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Supreme Court Considers Fate Of Abortion Drug; NTSB Officials Give Update On Baltimore Bridge Collapse. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 26, 2024 - 14:30   ET



PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So at this point, it appears a majority of the justices would be unlikely to limit access to Mifepristone. But we'll see what they ultimately decide.

Jess, it's interesting? We also heard from a lawyer representing a drugmaker. Because there are serious consequences in this case, not only for drug manufacturers, but also for the FDA and its regulatory authority.

A rare time you see the FDA and drugmakers on the same side.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: Yes, that's certainly true.

And, Paula, what happens next?

REID: So we expect a decision will likely come in late June when the court issues its most significant decisions. But that's also in the heart of the presidential campaign season.

And as we've seen, since the court overturned Roe, Democrats have been able to galvanize support around the issue of abortion. So all eyes will be on this case to see what the justices do.

But right now, Jess, they do appear poised to likely use this off-ramp on a technicality, possibly this issue of standing, and not get into the more significant question of access to Mifepristone and abortion medication.

DEAN: All right. Paula Reid, outside the Supreme Court for us today, thanks so much.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Let's dig deeper on the case now. We're joined by Emily Bazelon. She is a lecturer in law at Yale University and also a staff writer for "The New York Times" magazine.

Emily, thank you so much for sharing part of your afternoon with us.

Is it fair to say that, at the heart of this case, is how justices view the FDA, it's credibility and its judgment?

EMILY BAZELON, STAFF WRITER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" MAGAZINE: Yes, that is really important to the case. The idea of challenging 24 years of approval of abortion pills is pretty dramatic.

And I think that's why you see a lot of pharmaceutical companies coming in on the side of the manufacturers of the abortion pills to say, wait a second, the FDA sets our national rules for regulating drugs.

And if you pull the rug out from under them, how do we know we can rely on the FDA's judgment as we develop and research new medication.

SANCHEZ: Yes, I'm curious about the impact on women in the United States if the plaintiffs windup winning this case. It has the potential to be a broader decision than Dobbs, right?

Because turning the issue of reproductive rights towards the states that meant that there we're still many states where reproductive rights it's we're protected.

But a ruling limiting Mifepristone that would impact the entire country, right?

BAZELON: Exactly. The effect of Dobbs has been to turn over to states the power to ban or restrict abortion.

And a bunch of states have done that, right? I mean, we have 16 states now where abortion is nearly banned completely or only available up until six weeks of pregnancy.

But in the rest of the country, abortion is often still freely available, right? You have a split between red and blue states.

If the FDA's approval of Mifepristone cannot stand, and the court, for example, rules that women everywhere on the country cannot receive abortion pills by mail anymore, that's going to be -- have a major effect on women nationally.

it's certainly not limited to states in which the politics of abortion is in favor of a ban.

SANCHEZ: And, Emily, I wanted to expand on something that you alluded to earlier and that is the potential for the FDA's standard approval process having to change as a result of a decision that favors the plaintiffs here. What would that look like?

BAZELON: Yes, that's a great question. I mean, the FDA says, look, we've followed our regulations here the way we always do. We had a system for collecting data about complications from this drug, called adverse events.

For 15 years, we collected extra data. We saw that the drug was very safe, overwhelmingly safe. And based on the reports we were receiving and lots of studies that mounted over the years, we decided to loosen the rules.

That is the standard process that the agency follows. And if you think about this from the perspective of other drug companies, they're saying, well, wait a second if we can show that a drug is more safe over time than when it was first approved, that's important for our ability to market the drug.

We want the FDA to be able to update its determinations.

SANCHEZ: Right? There's also another aspect to this and that is how the court interprets harm. Right? Because the question of whether the plaintiffs actually have standing came up over and over again today.

And if the court rules that they do, it's quite possible that we'll see more cases where, let's say that the standard of proving harm is watered down to a degree, is that a fair assessment?

BAZELON: Yes, that is fair. You know, there's a connection here by the trouble that the plaintiffs were having, showing that they were harmed and the safety record of the abortion pills.


So the doctors are saying, you know, in theory, making the pills available to be delivered by mail could add two more complications, and that could add to the likelihood that a doctor would have to treat someone for an incomplete abortion in the emergency room when that goes against the doctor's conscience.

But the justices kept hitting the point that the plaintiffs had not actually experienced precisely that kind of harm.

And given the fact that the overwhelming percentage of women don't have complications, don't have to go to the hospital, certainly don't have life-threatening complications, it just seemed like, to the justices, that this was a pretty hypothetical form of harm.

And usually, it takes what's called a concrete injury to be able to sue in court. So that was the trouble that the plaintiffs were having this morning.

SANCHEZ: Yes. There was some skepticism among, I would say, a majority of justices during those arguments.

Emily Bazelon, we have to leave the conversation there. I appreciate your perspective.

BAZELON: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course

Still ahead, we're standing by for the latest from federal investigators on that catastrophic bridge collapse in Baltimore. Stay with CNN NEWS CENTRAL. We'll bring you the latest in just a few minutes.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back to CNN. We're going to go straight to Baltimore where Jennifer Homendy with the NTSB is giving an update on that awful Baltimore bridge collapse. Let's listen in. JENNIFER HOMENDY, CHAIRWOMAN, NTSB: -- on-scene today. It's very early. I've asked that he remain at the command post to continue what he is doing so that I can brief you on what we're doing so far.

Also, with me is one of our newest board members. This is Alvin Brown. This is his training launch.

The NTSB arrived on scene at 6:00 a.m. to investigate an accident involving a Singapore-registered vessel with the name Dali, D-A-L-I, which made contact with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, at around 1:30 this morning.

The vessel is 985 feet long. It's a 95,000-gross-ton container ship. I've seen information about crew members on board. We still need to verify the numbers of crew on board and their status.

Under our Memorandum of Understanding with the Coast Guard, the NTSB is leading this investigation. The Coast Guard will support this investigation.


Our Memorandum of Understanding, for example, provides for when an accident involves another mode of transportation and other factors, the NTSB will lead that investigation.

Now, I want to thank the U.S. Coast Guard. We have a very cooperative relationship with U.S. Coast Guard.

I am particularly -- particularly want to thank deputy commandant for operations, Vice Admiral Gotia (ph). I want to thank Admiral Gilbreath, who's commander of the Fifth Coast Guard District. And Captain O'Connell, who's the sector commander.

Before I go on, on behalf of the NTSB, I want to extend our deepest sympathies to those who have been affected by the significant event.

The NTSB, as I mentioned, does many significant transportation event -- events, not just -- not just aviation. We do accidents and incidents in Marine safety as well.

And of course, with bridges and other highway infrastructure. And for this, there were many that we're effected by this collapse. And our deepest sympathies go out to the families, loved ones and others who have been affected.

I'm going to get questions on fatalities and injuries, which I'm not going to answer. That is not something that the NTSB answers. I will refer you to local authorities on all of that information.

What I can tell you is a search-and-rescue is still underway. So we are very hopeful. And again, our thoughts are with the families and their loved ones.

And again, we got here at 6:00 a.m. And we are standing back to allow the Coast Guard and search-and-rescue to continue their search-and- rescue operations while we gather information from the command post.

There is a lot of information that we can begin to collect. We have a team of 24 on scene, including member Brown and me.

The team of experts include experts in nautical operations. And what they're going to look at and begin to collect as information on vessel operations safety history, safety record.

They'll look at the owner. They'll look at the operator. And they'll look at the operations this day, today. They will also look at company policy. Any sort of safety management system or safety management program will be looked at by them.

And our human performance team as well. We have a human performance expert here. We have an engineering team. We have survival factors. And then we have a team here that is getting the recorders.

We also have a highway safety team, our team out of the office of highway safety, including structural engineers, bridge experts, who will be here and are continuing to come in. We have a few here and one or two others are coming in in the next few hours.

We also have our family assistance team on site. And our family assistance team works with those that we're affected by a particular event, families, friends, and other loved ones.

And they will help them get in touch with the resources they need while also providing them with the information that they need as we move forward with our investigation.

This is a team effort. There are a lot of entities right now in the command post all focused on search-and-rescue, as they should be.

But I do want to in particular, thank the Coast Guard, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Baltimore Fire -- Baltimore Fire and Rescue, and the Maryland State Police.

I also know that there are others on-scene I'm sure I have missed. For example, Army Corps of Engineers who is here. A great deal of expertise? And also focused on what is very important, which is the people first.

I have been in contact with my counterpart in Singapore. Director Chong is the director of transport, the Transport Safety Investigations Board. The NTSB -- the NTSB maintains relationships with our counterparts in other countries often and stay in close communication.


So the director and I have been in communication many times before on safeties. So it was a good conversation. He is sending some personnel here tomorrow. Also, personnel will be arriving from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, who has the -- the focus of being the regulator in Singapore.

Now, it's not a lot of information that I can share at this time. And I know there's a lot of information that seems to be circulating. The NTSB doesn't speculate. We provide facts.

And so there isn't a lot we can share right now because the focus has been on the people.

However, if you know me, I like to provide information as we can, when we we're able to verify those facts and be open about that. Transparency is one of our mandates, one of our core values.

So please monitor and X, where we will post when we we're having another media briefing. We do have an organizational meeting tonight at 5:00, which I mentioned to determine where we want to go next on the investigation.

But there's a lot -- a lot of information we need to gather between now and then in the days and weeks that follow.

So with that, I am going to take questions. I will call on you. Please state your name and your affiliation.

We'll start with Tom and then go over here.

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS: (INAUDIBLE). I'm Tom Costello with NBC News.

You spoke of one of the teams within this NTSB structure looking for specifically the recorders onboard the ship. Can you speak to what type of recorders may be on board the ship? And what do you hope to gain, what information might be provided?

HOMENDY: Yes, at this time -- I will have more information about the recorders tomorrow. We chose not to board the vessel today to allow some time for the search-and-recovery, which we did not want to interfere with. That is the first and foremost.

We do have some information, but we need to verify that information first before I provide that information before I provide that information - before I verify it. So we'll have that information tomorrow or maybe later tonight if you want to check with me.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). How long will the search go on for today?

HOMENDY: The search is -- the question on how long the search will go on today. The NTSB is not in charge of the search-and-rescue operation. That is the U.S. Coast Guard. So I would refer you to the Coast Guard for that information.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). -- the timeline for the ship lost control. Can you give us a rough timeline of when they were (INAUDIBLE). I'm also curious about what you can tell us about the timeline, how much time lapsed between the (INAUDIBLE)

HOMENDY: Yes. There's a question on the tugs and the timeline. Again, I know this is all information you're looking for. The information we get, which often happens in a large event where there are a lot of entities, is there are, there is conflicting information.

The NTSB focuses on the facts. So we will -- we will figure that out and be able to provide that information in the coming days. Today is far too early for that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Nothing on the timeline?

HOMENDY: Nothing on the timeline so far.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). How critical will the data recorder be to the investigation?

HOMENDY: How critical voyage data recorder be to investigating this? It will be critical. It's a critical piece of our investigation, which is why we ever recorders team here.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have been able to figure out why this ship did not immediately drop anchor when power went out and they were (INAUDIBLE)?

HOMENDY: Again, that will be -- the question is on dropping anchor and whether they did or did not and the timing on that. Again, that'll be part of our investigation and part of our timeline.

I can provide you more information on that in the coming days, but not today.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). I just wanted to check, do you have any information on the crew that was on board, their nationality, what there 22 Indians onboard and there we're 20 on the --

HOMENDY: The question is, who was on the vessel and nationalities? I -- again, I've heard conflicting information on that as well. We will have to get back to you on that.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have any reason to believe he will make you deficiencies with the vessel before it set sailed. What are you learning from previous inspections?

HOMENDY: The question is, were there any deficiencies on the vessel before it sailed? And will we be looking at any safety information.

That's -- that is part of our investigation where we look at, in- depth, at safety information, anything that may have occurred prior to this, any sort of safety history with respect to the vessel, any sort of maintenance that was done to a vessel or a component -- the vessel or component on the ship. We will look at all of that, but it's much too early for all of that.


HOMENDY: The question is, who are we working with from the private sector folks? I mean certainly, we're going to -- we're working with the owner-operators, which are two different entities for this vessel.

We will be working with the Pilots Association. And we will have a number of federal, state, and local partners as party to the investigation.

We are going to designate those tonight at the organizational briefing and I'll have more information on that tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). Given obviously the search-and- rescue effort is the main focus right now, handled by the U.S. Coast Guard. But the Key Bridge being such a major thoroughfare for the city and for our commerce for our entire country, not to mention the waterway is being shut down.

Is there any sense of urgency to get this cleaned up faster or what exactly is the priority beyond just the search-and-rescue?

HOMENDY: There's a question on what's the priority beyond the search- and-rescue.

We don't -- you know, certainly investigations are a priority. Certainly, environmental considerations are a priority. And so is traffic and getting cargo vessels in and out of the port of Baltimore.

It's not the NTSB's priority. We have a number of organizations, including the Department of Transportation, Maryland Department of Transportation, the governor that's doing a lot of work on that.

But this isn't -- right now, it's about people. it's about families and addressing the needs of those that were impacted. That's the focus.

I don't think anybody in that room right now and at the command post is thinking about, what are the next steps to get things cleaned up?

They're working to figure out who was impacted, if anyone was impacted, and how do we address that? Because that is and should be the priority always.

JERICHO SOLIDS (ph), EWTN NEWS NIGHTLY: Jericho Solids (ph) with EWTN News Nightly. You talked a little bit about the families and you talked a little bit about the rescue effort that's taking place.

Have we confirmed that there were any more than just the six construction workers that were on the bridge itself? Were there anymore possible other cars, other drivers on the bridge?

HOMENDY: So there's a lot of information. The question is on, have we been able to confirm information on the number of cars on the bridge, the number of workers on the bridge?

There are a lot of numbers that we've heard back-and-forth. We need to verify that. The search team is doing that now. That's not for the NTSB.

That is for the local authorities, Maryland State Police, and the Maryland Transportation Authority, as we'll as their federal partners through the Coast Guard, to be able to verify that information in particular.


SOLIDS (ph): -- there could be another victim than just the six that you're searching for?

HOMENDY: There are -- nobody is going by a number. They are just looking and they're searching. That's what's important.




HOMENDY: Yes, the structure of the bridge, there's some questions about the structure of the bridge, protective structure around the bridge or around the peers to make sure there isn't a collapse.

We are aware of what a structure should have. Part of our investigation will be what -- how was this bridge constructed? It will look at the structure itself, should there be any sort of safety improvements.

All that will be part of our investigation. We go very broad in our investigation.



HOMENDY: The question is, has the bridge ever been flagged for any sort of safety deficiency or security deficiency? That is information that we will -- that will take time to dig through.

I will just point to our recent investigation of the Fern Hollow Bridge collapse, which took almost two years to get information on inspections. And what wasn't -- was not done after that, those inspections, and whether there were records or not records maintained.

I'm -- that's specific to Fern Hollow Bridge, but it is a very cumbersome process. It's a very meticulous process where they have to dig through a lot of information.

So it will not be something that we will be able to verify while on scene.


HOMENDY: The question is on the reported power failure. We've heard the reports. We've been made aware of those same reports about there being a power outage.

I've also seen statements, media releases from Singapore as well. it's something that we take in, but something that we have to verify through our investigation that that was what -- what was part of the contributing cause here. So too early to tell.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). Can you confirm if the construction workers on the bridge were employees of Brawner?

HOMENDY: Can I confirm whether the construction workers on the bridge were employed by Brawner Builders Incorporated? That is the information we have. Brawner Builders Incorporated.

Of course, sometimes they use subcontractors so we don't have any information yet on subcontractors, but we do have information on the company itself.




HOMENDY: Is there any information on -- on the -- anybody that is unaccounted for and whether they we're able to verify with the company. That is something that the federal officials, the FBI, along with the Coast Guard, will verify, not -- not the NTSB.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) Of course, there were workers though one of the people was the state inspector. Can you share any word about that? And if that was the person that was rescued and taken to the hospital?

HOMENDY: The question is about a state inspector. I don't have information on the state inspector at this point.

We are very focused on getting our investigative groups up and running, again, let the search-and-rescue team do what they need to do to focus on the people. And then we are gathering information from the owner and -- the owner of the ship, of the vessel. And then the operator and others for this time.

Again, that was my last question. For further information -- and I know it's not a lot of information for the first day, but we just got here.

And really, the focus is on the families and the people. That is our main focus. That is everyone's main focus right now. The rest can wait. So please monitor and our Twitter feed for the next briefing.

Thank you.


SANCHEZ: "The focus is on the families right now." That was the chairwoman of the NTSB, Jennifer Homendy, offering deepest sympathies to those affected by this huge bridge collapse in Baltimore overnight.

She did not offer any answers on reported issues with the search-and- rescue effort on any potential fatalities or injuries with six people that were unaccounted for that we're apparently on the bridge at the time of collapse.

She did say that, at some point, we would get answers from local officials. But right now, she said that the search-and-rescue effort continues.

Obviously, a very difficult process for officials on the ground. And the odds are tough that anyone would survive a situation like that, given that it's been 12 hours out from the incident in sub-50-degree water and a major fall of at least 100 to 180 feet.

She did say that the NTSB has not yet boarded the vessel either. There are recorders on board as we watch video of the incident as it unfolded roughly at 1:30 this morning at the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.

But she said that this will be a thorough investigation looking at every aspect of what happened.


DEAN: Yes. And then really, truly, at this point, it sounds like the overarching takeaway is that they are still very much focused on the rescue, the recovery efforts. That they're trying very hard not to impede anything that would get in the way of those.

We have CNN's Danny Freeman.