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New limits for the EPA, abortion access in Florida, SCOTUS’ first Black justice and her time in South Florida

Chief Justice John G. Roberts looks on as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson signs the Oaths of Office in the Justices' Conference Room at the Supreme Court.
Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
Chief Justice John G. Roberts looks on as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson signs the Oaths of Office in the Justices' Conference Room at the Supreme Court.

The EPA loses some of its power to fight the climate crisis. Plus, how the legal back and forth on abortion access in Florida is playing out on the ground. And Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg remembers what it was like to debate Supre Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson back in their high school days.

On this Tuesday, July 5, edition of Sundial:

New limits on environmental protections

The U.S. Supreme Court decided to limit the power of the Environmental Protection Agency last week with a 6-3 decision. Now — it's harder for the agency to limit carbon emissions that come from power plants.

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Yet, some of the conservative justices did point out the threat of the climate crisis.

What does this mean to try and get the country off fossil fuels, like coal, and more towards renewable energy sources?

Justin Gillis is a former New York Times reporter covering climate change. He joined Sundial on Tuesday, and has a book out later this year called "The Big Fix" to help the public understand what we can try to limit further climate change.

He explained why this decision marks a blow to the Biden Administration's efforts to curb carbon emissions that lead to global warming.

Sabrina McCormick also joined the program. She is an associate professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington University and used to work at the EPA.

"The air pollution that comes from power plants makes its way inside the human uterus. It makes its way through the placental barrier. And so what we are emitting now is affecting generations to come," McCormick said. "So, you know, it's not just this abstract concept of power plants that are somewhere else affecting someone else. It's those of us who are breathing every day this air pollution, which we all are — And so really pulling that back and really regulating that as much as we can is a critical way to improve public health and welfare."

New limits on environmental protections

Abortion access in Florida

Florida’s 15-week abortion ban was temporarily halted this morning and then brought back within the hour.

The ban initially went into effect Friday, along with a number of other new laws in the state.

The short-lived injunction by a Leon County circuit judge cited the state’s constitution, which includes an amendment that protects the right to privacy. In 1989, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that the privacy clause covers the right to an abortion.

Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration quickly appealed this morning, meaning the 15-week abortion ban stands for now.

“The biggest issue is going to be with the emergency room doctors if the patient needs emergency care. They're the ones that are going to probably be a little bit more confused," said Dr. Cecilia Grande, a Catholic gynecologist who operates out of Baptist Health South Miami Hospital, about the legal back and forth happening on abortion access in Florida.

There are exceptions to that law, and they include if the mother’s health is threatened or if there is a “fatal fetal abnormality.”

Grande joined Sundial to discuss abortion access in the state. She also shared her experience about why abortion access is important to her.

“I was pro-life until I went to medical school. I lived a relatively sheltered life … And once I started in medical school, in a system that was just like Jackson [Health System] and I started seeing the rape victims, I started seeing the really bad birth defects. Once I started at Jackson, the youngest patient I delivered was 12 years old. She got pregnant at 11. Also, once you are working for a while, you realize that a lot of the patients that are raped, they don't come to seek help right away. They have this guilt that is completely made up because they are the victims. But by the time they seek your help, a lot of the time they're past your first trimester. So, again, this is not about me — it’s about the patient. So that's when my mind changed completely,” said Grande.

Sundial also heard from Dr. Steven Christie, a radiologist in South Florida, who is also an attorney and member of the Florida Bar. Dr. Christie also regularly lectures on Catholic social issues, including marriage, family and life. He had a different experience going through medical school.

“I grew up in a secular household and attended a very pricey and progressive high school where it was understood that if you were educated and sophisticated and a thinker, well, then you were obviously pro-choice. And conversely, pro-lifers were those uneducated and intolerant and likely religious wackos,” said Christie. “It wasn't really 'till I started medical school that my thinking was finally challenged … In medical school, you'll learn there's actually a definition of life and that it's not a matter of philosophy or religion or politics or personal introspection. What is alive is a purely scientific question that science has fully answered. There are seven very specific criteria that must be met for something to be considered alive. And all seven of these criteria, well, they're all about a conception. And it's spelled out in nearly every embryology book and every biology book used at nearly every medical school the world over. So as to my conversion story, that's the crux of it. I came to learn the truth that the unborn are fully alive, fully human, and fully deserving of the right to live.”

Christie is the author of a book titled “Speaking for the Unborn.”

Abortion access in Florida
Pro-abortion-rights activists hold signs alongside anti-abortion-rights activists outside the Supreme Court last month.

SCOTUS’ first Black justice and her time in South Florida

The country’s highest court has welcomed the first Black woman to serve as a justice.

Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn into the United States Supreme Court on Thursday.

People in South Florida who knew Justice Jackson aren't surprised by her taking on this new role. At least that's what Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said.

He remembers some of those high school speech and debate circuit days with Justice Jackson. Sundial spoke with him back in March. Find that full story here.

SCOTUS’ first Black justice and her time in South Florida
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson's Senate confirmation hearings are set to begin Monday, March 21.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.