later reversed her position after undergoing a political and religious conversion.

Roe v. Wade’s legal legacy

The decision had far-reaching implications, changing the medical landscape of the United States immediately, said Heather Shumaker, senior counsel for the National Women’s Law Center.

“There was a real patchwork of laws throughout the states and your access to abortion really depended on what state you were in,” Shumaker told ABC News.

Chemerinsky said that the landmark case is "part of a series of decisions about autonomy with regard to medical rights … but Roe itself is just about abortion rights."

The Roe v. Wade decision has also played an important role in subsequent Supreme Court cases about regulations surrounding abortion rights.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court “said you can’t create an undue burden with those regulations” placed by states on women seeking abortions, Shumaker said.

"More recently, Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt clarified the undue burden standard in Casey," Shumaker added.

That decision "was really saying the regulation has to actually confer a benefit and that benefit has to outweigh a burden that was created by the regulation," she explained.

The state of abortion rights today

A number of states have passed regulations restricting women's access to abortion in recent years. One law in Iowa would, if implemented, become the most restrictive abortion law in the country, banning abortions after the first six weeks of pregnancy. Some women may not know they are pregnant at that point.

Regulations have also forced clinics to close, and there are currently six states with only one abortion provider. Arkansas was briefly added to that list but an ongoing legal battle there means that there are still three abortion providers operating.

Legally-mandated waiting periods in which women have to wait a certain number of hours before they can undergo an abortion have also been passed recently. Earlier this month, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a law that required a woman to undergo a 72-hour waiting period before obtaining an abortion. But there are five other states with 72-hour waiting periods in place, and the majority of states have waiting periods ranging from 18 hours to more than 72 hours, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

How the new court could impact abortion rights

Concerns from pro-abortion rights groups that Roe v. Wade will be overturned are not as simple as the court reexamining that 45-year-old case.

A legal challenge to Roe would likely come in the form of a case challenging current state-level restrictions on abortion, Shumaker said.

"So we would have to wait to see a case that makes its way up the pipeline to the Supreme Court before they would review Roe v. Wade," she added.

And that might not be far off, Shumaker said, adding that "there are quite a few cases in the pipeline already."

Chemerinsky also said that he thinks “Roe will be threatened” by a change in the Court’s ideological makeup, but it won’t be the only case to be challenged.

“I think that affirmative action could change, I think marriage equality for gays and lesbians could change,” he said, adding that there were “many” areas of law that could be changed with a new, conservative Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh is Trump's second appointment to the court less than two years into his presidency.

The debate over his appointment -- and the future of the court itself -- will continue as Kavanaugh meets with senators ahead of the required confirmation hearings.

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