Ashley Lopez

Ashley Lopez is a reporter for WGCU News. A native of Miami, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree. 

Previously, Lopez was a reporter for Miami's NPR member station, 

WLRN-Miami Herald News. Before that, she was a reporter at The Florida Independent. She also interned for Talking Points Memo in New York City and WUNC in Durham, North Carolina. She also freelances as a reporter/blogger for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Send news pitches to wgcunews at wgcu.org

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down a lower federal court ruling that temporarily blocked Texas from enforcing its ban on abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

The Department of Justice now has until Oct. 12 to reply to the ruling, and the ban remains in effect until then.

Before a lower court intervened, Texas was allowed to keep its abortion law, Senate Bill 8, in effect for roughly five weeks. In that time, providers say they were forced to turn away hundreds of people seeking abortions.

For years, Millicent McKinnon of Dallas went without health insurance. She was one of roughly 1 million Texans who make too much to qualify for Medicaid in the state, but too little to buy her own insurance. This was the situation until she died in 2019. She was 64 and had been unable to find consistent care for her breast cancer.

Lorraine Birabil, McKinnon's daughter-in-law, says she is still grieving that loss.

"She was such a vibrant woman," she says. "Just always full of energy and joy."

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Updated August 21, 2021 at 1:12 PM ET

Some Texas Democrats who broke quorum last month have started to return to the state, which means lawmakers are starting to get back to work. In the coming weeks, that work will have to include the giant task of drawing new voting district lines for the state. Texas has grown more than any other over the last decade and has gained two additional seats in Congress.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is doubling down on its recommendation that people who are pregnant get the COVID-19 vaccine following new data underscoring its safety and effectiveness throughout pregnancy.

This recommendation is coming at a time when doctors across the country are reporting an uptick in the number of unvaccinated pregnant people getting hospitalized with severe cases of COVID-19.

Updated August 4, 2021 at 7:42 AM ET

In Texas, there are currently two high-profile cases of residents facing prison time for alleged illegal voting.

More than 50 Democratic state lawmakers from Texas have now been holed up in a hotel in Washington, D.C., for longer than a week.

The Democrats fled their state to deny Republicans a quorum in an effort to block restrictive voting measures from being passed during an ongoing special legislative session.

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Updated September 7, 2021 at 12:42 PM ET

Sweeping new voting restrictions are now law in Texas — a state that already had some of the most restrictive election rules in the country.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed the measure into law on Tuesday. In a statement last week, Abbott said, "Senate Bill 1 will solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat."

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Last year, when Isabel Longoria had to figure out how to safely hold an election during a pandemic, she saw the daunting task as an opportunity to do things differently.

"I just started dreaming," says Longoria, the elections administrator for Harris County in Texas. "And I just said, 'OK, let's start from the beginning — not with what's possible first — but what do voters want, and what's going to make it safer?' "

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Local hospitals are being affected by widespread water issues in the Austin area, following severe weather this week.

St. David's South Austin Medical Center said it lost water pressure from the city Wednesday, creating a series of problems.

"Water feeds the facility's boiler, so as a result, it is also losing heat," David Huffstutler, CEO of St. David's HealthCare, said in a statement.

Georgia Washington, 79, can't drive. Whenever she needs to go somewhere, she asks her daughter or her friends to pick her up.

She has lived in the northern part of Baton Rouge, a predominantly Black area of Louisiana's capital, since 1973. There aren't many resources there, including medical facilities. So when Washington fell ill with COVID-19 last March, she had to get a ride 20 minutes south to get medical attention.

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When it comes to the presidency and the U.S. Senate, Democrats are largely playing offense. That's true further down the ballot, too, for the offices where many of the policies that affect our daily lives are made: state legislatures.

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Many Texans who were hoping to vote by mail during this election are instead having to vote in person.

So far, about a million Texans have cast a ballot during the state's extended early voting period, which started Tuesday.

Texans were put into this position thanks to a confluence of events that includes the solidly Republican state becoming more competitive and the nation's federal courts becoming more conservative.

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Local officials in Texas say they plan to fight a new order from Gov. Greg Abbott to limit the number of places where voters can hand deliver mail-in ballots.

Abbott announced the order Thursday, the same day local election officials opened the drop-off sites.

Starting Friday, Abbott said in a statement, "mail ballots that are delivered in person by voters who are eligible to vote by mail must be delivered to a single early voting clerk's office location as publicly designated by a county's early voting clerk."

Caitlin Boehne wasn't too happy that she had to vote in person during a recent primary runoff in Austin, Texas.

Boehne is under 65 and isn't disabled, so voting by mail wasn't available to her under current Texas law. She says it was a frustrating situation.

"The workers, the voters — everybody has to risk their health in order to participate in the democratic process," she says. "It's astounding."

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In an effort to keep voters safe, states of all political complexions are finding ways to expand access to mail-in ballots as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Then there's Texas.

The state has some of the most restrictive laws limiting vote by mail in the country. Under Texas law, the program is open only to people who are 65 or older, people who will be out of the county during the election, people who are in jail and not convicted, and people who are disabled.

Elizabeth Hernandez moved to the United States from Mexico almost 30 years ago and was days away from becoming an American citizen when her March 15 naturalization ceremony was canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It made me sad," said Hernandez, who lives in New Mexico. She hadn't thought much about becoming a citizen until this year because of the upcoming election. "I want to vote for a president who will improve the country."

A version of this story was first posted by member station KUT in Austin.

A Texas judge said Wednesday he will clarify that voters fearful of contracting COVID-19 will be allowed to use mail-in ballots during elections in July and November.

For Texas Democrats, the state's Super Tuesday primary could help define the shape of a party that's on the rise after more than two decades of being shut out of power.

During the Trump administration, the party has experienced a surge of new voters — ranging from suburban voters in areas of Texas historically dominated by Republicans to a new crop of young, racially diverse voters.

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