Texas Gives No Clarity On Exceptions to Anti-Abortion Law | Crooked Media
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March 24, 2024
What A Day
Texas Gives No Clarity On Exceptions to Anti-Abortion Law

In This Episode

  • More than 130 people are dead after a terrorist attack Friday night at a concert in Moscow. An offshoot of the Islamic State known as ISIS-K claimed responsibility, and U.S. officials said there’s evidence to support that claim. Four suspects from Tajikistan were arrested. But Russian President Vladimir Putin instead pushed the idea that Ukraine was involved in the attack, despite the fact that there’s no evidence to support it.
  • The Texas Medical Board on Friday released its proposed definition for what would constitute an “emergency medical exception” to the state’s strict anti-abortion law. The board left the rule purposefully vague, however. Molly Duane, a senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, explains how the proposed definition could make things even worse for Texas patients and doctors.
  • And in headlines: Monday is the deadline for former President Donald Trump to cough up the $454 million fine he owes in his New York civil fraud case, the Princess of Wales said she’s undergoing chemotherapy to treat an undisclosed form of cancer, and indicted former Rep. George Santos said he’s dropping the Republican Party to run as an independent for another seat in Congress.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, March 25th. I’m Tre’vell Andersen. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice and this is What a Day. And after hearing about the upcoming boxing match between Jake Paul and Mike Tyson, we honestly didn’t think there was a way to top this fight between two of the most terrible people. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. But then on Friday, Candace Owens split from Ben Shapiro and the Daily Wire. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Candace made terrible anti-Semitic comments. I don’t know why anybody is surprised, but she is–


Tre’vell Anderson: Horrible? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Ben Shapiro is pretty bad too. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, Texas’s medical board came up with medical exceptions to the state’s anti-abortion laws. But reproductive rights advocates say the proposal still doesn’t make things clear. 


[clip of Molly Duane] These proposed rules, this ain’t it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Plus, Trump’s properties might be seized by the state of New York starting today. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But first, let’s bring you up to speed on last Friday’s deadly terror attack in Moscow. Though it’s not related to the war in Ukraine, experts say that it will likely affect the conflict regardless. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So, Josie, let’s start at the beginning. Tell us more about the attack. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Gunmen opened fire at a rock concert at the Crocus City Hall Theater and killed at least 137 people as of our recording at 9:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. It’s the deadliest terror attack in Russia in 20 years. The concert was for the Russian rock band Piknik, and there were also a number of children in the facility because there had been a ballroom dancing competition right before, according to the BBC. And before the concert actually began, masked gunmen wearing combat fatigues opened fire on the crowd with assault rifles. Eyewitnesses also reported that the assailants threw bombs, trapping people inside and according to the Russia Investigative Committee, a federal authority in Russia, the attackers also, quote, “used a flammable liquid to set fire to the concert hall’s premises.” The damage was so significant that the roof of the facility actually later collapsed. 


Tre’vell Anderson: What do we know about who is responsible for this attack? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, well, the terror group ISIS actually pretty immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, and U.S. intelligence officials said there was enough evidence to support that claim. And specifically, authorities believe it was the work of ISIS’s Afghan affiliate or ISIS-K. Somehow the attackers managed to escape the scene, and they allegedly fled by car. And four of the alleged attackers have been arrested. So all four suspects are citizens of Tajikistan. They appeared in court yesterday and from the video they look heavily bruised and have really swollen faces. And the AP reports that this is likely due to the quote, “reports in Russian media that they were tortured during interrogation.” In fact, there are unconfirmed reports, but they include what is an alleged video of the incident. That one of the men had his ear cut off during the interrogation, and one of the men did have a very heavily bandaged ear during the hearing. So three of these four men have admitted guilt, though most people would admit guilt after being tortured. Right. So it’s not clear that on its face, them admitting it is evidence of much. But they are being held responsible for this attack. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. So now explain for me this, why would ISIS attack Russia? 


Josie Duffy Rice: It turns out that some extremist groups like ISIS-K have had it out for Russia for like decades. According to Vox, there are, quote, “long standing grievances that date back to the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.” And there’s a lot of relevant history here, like a lot of conflict, a lot of tension, including like counterinsurgency campaigns in Chechnya in the 1990s and 2000s. More recently, there’s been a lot of anger about Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government. And we will link to a Vox story that kind of explains more about the history here in our show notes so you can read all about this context. But it is worth noting Tre’vell, that there were signs that this exact kind of thing was coming. Right. The US Embassy in Moscow issued a warning on March 7th to U.S. citizens in Russia, recommending that they avoid large gatherings and stating that, quote, “extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow to include concerts.” And this is another touchy issue in the aftermath here, because it is certainly plausible that the US had more reliable intelligence about what was going to happen in Russia than Russia did. It’s also possible that Russia had that intelligence, and they didn’t warn their citizens of the likelihood of such an attack, or they didn’t take it seriously enough. And all of that has kind of implications of how this plays out in Russia. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But despite ISIS-K claiming responsibility for the attack, Russian authorities are pointing the finger elsewhere?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, you’ll never guess who Putin is blaming. Just kidding, you’ll guess, it’s Ukraine. In his statement, he said that attackers had attempted to escape from Russia into Ukraine, quote, “where according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the border.” So that’s what Putin said, basically implying that Ukraine was facilitating the escape. Knew that the attack was going to happen. But of course he provided no evidence of this. And in fact, Vox reports that if anything, the evidence shows that they were trying to flee to Russia’s close ally Belarus, not Ukraine. But Russian media outlets have also been allegedly instructed to connect the attack to Ukraine and underscore any possible Ukrainian involvement. So this is a narrative that’s not going to like let up anytime soon, right? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian authorities have strenuously denied that Ukraine had anything to do with the attacks. Zelensky tweeted, quote, “Ukraine certainly has nothing to do with the incident” and said, quote, “Ukraine has never resorted to the use of terrorist methods. It is always pointless.” And again, there’s absolutely no evidence that Ukraine is connected. Right. But Putin is not going to pass up an opportunity to blame basically everything on Ukraine. And his baseless connection between the attacks in Ukraine could impact the war. So it’ll be important to listen to how Putin talks about this terrible tragedy and pay attention to see if he might use it as a pretext for upping the violence in Ukraine. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Thanks for that, Josie. Let’s turn now to a development on abortion rights out of Texas. And it’s one where folks still have the time to weigh in. The state’s medical board last Friday finally tried to define what is a, quote, “emergency medical exception” to the state’s strict anti-abortion law. Meaning if someone gets an exception, then their abortion would not come with any criminal consequences. But activists and advocates say that the board’s proposed definition doesn’t actually help patients or doctors at all. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, and this actually leads back to the story of Kate Cox from this past winter, which we covered a lot. So can you tell us a little bit more about that? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So as you’ll remember, she’s the woman whose fetus had a fatal condition called full trisomy 18. She was in and out of emergency rooms because of it, and her future fertility was at risk. Last December, however, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that she was not entitled to an abortion because her situation did not qualify as an emergency medical exception. Thankfully, before the ruling, she obtained the procedure by going to a provider outside of Texas. Now, ever since then, advocates have been pressuring the state’s medical board to help. They wanted it to come up with crystal clear guidelines that undeniably say, here’s what should and should not count as exceptions. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That feels like a pretty reasonable thing to ask from the law. Just tell me what’s illegal and what’s not. I know that’s actually a lot to ask, but it seems like it shouldn’t be. So in response, what did the board actually propose last Friday? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, they actually proposed something that was neither clear nor specific. I’m going to read to you exactly what they came down with quote, “medical emergency means a life threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy that, as certified by a physician, places the woman in danger of death or a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function unless an abortion is performed.” 


Josie Duffy Rice: Ugh. That doesn’t mean anything. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It doesn’t mean anything. There’s no description of the kinds of conditions that would get an exemption to the state’s anti-abortion law. There’s no greater clarity here at all. But board president Doctor Sherif Zaafran said on Friday that that was intentional. 


[clip of Sherif Zaafran] You can’t put a list out there that defines what medical judgment may or may not be with every single circumstance that’s out there, because not every circumstance is exactly the same. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s exactly what we were saying. That’s the whole thing. That is literally why. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Literally. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It was important to have protections for people who choose to get abortions, because you can’t actually cover every single possibility under the law. And the definition that they’ve now come up with is basically just vague enough that lawmakers or judges or whoever can basically do what they want. They can rule against the people they want to rule against and say they don’t fit this definition. They can make exceptions for the people they want to make exceptions for and say they do fit this definition. I mean, it’s completely interpretive. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Literally. And advocates, you know, aren’t too pleased. 


[clip of Molly Duane] There are a lot of things that the board could have done to address this problem. But these proposed rules, this ain’t it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s Molly Duane. She’s the lead attorney for Zurawski versus Texas. That’s a lawsuit by the center for Reproductive Rights that demands that Texas clarify these exceptions under the state’s abortion ban. She also represented Kate Cox. I talked with Duane earlier, and she started by describing how the board’s proposal sidestepped their demands completely and explained one way it makes things worse for patients and doctors. 


Molly Duane: That’s actually something that I’m finding very alarming, because it is a entirely new and extremely burdensome documentation requirement that physicians now have to follow before they can provide an abortion within the exception, including listing what imaging tests, medical literature or medical ethics committees they consulted. I mean, those might be things that doctors were or were not doing. And now they’re going to look at these regulations and think, oh, I have to do all of that before I can provide an abortion. And most alarmingly, one of the things that the regulations now tell physicians to document is and I’m just going to quote this, “whether they had adequate time to, by any means available, transfer a patient to a different facility to avoid performing an abortion.” So does that mean doctors are supposed to consider whether or not they can put a patient on a Greyhound bus to New Mexico, and if they can, then they shouldn’t provide the abortion? I mean, this is exactly where we are right now, but if this is what they issue, I fear this might just make things worse. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So what would a good rule look like to you? Like what would they be specifying that would help clarify what you’re looking for here? 


Molly Duane: Without specifying individual conditions, everyone agrees you can’t make a list of conditions because it can never be exhaustive. We had laid out broad categories of the types of risks that patients would experience, things like sepsis or hemorrhage, or not being able to get cancer treatments. You know, we used language that we ran past physicians, and that’s much broader and inclusive and critically leaves the judgment up to physicians. 


Tre’vell Anderson: What would you say is at stake for pregnant people and doctors in Texas, if the guidance remains vague on, you know, what is and what is not an exception? 


Molly Duane: I don’t want people to lose sight of what’s really going on here, which is a ton of finger pointing. The legislature says nothing. The courts point to the legislature or the Texas Medical Board. The Texas Medical Board points back to the legislature. And as one of my clients, Caitlin Cash, who was there at the hearing on Friday, said to the medical board through tears, you know, we have asked everyone, I’ve gone to my legislature, I’ve lobbied there. I’ve gone to the courts. Now I’m coming to you, and all of you are pointing fingers at each other. So where am I supposed to go? Again if they adopt the language they proposed on Friday, we are arguably in a worse position than we were when we started. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Why do you think it is that, you know, you all have provided these explicit examples of what you need, the ways that they could categorize this information, and the Texas Medical Board still didn’t step up to meet those specific needs? Why do you think that is? 


Molly Duane: I can’t get inside their heads. But let me put it this way. Every anti-abortion activists from around the state and some national anti-abortion activists showed up at this hearing on Friday and said, great job, Texas Medical Board. We love what you’re doing here. That’s pretty much all the proof you need that this isn’t intended to help physicians, because what we know about the anti-abortion lobby in this country is they don’t care if women and pregnant people die. They don’t care if they lose their fertility. They want to stop abortions at any cost. And that’s what’s going on here, is they don’t want abortions to happen. 


Tre’vell Anderson: This rule by the medical board, it’s proposed, but not yet in effect. What can our listeners in Texas do to weigh in? 


Molly Duane: Truly, if you are a Texan, no matter who you are, what you do, how these rules might impact you. You can write a letter to the Texas Medical Board and give them your opinion. And I encourage everyone who has a stake in this, which is every Texan essentially, you should weigh in. Because these are real matters that are impacting real people’s lives and pregnancies and how they are putting their families together. This is impacting families across the state of Texas every single day. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with Molly Duane. She’s the lead attorney in a case brought by the center for Reproductive Rights that demands that Texas clarify exceptions under its abortion ban. And obviously, the fight is not over. On Friday, the state’s medical board gave the public 30 days to weigh in on its proposed rule. For those of y’all out there in Texas, we’ve got links in our show notes to both the rule for you to read and for you to publicly comment on it. That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]




Josie Duffy Rice: Now let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s start with the most anticipated news of the day. Today is the deadline for former President Donald Trump to cough up the $454 million fine he owes in his New York civil fraud case. You’ll remember that Trump’s lawyers said last week that he can’t afford to pay the fine, and that he was rejected by 30 bond companies he asked for help to pay his bill. So it’s much more likely that today is when we find out how the courts will punish him for coming up short. It is worth noting that Trump’s financial luck could change soon. On Friday, his social media company, Truth Social, went public in a merger that could make him an estimated $3 billion. But the terms of the deal barred Trump from selling his shares or using them to get a loan for six months. Still, there is a chance the board could waive those restrictions. And if Trump fails to settle his debt today like he’s expected to. The state of New York could freeze some of his bank accounts or seize some of his properties. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Now for an update on a story we’ve been following closely here on WAD. Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, announced on Friday that she’s been diagnosed with cancer and is receiving chemotherapy treatment. In a video posted by Kensington Palace, the princess did not specify what kind of cancer she has, just that it was found after her abdominal surgery in January. She also thanked the public for their support while she and her family took time to process her diagnosis. 


[clip of Kate Middleton] We hope that you will understand that as a family, we now need some time, space and privacy while I complete my treatment. 


Tre’vell Anderson: This brings an end to all the speculation brewing about why the Princess hasn’t made a public appearance since late December. Several conspiracy theories about her well-being emerged after the palace put out a doctored photo of Middleton and her kids on English Mother’s Day. The move was aimed at quelling the public’s curiosity, but it royally backfired, prompting even more questions. Two weeks later, we finally have an answer. I just want to say that I feel like y’all could have just released this information two weeks ago without the photo, and, you know, we would have been able to move to this moment where y’all can process this information respectfully and privately without everybody figuring out what’s going on or what’s not going on? 


Josie Duffy Rice: We could use a little shaking up at the Royal Family Communications Office. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, but wishing the Princess well. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Definitely. Former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel is getting a very icy welcome from her new coworkers at NBC. The network announced on Friday that it had hired McDaniel as a paid political analyst, despite the fact that she repeatedly echoed the lie that the 2020 election was rigged. On Sunday, she sat down for her first interview, which had been scheduled before the announcement with Meet the Press host Kristen Welker. 


[clip of Kristen Welker] Can you say as you sit here today, did Joe Biden win the election fair and square? 


[clip of Ronna McDaniel] He won. He’s the legitimate president.


[clip of Kristen Welker] Did he win fair and square? 


[clip of Ronna McDaniel] Fair and square. He won. It’s certified. It’s done. But I I do think [?]– 


[clip of Kristen Welker] Ronna, why has it taken you– 


[clip of Ronna McDaniel] [?] let me just say something. 


[clip of Kristen Welker] –until now to say that? Why–


[clip of Ronna McDaniel] Because–


[clip of Kristen Welker] –has it taken you until now to be able to say that to people? 


[clip of Ronna McDaniel] I’m going to push back a little, because I do think it’s fair to say there were problems in 2020. And to say that does not mean he’s not the legitamate president. 


[clip of Kristen Welker] But Ronna, when you say that, it suggests that there was something wrong with the election and you know that the election was–


[clip of Ronna McDaniel] You know what, there were problems. 


[clip of Kristen Welker] –the most heavily scrutinized, Chris Krebs said, it was the most secure election in modern history. [banter]


Tre’vell Anderson: Girl, and this is who y’all hired for your political analysis? 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s crazy. I love that she’s like getting frustrated that she has to answer this question when like you went public for months saying the opposite. And then just a few minutes later, during a panel discussion among journalists, NBC chief political analyst Chuck Todd said this to Welker. 


[clip of Chuck Todd] I think our bosses owe you an apology for putting you in this situation, because I don’t know what to believe. She is now a paid contributor by NBC News. Well, I have no idea whether any answer she gave to you was because she didn’t want to mess up her contract. She wants us to believe that she was speaking for the RNC when the RNC was paying for her. So she has she has credibility issues that she still has to deal with. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I know, that’s right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: As of our taping at 9:30 p.m. eastern time, NBC had yet to comment on what happened on Sunday’s show. The network defended McDaniel’s hiring in a staff memo earlier this week, though, saying, quote, “it couldn’t be a more important moment to have a voice like Ronna’s on the team.” 


Tre’vell Anderson: A voice like Ronna’s that denies that the election– 


Josie Duffy Rice: It couldn’t be a more important moment. We’re literally about to have another election with the same two people. This man’s going to claim the same shit and you guys hired someone who lied to your viewers like it just signals such a lack of respect for the people who watch your station. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm mmm, well. The House Republicans ever shrinking majority is about to shrink yet again. On Friday, Wisconsin Republican Representative Mike Gallagher announced he’ll resign his seat early on April 19th, instead of finishing out his term. He announced his decision on the same day another Republican left his seat, Colorado’s Ken Buck. Once Gallagher leaves in mid April, Republican’s House majority will be so small they’ll only be able to spare one defection on party line votes. Gallagher announced in February that he would not seek reelection. Just a few days after he defied his party by voting against the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. It’s also too late to hold a special election in Wisconsin, so his seat will remain open until the new Congress starts in January. Republicans will likely have to wait until May for a little extra breathing room on votes, though. That’s when California holds a runoff election for the seat former House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy vacated late last year. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And finally indicted former Republican Congressman George Santos, aka Joanne the scammer, says he plans to run as an independent in his bid to get his old job back. Yes, in case you forgot, Santos is running for the House of Representatives again, this time in a different New York district. The former congressman initially launched his bid as a Republican, but on Friday, he announced on X that he’s suspending his GOP campaign and filing to run as an independent instead. When it comes to his reasoning, Santos cited the $1.2 trillion spending deal House lawmakers passed that day to avert a government shutdown. He called the whole thing, quote, “embarrassing,” [laugh] which is, I mean, truly an incredible choice of words considering his entire political career thus far. Santos was expelled from the House in December. He now faces 23 federal felony counts, including money laundering, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. He also famously wove a kaleidoscope of lies about nearly every detail of his life, from where he went to college to his mom being a 9/11 survivor. There’s so many, so many lies, he told. Santos must now collect more than 3000 petition signatures from voters in New York District one, the district he’s running to represent. He has until late May to get it done in time to appear on the ballot. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Y’all. We have to stop feeding the beast. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Or else he won’t go away. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I just think he needs to get a talk show on YouTube. 


Tre’vell Anderson: No. Thank you. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Make your own podcast and let’s move on. 


Tre’vell Anderson: No, thank you. 


Josie Duffy Rice: You know, he needs to be talking to someone. But–


Tre’vell Anderson: A therapist. 


Josie Duffy Rice: A thera– well. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Call Better Help. Okay, call one of them. Okay. That’s who he need to be speaking to. 


Josie Duffy Rice: If he and Trump started their own talk show and stopped running for office, I would take it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Would you?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes, obviously, we all would. Would I watch it? Also probably yes. Once in a while when I’m home from work sick. After the Price is Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] Cut it out. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And those are the headlines. 




Josie Duffy Rice: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Texans, tell your state what you think of its medical exemptions rule, and tell your friends to listen. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just a growing list of who else is leaving the Republican Party like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe! I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


[spoken together] And we call dibs on Trump Tower.


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m redecorating. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I was about to say I have a vision for a gold toilet, though. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh my God. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m just saying. [laugh]


Josie Duffy Rice: We can keep. No, we have to keep the gold toilet. We have to keep the gold toilet. The rest. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The rest can go. [laugh]


Josie Duffy Rice: The rest can go. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire, and our showrunner is Leo Duran. Adriene Hill is our executive producer. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.