US Supreme Court Refuses To Block Texas Law Banning Most Abortions

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 01: A view of the U.S. Supreme Court on September 1, 2021 in Washington, DC. A new Texas law that prohibits most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy went into effect on Wednesday. (Photo by Drew Angerer via AFP)

 

 

 

The US Supreme Court handed a major victory to abortion opponents late Wednesday, denying an emergency request to block a new law effectively banning most abortions in the southern state of Texas.

The court, which had received the emergency request from abortion rights advocates on Monday, did not rule on the constitutionality of the law, which went into effect 24 hours earlier, but cited “complex and novel antecedent procedural questions” for leaving it in place while the court battle continues.

The decision was reached with a narrow majority of five justices in favor, three of whom were appointed by former President Donald Trump, who cemented a conservative-leaning 6-3 majority on the nine-member panel during his time in office.

Chief Justice John Roberts, a moderate conservative, like the three liberal justices, indicated that he would have blocked the “unprecedented” law, pending a substantive review.

More bluntly, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the court’s order “stunning,” saying her colleagues had “opted to bury their head in the sand” over a “flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights.”

Senate Bill 8, or SB8, signed in May by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually in the sixth week of pregnancy — before many women even know they are pregnant — and makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

The only exemption is if there is a danger to the woman’s health.

While similar laws have passed in a dozen Republican-led conservative states, all had been stymied in the courts.

The Supreme Court declined to rule on the request from rights groups and abortion providers to block the law by midnight September 1.

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 01: People make signs as they join others for a reproductive rights rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall on September 01, 2021 in Downtown Brooklyn in New York City. NOW-NYC and Planned Parenthood of Greater New York Action Fund organized a rally for reproductive rights after a Texas law that has been dubbed the “Heartbeat Bill” went into effect.  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago  via AFP)

 

The other states that have sought to enact restrictions on abortion in the early stages of pregnancy have been barred from doing so by rulings that cited protections granted in Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that legally enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion.

That decision guaranteed the right to an abortion in the US so long as the fetus is not viable outside the womb, which is usually the case until the 22nd to 24th week of pregnancy.

But Texas’ law is different from those of other states because it allows the public — rather than state officials such as prosecutors or health departments — to bring private civil suits to enforce the ban.

For procedural reasons, this provision makes it more difficult for federal courts to intervene, and they have so far refused to take up appeals against the law.

The Supreme Court has now followed suit, while noting that other challenges to the law could be filed, including in state courts.

Texas Governor Signs Law Banning Abortion At Six Weeks

 

 

The governor of Texas on Wednesday signed a bill banning abortion at six weeks, joining a conservative push to change the rules on one of the United States’ most divisive issues.

The law — dubbed the “heartbeat bill” by proponents — makes no exception for rape or incest and will make Texas one of the hardest states in the United States to get an abortion.

It comes just days after the nation’s highest court agreed to hear a case that could challenge a landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision enshrining abortion as a legal right.

“This bill ensures the life of every unborn child with a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” said Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

At least 10 other Republican-led states have passed similar legislation banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.

All of the bills have been struck down by the courts because they violate Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court ruling which authorized abortion as long as the fetus is not yet able to survive outside of the womb, which happens at 22 to 24 weeks.

But the Supreme Court is due to hear a case that could challenge that decision, involving a Mississippi law that prohibits abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy except in cases of a medical emergency or a severe fetal abnormality.

It will be the first abortion case considered by the Supreme Court since former president Donald Trump cemented a conservative majority on the nine-member panel.

Abortion is a divisive issue in the United States, with strong opposition especially among evangelical Christians.

– ‘Chilling effect’ –
The new Texas law authorizes a private citizen to sue abortion providers or anyone helping someone undergo the procedure.

It has faced opposition from the state’s medical community, with 200 doctors signing an open letter earlier this month urging legislators to reconsider.

“These bills create a chilling effect that might prevent physicians from providing information on all pregnancy options to patients out of fear of being sued,” the letter read.

“The Texas legislature has no right to cause this type of grievous harm to Texas physicians or the people we serve.”

Reproductive rights activists warn that the six-week cut-off point would ban abortion before many women even know they are pregnant.

“For a person with a normal menstrual cycle, that is only two weeks after a missed period,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, describing it as one of the most “extreme in the country”.

“When you factor in the time it takes to confirm a pregnancy, consider your options and make a decision, schedule an appointment and comply with all the restrictions politicians have already put in place for patients and providers, a six-week ban essentially bans abortion outright.”

In Ghana, Fears Over Pandemic Rise In Teenage Pregnancies

Sarah Lotus Asare (2nd L), a volunteer who works with disadvantaged teenage girls, interacts with a girl in a boxing gym in James Town, Accra, Ghana, on February 12, 2021. PHOTO: Nipah Dennis / AFP

 

Gifty Nuako has just turned 18, an age when a young person stands on the threshold of life. Instead, her future looks bleak.

Last December, she became pregnant — “a mistake,” she says in a whisper.

She wanted to have an abortion, but her boyfriend’s family refused.

Today, in the back streets of Jamestown, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Ghanaian capital Accra, the teenager hides her barely rounded stomach under a long skirt and scarves.

“Now I can’t work, I can’t go back to school. I don’t know what to do any more,” she said.

Unwanted teenage pregnancy is a major problem in Ghana, simultaneously disempowering girls and entrenching them in poverty, say campaigners.

Activists estimate that nearly one woman in seven in the country becomes pregnant before the age of 19.

And, they say, anecdotal evidence suggests the numbers soared last year after the authorities closed schools to help curb the spread of Covid.

“Schools were a form of protection,” said Sarah Lotus Asare, who volunteers with disadvantaged teenage girls.

The schools also gave a sense of purpose to many girls — a crucial compass point that was taken away when education was shut down.

“Many found themselves idle, without adults to supervise them,” she said.

Classes reopened in mid-January after a 10-month closure — one of the world’s longest continuous educational shutdowns prompted by the coronavirus crisis.

– Contraception –

While teenage sexual activity increased during the school shutdown, the vast majority of girls in Ghana do not have access to birth control.

According to a study by the Ghana Health Service in 2020, only 18.6 percent of sexually active adolescents use contraception.

Often, abortion is not an option either.

In this conservative and religious country, pregnancy termination is illegal except in cases of rape, incest, foetal impairment or danger to the mother’s physical or mental health.

Ghana’s lack of sex education is also a problem, said Esi Prah, a member of the NGO Marie Stopes, which works with the government to develop family planning.

“The sexuality of young girls is still stigmatised here,” she said.

“Ghanaians in general are rather hostile to the idea of sex education. There is a tendency to think that it encourages sex between teenagers and that the best contraception is abstinence.”

In 2019, an attempt by the government and the United Nations to implement a sex education programme sparked an uproar.

The initiative was attacked by conservative and religious groups, who denounced a “satanic” attempt to promote “LGBT values”. The programme was ultimately abandoned.

 

– Poverty roots –

Poverty is a cause of unwanted teen pregnancies, and unwanted teen pregnancies become a cause of poverty, say, campaigners.

Theophilus Isaac Quaye, a local elected official in the district of Chorkor, poses for a portrait in his office in Accra, Ghana, on February 12, 2021. Nipah Dennis / AFP

 

Forty-six per cent of Ghana’s population was already living below the poverty line in 2017, and last year the pandemic plunged the country into recession.

“Some parents cannot take care of their children,” said Theophilus Isaac Quaye, a local elected official in the district of Chorkor, south of Accra.

“And then their daughters are forced to follow men who offered them money. This is not their fault. In order for them to survive, they have to follow these men.”

“The major reason for girls getting pregnant, it’s poverty,” Asare said.

School regulations do not formally prohibit young mothers from returning to school after childbirth, but in reality, it is very rare for them to return.

Fearing stigma or needing to support themselves, most teenage mothers quit their studies and find work.

Lacking qualifications, they often take up menial jobs and thus find themselves even deeper in the poverty rut.

“When you get pregnant, you realise the situation becomes worse,” said Asare.

“You couldn’t support yourself and now you have another mouth to feed.”

AFP

Polarized Argentine Senate Set To Vote On Legalizing Abortion

A dummy of a fetus is seen during a demonstration against abortion in Buenos Aires, on December 28, 2020 as Argentina’s Senate prepares to vote on a bill that would legalize the practice. EMILIANO LASALVIA / AFP

 

A polarized Senate will decide Tuesday whether to legalize abortion in Argentina in a vote experts say could go either way.

The bill proposed by President Alberto Fernandez already passed the Chamber of Deputies on December 11, despite fierce opposition from the Catholic Church and evangelical Christians.

“I’m Catholic but I have to legislate for everyone. Every year around 38,000 women are taken to hospital due to (clandestine) abortions and since the restoration of democracy (in 1983) more than 3,000 have died of this,” said Fernandez.

The government says there are between 370,000 and 520,000 illegal abortions a year in Argentina, a country of 44 million.

A similar bill two years ago also passed the lower house but then floundered in the Senate.

This bill aims to legalize voluntary abortions at up to 14 weeks. Terminations are currently only allowed in two cases: rape and danger to the mother’s life.

Tuesday’s debate will begin at 4:00 pm (1900 GMT), but the vote is not expected until sometime during the night.

Despite measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, both pro- and anti-abortion supporters plan to demonstrate in front of parliament.

Religious leaders from the Catholic Church and Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches have called for their supporters “to unite to implore for respect and care for unborn life.”

“God is the one who decides the time of birth and the time of death, and prohibits humanity from getting involved in this territory,” the Christian leaders said.

The time is now

The vote is expected to be razor-thin, despite the governing alliance led by Fernandez making up 41 of the 72 Senate seats.

Not everyone in that alliance supports the bill, while the right-wing neo-liberal opposition is mostly opposed to it.

“In the Senate there are many votes that haven’t yet been decided. They will only be known at the end,” said Nancy Gonzalez, a senator with the governing coalition.

The result could be affected by the absence of two anti-abortion senators.

One will be missing after being accused of sexual assault, while former president Carlos Menem, who is 90, is currently in hospital receiving treatment for heart and kidney pains.

Should the vote result in a tie, the deciding lot would fall to Senate President Cristina Kirchner, the country’s ex-president and current vice-president who two years ago changed her stance from anti-abortion to pro-choice.

“This is the moment to finally approve the (abortion) law. Enough of the strategy of criminalization, stigmatization and curtailment of freedoms historically inflicted on pregnant women,” Fabiola Heredia, the director of the Anthropological Museum at the University of Cordoba, wrote on social media.

Pro-choice activists have campaigned for years to change the abortion laws that date from 1921, adopting a green scarf as their symbol.

They will be out in force on Tuesday, standing face-to-face with anti-abortion supporters brandishing light blue scarves.

“We’re going to be in the streets because we’re going to have a party. But the Senate is impervious to the street, the decision will be made on the other side” of the parliament walls, said Maria Florencia Alcaraz, who has written a book about the fight to legalize abortion in Argentina.

Help from the Virgin Mary

Progress has always been slow in Argentina: divorce was legalized only in 1987, sex education introduced in 2006, gay marriage approved in 2010 and a gender identity law passed in 2012.

The Catholic Church is fighting this issue all the way. On Saturday, Archbishop Oscar Ojea prayed to the Virgin Mary at the Lujan Basilica in Buenos Aires for help in preventing the law from passing.

“Blessed Virgin, pause your gaze on our legislators who must decide on an extremely sensitive issue, so that they may reflect with their minds and hearts,” said Ojea at the mass.

In Latin America, abortion is only legal in Cuba, Uruguay and Guyana, as well as Mexico City.

In El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, it is totally banned, and women can be sentenced to jail even for having a miscarriage.

Poland’s Populist President Narrowly Wins Re-Election

Polish President Andrzej Duda addresses supporters as exit poll results were announced during the presidential election in Pultusk, Poland, on July 12, 2020. - Poland's right-wing head of state Andrzej Duda was ahead by a tiny margin in the presidential run-off against Warsaw's liberal mayor, an exit poll on on July 12, 2020 showed, starting a tense wait for the official results (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)
Polish President Andrzej Duda addresses supporters as exit poll results were announced during the presidential election in Pultusk, Poland, on July 12, 2020. – Poland’s right-wing head of state Andrzej Duda was ahead by a tiny margin in the presidential run-off against Warsaw’s liberal mayor, an exit poll on on July 12, 2020 showed, starting a tense wait for the official results (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)

 

 

Polish President Andrzej Duda squeezed past a europhile rival to win re-election, official results showed Monday, but the narrow victory put allies in the populist right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party on the back foot.

Seeking close ties with US President Donald Trump, Duda has vowed to tighten already restrictive laws against abortion and campaigned against LGBT rights.

Trump on Monday congratulated Duda on his “historic re-election”.

“Looking forward to continuing our important work together,” he wrote on Twitter.

The incumbent won a new five-year term with 51.03 percent of Sunday’s vote against 48.97 percent for Warsaw’s liberal mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, according to final results from the country’s electoral commission.

Trzaskowski had vowed to mend ties with the European Union.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen congratulated Duda on his win, tweeting that she looked “forward to working with him on the many challenges Europe and Poland have to face together”.

Experts said the result means the governing PiS party, which has been criticised at home and abroad for reforms of the judiciary seen as eroding democratic freedoms, will face a more confident opposition.

“President Duda has won the election, but the real success is for Rafal Trzaskowski and the opposition which has gained ground,” said Kazimierz Kik, a political expert from Kielce University.

Anna Materska-Sosnowska, a Warsaw University political scientist, warned there was a “realistic” risk that Poland could begin to resemble Hungary, which has been accused of drifting towards authoritarianism under nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

– ‘Poland divided in two’ –
After congratulating Duda on Monday, Trzaskowski called on the president to “free himself from his political party”, adding: “I hope the president will display more independence in his second term.”

Trzaskowski vowed to work hard “to sew Poland back together”, a sentiment echoed by Duda, who asked supporters to “help me glue our Poland together”.

The government must now deal with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, which is pushing Poland into a recession — the country’s first since communism fell three decades ago.

“Poland is split down the middle,” remarked Witold Orlowski, a professor at Warsaw University of Technology Business School who forecast “a very difficult period” ahead.

“On the one hand, even this slim victory is a PiS success and will allow it to continue to govern, at least technically,” Orlowski said.

“On the other hand, the social and economic situation will deteriorate and a large part of the electorate will blame the PiS.”

Internationally, experts said Duda’s close ties with Trump could also spell trouble ahead if the US president fails to win re-election in November.

Duda’s support was particularly strong among older voters in rural areas and small towns and in the east of the country, while Trzaskowski did well with a younger electorate in larger cities and western regions on the border with Germany.

“The result of these elections is a Poland divided in two with a not-so-rosy future, as it will be difficult to ease the division and to restore the relationship between the two sides,” Kik told AFP.

– White-red vs rainbow –
The election was to take place in May but was delayed because of the virus.

Four days before the first round, Duda became the first foreign leader to visit the White House since the pandemic struck, and was praised by Trump for doing an “excellent job”.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro characterised the second-round vote as “a clash of two visions of Poland, the white-red and rainbow-coloured”, referring to the colours of Poland’s national flag and the symbol widely used by the LGBT community.

Duda has railed against “LGBT ideology”, likening it to a new form of communist brainwashing, and has vowed to change the constitution to rule out adoptions by same-sex couples.

 

AFP

US Judge Blocks Alabama’s Near-Total Abortion Ban

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a strict abortion ban in Alabama that would punish doctors with up to 99 years in prison for performing the procedure.

The ban was set to go into effect November 15 but US District Judge Myron Thompson granted an injunction pending resolution of a lawsuit that argues the law is unconstitutional.

“The plaintiffs have shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their claim,” Thompson said.

“Enforcement of the ban would yield serious and irreparable harm, violating the right to privacy and preventing women from obtaining abortions in Alabama,” he said.

The law equates abortion to homicide and bans it in nearly all cases, including rape or incest, and at all stages of pregnancy.

The only exceptions under the law would be in cases that present “serious health risks” to the woman or in which a fetus is deemed not to be viable.

Under the law, the penalty for performing an abortion in all other cases is up to 99 years in prison.

Planned Parenthood, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the law would deny access to abortion for nearly one million women in the southern state.

The ban was passed in May on a party line vote by the Republican-dominated state legislature.

A key objective of its sponsors is to force the issue before the US Supreme Court.

Anti-abortion advocates are banking that the court, with a conservative majority reinforced by two appointments by President Donald Trump, is more likely to overturn its 1973 ruling that legalized abortion throughout the country.

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Vatican Cancels Women’s Match After Anti-Abortion Protest

Solari - Five Things About Real Madrid's New Coach
Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

The Vatican called off a friendly football match involving its new women’s team in Vienna over the weekend after several Austrian players protested the church’s anti-abortion stance.

The game between the Vatican side founded this year and a Vienna outfit was cancelled Saturday when several Austrians lifted their shirts to reveal pro-choice messages painted on their stomachs and backs when the anthems were played before kick-off, media reports said.

“The game was called off because we are here for the sport, and not for political or other messages”, public broadcaster ORF quoted Danilo Zennaro, a representative of the Vatican sports association, as saying.

A player from the Austrian capital’s Mariahilf women’s team said they hadn’t expected the protest action to lead to the game to be scrapped.

The Vatican’s Vienna representative could not immediately be reached on Sunday for comment.

The Vatican women’s team was formed earlier this year, more than three decades after the men’s side.

Austrian media said the Vienna clash was supposed to be the Vatican women’s first international tie.

German Court Fines Two Doctors For ‘Advertising’ Abortion

 

A German court Friday fined two gynaecologists for offering information publicly on how they carry out abortion services, despite the recent easing of a Nazi-era law banning practitioners from advertising of pregnancy terminations.

German law allows abortions but effectively discourages them through various hurdles, including the law in question, article 219a, which dates to May 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler took power in Nazi Germany.

After an uproar over another recent case, the government early this year lifted a blanket ban on publicising abortion services.

Under the eased rules, gynaecologists, hospitals and public health services are allowed to share essential information about where women can terminate unwanted pregnancies.

However, the two gynaecologists identified only as Bettina G. and Verena W. still fell foul of the amended law because they “not only provided information about whether but also about how the termination of pregnancy is carried out,” the Berlin court said.

“Doctors should in principle only indicate that they carry out abortions,” added the court, imposing a fine of 2,000 euros ($2,250) on each gynaecologist.

On their website, the doctors said they offered “medicinal, anaesthesia-free abortion” in a “protected environment”.

Both defendants voiced disappointment at the ruling and said they would mount an appeal.

“It’s so awful, my stomach turned,” said Bettina G.

Germany, despite being a leading voice for women’s rights in the 1970s, imposes tight restrictions on abortion, permitting it only under strictly regulated circumstances.

It is left out of universities’ course books for student doctors and kept unavailable in swathes of the country.

A woman who wants to abort within the first trimester is required to attend a consultation at a registered centre.

The aim of the interview is to “incite the woman to continue the pregnancy,” according to the rules, even if in the end she has the final say.

Excluding special circumstances such as a pregnancy that threatens the life of the mother, or one arising from rape, abortion is not a procedure that is reimbursable by health insurance.

In some regions, including in the predominantly Catholic state of Bavaria, it may be necessary to travel 100 kilometres (60 miles) to find a doctor who performs the procedure.

Germany records an average of 100,000 abortions for 790,000 births, about half the rate of neighbouring France.

US Judge Blocks Mississippi ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Ban

 

A US federal judge Friday blocked Mississippi’s strict abortion law which would have banned the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.

The bill banning abortion where a heartbeat is detectable — from six weeks — was passed in March and was due to go into effect on July 1.

“Here we go again. Mississippi has passed another law banning abortions prior to viability,” district judge Carlton Reeves wrote in his order.

“The parties have been here before. Last spring, plaintiffs successfully challenged Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks. The Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional and permanently enjoined its enforcement. The State responded by passing an even more restrictive bill,” Reeves said.

Last year, the state passed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but it was blocked before Reeves ruled in November that it violated women’s rights.

The new “Heartbeat Bill” which was signed into law by state Governor Phil Bryant makes exceptions for medical complications, but not for cases of incest or rape.

Earlier in the week Reeves heard arguments from advocates for Mississippi’s only abortion clinic.

The ban “threatens immediate harm to women’s rights, especially considering most women do not seek abortion services until after 6 weeks,” Reeves wrote in his order.

“Allowing the law to take effect would force the clinic to stop providing most abortion care.”

Bryant said he was disappointed at the court ruling.

“As governor I’ve pledged to do all I can to protect life. Time and time again the Legislature and I have done just that,” he said in a statement.

“I will encourage the attorney general to seek immediate review of the preliminary injunction.”

Chipping away at Roe v Wade 

More than a dozen states have adopted laws banning or drastically curtailing access to abortion which was legalized in the landmark 1973 US Supreme Court ruling Roe v Wade.

In Alabama, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Friday against the southern state’s new near-total ban on abortion.

“This law is blatantly unconstitutional, and the ACLU will not stand by while politicians emboldened by President (Donald) Trump’s anti-abortion agenda exploit our health and our lives for political gain,” said ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project senior staff attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas.

Earlier this month, Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the measure that makes abortion a felony — even in cases of rape or incest — unless the mother’s health is at risk, triggering protests in the state and beyond.

It punishes doctors with up to 99 years in prison for providing the procedure.

The ban is due to take into effect on November 15, and if it goes ahead, Alabama abortion providers “will be forced to stop providing and/or referring abortions,” read the lawsuit filed on their behalf in federal court in the state.

“Enforcement of the ban will thereby inflict immediate and irreparable harm on plaintiffs’ patients by violating their constitutional rights, threatening their health and well-being, and forcing them to continue their pregnancies to term against their will.”

Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU’s Alabama chapter, said the lawsuit was intended to “make sure this law never takes effect.”

Several other Republican-led states have passed tough abortion laws they hope will eventually end up before the Supreme Court in hopes it will reverse Roe v Wade.

Conservative states have slowly chipped away at abortion access, starting by imposing strict conditions on facilities that provide the procedure, such as requiring that they be located near a hospital or have operating rooms or halls of a certain size.

In other states, like North Carolina, women can undergo abortion only within 20 weeks of gestation.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed into law Friday a measure that makes the procedure illegal from eight weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Five states require that women be alerted to links between abortion and breast cancer that have not been proven. And doctors in 13 states must advise women considering abortion that the fetus may feel pain — a scientifically controversial claim.

AFP

Thousands Protest Alabama Abortion Law

Protestors participate in a rally against bans on abortions on May 19, 2019 in Montgomery, Alabama. Demonstrators gathered to protest HB 314, a bill passed by the Alabama Legislature last week making almost all abortion procedures illegal. PHOTO: Julie Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

 

Thousands took to the streets in the southern US state of Alabama on Sunday to rally against the nation’s most restrictive bans on abortions in decades.

Around 500 women’s reproductive rights defenders gathered in state capital Montgomery, while in the cities of Birmingham, Anniston, Huntsville and Mobile around 3,000 more joined in denouncing the “Alabama Human Life Protection Act,” local media reported.

The act, known as HB314, virtually outlaws terminations of pregnancy.

Protesters in Montgomery held up signs reading “her body, her choice” and “we are not ovary-acting.”

A woman wearing beige underwear that made her look naked had a drawing of her reproductive system attached to her abdomen and a banner reading: “More than an incubator.”

Several other women were dressed as characters forced to bear children in the dystopian novel and television series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

One of them, who gave her name only as Amanda, accused Alabama’s legislators of “trying to imprison women and doctors.”

“Wearing the ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ outfit is sending a message that you’re trying to turn us into slaves, reproductive slaves,” the 40-year-old-lawyer told AFP.

“They’re trying to fill prisons, more private prisons so that women will do hard labor after they get convicted of these ‘crimes’ of abortion.”

Last week, Alabama passed a law that prohibits all abortions — even in cases of incest and rape — unless there is a risk of death for the mother.

“Our call center’s been getting hundreds and hundreds of phone calls from concerned citizens asking us what this means,” said Barbara Ann Luttrell, director of communications and marketing for Planned Parenthood Southeast.

Planned Parenthood is not currently providing abortion services in Alabama. “We’ll be having abortion services up and running again as soon as possible,” she said.

There are only three clinics that perform the procedure. None of them responded requests of comments.

The Alabama law is likely to be blocked in state courts before its November launch date but Republican Governor Kay Ivey acknowledged when she signed it that it was part of as a wider Republican offensive to get the issue relitigated on the national stage.

Republican offensive

“We’re going to return to the back alleys. We’re going to return to where women will do abortions to themselves,” 81-year-old Maralyn Mosley told the Montgomery Advertiser.

She had an abortion at 13, after her uncle raped her.

“We will return to the coat hangers and perforated uteruses. We will return to where women will bleed to death,” she warned.

Conservative activists hope to get a Supreme Court decision against the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v Wade that said unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.

Conservatives are counting on support at the highest court in the land, where liberal justices are in a minority after the arrival of two conservative members appointed by President Donald Trump.

Trump appeared to suggest Alabama lawmakers had gone too far in a series of tweets late Saturday in which he described himself as “strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions – Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother.”

He urged the anti-abortion side to “stick together and Win for Life” when it comes to voting in 2020.

While the Alabama measure is seen as particularly draconian, at least 28 US states have introduced more than 300 texts since the start of the year limiting abortion rights, according to activists.

Kentucky and Mississippi have banned abortions as soon as a fetus’s heartbeat is detectable, or around the sixth week of pregnancy. Similar measures are being adopted in Georgia, Ohio, Missouri and Tennessee.

A judge has blocked the implementation of the Kentucky law, while the Mississippi law is set to come into effect in July.

The country’s largest human rights organization, ACLU, has said it will file suit against Alabama’s law as unconstitutional.

HB314 seeks jail terms of between 10 and 99 years for doctors performing terminations, which are counted as homicides. It stipulates no penalty for the mother.

Around two thirds of Americans say abortion should be legal, a Pew Center poll found last year.

AFP

Alabama Senate Passes Toughest U.S. Abortion Ban Bill

 

The Alabama Senate has passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the United States, which places a near-total ban on the termination of pregnancy — even in cases of rape and incest — and could punish doctors who perform the procedure with life in prison.

The text passed by the Republican-led Senate on Tuesday has been sent to Governor Kay Ivey’s desk for signature into law and, if approved, is expected to trigger a legal battle which its supporters hope will reach the Supreme Court.

Under the bill, performing an abortion is a crime that could land doctors who perform it in prison for 10 to 99 years. Abortions would only be legal if the life of the mother is in danger or the fetus has a fatal condition.

The largest human rights defense organization in the United States, the ACLU, promised to file a lawsuit to block its implementation, saying the vote showed “how little they (conservative lawmakers) regard bodily autonomy.”

“This bill punishes victims of rape and incest by further taking away control over their own bodies and forcing them to give birth,” it added.

The National Organization for Women called the bill “unconstitutional” and said its passage would “send women in the state back to the dark days of policymakers having control over their bodies, health, and lives.”

The Republican-led senate approved the measure by 25 votes to six on Tuesday. Governor Ivey has not yet said whether she will sign the bill.

Unlike the doctors carrying out the procedures, women who undergo abortions would not be prosecuted.

Attempts to introduce an amendment providing exceptions for pregnancies conceived due to rape or incest were shut down by the state senate.

“You just raped the state of Alabama yourself,” state senate Democratic leader Bobby Singleton said after senators eliminated the amendment.

“You’re saying to my daughter you don’t matter in the state of Alabama… It’s ok for men to rape you and you’re gonna have his baby if you get pregnant,” he added, his voice sometimes breaking with emotion.

But Alabama Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth, who also presides over the state senate, greeted the bill’s passage as a “strong step toward defending the rights of the unborn.”

“With liberal states approving radical late-term and post-birth abortions, Roe must be challenged, and I am proud that Alabama is leading the way,” he added.

‘Heartbeat’ laws

The bill’s backers have expressly said they want to bring the case to the Supreme Court.

Now that the top US court has a conservative majority in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election, some Republicans want to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized women’s right to abortion.

The challenge to Roe v. Wade comes as Trump is ramping up for a 2020 re-election campaign with abortion as a hot-button issue.

Several other conservative states are weighing or have recently implemented harsh anti-abortion laws.

The governor of the US state of Georgia last week signed into law a ban on abortion from the moment a fetal heartbeat is detected, becoming the sixth US state to outlaw abortion after six weeks of gestation.

Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa and North Dakota have enacted similar laws, while electoral powerhouses Florida and Texas are considering following suit.

All the state bans have either been blocked by a judge or are headed for the courts.

Anti-abortion activists hope the state-by-state legal battles will ensure the so-called “heartbeat” ban is brought before the country’s top court. But Alabama’s new law, which outlaws abortion as soon as the pregnancy is known, goes further still.

States with liberal majorities, however, are seeking safeguards to the right to abortion in their own constitutions.

This year alone, 28 of the 50 US states have introduced more than 300 new rules to limit abortion, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, which defends women’s rights.

Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates said in a statement that it was “a dark day for women in Alabama and across this country.”

“Alabama politicians will forever live in infamy for this vote.”

AFP

 

Georgia Passes Bill Ending First-Heartbeat Abortion

 

The governor of the southern US state of Georgia was expected to sign a bill banning abortion as soon as a heartbeat is detected after legislators on Friday approved the text which Hollywood celebrities vowed to fight. 

Abortion is one of the most politically divisive issues in the United States and numerous states have tried to limit access to abortions.

Georgia’s lower house approved the “heartbeat bill” which prohibits abortions as soon as the first beats of the fetus are heard from six weeks something that happens when most mothers still don’t know they are pregnant.

“Georgia values life. We stand up for the innocent and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves,” Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, wrote in a statement congratulating legislators.

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The country’s major human rights group, the American Civil Liberties Union, vowed a legal challenge.

“If Gov. Kemp signs this abortion ban bill into law, the ACLU has one message: we will see you in court,” said Andrea Young, ACLU’s executive director for Georgia.

Thirteen US states have studied or approved versions of the “heartbeat bill” this year.

Although judges in Kentucky and Iowa blocked such laws, the aim of those who promote the legislation is to reach the Supreme Court and reverse the right to abortion at the national level, according to Planned Parenthood, the largest organization supporting abortion rights.

The US Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in 1973 with its decision in Roe v. Wade.

Since taking office in 2017, President Donald Trump has named two justices to the Supreme Court who opposes abortion, leading activists who support abortion rights to fear that Roe v. Wade could be overturned.

Georgia is an important destination for film and television production, but dozens of Hollywood celebrities threatened to take their business elsewhere if the law takes effect.

“We will do everything in our power to move our industry to a safer state for women” if the bill is approved, said a letter to lawmakers signed by Alyssa Milano, Alec Baldwin, Amy Schumer, Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman, Mia Farrow and others.

AFP