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As Congress Deadlocks, Abortion Debate Ramps Up in States

Algunos legisladores republicanos estatales parecen estar divididos sobre cuáles deberían ser sus próximos pasos sobre el tema.

Anti-abortion advocates are pressing for expanded abortion bans and tighter restrictions since the Supreme Court overturned the national right to abortion. But with the debate mostly deadlocked in Washington, the focus is shifting to states convening their first full legislative sessions since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Although some state GOP lawmakers have filed bills to ban abortion pills or make it more difficult for women to travel out of state for an abortion, others seem split about what their next steps should be. Some are even considering measures to ease their states’ existing bans somewhat, particularly after Republicans’ less-than-stellar showing in the 2022 midterm elections and voters’ widespread support for abortion on state ballot measures.

Meanwhile, Democratic-led states are looking to shore up abortion protections, including Minnesota and Michigan, where Democrats sewed up legislative majorities in the November elections.

Anti-abortion groups said their goal in overturning Roe v. Wade was to turn the decision back to the states, but now they are making clear that what they want is an encompassing national abortion ban.

“Legislation at the state and federal levels should provide the most generous protections possible to life in the womb,” says the “Post-Roe Blueprint” of the anti-abortion group Students for Life.

The new Republican-led House showed its anti-abortion bona fides on its first day of formal legislating, Jan. 11, passing two pieces of anti-abortion legislation that are unlikely to become law with a Senate still controlled by Democrats and President Joe Biden in the White House.

So at the federal level, the fight is taking shape in the courts over the abortion pill mifepristone, which has been used as part of a two-drug regimen for more than two decades, and recently became the way a majority of abortions in the U.S. are conducted.

States With the Highest Abortion Rates
People protest in reaction to the leak of the US Supreme Court draft abortion ruling on May 3, 2022 in New York. – The Supreme Court is poised to strike down the right to abortion in the US, according to a leaked draft of a majority opinion that would shred nearly 50 years of constitutional protections. The draft, obtained by Politico, was written by Justice Samuel Alito, and has been circulated inside the conservative-dominated court, the news outlet reported. Politico stressed that the document it obtained is a draft and opinions could change. The court is expected to issue a decision by June. The draft opinion calls the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision “egregiously wrong from the start.” (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)

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The Biden administration has moved to make mifepristone more widely available by allowing it to be distributed by pharmacies, as well as clarifying that it is legal to distribute the pills via the U.S. mail. But the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, on behalf of several anti-abortion groups, filed a federal lawsuit in Texas in November, charging that the FDA never had the authority to approve the drug in the first place.

In Texas, some lawmakers are exploring new ways to chip away at Texans’ remaining sliver of access to abortions. For example, one proposal would prevent local governments from using tax dollars to help people access abortion services out of state, while another would prohibit tax subsidies for businesses that help their local employees obtain abortions out of state.

Those measures could get lost in the shuffle of the state’s frantic 140-day, every-other-year session, if legislative leaders don’t consider them a priority. The state’s trigger law banning almost all abortions that went into effect last year “appears to be working very well,” said Joe Pojman, founder and executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, an anti-abortion group. In August 2022, three abortions were documented in the state, down from more 5,700 reported during the same month a year earlier, according to the most recent state data.

The top state House Republican said his priority is boosting support for new moms, for example, by extending postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months.

[ REPORT: Maternal Health and Abortion Laws ]
It’s “an opportunity for the Texas House to focus more than ever on supporting mothers and children,” said Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, struck a similar theme in a Jan. 10 speech, saying she will introduce bills to expand a program for nurses to visit new mothers at home and help state employees pay for adoptions. Previously, Noem said South Dakota needs to focus “on taking care of mothers in crisis and getting them the resources that they need for both them and their child to be successful.”

Algunos legisladores republicanos de Texas indicaron que pueden estar abiertos a crear excepciones a la prohibición del aborto en casos de violación e incesto. Y un legislador republicano planea intentar modificar la prohibición de Dakota del Sur, que permite abortos solo para embarazos que amenazan la vida, para aclarar cuándo los abortos son médicamente necesarios.

“Parte del problema en este momento es que los médicos y proveedores simplemente no saben cuál es esa línea”, dijo la representante estatal Taylor Rehfeldt, una enfermera que ha experimentado abortos espontáneos y embarazos de alto riesgo.

Rehfeldt quiere restablecer una ley anterior que permite abortos para embarazos que podrían causar daños físicos graves e irreversibles a una “función corporal importante”. Rehfeldt dijo que también está trabajando en proyectos de ley para permitir abortos para personas que tienen fetos no viables o que quedaron embarazadas después de una violación o incesto.

Algunos activistas contra el aborto en Georgia están presionando a los legisladores para que vayan más allá de la prohibición estatal de la mayoría de los abortos alrededor de las seis semanas de embarazo. Quieren una ley que prohíba las recetas de telesalud de píldoras abortivas y una enmienda constitucional estatal que declare que un embrión o feto tiene todos los derechos legales de una persona en cualquier etapa de desarrollo.

“Roe está fuera del camino”, dijo Zemmie Fleck, directora ejecutiva de Georgia Right to Life. “No hay más obstáculos para lo que podemos hacer en nuestro estado”.

Los líderes republicanos, sin embargo, están esperando su momento mientras el tribunal supremo de Georgia sopesa una impugnación legal de la prohibición de seis semanas. “Nuestro enfoque permanece en el caso ante la Corte Suprema de Georgia y verlo en la línea de meta”, dijo Andrew Isenhour, vocero del gobernador republicano Brian Kemp.

Los legisladores y defensores del derecho al aborto tienen pocas opciones para promover sus iniciativas en estas cámaras estatales controladas por los republicanos.

Un demócrata de Georgia presentó un proyecto de ley que haría que el estado compense a las mujeres que no pueden interrumpir sus embarazos debido a la prohibición estatal del aborto. La representante estatal Dar’shun Kendrick reconoció que es probable que su proyecto de ley no vaya muy lejos, pero dijo que espera que mantenga la atención sobre el tema y obligue a los legisladores republicanos a “poner su dinero donde está su boca” para apoyar a las familias.

En Missouri, donde casi todos los abortos ahora están prohibidos, los defensores del derecho al aborto están considerando la idea de eludir la legislatura estatal dominada por los republicanos pidiendo a los votantes en 2024 que consagren el derecho al aborto en la constitución del estado.

Pero esos esfuerzos podrían verse afectados por una serie de proyectos de ley presentados por legisladores republicanos que buscan dificultar la inclusión de iniciativas constitucionales en la boleta electoral, y para aquellas medidas que sí lo hacen, al requerir la aprobación de al menos el 60 %. de votantes para la aprobación.

Es probable que los demócratas de Michigan y Minnesota utilicen su nuevo control tanto de las cámaras legislativas como de la oficina de los gobernadores para proteger el acceso al aborto. Si bien los votantes de Michigan ya aprobaron una medida electoral en noviembre que consagra el derecho al aborto en la constitución estatal, los demócratas están tratando de derogar una ley de aborto de 1931 de los libros.

En Illinois, los demócratas que controlan la legislatura reforzaron recientemente las protecciones contra el aborto en medio de una mayor demanda de residentes de otros estados. Este año, los legisladores de Nueva York pueden enviar a los votantes una propuesta de enmienda constitucional estatal para proteger el aborto, mientras que los legisladores de Nueva Jersey se pronunciaron en contra de una propuesta similar.

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Amid the AI hype, don’t forget about no-code

No-code startup Softr, which allows its customers to build apps from their existing data, announced Tuesday that it has added Google Sheets to its integration list.

Previously, Softr focused on Airtable databases. Its move to support data from Google’s spreadsheet product likely expands its potential customer pool. Even before that expansion, CEO Mariam Hakobyan told TechCrunch+ that her company grew its annual recurring revenue 3x from December 2021 to December 2022.

 

Softr’s quick revenue expansion is a good reminder that while the tech world seems completely consumed by all things AI, there’s quite a lot of work going on in other areas that are worth keeping an eye on.

That said, there is an interesting connection between AI and no-code worth writing down: Both are potentially great expanders of human capability. AI tooling could operate as a second brain of sorts for the digitally busy, and no-code services may allow nondevelopers to build the tools they need to complete their work. In both cases, the genres of new tech development have a shot at helping regular folks do a lot more, more quickly and often at a low cost.

Something else that modern AI tooling and no-code share is accessibility. Softr, for example, grew its base of signed-up users from 35,000 to 150,000 in 2022. That’s really quite a lot for a service that was, until recently, Airtable-specific. On the AI side, I don’t need to reiterate just how much market demand there is for modern LLM tooling.

Let’s dig into Softr’s progress since we last covered the company and chat about what we can learn about no-code progress as a method of building more accessible software.

Softr, no-code and empowering the regulars
Ask anyone who works at a company that builds software and isn’t part of the engineering or product orgs how long it will take them to get something built for their own needs. Without even making Jira ticket jokes, we all know what the answer will be. And to a degree, the standard situation makes sense: What nondeveloper employees need is often pretty basic software, and expensive engineers need to focus on the company’s core offering not internal tooling.

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Twitter’s legacy blue checkmark era is officially over

Twitter appears to have officially killed off its legacy blue checkmarks, one of the last remaining vestiges of the pre-Elon Musk owner era.

The legacy blue checks, which Twitter doled out to journalists, celebrities and other public officials for free to help curb impersonations and spam, were supposed to end April 1.

Musk took to Twitter on April 11 — days after the legacy checkmarks should have disappeared — to shift the end date to April 20 or 4/20. Yes, that’s the day when folks honor weed because Twitter is now owned by a middle schooler.

With the legacy checkmarks gone, Twitter will have verification marks only for paid users and businesses as well as government entities and officials. Now, if a user sees a blue checkmark and clicks on it, the label reads: “This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number.”

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Autotech Ventures’ new $230M mobility fund adds fintech, circular economy to its investment strategy

Autotech Ventures will use its newly closed $230 million fund to expand beyond its foundation of early-stage ground transportation startups and invest in what the firm believes are the next big opportunities in automotive and mobility.

Fintech, logistics, supply chain and the circular economy are at the top of the list.

The $230 million fund, its third since launching in 2017, will be used to invest in seed through Series C mobility-related startups, according to the company. A mixture of financial and corporate LPs, including Allison Transmission, American Axle, Iochpe-Maxion and Shell participated in the fund.

“We’re still a ground transportation-focused firm and we have a very similar strategy [with this fund],” Alexei Andreev, Autotech Ventures managing director told TechCrunch. “On a high-level, it’s same as Fund 1 and Fund 2. However, one of the fastest areas of growth is SaaS-enabled fintech. Auto commerce is inefficient and there are large pockets of profit to capture.”

The firm is particularly interested in transportation-related fintech ventures that are poised to grow during a recession.

“We made a prediction that sooner or later there will be a recession and we identified areas that benefit when the economy softens, Andreev said, noting that this latest fund invested in Yendo, a Dallas-based startup (formerly known as Otto) that lets customers borrow against their vehicles at the same interest rate as standard credit cards.

Autotech Ventures’ previous fintech investments include U.K.-based buy now, pay later startup Bumper and Carpay, a buy here, pay here loan servicing SaaS platform for car dealers.

Andreev said the firm is also investigating investment opportunities in the circular economy, a nascent industry focused on finding ways to reuse materials and products. Circular economy startups have garnered an increasing amount of attention and investment as automakers transition away from gas-powered vehicles and towards EVs.

Autotech Ventures is also cautiously wading into generative AI, although Andreev was quick to note that the company has not made any investments in that area.

Autotech has more than $500 million under management and has invested in more than 40 companies.

Some of the firm’s investments include computer vision startup DeepScale (which was acquired by Tesla), Lyft, used vehicle marketplace operator Frontier Car Group, Drover, Outdoorsy, Swvl, parking app SpotHero and Xnor.ai, which Apple acquired in January 2020. Five of those startups have gone public, including indie Semiconductor and Volta Charging.

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