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Supreme Court weighs Mississippi abortion law, future of Roe v. Wade

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WASHINGTON — With a crowd of hundreds of activists gathered outside, the Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on a Mississippi law restricting abortions that challenges the nearly 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade.

The justices signaled that they were aware of the highly-charged political nature of the case. Many of their questions centered on how their decision could impact American society.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested the very legitimacy of the high court was at stake if it overturned its landmark ruling in 1973 that made access to abortions legal. She noted that sponsors of the Mississippi law said they proposed the abortion restrictions because there were new justices on the Supreme Court.

“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception – that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” she said. “I don’t see how it is possible.”


The 2018 Mississippi law bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The law is not currently in effect as the state awaits the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart argued the precedents set in Roe v. Wade and a later case, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, should be overturned and that the court should allow states to decide their own laws.

When Roe was decided in 1973, the court established a person’s right to abortion up to the point of viability, which is typically regarded as 24 weeks of pregnancy. In 1992, justices in the Casey case established the “undue burden” standard to determine the validity of state abortion restrictions.

Stewart argued that the “undue burden” test was difficult to apply and said that the justices should, “return the choice to the people.”

“Many people vocally really just wanted to have the matter returned to them so that they could decide it locally, deal with it the way they thought best, and at least have a fighting chance to have their view prevail, which was not given to them under Roe and then, as a result, under Casey,” Stewart said.

That step would not outlaw abortion nationwide, he explained, as many states would still choose to keep abortion legal.

But Julie Rikelman, attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, argued that the justices should affirm two lower court rulings that Mississippi’s “Gestational Age Act” at issue is unconstitutional.

“Two generations of women have now relied on this right,” she said. “There is no less need today than 30 years ago or 50 years ago for women to make this decision for themselves.”

Rikelman said the ban would restrict a pregnant person’s liberty and bodily autonomy, which is protected by the 14th Amendment. She also said people rely on the precedents set in Roe and Casey that protect access to abortion.

Rikelman argued overturning the precedents would result in “forced pregnancies” and disproportionately impact women of color and other marginalized communities.

Associate Justice Elena Kagan said those advocating for the Mississippi law needed to show “a strong justification in a case like this beyond the fact that you think the case is wrong.”

“And I guess what strikes me when I look at this case is that you know, not much has changed since Roe and Casey, that people think it’s right or wrong based on the things that they have always thought it was right and wrong for,” Kagan said.

Elizabeth Prelogar, U.S. Solicitor General, arguing on behalf of the Biden administration, said “the real-world effects of overruling Roe and Casey would be severe and swift.”

Associate Justice Samuel Alito asked Prelogar, “Is it your argument that a case can never be overruled simply because it was egregiously wrong?”

“I think that at the very least, the state would have to come forward with some kind of materially changed circumstance or some kind of materially new argument,” Prelogar said. “And Mississippi hasn’t done so in this case.”

The Jackson Women’s Health case comes before a new Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority. The justice’s questions seem to suggest that alterations to current abortion rights are imminent, though whether they will fully overturn precedent remains to be seen.

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer said he was concerned about the public’s perception of the high court as it wrestles with one of the most contentious issues in American life.

Breyer said the functioning of the court as an institution “comes primarily from people believing that we do our job. We use reason. We don’t look to just what’s popular.”

“The problem with a super case like this, the rare case, the watershed case, where people are really opposed on both sides and they really fight each other, is they’re going to be ready to say, ‘no, you’re just political, you’re just politicians,’” Breyer said, “And that’s what kills us as an American institution.”

Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh listed several cases in which the court went against set precedent, leading to the expansion of rights, such as the overturning of the “separate but equal” segregation standard in schools in Brown v. Board of Education.

Kavanaugh asked Rikelman “if we think that the prior precedents are seriously wrong – why then doesn’t the history of this court’s practice with respect to those cases tell us that the right answer is actually a return to the position of neutrality – and not stick with those precedents in the same way that all those other cases didn’t?”

Chief Justice John Roberts, a potential swing vote in the abortion decision, appeared to be looking for a way to preserve the Mississippi statute without overturning Roe.

“…If you think that the issue is one of choice, that women should have a choice to terminate their pregnancy, that supposes that there is a point at which they’ve had the fair choice, opportunity to choose, and why would 15 weeks be an inappropriate line?” Roberts asked. “Because viability, it seems to me, doesn’t have anything to do with choice. But, if it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks not enough time?”

After the arguments ended, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, joined pro-choice advocates on the court’s steps, warning that the conservative majority of the Supreme Court may deal a blow to reproductive rights.

“Justice is what this building is supposed to represent. Notice I said ‘supposed to represent, but the history of this court has not always lived up to that,” Bush said. “Today, we are here to say there is nothing just about a far-right Supreme Court determined to oppress us.”

J.C. Carpenter, a leader and sidewalk counsel with Christian-based pro-life organization 40 Days For Life, drove from her hometown of Marysville, California, to support the pro-life demonstrators in front of the court.

“I think there is an amazing pro-life turnout,” Carpenter told Capital News Service. “I think the pro-aborts are well outnumbered and I hope that that speaks to what’s going to happen with this case.”

At least 26 states are poised to ban or restrict abortion if the justices uphold the Mississippi law and overturn Roe, according to abortion research and policy organization The Guttmacher Institute.

The court’s ruling is not expected until next year.

By KELLY LIVINGSTON and NATALIE DRUM
Capital News Service

 

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Three awarded fourth degree black belts at Potomac Kempo

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For many people, the practice of martial arts is a strange—possibly intimidating—concept. People often wonder what happens in a ‘dojo’ with unfortunate misconceptions often perpetuated by movies and television. But the martial arts, and specifically the art of Kempo, which we choose to practice, is not strange or mysterious. It is an ancient self-improvement practice with fitness training and self-defense fitted in to fill out the edges.

In life, we often find that our greatest adversary is ourselves, as we all too often stand in our own way—sometimes going so far as to sabotage ourselves actively. But in Kempo, we work to overcome these traits by developing and utilizing methods that work in the studio and as well as in other aspects of life. By doing so, we work to create well-rounded, successful, and healthy lives.

In this spirit, we wish to acknowledge the accomplishment of three of our most esteemed students. In December 2021, Kevin Simpson, Jon Jelsma, and Geof Gibbs earned their Fourth Degree Black Belts in the Art of Kempo. They are the first students to reach this level in Potomac Kempo’s seventeen-year history, representing less than one-tenth of one percent of our students.

Photos courtesy of Potomac Kempo


These gentlemen have practiced the martial arts for an average of twenty years, teaching as well as training, and have studied multiple arts.

In addition to his Kempo practice, Kevin Simpson has studied Ninjutsu, Hapkido, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Army Combatives, in which he is a Level 2 Certified Instructor. He is a Sergeant First Class in the US Army Band, and he volunteers to teach both Kempo classes and grappling basics.

Before practicing Kempo, Jon Jelsma studied Tae Kwon Do, Shorin Ryu Karate, and Fencing. Amidst his Kempo practice, he has also studied Jeet Kun Do, Pekiti Tirsia Kali, Inosanto Academy Kali, and Kosho Ryu Kempo. He is a patent examiner for the US Patent and Trademark Office and volunteers to teach Kempo and Kali classes throughout the week.

Geof Gibbs began his martial arts practice with Kempo and has since come to supplement it with the study of Kali and Kosho Shorei Ryu. Having left a former life as a computer scientist, he is now a career instructor, acting as our Senior Staff Trainer and the Chief Instructor of our Huntington Metro studio location in Alexandria, Virginia. In addition to teaching Kempo, he leads our Kosho Club. Consistent with our relatively new tradition of passing on belts, Geof was presented with my own Fourth Degree Black Belt that I wore when I was that rank.

We are honored by their accomplishments and are proud to have them as part of the Potomac Kempo team. It is rightly said that “You are only as good as the people you train with,” and these exemplary practitioners are an asset to all of Potomac Kempo. Their work is a testament to lifetimes of dedication, learning, and growth.

One final thought: as I sat on the floor of an empty studio presenting belts to three very sweaty persons, I searched for words to capture the moment, for praise that would not seem redundant or superfluous. My mind circled twice, and I settled back on humility. I have known these men for decades; we have spent more hours training together than I could begin to count. They are my most accomplished students, yet they may also be my most humble students. And I don’t think that is an accident or coincidence. In martial arts, we tell the story of a student whose cup is so full it will not hold any more tea. Through all of these years, Kevin, Jon, and Geof have all managed to keep an empty cup, space to learn, never believing that they have learned it all.

I wish them a lifetime of continued success and health.

Chris Santillo, Sensei
Potomac Kempo Founder, Headmaster

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Fauquier Health encourages community members to know where to go, and when

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Knowing where to go to get the care you need can be confusing. Efforts to continue slowing the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in many new practices for hospitals, outpatient centers and medical offices. As we move forward, life – and healthcare – continues to evolve. Fauquier Health’s commitment to providing a broad range of healthcare services and high-quality care won’t change.

Now more than ever, it is important to seek out the right level of care for when you are not feeling your best.

Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms? Call your primary care office during normal business hours for non-emergent conditions or symptoms.

  • Your primary care provider knows your medical history and should be your first line of defense for any illness or disease that isn’t a medical emergency. Think cough and cold, flu, stomach upset, chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, and more. They should also be your regular resource for preventive care, including annual wellness visits, routine vaccinations, smoking cessation, diet and exercise consultations, and more.
  • It is safe to visit your primary care provider. Physician offices are working around the clock to make it easier for you to get seen virtually or in-person if appropriate. If you have an in-person visit you will need to wear a mask during the entirety of the visit. This helps to protect you, staff members and other patients. You may also notice that there are fewer people in the office, and that’s ok. Many providers are intentionally spacing patient visits to support social distancing measures.
  • You may be asking yourself what to expect during a virtual or telehealth visit. Telehealth is a safe way and effective way to get you the care and guidance you need from a health professional. Providers offering telehealth may do your visit over the phone or through a video conferencing call. Check your provider’s website or call the office to determine if telehealth is available.

COVID-19 testing sites may be coupled with longer wait times and at home testing kits may be difficult to obtain. Many primary care offices are also capable of doing COVID-19 testing. So be sure to speak with your physician about when testing is appropriate for you and what their recommendations are for next steps.


Use an urgent care or walk-in clinic for moderate/worsening symptoms when prompt primary care is not available or after normal business hours.

  • Using an urgent care or walk-in clinic is a great option if your primary care provider is not readily available, or if it is after normal business hours and your primary care provider’s office is closed. Urgent cares and walk-in clinics commonly treat people for cough and cold, flu, ear infections and allergies, skin conditions, minor injuries and more. Some urgent cares or walk-in clinics have x-ray capabilities onsite as well.
  • It is safe to visit urgent cares and walk-in clinics. Please exercise an abundance of caution by wearing your mask during your visit. This helps to protect you, staff members and other patients. Some urgent cares or walk-in clinics may have digital wait-in-line tools to reduce your time spent in the waiting room. You can sign up for your slot ahead of time and arrive for your appointment.
  • Many local urgent care or walk-in clinics offer telehealth or virtual appointment services in an effort to support social distancing while continuing regular patient care. Providers offering telehealth may do a visit over the phone or through a video conference call. Check the office’s website or call ahead to determine if telehealth is available and appropriate for your needs.

For COVID-19 testing, most urgent cares or walk-in clinics are requiring appointments ahead of time. Be sure to check their websites or call for information on how to schedule a COVID-19 test. By scheduling an appointment, it will cut down on your estimated wait times and will help to prevent long drive-up lines.

Use your nearest emergency room for any medical emergency.

If you are experiencing emergent symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, have difficulty breathing, or are experiencing another medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

To help prevent the spread of illness, you will be screened for fever and other symptoms of respiratory illnesses when you arrive. You will also be asked to wear a mask. It is important that you wear your mask until you are instructed to remove it by a staff member or until you are discharged. This helps to protect you, staff members and other patients.

It is critical that you seek emergency care if you are experiencing a medical emergency. We have procedures in place to protect the health and safety of our patients, staff members and visitors. Our standard infection prevention protocols help in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, year-round. It is safe to come to the hospital, and your life, or the life of a loved one, may depend on prompt emergency treatment.

If you are concerned you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please check out our symptom checker.

Prioritizing your health and the health of your loved ones is important. By seeking out the appropriate level of care, taking advantage of telehealth visits when appropriate, following guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for wearing a mask, and practicing smart social distancing, you are making communities healthier.

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Fauquier Health reverts to stricter limited-visitation policy as COVID numbers rise

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As we continue to evaluate the situation of COVID-19, and the confirmed number of cases that are on the rise in our communities, Fauquier Health has decided to move back to a stricter limited-visitation policy. It is our priority first and foremost to ensure the protection and safety of our patients, employees, providers, volunteers and visitors.

We have also made the difficult, but necessary, decision to reschedule elective and non-urgent cases that require inpatient stay for the next two weeks. We will continue to assess the situation daily.

Patients whose appointments are being rescheduled will be notified, and procedures will be rescheduled as soon as feasible.

Rescheduling elective and non-urgent cases will allow us to conserve hospital and ICU beds, and ensure we have additional personnel available to support our sickest patients.

To view the full visitation details, please visit: fauquierhealth.org/covid-19-preparedness

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Crime/Court

Shooting death at Frederick County residence under investigation

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At approximately 11:50 a.m. today (Dec. 30), a shooting was reported in the 100 block of Dick’s Hollow Road in Frederick County which has resulted in the death of one person.

  • The Sheriff’s Office can confirm that a male subject was shot by the homeowner during some type of verbal or physical altercation.
  • There were multiple subjects in the residence at the time with one subject fatally struck by gunfire.
  • Early indications are that there was only a single shot fired.
  • The subject who fired the weapon is in custody.
  • There is no ongoing threat to the community currently.
  • The identity of the victim is not being released pending notification of next of kin.

Details are limited at this time as this incident remains an active crime scene with law enforcement still processing evidence and speaking to witnesses and suspects. A more detailed press release will be forthcoming in the future.

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Luray man pleads guilty to cyberstalking Army recruiter

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(Harrisonburg, VA – December 20, 2021) A Luray, Virginia man pleaded guilty today to cyberstalking a female Army recruiter after being upset about failing his Army entrance examination.

According to court documents, Braxton Louis Danley, 26, contacted the victim, an army recruiter in Harrisonburg, Virginia, via email in February 2018 expressing his interest in joining the United States Army. In March 2018, Danley arrived at the victim’s recruiting station in Harrisonburg to take the required entrance exam. When Danley was unable to obtain a passing score, the victim and other recruiters instructed Danley to continue studying and to retake the test at a later date.

In April 2018, Danley called the victim multiple times on both her Army-issued cell phone and the recruiting station general telephone to inquire about re-taking the entrance exam. Each time, Danley was asked if he had studied for the test – which he admitted that he had not – and was advised that he would only be permitted to re-take the test after he had studied.

On May 14, 2018, Danley sent an email to the victim’s official Army email address stating, “I remember everything you [expletive] done to me so time to settle the score.” (sic). On the same date, Danley called the recruiting station and told another recruiter he was angry and that he (Danley) needed to be arrested. In light of the email threat and phone call, the victim obtained a “no trespassing” notice and posted it at the recruiting station.


For the next few months, Danley continued to send the victim harassing texts. Eventually, the victim obtained a state Preliminary Order of Protection (PPO) against Danley.

On December 23, 2018, Danley posted a message on Facebook directed at the victim and two other Army recruiters that read, in part, “your lieing fu**ed up my life . lock and load fu**ers ima at your doorstep now .”(sic) A week later, Danley was arrested for violation of the state PPO and was convicted and sentenced to 12-months’ incarceration. He was released in June 2019.

Within a couple of months of his release, Danley again posted threats against the victim on Facebook. Finally, in January 2020, Danley posted a message on Facebook that read “24 im getin locked remember j rj this is to. you im coming to get you.”(sic) Along with the message, Danley posted a link to a YouTube video that depicted, through images and lyrics, a violent home invasion and murder of the family residing in the home.

Danley pleaded guilty today to cyberstalking and is scheduled to be sentenced on February 1, 2022, where he faces a sentence of up to five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine the sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Harrisonburg Police Department investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald M. Huber is prosecuting the case.

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Crime/Court

State Police seek info on tractor-trailer/motorcycle accident in Fauquier County Thursday

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The Virginia State Police is seeking the public’s help identifying a tractor-trailer that caused a motorcycle to crash Thursday, December 16, 2021, in Fauquier County.

Senior Trooper W. Street is investigating the crash that occurred at 3:15 p.m. along Route 29 (James Madison Hwy) near Route 744 (Lovers Ln). A 2020 Harley Davidson motorcycle was traveling south on Rt. 29 when an unknown tractor-trailer made an unsafe lane change which caused a motorcycle to run off the left side of the roadway and overturn. The rider was thrown from the motorcycle.

The rider, a 38-year-old male, of Warrenton, Va., suffered serious injuries in the crash and was transported to INOVA Fairfax Hospital for treatment. The male was wearing a helmet.

The tractor-trailer had a black flatbed and did not stop at the scene of the crash.


Anyone with information is encouraged to call Virginia State Senior Trooper W. Street at 540-347-6200 or email area12@vsp.virginia.gov.

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