WASHINGTON (AP) — Abortion rights supporters demonstrating at hundreds of marches and rallies Saturday expressed their outrage that the Supreme Court appears prepared to scrap the constitutional right to abortion that has endured for nearly a half-century and their fear about what that could mean for women’s reproductive choices.
Incensed after a leaked draft opinion suggested the court’s conservative majority would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, activists spoke of the need to mobilize quickly because Republican-led states are poised to enact tighter restrictions.
In the nation’s capital, thousands gathered in drizzly weather at the Washington Monument to listen to fiery speeches before marching to the Supreme Court, which was surrounded by two layers of security fences.
The mood was one of anger and defiance, three days after the Senate failed to muster enough votes to codify Roe v. Wade.
“I can’t believe that at my age, I’m still having to protest over this,” said Samantha Rivers, a 64-year-old federal government employee who is preparing for a state-by-state battle over abortion rights.
Caitlin Loehr, 34, of Washington, wore a black T-shirt with an image of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “dissent” collar on it and a necklace that spelled out “vote.”
“I think that women should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and their lives. And I don’t think banning abortion will stop abortion. It just makes it unsafe and can cost a woman her life,” Loehr said.
A half-dozen anti-abortion demonstrators sent out a countering message, with Jonathan Darnel shouting into a microphone, “Abortion is not health care, folks, because pregnancy is not an illness.”
From Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, and Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands participated in events, where chants of “Bans off our bodies!” and “My body, my choice!” rang out. The gatherings were largely peaceful, but in some cities there were tense confrontations between people on opposing sides of the issue.
Polls show that most Americans want to preserve access to abortion — at least in the earlier stages of pregnancy — but the Supreme Court appeared to be poised to let the states have the final say. If that happens, roughly half of states, mostly in the South and Midwest, are expected to quickly ban abortion.
The battle was personal for some who came out Saturday. In Seattle, some protesters carried photographic images of conservative justices’ heads on sticks.
Teisha Kimmons, who traveled 80 miles to attend the Chicago rally, said she fears for women in states that are ready to ban abortion. She said she might not be alive today if she had not had a legal abortion when she was 15.
“I was already starting to self harm and I would have rather died than have a baby,” said Kimmons, a massage therapist from Rockford, Illinois.
At that rally, speaker after speaker said that if abortion is banned that the rights of immigrants, minorities and others will also be “gutted,” as Amy Eshleman, wife of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot put it.
“This has never been just about abortion. It’s about control,” Eshleman told the crowd of thousands. “My marriage is on the menu and we cannot and will not let that happen.”
In New York, thousands of people gathered in Brooklyn’s courthouse plaza before a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to lower Manhattan for another rally.
“We’re here for the women who can’t be here, and for the girls who are too young to know what is ahead for them,” Angela Hamlet, 60, of Manhattan, said to the backdrop of booming music.
Robin Seidon, who traveled from Montclair, New Jersey, for the rally, said the nation was at a place abortion rights supporters have long feared.
“They’ve been nibbling at the edges, and it was always a matter of time before they thought they had enough power on the Supreme Court, which they have now,” said Seidon, 65.
The upcoming high court ruling in a case from Mississippi stands to energize voters, potentially shaping the upcoming midterm elections.
In Texas, which has a strict law banning many abortions, the challenger to one of the last anti-abortion Democrats in Congress marched in San Antonio.
Jessica Cisneros joined demonstrators just days before early voting begins in her primary runoff against U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, which could be one of the first tests over whether the court leak will galvanize voters.
In Chicago, Kjirsten Nyquist, a nurse toting daughters ages 1 and 3, agreed about the need to vote. “As much as federal elections, voting in every small election matters just as much,” she said.
At many of the rallies, speakers put the issue in stark terms, saying people will die if abortions are outlawed.
In Los Angeles, high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred recounted how she could not get a legal abortion after being raped at gunpoint in the 1960s. She said she ended up having life-threatening bleeding after a “back alley” abortion.
“I want you to vote as though your lives depend on it, because they do,” she told the crowd.
Fake nursing diploma scheme in Florida; 25 arrested
MIAMI (AP) — Federal authorities in Florida have charged 25 people with participating in a wire fraud scheme that created an illegal shortcut for aspiring nurses to get licensed and find employment.
Recently unsealed federal grand jury indictments allege the defendants took part in a scam that sold more than 7,600 fraudulent nursing degree diplomas from three Florida-based nursing schools, federal officials said during a news conference in Miami on Wednesday afternoon. Prosecutors said the scheme also involved transcripts from the nursing schools for people seeking licenses and jobs as registered nurses and licensed practical/vocational nurses. The defendants each face up to 20 years in prison.
“Not only is this a public safety concern, it also tarnishes the reputation of nurses who actually complete the demanding clinical and course work required to obtain their professional licenses and employment,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe.
Lapointe added that “a fraud scheme like this erodes public trust in our health care system.”
The fake diplomas and transcripts qualified those who purchased them to sit for the national nursing board exam. If they passed, they were able to obtain licenses and jobs in various states, prosecutors said.
The schools involved — Siena College, Palm Beach School of Nursing and Sacred Heart International Institute — are now closed.
Some of those who purchased degrees were from South Florida’s Haitian-American community, including some with legitimate LPN licenses who wanted to become registered nurses, the Miami Herald reported.
“Health care fraud is nothing new to South Florida, as many scammers see this as a way to earn easy, though illegal, money,“ acting Special Agent in Charge Chad Yarbrough said Wednesday.
He said it’s particularly disturbing that more than 7,600 people around the country obtained fake credentials and were potentially in critical health care roles treating patients.
The selling and purchasing of nursing diplomas and transcripts to “willing but unqualified individuals” is a crime that “potentially endangers the health and safety of patients and insults the honorable profession of nursing,” said Special Agent in Charge Omar Pérez Aybar. Pérez said investigators have not found, however, that any of the nurses caused harm to patients.
The students paid a total of $114 million for the fake degrees between 2016 and 2021, the newspaper reported. About 2,400 of the 7,600 students eventually passed their licensing exams — mainly in New York, federal officials said. Nurses certified in New York are allowed to practice in Florida and many other states.
Many of those people may lose their certification but likely won’t be criminally charged, federal officials said.
Statement from Andrew Warren Following Ruling
TAMPA, FL (January 20, 2023) – Andrew Warren gave the statement below to reporters following today’s ruling where a federal judge said Governor Ron DeSantis’ suspension of Warren “violated the Florida Constitution” and was “a violation of the First Amendment.”
The trial was a search for the truth, and over the past five months the truth has come out. The truth is that Gov. DeSantis abused his power and suspended me not in the pursuit of justice but in the pursuit of politics. The truth is that this suspension was never about the job that I did. As the judge wrote, quote, “The actual facts, whether Mr. Warren actually had any blanket non-prosecution policies, did not matter.’’
The suspension was always a political stunt, a cheap trick to add one more misleading line to the governor’s stump speech. The truth is, for the past six years I’ve been a pragmatic, forward-looking state attorney, both tough and smart on crime, representing my own vision of criminal justice and the purple county that I so proudly serve. But DeSantis and his enablers didn’t care about the truth. They didn’t care about our office’s success. They didn’t care about the safety of our community, and they didn’t care about the will of the voters. They cared about scoring political points through a political stunt. Period.
From the day I was suspended, I’ve said that the suspension was illegal. And although a judge said he couldn’t put me back into the office to which I was twice elected, a federal judge confirmed that the suspension was illegal. The judge concluded that the governor violated federal law and state law. He violated my First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution by suspending me for speaking out on issues of public importance. He violated my First Amendment rights by suspending me because I am a Democrat. He violated the Florida Constitution by suspending me not because I had done anything wrong but because my vision as state attorney doesn’t fit with his political agenda. As the judge wrote, and I quote, “The record includes not a hint of misconduct by Mr. Warren. The assertion that Mr. Warren neglected his duty or was incompetent is incorrect. This factual issue is not close.’’
From the beginning, I have said that this case was bigger than just me. The idea that a governor can break federal and state law to suspend an elected official should send shivers down the spine of anyone who cares about free speech, the integrity of our elections or the rule of law, three core principles on which our democracy is built. When the governor announced the suspension, he stood up and proclaimed that our government is a government of laws, not a government of men. I couldn’t agree more. The judge wrote, quote, “If the facts matter. the governor can simply rescind the suspension.’’
Let’s see if the governor actually believes in the rule of law. Let’s see if the governor actually is a man of his word. Let’s see what kind of man the governor actually is. The governor is supposed to represent all Floridians. And if he wants to represent all Americans, then this is a golden opportunity for him to show our country what kind of man he truly is. This is not over. Thank you.
FAMU Commencement Speaker John Morgan Inspires Graduates With Humor & Wisdom
Florida A&M University Commencement Speaker Attorney John Morgan exhorted fall 2022 graduates with a mixture of humor and wisdom.
Addressing approximately 600 graduates from the University’s dozen colleges and schools in the Al Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center on Friday evening, the founder of Morgan & Morgan shared time-honored aphorisms he hoped graduates would use as they made their way in the world.
“There’s a big difference in dreaming and living your dreams. My hope is that you get to live your dreams. Visionaries are a dime a dozen. The vision maker is the rarity; that is the person who lives their dreams,” said Morgan. “Living your dream is very hard. There are vision blockers who try to keep you still for many reasons. Some of our friends and relatives would rather a total stranger win the lottery than you.”
A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Morgan moved with his parents and siblings to Orlando, Florida, where he attended high school. After graduating, Morgan enrolled in the University of Florida (UF). He graduated from the UF College of Law in 1983. Five years later, he founded Morgan& Morgan with the mission to represent the people, not the powerful.
“Without question, John Morgan has established himself as a preeminent legal leader and a friend of FAMU,” said President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., who awarded Morgan the President’s Award.
During his 20-minute speech, Morgan regaled the audience with the story about the 1975 Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier heavyweight championship boxing match, “the Thrilla in Manila” and the lessons each fighter learned.
“When things get tough along the way and you don’t think you can go another step, remember that story and answer the bell,” Morgan said referring to Ali’s historic victory. Having led a successful national law firm for more than three decades, Morgan reminded graduates of the need to set their priorities straight.
“Your future is whatever you decide to make it,” Morgan said. “When money guides you, you make less money. Greed is not good. Be driven by purpose and passion. If you love what you do, the work the hours will just breeze by.”
Failure can be helpful, Morgan reminded graduates. He cited the experience of failing to get a medical marijuana constitutional amendment on the first try with 58 percent of the vote, which was less than the two-thirds majority required for adoption. On the subsequent attempt, the measure garnered 72 percent of the vote. Morgan said he was inspired to push to legalize medical marijuana by the fate of his brother who was quadriplegic following an accident and endured years of debilitating pain.
“The lessons in a failed attempt are building blocks in your next adventure. In life, you need to accomplish success, but you must also seek significance. At the same time, failure can be your friend,” Morgan continued. “Go change the world; dare to be great; do good and do well; dream it and do it. Show up; be early; be great. Find purpose in your passion. And always answer the bell.”
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