Week in Review

Image of Silverman hall building at Penn Law School.
Font Size:

The Supreme Court allows Texas anti-abortion law to take effect, the Biden Administration directs DHS to support Afghan resettlement, and more…

Font Size:


  • The U.S. Supreme Court denied an emergency application filed by abortion-rights activists and providers to pause enforcement of a Texas abortion law until the courts can assess its constitutionality. The law prohibits abortion, absent a medical emergency, if there is a “steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction” of the fetus’s heart. The law also only allows private actors to bring suit, so Texas public officials cannot enforce the law. The Court questioned whether private enforcement of the law is unconstitutional and questioned whether it can direct a Texas judge to rule a certain way on state law matters. The Court also noted its belief that no private citizens intend to enforce the law, so there is no threat of injury resulting from its enactment. Chief Justice John Roberts favored halting enforcement of the law until lower appeals courts could consider the issue, but the other dissenting justices declared the law an unconstitutional violation of a woman’s rights. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for instance, wrote that “the Court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.”
  • The Biden Administration directed Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to lead federal resettlement efforts for vulnerable Afghans. This effort will involve immigration processing, COVID-19 testing and separation of those who test positive, and resettlement support for Afghans who are non-citizens or non-permanent residents of the United States. The Biden Administration also directed Mayorkas to establish an Afghanistan-focused group that will coordinate with governmental and private entities, develop goals and policy preferences, and communicate with the public. Furthermore, the directive requests that relevant federal agencies and departments support and cooperate with DHS resettlement efforts.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) nationwide moratorium on evictions is unlawful. The Court reasoned that, although there is a strong public interest in combating COVID-19, the CDC overstepped its authority in issuing the moratorium. The Court also noted that if there is to be a federal eviction moratorium, the U.S. Congress “must specifically authorize it.” Three justices dissented, arguing that it was not clear the CDC lacked the authority to issue the moratorium. They stated that “public interest strongly favors respecting the CDC’s judgment at this moment.”
  • President Joseph R. Biden approved emergency declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi in response to Hurricane Ida. The emergency declarations authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide emergency assistance in these states, including funding emergency debris removal and other protective measures for 30 days. President Biden spoke with energy sector executives to coordinate power restoration efforts while the U.S. Department of Energy, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expedited permitting approval for transmission cables and towers. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has also allowed for customers affected by cellular provider outages to use any available cellular carrier signal.
  • A Florida judge ruled that Governor Ron DeSantis’s executive order, which would have banned schools from enforcing mask mandates, was unconstitutional. The judge held that the Florida law allows school districts to take reasonable and necessary actions “to achieve a compelling state interest,” such as requiring students to wear masks to prevent COVID-19 transmission. DeSantis stated that he would appeal the ruling. Despite the court’s ruling, the Florida Department of Education withheld funds from two Florida county school districts for implementing mandatory mask policies for students.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the launch of the newly created Office of Climate Change and Health Equity. In an earlier executive order addressing the climate crisis, President Biden had called on HHS to establish the new office. The office’s priorities include tackling health disparities made worse by climate change and advancing regulatory efforts in the health care sector “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” and other pollutants, among others.
  • The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a request for information and comments from the public concerning retail investment firms’ use of digital engagement practices—such as incorporating celebrations and gamifying trading by offering prizes to investors. In a press release, SEC Chair Gary Gensler praised the use of new technologies for improving non-professional investors’ access to investing but cautioned that these technologies “raise questions” about adequate investor protections. The SEC also included a feedback flyer aimed at gathering feedback from individual investors in a user-friendly way.
  • The Chinese government issued a notice banning children from playing more than three hours of video games per week. The notice called for online game providers to adhere strictly to the rules by requiring users to register with their real identity so game play time can be monitored. The new rule tightened previous restrictions that only allowed children to play for a maximum of 90 minutes per day, which equaled 10.5 hours per week.


  • In a paper issued by the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, Oscar Serpell, associate director of academic programming at the Kleinman Center, Benjamin Paren, Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania, and Amy Chu, assistant professor at Mills College, discussed the challenges that rare earth metals pose for the global transition to clean energy. Serpell, Paren, and Chu explained that demand for rare earth metals, which are used in electric motors and wind turbines, is expected to increase considerably given the growth in the clean energy sector. Serpell, Paren, and Chu contended that because China is in control of much of the world’s production of rare earth metals, that country’s regulatory decisions about these metals will affect global efforts to reach a decarbonized energy system. Serpell, Paren, and Chu also noted that China is now facing the environmental consequences of mining rare earth metals and suggested that clean energy production policies should encourage innovation in design, metals recycling, and sustainable mining.
  • In a recent report issued by the Brookings Institution, Paul B. Ginsburg and Steven M. Lieberman argued that HHS could reduce the cost of drugs if given the legislative authority to regulate prices. These Brookings researchers explained that HHS could set drug prices itself, through notice and comment, or use an independent arbitrator to negotiate with drug manufacturers. Ginsburg and Lieberman also argued that HHS should set uniform prices to reduce costs rather than set price ceilings; however, they suggested that the prices could be set using comparative foreign drug prices in the short term or assessing the cost-effectiveness value of a drug in the long term. Furthermore, Ginsburg and Lieberman noted that HHS could target drugs that are high cost without meaningful market competition, high cost without strong patient outcomes, or high cost relative to overseas costs.
  • In a recent discussion paper, Andrew Friedson, professor at the University of Colorado Denver, and several coauthors examined the long-term effects of cigarette taxes on smoking and mortality. Friedson and his coauthors centered their research on the cigarette taxes that an individual faces as a teenager—meaning the taxes on cigarettes in the individual’s home state that exist when a person was 14 to 17 years old. Friedson and his coauthors selected teenagers as the subject of their research because they are more price-sensitive and teenage years are when most people who smoke establish the habit. Friedson and his coauthors found that the experience of facing a cigarette tax as a teen reduces smoking in adulthood. Friedson and his coauthors also identified a link between early exposure to cigarette taxes as a teenager and decreased future mortality risk.