10-23-21 Texas abortion law to stay in place until Supreme Court decision
The US Supreme Court will allow Texas to maintain a near-total ban on abortions, but will take up the case next month in a rare sped-up process. The law, known as SB8, gives any person the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past six-weeks - before most women know they are pregnant. The Supreme Court said it will focus on how the law was crafted and whether it can be legally challenged. It is considered extraordinarily rare for the top US court to expedite cases. Lower courts have yet to issue final rulings on the so-called Texas Heartbeat Act. The controversial law - which makes an exception for a documented medical emergency but not for cases of rape or incest - bans abortion after what some refer to as a foetal heartbeat. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says that at six weeks a foetus has not yet developed a heartbeat, but rather an "electrically induced flickering" of tissue that will become the heart. The Texas law is enforced by giving any individual - from Texas or elsewhere - the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past the six-week point. However, it does not allow the women who get the procedure to be sued. The Biden administration has previously said it would ask the court to block the law. Since 1973's landmark Roe v Wade Supreme Court case, US women have had a right to abortions until a foetus is able to survive outside the womb - usually between 22 and 24 weeks into pregnancy. The US is one of seven out of 198 countries to allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Washington Post. Lawyers for the state of Texas asked the justices on the court to consider overruling the landmark Roe decision, as well as a separate case that affirmed the constitutional right to an abortion. The court did not accept that request. Oral arguments in the case have been set for 1 November. The Supreme Court said that it would wait for those arguments to take place before taking any action. In a written dissent, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that the expedited timeframe would offer "cold comfort" for women in Texas who are hoping for abortion treatment.
10-22-21 Supreme Court to hear challenges to Texas abortion law on Nov. 1, but won't block it in meantime
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to review Texas' restrictive abortion law, but declined to block it while examining "Texas' unusual enforcement scheme and whether the Department of Justice has the right to sue to block the law," NPR reports. On Nov. 1, the nine justices will hear oral arguments from two different challengers — Texas abortion providers, as well as the Justice Department, who also asked the court last week to block the effective ban while legal challenges play out, writes Bloomberg. The court will not be directly considering the constitutionality of the law, which empowers private citizens to sue anyone who aids or abets an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued only a partial concurrence with the majority, dissenting specifically to the court's refusal to temporarily halt the law's enforcement as challenges are considered. "Women seeking abortion care in Texas are entitled to relief from this court now," wrote Sotomayor. "Because of the court's failure to act today, that relief, if it comes, will be too late for many." The November hearing comes one month before arguments in "another pivotal abortion case," Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, "which directly challenges the abortion-rights precedent established in 1973 under Roe v. Wade," says CNBC.
10-16-21 Texas abortion law: Biden administration to request block on abortion ban
US President Joe Biden's administration has said it will ask the Supreme Court to block a Texas law that imposes a near-total ban on abortion. It comes after a federal appeals court reinstated the law. The Supreme Court cited procedural issues when deciding against intervening to block it last month. The law bans abortions after what anti-abortion campaigners call a foetal heartbeat is detected, a notion disputed by medical authorities. The law - which makes an exception for a documented medical emergency but not for cases of rape or incest - gives any individual the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past the six-week point. Critics have said this provision - which provides monetary awards for those whose lawsuits are successful - lets people act as anti-abortion bounty hunters. President Biden has vowed to fight the Texas ban, citing Americans' constitutional rights. Since the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade, US women have had the right to an abortion until a foetus is viable - that is, able to survive outside the womb. This is usually between 22 and 24 weeks into a pregnancy. In response to a Justice Department lawsuit over the Texas law, US District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin, Texas, last week issued a preliminary injunction halting its enforcement, calling it "flagrantly unconstitutional" and a violation of Roe v. Wade. The judge said he would "not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right". But the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals effectively reinstated the ban in Texas on most abortions once a heartbeat is detected in the womb. On Thursday, the court confirmed the law would remain in place during ongoing proceedings. The Justice Department is expected to formally file its appeal in the coming days. The decision of the Supreme Court - which has a 6-3 conservative majority - will be watched closely throughout the US. Its initial refusal to intervene was seen as confirmation of its conservative leanings after appointments by former President Donald Trump.
10-16-21 DOJ to ask Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban while legal challenges play out
The Department of Justice will ask the Supreme Court to halt enforcement of Texas' extreme abortion law while legal disputes move forward, DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley announced in a Friday statement. "The Justice Department intends to ask the Supreme Court to vacate the Fifth Circuit's stay of the preliminary injunction against Texas Senate Bill 8," wrote Coley. He did not say when the request would be filed, but told CNBC he "should have a better sense on Monday." On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit — which is "considered perhaps the most conservative appellate court in the nation," per the Texas Tribune — undid a federal judge's ruling allowing a temporarily block on the ban's enforcement. Its decision thus moved the law back into effect, writes CNBC. Known as Senate Bill 8, Texas' abortion law criminalizes abortion after six weeks — before many individuals even know they're pregnant — and incentivizes private citizens to sue abortion-seekers and anyone who aids and abets in the process, per The New York Times. The Texas law is difficult to challenge in court by design, although ostensibly "unconstitutional under the controlling precedents," writes the Times. In December, the court will take up another abortion-related case, this one a direct challege to landmark ruling Roe v. Wade and relating to a recent Mississipi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks.
10-11-21 Justice Department asks court to pause Texas abortion ban while case is being appealed
The Department of Justice filed a brief on Monday asking the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to pause Texas' strict abortion ban while the law is being appealed. The law went into effect last month, and prohibits abortions once cardiac activity is detected; this usually happens about six weeks into a pregnancy. The Justice Department filed a suit to block the law, and last Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman approved a temporary injunction. Just two days later, the 5th Circuit granted Texas' request that it put an administrative hold on Pitman's order, allowing the law to stay in place as the court considers the appeal. In its Monday filing, the Justice Department said that by "both defying the Constitution and frustrating judicial review, Texas has not merely protracted its assault on the rights of its citizens; it has repudiated its obligations under our national compact in a manner that directly implicates sovereign interests of the United States." The DOJ further argued that if "Texas' scheme is permissible, no constitutional right is safe from state-sanctioned sabotage of this kind."
10-9-21 Texas abortion: US appeals court reinstates near total ban
A US appeals court has temporarily reinstated Texas's near total ban on abortions. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to a request from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that an injunction imposed against the law be lifted. On Wednesday, a lower court had temporarily blocked the bill for the "offensive deprivation" of the constitutional right to an abortion. The restrictive law bans all abortions at about six weeks of pregnancy. It gives any individual the right to sue anyone involved with providing or facilitating an abortion after foetal cardiac activity is detected, and makes no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. On Wednesday District Judge Robert Pitman granted a request by the Biden administration to prevent enforcement of the law while its legality was being challenged. He held that women had been "unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution". However, Texas officials immediately appealed against the ruling, which the New Orleans-based, conservative-leaning Fifth Circuit court has agreed to set aside. It ordered the justice department to respond to its ruling by Tuesday. In a statement following the latest ruling, Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, called on the Supreme Court to "step in and stop this madness". "Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear, and this cruel law is falling hardest on those who already face discriminatory obstacles in health care, especially Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour, undocumented immigrants, young people, those struggling to make ends meet, and those in rural areas," she said. "The courts have an obligation to block laws that violate fundamental rights." The Texan attorney general said the court's decision was "great news", adding he would "continue to fight to keep Texas free from federal overreach".
10-8-21 Texas abortions resume after court ruling despite legal fears
Some Texas abortion clinics have reopened amid fears that a legal ruling which halted the state's near-total abortion ban may be short-lived. Other clinics have reported that concerns over lawsuits have prevented them from reopening. On Wednesday, a US judge temporarily blocked the new law, which effectively bans women from having an abortion. Texas officials appealed against the ruling, setting the stage for further court battles in the coming months. Abortion care provider Whole Woman's Health, which runs four clinics across Texas, said it had already resumed offering abortion care on Thursday. Speaking to reporters, Amy Hagstrom Miller, the firm's founder, said there had been an immediate spike in inquiries from patients seeking abortions in the wake of the judge's decision. "Phone call volume has increased. There's actually hope from patients and staff," she said. "There's a little desperation in that hope. Folks know this opportunity could be short-lived." District Judge Robert Pittman's 113-page ruling earlier this week granted a request from the Biden administration to prevent enforcement of the law while its legality was being challenged. This is the first legal setback for Texas since the law - which was drafted and approved by Republican politicians - was implemented. The law effectively bans abortions from as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, at a time when most women will not be aware they are pregnant. Despite the injunction, some clinics remain hesitant to resume procedures as there is uncertainty over whether they could be sued retroactively if the law is re-instated. The controversial law can be enforced by any individual from Texas or elsewhere, giving people the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past the six-week point. Women who get the procedure, however, cannot be sued.
10-7-21 Texas abortion providers say patients are well aware 'this opportunity could be short-lived'
A federal judge temporarily blocked Texas' strict abortion law on Wednesday, and while several clinics in the state resumed services on Thursday, others kept their doors closed, with doctors concerned that they might still be held liable despite the ruling. The law went into effect in September, banning abortions once cardiac activity is detected, which typically happens about six weeks into a pregnancy. The Department of Justice challenged the law, and U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman granted the temporary injunction on Wednesday, saying, "This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right." There were about two dozen abortion clinics in Texas before the law took effect, and at least six either started operating again on Thursday or began preparing to reopen, Center for Reproductive Rights spokeswoman Kelly Krause said. Whole Women's Health operates four clinics in the state, and its president, Amy Hagstrom Miller, told The Associated Press there is "actually hope from patients and from staff, and I think there's a little desperation in that hope. Folks know this opportunity could be short-lived." The state said it intends to appeal the ruling, and it's possible that the law could soon be reinstated by the conservative U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The law was written so that citizens enforce it, giving civilians the ability to sue anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion. Anna Rupani is the executive director of Fund Choice Texas, which pays the travel expenses for women seeking abortions. She told AP that even with the law temporarily halted, her organization isn't sure if it should try to help patients get abortions in Texas. "What's really frustrating ... is this law was drafted to create confusion, and this law was drafted to create problems," Rupani said. "It's unfortunate that we have an injunction and people are still having to understand the legal ramifications of what that means for them."
10-7-21 Texas abortion: Judge temporarily blocks enforcement of law
A US judge has temporarily blocked a new law in Texas that effectively bans women from having an abortion. District Judge Robert Pitman granted a request by the Biden administration to prevent any enforcement of the law while its legality is being challenged. The law, which prohibits women in Texas from obtaining an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, was drafted and approved by Republican politicians. The White House praised the latest ruling as an important step. "The fight has only just begun, both in Texas and in many states across this country where women's rights are currently under attack," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. Texan officials immediately appealed against the ruling, setting the stage for further court battles. Judge Pitman, of Austin, wrote in an 113-page opinion that, from the moment the law came into effect on 1 September, "women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution". "This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right," he said on Wednesday. Whole Woman's Health, which runs a number of clinics in Texas, said it was making plans to resume abortions "as soon as possible". But the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life, accused judges of "catering to the abortion industry" and called for a "fair hearing" at the next stage. This is the first legal setback for Texas since the law was implemented. President Joe Biden's administration took legal action after the conservative-majority Supreme Court declined to prevent Texas from enacting the law. The justice department filed an emergency motion to block enforcement of the law while it pursues legal action. Mr Biden, a Democrat, has described the law as an "unprecedented assault" on women's rights, but Texas Governor Greg Abbott has defended it, saying: "The most precious freedom is life itself." (Webmasters Comment: The Supreme Court has become a political body with a religious agenda!)
10-6-21 Federal judge temporarily blocks Texas abortion ban
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman on Wednesday temporarily blocked Texas' strict abortion ban, saying in his ruling that "this court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right." Under the law, abortions cannot be performed in Texas after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which is typically about six weeks into a pregnancy. Many women don't know they are pregnant at that point, and the law does not make any exceptions for cases of rape or incest. It is enforced by the public, with regular citizens encouraged to sue people who help women obtain abortions. After the Supreme Court declined to block the law last month, the U.S. Justice Department sued Texas, seeking a temporary injunction of the law on constitutional grounds. During a hearing Friday, Justice Department attorney Brian Netter said the law is an "unprecedented scheme of vigilante justice," while a representative of the Texas attorney general said the federal government was engaged in "hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric." Pitman sided with the DOJ, writing in his ruling that "a person's right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established. Fully aware that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional, the state contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme to do just that."
10-3-21 Abortion rights march: Thousands attend rallies across US
Tens of thousands of people have marched at rallies across all 50 US states in support of abortion rights. They have been galvanised in opposition to a new Texas law that severely limits access to abortions in the state. Pro-choice supporters across the country fear that constitutional rights may be rolled back. In the coming months, the Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could overturn Roe v Wade - the 1973 decision that legalised abortion nationwide. In Washington DC, demonstrators marched to the Supreme Court building, holding signs such as "Make abortion legal". The start of the rally was disrupted by some two dozen counter-demonstrators. "The blood of innocent babies is on your hands!" shouted one man, but he was drowned out by the singing and clapping of the crowd, the Washington Post newspaper reported. One woman who attended a march said she was there to support a woman's right to choose. "While I've never been faced with that choice fortunately, there are many women who have and our government and men have no say in the outcome when it comes to our bodies," Robin Horn told Reuters news agency. The rallies were organised by those behind the annual Women's March - the first of which drew millions of people to protest a day after the inauguration of former President Donald Trump in 2017. "This is kind of a break-glass moment for folks all across the country," said Rachel O'Leary Carmona, the executive director of Women's March. "Many of us grew up with the idea that abortion would be legal and accessible for all of us," she added. "Seeing that at very real risk has been a moment of awakening." In New York state, Governor Kathy Hochul spoke at two rallies. "I'm sick and tired of having to fight over abortion rights," she said. "It's settled law in the nation and you are not taking that right away from us, not now not ever". Another of the rallies was in Austin, Texas, where the state's legislature on 1 September enacted a law banning terminations after the detection of what anti-abortion campaigners call a foetal heartbeat - a point when many women do not know they are pregnant.
10-1-21 The Texas abortion law's broader challenge for the Supreme Court
Texas' draconian new abortion law — and the Supreme Court's decision to allow it to go into effect — immediately sparked outrage from lawmakers, activists, and regular Americans alike, arguing such a ban was effectively an attack on their rights under Roe v. Wade. And as the fallout continues, the Supreme Court is now also dealing with a larger, more unexpected challenge while preparing to revisit Roe in the coming months — public trust and confidence in the highest court in the land, writes Jill Filipovic for The Atlantic. "Few issues stand to undermine public confidence in the Court more than curtailing abortion rights," particularly when those trust levels have already been reported at an all-time low, writes Filipovic. Notably, a "a significant majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe, and fewer than a third say they want the Court to reverse the 1973 decision," she notes. The decline in public approval and fears of growing partisanship, exacerbated by the handling of the Texas law, have also "encouraged progressives to float the idea of expanding the court—something that had been politically taboo for decades." "An expanded court would lessen the conservative justices' power; new tenure rules could put some of them out of a job" Filipovic writes. The nine justices are certainly paying attention to the current optics, as they often have with abortion rights cases — in response to the public anger and expectations, some have embarked on an "extraordinary public display" of defensiveness and irritation in recent weeks, writes CNN, attempting to downplay the court as a partisan institution and restore confidence in its judicial abilities. Still, "the public's trust, the Court's legacy, and the stability of the institution itself" may be at stake going forward. Read more at The Atlantic.
10-1-21 The impact of the strictest anti-abortion law in the US
Michelle is pregnant and has chosen to get an abortion. She also lives in Texas. The state now has the strictest anti-abortion law in the US, with the procedure effectively banned after six weeks. We follow Michelle as she tries to navigate a new reality for women and hear from those supporting the new law.
10-1-21 Congresswoman Cori Bush testifies about her own abortion
House of Representatives Democrat Cori Bush testified about her abortion in the summer of 1994 during a House hearing about threats to reproductive rights. "I was raped, I became pregnant, and I chose to have an abortion."
9-26-21 San Marino residents vote overwhelmingly to legalize abortion
In San Marino, about 77 percent of voters approved a referendum proposal on Sunday making abortion legal in the country. San Marino is a republic surrounded by Italy, home to about 33,000 people. The proposal calls for making abortion legal in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or later if a woman's life is in danger, and now that it has passed, San Marino's Parliament must draft a bill legalizing the procedure, The Associated Press reports. A majority Catholic state, San Marino criminalized abortion in 1865, and the referendum was set for Sunday after 3,000 people signed a petition to overturn the law. Abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978, and women in San Marino in need of the procedure usually cross the border. Sara Casadei was part of the campaign in support of the measure, and she told AP she backed it "for the simple reason that it seemed right that women have a choice and aren't forced to go somewhere else, but to have the services on our own territory." The Catholic Church opposed the measure, with the bishop of San Marino, Monsignor Andrea Turazzi, telling Vatican News it is "inconceivable that a mother resorts to abortion because of some economic troubles." (Webmasters Comment: Ya! She should just starve!)
9-21-21 Texas abortion: Doctor sued in first known challenges of new law
A Texas doctor who admitted to breaking the state's new abortion legislation has been sued, in what could be a test of how lawful the mandate is. Writing for the Washington Post, Alan Braid said he had carried out a termination on a woman who was in the early stages of her pregnancy but "beyond the state's new limit". Former lawyers in Arkansas and Illinois filed lawsuits against him on Monday. The new legislation bans abortions from as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The law came into effect on 1 September, giving any individual - from Texas or elsewhere - the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past the six-week point. However it does not allow the women who get the procedure to be sued. The law bans terminations after the detection of what anti-abortion campaigners call a foetal heartbeat, something medical authorities say is misleading. Dr Braid, who has been practising medicine for nearly 50 years, wrote in an opinion column published on the weekend: "I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care. "I fully understood that there could be legal consequences - but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn't get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested," he wrote. Oscar Stilley, a former lawyer in Arkansas who is serving a 15-year federal conviction for tax fraud in home confinement, said he had decided to file the lawsuit after reading Dr Braid's opinion piece. He said he was not opposed to abortion but sued to force a court to test the legality of the new legislation. In an interview with Reuters news agency, he said the new restrictions violate women's constitutional rights. A second lawsuit was filed by Felipe Gomez, from Illinois, who described himself as a "Pro Choice Plaintiff" in the suit and claimed the law was "illegal as written and as applied". Dr Braid has not commented on the lawsuits, the first known legal challenges to the law which is one of the most restrictive in the country.
9-19-21 The end of Roe v. Wade?
With the Supreme Court poised to revisit the landmark ruling this fall, at least 22 states are readying to outlaw abortion. With the Supreme Court poised to revisit the landmark ruling this fall, at least 22 states are readying to outlaw abortion. Here's everything you need to know:
- Is Roe v. Wade at risk? Many legal experts think so following the Supreme Court's 5-4 refusal this month to block a new Texas law that bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. "Any court that took the right to abortion seriously would have stayed this law," said Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler. "The real question is how and when the court overrules Roe."
- Has the abortion rate changed recently? It's been in steady decline since 1990, when a post-Roe high of 1.6 million abortions were performed in U.S. clinics. That number dropped to about 1 million in 2011 and 862,000 in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
- Where is access being restricted? Nearly 600 abortion restrictions have been passed at the state level over the past decade, most of them in the South, the Midwest, and the Plains. Thirty-three states now require women to receive pre-abortion counseling, which can include speculation about when a fetus can feel pain or the supposed link between abortion and breast cancer, which is not backed by any scientific evidence.
- Have many abortion providers closed? The number of independent abortion clinics in the U.S. has dropped by a third in recent years, from 510 in 2012 to 337 late last year. In at least 16 states, 95 percent of counties lack an abortion clinic; Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Mississippi have only one remaining abortion clinic each.
- Does prohibition stop abortion? History suggests not. In the 1950s and '60s, an estimated 200,000 to 1 million illegal abortions were performed each year in the U.S. Wealthy women would head abroad to get a termination or pay off a physician; poor and desperate women visited back-alley abortionists or attempted terminations at home, poking knitting needles or coat hangers into their wombs, or having their cervixes filled with Lysol.
- Could abortion become illegal in the U.S.? Ten states have "trigger" laws in place that would outlaw abortion the moment the Supreme Court overturns Roe, and another 12 states are thought likely to pass new bans. About 100,000 fewer legal abortions would be carried out each year if Roe were scrapped, according to a study by Middlebury College.
- Abortion goes underground: An underground railroad of sorts is developing to help women in red states travel to abortion providers or illegally obtain abortion pills. The national nonprofit Plan C sent a truck across Texas this month bearing an illuminated advert that read "Missed period? There's a pill for that."
9-17-21 How TikTokers took down a Texas anti-abortion site
When the strictest abortion law in the US went into effect in Texas, teenagers took matters into their own hands. They took to social media to ask people to clog an anti-abortion website with fake tips about offenders. They managed to bring the site down temporarily, but now the anti-abortion webpage, run by Texas Right to Life, is facing other challenges.
9-15-21 Texas abortion: Biden administration requests abortion law pause
The Biden administration has asked a judge to stop the enforcement of an abortion law in Texas. The law, which came into effect on 1 September, is one of the most restrictive in the country. It bans abortion from as early as six weeks and allows anyone to sue those involved in the procedure. The US justice department has filed an emergency motion, seeking to block enforcement of the law while it pursues legal action. The motion filed on Tuesday formally asks a federal judge to lift the ban while the justice department challenges the law. The Supreme Court declined to block SB8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, earlier this month. Supreme Court justices ruled 5-4 against granting a block. The court did not respond to an emergency appeal filed by abortion providers. President Joe Biden described the Supreme Court's ruling as an "unprecedented assault" on women's rights. SB8 bans terminations after the detection of what anti-abortion campaigners call a foetal heartbeat - usually at six weeks, when many women do not know they are pregnant. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has said the term is misleading and what is being detected at such an early stage of pregnancy is a portion of foetal tissue "that will become the heart as the embryo develops". The law also gives individuals the right to sue anyone who provides or facilitates access to an abortion past the six-week point. It does not allow the women who get the procedure to be sued. People who successfully sue under the law will be awarded at least $10,000 (£7,200), in addition to any legal fees incurred. Critics, like the American Civil Liberties Union, have said this leaves the responsibility for enforcing it on individuals, rather than local or state officials, and could give rise to abortion "bounty hunters". Texas' Republican Governor Greg Abbott has defended the law, vowing his state will "always defend the right to life". Other US states including Florida say they are considering similar laws.
9-14-21 Justice Department asks federal court to halt Texas abortion ban 'to protect the constitutional right of women'
The Supreme Court allowed a new Texas law banning most abortions in the state to go into effect, with a 5-4 majority saying the unique enforcement mechanism Texas Republicans came up with tied their hands for now. That legal challenge to Senate Bill 8 came from abortion rights advocates. The Justice Department stepped in late Tuesday, asking a federal judge in Austin to temporarily prevent Texas from carrying out the law, arguing its goal is "to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights." The requested temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction "is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest of the United States," the Justice Department said in its filing. SB 8 deputizes residents to enforce the law through civil lawsuits on anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion after six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck says the Justice Department does a good job explaining why it has standing to file the lawsuit and why the law is already actively violating women's right to an abortion.
9-12-21 Venice Film Festival: Abortion drama wins top prize
A film about illegal abortions in 1960s France has won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival. Audrey Diwan's Happening (L'Événement) is about a woman seeking a termination to continue studying. "I did this movie with anger, with desire, with my belly, my guts, my heart and my head," Diwan said as she accepted the award. The film comes after controversial new laws banning abortion after six weeks were introduced in Texas. The 78th edition of the world's oldest film festival wrapped up on Saturday night, with international celebrities flocking to Venice's red carpet. The ceremony was a stark contrast to last year's event, when guests had to wear masks during screenings and around half of the seats on the Lido waterfront were left empty due to the coronavirus pandemic. The winning film, Happening, is based on an autobiographical novel by Annie Ernaux and portrays a young woman seeking a termination to be able to continue her studies, despite the risk of prison or death. The award was selected by a jury led by Parasite director Bong Joon-Ho. The second prize, the Silver Lion, was presented to Italian director Paolo Sorrentino for The Hand of God, a film about his youth in the southern city of Naples. Other women filmmakers were also honoured during Saturday's ceremony, with New Zealand's Jane Campion picking up the best director award for The Power of the Dog, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Maggie Gyllenhaal, meanwhile, was awarded the best screenplay prize for The Lost Daughter, which features Olivia Colman. Penelope Cruz won the award for best actress for her role in Parallel Mothers, directed by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. Best Actor went to Filipino actor John Arcilla for his role in crime thriller On the Job: The Missing 8. Last year's top prize was given to Nomadland, a US film about a widow living as a nomad after the 2008 financial crisis.
9-10-21 Biden administration sues Texas over restrictive abortion law
The US Department of Justice has filed a civil lawsuit challenging Texas' controversial abortion law. "The act is clearly unconstitutional," Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a briefing on Thursday. It bans abortions from as early as six weeks into pregnancy and allows anyone to sue those involved in the procedure. Doctors and women's rights groups have strongly condemned the law, which took effect last week after the Supreme Court failed to block it. SB8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, came into effect last week after the Supreme Court did not respond to an emergency appeal filed by abortion providers. In an unsigned opinion, the court said that although the appeals had raised "serious questions" about the constitutionality of the law, it could not block it due to complex and "novel" procedural questions. The lawsuit says: "It takes little imagination to discern Texas's goal - to make it too risky for an abortion clinic to operate in the State, thereby preventing women throughout Texas from exercising their constitutional rights, while simultaneously thwarting judicial review." At the briefing, Mr Garland said a "scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans, whatever their politics or party, should fear". He said the greater risk was that other states might follow Texas' example with regards to any such rights, warning that his department would then bring similar lawsuits against them. Democratic President Joe Biden has been under increasing pressure to act after the law went into effect on 1 September. Last week, Mr Biden vowed a "whole-of-government" response. He called the Supreme Court's decision to not block the law "an unprecedented assault" on women's rights. Earlier this week, the justice department announced it would protect Texas clinics that performed abortions.
9-10-21 Democrats' abortion rights opportunity
The Republican position on reproductive rights is stupendously unpopular. Republican leaders are for once staying quiet about a hot political issue. The Texas GOP's de facto ban on abortion and the right-wing Supreme Court majority's rubber stamp of the law has not been mentioned by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, or former President Donald Trump, or House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Fox News has largely kept mum on the subject. That uneasiness reflects the fact that the obvious Republican preference on abortion — to ban it under all circumstances without exception — is hideously unpopular. But like any culture war battle, Democrats will have to actually fight to win it. Now, polling on abortion is highly sensitive to question wording, because a large plurality of people are morally conflicted about it. A long-running Gallup poll finds that reliably about a third of Americans support abortion under any circumstance, while about half think it should be legal but with some restrictions. A recent NBC poll found 31 percent for "always legal," another 23 percent for "legal most of the time," and a further 34 percent for "illegal, with some exceptions." But no matter the wording, banning abortion entirely is wildly unpopular. Gallup's three-option poll found just 19 percent support for a total ban, while the NBC poll that mentioned rape and incest specifically only found eight percent support for a total ban. As I previously argued, unless something changes a total ban will be the (almost certainly intentional) effect of the new Texas law, because it allows for people to sue abortion providers without being liable for paying legal fees if they lose. One moderately wealthy person could bankrupt every Planned Parenthood in Texas with repeated, frivolous accusations of illegal abortion. On the current track, very soon Texans will have no access to abortion — at least if they aren't rich. Just like before Roe vs. Wade, wealthy people (like a rich Republican politician who knocks up his mistress, for instance) will be able to go to other states or countries to get care. Now, it's easy to see why Democrats are reluctant to come out with full-fledged defenses of abortion — a big chunk of the population thinks there should be at least some limits on its use. Traditional Democratic timidity means party leaders are reluctant to risk a backlash by boldly defending abortion rights. (In a recent tweet President Biden did not even mention the word at all.) But there is a way to thread this rhetorical needle. First, attack Republicans on their most sensitive points: pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or those that threaten the mother's health, or ones very early in the term. The Texas bill does not have any exceptions for rape or incest, and the provision for the health of the mother is very narrow — covering only an imminent risk of death or "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function[.]" Hence Democrats should mercilessly attack Republicans on why they want to force rape or incest victims to bear their assailant's child, or why mere grievous injury isn't enough to avoid a forced birth. Texas Governor Greg Abbott was pressed on the rape question recently, and he could only blather incoherently that it wasn't an issue because he would somehow "eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas[.]" (A 2019 study of Texas crime found over 14,000 rapes that year, with less than a quarter even reported to authorities.)
9-7-21 Tripwire boss steps down over support for Texas abortion law
The president of game-studio Tripwire Interactive has stepped down after tweeting support for a controversial new abortion law in Texas. The Texas law bans abortions from as early as six weeks into pregnancy. John Gibson tweeted he was "proud" of the legal outcome and was a "a pro-life game developer". Some of the studio's partners rapidly distanced themselves from Mr Gibson, with one announcing it would cancel its contracts over the issue. And two days after the tweet was posted, amid an avalanche of criticism, Tripwire said: "Effective immediately, John Gibson has stepped down." Mr Gibson's comments had been his own - and not the company's, it said. "His comments disregarded the values of our whole team, our partners and much of our broader community," Tripwire said. "Our leadership team at Tripwire are deeply sorry and are unified in our commitment to take swift action and to foster a more positive environment." Tripwire is a developer of titles including Man Eater, in which gamers play as a shark, and the publisher of medieval-combat game Chivalry 2. Mr Gibson had tweeted: "As an entertainer, I don't get political often." But he was "proud of US Supreme Court affirming the Texas law banning abortion for babies with a heartbeat" - a description medical authorities say is misleading. "With so many vocal peers on the other side of this issue, I felt it was important to go on the record as a pro-life game developer," he had added. The tweet quickly generated intense controversy. Many individual gamers called for a boycott of Tripwire's games, sharing tips on how to hide listings for its products in Steam's online game store or making donations to women's charities in Mr Gibson's name. Supporters of the Texas law also responded, with the original tweet clocking up nearly 13,000 replies. But Shipwright Studios, a "work-for-hire" studio that contributed to some of Tripwire's games, wrote it was ending a three-year relationship because of Mr Gibson's comments. "While your politics are your own, the moment you make them a matter of public discourse you entangle all of those working for and with you," Shipwright Studios said.
9-7-21 Texas abortion clinics will be protected, Justice Department says
The US Justice Department says it will protect clinics that perform abortions in Texas, a state with a near-total ban on voluntary pregnancy terminations. The department said it would "provide support from federal law enforcement" when a clinic, reproductive health centre or patient was "under attack". A new Texas law bans abortions from as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Doctors and women's rights groups have criticised the legislation, known as SB8, that took effect last week. The so-called "Heartbeat Act" was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in May. The law, one of the most restrictive in the country, bans abortions after the detection of what anti-abortion campaigners call a foetal heartbeat, something medical authorities say is misleading. It also gives any individual the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past the six-week point. The law took effect after the Supreme Court did not respond to an emergency appeal by abortion providers. "We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act," US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement on Monday. The FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act took effect in 1994. It prohibits any form of threatening or violent behaviour towards anyone obtaining reproductive health services, typically an abortion. In the statement, Mr Garland said his department would enforce FACE, while it "urgently explores all options to challenge Texas SB8 in order to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons". Abortion has long been one of the country's most contentious social issues. However, polls from the Pew Research Center indicate nearly six in 10 Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. This number has remained relatively stable over the past two decades, but masks a partisan divide: only 35% of Republicans support that position. In conservative Texas, an April poll found nearly half of the state's voters support a six-week ban on abortions.
9-6-21 Will the Texas abortion ban spread across the US?
One of the most extreme abortion laws in the US went into effect on 1 September in the state of Texas. The law bans abortion once cardiac activity in the embryo can be detected via ultrasound. This usually occurs around six weeks into a pregnancy, before many even realise they are pregnant. The law, known as Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), doesn’t make exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, though it does have an exemption for “medical emergencies”. While similar laws have previously passed in Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky and South Carolina, they have been quickly struck down by state supreme courts and the US Supreme Court. Texas is the first state in which such a strict abortion law has become enforceable. The difference is in how SB 8 is written. In every other state, people could sue state officials for enforcing an unconstitutional law – that is, laws that directly challenge the federal protection under the Roe v Wade ruling, which allows abortion up to 24 weeks “without excessive government restriction”. But SB 8 was written to avoid such a legal challenge. Under it, Texas citizens are charged with enforcement, not state officials, and allowed under the law to sue any individual for “aiding and abetting” someone seeking an abortion once cardiac activity is detectable, typically past the six-week mark. As part of the legislation, doctors and clinic staff, as well as those driving someone to an appointment or helping pay for the procedure, are liable. Private citizens with no connection to the person getting an abortion can sue and recover damages of $10,000 plus legal fees. “This cruel and dangerous law is among the most extreme in the entire nation — and tragically par for the course here in Texas, where it’s already prohibitively difficult for people to access sexual and reproductive health care,” says Bhavik Kumar at Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston, Texas. According to Pew Research Center, 61 per cent of people in the US think abortion should be legal and 38 per cent think it should be illegal.
9-5-21 Former GOP congresswoman calls Texas abortion ban a 'bad policy and a bad law'
Texas' strict new abortion is law is receiving backlash from not only Democrats, but some members of the Republican Party, as well. Take, for instance, former Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who identifies as pro-life. On Sunday she appeared on NBC's Meet the Press, where she called the law, which allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion after six weeks, a "blunder." Comstock's issue with the law is that it outsources enforcement to "private parties." She said she's "confident" that it ultimately won't stand because "it's bad policy and it's bad law," and she thinks there are voices within the GOP that can more effectively promote a pro-life agenda by "helping women with tough pregnancies and kids who have disabilities." Later on Meet the Press, GOP strategist Brendan Buck also lambasted the "asinine" Texas law, which he argued could backfire on Republicans. "What stops a California from banning guns by saying you can sue anybody who owns one," he said. "There's nothing conservative about how this is set up."
9-4-21 Historian suggests Fugitive Slave Act closest historical analogy to Texas abortion law
Historian Joshua Zeitz tweeted Friday night that he was asked earlier this week whether there was a historical precedent for Texas' restrictive new law, which allows private citizens to file civil lawsuits against abortion providers and anyone else who may have helped a woman obtain an abortion. The closest thing he could think of, he said, was the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Zeitz's reasoning is that the law "required state and local officials to arrest alleged runaways on the simple say-so of a bounty hunter and criminalized interference with these abductions." He explained that the law "incentivized the abduction of free Black people, turned all Black people in free states into bounty, and compelled uncooperating white people to become agents of state brutality." Zeitz acknowledged that the two laws aren't perfectly analogous, but he does believe the Texas abortion ban could similarly encourage a vigilante culture against women and doctors. Read Zeitz's entire thread here.
9-2-21 Texas abortion law: US Supreme Court votes not to block ban
The US Supreme Court has refused to block a new law in Texas that bans abortions for most women. The so-called Heartbeat Act bans terminations after the detection of what anti-abortion campaigners call a foetal heartbeat - a point when many women do not know they are pregnant. The law gives any individual the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past the six-week point. Rights groups had asked for an injunction to prevent its enforcement. But in a late night vote, the Supreme Court justices ruled 5-4 against granting this. The court's majority said their decision was not based on any conclusion about whether the Texas law was constitutional or not, and that the door remained open for legal challenges. All three of former President Donald Trump's Supreme Court appointees voted against blocking the ban. One of the court's six conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts, joined the three liberal justices in dissent. Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the court's order "stunning". "Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand," she said. President Joe Biden has condemned the law, which came into effect on Wednesday. He called it "extreme" and warned that it would "significantly impair" women's access to healthcare. In a statement, President Biden said his administration would "protect and defend" the constitutional rights established under Roe v Wade and "upheld as a precedent for nearly half a century". He was referring to the 1973 case in which the Supreme Court ruled US women have the right to an abortion until a foetus is viable - that is, able to survive outside the womb. This is usually between 22 and 24 weeks into a pregnancy. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the president had long wanted to see the "codification" of Roe v Wade - which would mean Congress voting to make the precedent federal law - "and [the Texas law] highlights even further the need to move forward on that effort".
9-2-21 Texas abortion law: What women make of six-week abortion ban
A new law restricting access to abortions is being celebrated by supporters in Texas, but for the doctors and pro-choice activists who could be prosecuted under it, this was a dark day. On Tuesday afternoon, Eva Alpar was approaching women outside a clinic that provides a range of health services, including abortions. As a volunteer with the San Antonio Coalition for Life, she tracks the number of cars that come by each hour and hands out goodie bags with snacks and body wash to women going inside to seek services. Inside the bags are brochures that list alternatives to an abortion. The previous 72 hours had been busy at this south Texas clinic. Across the state, abortion providers said more patients were looking to terminate their pregnancies ahead of the new law which effectively bans abortions after six weeks. For Ms Alpar, this law - which came into effect on Wednesday after the US Supreme Court did not intervene - is a huge win. "A good day [on the job] means I'm able to get at least one referral," Ms Alpar said, standing in 90F (32C) heat right next to speeding cars that often honk at her. "That means we get them to leave Planned Parenthood and go over to a woman's [health centre] instead," to discuss alternatives to an abortion. (Planned Parenthood is one of the largest abortion services providers in the country.) On Wednesday, members of the anti-abortion coalition showed up again at the clinic, only to find it closed for medical procedures. The website for the location reads: "Due to Texas' new law SB 8, we are unable to provide abortion at this time. We are challenging this law and hope to resume abortion care in the future." "Today is a wonderful day for Texas," said Catherine Nix, the executive director of the Coalition for Life, after briefly speaking to a woman who accepted a bag from her. "We are here everyday trying to help women choose life, and today the law is now behind us to help us do that." (Webmasters Comment: Thye are not making a choice, they are being forced!)
9-2-21 Texas' abortion ban is authoritarian
This goes far beyond any encroachment into personal liberty that Republicans have complained about. If conservatives really are worried, as they claim to be, about authoritarianism, then the time is now for them to act, because Texas just implemented one of the most totalitarian anti-abortion laws in the world. If there was ever a moment to see if principle would trump ideology, this is it. The right has been on a tear about what they say is the massive threat of liberal totalitarianism, from the classroom to the boardroom to the federal government. The Biden administration's plan to have health-care workers go door to door to talk to people about the COVID vaccine? Outrageous. "People have a choice, they don't need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations," said Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Mask mandates in schools? Those are an "attempt to restrict the rights and freedoms of Texans," a spokesperson for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. Teaching the history of racism in public schools? "Indoctrination" that must be stopped. Anchors on Fox News fret about "cancel culture" and claim that "wokeism is the biggest threat this country faces." Republicans in Congress are melting down because the committee investigating the Jan. 6th insurrection has asked telecoms companies to preserve a handful of phone records from that day. Even some moderates and liberals point to the rise of online outrage mobs and the costs they extract as indications of a new Puritanism, devoid of due process and fueling fear and self-censorship. I'm more sympathetic than many who share my politics to worries about a lack of due process in employer responses to internet outrage, and in our growing penchant for retribution and ostracization without any mechanism for forgiveness or reintegration. These are real causes for concern ("critical race theory" and mask mandates? Not so much). But if you're a person who worries about mob justice and vigilantism without due process protections, Twitter dust-ups are vigilante tee ball. Texas just brought us into the big leagues. The Texas law essentially offers a bounty for ratting out anyone who helps a woman who seeks an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy: $10,000 and all your legal fees covered if you sue and win. Whatever you think about abortion rights, deputizing any person in the United States to be their own little secret police is an incredibly dangerous approach, less "pro-life" than "American Stasi." This goes far, far beyond any encroachment into personal liberty that Republicans have complained about. While Marjorie Taylor Greene worries about the "brownshirts" who go door to door with vaccine information, her party is behind a law that hauls people into court, publicly humiliates them, and potentially bankrupts them for doing as little as giving a woman a ride to a health clinic. Greg Abbott's office trumpets Texans' "right to choose for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, or get vaccinated" and rejects any "attempt to restrict the rights and freedoms of Texans" – so one can only conclude that in Texas, women don't fully count as people or citizens duly entitled to a full range of rights and freedoms. We know that women who seek and are denied abortions face a whole host of negative consequences. Compared to women who sought abortions and got them, women who are turned away wind up more likely to be stuck in abusive relationships. They are more likely to be reliant on the welfare system. They have more mental health problems. They have fewer aspirations and are more likely to have scaled back their hopes and dreams. The children they had before seeking out and being refused an abortion end up with lower developmental scores and are more likely to live in poverty than the existing children of women who sought abortions and received them. The children born after women sought and were refused an abortion are also more likely to live in poverty and are more likely to struggle to bond with their mothers. Women who are refused abortions are more likely to have serious health consequences and to die in childbirth.
9-2-21 The Texas abortion ban depends on menstruation ignorance
Defend reproductive rights by talking openly about periods. When the nation's strictest abortion law in nearly 50 years took effect in Texas on Wednesday, a common refrain among its opponents was that America was beginning to resemble a foreign country. Eric Garcia, a Democratic congressional candidate from California, tweeted, "GOP: Think of what the women in Afghanistan must endure under the Taliban. Also GOP: We will put $10,000 bounties on women seeking abortions and everyone helping them." Another viral tweet wondered, "When do we start airlifting the women and children out of Texas?" Taboos against periods are likewise considered to be the exclusive purview of supposedly unenlightened countries such as Ethiopia or rural India — places with menstruation huts and backward superstitions about women. But just because the U.S. has Tampax commercials and THINX ads in the subway doesn't mean we're unencumbered by our own menstruation taboos. In fact, despite liberals' outraged (and thinly racist) declarations that the Lone Star state now resembles an oppressive Islamic regime, it is a deeply American squeamishness about menstruation that is at least partially responsible for the yet-unchallenged Texas law. Because let's face it: When it comes to talking openly about periods, the U.S. gets a failing grade. At many U.S. schools, boys and girls are separated during sex education, meaning girls are taught about menstruation and period hygiene while also implicitly being told such topics are not for discussion around boys. The stigma is cyclical and self-perpetuating: One British charity found that nearly half of girls between the ages of 14 and 21 are embarrassed by their periods. Meanwhile, "negative male attitudes towards periods … are largely down to information asymmetry or lack of male education on the topic," The Establishment points out. Though cis male naïveté about periods leads to plenty of funny articles debunking period myths, it also has serious consequences; it's only been six years, after all, since the future president of the United States dismissed a female debate moderator for having "blood coming out of her wherever." In fact, despite the visibility of women in public life these days, women are still accepted on the basis that they maintain the veneer of being "non-bleeders," as Sharra Vostral phrases it in Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology. My own eyes were opened on the subject by a 2015 article in The Atlantic, "Don't Let Them See Your Tampons," which quotes Vostral and further interrogates the great lengths that American women go to in order to hide their hygiene products in public spaces. Though I consider myself a feminist, it'd never occurred to me that slipping a tampon up my sleeve so I could smuggle it unseen into the office bathroom was a shame-motivated discretion. And, unconsciously, it was also a protective one: A study cited in the Atlantic article found that people recoiled at the sight of feminine products, forming "worse impressions of a woman who dropped a tampon out of her bag than if she dropped something innocuous like a hair clip" to the point that they "even avoided sitting near her." But as we're seeing now in Texas, the consequences of Americans not talking openly about menstruation have bigger reverberations than office awkwardness. While a six-week abortion ban might sound at least plausible to a cis male — after all, that's nearly two whole months! — the restriction, as it is experienced by a menstruating person, is more like a two-week abortion ban, Salon's Amanda Marcotte has pointed out. And as many women know experientially, and some cis men might not know at all, two weeks without a period isn't necessarily long enough to alert women that they're pregnant. But irregular periods, light periods, and cycle changes aren't exactly open topics of conversation due to the continued stigmatization of women's bodies. If they were, then Texas' new law might be called, discussed, and treated like what it actually is: A true and unconstitutional abortion ban.
9-2-21 Chief Justice Roberts doesn't seem ready to overturn Roe, but Texas ruling suggests 5 other conservatives may be
The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision not to block a new Texas six-week abortion ban is "a strong but not final indication that the court will soon overturn Roe v. Wade," Politico predicts. The three liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts each wrote separate, sometimes blistering dissents. "Roberts doesn't write this dissent if he's ready to overrule Roe v. Wade," University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck writes. "The fundamental issue — and the question that's going to loom over [the Supreme Court's] entire upcoming term — is whether, when the time comes, any of the other five conservatives are going to join him." "Abortion rights supporters think they have little chance of persuading Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, or Neil Gorsuch to act against the legislation," Politico's Josh Gerstein reports, but "they still hope that either Justice Brett Kavanaugh or Justice Amy Coney Barrett might side with the law's opponents if the issue gets before them in a different legal vehicle." That's unlikely, UC Irvine School of Law professor Rick Hasen said in a long Twitter thread. The five-justice majority "has said that even if this law is likely unconstitutional, the Rube Goldberg-esque enforcement mechanism that Texas designed for its anti-abortion law has tied the court's hands," which is "poppycock," he argues. "The majority doesn't say it but the real issue is that they believe plaintiffs don't have the right to abortions. But the majority is not going to say that in this case, so they hide behind the technical arguments which are hard to explain to the public." "The upshot of the court's decision is to allow Texas to use a jurisdictional trick to ban abortion after six weeks, at least for a time, without the court having to say 'Roe v. Wade is overruled,'" Hasan writes. "The opinion provides a fig leaf pretending it is not a judgment on the merits. But the handwriting is on the wall. If the court took the merits of the undue burden standard or respect for precedent seriously, this case was a no-brainer to stay Texas' law. No, Roe v. Wade was not overruled tonight. But the ease with which Texas purported to bulldoze the court's abortion jurisprudence tells you all you need to know about the right to choose before this court. And the conservative majority can leave the chief justice behind."
9-2-21 Texas' abortion ban is being copied for other states, says pro-life group
Texas' new, incredibly-restrictive abortion law, which the U.S. Supreme Court denied to block in a 5-4 decision, has already piqued the interest other states looking to enact an extreme abortion ban of their own, Time reports. John Seago, legislative director of the pro-life group Texas Right to Life — which also helped author the bill — told Time he has already heard from other states interested in copying the law's controversial approach, and that the group is even drafting legislation for some. "This is a valid public policy tool and we're excited to see how it works," said Seago. The law's extremism lies not only in that it effectively bans abortions after six weeks — which is before most people even know they're pregnant — but it financially incentives private citizens to sue anyone who "aids and abets" in the abortion process, including clinics, physicians, and even rideshare drivers. (Webmasters Comment: This is like the Taliban and in the old Soviet Union!) Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the Reproductive Freedom Project at the ACLU, said the law "does open the floodgates to lawsuits, and even frivolous lawsuits, just to harass abortion providers." What's more, because of the way the legislation is written, there's no specific individual or obvious entity for abortion rights advocates to sue over the law's constitutionality. "The Constitution, including Roe v. Wade, only applies against the government, it doesn't apply against private individuals," said Laurence Tribe, a leading constitutional law expert at Harvard. "That's what makes this really dangerous." Read more at Time.
9-1-21 Under Texas ban, private citizens could sue a cab driver who takes a woman to an abortion
One of the most extreme aspects of Texas' restrictive new abortion law is that it allows private citizens to sue not only abortion providers, but anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Reports NPR, this could include "those who give a woman a ride to a clinic or provide financial assistance." The people who file lawsuits do not have to have a personal connection to the people they are suing. Critics argue that the law, which went into effect on Wednesday, will encourage vigilantism and harassment in the state because citizens who launch a successful lawsuit could receive an award of at least $10,000. Texas Right to Life has already set up a "whistleblower" website where they can submit anonymous tips about about anyone they believe to be in violation of the ban, NPR reports.
9-1-21 Texas passes law banning abortion after six weeks
A law banning abortion from as early as six weeks into pregnancy has come into effect in the US state of Texas. It bans abortions after the detection of what anti-abortion campaigners call a foetal heartbeat, something medical authorities say is misleading. The law, one of the most restrictive in the country, took effect after the Supreme Court did not respond to an emergency appeal by abortion providers. Doctors and women's rights groups have heavily criticised the law. It gives any individual the right to sue doctors who perform an abortion past the six-week point. The so-called "Heartbeat Act" was signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in May. But rights groups, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), then requested that the Supreme Court block the legislation. In the early hours of Wednesday, the ACLU confirmed that the court had "not responded to our request", adding: "Access to almost all abortion has just been cut off for millions of people." The group, which says that up to 90% of abortions in Texas take place after six weeks of pregnancy, described the development as "blatantly unconstitutional". The US women's health group Planned Parenthood also condemned the ban, tweeting: "No matter what, we aren't backing down and we are still fighting. Everyone deserves access to abortion." The Supreme Court still has the power to overturn the ban at a later stage. Since the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade, US women have had the right to an abortion until a foetus is viable - that is, able to survive outside the womb. This is usually between 22 and 24 weeks into a pregnancy. The so-called Texas Heartbeat Act prohibits abortions after six weeks of a pregnancy - at a point when many women do not know they are pregnant. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has said the term "heartbeat" is misleading, and that what is being detected at this stage is "a portion of the foetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops". The Texas law enforces its ban with an uncommon approach: it empowers any private citizen to sue anyone who "aids and abets" an illegal abortion. The legislation makes an exception in the case of medical emergency, which requires written proof from a doctor, but not for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Texan women who wish to have an abortion after six weeks will need to travel across state lines, or - as estimated by the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute - an average of 248 miles (399km). (Webmasters Comment: A woman's right to decide what is done with own body is being seriously jeopardized!)
9-1-21 Restrictive abortion law goes into effect in Texas
A Texas law banning abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy went into effect at midnight Wednesday. Abortion providers in the state filed emergency requests to block the measure, one of the strictest in the United States, but the Supreme Court did not take action before the law took effect. Under the law, known as SB 8, abortions cannot be done if an ultrasound can detect what lawmakers say is a "fetal heartbeat," The Texas Tribune reports. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says this isn't medically accurate terminology, because at this point in development, "what is interpreted as a heartbeat in these bills is actually electrically induced flickering of a portion of the fetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops." It's common for people to not know they are pregnant until after six weeks, and abortion providers and advocates in Texas say the bill will affect at least 85 percent of patients. Whole Women's Health clinics in Texas remained open until midnight, and saw an influx of patients who came in for services before the law took effect, the organization tweeted. In filing its appeal, Whole Women's Health said under SB 8, "through no fault of their own, thousands of pregnant Texans will lose constitutionally protected access to abortion in mere hours unless this court acts. Applicants and their patients urgently need relief."
6-19-21 Abortion rights: US Catholic bishops face clash with Biden
US Catholic bishops are on a potential collision course with President Joe Biden after voting to commission a document that may call for him to be barred from Holy Communion. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) clashed online over whether to draw up a teaching document on politicians who support abortion. Holy Communion is the most important ritual in the Catholic Christian faith. The Catholic president regularly attends Mass. Responding to news of the bishops' vote, he said: "That's a private matter and I don't think that's gonna happen." The Vatican has already indicated its opposition to the bishops' move. After the debate on Thursday, the Most Reverend Allen H Vigneron, vice-president of the USCCB, announced the move had passed by 168 to 55, with six abstentions. The US clergy is deeply divided on the issue. The Most Rev Robert McElroy, bishop of San Diego, warned such a document would lead to the "weaponisation" of the Eucharist (the more formal name name for Holy Communion). However, the Most Rev Liam Cary, the bishop of Baker, Oregon, said the Church was in an "unprecedented situation", with "a Catholic president who is opposed to the teaching" of the Church. The document will now be drafted by the doctrine committee of US bishops. However, although it will be a form of national policy, it will not be binding. Each individual bishop has the right to decide who should be blocked from the Mass in his diocese. The document will return for debate at the next bi-annual US Catholic Bishops Conference in November. The controversial issue of whether politicians who support abortion should receive Mass has become more prominent with the election of Mr Biden as president. Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, warned most priests would be "puzzled to hear that bishops now want to talk about excluding people at a time when the real challenge before them is welcoming people back to the regular practice of the faith and rebuilding their communities".
6-3-21 Abortion: Texas teen attacks new law in high school graduation speech
When Paxton Smith got up to deliver her high school graduation speech, it was supposed to be about TV and the media. But the teenager ditched the script that had been approved by her school, and spoke about abortions instead. In her home state of Texas, a law banning abortion from as early as six weeks has recently been signed. "I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace when there is a war on my body," Paxton said in the speech that's since gone viral. The law bans abortions after the detection of what anti-abortion campaigners call a foetal heartbeat, something medical authorities like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists say is misleading. Many women would not know they are pregnant that early on. The law does allow abortions in the case of a medical emergency, but not for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. When signing the bill, Texas governor Greg Abbott said "millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion" and "in Texas we work to save those lives". Doctors and women's rights groups have heavily criticised the change, which will take effect in September if it's not stopped by a court. "In light of recent events, it feels wrong to talk about anything but what is currently affecting me and millions of other women," Paxton said to fellow students at Lake Highlands High School. "I have dreams, hopes and ambitions," Paxton said. "Every girl here does. We have spent our whole lives working towards our futures, and without our consent or input, our control over our futures has been stripped away from us." "I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail me, that if I'm raped, then my hopes and aspirations, efforts and dreams for myself will no longer matter," she added. She said it was "gut-wrenching" and "dehumanising" to have the autonomy over her body taken away and that this was a "problem that can't wait". "I cannot give up this platform to promote complacency and peace, when there is a war on my body and a war on my rights. "A war on the rights of your mothers, a war on the rights of your sisters, a war on the rights of your daughters. "We cannot stay silent," she concluded.
5-28-21 The looming battle over abortion in the US
Pro-choice activists say that state lawmakers across the country are trying to restrict abortion at a pace not seen in decades. So what will this mean for a decades-long fight over the issue in America? On a Friday night, Julie gets ready to go out with her partner while her two boys curl up on the sofa to watch a Disney movie with their babysitter. It is a typical happy family scene, one that Julie probably never envisaged when, aged just 19, she was raped and took the decision to have an abortion. "I come from a small town in Ohio. All German Catholics, very conservative. So when I found out I was pregnant I panicked. I didn't know what to do. I knew that I could not have this baby," she says. She had been fervently anti-abortion then, but when she got pregnant against her will, her views on the subject changed completely. And, several years later, after an unplanned pregnancy during an emotionally distressing time following her mother's death, she took the decision to have another abortion. "My abortions, I have no regrets whatsoever for them," she says. "In fact, it's changed my life. After my first abortion, I had my first examination as a grown woman. I got on birth control. I made yearly appointments for my pap smear and checks. I feel that girls and young women from small, religious communities have a fear or think that they don't need that." Julie says the current spate of anti-abortion legislation introduced across the country worries her. "I think it's important for all of us to take a stand and fight for our reproductive rights because, like me, you never know when you are going to be in that position and what you are going to do." According to a report by two prominent pro-choice groups, Planned Parenthood and the Guttmacher Institute, more than 500 such restrictions have been introduced so far in 2021 - significantly more than a comparative period in any other year since the 1970s, when abortion was legalised across the country. (Webmaster's comment: The Republicans just want women treated as breed stock!)
5-20-21 Abortion: Texas governor signs restrictive new law
The governor of Texas has signed a law banning abortion from as early as six weeks - before most women know they are pregnant. Governor Greg Abbott signed the legislation at a ceremony on Wednesday. It bans abortions after the detection of what anti-abortion campaigners call a foetal heartbeat, something medical authorities say is misleading. The law is also unique in giving any individual the right to sue doctors who perform the procedure past this point. Doctors and women's rights groups have heavily criticised the law, which will take effect in September if it is not stopped by a court. Texas is the latest and largest US state to pass abortion restrictions. It comes just days after the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a case which could upend the nationwide legal right to abortion, laid out in the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling. A ruling could give individual states greater powers to restrict abortions. "Our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion," Governor Abbott said at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on Facebook. "In Texas we work to save those lives." Unlike in other states, the Texas law does not let state officials enforce the ban. Anyone inside or outside the state instead now has the power to sue abortion providers - or anyone who could have helped a person to get the procedure - after the limit. They can seek up to $10,000 (£7,061) in damages per defendant. The Texas Tribune reports that supporters of the bill hope this novel provision will trip up legal challenges to the legislation, as without state officials enforcing the ban, there will be nobody for pro-women's rights groups to sue. It also allows abortions in the case of a medical emergency, but not for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Close to a dozen states in the US have passed similar laws based on the "foetal heartbeat" provision. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says the name is misleading, and that what is being detected is "a portion of the foetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops". (Webmaster's comment: The evil of the anti-abortionists contines!)
5-20-21 Wake up, Democrats!
The Supreme Court's decision to hear an abortion case is an ominous signal about the future of reproductive rights — and so much more. Democrats must do something. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case involving Mississippi's 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks, setting the stage for a potentially far-reaching and disruptive change in the existing constitutional framework just months before the midterm elections. The decision to hear this case, about a law that is incontestably unconstitutional, is an ominous signal about the future of reproductive rights, and should serve as a wake-up call for complacent Democrats who have decided to just move on from the GOP's cynical, norm-busting takeover of the Supreme Court. The narrow scope of the case involves Mississippi's "Gestational Age Act" that prohibits nearly all abortions after 15 weeks, one of a seemingly endless series of state laws designed as vehicles for asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Roe framework prohibits states from restricting the right to terminate a pregnancy before viability — the age at which a fetus could survive outside of the womb, generally accepted to be between 23 and 24 weeks. Because even Mississippi's attorneys could not make a credible case that survival is possible at 15 weeks, the law was struck down by a federal district court judge in 2018 and then by the conservative-dominated 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019. Jessica Mason Pieklo cuts through the right-wing sophistry in describing why the Court would take this case. "None of the traditional markers for taking up a case exist" in the Mississippi case, she argues. Appellate courts have not rendered different verdicts on similar cases, as was the case when the Court took up same sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. The case does not raise novel issues of constitutional law. "The only thing that exists is the political will of the Court's conservatives to strike on abortion rights now." Remember that the lower court rulings striking down Mississippi's law would have stood had the Supreme Court simply passed on this case. Therefore the only reason to take it is if at least four justices (the minimum number required for the Supreme Court to hear a case) intend to toss Roe's viability framework out the window and unleash a flurry of what would effectively be total bans on abortion in every GOP-controlled state in the country. And when Amy Coney Barrett, a lifelong anti-abortion zealot, was confirmed to the Supreme Court on the eve of the 2020 election, everyone knew that a Court with a newly minted, hard-right 6-3 majority would eventually do something like this. Whether the Court will directly vacate Roe or, as Mason Pieklo predicts, simply gut it so thoroughly that it is effectively meaningless by allowing pre-viability bans remains to be seen. But sometime around June 2022, a Court that includes three justices appointed by a twice-impeached popular vote loser and confirmed by a Senate majority representing a distinct minority of the population is going to radically restrict the reproductive rights of tens of millions of Americans, in direct defiance of the stable majority which supports legal abortion in all or most circumstances. Many states already have "trigger laws" on the books that will ban abortion the minute that SCOTUS overturns Roe. The red states that don't won't be far behind. (Webmaster's comment: The whole idea behind anti-abortion is that women must remain breed stook for the males!)
3-24-21 The radical future of the pro-life movement
For the past several decades, the progressive nightmare on abortion rights has involved a conservative majority on the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). This would immediately return the issue to states, where many legislatures would ban the procedure, leaving women's reproductive rights secure only in the most liberal regions of the country. But this is by no means the most radical pro-life scenario. Conservatives now have a 6-3 majority on the high court. We don't yet know if these justices are willing to strip abortion rights from the federal Constitution, sending decision-making back to the states for the first time in 48 years. But among conservative intellectuals, this is now the milquetoast option, with another line of argument fast gaining ground. The more extreme argument goes like this: The 14th Amendment gives "equal protection of the laws" to all persons. Genetics as well as ultrasound technology tell us that fetuses and even embryos are human beings and hence persons. The 14th Amendment therefore protects unborn life, rendering every state law permitting abortion unconstitutional. Instead of sending abortion back to the states, pro-lifers should thus be working to convince conservative justices to use the equal protection clause to ban abortion outright, from conception on, throughout the entire United States. That is where the pro-life movement is headed — and the rest of the country better be ready for it. Now, to be clear, a Supreme Court decision along these lines is nowhere in sight. As far as I know, none of the current justices affirm this reading of the equal protection clause. Yet it is undeniable that pro-life debate has shifted in this direction over the past couple of decades, just as the Republican Party has moved further right and become less interested in trying to win electoral majorities. If both trends continue, the judges who emerge in the future from the conservative movement's formative legal institutions are likely to be much more open to such claims than the justices currently serving on the high court, whose views were formed decades ago during a very different political moment. To get a sense of the long-term trajectory of conservative constitutionalism, consider the ideas and career of Robert Bork. Thirty-four years ago, Bork was considered so far right that his nomination to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan went down to defeat in the Senate when six Republicans joined with 52 Democrats to oppose him. Bork's position on abortion — that Roe was a jurisprudential travesty that deserved to be overturned so that the issue could once again be decided democratically at the state level — is quite likely the view of all six conservatives on the high court today. The only question is whether these justices are willing to break from 48 years of precedent to overturn Roe and Casey outright, or whether they would prefer, as a matter of institutional restraint, merely to allow states to nibble away at the margins, enacting piecemeal restrictions on abortion a little at a time, leaving Roe and Casey technically intact but increasingly neutered. The story of how Bork's position moved from unacceptably radical in 1987 to dominating the nation's highest court by the end of the Trump administration is an important one. A revealing chapter in that story took place when I worked as an editor at First Things magazine in the early 2000s. Back in 2002, a little-known assistant professor of political science at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, named Nathan Schlueter pitched an article making the case that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment applied to fetuses, rendering abortion unconstitutional in all cases.
3-6-21 The post-Roe abortion fight has already begun
A victory for abortion rights in New Mexico challenges assumptions — and points a way forward. Abortion rights activists are already preparing for a future without Roe. "Looking at the Supreme Court it's not a matter of if Roe v. Wade is undermined or challenged or repealed, but a matter of when," New Mexico State Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena told The Week. Last week in Cadena's state, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, repealing a state-level ban on abortion that predated Roe. Activists said overturning the currently unenforceable law, which would have been reactivated if Roe is overturned, is essential to preserving abortion rights. Now, the organizing around the bill could be a model to other states. And the victory challenges some assumptions about who will drive the next phase in the movement to protect reproductive rights. New Mexico is far from the only state where abortion access relies on the presence of Roe. Eight other states have pre-Roe abortion bans, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Additionally, 10 states have so-called trigger laws that would automatically ban abortion if Roe is overturned, meaning almost half of states would see an immediate criminalization of abortion. Passing state-level protections, therefore, is essential to insure against an eventual upheaval of Supreme Court precedent. In New Mexico, it was the result of years-long campaigns led by women of color. Two years ago, abortion rights activists similarly attempted to repeal the ban but ultimately failed. At the time, critics and supporters of the attempt alike cited the state's large Hispanic and Catholic populations as culturally opposed to abortion rights. Yet, in fact, 74 percent of rural New Mexicans agreed "personal decisions about abortion need to remain with New Mexican women, their families, and their medical providers," according to a survey by Forward Together and Latino Decisions. Nicole Martin is the co-founder and sex educator at Indigenous Women Rising, and was a leader of both campaigns to repeal the ban. "We made a statement that Black and indigenous, and people of color, migrating relatives, people of faith, we can all trust that pregnant people can make complex decisions for themselves," said Martin. When the 2019 bill failed, it was, in part, because Democratic state senators from the majority joined Republicans in voting against the bill. Five of those Democrats lost their 2020 primaries. Rep. Cadena believes they lost their seats because of their votes against the repeal. "It really was assumed wrongly, from the left to the right, from feminist pro-choice banner waving allies to preachers in the local churches, everybody said, ‘New Mexico is too Hispanic and too Catholic to get this right,'" according to Rep. Cadena. She believes rethinking which demographics do and do not support leaving healthcare decisions to individuals is key for organizing for better access on a state level. Martin agreed that communities of color did not come to support the repeal despite their identities. "We're leading with our community values as Indigenous people and our kinship protocols, extending compassion and care to our relatives." New Mexico's repeal is important for ensuring access for nearby states as well. New Mexico state Department of Health data shows nearly 20 percent of abortions were for out-of-state patients in 2014. In the seven years since that research, neighboring Texas has repeatedly attempted to pass limits on the legal procedure including banning insurers from covering abortion in comprehensive health plans and even using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to stop all abortions. The Texas state legislature is back in session, and despite the ongoing pandemic and recent power outages, the statehouse is introducing new restrictions on abortion care including new trigger laws anticipating the overturning of Roe.
1-29-21 Biden allows US aid for abortion providers and expands Obamacare
US President Joe Biden has reversed a ban on federal funds going to international aid groups that perform or inform about abortions. He said the ending of the so-called Mexico City Policy reverses former President Trump's "attack on women's health access". The memo orders a review of a Trump-era policy blocking funding for US clinics that offer abortion referrals as well. Mr Biden also signed an edict expanding the Obamacare insurance programme. "I'm not initiating any new law, any new aspect of the law," he said in the White House Oval Office on Thursday, responding to criticism that he was governing by executive order, rather than congressional legislations. "There is nothing new that we're doing here other than restoring the Affordable Care Act ... to the way it was before Trump became president," he added. The Mexico City Policy was first enacted by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and has been repeatedly renewed by Republicans and cancelled by Democrats. For decades, the US has barred money from being spent on overseas abortions but the Mexico City policy takes that a step further. It prevents federal funds from going to organisations that provide abortions, abortion counselling or advocate for the legal right to abortion. The programme was expanded under Mr Trump, who banned funds from going to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that themselves provide funding for abortion groups. In a statement earlier, the White House said Mr Biden was issuing the presidential actions "to support women's and girls' sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States, as well as globally". A report by the US Government Accountability Office released last year found that in 2017, NGOs were unable to receive around $153m (£112m) because they chose not to cut back on abortion programmes. The report found 54 occasions in which NGOs did not accept US funds due to the policy.
1-28-21 Poland enforces controversial near-total abortion ban
A controversial near-total ban on abortion in Poland has taken effect, the government announced, with enforcement from midnight on Wednesday. A court ruling allowing the prohibition prompted huge protests when it was issued in October. Abortion is now allowed only in cases of rape or incest or when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. The majority of Poles oppose a stricter ban and demonstrations took place in Polish cities on Wednesday evening. Activists have called for large street protests on Thursday and Friday in the capital Warsaw. The October ruling by the Constitutional Court found that a 1993 law allowing abortion in cases of severe and irreversible foetal abnormalities was unconstitutional. In 2019, 98% of abortions were carried out on those grounds, meaning that the ruling effectively banned the vast majority of pregnancy terminations. The ruling provoked outrage from supporters of the right to abortion. But Poland's conservative government, which has strong ties to the country's powerful Catholic Church, supports the ruling. The court justified its ruling on the grounds that "an unborn child is a human being" and therefore it deserves protection under Poland's constitution which ensures the right to life. Following the announcement that the ruling would now be enforced, groups defied coronavirus restrictions to protest in Warsaw. Waving red flares and LGBT flags, some carried placards reading "Free Choice, Not Terror". "I want us to have our basic rights, the right to decide about our bodies, the right to decide what we want to do and if we want to bear children and in what circumstances to have children," one protester, Gabriela Stepniak, told Reuters news agency. The mayor of Warsaw Rafal Trzaskowski tweeted his opposition to the move, calling on women to reject the decision on the streets. Leaders of the nationwide Women's Strike movement that opposed the ban wore green headscarves, in a nod to Argentina's women's movement that successfully campaigned to legalise abortion.
1-22-21 Honduran abortion law: Congress moves to set total ban 'in stone'
Parliament in Honduras has initially approved a bill that will make it virtually impossible to legalise abortion in the country. The new measure will require at least three-quarters of Congress to vote in favour of modifying the abortion law, which is among the strictest in world. Honduras forbids abortion under any circumstance, even rape or incest. Its latest move comes in response to Argentina legalising abortion last month. Across Latin America, there has been increased pro-choice campaigning, known as the "green wave", based on the colour worn by protesters. The new legislation in Honduras hinges on an article in the constitution that gives a fetus the same legal status of a person. Constitutional changes have until now been permitted with a two-thirds majority, but the new legislation raises that bar to three-quarters within the 128-member body. The measure still needs to be ratified by a second vote. However, support was clear on Thursday: with 88 legislators voting in favour, 28 opposed and seven abstentions. Honduras has a stanchly conservative majority, which referred to the measure as a "shield against abortion". "What they did was set this article in stone because we can never reform it if 96 votes are needed [out of 128]", opposition MP Doris Gutiérrez told AFP news agency. Mario Pérez, a lawmaker with the ruling party of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, formally proposed the change last week, calling it a "constitutional lock" to prevent any future moderations of the abortion law. "Every human being has the right to life from the moment of conception," said Mr Pérez. Ahead of the vote, UN human rights experts condemned the move, saying in a statement: "This bill is alarming. Instead of taking a step towards fulfilling the fundamental rights of women and girls, the country is moving backwards."
1-9-21 Covid: Locked-down women turn to pills amid Malta abortion ban
Catholic Malta has the strictest ban on abortion in the EU, but during the pandemic more Maltese women have been ordering abortion pills from abroad, unable to travel because of the lockdown. Veronica - not her real name - was among them. "It was a big burden for me. I already have two kids with learning difficulties. I came off the [contraceptive] pill, as the doctor suggested I switch to an IUD for health reasons. I was waiting for the appointment, but Covid came and cancelled all the hospital appointments." Not long after that Veronica got pregnant. "I had to decide what is best for me and the children," she says. "The best for my health, the best financially… plus the father immediately told me to abort." Abortion is completely illegal in Malta, even if the woman's life is at risk. Without the option of travelling abroad, Veronica didn't know what to do. She contacted local women's rights activists, who put her in touch with a foreign NGO. It was through them that Veronica was able to safely get hold of abortion pills, which can be taken up to the 12th week of pregnancy. Abortion is a crime in Malta, punishable by up to three years' prison for the woman herself and anybody who may have assisted her. An estimated 300-400 Maltese women travel abroad every year to get an abortion, usually to the UK. But pandemic travel restrictions have made this option far less viable. The Abortion Support Network (ASN) is a UK-based charity offering information and funding to cover the cost of travel and accessing abortion. It had 110 Maltese requests in 2020 - up from 75 the previous year, when it first opened up services to the Maltese. According to ASN founder Mara Clarke, the pandemic has been a social leveller. "When they close the airport and you live on an island, suddenly it gives everybody a taste of what it means to live in a place where there is a horrible abortion law." It is not clear if the rise in requests is down to increased numbers of women wanting abortions, or increased awareness that help is out there.