Health Headlines

LPETTET/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The recent outbreak of measles in Samoa, which has killed 72 people, has sparked fears about low vaccination rates in Hawaii.

In eight schools at least 30% of students were unvaccinated as of the 2018-2019 school year, according to state health department data.

Hawaii is one state that permits both religious and medical exemptions to vaccinations.

Janice Okubo, a spokesperson for the Hawaii State Department of Health, called the low vaccination rates in those schools "very concerning," but stressed that most schools in Hawaii have high vaccination rates.

"We recently updated our state vaccination requirements for school entry, making them more stringent to strengthen immunity in our communities," Okubo said.

"Measles has been a concern nationwide," she added.

For a population to be protected against the measles, between 93% and 95% of people need to be immunized or immune to the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

The Samoa outbreak comes as measles deaths have surged worldwide, killing 140,000 people last year, most younger than 5 years old.

As of mid-November, there were three times more measles cases reported to WHO in 2019 than during the same time period in 2018.

Hawaii's Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a physician, recently returned from an on-the-ground vaccination effort in Samoa. He and a team of 70 doctors and nurses worked alongside Samoan health workers to stave off additional outbreaks.

"I truly believe it's going to be infectious disease problems that are our greatest challenges as humanity, not other questions like terrorism or fights amongst ourselves," Green told Radio New Zealand in an interview last week.

"I think we have to be very mindful of how fast an epidemic can take us," he said. "People should continue to get vaccinated if we're going to be safe."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Amy Sussman/E! Entertainment(NEW YORK) -- Kim Kardashian West is a mother of four, but having her family was no easy feat.

In a new video to promote her Skims loungewear, the reality TV star revealed that she had to have five surgeries in a year and a half to fix the damage caused by her first two pregnancies.

However, she added, she did not reveal her struggles to her fans at the time, choosing instead to forge ahead with filming her reality TV show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and going on photo shoots.

Ultimately, she used surrogates to carry her third and fourth children, at the behest of her doctors.

"I am just so thankful for my beautiful kids. No matter how they came to me, they came to me," she said. "I grew up with so many siblings that I just love being in a big family environment, and I would've gone through the same pain and back for the result of having my babies."

Kardashian West, 39, and her husband Kanye West, 42, are parents to North, 6; Saint, 4; Chicago, 1; and Psalm, 7 months. The reality star explained that after she developed preeclampsia with her first pregnancy, she was induced at 34 1/2 weeks gestation. At that point, it was revealed that she had placenta accreta, too.

According to the Mayo Clinic, preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and other signs of damage to organs, most often the liver and kidneys. Delivery is the most effective treatment. Placenta accreta is a condition in which the placenta grows too deeply into the uterine wall and can cause severe blood loss, among other serious complications, according to the Mayo Clinic.

However, Kardashian West said that she was determined to carry another baby, and underwent egg freezing to conceive her son, Saint. After developing preeclampsia and placenta accreta yet again, her doctors refused to let her carry another child. For that reason, she said, she hired surrogates to deliver Chicago and Psalm.

Now, she is raising awareness of The Bail Project, an organization that pays bail for those in need, because she wants families to be connected during the holiday season.

"I'm really thankful for my family," she said. "It was all worth it."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


stevecoleimages/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A woman in Minnesota is suing two pharmacies, including CVS, for sex discrimination after she claims she was denied a morning-after pill.

Andrea Anderson, a 39-year-old mother of five, said she was first refused the pill at her local pharmacy, Thrifty White Pharmacy in McGregor, according to a lawsuit filed in Minnesota’s Ninth Judicial District on Tuesday.

Anderson called in the prescription and just before she went to pick it up, she received a call from a pharmacist there who told her that he couldn't fill the prescription because of his "personal beliefs," the lawsuit claims.

After complaining to the pharmacy's owner, Anderson claimed she was told that this was not the first time the pharmacist, who also serves as a local pastor, refused a prescription.

Yet her troubles didn't end there, she and her lawyers say.

When she tried a CVS that was located about 25 minutes away, she was allegedly told her prescription couldn't be filled there either.

The pharmacist at the CVS also tried to stop Anderson from obtaining it at a nearby Walgreens by allegedly telling her that they didn't have it in stock, the lawsuit claims.

Yet when Anderson called Walgreens "to double check," she was told that the pharmacy did indeed have Ella and could fill her prescription.

The pharmacist at Walgreens also confirmed to Anderson that she had just spoken with someone at CVS and said as such, according to the lawsuit.

"The pharmacists I encountered ignored my health needs and my doctor's instructions," Anderson said in a statement.

"I could not believe this was happening. I was angry," she added.

CVS Pharmacy did not respond to ABC News' specific questions, but said in a statement they were "reviewing and investigating the allegations made in the complaint."

"CVS Pharmacy is committed to providing access to emergency contraception, whether it is at the pharmacy counter for patients who have a prescription for it, or in our store aisles where we have sold over-the-counter emergency contraception for several years," according to the statement.

A manager at the Thrifty White Pharmacy in McGregor told ABC News that the store had not yet been served, but declined to comment further.

Jess Braverman, the legal director at Gender Justice, the non-profit representing Anderson, condemned the pharmacist at Thrifty White, saying in a statement to ABC News that he ignored both his legal and ethical obligation.

Braverman hopes that the lawsuit will "ensure that health care providers uphold their legal and ethical responsibilities to care for their patients, regardless of the providers’ personal beliefs."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Jennifer Nielsen(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- A boy who loves unicorns met two in real life thanks to a send-off party from his kindergarten classmates.

Wyatt Haas was diagnosed with brain cancer on Nov. 15. On Dec. 6, his community held a farewell party at the neighborhood park before he headed to St. Jude's in Memphis, Tenn., to undergo treatment.

"I don't think he expected to see a unicorn at the park," dad Zach Haas of Fallon, Montana, told "Good Morning America." "I think he just expected to see friends. He was super excited."

Wyatt had surgery on Nov. 16 to remove part of a tumor. Haas said his 5-year-old son had been sick and having headaches before doctors revealed what was wrong.

"The last couple months he's been in so much discomfort," Haas noted. "He hasn't been laughing, playing ... having fun."

"I think after the surgery he was being himself again."

Jennifer Nielsen, a mom whose son is in Wyatt's kindergarten class at Terry Elementary School, said she helped organize the "unicorn" ride for Wyatt.

Nielsen and her husband, Will, run Nielsen's Ranch and offered to dress their horse named Bonanza like a unicorn for Wyatt. Lily, a friend's pony, was also made up as the mythical creature.

To transform Bonanza and Lily, Nielsen used washable animal chalk that ranchers use to identify livestock. It's temporary and safe on animals, she said. Unicorn horns were created from paper towel rolls.

"We're really a small community," Nielsen told "Good Morning America." "It was a really beautiful thing to rally around Wyatt and his family -- let them know we're praying ... we love Wyatt and wanted to show our support."

Wyatt's friends posed in photos with him and shared unicorn cake.

Wyatt and his mom, Corissa, are now in Memphis where he will receive radiation and chemotherapy.

You can follow Wyatt and his journey on his Facebook page.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock(NEW YORK) -- Recent deaths linked to vaping have, in the eyes of many, cast it as public health enemy No. 1, but a new report suggests vilifying vaping could do more long-term harm than good.

In an article published Thursday in the journal Science, experts, including the deans of three U.S. public health schools, warned about a potential backlash from "prohibitionist" measures.

Politicians have scrambled to react to the 2,291 lung injuries and 48 deaths linked to vaping reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of early December.

"As we move to confront these challenges, we face the danger that justifiable alarm will turn alarmist, short-circuiting careful analysis of the full range of evidence and focusing attention on the most frightening," the authors wrote.

Policy discussions have fallen short on multiple counts, the authors said, frequently failing to distinguish between nicotine and THC products, between adult and youth smokers, between retail and black market devices.

The result has been catch-all policies, such as the blanket ban San Francisco is instituting on all nicotine-related vaping products in early 2020. But cracking down on e-cigarettes, while allowing traditional cigarettes to remain on the market, is the opposite of protecting public health, the authors wrote.

Blanket bans may push e-cigarette smokers to the black market or back to smoking traditional cigarettes.

"We seem to feel like the evidence has suddenly shifted, when in fact, it hasn't," said Amy Fairchild, lead author of the new article and dean of The Ohio State University College of Public Health. "We shouldn't take our eyes off what the real problem is."

In comparison to the harms caused by e-cigarettes, traditional cigarettes are responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, according to the CDC.

Put more simply, that's 10,000 times the number of vaping deaths logged in the current lung injury outbreak.

While that doesn't mean that nicotine e-cigarettes aren't risky, that risk is relative.

Fairchild pointed to a 2018 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which found that completely substituting vaping nicotine for traditional cigarettes reduced smokers' exposure to "numerous toxicants and carcinogens."

Notably, the report found that "across a range of studies and outcomes, e-cigarettes appear to pose less risk to an individual than combustible tobacco cigarettes."

The authors aren't arguing that e-cigarettes are harmless, but they seem to be safer than their traditional counterparts.

"I feel like this has been this watershed moment," Fairchild said, in reference to the public's cooling opinion of e-cigarettes. "But really there has been no smoking gun when it comes to the evidence."

So far, THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and vitamin E acetate, an additive, have been most strongly implicated in the CDC's investigation into lung injuries and deaths. The agency has neither let nicotine e-cigarettes off the hook, nor pinpointed them as a problem.

That uncertainty is both a challenge and an inevitability, according to Fairchild.

"We don't have any drugs that are 100% safe and effective," she noted. "We are always going to be making decisions in the face of uncertainty."

Americans have historically been slow to warm to the notion of harm reduction, which is the idea of substituting safer -- although not necessarily safe -- health behaviors, in place of riskier ones.

"If you think about the history of our response to harm reduction, we've always been pretty skeptical of the idea that anything other than abstinence when it comes to addiction or dependence," Fairchild said.

Distinct problems need distinct solutions

Separate from the lung injuries and deaths the CDC has been investigating is the issue of youth vaping.

In recent months, states have sued e-cigarette manufacturers for marketing to youth, after the number of high school students who reported vaping skyrocketed between 2017 and 2019.

But while youth vaping numbers have soared in recent years, youth smoking rates dropped faster during those same years, which suggests that e-cigarettes may be replacing traditional cigarettes among youth to a certain extent, rather than fueling a brand-new phenomenon, the authors argue.

Much of the initial public outrage centered around novelty e-cigarette flavors, such as gummy bears, which seem obviously aimed at children, and which elicited emotional reactions from parents and lawmakers. Fairchild is more worried about menthol cigarettes.

"If we are going to take policy action on flavors, menthol in combustible products must be the first target," the authors wrote.

More than half of youth smokers and more than 90% of African American youth smokers started smoking by using menthol products, according to the CDC.

Instead of blanket bans on vaping, age-tailored interventions, like restricting sales of both vaping products and traditional cigarettes to adults 21 years old and older, and prohibiting predatory marketing to youth, "would be a tremendous step forward," according to Fairchild.

"Here we have the most deadly product that we can sell to human beings," she said of traditional cigarettes, "and we allow them to buy it when they are still in high school."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Sheri Norris(NEW YORK) -- Tennis is everything for Genie Kilpatrick.

Ever since her mom signed her up for classes when she was young, "tennis has been my life," she said. "It saved my life in so many ways."

"I was a chubby little kid and needed some sort of a -- some way to exercise," Kilpatrick said.

Tennis was also her window into social life and belonging in high school.

She even went on to get a full-ride college scholarship for her talents. After graduating, she became a tennis coach for a living and met her wife, Sheri Norris, through the sport.

But in 2015, at age 48, she started experiencing shortness of breath and it turned her world upside down.

At first, doctors had trouble diagnosing Kilpatrick, but the root of her illness was finally discovered: pulmonary capillary hemangiomatosis.

PCH is a disease where the vessels in both lungs grow abnormally and make it difficult to breathe. The estimated survival without treatment is three years, according to a study published by Radio Graphics in 2007.

The only cure is a double lung transplant.

As her lungs failed her, she was "not able to walk from one room to the other end without my machine," she said, "dragging the 21-liter oxygen tank with me."

"It was tough because I didn't think I'd ever have a racket in my hand [again]," she added. "I'd sit at the window and just watch people jog by and run by: 'If only I could just move again.'"

Her return to tennis began when she was put on the transplant waiting list.

Five months later she got the call that there was a donor and that she'd have a shot at a transplant.

"It's an exciting call," she said. "But you know that some somebody somewhere ... has died and it's tough because someone in some family somewhere is dealing with loss. And we're dealing with a second chance of life."

She went to the University of Texas at Austin’s Southwestern Medical Center in her hometown, where she underwent the delicate, challenging and, ultimately, successful surgery. Along the way, she never took her eye off the prize.

Her wife made big tennis posters for her to hang up on the walls, and for two months she says she was "in that hospital room and holding that racket in my hand. I was bumping the ball up and down the hall when I went to walk, said, 'I'm not going without my racket!'"

Right before her surgery, she had learned about the World Transplant Games and made it a goal to compete.

According to Kilpatrick, the majority of participants in the World Transplant Games have undergone transplants of organs such as the kidney, liver or pancreas. Lung transplants are less common, with University of Michigan Medicine reporting about 2,000 Americans receive a new lung compared to the 18,000 kidney transplants that take place each year.

And Kilpatrick was a rarity with her double lung transplant.

Regardless, she gave it her all and came home with gold during the August 2019 games.

"Just to take home the gold and represent your country was pretty incredible," she said. "I don't know what it feels like to be a kidney or liver [recipient] or anything else, I just feel like I'm the same as everybody else because I had a lung transplant."

She now spreads awareness for how organ donation changes lives, even going to the tennis tournament where she once coached to set up informational booths about becoming an organ donor.

"It's all about giving back and spreading the word. I'm happy to do anything that I can to get the word out," Kilpatrick said. "If one more life can be saved, it's going to be all worth it."

She's so grateful for everything she has, and wants others to have that same chance at pursing their dreams.

"I was so lucky to receive an organ and have a second chance," she said. "I just want everybody that is stricken with a disease to be able to be in the same boat."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that later in the day the House would debate and then vote Thursday on a bill that she said would reduce prescription drug costs, the latest example of Democrats drawing attention to their legislative efforts while they pursue impeachment.

"I have seen grown men cry about how they cannot meet their families needs because of the crushing burden of prescription drug costs," Pelosi said Wednesday, announcing Democrats have the votes to pass the legislation.

Although Pelosi didn't mention impeachment, the drug cost bill announcement comes one day after House Democrats formally filed two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump and followed minutes later with a press conference on a modified trade deal between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The legislation, titled the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act in memory of the late Congressman, seeks to reduce the high prices of prescription drugs by negotiating costs through Medicare and its vast bargaining power.

Unlike the trade deal, Trump, who ran on a platform of lowering drug costs, opposes the measure.

The White House Office of Management and Budget released a statement Tuesday night, saying, "If H.R. 3 were presented to the President in its current form, he would veto the bill."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md, joined Pelosi at the news conference and called directly on the Trump to follow through with his campaign promise by supporting the legislation.

"Mr. President, I urge you to come together as we have provided a bill consistent with what you said your polices were going to be," Hoyer said. "No one should have to choose between medications they need or paying their rent or putting food on the table."

The Democratic leaders quoted Trump more than once on Wednesday, from when he told a crowd at a campaign rally in Exeter, New Hampshire, in February 2016, "When it comes time to negotiate the cost of drugs, we are going to negotiate like crazy."

But as president, Trump appears to have changed strategies.

Anotherstatement released by the White House last week cited the potential for drug manufacturers to lose money and for fewer new drugs may to enter the market as some of the reasoning for not supporting the legislation.

"Heavy-handed government intervention may reduce drug prices in the short term, but these savings are not worth the long-term cost of American patients losing access to new lifesaving treatments," it read.

A preliminary analysis from the Congressional Budget Office or CBO found that the core provision of the bill would save Medicare $345 billion between 2023 and 2029, but the legislation may reduce the introduction of new drugs to the market in the long-term, as Republicans have noted.

The bill to reduce drug prices also comes on the heels of the Trump administration's executive order signed in November that will require hospitals to disclose negotiated rates with insurance companies in 2021. The Democrats' bill takes that transparency a step further, extending negotiations into all Medicare plans. Those negotiated prices will then become available on private health insurance plans as well.

Other highlights of the AARP-endorsed legislation include a $2000 a year cap on out-of-pocket costs for all seniors on Medicare, an additional $7.5 billion to fight the opioid epidemic and reinvesting Medicare savings into the expansion of community health center, according to the speaker's office.

Two private citizens also joined House Democrats at Wednesday's event to share their stories: Caroline Corum, a registered nurse fighting breast cancer and Jim Riordan, a retiree struggling to pay for his $4800 asthma medication each month.

"Despite having good insurance, I live in fear of not being able to afford the medicine I need to treat my cancer," Corum said. "Our lives depend on your vote."

Riordan added after her, "if [this] became law, I could literally breathe a sigh of relief."

The day before, Trump considered Tuesday's announcement on the House's trade deal as a win for his base, according to White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, despite the president berating House Democrats as "do nothing" in recent months. Pelosi has continued to combat that narrative.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday the Senate will not take up the trade legislation until after the near-imminent impeachment trial of the president has concluded.

"What is not possible obviously would be to turn to an impeachment trial or to do USMCA in the Senate before we break for Christmas," McConnell said Tuesday.

The bill's sponsor, Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., added at Wednesday's press conference, "We're going to do this tonight and pass it tomorrow."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock(NEW YORK) -- Intermittent fasting -- eating only during a certain period of time -- has become a buzzy wellness trend, pushing it into the top spot as the most searched diet of 2019, according to Google.

The idea of fasting is, of course, thousands of years old but intermittent fasting, or IF, has captured the zeitgeist thanks to new research and celebrities like Halle Berry talking about the way of eating.

The good news, according to experts, is that intermittent fasting is one nutrition trend that is safe and effective.

"It's nice when something is popular and actually safe," said Robin Foroutan, a registered dietitian nutritionist at the Morrison Center in New York City and a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics told "GMA" last year.

Here are 10 questions answered about intermittent fasting (IF).

1. What is IF?

Intermittent fasting is simply limiting the times during which you eat.

The eating patterns in fasting range from alternate day fasting -- where you fast for 24 hours and then eat normally the next 24 hours -- to a plan like the 5:2 diet where you fast for two days of the week and eat normally the other five days.

The buzziest type of fasting today, and the most practical for most people, is the version of intermittent fasting, or time-restricted feeding, where you eat typically only in an eight-hour time period.

This version of IF just pushes your first meal to later in the day and your last meal to earlier in the evening.

2. How do I get started?

You can do it tomorrow. One benefit of intermittent fasting is you do not have to go out and buy 5 pounds of kale or grass-fed beef and cook elaborate recipes.

You can begin this way of eating with your current diet. The only way to start is to figure out the eating window of time that will work for you and give it a try.

3. Are there specific hours for IF?

Foroutan recommends establishing an eating window from around 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. to around 6 or 7 at night.

There is no set definition of the hours of intermittent fasting, according to Foroutan.

There is also no research yet that confirms that eating within a period of 10 hours, for example, is better than eating within a 12-hour time frame, so you can make the plan work for you.

4. Is the advice I've always heard to start the day with breakfast wrong?

No. Both pieces of nutritional advice -- to fast and to eat breakfast soon after waking up -- can be right because each individual is so different.

"There is no one right way. There is no one right diet for everyone," Foroutan said. "You do have to listen to your body cues."

If you are trying intermittent fasting and waking up ravenously hungry, Foroutan recommends shifting your fasting hours forward and eating your first meal earlier.

5. Does it matter what time I stop eating?

Yes. You should stop eating at least two hours before you go to bed, according to Foroutan.

"The early dinner seems to be the most important according to the research," she said. "Finishing eating at an earlier time is the most beneficial."

6. Do I need to change my diet, too?

Only if you want to lose weight, according to Dr. Jason Fung, founder of the Intensive Dietary Management (IDM) Coaching Program.

"If you want to maximize fasting, you should really stick to a whole, non-processed foods diet," he said. "But even if you eat exactly the same thing but eat in a concentrated period of time, research shows there are still benefits, that your insulin levels are lower and your insulin resistance is lower."

He added, "And when you eat in a concentrated period of time, you tend to eat less overall."

7. What if my stomach starts growling while I'm fasting?

In general, the advice is to keep going with your fast, but listen to your body.

"You are going to get hungry because you’re used to eating three times a day," Fung said. "But the hunger doesn’t continue to rise. If you don’t eat, then the hunger hormone, ghrelin, goes back down to baseline."

People who are intermittent fasting should stay well hydrated. In addition to water, coffee, green tea and bone broth may be options to consume during fasting hours, depending on the guidelines you've set.

Listen to your body and keep in mind that the goal of intermittent fasting is to feel better, not worse, Foroutan said.

"If you are dragging through the day with headaches and you're hungry and you're distracted and can't think, you're probably not doing it right or this plan isn't for you," she said. "You should be feeling better in the short term, too."

8. What are the health benefits of intermittent fasting?

Research shows that, overall, intermittent fasting helps decrease cholesterol, decrease insulin in the blood, results in some weight loss and reduces inflammatory markers.

However, more studies are needed to determine whether intermittent fasting improves actual diseases like heart disease and diabetes, experts say.

In healthy, normal weight, overweight or obese adults, there is little evidence that intermittent fasting regimens are harmful physically or mentally. It appears that almost any intermittent fasting regimen can result in some weight loss, but more studies are needed to determine whether this weight loss is sustainable, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Foroutan said she has seen first-hand in her practice intermittent fasting improve things like digestion, gas, bloating and even sleep.

9. What is happening in my body when I fast?

When you fast, you are allowing your body to use up its stored food energy and cleaning out excess fat and sugar, according to Fung.

"You store food energy when you’re eating and you burn food energy when you’re fasting and it should be a normal cycle," he said. "You don’t have to keep shoving a muffin in your mouth every two hours to stay alive. Your body is able to handle it."

10. Is there anyone who should not do it?

Yes, children, people who are underweight or malnourished and people who have a history of eating disorders should not do intermittent fasting, experts say.

People with Type 1 diabetes and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are also cautioned against intermittent fasting, and should only do so with medical guidance.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Casimiro/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The majority of women who seek abortions each year do so at independent abortion clinics, which are closing at a precarious rate, according to a new report.

The number of independent clinics fell 32% in recent years, from 510 clinics in 2012 to only 344 as of November, according to a report published Wednesday by the Abortion Care Network, a national association for independent abortion providers. The group gathers annual data from every abortion clinic in the United States that publicly discloses providing abortion care.

As it stands, 58% of women receive abortion care at independent clinics, compared to 37% percent who access care at Planned Parenthood and only 1% who go to a physician's office for an abortion.

For women in some areas of the country, those closures represent severe limitations to their ability to access health services. In six states, there's only one remaining abortion clinic in operation.

That's a significant problem for patients who don't live close to a clinic and who have to drive long distances for care. In states like Indiana, where abortion restrictions require visiting the facility twice before an abortion can actually be performed, it's not unheard of for patients to miss their second appointment, when the abortion procedure is actually performed, according to abortion providers.

It's a major barrier, and one that ultimately changes the course of women's lives, some of whom end up giving birth to babies they didn't intend to have, abortion providers say.

"This is a time of nearly unprecedented attacks on abortion access, targeting clinics like us," said Amanda Kifferly, vice president for abortion access at The Women's Centers. The group's Connecticut clinic stands as the only independent abortion provider left in the state.

States battled over abortion throughout 2019

This year saw a tug-of-war over abortion rights at the state level.

While states like Rhode Island strengthened their abortion protections by codifying Roe v. Wade, and cities like New York City and Austin, Texas allocated abortion access funds in their respective jurisdictions, other states rolled abortion protections back.

More than 250 abortion restrictions were introduced during the 2018-2019 legislative session, and during the first half of the year, 58 of those restrictions were enacted in 19 states.

Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma took especially drastic action by passing medication abortion "reversal" laws, which would require providers tell patients they can reverse their medication abortions, a concept doctors and scientists have stressed is not backed by science.

In fact, when researchers from California tried to study the controversial practice, they had to end the study early after they decided it was too dangerous to continue. Several of the women in the discontinued study had severe enough vaginal bleeding that they had to be transported to the hospital in ambulances.

For Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, the new report highlights how critical it is to ensure women have affordable abortion access.

"For the past nine years, there has been a concerted legal strategy by anti-abortion politicians in the South, the Plains and the Midwest to limit access to abortion and close abortion clinics," she said. "The report underscores just how difficult it is to protect abortion services."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


magnetcreative/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Alyse Parker shares messages of self-love and empowerment with YouTube videos about her lifestyle from diet and exercise to home tours.

But now, the YouTuber with over 700,000 subscribers and thousands of Instagram followers has ruffled some feathers -- especially among her largely vegan following.

After four-and-a-half years of being vegan, Parker shared a video and corresponding Instagram post about her strict 30-day carnivore diet.

"I wanted to just try something new and see how my body would respond to this," Parker told ABC News. "I started to experience mental decline and just struggles with cognitive function -- I just wanted to be able to function better so that's when I originally shifted to more meats and animal food."

Parker, 25, said she was initially "resistant to the concept of eating only animal foods" and wrote on Instagram that the new diet left her "feeling more mentally clear, focused, wholesome and healthy than I had felt in years"

"I did notice enough benefits from eating this way to make me want to continue eating mostly animal foods," she said in the YouTube video.

While some supported Parker's experiment, others wrote comments on Instagram like, "you were my inspiration at first and now you support the exact opposite."

Others added, "You're part of the problem, don't pretend like you're part of any solution."

Parker said she's "definitely bummed out" by the varied responses and outrage.

"There's definitely individuals who no longer feel inspired to watch my videos," she said. "And at the same time, there's a lot of individuals who resonate hardcore -- with the idea of embracing change and trying new things."

While Parker said she is not a vegan, her influence has built a strong connection with that community and she said she hopes they can understand her choices.

"This video was intentionally about so much more than diet," she said. "We're all human and we have the desire to connect with each other and to build community. And I just wanted this video to help break down the walls that we kind of put up and divide ourselves with."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Susan Cicotte(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) --  A family who lost someone they love to a drug overdose is sharing their story in hopes of helping others who may be struggling with addiction.

On June 1, Christopher Pennington of Ann Arbor, Michigan, died. The 35-year-old father of two faced addiction before ultimately overdosing.

Pennington's family describes him as a "giver" -- a person who wanted to help others, no matter what.

He loved skateboarding, music, was a drummer in a band and enjoyed playing disc golf with his brothers and his 8-year-old son.

"I have three other children and 10 grandchildren and it's affected us all -- he was a major part of our lives," Pennington's mother, Susan Cicotte, told "Good Morning America." "When we'd have family get-togethers, he did all the grilling. When he was here, he was here to help me. He was my best friend ... he died in the very same hospital he was born in."

On the day Pennington died, his family gathered around his hospital bed to say goodbye. His mom snapped a photo of the heartbreaking moment.

Six months later, Susan Cicotte's daughter-in-law, Nichole Cicotte, who is married to Pennington's brother Michael, shared the image on Facebook. The post garnered nearly 2,000 comments and 16,000 shares.

"People were writing, 'I'm checking into rehab.' [or] 'I'm not going to do drugs today,'" Susan Cicotte said, adding that Nichole asked if she should remove the post after the viral attention.

"I said, 'No. If this helps one person stay alive or one person through their grief, then Chris is doing his job even when he's dead,'" Susan Cicotte added. "'This is what Chris would want.'"

Nichole Cicotte said her brother-in-law would give the shirt off his back to someone in need, and she felt it was important to share his story.

"He came all the way to Michigan from Wisconsin one year when the family was in a feud, because he wanted to fix things and bring his family together," Nichole Cicotte told "GMA." "He was hilarious and caring. That man had so much love to give, but never gave any to himself."

In her post, Nichole Cicotte writes, in part:

This is addiction.
It's a 3am phone call that we knew was coming, but prayed it never would.
It's a doctor having to tell another family that their loved one is legally braindead.
It's a mother's heart being ripped out from her chest.
This is a room (and a whole hospital waiting room) full of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends beating themselves up that they didn't do more to save you.
It's a daughter and a son who have to figure this world out without their dad.
This is an empty chair at every family event.

....This is a man who loved with everything he had. A man who valued family more than anything. A father who adored his children. A son, a brother, a goofy uncle, a friend to anyone who had the pleasure to know him.

Drugs don't love you. Your family and friends do.

Susan Cicotte said her son started drinking at the age of 12. He started smoking marijuana at 14 and experimented with other drugs. His drug use became more frequent after his marriage failed. Pennington sought help and had been through rehab twice.

Pennington ended up relapsing after he discovered his friend's body, after that friend died of an overdose, Susan Cicotte explained.

When Pennington died, doctors found cocaine overdosed on cocaine and fentanyl (opioid) in his system.

On Dec. 3, Susan Cicotte launched her own Facebook community called Parents of Children who OD'd. In one week, it gained over 6,000 followers.

"I just woke up on Dec. 3 missing my son deeply so I [thought] I could help other people who were feeling the way that I felt that day," Susan Cicotte said. "There's nothing out there for us ... this overdose and addiction, it's got a stigma to it. People don't understand, this wasn't his choice. It was the drug, and I really want to stop this."

Susan Cicotte hopes her Facebook community inspires people with addiction to seek help. She also wants to to act as a support system for those who lost loved ones to overdoses.

"That's become my purpose ... to take Christopher's and make it a positive [by trying] to help people. If it helps one person, it would fill my heart with joy," she said.

If you're struggling with addiction, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can help you locate a treatment facility. Their helpline is free, confidential and open 24 hours a day: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ridofranz/iStock(NEW YORK) -- In contrast to media reports in recent years about a crisis of increasing isolation and loneliness in the United States, called an "epidemic" by the former surgeon general, new research indicates that's not necessarily true -- at least for Baby Boomers.

"That the narrative appears false for older adults," said Louise Hawkley, lead author of one of two new studies, both published Tuesday in the journal Psychology and Aging.

While researchers did not examine rates of loneliness and isolation among younger adults, Hawkley and her coauthors found that Baby Boomers aren't lonelier than similarly aged adults in previous generations.

In part, that's because of misconceptions about what constitutes loneliness. Higher rates of living alone, not marrying and not being involved in community activities can all signify that people are isolated, but that doesn't necessarily mean that people feel lonely, explained Hawkley, a senior research scientist at the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center.

"People can feel lonely even if surrounded by others, and people do not necessarily feel lonely even if they are alone," she added.

The new study analyzed survey data from thousands of adults in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, who were born between 1920 and 1947, and compared those reports to survey data collected from Baby Boomers.

The researchers found that loneliness decreased between the ages of 50 and 74, then increased after age 75.

Factors like better educational opportunities, improved health and widowhood later in life may have reduced loneliness for 50- to 70-something adults.

"The increase in loneliness after age 75 is likely attributable to losses that are increasingly prevalent in older age," Hawkley said.

Declining mobility and independence in old age, as well as becoming a caregiver or widow, and grappling with the deaths of siblings and friends, are all factors that might trigger loneliness among the oldest adults.

A second study, which was also published in Psychology and Aging, analyzed data from 4,880 people in the Netherlands born between 1908 and 1957, and found that older adults born in later generations were less likely to be lonely than adults born earlier. In part, that's because they felt more in control of their lives and social environments, and more able to change them, than older generations did.

As for staving off loneliness among the more than 70 million Baby Boomers who will reach old age in coming years, Hawkley thinks it's important to understand the root cause of their feelings.

For some older adults, better transportation options, or information about which social opportunities exist in the first place, could allow them to socialize more easily. For caregivers, resources and assistance that allow them to take a night off and recharge socially might help.

And while loneliness can strike at any age, the most important factor is connection.

"Good quality relationships are key to reducing loneliness," Hawkley said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


patty_c/iStock(NEW YORK) -- White Castle has issued a voluntary recall of a "limited number" of its frozen six-pack cheeseburgers, frozen six-pack hamburgers, frozen six-pack jalapeno cheeseburgers and 16-pack hamburgers and 16-pack cheeseburgers due to a "possible presence" of listeria, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA said on Friday that the recall affected products on shelves at selected retailers with best-by dates ranging from Aug. 4, 2020 to Aug. 17, 2020.

"Any product with these dates on shelves is presently being removed. Any product with a best-by date before or after these best-by dates is not included in the voluntary recall," the FDA said.

The agency said there had been no reported illnesses linked to the recalled products.

"White Castle conducts frequent and regular quality assurance tests," the FDA said. "A recent sample conducted by a third party laboratory of its frozen sandwiches from one manufacturing facility showed a presence of Listeria monocytogenes halting any shipment of product to customers. Since the problem was identified White Castle has not shipped any product from this facility to customers. Following rigorous safety testing protocols, all impacted production runs have been identified for destruction. White Castle has maintained complete control of all product produced at the facility since the first indication of a problem."

Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems, according to the FDA.

Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, the infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Click here for a list of products involved in the recall.

Consumers who may have bought the products listed in the recall were urged to throw them out or return them to the store for an exchange or refund. They can also contact White Castle at 1-800-843-2728.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former Bachelorette Ashley Hebert Rosenbaum has revealed that her husband, J.P. Rosenbaum, has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder.

Hebert Rosenbaum shared on Instagram that Rosenbaum is in treatment and "doing well."

Meanwhile, Rosenbaum said on his Instagram story that he hopes his symptoms have plateaued, and thanked his loved ones and fans for their support.

"It may be a long road to full recovery but we are so grateful to everyone that has helped us get to a speedy diagnosis and treatment," added Hebert Rosenbaum.

Hebert Rosenbaum, 34, and Rosenbaum, 42, fell in love during production of The Bachelorette's seventh season. They married in a televised wedding in 2012 and are parents to son Fordham Rhys, 5, and daughter Essex Rose, 3.

Rosenbaum said in since-erased Instagram story that the diagnosis was "very surreal and humbling" and the disease has kept him from simple tasks including picking up his children, buttoning buttons and tying his shoelaces, People magazine reported.

"I just can't believe it," he said.

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of its peripheral nervous system -- or, more specifically, the network of nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The exact cause of the disorder is unknown.

The organization reports that unexplained sensations are often the first sign that something is wrong, and often times they disappear before major, longer-term symptoms occur. Those may include difficulty with eye muscles and vision, problems swallowing, speaking or chewing and severe pain.

It affects about one in 100,000 people each year, and while there's no cure, about 70% of sufferers eventually experience full recovery, NINDS reports.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- After Beyonce was shut out at the Emmy Awards this year following four nominations for her Homecoming concert film, her fans -- aka "the Beyhive" -- screamed that she was robbed.

But Queen Bey says because of the obstacles she endured becoming a mother, success is no longer defined by awards.

“I learned that all pain and loss is in fact a gift," she told Elle magazine in the upcoming January cover story. “Having miscarriages taught me that I had to mother myself before I could be a mother to someone else. Then I had Blue, and the quest for my purpose became so much deeper."

"Being 'number one' was no longer my priority," she said in the interview. "My true win is creating art and a legacy that will live far beyond me."

The 23-time Grammy winner, 38, is also CEO of her Parkwood Entertainment company. Now as a wife and mother of three -- her daughter Blue is 7 and twins Rumi and Sir are 2 -- her challenge is continuing to advance her art while making time for her family.

"Making sure I am present for my kids -- dropping Blue off at school, taking Rumi and Sir to their activities, making time for date nights with my husband, and being home in time to have dinner with my family -- all while running a company can be challenging," she said.

The Lion King star also spoke about promoting diversity in all of her work.

"I rarely felt represented in film, fashion, and other media. After having a child, I made it my mission to use my art to show the style, elegance, and attraction in men and women of color," Beyonce said. "Diversity and inclusion go beyond race."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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WJTN News Headlines for Dec. 13, 2019

An unidentified man has been accidently shot and killed by his own rifle in a hunting accident in Warren County's Sugar Grove Township.   The Pennsylvania Game Commission tells the Warren ...

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