News brief: abortion battleground, G7 meeting, Ukraine requests more weapons
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
In several states, abortion access looks very different today than it did last week.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Right. The Supreme Court's decision overturning decades of abortion rights precedent triggered laws in several states, and already there are legal fights brewing between states with differing laws.
MARTÍNEZ: NPR correspondent Sarah McCammon covers abortion rights policy. Sarah, the Supreme Court issued its decision on Friday overturning Roe v. Wade. Now that we're starting a brand-new week, where do we stand this morning?
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Well, already roughly a dozen states have said they're implementing abortion bans in response to the ruling, and many others have restrictions in place that could soon take effect. We're expecting legal battles over some of those. Already Planned Parenthood is suing to challenge Utah's trigger law under the state constitution there. And I'm hearing about a lot of confusion in some states that have multiple bans on the books. For example, in addition to the six-week ban that took effect last year in Texas, that state has a trigger law written to take effect 30 days after the decision overturning Roe, and Texas also has a pre-Roe v. Wade ban. So it's not clear which law is in effect there. Bottom line, A - we're already seeing the kind of patchwork abortion laws that have been predicted for a long time.
MARTÍNEZ: Now, you're - been traveling to states where this kind of tension is already playing out. What have you been seeing?
MCCAMMON: Yeah. I mean, for a real picture of what this looks like, I spent some time earlier this month along the Illinois-Missouri border, two states with very different political climates. Missouri lawmakers had passed multiple restrictions, and it was already difficult to get an abortion there. There was just one clinic left in the state, in the St. Louis area, and it was doing just a few procedures every couple of weeks. So in 2019, Planned Parenthood opened up a large clinic across the state line in Illinois. They are already seeing several thousand patients a year and preparing for many more now. Now, Missouri was one of the first states to enact its trigger ban on Friday. And much of the Midwest, A, is likely to be without abortion services soon, which means more patients are likely to travel to places like Illinois.
MARTÍNEZ: So how are opponents of abortion rights responding to that? I mean, can they do anything to stop patients from traveling?
MCCAMMON: I mean, it remains to be seen. They would like to. I talked with Republican state Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman at her home in a suburb near St. Louis. She sponsored a proposal earlier this year in Missouri's Legislature that would have empowered individuals to sue anyone who helps a Missouri resident get an abortion out of state. That's something that she describes as, quote, "abortion tourism."
MARY ELIZABETH COLEMAN: It's one of those phrases that really describes what I think we're going to be seeing and certainly what we have already started to see, which is states that are really catering to providing abortions to residents of states that have no abortion access. And so there's a direct targeting that's taking place into pro-life states.
MCCAMMON: Now, Coleman's proposal did not advance, but it could offer a preview of what's to come. Farah Diaz-Tello is with the abortion rights legal advocacy group If/When/How, and she says this kind of tactic raises a lot of questions about federalism and the Constitution.
FARAH DIAZ-TELLO: As somebody who believes in the Constitution, who believes in the rule of law, it is somewhat frightening to see, you know, states preparing to enforce or not enforce one another's laws.
MARTÍNEZ: Sarah, based on your recent reporting from Missouri and Illinois, what do you expect to see as more states enact abortion bans?
MCCAMMON: Well, more legislative efforts like I described. But we're in the early days here, and I would just expect many more clashes between states with now very different policies on abortion.
MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Sarah McCammon. Thanks a lot.
MCCAMMON: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTÍNEZ: Leaders of the seven wealthiest democracies began three days of talks yesterday in Germany's Bavarian Alps. Russia's invasion of Ukraine is set to dominate the agenda.
MARTIN: But the other dominant theme is China. One of the first announcements out of the G-7 was a $600 billion infrastructure initiative to help developing countries counter China's Belt and Road Initiative.
MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Rob Schmitz joins us now from Berlin. Rob, G-7 leaders are seeking a deal to impose a price cap on Russian oil and pipeline gas to curb Moscow's ability to finance its war in Ukraine. Tell us more about what's on the table here.
ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Yeah, the idea here would be for the U.S. and Europe to set a fixed price for Russian oil that is below the market rate so that Russia would lose revenue for its war in Ukraine and so that inflationary pressures here in the West recede a little. The argument among G-7 leaders is that, at least in the short term, Russia doesn't have many alternative markets to sell its oil, so it would have to agree to a price cap. But it's clear there is demand for Russian oil in Asia, India and China, for example, so it's unclear whether this would work.
MARTÍNEZ: And is there a possibility that this price cap idea could maybe backfire?
SCHMITZ: Oh, yeah. The country most skeptical of this plan is probably Germany. It relies on Russia for around a third of its natural gas and will continue to import Russian oil alongside much of the rest of the EU through the rest of the year before an EU-wide oil ban kicks in. Germany needs this energy to keep its economy running. And last week Russia cut gas flows into Germany by 60%. So there's concern here that a new price cap on oil could backfire and prompt Russia to simply cut off oil and possibly gas unilaterally, which would be a big blow to the European economy.
MARTÍNEZ: And I know President Biden used this G-7 summit to announce the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment. What's the aim of this? And why now?
SCHMITZ: Yeah, so this is a $600 billion infrastructure plan to help developing countries deal with climate change, help them build health care infrastructure and help promote gender equality. President Biden announced a solar farm project in Angola, hospital construction in Ivory Coast and regional energy trading platforms in Southeast Asia. Here's what he said about the plan.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I want to be clear. This isn't aid or charity; it's an investment that will deliver returns for everyone, including the American people and the people of all our nations. It will boost all of our economies. It's a chance for us to share our positive vision for the future.
SCHMITZ: And, A, Biden said it's also a chance to pull the developing world closer to the Democratic West instead of towards the orbit of China, whose Belt and Road Initiative is the competing infrastructure development plan for the developing world.
MARTÍNEZ: And, Rob, one another thing - because shortly before this summit began, the United Kingdom announced that it, the U.S., Japan and Canada would ban imports of Russian gold as part of the latest measures taken against Russia. What will that mean?
SCHMITZ: Well, the Biden administration said this will be formally announced tomorrow at the summit. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says banning Russian gold imports will directly hit Russian oligarchs and strike at the heart of Putin's war machine. Russian gold imports to the U.K. reached $15.5 billion dollars last year, and this figure has only gone up since sanctions were imposed. It's been a way that Russia's government has tried to get around the sanctions. But then again, it's unclear whether the EU will join their allies on this initiative.
MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Rob Schmitz joining us from Berlin. Rob, thank you very much.
SCHMITZ: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTÍNEZ: All right, now we look abroad to Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy just addressed the G-7 meeting in Germany by video, asking that countries give Ukraine more weapons to fight Russia.
MARTIN: His plea comes after a violent weekend. Dozens of Russian missile strikes hit cities across Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv, which had been relatively shielded from fighting for weeks.
MARTÍNEZ: With us now, we're joined by NPR's Emily Feng in Kyiv. Thanks for joining us, Emily.
EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Thanks, A.
MARTÍNEZ: All right, so what did President Zelenskyy say in his address at the G-7?
FENG: Right. He just spoke to the G-7, and he asked for anti-missile defense technology to defend against Russian strikes, Russian aircraft, and he also asked for more sanctions. This is messaging that's been consistent across his meetings with other world leaders. But his message today might have more weight because of these deadly Russian strikes everywhere in Ukraine this weekend.
MARTÍNEZ: And speaking of the ones this weekend, you were there while some of those strikes happened. Tell us what you saw.
FENG: Right. We woke up Sunday to news of several explosions about three miles from where NPR is staying in Kyiv, and when we got to the site, the first thing I could smell was smoke. And then you saw one apartment building - its top floors had been hit. They were completely gone. Another one was still charred, and it was burning in a couple of places. Later we learned one person died in those blasts. And then there were more throughout the day in the south of the country, the north, the east. The day before, there were 45 Russian missiles that landed as far west as Lviv, the city that's been relatively untouched for most of the war. Russia said it was targeting military installations, but like we saw yesterday, those often hit wide of the mark. I saw one blast crater that was in the yard of a kindergarten.
And we spoke to some residents in Kyiv who were affected. One of those was a very shaky 69-year-old Luba Mykolayivna. She lives just next to the kindergarten.
LUBA MYKOLAYIVNA: (Speaking Ukrainian).
FENG: She says she actually saw the first missile hit because she was on the balcony. Then everything in her home exploded. So she grabbed her grandson, ran downstairs and sheltered under a doorway. She's now trying to figure out whether she should leave. And again, this blast felt unusual because it's been relatively quiet in the capital and also in the west. But this is just a reminder that war can happen any time in this country.
MARTÍNEZ: So why is Russia aiming at Kyiv and other cities there now?
FENG: Well, just because Ukrainian soldiers beat back Russian soldiers in Kyiv doesn't mean that Russia hasn't given up ambitions to at least put pressure on these areas. And this weekend was symbolic. You mentioned the G-7 leaders are meeting right now in Germany. Tomorrow NATO hosts its annual summit. This was the military alliance Ukraine was thinking about joining and one of the reasons Vladimir Putin gave for invading Ukraine in the first place. So Putin was sending a message. And the apartment block Russia bombed in Kyiv this weekend had been marked for retaliation before. It was bombed in late April, on the very same day that the U.N. secretary general was visiting the country.
MARTÍNEZ: So considering what we just saw, are people living in these cities, like Kyiv, worried that they could see an escalation again?
FENG: Absolutely. That is what people are preparing for. And the concern this week has been that Belarus will get more involved. This is the country directly to Ukraine's north. It's a key ally of Russia's. And this Saturday, its leader, Alexander Lukashenko, actually visited Putin in Russia, where Putin said he would give Lukashenko his own cruise missiles. Already this weekend, there were some strikes coming in from Belarus into Ukraine, so the fear is now that this is going to become more routine.
MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Emily Feng. Thanks a lot, Emily.
FENG: Thanks, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.