August 23, 2016
"Judge permanently blocks Florida's attempt to defund abortion clinics," Mark Joseph Stern, Slate's "XX Factor": "On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle permanently blocked a Florida law [HB 1411] that would have prevented the distribution of state or local funds to any organization that provides abortions" and imposed burdensome record inspection requirements on clinics, Stern writes. According to Stern, "As part of the order, Florida ... Gov. Rick Scott [R] agreed to forego further litigation, meaning both measures are effectively dead in the water." Stern explains that not only does Hinkle's ruling align with a number of decisions "that proscribe states from cutting funding to women's health organizations because they support abortion," but it also represents "a considerable victory for medical privacy: The records inspection provision of the law that Hinkle enjoined would have allowed the state to access thousands of patient records at facilities that provide abortions, easily uncovering details about their HIV status, abortion history, and mental health treatments." He writes, "Thursday's ruling, then, is a substantial victory for free association, privacy rights, and personal autonomy." Moreover, it "suggests that ultraconservative governors like Scott are finally realizing that their doomed efforts to restrict abortion aren't worth the cost or effort," Stern writes (Stern, "XX Factor," Slate, 8/19).
"This Florida community may unleash genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika and Dengue," Erica Langston, Mother Jones: "Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first proposed US field trial of genetically modified mosquitoes," Langston writes. According to Langston, "The trial is planned to launch in Key Haven, Florida, 161 miles south of the Miami-Dade neighborhood where the nation's first locally transmitted Zika cases have been detected -- and five miles from the ... heart of Florida's 2009-10 outbreak of dengue, a potentially deadly virus that can be spread by the same mosquito." She writes, "A majority of mosquito control commissioners for the [Florida] Keys, who have final say in the matter, have vowed to side with the locals" on whether to let the trial proceed pending "a nonbinding local referendum this November." Langston talks with Matthew DeGennaro, a mosquito neurogeneticist at Florida International University, who says that the mosquitoes would be unlikely to bite a human, that a bite in such a rare event "will be no different than with an ordinary [mosquito]" and that the mosquitoes would not only be unlikely to inflict any harm on "other animals that feed on mosquitoes," but in fact would likely be less harmful than insecticides such as Naled (Langston, Mother Jones, 8/22).