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Morning news brief

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It is not hard to see that people have run out of food in Gaza.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Videos have shown people scrambling to get food on the rare occasions that aid trucks appear. Israel has cut off the normal supply route since the Hamas attack on southern Israel last October, where fighters based in Gaza killed more than a thousand people and took hostages. Now, an outside group says famine may be sweeping through parts of the territory. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on Israel to allow more aid into Gaza.

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ANTONIO GUTERRES: This is an entirely manmade disaster, and the report makes clear that it can be halted.

INSKEEP: Let's talk about the report he just referenced there. NPR international correspondent Aya Batrawy has been reading. Welcome back.

AYA BATRAWY, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: What do the outside experts in this report say?

BATRAWY: Well, they say that famine is imminent in northern Gaza. Now, this is a report by a group of experts who are the world's leading authority on hunger. They're called the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification - or, basically, IPC. And it's a system of evidence-based analysis of food insecurity that was launched two decades ago to track famine in Somalia. Now, what they found in Gaza is that food is in short supply, and nearly everyone is skipping meals. And it noted that there's a spike in the number of young children who are acutely malnourished. So basically, 1 out of every 3 kids under 2 in northern Gaza are acutely malnourished, and some have already died of hunger. They don't have access to formula, and their mothers can't produce enough breast milk 'cause they're not eating enough. And the report says that famine could also spread to central and southern Gaza in the coming months if conditions don't improve or if they worsen, with, for example, an Israeli assault on Rafah.

INSKEEP: OK. I want to figure out how this happened. I know that Israel cut off supplies immediately after Hamas attacked on October 7. More recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he would allow in the minimum amount of aid to Gaza. What's keeping that from being enough?

BATRAWY: Well, Israel's agency that oversees the aid that enters Gaza says Hamas, which attacked Israel on October 7 and killed 1,200 people, is to blame for the chaos. Here's a clip of what spokesperson Shimon Freedman said about Israel's efforts to get aid in.

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SHIMON FREEDMAN: Israel facilitates the entry of humanitarian aid via land, air and sea in accordance with international law. It is important to note that Israel places no limit on the amount of aid that can enter the Gaza Strip.

BATRAWY: But Steve, you know, aid groups say Israel is preventing many trucks from entering for what it says are security reasons, and most of Gaza's borders have been sealed since October 7. You know, the IPC report notes that, before the war, when Gaza was growing some of its own food, about 150 food trucks were entering Gaza daily. That number dropped to less than half - or about 60 trucks a day - from the start of the war until late last month, and this has created desperation in Gaza. You know, people have been shot trying to get aid in incidents with Israeli forces in the north.

INSKEEP: Yeah, we've watched those videos. What do you hear from people in Gaza now?

BATRAWY: Well, they're saying they don't want these haphazard and chaotic airdrops of food by parachutes, which the U.S. and other countries are doing to try to get more food in northern Gaza. And they tell NPR that they're feeding their children leaves and animal feed and have gone up to two days without a single meal. Umm Mohammed al-Hamarna, a grandmother in Gaza City, says she's foraging for leafy herbs to make soup.

UMM MOHAMMED AL-HAMARNA: (Speaking Arabic).

BATRAWY: She says she can't find baby formula for her grandson and that there isn't enough food being sold in the market for adults, either. And anyways, the prices are too high, she says. You know, it costs more than $400 right now for a large sack of flour in northern Gaza.

INSKEEP: Oh, wow.

BATRAWY: But mostly, she and other people in the north say they just want this war to end. You know, hunger is ravaging Gaza, but the health ministry says more than 31,000 people have actually been killed by direct violence, mostly by Israeli airstrikes, and those continue daily.

INSKEEP: NPR's Aya Batrawy - thanks so much.

BATRAWY: Thanks, Steve.

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INSKEEP: Today, we have evidence that one state's abortion ban affected medical care well beyond abortion itself.

MARTIN: The evidence comes from Louisiana, where four abortion rights groups talked with doctors and patients about what they say really happens in doctor's offices and hospitals. NPR obtained an exclusive first look at their report, and it finds that doctors are delaying or changing some care out of fear that it will seem like they violated abortion laws.

INSKEEP: Rosemary Westwood of member station WWNO in New Orleans saw the report. Hey there, Rosemary.

ROSEMARY WESTWOOD, BYLINE: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: Glad you're here. So what are doctors and patients saying in your state?

WESTWOOD: Well, they're telling the report's authors that there has just been a huge deviation from how doctors treated pregnancy before the state banned abortion - for women experiencing miscarriages, for women with ectopic pregnancies, even for prenatal care. I was really surprised to see how many obstetricians are now refusing to see pregnant patients in their office early in pregnancy.

INSKEEP: Wait a minute. You're an OB-GYN. You get a call from someone saying, I'm pregnant, and they say, don't come?

WESTWOOD: That's exactly it. OB-GYNs are telling their patients they need to wait until they're 12 weeks. That's because the vast majority of miscarriages happen before 12 weeks of pregnancy. So what some OB's in Louisiana are doing is just avoiding taking care of patients when they're most at risk of miscarrying. Treating a miscarriage can look the same as providing an abortion, and doctors don't want there to be any question that they might have provided an abortion.

INSKEEP: Is there some danger to the patient to not be seen until 12 weeks in or later?

WESTWOOD: Well, doctors told me that if you have a normal, healthy pregnancy - you know, no complications - it might be fine. But if you do have health problems, like high blood pressure, that can be very dangerous to put off that first prenatal appointment. Doctors can't find out if you're at risk for a blood clot or if you have an ectopic pregnancy, and that can kill you.

INSKEEP: OK, so the report identifies these problems early in pregnancy. What about later in a woman's pregnancy - do things become a little more normal then?

WESTWOOD: No, things are not the way they were before the state banned abortion. So Louisiana does have an exception for a pregnant person's life, and the report has cases - similar to stories we've heard in the news - of pregnant people deemed not sick enough under the state's abortion ban. But the report also had situations that I've never seen or heard before in my reporting - cases where it's absolutely clear a pregnancy is ending, and the doctors, instead of doing a standard abortion procedure, are performing a C-section.

INSKEEP: You mean cutting open the patient here?

WESTWOOD: That's exactly right. Like, for example, when a woman's water breaks, and the fetus won't survive - this is - you know, happens early in pregnancy. And before, doctors would use drugs to induce labor, or they would perform an abortion procedure to empty the uterus. But now, some are performing a C-section. And I asked Dr. Nicole Freehill, a New Orleans OB-GYN, about this. She said it's absurd to do a C-section just to preserve the appearance of not breaking the law.

NICOLE FREEHILL: Which is ludicrous - absolutely ludicrous. The least safe thing that we do is a C-section.

WESTWOOD: Remember, a C-section is major abdominal surgery. It comes with all sorts of health risks to the patient, and it's substantially riskier than an abortion.

INSKEEP: Rosemary, I guess we should mention this report is new, so there's not a lot of reaction to that. But the concern is not new - that there'd be these wider problems with medical care. Has the state acknowledged a problem here?

WESTWOOD: It really hasn't. State health officials have not addressed these kinds of concerns. And Louisiana's new governor, Jeff Landry, has been aggressive in the past about wanting to prosecute doctors who break the law.

INSKEEP: Rosemary Westwood of WWNO in New Orleans - thanks so much.

WESTWOOD: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: And you can read more about the report at npr.org.

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INSKEEP: Five states hold their presidential primaries today.

MARTIN: The results are no longer in doubt. President Biden and former President Trump will be their party's nominees. But the voting does offer a glimpse into what matters in Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio and Arizona. That is one of the states likely to decide the election this fall.

INSKEEP: NPR political reporter Ximena Bustillo is in Arizona. Hey there.

XIMENA BUSTILLO, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: How much does this state matter to the candidates?

BUSTILLO: Well, judging by their visits, it matters to the Biden campaign a lot. Biden is visiting this week. He will be in Phoenix for a campaign event launching the Latinos Con Biden-Harris organizing program. And the state is about one-third Latino, so that is a very targeted effort. Vice President Kamala Harris and first lady Jill Biden were both also here earlier this month. You'll remember Arizona went for Biden in 2020 by just over 10,000 votes, and it became central to false claims of election fraud by Trump and his supporters. Trump has not visited the state yet this year.

But there's still a big independent electorate here that both candidates will want to win over. A third of registered voters in the state are registered as independents. And one thing to note in today's result is that that won't include them. Independent voters are not allowed to vote in the state's presidential preference election. Only those affiliated with the Democratic Party or the Republican Party are.

INSKEEP: OK, so what issues might move those more independent voters?

BUSTILLO: Arizona is in the heart of the debate of immigration as a swing state along the U.S.-Mexico border. That's a big focus of what I'm here to report on this week. So when you look at the numbers of people apprehended by Border Patrol, Arizona is one of the busiest parts of the border right now. Many migrants and asylum-seekers are crossing here at record numbers, and shelters are straining to accommodate them. A few months ago, the government had to close a legal port of entry and reassign personnel to process asylum-seekers. That port closure reminded Arizonans about the impact of the pressures of immigration to them.

The broader conversation about reproductive rights also could play a big role come November. Arizona organizers are working to gather signatures to create a constitutional right to abortion using a ballot measure. Democrats have used abortion-related ballot measures to encourage voters to also turn out for Democrats up the ballot.

INSKEEP: Isn't there also a Senate race in Arizona?

BUSTILLO: Yeah. Arizona has a closely watched Senate race after independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema announced earlier this month that she wouldn't run for reelection, but that primary isn't until July.

INSKEEP: OK.

BUSTILLO: For the most part, what the parties are looking for today is the data that they can get - who is voting and where and why. These primaries are often used by parties to see where they already have an active electorate and where it needs work.

INSKEEP: Let me ask you about one of the other states that's voting today. Ohio has a big Senate primary, doesn't it?

BUSTILLO: Yes, and this is the seat that could help swing control of the Senate. Democrat Sherrod Brown is in a precarious position. Brown represents a fairly red state and is one of the last red-state Democrats in the Senate, so he has to appeal to Republican and moderate voters in both rural and urban areas. After today's voting, we'll know which Republican he will face this fall. Trump is supporting businessman Bernie Moreno, and Republicans will decide today whether to fall in line behind him or more establishment candidates. The other Republicans are Secretary of State Frank LaRose and State Senator Matt Dolan. It was at a rally for Moreno this past weekend where Trump dug in on dehumanizing language about immigrants. So the question is if that message resonates with voters and whether Trump's guy wins the day and the opportunity to take on Senator Brown in November.

INSKEEP: NPR's Ximena Bustillo in Arizona, one of five states holding primaries today - thanks so much.

BUSTILLO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.