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Russia's War on Ukraine; Continuous Russian Assault; Ukrainian Forces Strong Defense; Missing Ukrainians Taken by Russian Soldiers; Search for Suspects in Israel; U.S. Economy; Coronavirus pandemic; W.H.O. Death Toll in India; India Denies Death Toll Numbers; China Doubles Down on Zero-COVID Policy; Wounded Ukrainian Soldier Spent Weeks as Russian Prisoner; Captured Ukrainian Marine Speaks with CNN after Release; Israeli and Russian Interests Converge in Syria; Abortion Battle Grows More Tense after Leak of Draft Opinion; Biden Admin to Lift Trump-Era Title-42; White House Appoints First Black & LGBTQ Press Secretary. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired May 06, 2022 - 01:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes at CNN's World Headquarters in Atlanta. Appreciate your company.

Now, Ukrainian officials are working with the UN and the Red Cross to get more civilians out of the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol in the coming hours. But they're having to contend with what Ukraine's president calls, nonstop shelling around the Azovstal steel plant. One commander holed up inside says, the fighting is fierce and it is bloody. The Donetsk military governor claiming about 200 civilians remain trapped inside that plant of the complex. Volodymyr Zelensky says authorities are doing everything they can to get people to safety.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Russian shelling and assault on Azovstal does not stop. But civilians still need to be taken out. Women, children, many children who are still there. Just imagine this hell. And there are children, more than two months of constant shelling, bombing, and constant death nearby.


HOLMES: Mr. Zelenskyy didn't say how many people left Mariupol on Thursday, only that evacuations from the Southern port city are ongoing. The Red Cross says more than 300 people, believed to be, from Mariupol and other nearby areas arrived in Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday.

A Ukrainian commander says that wounded soldiers inside Azovstal steelworks are dying in terrible agony. But those who are able, are fighting to defend the plant. CNN's Scott McLean reports. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): This is the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, the Azovstal steel plant. Under what a city official calls nonstop shelling and assault by Russian forces. Inside, an untold number of civilians are still trapped as a bloody battle rages.

The commander of Ukrainian troops in the plant saying Thursday that fierce combat is ongoing. After he says Russian forces breached the compounds barrier. The commander, begging for transport of the bodies of soldiers who died in weeks of violence at the complex. Pleads for more evacuations of civilians still trapped inside. United Nations says it's hard to know exactly how many remain, but they are trying to send help.

MARTIN GRIFFITHS, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR UKRAINE: The convoy is proceeding to get Azovstal, hopefully, to receive those civilians remaining in that bleak hell that they have inhabited for so many weeks and months and take them back to safety.

MCLEAN: On Thursday, Putin promised safe passage for civilians out of Mariupol and the Kremlin denied an assault on Azovstal. But as Russian forces besieged the city from all sides, Ukrainian troops say the plant is a final holdout for Mariupol's last defenders as the enemy closes in. An exceptionally bitter fight for a city that's vital to Putin's war effort in Ukraine. A full control over Mariupol completes a Russian-controlled land corridor between its mainland and Russian- controlled Crimea. It also means Russian access to the port city's key export hubs on the Black Sea. A major blow to Ukraine, whose remaining soldiers fight at all cost to protect the strategically important city.

Inside the Azovstal steel plant, Ukrainian forces singing a battle hymn. It's sweeter to die in battle, than to live in chains as slaves, they chant. Prepared to fight for Mariupol and Ukraine until the bitter end. Scott McLean, CNN, Lviv, Ukraine.


HOLMES: CNN's Isa Soares spoke with the military governor in Donetsk and she asked him about Ukrainian troops efforts to keep the Russians at bay.


PAVLO KYRYLENKO, DONETSK OBLAST MILITARY ADMINISTRATION (through translator): They're holding their positions because not only while in the shelters but also in the grounds. There are serious defensive structures, and the enemy is doing everything they can.


But they have not yet succeeded in breaking the resistance of our courageous defenders. ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: And Governor, we have seen those relentless shelling. We have seen the images of the shelling from the Russian forces on the Azovstal complex -- steel complex. Can you let -- can you give us a sense how many people are still inside the complex from your understanding? How many civilians are still inside?

KYRYLENKO (through translator): As a rule, when I answered questions like these, I say we usually count women, children, and the elderly whom we are evacuating. So, I can confirm that there was -- throughout this difficult operation, we've evacuated 101 persons. And according to our estimates, there are -- according to our information, around 200 people remain inside Azovstal who are civilians. And of course, we must remember that our Ukrainian defenders are also there, and they are in the same conditions. And the defenders have enough spirit and courage, not only just to hold the positions, but also to hold on to this outpost and the city.

SOARES: Let me ask you, Governor, about the offensive that we are seeing in the East, are you seeing any sort of redeployment of Russian troops from Mariupol to the East? Are you starting to see any of those movements?

KYRYLENKO (through translator): The redeployment was completed before the 18th of April. An active offensive took place in the North of the region where it borders Kharkiv region and the neighboring region. And the main strike was on Dolyna, the town of Dolyna, so that the enemy can move in the most simple way towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

But it was our bravery and the professionalism -- the professionalism and bravery of our forces that stopped most of the enemy force and equipment. And the Lyman direction is where serious fighting is taking place. Today, there was an attempted breakthrough by the enemy into two towns in the area of Lyman's (INAUDIBLE). And the enemy tried to storm Severodonetsk River crossing. However, it suffered destructive losses and suffered a blow. And was forced to move back to the positions it took after the failed offensive against the town of Dolyna two weeks ago.

SOARES: A lot of attention being focused on -- given to May 9th, or course, the victory day for Russia. The fear is that President Putin may take Mariupol as a trophy. What do you have to say to that? If that does indeed happen?

KYRYLENKO (through translator): Mariupol was, is, and always will be Ukrainian. Mariupol, let's be frank, as a city doesn't exist anymore. The territory of Mariupol is there. This is yet another confirmation of the fact of how professional Ukrainian and Mariupol defenders are. Therefore, anything the enemy in its anger could take to ruin Mariupol. The enemy is not capable of restoring it.

And I will say with full responsibility, as an official directly related to the rebuilding efforts in Mariupol in my post, I will say that rebuilding Mariupol and making it even more developed and modern can only be done by the Ukrainian state. Any measures taken in the completely ruined territory of Mariupol with tens of thousands dead. [01:10:00]

Any events taking place there will yet again confirm the absence of any humanity on the part of the invaders and will be proof of the highest cynicism on their part. And will confirm yet again what the world should understand is how necessary it is to help Ukraine to save the whole civilized world from Russian aggressor. So, as not just to overcome it but to make sure that for generations it doesn't even begin to think of attacking Ukraine or threatening Europe and the whole world.


HOLMES: CNN's Isa Soares speaking there with the military governor of the Donetsk region in Ukraine. Now, sources telling CNN, Ukraine had some help from the U.S. in targeting Russia's flagship destroyer Moskva last month. The warship sank on April 14 after Ukrainian missile strikes. Now, the sources say the Ukrainians spotted the ship then asked the Americans for confirmation that it was indeed the Moskva. The U.S. then provided intelligence about the ship and its location but was not involved in Ukraine's decision to launch missiles. The Kremlin admits it's well aware that the U.S., UK, and NATO are sharing intelligence with Ukraine, but the Pentagon press secretary says there are limits.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military. We do provide them useful intelligence, timely intelligence that allows them to make decisions to better defend themselves against this invasion. And I think the less said about that, honestly, the better.


HOLMES: The White House says the U.S. supplies battlefield intelligence to help Ukraine defend itself, but it does not provide intelligence with the intent to kill Russian generals.

Well, towns and villages across Ukraine have, of course, been brutally ravaged by this ruthless war. Now, so many people are left behind, desperately searching for answers and hoping that their missing loved ones will return. CNN's Sara Sidner with that.


SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Every single day, Valentina Bobko (ph) waits for the moment her husband and son return home.

On March 11th I called them and Koya (ph) just said, hold on. Wait a minute. And that's all.

SIDNER (on camera): What do you think happened to your husband and son? SIDNER (voiceover): I don't know. I have no idea. My husband and son won't hurt a fly. They are very kind.

Days before Russian soldiers had occupied the town, when she returned home that day, neighbors told her, her husband and son had been taken by Russian soldiers.

I want them to return my husband and son or at least tell me where they are now. Where did they hide my boys? I cannot find my place in life. Where are they? How am I supposed to live now? Tell me, how?

She is not the only one suffering through this. Across the street and just around the corner, other families are longing for the day that their husbands and fathers return. Yulia (ph) watched as Russians forcibly took their papa away. Leaving them with just pictures for now.

The main thing is they took him and we don't know where he is. We hope we find them. And they, the Russians, will be punished.

They are relieved that this village is no longer crawling with Russian tanks. But it means there is no one left to ask where the men were taken. In the rubble of war, Gregory Lihogo (ph) has been searching for his brother. He says he was also picked up by Russian soldiers in the same timeframe as the others.

From the story we heard from a guy, we know he was beaten with a club.

We met the guy he's talking about, who says that he too was detained and held by Russian soldiers, who said it was their job to beat them each day.

My hands were tied with this rope, here it is, he says. And another two guys were handcuffed. One of the men didn't make it out alive, he says. In the morning, the Russians said, that his body was already cold. He reported it to the police and it was determined that the man killed was Lihogo's brother, though nobody has ever been found.


They took the body away. Who knows where? We still don't know where he is.

SIDNER (on camera): After hearing all of this, how do you survive this? How do you live with us?

SIDNER (voiceover): It's very hard. Very hard.

We happen to be with Lihogot when he got permission from the homeowner to go on his bombed-out property. We went down a set of steep stairs. At the bottom, he stayed merely seconds, the memory of his brother's last moments too much for him to bear. Sara Sidner, CNN, Bogdanovka, Ukraine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: Well, two suspects on the run after the latest deadly attack in Israel. Security forces mounting a massive search operation trying to track them down. We'll have that and more when we come back.


JB STRAUBEL, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, REDWOOD MATERIALS: Redwood Materials is a sustainable battery materials company. So, you know, we focus on building a closed-loop ecosystem for lithium batteries. We recycle old lithium-ion batteries of all different types, both automotive but also consumer electronics. We take the materials out of those batteries, refine them, extract them, and then re-manufacture them into new components that can go directly back into the battery manufacturer.

So, I see this, eventually, you know going to be the vast majority of materials. They're going into batteries that will be recycled in the future. Batteries are amazing because they are so recyclable. More than 90 percent of the materials, those critical materials in the battery can be reused many, many times without degradation. I think people are really realizing the benefits of having a high recycled material content both in terms of the environmental footprint of the batteries but also in the cost of those materials.

EDLIRA DIBRANI, FINNISH SCHOOL OF KOSOVO: Our mission is to see this young generation of leaders growing up and making change in the world. My name is Edlira Dibrani and I'm the communications officer of Finnish School in Kosovo here in Kosovo, Europe. We created a wall of freedom which is still in our halls. We organized a bake sale where we collected over 500 Euros which are going to be donated to an organization against domestic violence.

I would say the one that we are most proud of is the set-in-stone garden. For over a month, each student gathered rocks, we took these rocks. We wrote down our vows and pledges to end modern-day slavery, and then we took all those rocks outside in the middle of our schoolyard and we spelled out "My Freedom Day". So, we had this really cool shout where everybody was shouting out "My Freedom Day", sort of like that. It's a symbolic way to say that our pledges are actually set-in-stone and they will remain there forever.

This, I believe, has made a very long-lasting impact on them. And it's something that they have vowed to actually take on in the following months. You'll see them around the school, still doing other things for "My Freedom Day".



HOLMES: A massive manhunt is underway in Israel after a suspected terror attack left three people dead and four others wounded. Police say two suspects attacked people on the street in the central City of Elad on Thursday. Israeli officials say the attacker's used a rifle as well as a knife or perhaps an ax, before running away. It all happened on Israel's Independence Day. The incident following a string of deadly attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent weeks. As well as increased clashes at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, reacted in a statement saying, "Our enemies have embarked on a murderous campaign against Jews wherever they are. Their goal is to break our spirit, but they will fail." Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, also condemning the attack. His statement said, the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians only leads to a further deterioration of the situation at a time when we all strive to achieve stability and prevent escalation.

Wall Street did a complete U-turn on Thursday and saw its worst day of the year. The Dow dropping more than 1,000 points, while the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 suffered major losses. The market scored major gains the day before when the Dow and the S&P had their best day in two years. It's a rollercoaster that comes after the U.S. Federal Reserve raised its benchmark rate on Wednesday in a bid to control inflation. But said it is not considering future hikes larger than 50 basis points.

And we are, of course, keeping an eye on the reaction in Asia trading is underway there. And as you can see, the Nikkei, the only one with a red -- with a green arrow, all the West are red. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong down over three and a half percent.

Some troubling news from the World Health Organization. The agency says that the global COVID-19 death toll is three times higher than reported. According to new estimates, nearly 15 million people around the world died either directly or indirectly as a result of the virus between the beginning of 2020 and the end of 2021.

Now, this new data, particularly concerning for India, the W.H.O. estimating that that country's true COVID death toll is 10 times higher than government figures. On Thursday, India's government raising multiple objections over the validity of the mathematical models used by the agency.

And all of this coming as cases arising in the Chinese capital, Beijing, the nation's leader delivering a strongly worded speech, doubling down on China's zero-COVID policy on Thursday. For more, I'm joined by CNN's Will Ripley who's in Taiwan for us. And Will, President Xi firmly standing by a policy criticized by many of his own citizens for how it's being handled.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, well that's because, Michael, you have at least 30 Chinese cities in either full or partial lockdown. This is affecting almost 200,000 million people. Chinese economy actually shrunk last month because of the economic toll of this. Not to mention the mental health toll for people who are basically trapped inside their homes. They can't leave. Often can't go out to get fresh air. Some people even struggling to get the basic necessities like enough food, or medical supplies, or even non-COVID-related emergency health care. People have been denied access.

So, it's a big mess. Especially in Shanghai where 1.25 million people, the city's entire population were locked down. That number now down to about -- more than eight million Shanghai residents still banned from leaving their residential compounds. In areas where there haven't been any new no cases detected in the last two weeks. People have some semblance of mobility. They can at least move around their home districts.

But Chines President Xi Jinping, despite the criticism, despite the outrage, despite Chinese people sharing on social media their frustration, their anger, and their desperation, not only is he not even really talking about the economic impact in these latest remarks publicized by Chinese state media, he is doubling down fiercely on this policy that has been imposed on the people of China.

One and a half billion people by the communist rulers in Beijing. The authoritarian government there basically saying that if -- that China doesn't advance in this fight against COVID, this zero-COVID policy that they will fall back. And the rationale for that is partially according to the communist leaders in Beijing that they have a very large elderly population in China who are unvaccinated and it's going to take, possibly, until the end of the year to get those older people vaccinated.


People who could be extraordinarily at high risk if this Omicron variant, which is highly contagious, were to spread more widely across China which has such a large population. Of, course, the death toll that you talked about, the staggering global death toll of 15 million will be a whole lot higher from the view of the Chinese government if they didn't have these zero-COVID policies. Such as what they did in Wuhan in the early days of the pandemic, where for several months, people were locked down and as a result, they essentially eradicated the virus in that city. Albeit, temporarily, because there have now been outbreaks of Omicron across China.

But I want to read to you, what is particularly striking from these comments by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Basically, alluding to the fact that people who dissent, people who talkback, people who dare to publicly challenge this could actually face some very serious punishment inside China. He is calling on all levels of government to, "Resolutely adhere to the zero-COVID policy. And resolutely fight with any words and acts distorting, doubting, and denying China's COVID control policy". So not only are Chinese leaders doubling down this, Michael, they are stepping up their enforcement of the censorship that will delay people the opportunity to even criticize what is being imposed on them.

HOLMES: All right. Will, thanks for that. Will Ripley in Taipei, appreciate it.

Chinese officials have ended the search for survivors from a building collapse a week ago. State media reporting, 53 people died from the collapse in China's Southern Hunan province. Rescue workers were able to pull 10 people from the rubble, one person reportedly in critical condition, the other nine sable. No words yet on the possible cause of the collapse. A Ukrainian marine wounded in Mariupol spent several weeks as a Russian prisoner. He says they only kept him alive so they could trade him in a prisoner swap. His story coming up.






Ukrainian officials say Russia's bombardment of the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol has been nonstop. Fighting there described as bloody and intense.

A Ukrainian marine who was badly wounded last month in Mariupol was captured and held for weeks by the Russians.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh met with him after he was released in a prisoner exchange.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is how Hlib's war ends. But if you told him he was lucky, he would probably agree. He fought for Mariupol in the other steel factory Ilyich since the war began, put tourniquets on friends, felt the heat of Russian tanks blasting his building from just meters away.

He survived, but only just, here after 17 days as a wounded prisoner in Russia.

HLIB STRYZHKO, WOUNDED UKRAINIAN MARINE (through translator): Very often when I close my eyes, I see that moment when the tank was firing at me and my side getting injured.

On the day of my injury, one of my boys, a machine gunner, was killed. Every time, it is personal. Every time I heard it over the walkie talkie, or in person that someone was dead, it would conjure memories of him.

WALSH: His mind also in pieces, left grappling with fragments of the worst fighting in Europe for decades.

STRYZHKO: You know, there is a point when the brain accepts it. Seeing the phosphorus missiles, seeing aviation flying in. When this became normal, that was scary. We learned how to fall asleep with this accompaniment. Instead, it became scary to fall asleep in the silence.

Two moments though haunt him here.

STRYZHKO: The first time I use tourniquets on my friend and the second scene is this. We saw aviation destroying whole hangars, watching a huge hangar to have nothing left in just seconds. This has really been engraved on my memory.

WALSH: Wounded on April the 10th, when he regained consciousness, he was not where he thought he was.

STRYZHKO: The first time that I found out I was held captive was when we were inside the ambulance, me and another guy with similar injuries. He asked, are you ours? And they replied, it is unclear now who you mean by ours now.

They said I was under the guard of the ministry of state security of the separatist DPR, but it was scarier when I got to the separatist hospital. I was told by a Russian soldier, you will have to forget Ukrainian now. You will only get help if you ask in Russian.

WALSH: The Russians kept him alive, he says, so they could exchange him for their own.

STRYZHKO: There were two of us bedridden, so we had to be fed by nurses. So, they would say, because of you my son got killed. I tried to be understanding, but they were accusing us of things we never did.

And we had Russian news read to us all the time, in the morning and evening. That was a lot of pressure on the mind. A distortion of reality.

WALSH: On April the 27th, the exchange happened and he was put on a plane. His pelvis crushed, his lower jaw broken, brain concussed. But he can still feel his legs.

STRYZHKO: And I also have problems with my eyes, because of constant bright flashes and dust. So, at first they were glazed, then they opened. For now, I still can't see with my left. And my right, only silhouettes. My body was broken, but not my spirit.


STRYZHKO: My doctor says that I would be able to pick any New Balance sneakers by autumn. That makes me happy.

WALSH: Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, southern Ukraine.


HOLMES: Israel and Russia have a long and complicated relationship, but it is in Syria that Israel and Russia have a shared interest in cooperation.

CNN's Hadas Gold explains.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the Golan Heights, old tanks in what is known as the Valley of Tears, remind Israelis of the fierce battles fought here in the 1973 Yom Kippur War against Syrian forces. Such memories hang heavy as Israel attempts to navigate a new and very complicated geopolitical situation.

(on camera): Israel's frontier with Syria is just through this valley. We can even see Syrian towns from where we're standing.

We're more than 1,000 miles away from the war in Ukraine, but Israel's position on Russia is heavily influence by n what is happening just over there.

(voice over): Israel often carries out air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria. Something it sees as critical to its security.

But as Russia has extended its military presence in the country in order to avoid unnecessary conflict between Russia and Israel, the two countries now have a direct hotline.

Jonathan Conricus, a former Israel Defense Forces spokesperson says the deconfliction mechanism is necessary because the Syrian battle space is so dense.

JONATHAN CONRICUS, FORMER IDF INTERNATIONAL SPOKESPERSON: Before an Israeli airstrike is conducted, there is a call to make sure that Russian troops are not in danger, and Russian aircrafts are not operating in the area where the Israeli aircraft fought.

GOLD: But when Russia invaded Ukraine, Israel found itself in a tight diplomatic spot. It initially took a more cautious stance to act as mediator, worried about the hundreds of thousands of Jews in Russia and Ukraine and its freedom of action in Syria.

Although Israel has condemned the invasion, accused Russia of war crimes, and has sent plane loads of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, it's been criticized for not doing more.

The comments by Russia's foreign ministry on Israel's most sensitive nerve, the Holocaust, drew one of the strongest Israeli reactions to date.

And as Russia has amped up even more absurd claims about Hitler having Jewish ancestry, and Israel supporting Neo-Nazis in Kyiv.

The rhetorical war of words could mean real on the ground consequences on Israeli strikes in Syria and any possible future operations against an even bigger enemy, Iran.

CONRICUS: Russia has the ability to interfere with Israel's capabilities to defend itself and to negate the Iranian military capabilities simply by being present with their advanced weaponry in Syria.

GOLD: But the pressure is growing as many believe Israel can afford those risks in order to be on the right side of history.

CONRICUS: To be security is one thing. It's very important but we need to make sure that we are on the right side of our moral values, of our commitments to ourselves, to freedom, and to other democratic countries.

GOLD: For now the situation here on Israel's frontier of Syria is unchanged. But as the diplomatic tangles continue, it is not clear how long much longer that will last.

Hadas Gold, CNN, the Golan Heights.


HOLMES: With the U.S. Supreme Court seemingly on the verge of ending national abortion rights, demand for abortion pills is expected to soar. But will providers be able to get the drugs past strict state laws? We'll look at that when we come back.



HOLMES: The fury over the U.S. Supreme Court's likely plans to end federal abortion rights is not dying down. New rallies were help around the country on Thursday, days after the leak of a draft opinion indicating the court intends to strike down Roe v. Wade, the landmark case legalizing abortion nationwide.

Authorities in Washington are warning about potential violence. They had tall metal fences put up around the perimeter of the court on Wednesday. Concrete barriers added just a few hours ago.

Now during an interview with CBS, Hillary Clinton warned that the Supreme Court's far-right majority could go far beyond targeting abortion rights.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: This opinion is dark. It is incredibly dangerous. And it is not just about a woman's right to choose. It is about much more than that.

And any American who says, look, I'm not an American, this doesn't affect me. I'm not black, that doesn't affect me. I'm not gay, that doesn't affect me. Once you allow this kind of extreme power to take hold, you have no idea who they will come for next.


HOLMES: Analysts say the next frontier in the abortion battle might be the growing use of pills by mail that can end unwanted pregnancies.

As CNN Tom Foreman reports for us now, suppliers of these medications say they intend to keep sending them to the U.S. no matter what state laws say.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For those intent on ending abortion in parts of the United States, the biggest barrier may now not be politics, but pills, which researchers say are effective, available, and now used for more than half of all abortions.

SUE SWAYZE LIEBEL, STATE POLICY DIRECTOR, SUSAN B. ANTHONY LIST: Abortion activists have been quietly building a whole business model to target young women on their phones. To click, get information, and receive abortion drug by mail.

FOREMAN: The Food and Drug Administration approved mail order supplies of the so-called abortion pills with a prescription this past December for women in the first ten weeks of pregnancy.

Advocates insists it is less invasive, more discreet, and just as safe as surgical abortion.

DR. JENNIFER VILLAVICENCIO, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF OBSTETRICIANS AND GYNECOLOGISTS: And oftentimes, people choose this for various reasons. They want to be able to manage their abortion in their own home With their family, and you know, around -- in a surrounding that they are comfortable with.

DR. REBECCA GOMPERTS, WOMEN ON WAVES: We've seen an incredible increase of (INAUDIBLE). People are really, really scared of what is going to happen.


FOREMAN: That is why some abortion rights supporters, such as Women On Waves, based in the Netherlands say they are already facilitating shipments of the drugs to women in far-flung corners of the U.S. and they're promising to step up the effort no matter where those women are or what the state laws say.

DR. GOMPERTS: What I am doing is legal, under the laws where I work from. And actually, I have a medical oath to do this. I am a doctor. My oath is that I help people that are in need. And that is what I am doing.

FOREMAN (on camera): In many states, where lawmakers are trying to stamp out abortion rights, the simple truth is they have written a lot of special lines in their laws, to keep outside providers of these pills from accessing their population. But abortion rights defenders say it is only five little pills. And they believe there is a way to get them to the women they see in need.

Tom Foreman, CNN -- Washington.


HOLMES: The Biden administration plans to end a Trump era immigration restriction and cities along the southern border are getting ready for the changes that will bring.

We'll have that story and more after the break.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HOLMES: The city of Laredo, Texas sits along the United States southern border with Mexico. City officials and civil society leaders there are getting ready for the changes to come when the Biden administration ends a Trump era immigration policy.

Here's Rosa Flores.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rebecca Solloa is the director of this Catholic charity shelter in Laredo, Texas. A place where she says Border Patrol drops off the migrant overflow from processing centers in south Texas. And even for more than a thousand miles away in Yuma, Arizona.

Like Joaquina Hormilla (ph), a 23-year-old medical student from Cuba.

(on camera): So 50 to $60 a month, she says, is how much a doctor in Cuba earns.

(voice over): To prepare for the lifting of Title 42, the pandemic public health order used by federal agents to expel migrants to Mexico more than 1.8 million times in just two years, Solloa says she opened a second shelter.

REBECCA SOLLOA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CATHOLIC CHARITIES DIOCESE OF LAREDO: I think there is in my opinion, might be a mob mentality process.

FLORES: She says about 5,000 migrants are waiting in Nueva Laredo, Mexico alone for Title 42 to lift.

PASTOR LORENZO ORTIZ: It shows you the reality that we --

FLORES: Pastor Lorenzo Ortiz runs four shelters there and shows us video of the 2,000 mostly Haitians who he says arrived a few days ago from nearby cities.

ORTIZ: I believe it's because they find out that they were coming in.

FLORES: Ortiz says the Haitians learned that in the last week, federal agents were allowing 70 migrants per day to seek asylum at the port of entry under an exception to Title 42. And they traveled to Nuevo Laredo to see if they could too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It tells me that there are a lot of desperate people out there.

FLORES: Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus in his first national TV interview said he wasn't aware of the situation in Nuevo-Laredo.

(on camera): If that is a preview of what the lifting of Title 42 is, how do you deal with thousands of migrants knocking on the doors of America? MAGNUS: We follow the law, and if they meet that criteria, that is

what they're going to be entitled to. If they do not meet that criteria, any of a number of other circumstances could cause them to be expelled or to be prosecuted.

FLORES: During prior migrant surges, images like these showing overcrowded Border Patrol facilities have made headlines, especially when children are held in custody more than the 72 hours allowed by law.

MAGNUS: We have made I think a tremendous amount of progress.

FLORES: So this time around you feel confident that children will not be in Border Patrol custody for more than those 72 hours?

MAGNUS: We do absolutely everything in our capacity to make sure that happens.

FLORES: Ortiz says some of these Haitians were in Del Rio last year. Part of the 15,000 who were under a bridge, got deported to Haiti, and are now back. This time in Nuevo Laredo.

MAYOR PETE SAENZ (D) -- LAREDO, TEXAS: Yes, we don't want the Del Rio situation --

FLORES: Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, a Democrat, wants Title 42 to remain in place. He fears lifting it could increase human smuggling and violence in his city because he says houses that stash migrants and drugs are run by local gangs, connected to the cartels.

(on camera): Do you have a message for the Biden administration?

SAENZ: Does he have a plan B in the event that plan A doesn't work?

FLORES: Is there a plan B?

MAGNUS: And whether you want to call it ABC or D. It is comprehensive, it is ready to deal with the challenges coming our way.

FLORES (voice over): Solloa plans to do what she can.

SOLLOA: Our job and our mission here is to be ready.

FLORES: She says she does it for migrants like Hormilla (ph), who say they are fleeing persecution.

(on camera): She was looking for freedom, for liberty.

(voice over): The once in America feel safe for the first time in their lives.

(on camera): So how will it work once Title 42 lifts? According to Magnus, the migrants who are waiting in Mexico, like the thousands who are waiting in Nuevo Laredo which you can see behind me, will be able to walk up to a port of entry and seek asylum. Look, they have not been able to do that for a very long time. And if you ask immigration advocates and attorneys, they will tell you that that has forced migrants to cross into the United States in between ports of entry which they say, practically hand them over to criminal organizations and the cartels.

Rosa Flores, CNN, Laredo, Texas.



HOLMES: Now, history was made Thursday at the White House with the appointment of its first black press secretary. Karine Jean-Pierre will replace Jen Psaki who will set down next week.

Jean-Pierre currently serves as her principal deputy and has been on President Biden's senior communications team since he took office.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a historic moment, and it is not lost on me. I understand how important it is for so many people out there, so many different communities that I stand on their shoulders. And I have been throughout my career.


HOLMES: Jean-Pierre will also become the first openly LGBTQ person to hold the position. Her family, including her partner, CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux and their daughter

I'm Michael Holmes at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Kim Brunhuber picks up our coverage after the break.