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At This Hour

Texas Abortion Ban Takes Effect, U.S. Supreme Court Fails to Act; Desperation Grows in Louisiana After Hurricane Ida. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired September 01, 2021 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

The right to choose ban in Texas. A new Texas law goes into effect banning most abortions.

Desperation in Louisiana. Hundreds of thousands still without power, now water, gas and food are running low.

A crisis in America's hospitals. ICUs nearing capacity all because of coronavirus patients.

All right. So, we begin this hour with breaking news. The right to an abortion effectively eliminated in the state of Texas today. The most restrictive abortion ban in the nation went into effect this morning in the state after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to step in overnight.

The Texas law bans abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy with no exception for rape or incest. So, make no mistake: the real life application and intention of this law is to ban abortions altogether. It allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs procedures or even helps a woman get an abortion. We'll get to the details in all of this in just a second.

But, first, let's be real. The very same people in the very same state who say don't you dare tell me to wear a mask, the same people who say that is government overreach because it violates individual freedoms, those very same people clearly are saying now, never mind when it comes to my body and the medical decisions I make with the advice of my doctor.

Now that choice is totally fair game to be taken out of my hands and dictated now by a bunch of politicians. That is hypocrisy. This is hypocrisy, the definition of.

Let's go to Texas and get CNN's Dianne Gallagher up who is live in Austin for us.

What exactly does this abortion do, Dianne? DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, look, Kate, this

bill effectively bans abortions after around six weeks in pregnancy which is often before many women know that they are pregnant. It is also in cases of rape and incest.

What this law does that is different from other laws in the past in other states that have attempted to do the same and been struck down is that it doesn't empower government officials or any sort of criminal effects to it. What it does, it empowers private citizens to bring civil lawsuits against anybody who, quote, knowingly aids and abets a pregnant person seeking abortion in violation of that ban.

Now, here in Texas, that's where the confusion comes in. That's a very there. Some are concerned, a ride share driver who takes a woo man to an abortion clinic, someone who donates to a fund that could be used to help with legal defenses of abortion providers. Now, when we're talking about this six-week ban, Kate, according to those who oppose this law, who filed those suits, they say they're looking at roughly 85 percent of the abortions that have been conducted in the state of Texas that would fall underneath this law.

The Supreme Court did not act this morning, and it went into effect today. We're expecting a protest here on the steps of the Texas state capitol later this afternoon opposing this law.

BOLDUAN: Dianne, thanks so much.

Joining me is CNN chief legal analyst, former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin, and also, CNN Supreme Court reporter Adriane de Vogue.

Jeffrey, why is this significant?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: September 1st, 2021 I think will be seen as a major date in American history because this is the first time since January 23rd, 1973, the day Roe v. Wade was handed out, today is the first day that a state could legally ban abortion because the Supreme Court let this law go into effect. This is a major change in the law.

Yes, it is true that many states have imposed restrictions, have tried to limit the right to choose abortion for women, but this is the first time an outright ban has been allowed by the Supreme Court to go into effect. It is not going to be just Texas if the Supreme Court continues not to step in because every other law in the many other red states that have been trying to ban abortion, they're going to pass copycat laws, and this is not the end of the fight.


This is just the beginning of the end of Roe v. Wade.

BOLDUAN: Ariane, that the high court did not intervene in this case?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURTER: Well, it's interesting because the court still could. That's worth saying. What happened here is the clinics raced to the court yesterday said please step in, block this law, going into effect at midnight. The court basically did not do anything. That inaction allowed it to go into effect.

I think still somehow we should get some kind of order with the justices and they may explain their thinking here a little bit. That could still come today. They've been under some pressure in recent years for increasingly deciding big issues on the shadow docket, cases that come up on an emergency basis, ruled on late at night and the justices really don't explain their thinking. I think this inaction will prompt some of the justices, maybe the chief, maybe Brett Kavanaugh to want to explain their thinking a little bit.

But, right now, they're waiting and seeing and the law is in effect.

TOOBIN: I'm going to elaborate on the characteristically accurate and restrained analysis by Ariane there.

What a disgrace this is. This is the second-most famous opinion of the last 100 years of the Supreme Court, second probably only to Brown v. Board of Education, and here it is being tossed out without a word from the Supreme Court. How can they possibly allow this?

How can they -- you know, whatever else you can say about the Supreme Court, at least they usually explain what they're doing. They write what's called opinions. Here they allow a state to ban abortion for the first time since 1973. No explanation at all. It's an absolute disgrace.

BOLDUAN: Jeffrey, can you also speak out -- I'm no legal scholar, but just the hypocrisy of the application of law in Texas. The same people who are fighting against mask requirements because they say that is a violation of individual rights and freedoms are the same people who are very okay taking away the individual rights and freedoms of people when it comes to medical decisions with their doctors.

TOOBIN: Again, it all depends on the perspective. What the opponents of abortion say is what makes it different is they view abortion as the taking of a human life. That is the value that trumps everything else. That's what makes abortion different from a mask mandate.

The majority of the American people, as polls show over and over again, don't see it that way. They actually see this as very much analogous, where a majority of the American people say this is a woman's decision, a woman's choice, a woman's -- this means equality for women in America.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a famous opinion where she said you cannot have equality between the sexists in the United States if you have abortion restrictions because that is an interference with the woman's autonomy. That's the majority view. But in fairness, what makes this different according to opponents of abortion is it's taking the human life.

BOLDUAN: Ariane, the Supreme Court earlier this year agreed to hear a similar law in Mississippi, bank abortion after 15 weeks. What does today mean for that Mississippi case? Without explanation from the court, all I have is questions. DE VOGUE: Here is what I think is really interesting. That case

that's going to be argued next term, that was the big abortion case of the term, right?

BOLDUAN: Exactly, exactly.

DE VOGUE: It's challenging, still on the books. The core holding of Roe v. Wade. There, unlike last night, you're going to have briefs, oral arguments and an opinion. Here is what's key and what is really interesting about why that Texas law is going to impact that other law. Because Texas now has found a way to pass a law that effectively allows -- blocks abortion in Texas.

Other states, already eight other states had tried to pass a similar law. They're going to copy this. They're going to maybe try to do the same thing which would effectively then ban many more abortions, so that when the Supreme Court comes to have oral arguments for this big case and you have some of the conservative justices who don't think that the courts should step in, that this should play out in the states -- well, the playing field by next June could be very, very different.


And the conservative justices no longer have to take this big whopping step to overturn Roe v. Wade because, in fact, the states will have moved along those lines all because of the legal strategy behind this unusual Texas law that's now into effect.

BOLDUAN: Jeff, go ahead.

TOOBIN: But can we just talk about the procedural mumbo jumbo that, again, Ariane accurately describes, but here we have a situation where Texas is overturning Roe v. Wade.

BOLDUAN: It is banning abortion.

Both of my pregnancies, I'm a very aware person, and I have great medical care and doctors, and was trying to get pregnant. Both of my pregnancies, I didn't know I was pregnant until eight weeks because that's how women's bodies are. We just don't know that early.

DE VOGUE: One other thing that's important to point out here is this is all playing out less than a year after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg who often said, if the court were to ever overturn Roe v. Wade, the impact would be on poor women who didn't have the ability to travel.

She would have looked at what happened last night and been super, super surprised because the court basically said nothing and allowed it to go into effect.

BOLDUAN: Jeffrey, can you please hold, I really do want to hear your point. Will you please hold your point at the top?

Coming up, also in our next hour, I'll talk to the Texas valedictorian whose graduation speech on abortion rights went viral earlier this year, all about the state's new ban. She'll be our guest.

Also coming up, extreme heat, massive power outages across Louisiana compounding the misery and real danger now after Hurricane Ida. Half of the gas stations in two major cities are without fuel. We're going to take you to Louisiana next.



BOLDUAN: Developing at this hour, CNN learned that half the gas stations in two major Louisiana cities are completely out of fuel in the aftermath of hurricane Ida. The danger and desperation facing so many residents across the state is being compounded by the power outages and the heat wave that is setting in.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Laplace, Louisiana, one of the harder hit areas.

Ed, what are you seeing there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're at a food and water distribution site where people are in their cars, an incredibly long line, of course, using gasoline. And the lines at the gas stations here in this community are also equally long, stretching for nearly a mile in some cases along the main highway in this town.

As you mentioned, according to the GasBuddy tracker, a little more than half of the gas stations that are open in Baton Rouge and New Orleans area are without gas. So, the number is a little deceiving because there's still a great number of gas stations that haven't been able to come back online because they are still without power. Of course, this just adds to the stress of these days here in the days after Hurricane Ida has made landfall and ravaged so much of this area. It's a real problem because there are so many people in these neighborhoods and communities relying on generators to power up a refrigerator or cooling system.

And that is a lifeline to get people through the worst of these days in the aftermath of this hurricane. The gas prices have also inched up to compound this even more. The average price of gasoline has gone up a few pennies, up to $3.17 a gallon. So, all this coming at the worst possible time for tens of thousands of people in southwest Louisiana -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Ed, thank you so much for that.

We're also getting a new view of Ida's catastrophic destruction, and show these satellite images showing the striking before and after of Ida's path. The community of Lafitte in total devastation, under water. It looks like a different place. This is a really stark showing of what is happening where Ed and our other reporters are.

This is one of the reasons that the governor is telling people, if you've evacuated, you need to stay away.

CNN's Ryan Young is live in New Orleans for us.

Ryan, what are you seeing and hearing there?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, you can see the devastation where we're standing here. This tree is in the middle of the street, knocked on top of the house there, creating damage. You can see the power lines are down. We've been monitoring EMS chatter as well.

We know of some families that were using generators that had to be rushed to the hospital. In fact, 11 people in the last half hour had to be rushed to the hospital including seven kids. It is so hot you can understand why people are trying to stay cool. You've got to be safe with those generators.

We bumped into this woman, Ms. Janet. What was the storm like? You said it was powerful coming through here obviously with all the trees that are down. Tell us what it was like?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was very, very windy, horrific. The wind was so strong. The wind was the main thing, horrible, very, very, very frightening.


YOUNG: And being without power right now, how difficult has that been over the last few days?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That has been extremely difficult because it's like pitch black. There's no -- not one inch of light at all.

YOUNG: Thank you so much.

Obviously, the heat here, Kate, has been strong and people in the neighborhood have been trying to stay out of the heat. Look back in this direction. The crew just showed up to try to cut down some of the trees in this area.

This is what you see over and over again. This sort of tangled mess left behind. They're going to try to clean this up over the next few hours. I can tell you, people's patience is running thin, especially with no gas, no power, no way to get out of this heat. This could go on for quite some time. It's really leaving people in a really tough situation -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, and at the same time you just see how much work there is ahead, just on this one street that you're on.

Good to see you, Ryan. Thank you very much.

YOUNG: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: And complicating the recovery and making the first days after the storm more dangerous is the extreme heat hitting Louisiana.

CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray is in the CNN weather center tracking that for us. Jennifer, what are you seeing?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Kate, temperatures in the mid 80s. When you factor in the heat index, feeling like the triple digits. If it feels like this outside, most likely it's hotter inside your home and people don't have a way to cool off. Temperatures 85 degrees in New Orleans right now. Temperatures will continue to climb. 85 in baton rouge, 87 in Gulfport.

And as we look at this map, you can see the hot and humid conditions taking shape across much of the deep south. That's going to hold on for the next couple days. So the heat advisory covers the entire state of Louisiana and well up into the Mississippi River Valley, even portions of Texas as well as Arkansas.

Look at this, the actual temperature, 87 degrees in Houma. Kate, it's very important to remind people don't overexert yourself trying to clean up because you're not going to have a way to cool off.

BOLDUAN: Which is impossible to do when you're going to need to lift a tree off your house.

It's good to see you, Jennifer. Thank you very much.

Joining me for more on this on the phone is Louisiana's lieutenant governor, Billy Nungesser.

Lieutenant Governor, thank you for calls in. As we've been laying out with our reporters there, there's no shortage of crises for you to grapple with right now -- the heat, gas shortages, food and water running out, the power. What's the biggest concern for you right now?

LT. GOV. BILLY NUNGESSER (R-LA) (via telephone): Well, it's getting the power back on and the water back to all those areas. It's so widespread. We flew yesterday and it's such a wide area having this problem. It's not just focused on the coast. Because the storm was so powerful and the rainfall in many areas, flooded areas off the coast. So, we're dealing with so many crisis in so many areas, and people, as you said, the heat has taken its toll on them.

So, it's something we're going to have to deal with. We're asking people to don't come back. If you've got somewhere to get out of town, out of the heat, go do it. Our state parks are full. The ones that could take people are overflowing. It's a situation we're going to have to really work through quickly.

BOLDUAN: On the power, the governor said very clearly yesterday, 30 days without power is just simply not acceptable. I know you feel the same way. What is the plan to get it back faster? Is there a work- around?

NUNGESSER: I believe there's thousands of men and women out there in this heat working hard to get it back on. Nobody is happy with the progress thus far. Some areas we believe will go on before that 30 days, but it's taking a while to get a full assessment of the damages because it's so widespread. Usually, they can concentrate on one area that's hardest hit. This was

such a powerful storm. It devastated the electrical grid all over. So, Entergy crews and so many people are here from out of town helping get that back on.

And we're hoping we can get some updated information soon as it will be put back on inside those 30 days. You're absolutely right, 30 days is not acceptable. I don't think the energy companies, it's acceptable to them. So, we've got to work quickly to try to get it back on to as many areas quickly that relieve some of this tension.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, absolutely. The official death toll I believe right now stands at five people.

Is it your belief that we just don't know the extent of it yet, or do you believe this somehow was not as deadly of a storm, as deadly of a storm as people fear?

NUNGESSER: I hope that's the death toll, but I fear more. If you look at Grand Isle, Lafitte, some of the areas we're not even into, the highway is completely covered with five feet of sand.


In many places, in Grand Isle, you can't get there. So as people have gone out in boats and high-water vehicles to check homes for survivors. But there will be another check for bodies. Hopefully, we won't have any more death toll, but I'm fearful it will climb and it will climb by more than five. Just people that may have gotten in the attic or not been able to get out of the floodwaters. We're going to see more people that have perished in this storm.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, the extent of it is really not known. That's for sure. In Plaquemines Parish the sheriff imposed a complete lockdown, putting up roadblocks and only allowing people involved in recovery in and out. Why is that necessary, Lieutenant Governor?

NUNGESSER: You have people going back to check on their homes, and with no water, no power -- many of the roads still have lines down, trees over the roads. It's very dangerous.

As the governor said, in the last hurricane, we lost more people from generators and chainsaw accidents. We need to make sure people stay out and do not go back to their home if they absolutely don't have to. I think it's a safe thing to do for Plaquemines Parish. Half of the Parish in the middle is still under water with six feet of water. You can only go so far into that parish before you have to turn around and get out.

BOLDUAN: That is so crazy to think even now, it's still six feet of water. I talked to the physician and chief for children's hospital New Orleans. What he said to me has really stuck with me. He said they had fuel to run their generator for a few days, but he was very concerned and didn't know what was going to happen after that. Have you been able to get fuel to I guess his hospital and others like it? NUNGESSER: The National Guard is doing that as we speak. Once again,

the wide area that needs fuel and needs services, it's unprecedented. That's the situation. The National Guard and the governor's team is getting fuel to those hospitals. They've gotten generators. The veterans homes as well. They were able to get a generator and get fuel to the veterans homes so we didn't have to pull the veterans out.

So, there are successes in this crisis. That's not good enough. We have to get to all the hospitals and work quickly to get things back before we lose more people from this heat.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, Lieutenant Governor, thank you.

NUNGESSER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Alabama's coronavirus crisis getting worse. More patients filling intensive care units than ever before. We'll go there next.