Wednesday, November 9, 2022
Cameron Hood, Newsletter EditorJonathan Lambert
Public Health Reporter
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Voters in Michigan approved a ballot measure Tuesday to enshrine the right to an abortion in their state constitution.  

The vote was 55 percent in favor of the measure, 45 percent against as of early Wednesday morning, with more than 80 percent of ballots counted. Meanwhile, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who made abortion rights a major campaign issue, won reelection.  

The outcome will have major consequences for the millions of people of childbearing age in the broader Great Lakes region by cementing Michigan as a safe haven for abortion in a region where several neighboring states have tightened access to the procedure. The constitutional amendment supersedes a 90-year-old state law that mandates a total abortion ban; that law became relevant again after the Supreme Court struck down the national right to abortion in June. 

"Prop 3 has passed in Michigan. Abortion will remain safe and legal because of countless hours activists and volunteers poured into the cause. I’m so grateful for them and for everyone who showed up. Abortion is healthcare, and here in Michigan we’ve made sure it stays that way,”
tweeted Laurie Pohutsky, a Michigan state representative and chair of the Michigan Progressive Women’s Caucus. 

The situation is a microcosm of what’s playing out across the country: As some states expand abortion care and others restrict access, gaps that existed before the Supreme Court struck down the national right to abortion have grown wider. These “abortion deserts” are defined by the medical community as areas where the nearest abortion care is at least 100 miles away. 

Before the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, nearly all women in the United States lived within a few hours’ drive of an abortion clinic; the day of the decision, about 25 percent of women no longer did, according to an
analysis by the New York Times

Living in an abortion desert “means that if you have money and means, you can get care at great cost. If you don’t have money and means, then you will continue a pregnancy to term you weren’t intending to have,” said Elizabeth Nash, principal policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute. “And that is an incredible burden for someone to bear.” 

Bans in one state force those seeking an abortion to travel to neighboring states, which can strain clinics and extend wait times. Restrictions that span multiple states make finding abortion care out of reach for many, especially lower-income people. 

Travel times to abortion facilities increased by four hours, on average, in states that enacted bans since Dobbs,
according to a recent study in JAMA. States like Texas and Louisiana, which are large and border other restrictive states, saw travel times of six hours or more. 

“These are distances that make abortion impossible for so many people, and those impacts are not felt equitably among different groups of people,” said Ushma Upadhyay, a public health social scientist at the University of California, San Francisco, and study co-author. Before Dobbs, about 15 percent of Black pregnant people had to travel over an hour to reach a clinic, Upadhyay said, “that skyrocketed up to 40 percent after Dobbs.” 

Elsewhere: Voters in California and Vermont also voted to enshrine abortion rights in their state constitutions. Meanwhile, Kentuckians rejected a constitutional amendment that would have denied a right to an abortion, and Montanans appear poised to defeat a measure that would have granted legal personhood to an embryo or fetus that survives an abortion or delivery. 


💠 When abortion isn’t just abortion: For Republicans and Democrats, abortion represents different ideas about morality and equality. Now, big changes to abortion policies across the country are going into effect as Democratic voters worry about the apparatus of democracy, according to Freelance Reporter Julia Azari. Understanding the abortion issue as a clear example of concerns over democratic backsliding requires thinking differently about how people vote. Read more.

The fantasy football generation meets sports betting: Shaquille O’Neal wants you to gamble. So does Peyton Manning, Terry Bradshaw, the NFL, NBA and MLB. Four years into a nationwide betting boom, addiction researchers are seeing signs that young, high-income men face increased risks of gambling problems, Science Reporter Dan Vergano writes. Read his report.

💠 Clocking the daylight saving debate: Twice a year, we change our clocks, springing forward or falling back. There’s been a growing movement to ditch that cycle and end daylight saving time. Grid’s staff takes a look at the debate through the lens of health, economics, U.S. policy and global policy in our signature 360 Brief format. See our 360 Brief.


Alcohol-related deaths spiked by 26 percent in the first year of the pandemic, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report published Nov. 4. The surge in death was driven largely by alcoholic liver disease and mental and behavioral disorders due to alcohol abuse. 

While drinking-related deaths had been crawling upward over the past decade, the spike from 2019 to 2020 likely relates to the pandemic. Americans
drank more often and more heavily in 2020, and researchers suspect that increased alcohol consumption may have raised the risk for more severe covid outcomes. Early social distancing measures may have also delayed access to care, like liver transplants, that also contributed. 


👋 Thanks for reading. Until next week, take care. –Jon 

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Cameron Hood and Lillian Barkley also contributed to this edition of Grid Health.
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