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Ad spending shows Dems hinging hopes on abortion…

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Ad spending shows Dems hinging hopes on abortion…

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are pumping an unprecedented amount of money into advertising related to abortion rights, underscoring how central the message is to the party in the final weeks before the November midterm elections.

With the most intense period of campaigning only just beginning, Democrats have already invested more than an estimated $124 million this year in television advertising referencing abortion. That’s more than twice as much money as the Democrats’ next top issue this year, “character,” and almost 20 times more than Democrats spent on abortion-related ads in the 2018 midterms.

The estimated spending figures, based on an Associated Press analysis of data provided by the nonpartisan research firm AdImpact, reveal the extent to which Democrats are betting their majorities in Congress and key governorships on one issue. That’s even as large majorities of Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction and the economy is in poor condition.

The advertising numbers also reveal just how sharply Republicans have shied away from abortion in their paid advertising in the weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a decades-long goal of the GOP. (The AdImpact data captures every single time a campaign ad is aired on TV, and estimates a cost associated with those airings.)

Since the high court’s decision in June to eliminate the constitutional right to abortion, roughly 1 in 3 television advertising dollars spent by Democrats and their allies have focused on abortion. Much of the spending is designed to attack Republicans on the ballot this fall who have long opposed abortion rights and are currently engaged in a state-by-state push to restrict abortion rights or outlaw the practice altogether.

The Democrats’ unprecedented investment in abortion messaging on TV this year through Sept. 18 is larger than the Republican Party’s combined national investment in ads relating to the economy, crime and immigration.

“With less than 60 days until the election, we refuse to stand by while out-of-step, anti-choice Republicans try to control our bodies and our futures and simultaneously lie about it to voters,” said Melissa Williams, executive director of Women Vote!, EMILY’s List’s independent expenditure program which has invested more than $4 million in abortion-related ads this year. “We are ensuring that each voter knows the candidates that stand with them and against them in protecting this right.”

The Democrats’ overwhelming focus on abortion may not be surprising given the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the wave of Republican-backed abortion bans in more than a dozen states that followed. But the strategy still marks a sharp departure from the party’s focus in recent years on former President Donald Trump and other issues like the economy, education and health care.

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In the 2018 midterm elections, for example, Democrats spent less than $6 million on abortion-related television advertising. That’s compared to the $51 million that Democrats invested in Trump-related ads, $49 million on health care and $46 million on education, according to AdImpact.

Jessica Floyd, president of American Bridge, a Democrat-allied super PAC running abortion-related advertising in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, described abortion as “the ultimate health care issue” for women and families. The Supreme Court decision and the subsequent Republican push to ban abortion in some states, she said, represent “an actual rolling back of rights, which is unprecedented.”

“It’s a very powerful motivator,” Floyd said. “It flies in the face of everything we know voters care about — especially the voters who will decide this election.”

Television advertising data reveals that Republicans, too, have invested millions of dollars in abortion messaging. But most of those ads ran during the primary phase of the campaign this spring and summer as Republican candidates touted their anti-abortion credentials. The number of Republican ads aired referencing abortion has gone down each month since May.

As the calendar has shifted to the fall general election, the gulf between Democratic and Republican spending on abortion ads has grown even wider. So far this month, for example, Democrats and their allies have aired more than 68,000 ads on TV referencing abortion — more than 15 times as many as their Republican counterparts. They’ve spent an estimated $31 million on such ads compared with the GOP’s outlay of only $2.8 million. That’s even as Republican leaders such as GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel acknowledged in a recent interview that her party cannot allow Democrats to control the narrative on abortion.

“It’s very clear that that’s the only thing that Democrats have to run on, right? They don’t run on a good economy. They can’t run on community being safer. They can’t run on education,” McDaniel said. “So what are they going to do? They’re going to make everything about abortion, which means we’re going to have to talk about it as Republicans do.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., irked Republican leaders last week by proposing a national ban on abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy. It was the kind of legislation Republicans on Capitol Hill have supported for several years. But this year, it was viewed as an unwelcome reminder to voters just eight weeks before Election Day that some Republicans in Congress hope to adopt national abortion restrictions if given the chance.

McDaniel encouraged Republicans instead to go on offense on abortion by highlighting Democrats’ resistance to any limitations, a position she argued is out of step with most voters. And while Republican leaders and candidates are increasingly making that argument when asked, the party has yet to devote many resources to the issue in the one place most voters hear from GOP candidates: their screens.

Democrats, meanwhile, have released a new wave of abortion-related ads targeting statewide Republican candidates across North Carolina, New Mexico, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado and Florida. Abortion is also a regular topic for state legislative candidates in competitive districts in California and Florida. Republican House candidates are under attack for opposing abortion rights in congressional districts in upstate New York, Connecticut, Michigan and Indiana.

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In some cases, Republican candidates are being hit with multiple abortion-related ads running simultaneously on their local television stations.

One of them is Wisconsin’s Republican candidate for governor, Tim Michels, who has been the focus of abortion-related attack ads from three groups so far this month, including his opponent, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Each of the three ad campaigns features Michels confirming that he opposes abortion rights even in cases of rape or incest.

“Is that the divisive radical you want as your governor?” the narrator asks in one ad produced by the Evers campaign.

Michels’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s much the same in Nevada, where Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the nation. This month, at least two anti-Republican groups and the Cortez Masto campaign itself were running abortion-related ads against GOP challenger Adam Laxalt.

Cortez Masto’s campaign featured a doctor saying that Republicans are trying to interfere with women’s health care decisions.

“For doctors like me, it is our job to make sure women have the support they need to make decisions that are right for them. But Adam Laxalt disagrees,” the doctor says on one ad.

In an op-ed last month, Laxalt tried to push back against the flood of abortion-related advertising against him.

“Cortez Masto and her allies are spending millions of dollars in campaign ads trying to … make you believe in a falsehood that I would support a federal ban on abortion as a U.S. senator, or that I am somehow ‘anti-woman’ because I value, support and defend life at all stages,” he wrote. “For my entire adult life, I have held the view that the Supreme Court should return the issue of abortion to the people and let them decide the issue on a state-by-state basis.”

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Abortion has been a big focus in Nevada’s Senate contest so far, but other elections have seen far more abortion-related advertising.

The AdImpact data shows that the most TV ads aired this year referencing abortion took place in the Pennsylvania and Arizona Senate races, followed by gubernatorial contests for Illinois, Georgia and Wisconsin. (The now-defeated Kansas constitutional amendment ballot measure, while a unique election, also saw some of the most ads.)

Georgia’s Democratic nominee for governor, Stacey Abrams, ran an ad campaign for much of August into September attacking Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, using the words of several women speaking directly to the camera.

“He supports a total ban, even if I’m raped, a victim of incest,” the women say. Another woman is almost crying when she says, “Under Kemp, I could be investigated and imprisoned for a miscarriage.”

Kemp spokesperson Tate Mitchell pushed back against the accuracy of the ads, charging that “Stacey Abrams and her campaign are lying in an effort to scare people and distract voters from her dangerous agenda for Georgia.”

Democrats in several swing states are aggressively leaning in to some leading Republicans’ opposition to abortion exceptions in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother at risk.

Cliff Schecter, a veteran Democratic ad maker and founder of Blue Amp Strategies, said Democrats are “messaging much better around abortion” this year.

“It’s not just liberal women anymore, or even moderate women. It’s conservative women who are horrified by this,” Schecter said of the new abortion restrictions being implemented across the country. “It’d be malpractice not to focus on it.”

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Peoples reported from New York.

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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