Kanas protects abortion, PACT Act protects vets: 5 Things podcast

On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Kansas protects abortion

It’s the first statewide vote on the issue. Plus, national correspondent Donovan Slack explains a bill to help veterans exposed to toxic substances, a cargo ship leaves Ukraine for the first time in more than five months, reporter Celina Tebor updates us on the McKinney Fire and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considers funding for Taiwan amid China tensions.

Podcasts:True crime, in-depth interviews and more USA TODAY podcasts right here.

Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson, and this is 5 Things you need to know Wednesday, the 3rd of August, 2022. Today, voters in Kansas protect abortion. Plus, Pelosi arrives in Taiwan and more.

Here are some of the top headlines:

  1. The pace of US COVID-19 deaths has remained steady since May, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. About 400 people a day are dying from the virus with nearly 13,000 deaths last month.
  2. Brittney Griner was back in Russian court yesterday, as she remains in custody for cannabis possession. Closing statements are scheduled for tomorrow.
  3. And legendary sports broadcaster, Vin Scully has died. The Hall of Famer was the radio voice of the Dodgers for nearly seven decades and was one of the most beloved figures in baseball. He was 94.

Taylor Wilson:

Voters in Kansas yesterday voted to uphold the right to abortion. It was the country’s first statewide vote on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in June. Even in heavily red districts where former president Donald Trump held double digit margins in both 2016 and 2020, voters overwhelmingly chose to protect abortion rights. With most of the vote counted, the margin was at 61 to 39 percent in favor of abortion protections as of last night.

[Kansas voters cheering.]

Taylor Wilson:

That was the scene at an election night watch party in suburban Kansas City. Voters rejected a ballot measure that would’ve let the state legislature tighten abortion restrictions or ban the procedure entirely. Kansas voter, Alley Utly.

Alley Utly:

I’m super proud to be from Kansas tonight. And I feel like my state just showed up and boldly told me that they are going to take care of me and my female friends and everyone that can get pregnant in the state of Kansas. We are protected tonight.

Taylor Wilson:

Voter turnout reached nearly 50%, a number typically seen in November midterm elections, according to the Kansas secretary of state. President Joe Biden tweeted quote, “Tonight Kansans used their voices to protect women’s right to choose and access reproductive health. It’s an important victory for Kansas, but also for every American who believes that women should be able to make their own health decisions without government interference.”

A bill tied to long sought benefits for ailments connected to toxic burn pit exposure stalled unexpectedly in Congress last week, when some Republicans pulled out their support. Comedian and veterans advocate, John Stewart, blasted the move.

John Stewart:

These people thought they could finally breathe. You think their struggles end because the PACT Act passes? All it means is they don’t have to decide between their cancer drugs and their house. Their struggle continues.

Taylor Wilson:

But Senate leaders yesterday negotiated a compromise and passed the PACT Act on an 86 to 11 vote. PACT stands for Promise to Address Comprehensive toxics and will fund research and benefits for as many as 3.5 million veterans that were exposed to toxic substances during service. National Correspondent Donovan Slack has more.

Donovan Slack:

Well last week, it unexpectedly stalled when a bunch of Republican senators yanked their support. And I think everybody was completely shocked. Advocates had flown into Washington DC to be here when it passed last week. And then all of a sudden on final passage, about two dozen GOP senators voted for it not to advance.

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