A federal judge on Wednesday struck down a North Dakota law that was considered one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. The law prevented doctors from performing an abortion after a fetal heartbeat had been detected — essentially banning all abortions six weeks after conception.
The Jamestown Sun reports that U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland called the law “invalid and unconstitutional.”
State lawmakers passed House Bill 1456 last year. The law made performing a so-called fetal heartbeat abortion a Class C felony.
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed the bill into law noting that it may not hold up to judicial scrutiny.
"Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade,” he said at the time, according to a CNN story.
Hovland’s ruling referenced Roe v. Wade and he made it clear that he found little room for debate about the 40-year-old decision.
"A woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before viability has been recognized by the United States Supreme Court for more than 40 years. The United States Supreme Court has clearly determined the dispositive issue presented in this lawsuit. This court is not free to impose its own view of the law,” he wrote.
Prior to his ruling, Hovland had granted an injunction in July that prevented the law from taking effect. That followed a lawsuit, filed in June by the Center for Reproductive Rights, challenging the law on behalf of the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo.
Workers at the clinic said the law would force them to close. Had that happened, women seeking an abortion in North Dakota would have had to leave the state. A story from Reuters indicated that the closest alternate clinics would have been in Minneapolis, Minn. or Sioux Falls, S.D.
Nancy Northrup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, praised the ruling.
"The court was correct to call this law exactly what it is: a blatant violation of the constitutional guarantees afforded to all women. But women should not be forced to go to court, year after year in state after state, to protect their constitutional rights,” she said. "We hope today's decision … sends a strong message to politicians across the country that our rights cannot be legislated away.”
A major outcome of the Nevada Republican Party convention, which was held this Saturday in Las Vegas, was the decision to reform the party’s emphasis on gay marriage and abortion.
According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, members of the convention decided to remove opposition to gay marriage and abortion from the party’s platform.
Although the decision was preceded by several debates and arguments, the party ultimately decided that they do not need to focus on social issues during this election year. Dave Hockaday, a member of the platform committee, explained that the GOP celebrates personal freedom, so they shouldn’t be involved in individuals’ personal decisions.
“The issue was how can we back out of people’s personal lives. We need to focus on issues where we can have an impact,” said Hockaday.
The convention also led to the endorsement of Gov. Brian Sandoval for re-election. Gov. Sandoval faces four GOP candidates in the primary, but is largely projected to win re-election in November.
Like the issues of abortion and gay marriage, the endorsement of Gov. Sandoval was somewhat controversial. Gov. Sandoval was not present at the convention.
All of the convention’s debates and arguments represent the growing shift between traditional Republicans and the more libertarian-leaning Tea Party members, a schism taking place at both the state and federal level.
According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, Nevada’s GOP needs to prove its unity in order to win what’s at stake this November, which includes two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, control of the Nevada state Senate, and the lieutenant governor’s office.
A bill that aims to narrowly define what constitutes a “medically necessary” abortion for purposes of Medicaid funding passed the Alaska House of Representatives Sunday night according to the Anchorage Daily News.
The bill was the House version of Senate Bill 49 which passed the upper house of the Alaska legislature last year. Critics say the bill will greatly limit the availability of abortions to poor and low-income women.
The proposed law defines a “medically necessary” abortion as one arising from a pregnancy that poses "serious risk to the life or physical health of a woman."
State Rep. Geran Tarr, a Democrat, argued that an abortion is a personal decision and that the bill, as written, will interfere with a woman’s right to privacy and making that decision on her own.
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, a Republican, disagreed with Tarr, saying that the bill doesn’t restrict access to the controversial procedure it just helps to determine who will pay for it.
"This bill has nothing to do with restricting a women's right to an abortion," she said.
Even so, other critics argued that the bill ignores the larger question; which is how the state should reduce the number of overall abortions. Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Chris Tuck supported an amendment to the law that would have expanded Medicaid funding for contraception. Such an amendment, he argued, would reduce unwanted pregnancies and achieve the goal of reducing abortions.
“The best way to do that is to make it so people aren’t even faced with that decision. The best way for that is prevention of unwanted pregnancies,” he said, according to the Fairbanks News-Miner. “Like it or not, sex happens. Shouldn’t everyone be able to afford and plan for the consequences of sex?”
Republicans were opposed to the idea.
“Other than putting contraceptives in the drinking water, I mean we’ve done just about everything we can do as far as family planning services,” argued LeDoux.
The bill passed without the amendment.
In 2001 the Alaska Supreme Court held that the state must pay for “medically necessary” abortions. According to an Associated Press story, that decision referenced bipolar disorder and noted that medications to treat that disorder would be “highly dangerous to a developing fetus.” Since that time state lawmakers have struggled to define what is “medically necessary.”
“Without funding for medically necessary abortions, pregnant women with these conditions must choose either to seriously endanger their own health by forgoing medication, or to ensure their own safety but endanger the developing fetus by continuing medication,” the court reasoned.
The bill that passed the House on Sunday lists 21 physical conditions that would constitute medical necessity for an abortion. An amendment to add certain psychiatric disorders to that list failed to pass.
In a strange combination of two hot-button, polarizing political issues, South Carolina may expand its current “Stand Your Ground” law to permit the use of deadly force to protect a fetus.
The expansion of the law, referred to as the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act,” was approved 3-2 by a state Senate committee on Thursday, although it’s currently unclear how far the legislation is going to progress. The law would allow pregnant women to use deadly force to protect unborn children, beginning at conception.
Although the legislation specifically references pregnant women and fetuses, opponents argue that the expansion of the law would be no different than the state’s current “Stand Your Ground” law. If a pregnant woman is threatened, her unborn child is automatically threatened as well, opponents argue. ThinkProgress suggests that the new legislation is simply an effort to advance the classification of unborn fetuses as “personhood” according to state law.
While the Senate committee works to expand the law, other state politicians are looking to repeal it. According to the Huffington Post, Rep. Harold Mitchell, Democrat, introduced legislation in March that would repeal South Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
Virginia Delegate Robert Marshall (R) has a history of making inflammatory statements with no apologies.
Marshall, who is now running for Virginia seat in the U.S. Congress, said yesterday, “I don’t care. I mean, if I say something in public, I say it in public," noted The Washington Times.
In 1989, the Boston Globe asked Marshall, then the research director for the American Life League, about his opposition to all abortion, even in cases of incest.
"What if incest is voluntary?...Sometimes it is," Marshall said, reported Mother Jones.
Marshall confirmed his incest position yesterday to The Washington Times and added, “It doesn’t make it right or legal. It just gives the facts.”
During a speech to a pro-life group in 2013, Marshall suggested that Justice Anthony Kennedy was gay because he voted for same-sex marriage in a case.
“For all I know, Kennedy’s a homosexual,” Marshall declared. “You can’t be doing some of these things without this kind of conclusion.”
In 2010, Marshall claimed nature was taking vengeance on women who have abortions by giving them children with disabilities, noted RightWingWatch.org (video below).
“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion who have handicaps has increased dramatically," stated Marshall. "Why? Because when you abort the firstborn of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children."
Marshall later claimed he wasn't trying to offend anyone with his (non-scientific) claim.
“No one who knows me or my record would imagine that I believe or intended to communicate such an offensive notion,” Marshall later said. “I have devoted a generation of work to defending disabled and unwanted children and have always maintained that they are special blessings to their parents.”
Lorraine Mae Rafferty is a gubernatorial candidate in Oregon with strong conservative views that she is not shy about sharing.
The Republican was recently interviewed by The Oregonian, which asked her what she thought about gay marriage (video below).
"I would have to say I definitely believe that is wrong," said Rafferty. "I believe it is a sin, same as murder is a sin."
Gay marriage may end up on Oregon's November 2014 ballot unless U.S. District Judge Michael McShane rules on same-sex marriages in May.
Judge McShane has scheduled oral arguments for April 23 on the issue of the current gay marriage ban in Oregon, reports KATU.
Rafferty was also asked about abortion.
"I believe that would be murder," stated Rafferty. "I'm against abortion. I think it's misunderstood."
If she becomes governor, Rafferty promised to educate the state that a "baby in the womb is a human being."
She also promised tax breaks to manufacturing companies that make products in the state.
(Note: Gay marriage, abortion begin at 2:15 mark on video below)
The remains of more than 15,000 aborted and miscarried fetuses were incinerated as “clinical waste” at British hospitals, some of which use “waste-to-energy” systems that generate heat for the facility.
At least 15,500 fetal remains were incinerated by 27 National Health Service trusts in the last two years, according to a recent investigation by the Channel 4 news program “Dispatches.”
Ten NHS trusts admitted to burning fetal remains with their garbage. Two other hospitals burned fetal remains in waste-to-energy systems.
The Department of Health issued a ban on the practice this past Sunday night.
“This practice is totally unacceptable,” said Health Minister Dr. Dan Poulter. “While the vast majority of hospitals are acting in the appropriate way, that must be the case for all hospitals, and the Human Tissue Authority has now been asked to ensure that it acts on this issue without delay.”
Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, one of the nation’s leading hospitals, incinerated 797 fetuses that were under 13 weeks gestation in its waste-to-energy system. Meanwhile, mothers were told that the babies were “cremated.”
Ipswich Hospital Trust incinerated 1,101 remains from 2011 to 2013 in its waste-to-energy system, which is operated by a private contractor.
The hospital said it was shocked to learn of the practice.
“The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust does not incinerate fetal remains,” said an Ipswich spokeswoman. She added that the trust “takes great care over fetal remains.”
“I am disappointed trusts may not be informing or consulting women and their families,” said Chief Inspector of Hospitals Sir Mike Richards. “This breaches our standard on respecting and involving people who use services and I’m keen for 'Dispatches' to share their evidence with us. We scrutinize information of concern and can inspect unannounced, if required.”
Dr. Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, recently claimed that the scientific words "zygotes or embryos or fetuses" cause oppression.
“We know that tomorrow morning legislators in this city will be deciding whether or not to oppress the most vulnerable around us, not only with laws but also even before that with words, referring to persons you have created in your image as simply zygotes or embryos or fetuses or crisis pregnancies rather than persons, neighbors, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters,” said Dr. Moore.
Back in January, Moore told The Christian Post that Jesus "is a former embryo, a former zygote, a former fetus, a former crisis pregnancy who is now the ruler of the entire universe."
However, there is no evidence in the Bible that Jesus was ever a "crisis pregnancy."
Ironically, one of the other speakers at the "pro-life" gala was The Weekly Standard's Editor William Kristol, who recently advocated for more war: "A war-weary public can be awakened and rallied. Indeed, events are right now doing the awakening. All that’s needed is the rallying."
The student leader of a pro-life club is fighting her Connecticut high school for the right to display life-size fetus models in the public school’s cafeteria.
Branford High School senior Samantha Bailey-Loomis, 17, says it’s unfair – other clubs are able to promote their views at lunchtime.
Bailey-Loomis founded the Students for Life club, which wants to display a model fetus for each month of pregnancy, but her principal says the display goes too far.
“When we asked our principal at our school if we can have this set up during lunch and have an opportunity for kids to come over and take a look at our display, he said no,” Bailey-Loomis told WWLP.
“He tells us that this topic in particular is too controversial to be talked about in public school,” she added.
She says other school clubs display information at lunch.
“They had information about what their club does and what they have done in the past and they have pictures and they have poster boards just like ours, except for with different content on it,” she said.
One Branford parent, Melissa Walkley, said she doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the fetus display.
“There is nothing wrong with it,” said Walkley. “I mean, I would let my kids see it. This is what a baby looks like as it’s growing in a mommy’s belly.”
She allowed her elementary-age children see the display.
“Just the life cycle of a baby, like you learn in school,” she said.
Both the principal and the superintendent of the school district declined to comment when contaced by WWLP.
South Carolina’s House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, according to a story by Reuters.
The bill, known as the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” passed the House with a 84-29 vote divided mostly along party lines. Republican supporters of the bill say it is necessary, citing disputed studies that indicate a 20-week old fetus can feel pain.
"We had over 60 studies introduced to us in committee that [showed] they do feel pain," said Rep. Wendy Nanney, Republican. "And the state has a right to step in and protect that child."
If the bill passes in the Senate, the state would join 12 other states that have passed such a ban.
The proposed legislation would allow doctors to perform an abortion if the mother’s life is at risk. It does, however, require that they first determine the age of the fetus and report to the health department whether ultrasound was used in the determination. Failing to follow the law could result in civil charges, penalties up to $10,000 and three years in prison.
Opponents of the bill say that late-term abortions are rare and fear that if the bill becomes law, doctors will not abort pregnancies even if doing so would be the appropriate medical action.
"While no woman should have to justify her personal medical decisions, the reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens under heartbreaking and tragic circumstances," said Melissa Reed, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, in Charleston’s The Post and Courier. "Politicians have no place in that conversation.”
A study cited in a Washington Post blog shows that only 44 late-term abortions were performed in South Carolina in 2010. Another study, mentioned in the same blog, contradicts the claim that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. The American Medical Association found that “the capacity for conscious perception of pain can arise only after thalamocortical pathways begin to function, which may occur in the third trimester around 29 to 30 weeks’ gestational age.”
Democrats in the S.C. House blasted Republicans for supporting the bill while at the same time cutting Medicaid programs that would make healthcare available for families in need.
“[Republicans] plead passionately for life for those fetuses who are yet to be born,” said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Democrat. "When that fetus becomes a child and is delivered, that compassion does not seem to have the same level of interest."