Seven additional students and a teacher were wounded by gunfire and a 15-year-old suspect is in custody.
Vigils were held Tuesday night as the community, located about 42 miles north of Detroit, processed the trauma of a deadly shooting that forced terrified students to barricade themselves into classrooms, unsure whether they would emerge unscathed.
Here’s what we know about the shooting:

How the incident unfolded

Deputies were dispatched to the school at 12:52 p.m. Tuesday, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said, noting that more than a hundred 911 calls were placed.
As police were swarming the campus, students and staff began barricading doors and hiding in classrooms.
Students describe barricading doors with tables during Michigan high school shooting that left 3 dead and 6 injured
“The only information I had is he came out of a bathroom with the weapon and I don’t know where he went first,” Bouchard told reporters Tuesday, referring to the suspect.
Law enforcement officers quickly entered the building and had him in custody within three minutes of their arrival, the sheriff said.
Once the suspect encountered the officers, he put his hands up and they took a gun from him before placing him in custody.
The gun, a 9MM Sig Sauer SP2022 pistol, was loaded with seven rounds.
“He had a loaded firearm and he was coming down the hall. That, I believe, interrupted what potentially could have been seven more victims,” Bouchard said at a news conference Tuesday night.
A deputy with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office is assigned to the school and that deputy helped take the suspect into custody, Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said.
Investigators believe there were no other weapons involved and there’s no indication the suspect was wearing body armor.
No shots were fired by responding law enforcement and the suspect was not injured, McCabe said.
Around 25 agencies and close to 60 ambulances responded to the school Tuesday, according to John Lyman, public information officer for the Rochester Hills Fire Department.

What we know about the victims

Investigators identified the victims who died as Tate Myre, 16, Hanna St. Julian, 14, and Madisyn Baldwin, 17.
Myre died in a patrol car as a deputy was attempting to rush him to the hospital due to the “severity of his wounds,” Bouchard said.
Eight others — seven students and a teacher — were shot, Bouchard said. Three are in critical condition with gunshot wounds, including a 14-year-old girl who is on a ventilator after having surgery. A 14-year-old boy is in serious condition with a gunshot wound to the jaw and head, Bouchard said. Three students are in stable condition and the teacher who was shot has been discharged.
There were multiple other non-life-threatening injuries sustained by people as they were rushing out of the school, Bouchard said. Most were treated and released at a staging area, he said.
People hug during a vigil following a shooting at Oxford High School at Lake Pointe Community Church in Lake Orion, Michigan on November 30, 2021. People hug during a vigil following a shooting at Oxford High School at Lake Pointe Community Church in Lake Orion, Michigan on November 30, 2021.

What we know about the suspect

The suspect, a sophomore at the school, is being held at Oakland County Children’s Village — a juvenile detention facility — and is on suicide watch where he is being checked on every 15 minutes, said David Coulter, the Oakland County executive.
“We don’t have a motive at this point in time,” McCabe said Tuesday. “We are still investigating that.”
The suspect’s parents hired an attorney and have not permitted him to talk with police, officials said.
The semiautomatic handgun recovered by law enforcement was bought by the suspect’s father on Friday, Bouchard said.

What we know about the investigation

Processing of the scene at the high school was expected to stretch into the overnight hours and investigators have a “tremendous amount of video footage” to review from cameras in the school, Bouchard said.
Two 15-round magazines were found at the scene, Bouchard said, noting at least 12 rounds were fired.
A parent hugs a child as others come to pick up students following an active shooter situation at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan, on Tuesday, November 30, 2021. A parent hugs a child as others come to pick up students following an active shooter situation at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan, on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.
A search warrant was executed at the suspect’s home Tuesday, McCabe said. Bouchard said authorities seized a phone and are examining other seized items.
Investigators are also looking into a social media post apparently made by the suspect that appeared to show the weapon and a target, Bouchard said. “We are going to do a deep dive on the social media and all the activities of this young man.”
Bouchard said his department was not aware of any prior concerns at the school.
McCabe said the suspect could be charged as an adult, but that is up to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office.
Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald said in a statement Tuesday her office has “begun the process of receiving information regarding the investigation” into the shooting.
Benzene should not be used in the manufacture of drug substances or products because it is a class one solvent with “unacceptable toxicity,” according to the FDA.
However, the FDA did allow a “temporary” use of benzene in liquid hand sanitizers during the pandemic, setting the upper limit to 2 parts per million.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has set a much lower limit — 5 parts per billion (ppb) — for exposure to benzene in drinking water. The agency has also set a “goal of 0 ppb for benzene in drinking water and in water such as rivers and lakes because benzene can cause leukemia.”
Last week, “in an abundance of caution,” manufacturer Procter & Gamble voluntarily pulled 17 different types of Old Spice and Secret antiperspirant off the shelves, according to a press release.
A number of other brands have not yet been recalled, including batches of Tag, Sure, Equate, Suave, Right Guard and Brut that had levels of benzene at or above 2 parts per million, said David Light, CEO and founder of Valisure, the independent lab that ran the tests and filed the petition.
Additional batches of antiperspirants and deodorants, which Valisure said tested at levels up to 2 parts per million, include products made by Summer’s Eve, Right Guard, Power Stick, Soft & Dri and Victoria’s Secret. To date, CNN was not able to verify that any of these products except Old Spice and Secret have been recalled following Valisure’s early November request to that effect to the FDA.
CNN reached out to all of these companies for response. The Village Company, which makes Soft&Dri, declined to provide a comment. Unilever, which makes Suave, told CNN in an email: “Unilever takes all safety concerns seriously, and we are conducting a robust investigation into the Valisure petition’s assertions about two Suave antiperspirant aerosols.”
CNN did not receive a response from the rest of the brands before publication, but the Personal Care Products Council, an industry association that speaks for 600 consumer product companies, put out this statement.
“Benzene is not an intentionally added ingredient in body spray products; however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as product manufacturers, are aware that it may be present in food and drug products at very low levels,” PCPC wrote.
“PCPC and its member companies are firmly committed to ensuring consumers have access to cosmetics and personal care products with ingredients that have been thoroughly tested for safety and follow the requirements of the law,” the statement said. “Companies and individuals have a legal responsibility to ensure their products and ingredients are safe for the intended use.”

High levels of benzene detected

Benzene is created by natural and man-made processes. The chemical, which can trick the body’s cells into not working properly, is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s also used to manufacture a variety of “plastics, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides,” according to the American Cancer Society.
Exposure can be dangerous, by increasing the “risk of developing leukemia and other blood disorders,” the National Cancer Institute said.
A visual of the aerosol sprays included in voluntary antiperspirant Recall.
Exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause death, and if “you spill benzene on your skin, it may cause redness and sores,” according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). “Benzene in your eyes may cause general irritation and damage to your cornea.”
In its recall, P&G said it has had no reports of adverse reactions, adding that “daily exposure to benzene in the recalled products at the levels detected in our testing would not be expected to cause adverse health consequences.”
Tests by Valisure, however, found concerning levels of benzene in some batches of P&G products. The most highly contaminated — two lots of an Old Spice antiperspirant called Pure Sport (Lots 11671458SQ and 11671458SB; UPC 012044001912) — contained 17.7 and 17.4 average parts per million of benzene, said Valisure CEO David Light.
“That’s nearly nine times the upper limit of 2 parts per million the FDA has set for emergency use,” Light said.
Secret Powder Fresh, 24 HR Aerosol (Lots 11721458SG and 11701458SH; UPC 037000711087) had about 16 average parts per million, tests showed.
“With aerosols, you might be using it every day, probably in a closed space like a bathroom,” Light said.
The company tested the product with the highest levels of benzene (Old Spice Pure Sport with 17.7 ppm) in a closed bathroom, spraying once under each arm as a consumer would. By doing so, you “could bring the entire bathroom air to 15 times the limit for what the EPA has said is an increased risk for leukemia,” Light said.

How does the product become contaminated?

In overall testing, levels of benzene varied greatly from batch to batch, even within a single brand, Valisure noted, while initial analysis of at least one sample of 49 lots of body sprays from 19 different brands showed no benzene at all.
Leading baby food manufacturers knowingly sold products with high levels of toxic metals, a congressional investigation foundLeading baby food manufacturers knowingly sold products with high levels of toxic metals, a congressional investigation found
In total, “24 lots of body spray products from 8 different brands contained between 2.24 — 17.7 ppm of benzene; 14 lots from 8 brands contained detectable benzene between 0.20 — 1.89 ppm; and 21 lots from 8 brands contained detectable benzene at < 0.1 ppm,” Valisure said in a press release.
None of the products have benzene as an ingredient, experts say, so the only way the chemical could have been introduced is via an error in the manufacturing process — or by the way the chemical is delivered to the body.
Valisure said one possibility is that benzene could come from ingredients such as hydrofluorocarbon 152a, butane, isobutane, propane and alcohol used to propel sprays onto the skin.
“Our investigation showed that traces of benzene came from the propellant that sprays the product out of the can,” said Kate DiCarlo, senior director of communications for the Personal Care Portfolio of P&G.
“Due to the highly specialized nature of aerosol products, we use a manufacturing partner to produce these products,” Dicarlo continued. “That manufacturing partner identified an issue with their propellant supply and is implementing additional measures to address the issue identified in the investigation.
“Once the recall is complete, we are preparing to ship new product that meets our quality standards to re-stock shelves.”

Other products with benzene

Is avoiding the propellants in spray products the answer to reducing risk? Possibly, experts say. However, Valisure also found higher levels of benzene in non-aerosol body odor products, including powders and sticks, Light said.
“I think there’s good evidence that propellants are a significant source of this contamination but there’s a variety of potential sources in the raw materials used to create the products as well,” Light said.
“Impurities may be present in the manufacturing environment due to the use of certain chemicals, equipment or containers. We need more testing,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit environmental and consumer health advocacy group.
“We need independent analysis as part of the overall supply chain. It’s really critically important to find these problems before they get on the shelves,” Light added.
Benzene has been found in other consumer products as well. The FDA warmed consumers not to use certain hand sanitizers early in the pandemic due to high levels of the solvent, and this summer Johnson & Johnson (J&J) voluntarily pulled four brands of Neutrogena sunscreen and one of Aveeno after Valisure’s lab found alarming levels of benzene and filed a petition with the FDA.
Sunscreen recall: What the finding of a cancer-causing chemical means for youSunscreen recall: What the finding of a cancer-causing chemical means for you
CVS Health and Coppertone also voluntarily stopped selling several sunscreen or after-sun care products due to similar findings. But Light said that to the best of his knowledge, other sunscreens and after-sun cosmetics, which also tested positive for the toxin, remain on the market.
“There is not a safe level of benzene that can exist in sunscreen products,” said Dr. Christopher Bunick, associate professor of dermatology at Yale University, in a press release at the time. “Even benzene at 0.1 ppm (parts per million) in a sunscreen could expose people to excessively high nanogram amounts of benzene.”
The vast majority of tested sunscreens, however, were free of benzene, and experts stress the importance of sunscreen use to protect skin from the aging and cancerous effects of the sun.
The sunscreens tested by Valisure were only a tiny sample of the more than 11,000 registered sun care products on the market.
In response to Valisure’s petition on sunscreens, the FDA told CNN that it “evaluates and assesses the information provided in citizen petitions of this type and, generally, initiates an independent testing and verification process.”
“We heard two gunshots and after that, my teacher ran into the room, locked it, we barricaded and then we covered the windows and hid,” senior Aiden Page told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“We grabbed calculators, we grabbed scissors just in case the shooter got in and we had to attack them,” he said, describing how the shooter was so close that a bullet pierced one of the desks he and other students used to block the door.
Officers who rushed to the scene at Oxford High School on Tuesday also made split-second decisions as the scale of the horror took shape following the mass shooting. The suspect — a 15-year-old sophomore — was taken into custody without incident two to three minutes after authorities responded to the shooting, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said..
One of the three students killed died in a patrol car as a deputy decided to transport 16-year-old Tate Myre due to the “severity of his wound,” Bouchard said during a news conference Tuesday night. “Sadly, that child died in the car,” he said.
3 dead, 8 injured in shooting at Michigan high school, undersheriff says
Two other students killed in the shooting were identified by investigators as Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Madisyn Baldwin, 17.
Eight others — seven students and a teacher — were shot, Bouchard said. Three are in critical condition with gunshot wounds, including a 14-year-old girl who is on a ventilator following surgery.
A 14-year-old boy is in serious condition with a gunshot wound to the jaw and head, Bouchard said. Three students are listed as stable and the teacher who was shot has been discharged.
The suspect, who has not been identified by police, is being held at Oakland County Children’s Village, a juvenile detention facility. He was placed on suicide watch and was being checked on every 15 minutes, said Oakland County Executive David Coulter.

The fast-acting police ‘literally saved lives,’ sheriff says

The weapon deputies said was used in the shooting, a 9MM Sig Sauer SP2022 pistol, was purchased by the suspect’s father on November 26, four days before shots rang out at the school, Bouchard said.
The suspect’s parents hired an attorney and instructed the teen not to talk to investigators, Undersheriff Michael G. McCabe said.
Two 15-round magazines were found at the scene, Bouchard said, noting at least 12 rounds were fired, Bouchard said.
Parents walk with their children away from a grocery store parking lot, where many students gathered.Parents walk with their children away from a grocery store parking lot, where many students gathered.
Bouchard praised the work of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies that responded Tuesday, saying their coordination and prior active shooter training proved invaluable.
Deputies were dispatched to the school at 12:52 p.m. and the suspect was in custody within three minutes of their arrival, Bouchard said.
As deputies were making their way through the school, they encountered the suspect who then put his hands up, Bouchard said. Deputies took the gun and placed the suspect in custody.
The weapon was loaded with seven rounds of ammunition, Bouchard said. “I believe they literally saved lives, having taken down the suspect with a loaded firearm still in the building.”
A search warrant was executed at the suspect’s home, McCabe said. Bouchard said authorities seized a phone and are examining other seized items.
While Bouchard said authorities were not aware of prior concerns, they are investigating pictures of a target and the weapon posted on social media by the suspect.

Students scrambled out a window to safety, video shows

As hundreds of law enforcement officers swarmed the campus, students and teachers relied on tactics they’ve learned in active shooter drills to protect themselves.
“This district has been very good in training their personnel and their students on active shooters,” McCabe, the undersheriff, said Tuesday.
Freshman Mark Kluska said his teacher, Moises Cortez, immediately took action after a lockdown was announced over the school’s loudspeakers.
“He shut the door and put like a metal doorstopper so no one would be able to kick in the door.” Kluska told CNN. “After he turned off the lights, he told us to get to the corner because this might not be a drill and he wants to be safe.”
A video shot by Kluska shows the students eventually scrambling out of a first-floor window into a snow-covered area then racing for safety.
Multiple people were injured as they were rushing out of the school, Bouchard said. Most were treated and released at a nearby staging area.
Donna Sanders told CNN her youngest grandchild was changing classes when he heard gunshots. He told her he and others ran through an exit door and went to a nearby grocery store to escape.
“He was able to run to safety with others while his brother was trapped inside,” Sanders said.
Sanders’ daughter, Vontysha Pittman, said her oldest son sought safety in a classroom with a teacher and other students. He hid under a desk and called his father to tell him what was happening, she said.
“They are both are safe at home but they are broken. We need prayers and not just for us but all the families at Oxford,” Sanders said.
Senior Aiden Page told CNN’s Cooper that his classroom was in lockdown for an hour and described the entire experience as “insane” as he contemplated whether he would live through the ordeal.
“The very first thing in my head was, ‘Is this actually happening? I’m going to text my family, say I love them just in case, if I were to die.’ Then when everything calmed down for a second, I was able to catch my breath and rationalize things,” he said.

‘There are no unwounded students or staff today’

Prosecutors are weighing the evidence and will decide whether to charge the suspect as an adult.
Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald said in a statement Tuesday her office has “begun the process of receiving information regarding the investigation” into the shooting. “It is our intent to review it thoroughly and issue appropriate charges quickly.”
As investigators are combing the school for evidence, community leaders said they will work to heal the shattered sense of security in the days ahead.
“There are no unwounded students or staff today. Everybody in the Oxford community, Oakland County, and frankly, the United States has been impacted by this tragedy, said Coulter, the Oakland County executive. “Tragedies like this rip away at our security … a security and a peace that should be rightfully ours in a place like a school.”
A person becomes emotional as students holding candles are asked to stand during a vigil after a shooting at Oxford High School at Lake Pointe Community Church in Lake Orion, Michigan, on November 30, 2021. A person becomes emotional as students holding candles are asked to stand during a vigil after a shooting at Oxford High School at Lake Pointe Community Church in Lake Orion, Michigan, on November 30, 2021.
“I think this is every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who added that shootings at schools are “a uniquely American problem that we need to address.”
“My heart goes out to the families. This is an unimaginable tragedy. I hope we can all rise to the occasion and wrap our arms around the families, the affected children and school personnel and this community,” Whitmer said.
The video, released by the Tucson Police Department, shows portions of the fatal confrontation between Officer Ryan Remington and a man in a wheelchair identified by police as Richard Lee Richards, 61.
The video shows a combination of three camera views of the event on Monday: a Walmart parking lot security camera, a police body camera, and a Lowe’s security camera. Two of the videos show the fatal shooting of Richards as he is rolling away from officers through the Lowe’s parking lot. Playing throughout the video clips are portions of police radio communications.
Richards had been accused of stealing a toolbox from the Walmart when an employee contacted an off-duty Tucson police officer who was working a special duty assignment at the store, according to a statement from Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus.
Remington, an officer for four years in Tucson, joined the Walmart employee in the parking lot and followed Richards while “attempting to gain his cooperation,” the police chief said in a statement.
“According to the employee, he caught up with Mr. Richards outside as he fled the store and asked to see a receipt for the toolbox. Instead of providing the receipt, Mr. Richards brandished a knife and said, ‘Here’s your receipt.'”
Magnus said that Remington wanted Richards to stop and to surrender his knife.
“Mr. Richards refused to comply, and instead continued to head through the Walmart and Lowe’s parking lots,” Magnus said.
“According to the Walmart employee, Mr. Richards said, ‘If you want me to put down the knife, you’re going to have to shoot me.'”
A second officer arrived on the scene to assist Remington.
Both officers were a short distance behind Richards when they warned him not to enter the store, the chief said.
The video shows Richards beginning to enter the Lowe’s when Remington tells him, “Do not go into the store, sir.” Seconds later, the officer begins shooting Richards, who slumps over and falls out of his chair and onto the ground.
Remington fired nine rounds, striking the man in the back and side, according to Magnus.
“His use of deadly force in this incident is a clear violation of department policy and directly contradicts multiple aspects of our use of force training,” Magnus said. “As a result, the department moved earlier today to terminate Officer Remington.”
CNN has reached out to Remington but did not hear back.

Pima County Attorney’s Office to review incident, police chief says

A clip of Lowe’s security camera footage shows Richards lying on the ground immediately after being shot, as the officer appears to be pulling his hands behind his back to handcuff him.
Remington was the only officer that discharged his weapon, according to Magnus.
Medical care was called to the scene “but a short time later Mr. Richards was declared dead,” the police chief said.
Magnus said the incident will be reviewed by the Pima County Attorney’s Office.
Attorney Michael Storie, who is representing Remington, told CNN that the “selected clips” presented at the news conference were only half the story.
“In any of these types of things, if you cut and paste a video, it will not properly lay out the officer’s impressions and state of mind leading to a decision to employ force of any kind,” Storie said.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero described the actions of the officer as “unconscionable and indefensible.”
She added that she supports a full investigation by the county attorney’s office.
“It is moments like this that test our resolve to ensure justice and accountability,” the mayor said. “We owe this to all Tucsonans. I ask our community to remain calm and be patient as investigations ensue.”
In Michigan, Covid-19 hospitalizations are matching highs last seen in April 2020, shortly after the onset of the pandemic. At least nine hospitals are reporting 100% patient capacity as of Monday, according to state health data.
Michigan is currently one of several Midwest states that are seeing the highest rates of infection in the US, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
One Western New York county declared a state of emergency Tuesday, requiring face masks in all county-operated facilities.
Omicron vs. Delta: More mutations don't necessarily make a meaner Covid-19 virus
The catalyst for the decision in Monroe County, New York, is the dramatic rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations, the increasing number of occupied ICU beds “and the resulting impact on the ability of our hospitals to treat non-Covid-related acute care and emergency cases,” county executive Adam Bello said in a statement.
Preemptive vaccinations and booster shots for those inoculated remain the best defense for those infected with the coronavirus. And officials are beseeching citizens to get their first doses or boosters to help stave off severe symptoms.
While an increase in booster demand has been noticed — with lines out the door at some clinics in places such as Boston — other areas have not seen the same urgency.
In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice said Monday only 31.8% of people over the age of 65 in the state have been boosted. Nationally, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 44% of seniors have received a booster shot.
“Those people are exposed beyond belief. We know if they get (Covid-19) there’s a good chance they die,” Justice said, adding that the Covid-19 surge there “is taking a major toll” and is “still overloading” hospitals.
Get booster shots as soon as you can, health experts say, as Omicron's spread collides with the relentless Delta variantGet booster shots as soon as you can, health experts say, as Omicron's spread collides with the relentless Delta variant
“What’s going to happen when winter comes? What’s going to happen if we actually go into another surge? What’s going to happen with the overloading of our hospitals?” he said. “The bottom line is this: If you don’t run to the fire right now and get your booster shots, then you’re going to hear some depressing news.”
Around 59.4% of the total US population is vaccinated, and just over 1 in 5 fully vaccinated Americans have been boosted, according to CDC data.
While seniors are doing better with rates of boosters, some populations within that age range are lagging the national average, driving additional concerns about racial inequities in vaccine distribution and information. Black, Hispanic and Native American seniors’ rates of booster shots trail the overall age group, according to the CDC.
With the uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant and research on its risks still weeks away from completion, the strong immunity elicited from vaccines against earlier variants is but one reason why so many public health officials are pushing people to get vaccinated or boosted now, National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins said Tuesday.
“If Americans are tired of this and want to do something about it, as we are all tired of it, this is what you can do,” Collins told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “If you are not vaccinated yet, start tomorrow.”

Testing for Omicron ramps up

With concerns that Omicron may arrive stateside or is already be present and undetected, health officials are jumpstarting efforts to find infections.
The CDC is expanding surveillance at four major international airports — Atlanta, New York’s JFK, Newark and San Francisco — to monitor for the variant of coronavirus in travelers, director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday.
Local governments are already working to see if infections are there. Florida’s Miami-Dade County will begin to take random samples at its testing sites to identify variants, an expansion that was first explored during the Delta variant surge, according to the mayor’s office.
Houston officials announced that the city’s wastewater, which is already being tested weekly for variants, would include a search for Omicron in their findings.
My family's Omicron question: What do we do now?My family's Omicron question: What do we do now?
While calling for a rapid increase in available tests for individuals, Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, former assistant secretary of US Health and Human Services and the testing czar for Covid-19 during the Trump administration, said Tuesday the US has a lot more weapons to fight against the coronavirus than at the start of the pandemic.
“We’re going to war with this virus and we’ve been going to war with it for almost two years,” Giroir told CNN’s Erica Hill. “At first we had no weapons, the only thing we could do is, you know, really reduce social interactions. Now it’s all of the above.
“Vaccines are the most important — please, if you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. Get your booster. We have monoclonal antibodies. We have oral antivirals. We have testing and we still have mitigation measures like masks. If you’re in a high risk of transmission indoors, please wear a mask.”

Omicron research continues

Health officials and researchers say determining the infectiousness or severity of the Omicron variant remains weeks away.
“We believe that it is too soon to tell of what the level of severity is,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci told a White House Covid-19 briefing Tuesday, adding that some South African physicians have reported the patients they treated had mild disease, yet they were treating young people. Covid-19 infections have generally been more severe for older individuals.
The variant has become the dominant variant in South Africa — where scientists first discovered and reported it — less than two weeks after it was first detected. By contrast, the Delta variant took a few months before becoming dominant there earlier this year. While travel bans have been enacted to prevent travel to South Africa and neighboring nations, many in the scientific community are crediting South Africa for its transparency.
Speaking in terms of how effective vaccines or boosters may be against Omicron, Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, says a decrease is expected but vaccines may still “cross-protect” as seen with prior variants.
“If there’s a dramatic drop, that’s one thing. If there’s a modest drop, it means that the third immunization will hold and we won’t need to make a specifically designed booster,” Hotez told CNN’s Ana Cabrera.
Warning that the unvaccinated will continue to be the most vulnerable to both Delta and Omicron, Hotez said, “I can see a scenario where we have both variants in the country where unvaccinated individuals are highly susceptible, and those infected and recovered could get reinfected with Omicron.”
There were only 8.5 births per 1,000 people in China last year, according to the latest yearbook released by the country’s National Bureau of Statistics in late November.
That’s the lowest not only since yearbook records began in 1978 — but also since the founding of Communist China in 1949, according to official data.
The birthrate, which has now fallen to single digits, is the latest troubling sign of China’s worsening population crisis, as the country of 1.4 billion people begins to lose its youthful edge.
The country’s once-a-decade national census revealed in May that just 12 million babies were born last year — an 18% plunge from 14.65 million in 2019.
Demographers have long predicted China will begin to experience a population decline into the decades ahead, however, some experts now worry it may come much sooner than expected.
“From our preliminary forecast based on provisional data, (in 2021) it’s going to be very likely to be around or even under 10 million births,” said James Liang, a research professor of economics at Peking University in Beijing.
“And of course, with that number, the biggest news will be China is probably in a population decline.”
Liang is not the only expert with that concern. He Yafu, an independent demographer in Guangzhou, wrote on social media last month that “China’s population is very likely to enter negative growth in 2021.”
In May, following the results of the national census, He predicted China’s population would start shrinking in 2022. “But now, I think my forecast from half year ago was too optimistic,” he wrote.
China wants families to have three children. But many women aren't convinced
Based on the most recent data published by local governments in China, He predicts the number of newborn babies to be between 9.5 million and 10.5 million this year. Given there has been an average of about 10 million deaths annually in recent years, “if the number of newborns is near the lower limit of the prediction, that means the population is bound to register negative growth,” He wrote.
Dwindling birthrate is a problem faced by many countries, but in China, the decline has been particularly steep due to its decades-long one-child policy.
To arrest the falling birthrate, the Chinese government announced in 2015 that it would allow married couples to have two children. But after a brief uptick in 2016, the national birthrate has been falling year on year, prompting authorities to loosen the policy this year even further to three children — though few experts believe the three-child policy will be a game changer.
And compared with other industrialized nations with similar fertility rates, China — despite economic growth — still trails far behind in per capita GDP and has a relatively weak social welfare system.
China’s fertility rate stood at just 1.3 last year — among the lowest in the world and even lower than 1.34 in Japan. But China’s GDP per capita is only one fourth of Japan’s. The few other countries with a lower fertility rate include Singapore (1.1) and South Korea (0.84).
“Of course, the bad news to China is this is not the end, and that China will continue to gravitate toward the lowest of the spectrum — so it’ll be more like Singapore and South Korea very soon,” Liang said.
“If you look at big cities in China, like Shanghai and Beijing, their fertility rate is already the lowest in the world — at about 0.7.”
The rapidly aging population and shrinking workforce could severely distress China’s economic and social stability.
“It’ll hurt China financially, because you need to support a lot more old people with fewer young people,” Liang said.
“(But) the biggest worry is China will lose its scale advantage, being the biggest market for almost everything. It has a very efficient supply chain because of its scale. And the innovation capacity may not be as vibrant when you have only half the young people today.”
Chinese millennials aren't getting married, and the government is worried Chinese millennials aren't getting married, and the government is worried
An aging society also puts tremendous pressure on the country’s younger generation, which is already increasingly postponing marriage — or even eschewing it entirely. Last year, marriage registrations declined for the seventh consecutive year to 8.1 million, a crushing 40% drop from a peak in 2013, according to the National Bureau of Statistics yearbook.
For decades, local governments have forced millions of women to abort pregnancies deemed illegal by the state under the one-child policy. Now, they are churning out a flurry of propaganda slogans and policies to encourage couples to have more children. The common incentives include cash handouts, real estate subsidies and extension of maternity leave.
This year, more than 20 provincial or regional governments have amended their family planning laws, including extending maternity leaves for women. For example, eastern Zhejiang province offers 188 days of maternity leave for the third child; and in northern Shaanxi province, female workers can enjoy a total of 350 days paid leave for having a third child, according to state media reports.
But the policies have failed to convince women, who worry that they’ll be further disadvantaged as companies seek to avoid the extra financial burden.
“Women will be even more worried about their careers if they take a longer maternity leave — and if the maternity leave is paid by the company,” Liang said.
At the heart of the issue is the high cost of raising a child, especially among the country’s growing middle class. Parents want their children to succeed, and are willing to invest as much time and money as it costs.
While some cities have offered cash incentives, Liang said relying on local governments alone is far from enough. Instead, the central government should dedicate a certain percentage of the country’s GDP to provide financial subsidies to families, either in the form of cash payment, tax incentives or other social security benefits.
Chinese women were already discriminated in the workplace. A three-child policy might make things worseChinese women were already discriminated in the workplace. A three-child policy might make things worse
Another much-needed policy change is to increase daycare centers for young children, Liang said. Currently, only 5% of Chinese children under 3 years old use daycare services, and only 20% of those services are run by the government, according to Xinhua.
But there are also more deeply-rooted structural problems to be addressed. China’s high property prices and rising education costs, especially in big cities, have frequently been cited in surveys as the top factors preventing couples from having more children.
Both sectors have been thrust into the spotlight this year, with the debt crisis surrounding property giant Evergrande and the Chinese government’s sweeping crackdown on the private tutoring industry.
While the government has never directly admitted it, its crackdown on after-school classes — which have placed huge pressure on children and growing financial burden on parents — is widely perceived by the public as part of the broader effort to boost the country’s birthrate.
Liang said the measure is only “addressing the symptom,” and will be hard to enforce in the long run, as people can always find ways to hire a private tutor.
“I think the long-term solution probably will be to change the college entrance regime,” he said, referring to the notoriously tough and competitive exam that millions of Chinese students take every year to get into universities, in the hope of securing a good future.
Such interventionist measures are likely to be the first of many. After years on the fence, the government is now keenly aware of the severity of the problem — and has showed ample resolve to fix it.
Realistically, the most optimistic scenario for China is to have a fertility level similar to that of Europe, at around 1.6 or 1.7, Liang said. “But that’s very hard. You’re talking about spending 5% of GDP (to encourage childbirth), or fixing the housing problem and the education problem,” he said. “In fact, just maintaining 1.3 is not easy.”
(CNN) — It’s almost an understatement to saythat winter holiday traditions are a big deal in New York City. And after last year’s subdued events, they’re an even bigger deal now.
Here’s a quick look at what you need to know whether you travel there or watch on TV:

Viewing the ceremony in person

To see the tree lighting in person, head to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, aka 30 Rock.

It’s part of Rockefeller Center, a complex of 19 commercial buildings between 48th and 51st streets and Fifth and Sixth avenues in Midtown Manhattan.

Crowds are expected to be some of the largest in Manhattan since the start of the pandemic, and officials encourage people to use to use public transportation.

You can get there by various subway routes and short walks: the B/D/F/M trains, the 1 and 6 trains and the N/Q/R trains.

The 2020 tree was a symbol of hope for a city still reeling from the early days of the pandemic.

The 2020 tree was a symbol of hope for a city still reeling from the early days of the pandemic.

Cindy Ord/Getty Images

If you miss the lighting ceremony, you’re not out of luck. The tree will be lit daily from 6 a.m. to midnight, the Rockefeller Tree Lighting website says. On Christmas Day, the tree will be lit for 24 hours. On New Year’s Eve, it is lit from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. A time hasn’t been set yet for taking down the tree.

Because this is an outdoor event, there are no mask or vaccination requirements this year, a Rockefeller Center spokesperson told CNN Travel in an email.

In 2020, small groups, short viewing times and scheduled appointments were in effect as pandemic precautions.

On television

If you can’t be there in person, you can still view the spectacle.

NBC will broadcast the event nationally on its “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” special. That airs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET/PT Wednesday. In addition, it will simulcast live on the new Peacock streaming service. You can also catch it on streaming services that carry NBC.

“Today” co-anchors Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Al Roker and Craig Melvin will host.

NBC says performers for the special include Alessia Cara, Harry Connick Jr., Mickey Guyton, Norah Jones, Brad Paisley, Rob Thomas, Carrie Underwood and the Radio City Rockettes.

Fun facts about the tree

The 2021 tree is lifted off a truck after arriving at Rockefeller Center on November 13.

The 2021 tree is lifted off a truck after arriving at Rockefeller Center on November 13.

Gary Hershorn/Corbis/Getty Images

The annual tree has a storied history.

The first tree went up in 1931, as the Great Depression was sinking its hooks into the city (and the rest of the country). Workers lucky enough to have a job lined up for their pay beneath it. Ceremonies around the tree became an annual affair in 1933. The lighting ceremony was broadcast for the first time on national television in 1951.

The largest tree came in 1999. It was 100 feet tall and came from Killingworth, Connecticut. In 2001, the plaza was a place of solace for the city and the nation after the 9/11 attacks, with the tree decorated in red, white and blue.

Besides pleasing the wave of humanity that passes by it each year, the tree serves a more practical purpose, too. After it’s taken down in early January, the tree is donated to Habitat for Humanity and turned into lumber for homes.

A few more 2021 tree tidbits from Rockefeller Center:

— The tree is a 79-foot (24 meter) tall Norway Spruce. It’s 46 feet (13.7 meters) wide and weighs 12 tons.

— It has more than 50,000 multicolored LED lights on about 5 miles (8 kilometers) of wire.

— The Swarovski star on top weighs about 900 pounds (408 kilograms) and features 70 spikes covered in 3 million crystals.

Top image: The lights await the 2021 Rockefeller Christmas tree. (Cover Images via AP Images)

The energy watchdog estimates that around 290 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity came online around the world in 2021 — enough electricity for approximately 200 million average US homes — according to a report published Wednesday.
This Colorado community was proof an all-electric, net-zero future is possible. Now that vision is under siege
By 2026, the agency predicts global renewable capacity will rise more than 60% from 2020 levels, an amount equivalent to the current total global power capacity of fossil fuels and nuclear combined, it said. But to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, a goal many nations have set, renewables need a far bigger push.
The current pace is being driven by China, which the agency says remains the global leader in renewable energy growth. The country is expected to reach 1200 GW of total wind and solar capacity in 2026, four years sooner than its target date.
Renewables are also being rapidly embraced in India, where they are projected to double new installations this year, in comparison to 2015-2020.
The IEA also pointed to deployments in Europe and the United States, regions that are both expected to speed up renewable installations “significantly” from the previous five years.
China, India, Europe and the United States together account for 80% or global renewable capacity expansion, it said. But their current efforts alone aren’t going to solve the climate crisis.
Workers install solar panels on the roof of a fish processing plant in China's Zhejiang Province in November.Workers install solar panels on the roof of a fish processing plant in China's Zhejiang Province in November.
To achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 — where the world is emitting only as much greenhouse gas as it can also remove from the atmosphere — renewable power capacity additions need to almost double in rate from 2021 to 2026, the IEA said. For biofuels, annual demand growth needs to quadruple and renewable heat demand needs to triple.
Whether global leaders are up to the task is still a question, with pledges at this month’s climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland falling short of what scientists say is needed to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. Nearly 200 countries adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact at COP26 in early November, an agreement that called for the phasing down of unabated coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
COP26 ended with the Glasgow Climate Pact. Here's where it succeeded and failedCOP26 ended with the Glasgow Climate Pact. Here's where it succeeded and failed
While analysts said the pact was a step in the right direction, the pledges deferred more action on reducing fossil fuel emissions to next year.
To limit global warming to to 1.5 degrees Celsius — a threshold scientists say we should stay below — the world needs to cut the rate of greenhouse gas emissions by almost 27 billion metric tons a year, according to Climate Action Tracker. But current pledges, including those worked out at COP26, only get about one-quarter of the way there.
India and Iran said no to including tough language about fossil fuels in the Glasgow pact. India, whose government recently committed to reaching 500 GW of renewable power capacity by 2030, requested a change to the text to read a phasing “down” of coal as opposed to a phasing “out.”
Coal is the dirtiest form of energy and scientists say phasing out the use of coal is key to tackling the climate crisis.
In its report, the IEA says governments need to ramp up renewables by addressing key barriers to their implementation, including grid integration, insufficient remuneration, social acceptance issues and inconsistent policy approaches.
Infighting between moderates and loyalists to former President Donald Trump erupted into the open on Tuesday, while Trump continued his attempts to obscure the truth about the January 6 attack on the Capitol through the courts. While President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have tumbled to new lows in recent months as Americans stress over the Covid-19 pandemic and a host of kitchen table issues, restive voters looking for different leadership may not take much heart as they watched the debacle unfolding in the Republican Party and the leadership’s inability to handle it.
As Trump hovers on the sidelines egging on GOP antagonists who have adopted his chaos-sowing tactics and vile rhetoric, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried unsuccessfully Tuesday to turn down the temperature in a roiling feud between freshman Republican Reps. Nancy Mace of South Carolina and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.
Greene had started off the sniping by calling Mace “trash” on Twitter for condemning the Islamophobic comments of her ally, Colorado GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert. Mace was one of the few Republicans to speak up after video emerged of Boebert delivering remarks at a November 20 event in Colorado, at which the firebrand Coloradoan told a story about a supposed elevator ride with Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who is Muslim and wears a hijab. The punchline of the story ended with Boebert suggesting Omar is a terrorist.
CNN’s KFile on Tuesday uncovered a second video from a September dinner where Boebert called Omar “evil” and “blackhearted” and again suggested she was a terrorist. Boebert and Omar had a tense telephone conversation that did not go well on Monday. Boebert has refused to apologize for her inflammatory attacks on Omar and the GOP has not taken any disciplinary action against her.
The spat spilled out to other members when Greene took issue with Mace’s condemnation of Boebert’s anti-Muslim remarks. The South Carolinian told CNN on Sunday that Boebert’s statements were “disgusting.” Greene, always eager for a public spat to burnish her credentials among her donors, attacked Mace’s conservative credentials on Twitter and warned her to “back up off” Boebert.
The back-and-forth between the two Republicans continued all day Tuesday with Greene taunting in one tweet that she’d “just had a great conversation with President Trump about @NancyMace.” The South Carolina Republican replied: “I like my freshman colleagues who don’t think 9/11 was a hoax…” — a reference to Greene’s past embrace of conspiracy theories — “This one on the other hand… totally (nuts).” Mace added that Greene’s conversation with Trump amounted to running to the principal’s office “because she can’t stand on her own two feet.”

GOP’s gutter politics

In its totality, the embarrassing inter-party schism — and the lack of immediate consequences for Boebert’s inflammatory comments — underscored that the gutter politics that Trump ushered into Washington have only gotten worse following his retreat from the White House.
Republican leaders like McCarthy, whose chances of becoming speaker of the House hinge on maintaining the support of Trump and his hard-right acolytes, have not shown that they have any effectual way of dealing with the increasingly angry and toxic culture within the House of Representatives that has led to frightening threats against members, including Omar. No matter how outrageous or reckless the comments of Trump acolytes like Boebert and Greene get, they always seem to find protection in their closeness to the former President, whose tight grip on the party never seems to abate.
In the absence of consequences, the behavior only seems to grow more abhorrent — and that could cost Republicans at the ballot box next year as they try to win back moderate and suburban voters who were alienated by Trump.
At a news conference Tuesday evening, Omar called on Republican leaders to take action against Boebert stating that their “silence speaks for itself.” She played a voicemail she received hours after her call with Boebert on Monday in which a man told her there are plenty “who would love the opportunity to take you off the face of the earth.”
“You are a f—ing Muslim piece of s—. You Jihadist. We know what you are. You’re a f—ing traitor, you will not live much longer, b—-,” the voicemail said.
Omar said condemning remarks that lead to that kind of rhetoric “should not be a partisan issue” and added that “when a sitting member of Congress calls a colleague, a member of ‘the Jihad Squad'” — as both Boebert and Greene have done — “and falsifies a story to suggest that I will blow up the Capitol, it is not just attack on me, but on millions of American Muslims across this country.” She noted that anti-Muslim rhetoric used by Trump during his 2016 campaign served as a pre-cursor to the more recent taunts from his supporters.
“To date, the Republican Party leadership has done nothing to hold their members accountable. It is time for the Republican Party to actually do something to confront anti Muslim hatred in its ranks,” Omar said.

McCarthy’s caucus ignores his admonishments

On Tuesday night, CNN’s Manu Raju and Melanie Zanona reported that McCarthy called both Greene and Mace into his office for separate meetings admonishing them to “Stop it.” That seemed to have little effect, given that Greene told CNN after the meeting that both she and Trump would support a primary challenge to Mace in 2022.
The South Carolinian made no apologies for her criticisms of Greene, suggesting that the Georgia congresswoman is stoking the feud to raise money: “She takes advantage of vulnerable Americans and vulnerable conservatives, and makes promises she cannot keep.”
Mace also argued that it was important to challenge Greene’s lies.
“It’s incumbent upon members like myself to step up,” she said, waiving off Greene’s threat to support a primary challenge against her. “I don’t fear retribution, I don’t fear the consequences.”
Charlie Dent, the former Pennsylvania Republican congressman who is a CNN contributor, said Tuesday night that the debacle demonstrated just how coarse American politics has become and called on GOP leaders to rein it in.
“It’s really incumbent upon leaders in Congress to try to set a better tone and tenor,” Dent told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room.” “There used to be a time when members would debate policies and ideas and not lob insults at each other, or smears as in the case of Lauren Boebert on Representative Omar.”
“I think it’s now important for Kevin McCarthy to stand up and deal with these issues internally,” Dent said. “Some members have to be taught how to engage in a debate with their colleagues, and when they’re at home, not to go out and say these kinds of reckless, insulting, inflammatory comments.”

Trump continues his battle to stonewall the January 6 committee

While Trump’s political sway over the Republican Party remains largely unchallenged, his attempts to control the flow of information to the House committee investigating the January 6 attacks faced two new key setbacks on Tuesday.
While his tactics may still be setting the tone for the noxious political debate in Washington, the former President is not proving as effective in the courts as he tries to control what the country learns about what he knew in the leadup to the January 6 attack by his supporters on the Capitol.
For months Trump has tried to thwart the work of the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection both by trying to block the release of documents they have requested from his administration through the courts — claiming they should be protected by executive privilege — and by steering former staffers to use that same line of defense to avoid questioning as by committee members.
But the House committee shifted the power narrative in this battle of wills with the former President when they made it clear that there would be serious legal consequences for stonewalling them.
Earlier this year, they set the process in motion for the indictment of Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was charged with criminal contempt of Congress by a federal grand jury last month. On Monday, committee members made it plain that may not be a one-time circumstance as they indicated that they are poised to vote on a criminal contempt of Congress referral for Jeffrey Clark, a former top Department of Justice official who pushed unfounded claims of voter fraud after the November election while he was in close touch with Trump.
Like Bannon, Clark had also refused to cooperate with the committee under the pretense that he could not testify until a court declares his communications with the former President are not shielded by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege.
The threat of real legal jeopardy and possible jail time has clearly rattled potential witnesses. Facing the possibility of criminal contempt charges, CNN reported Tuesday that Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows has now reached a deal for initial cooperation with the committee.
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, who chairs select committee, told CNN that the panel has received “probably about 6,000 emails” from Meadows via his lawyer.
Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers faced a skeptical three-judge panel on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday as they argued that the court should block the release of the presidential documents under his executive privilege claims even though the Biden administration believes they should be disclosed.
The judges showed little interest in doing the document-by-document review that Trump has proposed and questioned why the former President’s claim of executive privilege should carry more weight than Biden’s administration’s viewpoint that they should be released, in the interests of transparency about a day in which Trump supporters attempted a coup that almost upended America’s democracy.
The decisions, in 1973 and 1992, laid down constitutional markers while describing in powerful terms the difficult issues at hand. In Roe v. Wade, the justices acknowledged at the outset “the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy, of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires.”
Nearly two decades later, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the justices asserted: “Men and women of good conscience can disagree, and we suppose some always shall disagree, about the profound moral and spiritual implications of terminating a pregnancy, even in its earliest stage. Some of us as individuals find abortion offensive to our most basic principles of morality, but that cannot control our decision. Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”
At the heart of the Roe decision was protection for the woman’s abortion decision before viability (when a fetus can survive outside the womb), which the justices estimated in 1973 at about 28 weeks. The court in 1992 said advances in neonatal care had brought that down to about 23 weeks of pregnancy, which is roughly where physicians draw the line today. The disputed Mississippi ban would prohibit abortion after 15 weeks — plainly shattering the viability line.
The Casey decision affirmed the core abortion right and underscored adherence to precedent, the concept known as “stare decisis.”
The court said in 1992 that retaining precedent was especially important for cases that, despite being politically divisive, had not been altered by new facts or changes in law. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the justices held fast to Roe’s cutoff line of viability, saying that “viability marks the earliest point at which the State’s interest in fetal life is constitutionally adequate to justify a legislative ban on nontherapeutic abortions.”
As the remade Supreme Court, with three new appointees of former President Donald Trump, considers the fate of Roe v. Wade, it will inevitably weigh the principles of Casey, when the justices highlighted institutional integrity and legitimacy.
Here are the key holdings of those major decisions and the rationale that undergirded them:

Roe v. Wade: The trimester framework

Roe v. Wade was decided on January 22, 1973, by a 7-2 vote. It was a product of a time when justices defied partisan lineups. Justice Harry Blackmun (an appointee of President Richard Nixon) wrote the opinion. The only dissenters were Justices Byron White (an appointee of President John F. Kennedy) and William Rehnquist (a Nixon appointee).
As the court struck down a Texas abortion ban, it declared that the 14th Amendment’s due process clause, which protects a right to privacy, covers a woman’s right to end a pregnancy before fetal viability.
Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for nearly 50 years. Will that matter?
The justices established a trimester framework as they balanced a woman’s interest with the state’s: For the first trimester (roughly the first three months), the court said the abortion decision should be left to the woman and her physician; for the second trimester, a state could regulate the abortion procedure in ways reasonably related to the woman’s health; for the final trimester, after fetal viability, the state could promote its “important and legitimate interest in potential life” and ban abortion except when necessary for the woman’s life or health.
The justices acknowledged that the Constitution contains no explicit reference to a right of privacy but said that in a line of decisions dating to the late 1800s, “the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution. … These decisions make it clear that only personal rights that can be deemed ‘fundamental’ or ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,’ are included in this guarantee of personal privacy.”
The Roe court said the right plainly extends to activities related to marriage, contraception and child rearing, and “is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”
But the right is not absolute, the justices declared, referring to state interests “in safeguarding health, in maintaining medical standards, and in protecting potential life.”
As the court established the viability cutoff point, it explained, “With respect to the State’s important and legitimate interest in potential life, the ‘compelling’ point is at viability. This is so because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb. State regulation protective of fetal life after viability thus has both logical and biological justifications. If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”
The Roe v. Wade decision followed two sets of oral arguments and months of difficult behind-the-scenes negotiations. On the first round, two justices had recently become ill and left the court and their successors were not yet in place, so only seven justices were on the bench. Given the weightiness of the question, the court decided to subject the case to re-arguments with all nine.
“One’s philosophy, one’s experiences, one’s exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one’s religious training, one’s attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one’s thinking and conclusions about abortion,” Blackmun wrote for the majority.
He added, “Our task, of course, is to resolve the issue by constitutional measurement, free of emotion and of predilection.”

Planned Parenthood v. Casey’s new standard: ‘Undue burden’

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey was decided on June 29, 1992, by a 5-4 vote to affirm the central holding of Roe v. Wade giving women a right to end pregnancies before viability.
Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter joined forces to write the opinion. Rehnquist, White and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented. A part of the decision, upholding specific Pennsylvania abortion restrictions, came down to a separate 7-2 vote, from which Blackmun and Justice John Paul Stevens dissented. (The only remaining member of that 1992 court is Thomas.)
As in 1973, the bench was less defined by party politics. The only one of the nine who had not been appointed by a Republican president was White.
The majority reaffirmed Roe based on principles of “stare decisis,” that is, adherence to precedent. The court reiterated that women have a right to abortion before fetal viability. It also reasserted that a state may restrict abortions after viability, if the law contains exceptions for a woman’s life or health.
The court, however, discarded the trimester approach and diluted the standard for when a state regulation violates the abortion right. The court said the trimester framework had failed to sufficiently accommodate state interests and that the new standard should be whether a regulation puts an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion.
“A finding of an undue burden is a shorthand for the conclusion that a state regulation has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus,” the plurality wrote.
How the Supreme Court crafted its Roe v. Wade decision and what it means today How the Supreme Court crafted its Roe v. Wade decision and what it means today
“A statute with this purpose is invalid because the means chosen by the State to further the interest in potential life must be calculated to inform the woman’s free choice, not hinder it,” the justices added. “And a statute which, while furthering the interest in potential life or some other valid state interest, has the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s choice cannot be considered a permissible means of serving its legitimate ends.”
The justices in Planned Parenthood v. Casey again emphasized that the court had historically afforded constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage and contraception.
Speaking to the practical importance of the Roe precedent, the justices emphasized that people had relied on the decision for two decades at that point and added, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”
Considering the court’s own integrity, the justices said overruling Roe “would seriously weaken the Court’s capacity to exercise the judicial power and to function as the Supreme Court of a Nation dedicated to the rule of law.”
The justices warned in 1992 against “a surrender to political pressure” and insisted that reversal of a watershed decision “in the absence of the most compelling reason … would subvert the Court’s legitimacy beyond any serious question.”