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The Supreme Court just gave us a window into how it will handle this election



The Supreme Court handed down a brief order Monday night making it harder for voters in South Carolina to cast a ballot.

The Court’s order in Andino v. Middleton is only two paragraphs long, and it is accompanied by a concurring opinion from Justice Brett Kavanaugh that is only about a page long. Nevertheless, this short order, the dissenting votes of the three most conservative justices, and Kavanaugh’s brief opinion provide a great deal of information about how the Supreme Court is likely to handle disputes regarding a presidential election held amid a pandemic.

The Court’s decision in Andino reinstates a South Carolina law requiring absentee voters to have another person sign their ballot as a witness. A lower court which blocked this law reasoned that this requirement, applied in the context of a deadly pandemic, places too high a burden on voters who fear becoming infected with Covid-19.

The Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate this witness requirement is not surprising. Last July, in Merrill v. People First of Alabama, the Supreme Court voted along party lines to reinstate a similar requirement in the state of Alabama. Interestingly, no justice publicly dissented from the Court’s decision in Andino that South Carolina’s witness requirement must be reinstated — although when a party seeks a stay of a lower court order, sometimes dissenting justices quietly dissent without making that fact public.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch did note their dissents, however, signaling that they would have tossed out an unknown number of ballots that have already been cast.

Andino reveals that there is a meaningful divide between the extreme views held by these three dissenters, and the slightly more moderate views on voting rights held by Roberts and Kavanaugh. And it shows how Kavanaugh — whose vote would matter a great deal in a 6-3 Republican Court — is likely to treat litigation over the 2020 election.

The dissenting justices’ position is extraordinarily hostile to the right to vote

The position of the three dissenters — Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch — is astonishing. The lower court handed down its decision blocking the witness requirement in mid-September, and at least 20,000 voters have already cast a ballot in South Carolina.

That means that thousands of South Carolina voters cast their ballot while the lower court’s order was still in effect. It’s likely that at least some of these voters, acting under the entirely reasonable belief that South Carolina would comply with a federal court order, did not have their ballots signed by a witness — given that until Monday night, the state was subject to a federal court order requiring it to count ballots that were not witnessed.

Nevertheless, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch would have ordered unwitnessed ballots tossed out even if they were cast during the period when South Carolina was bound by a court order. These three justices effectively required voters to anticipate that a federal court order would subsequently be stayed by an order of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Perhaps a voting rights lawyer familiar with the Supreme Court’s decision in Merrill could have warned such voters that a Supreme Court stay was likely in the Andino case, but the law typically does not require ordinarily voters to hire legal counsel simply to determine how they should cast their ballot.

In any event, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch’s vote reveals a consuming hostility to the right to vote. Voting rights plaintiffs, and their lawyers, should likely write off the possibility of these three justices doing anything to protect the franchise.

Kavanaugh’s stance is still hostile to the right to vote, but much less so than the three dissenters’ position

Because three members of an eight-justice Court voted to toss out already-cast ballots with no witness signature, we know that the other five justices did not vote for such a harsh outcome. Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Kavanaugh, and the three liberal justices all voted to allow ballots “cast before this stay issues and received within two days of this order” to be counted.

Roberts did not explain why he voted the way that he did, but Kavanaugh did write a brief concurring opinion explaining why he thinks that ballots cast in the future must be signed by a witness.

In that opinion, Kavanaugh offers two justifications for his vote. The first is the Court’s decision in Purcell v. Gonzales (2006), which established that “federal courts ordinarily should not alter state election rules in the period close to an election.” Kavanaugh’s citation to Purcell suggests that he thinks that the lower court should not have changed South Carolina’s election rules less than two months before an election.

Kavanaugh’s other reason for reinstating South Carolina’s witness requirement is worth quoting at some length:

[T]he Constitution “principally entrusts the safety and the health of the people to the politically accountable officials of the States.” “When those officials ‘undertake[ ] to act in areas fraught with medical and scientific uncertainties,’ their latitude ‘must be especially broad.’” It follows that a State legislature’s decision either to keep or to make changes to election rules to address COVID–19 ordinarily “should not be subject to second-guessing by an ‘unelected federal judiciary,’ which lacks the background, competence, and expertise to assess public health and is not accountable to the people.”

Justice Kavanaugh says two significant things here. The first is that federal courts typically should not intervene to prevent voters from being disenfranchised during a pandemic. The decision about whether to alter state election laws to ensure that the coronavirus does not interfere with voters’ ability to cast a ballot primarily rests with state legislatures.

But Kavanaugh also states that this principle cuts in both directions. A state’s decision “either to keep or to make changes to election rules to address COVID–19” should generally be honored by federal courts. Thus, Kavanaugh appears to be signaling that the federal judiciary should permit states to make it easier to vote during the pandemic, should they choose to do so.

That’s bad news for President Trump, as Republicans have filed several lawsuits seeking to block state laws making it easer to vote, including a Nevada law providing for vote by mail, and guaranteeing that many ballots that arrive up to three days after Election Day will still be counted.

To be clear, Kavanaugh’s opinion is hardly good news for voting rights advocates, as it makes it clear that Kavanaugh will do nothing to block many laws that disenfranchise voters during the pandemic. With Republicans about to gain a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court — and with three justices taking an extreme anti-voting stance in Andino — voting rights advocates will likely need Kavanaugh and Roberts’s votes to prevail in any case that reaches the Supreme Court.

But Kavanaugh’s opinion does suggest that the Supreme Court is more likely to take a position of indifference towards voting rights during the November election, rather than actively trying to sabotage Democrats at every possible turn.

There is still one live issue before the Supreme Court that isn’t discussed in Kavanaugh’s opinion. In Scarnati v. Pennsylvania Democratic Party, Republican lawyers ask the US Supreme Court to block a decision by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which requires the state to count mailed ballots that arrive up to three days after the election.

The Purcell decision is generally understood to prevent federal courts from modifying state election law close to an election. It would be an extraordinary extension of Purcell to prevent state courts from interpreting their own state’s election law.

Indeed, it’s not entirely clear how many states could run elections under such circumstances, because disputes about the proper meaning of state election law are inevitable during election season. If state courts cannot interpret those laws, these disputes would go unresolved.

Kavanaugh’s opinion in Andino refers only to federal courts. It remains unlikely that even this very conservative Court will block a state supreme court’s decision interpreting that state’s own election law. But, until the Supreme Court rules in Scarnati, there is at least some risk that a majority of the justices will embrace the Republican Party’s position in that case.

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A key FDA vaccine committee declined to vote on a Covid-19 vaccine



Food and Drug Administration officials on a key committee said Thursday they were not planning to make a decision about granting emergency approval for a Covid-19 vaccine just yet. This all but ends the chances of a vaccine getting the green light in the US before the November 3 presidential election, and likely over the next month.

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee was convened to go over the early results of Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials, the benchmarks to approve a vaccine candidate, and how to maintain safety throughout the process. However, no decisions are on the agenda.

“Of note, the committee is not asked today to vote on any issues discussed,” said Marion Gruber, director of the Office of Vaccines Research and Review at the FDA during the meeting.

President Trump has made it clear that a Covid-19 vaccine would improve his electoral prospects, and he has been leaning on regulators like the FDA to approve a vaccine on this timeline. That’s raised concerns that the agency would yield to political pressure and grant approval to a vaccine before it’s ready.

Trump also put out a video earlier this month saying that a vaccine would be cleared for use soon after the election. “We’re going to have a great vaccine very, very shortly,” Trump said. “I think we should have it before the election, but frankly the politics gets involved and that’s okay, they want to play their games, it’s going to be right after the election.”

But while vaccine development is proceeding in record time, researchers and other experts have said many times such a deadline is unlikely. Even the Trump administration’s own health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have already said November is nearly impossible.

There are now 11 vaccines in phase 3 trials, including candidates from companies like Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer. However, some of these companies have only just completed enrollment in large-scale clinical trials, at which point they will have to administer the vaccine and observe infection patterns, which could take months.

And although there’s currently no evidence that the White House is directly meddling in vaccine research, some scientists worry that the president’s public pronouncements about a vaccine — especially ones so nakedly tied to his political prospects — are a form of interference that could undermine the fragile public confidence needed to deploy it successfully.

Trump has “created enough perception of political interference that there may not be deep trust in a vaccine, even if it’s a good product,” said Nicole Lurie, who led emergency preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under President Barack Obama. “There is incredible public skepticism of the [FDA] because of what’s happened with prior emergency use authorizations, and because the president appears to continue to try to mess with the system.”

However, according to researchers, it’s unlikely the FDA would compromise a vaccine, given the vastly higher stakes for public health. Even getting to the point of considering emergency use for a vaccine would require much more information than it has now, and gathering that data requires several critical and time-consuming steps.

Why getting a vaccine approved by November is nearly impossible

Prior to the coronavirus, the fastest a vaccine had ever been developed was four years (for mumps). Most vaccines have taken a decade or longer.

But with the Covid-19 pandemic, scientists and governments have poured a staggering amount of money and know-how into the vaccine effort. That’s led to rapid progress.

It took researchers just over two months between the time the virus’s genome was sequenced and when phase 1 human vaccine trials began. There are now 11 vaccine candidates in phase 3 clinical trials, the final step before a vaccine gets the green light for widespread use.

That’s why some scientists are optimistic that a vaccine could gain approval by the end of the year or early 2021.

But phase 3 trials are slow and tedious. There’s little that can be done to speed them up, and they’ve only just begun. Although the Russian government recently said it has a Covid-19 vaccine ready to go, other researchers have warned that the vaccine, known as Sputnik V, didn’t go through this critical step and was tested in only 76 people. And even if it is a viable vaccine, it would still need to gain FDA approval before it could be used in the US, which demands more data.

Workers prepare for medical examination of a volunteer for the COVID-19 vaccine study at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on August 13, 2020.
Health workers prepare to examine volunteers for a Covid-19 vaccine phase 3 trial.
Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Jonathan Zenilman, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who has overseen clinical trials for vaccines, explained that Covid-19 phase 3 trials are large, aiming to enroll 30,000 participants each. For example, Moderna, a company developing an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, is one of the teams that’s furthest along. It was the first in the US to start enrolling participants across 89 sites for its phase 3 trial.

Phase 3 requires recruiting participants from more diverse backgrounds compared with those in earlier testing stages in order to better represent the population at large, including people with some preexisting health conditions. (Participants are screened to ensure they don’t have conditions like immune system disorders that could cause complications with a vaccine.)

These participants also have to consent to being tracked by scientists for the duration of the trial, which is typically two years. They’re randomly split into groups that receive either the vaccine or a placebo. In a double-blind trial, neither the recipients nor the people administering the vaccine know at the outset who received the vaccine. That ensures participants won’t change their behavior in a way that could interfere with the trial (a person who knows they have a Covid-19 vaccine could end up taking more risks, for example).

Finding tens of thousands of people who meet all these requirements for a phase 3 trial is tedious. Simply enrolling enough people is a process that can take months.

Although some Covid-19 vaccine phase 3 trials began in July, few have completed the enrollment process. Moderna said it is close to wrapping up enrollment.

After getting consent from volunteers and enrolling them in the trial, you have to give them the vaccine. Many Covid-19 vaccine candidates require two doses spaced up to four weeks apart, so just getting someone the full vaccine dose can take around a month. For most of the vaccine candidates in phase 3 trials, that would take them well into, if not past, October.

“Then you have to wait for people to get Covid, and you can’t do anything with the data until you have a certain number of Covid cases,” Zenilman said. To get a statistically meaningful result, researchers typically wait until they see around 150 infections in their group. At that point, they can “break the blind” and see who got the vaccine and who got the placebo — and compare the numbers to see whether it’s working.

Right now, many places in the US are still maintaining pandemic control measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing. Such tactics help control the spread of the virus, but for a vaccine trial, they also limit how quickly research teams can get the data necessary to draw conclusions about whether the vaccine is working. That’s why researchers are aiming to test their vaccines in rising Covid-19 hot spots.

There is also no guarantee that any vaccine will clear clinical trials. And the first vaccine to gain approval would not be available for widespread use right away. Health officials have to contend with the logistics of manufacturing, distributing, and administering the millions of doses needed to control the Covid-19 pandemic, which could take years.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said on September 30 that his company’s vaccine, which is one of the candidates furthest ahead in clinical trials, would not be ready for widespread distribution until next spring. He told the Financial Times that the company wouldn’t even consider applying for an emergency use authorization until November 25.

It’s also likely that no single vaccine will be suited to everyone. Several vaccines will be needed to protect different demographics, including older people, those with weaker immune systems, or those with certain preexisting health conditions. So even after the first Covid-19 vaccine gets approved, some people will still have to wait for other clinical trials to conclude.

Officials say they will not budge on vaccine safety and efficacy rules

FDA regulators are adamant that a vaccine will not be approved until it is demonstrated to be safe and effective. According to FDA guidelines, a vaccine needs to provide protection against the coronavirus for at least 50 percent of the people who get it. The safety benchmarks are higher for vaccines than for other drugs because vaccines are given to vastly more people, which magnifies infrequent problems. And since vaccines are given to healthy people rather than those who are already sick, there is a lower tolerance for side effects.

But at the same time, HHS launched the $10 billion Operation Warp Speed in June with the explicit aim of delivering 300 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine by January 2021.

In an August 7 editorial in JAMA, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn acknowledged the tension between the need for speed and the need to hew closely to established rules.

Hahn and his co-authors, Anand Shah and Peter Marks, wrote that “the emphasis on speed has provoked public anxiety about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines developed on expedited timelines. Among the concerns are that the regulatory standards for approval will be lowered under political pressure for a vaccine.”

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on June 30, 2020 in Washington,DC.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said his agency would not bend the rules to approve a Covid-19 vaccine.
Kevin Dietsch/AFP via Getty Images

However, Hahn and his co-authors also wrote that “there is a line separating the government’s efforts to focus resources and funding to scale vaccine development from FDA’s review processes.” In other words, the FDA says it will not compromise its standards for approving a vaccine, despite pressure for faster results.

But what about the emergency use authorization (EUA) process? Could the FDA create a limited exception for a vaccine like it did with hydroxychloroquine?

Marks, the director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA (the body that governs vaccine approval), said the agency could do that, in theory. But as with the agency’s standard process, the rubric is stricter for a vaccine than for a drug, and regulators would still need to see data demonstrating that a vaccine meets the minimum benchmark of preventing infection in 50 percent of people who have been vaccinated.

“I think as we think about EUA here, the calculus for a vaccine is going to be different than the calculus for therapeutic,” Marks told reporters at the National Press Foundation on August 12. “I think we … optimally would like to see the data that’s from a trial that’s reached its efficacy endpoint.”

That would come near the end of a phase 3 trial, which, again, is unlikely to yield results for months. So there may not be enough evidence to warrant vaccine approval before the November election, even on an emergency basis.

And if there were political meddling to push out a vaccine before it’s ready, in spite of all these constraints, there would be strong opposition among the career scientists at the FDA. “I think you would see a revolt at the agency,” Zenilman said.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a recent interview with Today, Explained host Sean Rameswaram that he is also confident the process will be transparent.

“The FDA has pledged publicly multiple times that they will not approve a vaccine unless they’ve established that nonpolitical scientists agree that it’s safe and effective … And if it turns out somebody tries to force it out, I tell you, I will be one of the first ones that will object to that,” Fauci said.

Trust is critical for deploying a Covid-19 vaccine. But trust is fragile.

A vaccine can’t end the Covid-19 pandemic on its own. It has to be given to enough people to achieve herd immunity, at which point a large enough percentage of a population is protected against the virus so that it can’t easily spread.

Even in the most ideal scenario with a highly effective vaccine, getting to herd immunity would require immunizing millions of people. And already, many in the United States are saying they wouldn’t get vaccinated. A Gallup poll conducted July 20 to August 7 found that one-third of Americans said they would not get an approved Covid-19 vaccine if it were ready immediately. A CNN poll conducted August 12-15 found that 56 percent of Americans said they would get a vaccine, a decline from 66 percent in May.

Whether due to general hesitancy around vaccines or swirling conspiracy theories, public health researchers are concerned that if enough people don’t elect to get immunized, the Covid-19 pandemic will persist.

That’s why even the appearance that political considerations influenced vaccine approval could be dangerous.

Vaccine makers have pushed back against the pressure to speed up development even further as well because if the public perceives a vaccine was rushed, it could make people hesitant to use their product.

“The perception of political pressure and the perception of things being hurried really risks trust,” said Jesse Goodman, a former chief scientist at the FDA who’s now a professor of medicine at Georgetown University. “It’s not just trust in this Covid vaccine, but trust in the whole public health response to Covid and trust in vaccines in general.”

In March, after the president repeatedly promoted the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the medicine, despite scant evidence of its effectiveness. In June, the FDA revoked this authorization.

Restoring that trust will take time. It will require transparency about the progress and results of clinical trials, as well as how decisions are made in federal agencies. It will also demand clear and coherent messaging.

But even that might not be enough.

“Personally, I think it will take a new president and new leadership at the top of the FDA before we’re going to be at a point where the public can start to have more trust,” said Lurie.

Which means that even with the urgency of thousands of people dying, taking the time to get a vaccine right is critical — from the vaccine itself to how it’s tested, documented, communicated, and administered. Rushing will likely only cost us more time.

Help keep Vox free for all

Millions turn to Vox each month to understand what’s happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.


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Hundreds of U.S. ‘Pregnancy Centers’ Are Now Offering Unproven Abortion Reversals



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Top leaders of the U.S. anti-abortion movement are congratulating their foot soliders for gaining ground in the war over abortion—just as the Senate prepares to confirm a Supreme Court justice that could help topple Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

The United States now has more than 2,700 pregnancy centers, according to a report released Tuesday by some of the nation’s leading anti-abortion organizations. These facilities, which are sometimes called “crisis pregnancy centers,” offer anti-abortion activists a physical presence in communities across the country. They do not offer or refer abortions and instead try to steer people into continuing their pregnancies. 

“When I consider the triumphs of the pro-life movement, I think there can be no more ultimate measure of it, this side of paradise, than every resounding ‘yes’ to new life,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the powerful anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, wrote in the introduction to the report. “As a mother, as well as a convert to and leader in the pro-life cause, I am incredibly heartened by the ongoing work of pregnancy centers across our country to support women and their families in saying ‘yes’ to Life.”

(“Life” is deliberately capitalized. Dannenfelser also signed off her introduction with, “For Life.”)

A 2018 version of the report found that, in 2017, there were around 2,600 pregnancy centers in the United States. By comparison, the U.S. had just 808 abortion clinics in 2017, according to the most recent data from the Guttmacher Institute, which studies abortion restrictions.

The thousands of centers served around 1.85 million people in 2019, according to the new report, compiled by the anti-abortion think tank Charlotte Lozier Institute and the three top pregnancy center networks, Care Net, Heartbeat International, and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA). And all of the 2,700 centers adhere to a set of standards that includes the commitment to never “offer, recommend, or refer for abortions, abortifacients, or contraceptives.” 

Eleven percent of the centers—or 305 centers—also offer the “abortion pill reversal,” a controversial treatment that purports to help people stop their medication abortions. 

In 2019, the number of providers that offer “abortion pill reversal” increased by 30%, thanks to a mix of “clinics, private practice, hospital systems, and pregnancy centers,” the report found. More than 200 consulting pregnancy centers also “support” the practice by referring people to a hotline that counsels them about it, offering free ultrasounds, and providing what the report calls “long-term support to reversal clients.”

No conclusive medical evidence exists to prove that “abortion pill reversals” work. In 2019, a study meant to evaluate the “abortion reversal” protocol instead ended early, after three study participants started hemorrhaging so much blood they went to the ER.

The pregnancy center report shares the story of “Sarah,” a woman who underwent the abortion pill reversal protocol and ended up giving birth. However, the report says that, after Sarah took the first of the two drugs used in a medication abortion, a doctor found a heartbeat and then started her on the protocol, which typically involves giving patients several doses of the hormone progerstone. 

That account suggests that the pregnancy continued despite the first drug (which, one doctor told VICE News in 2018, isn’t a “very good abortion-causing drug” when taken on its own). It does not confirm that it was the progesterone that successfully saved the pregnancy.

Abortion rights groups say that these pregnancy centers are often less than forthcoming about the fact that they don’t offer abortions, a tactic that’s designed to lure in unsuspecting pregnant people. 

“Behind the doors of what are designed to look like full-service health clinics, ideologically motivated staff members deceive and manipulate women with dangerous misinformation,” alleged a 2015 report from NARAL Pro-Choice America, which conducted undercover investigations into pregnancy centers in more than 10 states.

A 2019 VICE News investigation found that, when searching for places to get an abortion in states where abortion rights are under threat, Google Maps will often return results for anti-abortion pregnancy centers. These centers had labels like “pregnancy care centers” or “women’s health clinics,” which made it difficult to tell which services were actually offered by the facilities. VICE News also found that these facilities’ websites frequently don’t clarify that they don’t support abortion.

The report released Tuesday speaks highly of the “medical, education, and support services” offered by the pregnancy centers. Most performed ultrasounds, gave out goods like diapers and baby wipes, and gave what the report calls “parenting/prenatal education program[s].” Many centers, the report noted, have stayed open throughout the coronavirus pandemic as “essential services.” (In the spring, public officials in multiple states cited the pandemic as a reason to stop abortion clinics from offering the procedure.)

Just 30% of the pregnancy centers offered STI testing in 2019. About 20% offered STI treatment. And 2% offered pap smears and “well-woman exams,” where providers typically offer a kind of physical centered around reproductive health.

“In 2019, a total of 5%, or 147 pregnancy center locations, offered some level of prenatal care beyond the provision of prenatal vitamins on-site,” the report found.

Nearly 1,000 centers offered “group sexual risk avoidance education presentations.” “Sexual risk avoidance” is a rebranding of abstinence-only sex ed. 

The vast majority of people working at pregnancy centers are also not licensed medical professionals, according to the report. Out of around 53,000 volunteers—who make up the bulk of the U.S. pregnancy center workforce—around 6,400 were licensed to practice medicine. Just under 3,800 paid staffers, out of almost 15,000, had similar licenses.

Another common service is “after-abortion recovery and support,” which 1,931 centers offered to nearly 22,000 people. While some people do have mixed or negative feelings after getting an abortion, a landmark study of abortion’s aftereffects found in 2019 that, five years after an abortion, 84% of women reported either feeling primarily positive about their abortions or having no feelings about it at all.

The vast majority of the funding for pregnancy centers comes from private donations, the report found. But 340 “pregnancy center organizations,” in the words of the report, “received government monies at some level through federal or state funding.” That’s a 2% spike from 2017.

By contrast, the Trump administration banned clinics funded by the only federal program dedicated to family planning from referring patients for abortions in 2019.


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Meet Everlane’s stylish new recyclable shoe



(CNN) —  

We all throw away a lot of things, but surprisingly, sneakers are one of the items filling up our landfills the most. Americans throw away 300 million pairs of shoes per year, and combined with discarded clothes, shoes were responsible for about 17.6% of all trash in American landfills in 2017.

But there is some good news: Eco-friendly shoes are gaining popularity as a sustainable alternative to traditional shoes, which can stay in landfills for an average of 25 to 80 years. And one such pair by minimalism experts at Everlane checks all the boxes not only in terms of sustainability, but also as a classic, easy-to-wear style.

The rundown

Everlane Forever Sneaker
Everlane Forever Sneaker
PHOTO: Kai Burkhardt/CNN

The Everlane Forever Sneaker is made with responsibly sourced materials such as a recycled cotton-canvas upper and a partially natural rubber sole. The shoe is also fully recyclable, made with a 50% cotton and 50% canvas upper and a rubber outsole, metal eyelets, laces made from 100% recycled polyester and an insole made from recycled polyurethane. Once you’ve worn out your pair or want to make room for something new, you can simply drop it off at any Everlane store or contact the brand for a prepaid shipping label, and it won’t ever see a landfill.

Everlane is able to eliminate post-consumer waste created by its Forever Sneaker by partnering with Debrand, a California-based recycling company. The rubber sole gets mechanically ground into equestrian flooring and the upper is remade into mats. On top of all this, Everlane purchases carbon offsets for any carbon emissions it couldn’t eliminate from the process. Everlane calculated the carbon emission of the Forever Sneaker to be 7kg CO2E (or carbon dioxide equivalent, a standard unit for measuring carbon footprints), its lowest impact shoe ever.

While this all sounds great for the planet, none of it would really matter if the shoe doesn’t look good. Luckily, Everlane’s sleek, sophisticated aesthetic translates perfectly into its new sneaker. The shoe has a classic, yet casual design reminiscent of time-tested Vans or Keds, with a slim and narrow profile. The low-cut canvas comes in five different colors: white, black, sycamore, teak and India ink. Stylistically, it’s a versatile, everyday shoe that matches any outfit.

I loved the sound of a low-impact, fully recyclable sneaker (that also looks nice) so we tried out the Forever Sneaker for ourselves. Everlane sent a pair, and I wore them as my primary shoe for one whole month. While I didn’t make as many trips out of the house as I would have if there wasn’t an ongoing global pandemic, the sneakers were still put through its paces to see how comfortable, washable, durable and stylish they actually are.

The lowdown

Everlane Forever Sneaker
Everlane Forever Sneaker
PHOTO: Kai Burkhardt/CNN

The most striking feature of the sneaker is its beautiful colored canvas. I got a pair in teak (a butter-y tan hue), and the subtle color added a nice pop to outfits. They paired well with jeans, shorts and basically anything I threw on. The fit is a smidge narrow, but not enough to have to size up or down unless you know you have wide feet.

In terms of comfort, the Forever Sneaker has a thin insole and its flat design doesn’t lend too much to arch support. When I wore them to run errands for a full day, my feet felt tired after all the walking. But while they don’t offer cushiony support like some bulkier sneakers, they’re still comfy enough for day-to-day needs.

Everlane proclaims the Forever Sneaker is durable enough to last years. After a month of testing, the canvas still looks good as new and the tread is intact, but the bottom of the heel has begun to wear down. Some of the foam that makes up the insole crumbled off, but overall the shoe is decently sturdy.

One of the biggest draws of the Forever Sneaker is its washability; you can just throw the sneakers in the wash whenever they get dirty or smelly. To test how they held up, wIe stained them with some coffee and hot sauce and threw them in the washer. Everlane recommends removing the insoles, wash cold and air dry for best results, so we did. While the stains didn’t completely come out after one wash, the shoe held together perfectly. The Forever Sneaker is definitely built for the wash — but that doesn’t mean it’s stain proof. You’ll still have to be careful if you don’t want them to get dirty, but if they’re looking a little ragged or they’re starting to stink, a quick wash gives them a nice refresh.

The bottom line

Everlane Forever Sneaker
Everlane Forever Sneaker
PHOTO: Kai Burkhardt/CNN

The Everlane Forever Sneaker is a versatile, good-looking shoe, and thanks to Everlane’s transparent pricing model, the Forever Sneaker rings up at a modest $58. While its comfort and support left something to be desired, the main draw here is its low impact on the environment. Everlane has gone to immense lengths to ensure that the Forever Sneaker isn’t only created responsibly, but can also be disposed of responsibly. With a simple trip to an Everlane store or the post office, your conscience will be guilt-free, and your shoes won’t be rotting in a landfill for the next 80 years. That’s more than enough reason for us to love the Forever Sneaker.


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