This column is intended to be a snackable source of newsy health bits. But… as you’ve no doubt heard, there’s some big news going on regarding the topic of abortion, so this is a full platter of info and resources on that topic — plus, we’ve got the COVID deets, as usual.

In May 2021, Texas governor Greg Abbott dug out his quill and ink and signed SB 8, a law banning abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy if a heartbeat is detected. The law makes no exceptions for incest or rape or other effed-up sh*t, by the way. Abortion providers in Texas filed an emergency motion with the Supreme Court to block the law before it went into effect on September 1. But in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court refused to block the law.

The legislation leaves enforcement up to private citizens rather than law enforcement officials. Citizens can sue (for $10,000) a Texas abortion provider who is in violation or anyone who “aids and abets” a person who gets a banned procedure. In other words, Texas has incentivized citizens to police its abortion policies.

A statement from Gerald E. Harmon, MD, president of the American Medical Association, says that SB 8 “interferes in the patient-physician relationship and places bounties on physicians and healthcare workers simply for delivering care… This new law is a direct attack on the practice of medicine and patient reproductive health outcomes.”

The Justice Department is now suing the state of Texas over the law. So stay tuned.

The first thing we need to tackle is how doctors count pregnancy weeks. The average length of a menstrual cycle is 28 days (4 weeks). Gestational age is counted from the first day of a person’s last menstrual cycle.

Think about it. That’s usually about 2 weeks before actual conception, which generally happens around the time of ovulation.

So, by the time someone misses their next menstrual cycle — the typical red (or, let’s say, non-red) flag that they might be pregnant — they’re potentially more than 4 weeks along. Now consider the fact that many folx don’t have regular flows, and you get the idea that lots of people won’t even know they’re pregnant before 6 weeks.

Laws that restrict abortion put people at risk for unsafe abortion, according to the World Health Organization. And unsafe abortion contributes to 13 percent of maternal deaths worldwide.

And laws that restrict abortion don’t stop abortion. According to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, the abortion rate is 37 per 1,000 people in countries that restrict or outlaw abortion, and it’s 34 per 1,000 in countries where abortion is legal. Yep, the rate is actually slightly lower where abortion is legal.

Regions that have abortion access typically also have better access to free contraception and other initiatives for reducing unintended pregnancies.

Side note: Do you live in a contraceptive desert? Here’s where to find free or low cost birth control in every state and where to get birth control online.

Roe v. Wade is the 1973 landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court that legalized abortion in the United States.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at abortion data from 1972 to 1974, the agency found that the number of illegal abortions decreased from about 130,000 to 17,000 and the number of deaths associated with an illegal procedure decreased from 39 to 5. By now, in 2021, Roe v. Wade has undoubtedly saved countless lives.

With SB 8 now in effect, Gov. Abbott is set to sign SB 4, which would limit access to medicated abortions in Texas. The measure would prevent doctors in the state from administering the two-pill regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol and prevent the pills from being mailed to Texas.

But Plan C is totally on this. Click “Find pills.” Select your state. Scroll down. And navigate to “Creative ways…”

Notably, in April of this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed to let people receive the two medications by mail (rather than requiring them to go to a clinic) for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, which obvi we are still in.

Previously, the FDA required the first pill to be administered at a doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital. A new study recently found that the use of telemedicine abortion is safe.

P.S. Here’s the Greatist guide to types of abortion.

Yes, we also have a guide for that. And info on intrauterine insemination, trigger shots, babymaking sessions, and how to increase sperm count. Whatever your pregnancy (or nonpregnancy) goals, we got you.

You didn’t think I forgot about COVID-19, did you?

A wee bit of good news: The 7-day average of case counts dipped recently, from 150,000 to 140,000. Early September also saw a nice uptick in vaccine dose administration. Let’s hope both of those trends continue.

FYI: Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those who are fully vaxxed.

Mu is another SARS-CoV-2 variant of interest. I’ll tell you what, Mu, we are soooo not interested!

In all seriousness, Mu was first identified in Colombia, but now it has spread to more than 40 countries, including the United States, where there are more than 2,000 cases. Mu has the potential to be more infectious and to evade some vaccine protection.

Researchers are still studying this variant. But the best way to protect yourself is to get jabbed. And the more people who are vaccinated, the better. That’s how we can control the spread of variants.

Yes, please! Hey, all you bosses out there, trials in some locations suggest that a shorter workweek improves well-being without hindering productivity. This is also a hint to myself, since I am my own boss.

Back to COVID-19. If you’re confused about vaccine boosters, you’re not alone. There’s a lot of shot news happening at once. So let’s break down the diff between third shots, boosters, and COVID-19 vaccines 2.0.

First, the FDA authorized COVID-19 third shots for immunocompromised folx who meet specific criteria. The third shot applies to immunocompromised people who received either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine.

Next, President Biden announced a pending booster shot rollout plan for other people who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine that may start as soon as September 20. The initial plan offers people a booster shot once they are 8 months out from their second shot. More info to come as this plan evolves.

These shots are called boosters. But whether you’re getting a third shot or a booster, the jab is the same formulation as your previous shots. Grandma Pfizer didn’t rework her brownie recipe.

If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the CDC says you’ll likely need a booster too. Since the J&J vax was authorized more than 2 months after the Pfizer and Moderna shots, the CDC is still awaiting full data on a J&J booster. So stay tuned.

Meanwhile, some COVID-19 vaccine makers are developing “updated versions” of their shots that may better shield us from variants like dirty Delta. These shots are undergoing various stages of testing and are not part of any current third shot or booster shot rollout. It will be a while before 2.0 versions potentially come to fruition.

If you’re wondering about booster side effects, experts say you can generally expect a similar experience to what you had with your previous doses. I can back this up. As someone who meets the immunocompromised criteria, I just had my third shot. I had a sore arm and was mostly tired AF for a day. But I used it as an excuse to stay in my pajamas and read.

I guess it’s a thing. Take it off! (If you wanna — and only if it’s appropriate to do so.)