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Forecast: Court ruling threatens abortion access in U.S., final German nuclear plants shut down, and Russian court considers detention of WSJ reporter

The cooling towers of the Gundremmingen nuclear power plant in Germany are pictured above. The plant was shut down at the end of 2021 as part of the German nuclear phase out.

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.

We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead.

Access to medical abortion in the United States was suddenly placed in jeopardy last week when a federal judge in Texas suspended the FDA’s decades-old approval of mifepristone, one of two different medications commonly referred to as the “abortion pill.” In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Rebecca Bratek discuss how the unprecedented move may not only limit access to abortion care, but also challenge the FDA’s authority. 

Listen now or download on your favorite platform.

Week of April 14-21

A Look Ahead

April 15  Final German nuclear plants shut down  
Germany’s last functioning nuclear power plants will be taken off the country’s grid Saturday.

What’s happened so far 
The decision dates back to former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government in 2011 when leaders decided that Germany would fully phase out all nuclear power by 2022, despite it providing one-quarter of Germany’s energy at the time. Chancellor Olaf Scholz extended the life-span of the country’s final three plants in October 2022 to assist Germany’s energy needs through the winter amid Europe’s energy crisis but has allowed the full shutdown to continue. 
The impact 
The move remains controversial, with a majority of Germans opposing it and political fractures emerging among lawmakers. Some argue the choice aligns with Germany’s increased reliance on energy sources less environmentally friendly than nuclear. While German reliance on Russian oil and gas imports in the wake of Merkel’s 2011 decision is well-documented, particularly prior to the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Germany went so far as to ramp up coal production over the winter. 

April 15  G7 meeting  
Energy ministers from G7 countries will meet for two days starting Saturday in Sapporo, Japan, to discuss issues around climate, energy and the environment.

What’s happened so far 
Ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States will meet in Sapporo under the Japanese presidency of the G7 ahead of the summit in Hiroshima on May 19-21. The meeting is expected to focus on efforts to achieve energy security and carbon neutrality.
The impact 
A draft of the G7 statement has suggested ministers will agree that new upstream investments in natural gas are needed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, by increasing investment in liquified natural gas. However, the same document showed the EU, which attends the G7 meetings, does not agree that demand for liquefied natural gas will increase. Negotiations are believed to be ongoing. Meanwhile, reports say the EU, United States and Japan have expressed reservations about a U.K. proposal to set a 2030 deadline for ending unabated domestic coal power generation.

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April 18  EU Chips Act likely to get green light  
During Tuesday’s informal meeting between European lawmakers, the EU will likely announce the go-ahead for the EU Chips Act. 

What’s happened so far 
The EU Chips Act is a proposal set forward to both tackle the electronic semiconductor shortage and, more importantly, attempt to cut down the reliance European countries currently have on the United States and Asia for these parts. Semiconductors are an essential part of electronic devices and car manufacturing, the former being an industry largely dominated by U.S. and East Asian companies such as Intel and Samsung. The act itself would allow the EU to provide a total of $430 million in public funds to subsidize European-based production of semiconductors. 
The impact 
The motivations behind this act are twofold: the first being to boost research and development in the EU and the second being EU’s recent plan of reducing how reliant European companies are on U.S. and Asian business. The row between Europe and the U.S. over the latter’s Inflation Reduction Act directly points toward this trend of European lawmakers attempting to cut down that reliance. Technology companies across Europe will rejoice if the act is given the green light while also attracting foreign investment into the continent’s technological space. 

April 18  India top court to start hearing same-sex marriage case  
On Tuesday, India’s Supreme Court is set to begin a landmark hearing seeking marriage equality for the country’s LGBTQ+ community.

What’s happened so far 
In 2018, India’s Supreme Court formally ruled that gay sex would no longer be considered a criminal offense, with the new decree outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, in March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party formally expressed its opposition to recognizing same-sex marriage, arguing it would cause “complete havoc … in accepted social values.” A day later, India’s top court said the issue was of “seminal importance” for it to be decided by parliament alone and ruled it would begin hearing arguments by a larger panel of judges next week.
The impact 
Modi’s government has continued to push for the Supreme Court to oppose legalizing LGBTQ+ couples, arguing it would collapse the family unit “deeply embedded in religious and societal norms.” A recent survey showed approximately 37 percent of India’s population was accepting of homosexuality as of 2019, with human rights organizations continuing to document attacks by government and security officials on members of the LGBTQ+ community. If passed, the landmark case would not only grant marriage equality to all of the country’s 1.4 billion residents, but would also pave the way toward equality in adoption and inheritance.

April 18  Russian court to hear appeal on detention of WSJ reporter  
Moscow City Court is expected to hear an appeal Tuesday by the lawyers of detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, challenging his arrest.

What’s happened so far 
Gershkovich was arrested in late March and accused of spying while working as a journalist in the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg, an allegation vehemently denied by the Journal, and is expected to be held through May. Governments, news organizations and human rights charities have called for his immediate release, with the U.S. government designating him as “wrongfully detained,” a special status akin to being a political prisoner.
The impact 
The court will decide Tuesday whether to uphold his detention or move him to a different form of holding, such as house arrest or bail. A spokesperson for the court could not confirm whether Gershkovich would appear and said that proceedings may take place behind closed doors, with only the final decision required to be communicated to the public.

April 19  Cuban parliament appoints country’s president  
Cuba’s National Assembly will hold a session Wednesday to appoint the country’s president for the next term.

What’s happened so far 
Cuba’s Council of State called a parliamentary session Wednesday to start a new legislative year for the National Assembly after 470 chairs were renewed in last March’s elections. During the session, lawmakers will discuss a list of candidates proposed during an internal vote held earlier in April and will appoint a president and a vice president for the country, as well as a parliamentary president and vice president, and a chairman for the Council of State. The parliament will also appoint the next prime minister and a cabinet proposed by the president.
The impact 
The appointment of the next president will take place in a chamber with no opposition representation and no official candidates. Current President Miguel Díaz-Canel could win a second five-year term, the maximum time allowed by the country’s new constitution. Díaz-Canel, who was appointed in 2018 to replace Raúl Castro, was the first civilian to reach the country’s presidency since the revolution. 

April 20  Gas flow from Black Sea expected to begin  
A subsea pipeline in the Black Sea is expected to commence transporting gas to Turkish shores by Thursday.

What’s happened so far 
Turkish Petroleum announced the completion of the subsea pipeline from the Sakarya Gas Field last week and transportation from the Black Sea to Turkey is set to begin following an opening ceremony. Authorities said the total gas reserves found in the Black Sea are 710 billion cubic meters.
The impact 
Officials in Turkey said their Black Sea gas reserves are worth more than $500 billion and have the capacity to provide all homes in Turkey with gas for 35 years. Authorities added that they expect the gas find to fill the country’s needs for up to 20 years. Previously, Turkey was highly dependent upon imports from Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan.

What Else Matters

A group protests for abortion justice on the Brooklyn Bridge, holding signs
A group protests for abortion justice on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City on March 31, 2023. (Photo: Diane Greene Lent / Flickr)

Abortion pill rulings 
After ending five decades of federal protection for women’s right to abortion, the U.S. judiciary may restrict access to an abortion drug that’s been used safely for more than two decades. This week, a federal court ruling in Texas invalidated the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, a medicine commonly used to induce abortion in the first 10 weeks, though its reach was limited by a conflicting ruling from a federal court in Washington state blocking the order in 17 states.

Watch for: On Thursday, an appeals court is weighing a challenge of the Texas court ruling by the Biden administration and mifepristone’s distributor, both of which are asking for emergency stay to take the case to the Supreme Court. Beyond the immediate impact of the ruling, critics are warning it weakens the FDA’s regulatory authority by leaving the drug-approval process open to court challenges and possible rescission.

Unrest in Amhara, Ethiopia 
Authorities in Ethiopia’s Amhara state imposed a curfew in the city of Gondar on Monday after protests broke out over government plans to integrate the regional security forces into the military or federal police. Demonstrations were reported in at least eight towns across Amhara, according to Reuters, while gunfirbroke out in the town of Kobo. The NGO Catholic Relief Services said two aid workers were fatally shot in the area Sunday, but it remains unclear whether these deaths were linked to the unrest. 

Watch for: The government’s security forces integration plan applies to all 11 regions of Ethiopia, meaning further unrest is possible across other areas. Amhara’s regional forces supported the government during the Tigray conflict and opposition parties are concerned the integration will lead to a return of territory gained from Tigrayans during the war.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

April 14-21

April 14

  • French Constitutional Council to rule on pension bill
  • Brazil’s Lula reschedules China trip

April 15

  • Final German nuclear plants shut down
  • G7 meeting

April 17

  • Boston Marathon
  • International mediators’ meeting with Mali’s junta

April 18

  • EU Chips Act likely to get green light
  • Russian court to hear appeal on detention of WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich 
  • India top court to start hearing same-sex marriage case

April 19

  •     Saudi delegation in Tehran to reopen consulate

April 20

  • Gas flow from Black Sea expected to begin

April 22-28 

April 22

  • Portugal to host bilateral summit with Brazil
  • Akshaya Tritiya Hindu and Jain Festival

April 23

  • London Marathon
  • North Kosovo local elections

April 26

  • South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visits Washington
  • Greece hosts annual economic conference in Delphi

April 27

  • UK teacher strikes
  • Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol expected to address at U.S. Congress

April 28

  • Pope Francis to visit Hungary

April 29-May 5 

April 29

  • Sita Navami Hindu Festival

April 30

  • Uzbekistan constitutional referendum
  • Israeli Knesset returns from recess
  • General elections in Paraguay
  • Sita Navami Hindu Festival

May 5

  • Buddha Purnima Buddhist Festival

May 6-12 

May 7 

  • Thailand general elections
  • Election of representatives to write new constitution draft in Chile

May 11

  • President Biden ends COVID-19 emergency declaration

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