Posts tagged "Roe v. Wade"


Over the past several years, state legislatures have enacted a record-breaking number of abortion restrictions. That pace hasn’t abated during this year’s legislative sessions, as lawmakers are rushing to pass measures to shut down abortion clinics and create additional red tape for women seeking abortions. But even though the assault on reproductive rights has been steadily gaining ground, there’s one type of restriction that hasn’t been able to win enough support, even among some anti-choice Republicans.

So-called “fetal heartbeat bills,” a radical proposal to cut off legal abortion services at just six weeks — before many women even realize they’re pregnant — are failing in states across the country. Although the far-right abortion opponents who push six-week bans claim that the procedure should be outlawed after a fetal heartbeat can first be detected, they can’t always get their other colleagues to sign onto the effort.

Last year, North Dakota and Alabama became the first states in the country to pass abortion restrictions banning the procedure after the detection of fetal heartbeat (although Arkansas’ ended up being amended to a 12-week ban). Perhaps observing that those two laws have both been blocked from taking effect because they blatantly violate Roe v. Wade, at least five state legislatures have declined to advance fetal heartbeat bans so far this year:

ALABAMA: Lawmakers in Alabama introduced a package of several anti-abortion restrictions, including a six-week abortion ban, on the same day in February. The legislature rushed to approve two of those measures before the state’s session came to a close this week, but the Senate didn’t take up the heartbeat ban. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) said he’s waiting to see how the legal challenges to six-week bans in other states before Alabama passes its own version “and spends dollars we don’t have as a state.” The lawmaker who introduced the bill said she’s “very, very disappointed” that the legislature “didn’t have the fortitude” to approve it anyway.

MISSISSIPPI: Mississippi has been trying and failing to enact a heartbeat ban for several years in a row. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has already indicated that he’s eager to sign one. “It would tell that mother, ‘Your child has a heartbeat,’” he told supporters at an anti-abortion event last year. But so far, this bill has repeatedly failed to make it out of committee. The state recently passed a 20-week abortion ban, but the heartbeat bill — which would have banned abortion at 12 weeks, like the one in Arkansas — remains a step too far.

KANSAS: Top Republican lawmakers in Kansas have decided to block a six-week abortion ban this year because they’re not interested in provoking a legal fight. Even though the legislature has strong GOP majorities, the politicians there are taking their cues from Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-choice group in the state. Kansans for Life doesn’t support the proposed fetal heartbeat ban because they’re nervous that a court battle would end up striking it down. “We’re just being cautious,” House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey (R) explained when asked why the legislature hasn’t scheduled a vote on the measure.

KENTUCKY: A fetal heartbeat measure was introduced again in Kentucky this session, after failing to advance last year, but abortion opponents haven’t had much luck this time around either. The measure is currently stalled in committee with little chance of passing. Pro-choice Kentucky lawmakers have been able to successfully block proposed abortion restrictions for several years in a row, so there’s little chance that a radical six-week abortion ban will make it through.

OHIO: Republicans in Ohio have long been divided over whether to adopt an aggressive anti-abortion strategy, and attempt to enact a harsh fetal heartbeat ban, or take a more subtle and incremental approach to chipping away at reproductive rights. This split has prevented the state from approving a six-week ban for the past several years, although it continues to be re-introduced. Senate President Keith Faber (R) says he won’t schedule a vote on the measure this session because he’s worried it will trigger a court challenge.

Indeed, legal battles over unconstitutional abortion restrictions come with a cost. North Dakota is gearing up to spend at least $600,000 to defend its stringent anti-abortion laws in court, while Kansas and Idaho have both accumulated legal fees in this area that top one million dollars.

In general, abortion opponents haven’t decided whether it’s better to continue gradually chipping away Roe v. Wade piece by piece, or whether it’s necessary to take a bold stance to ban nearly all abortions. So far, feuds over this divide are bubbling to the surface in political races in Georgia and Kentucky. And some Republicans will need to adopt a particularly hardline stance against abortion if they want to court support from thecountry’s major anti-choice groups before the upcoming presidential primaries.

But so far, anti-choice lawmakers have actually had more success with the first, incremental strategy. That’s largely because radical restrictions like six-week bans, which are obviously extreme on their face, tend to capture headlines and spark outrage — while more subtle efforts to undermine abortion rights are able to slip under the radar.

This is a new flashpoint in the battle against abortion rights. Draconian v. ultra-draconian. 

h/t: Robin Marty at TPM Cafe


Abortion opponents are confident that they’ve found a winning strategy in 20-week bans. In January, at the Republican National Committee’s annual meeting, the group approved a new “pro-life resolution” encouraging GOP candidates to speak out against abortion rights. That resolution cited 20-week bans as one restriction that’s politically advantageous for Republicans, since it tends to poll better with the American public.

By some measures, they’re right. This policy — often construed as a “fetal pain ban,” since it’s based on the scientifically inaccurate claim that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks of pregnancy — is picking up steam on a legislative level. Ten states already have 20-week bans on the books, and several lawmakers introduced new fetal pain bills at the beginning of this year. This past weekend, West Virginia became the first Democratic-controlled state to pass a 20-week ban, and it’s not yet clear whether the state’s Democratic governor is going to block it. Abortion opponents are now able to claim that this is an issue with bipartisan support.

The push to cut off access to later abortion services has always relied on framing 20-week bans as moderate and popular. This has been working really well for the anti-choice community, which is able to capitalize on emotional outrage about “fetal pain” and come across as entirely willing to compromise. Lila Rose, the president of the right-wing group Live Action, often points out that 20 is exactly half of a full-term 40 week pregnancy, so it’s a perfect middle ground.

But don’t be fooled. The political momentum for 20-week bans isn’t actually about compromising, or about adhering to a specific deadline that will prevent fetuses from feeling pain. It’s really about finding an initial foothold to chip away at Roe v. Wade, and then continuing to move the goal posts. It’s the first step in a larger strategy to cut off legal abortion access altogether, cloaked under the guise of a “moderate” policy.

For evidence, look no further than what’s currently going on in Mississippi. Lawmakers there are trying to pass a 20-week ban — but this week, they made a last-minute change that actually transforms the bill into an 18-week ban.

Lawmakers moved up the cut-off point by using a new way to define pregnancy. Abortion restrictions typically calculate gestational age beginning when a fertilized egg implants on the uterine wall, which is the medical and scientific definition of pregnancy. Mississippi’s new bill chooses to start counting from the end of the woman’s last menstrual period. There’s nothing wrong with that in theory. But in the context of an abortion ban, that ends up shaving off about two weeks from the legally acceptable window to terminate a pregnancy.

“It goes far beyond similar legislation in neighboring states,” Felicia Brown-Williams, the director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said in a statement regarding Mississippi’s proposed ban. “Legislators should stop wasting taxpayer time and money by pushing bills that could easily end in litigation.”

Mississippi is modeling the new legislation after a similar law in Arizona, which is the only state so far that’s passed a fetal pain ban outlawing abortion two weeks earlier than usual. Last May, Arizona’s restrictive ban was permanently struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for overstepping the legal protections in Roe v. Wade. And at the beginning of this year, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that decision by refusing to review the Ninth Circuit’s ruling. The lawmakers in Mississippi are likely counting on the fact that their state is under the jurisdiction of a much more conservative circuit court, which recently upheld an extremely restrictive abortion law in Texas that’s forcing dozens of clinics to close.

So why does all of this matter, and what does it say about the larger strategy behind later abortion bans? It proves that the states enacting 20-week bans aren’t really interested in a good faith effort to accomplish what they claim they care about, which is preventing women from exercising their abortion rights after a specific point that “causes pain” to their fetus. In fact, there’s no good policy justification for this type of restriction at all.

First of all, the arbitrary cut-off clearly doesn’t matter to abortion opponents — since there’sno real scientific evidence to support the notion of fetal pain at 20 weeks, sneaking in an 18-week ban under the same specious logic is even better. On top of that, it’s important to remember that cutting off later abortion access doesn’t even have a real impact on abortion opponents’ stated goal of lowering the abortion rate. Abortions after 20 weeks are already extremely rare, representing just 1.5 percent of all abortions nationwide. This is especially stark in Mississippi, since the state’s sole abortion clinic doesn’t even perform abortions after 16 weeks in the first place — this is essentially a meaningless ban.

But addressing a real issue or having a real impact isn’t the point. Instead, this policy simply allows Republicans to have a convenient talking point to make the case that Americans support limiting abortion rights. Unfortunately, that often comes at the expense of targeting women who are making heartbreaking decisions about a pregnancy that’s gone terribly wrong. A “fetal pain ban” or a “late-term abortion ban” is a politically popular way of defining a policy that can force women to carry doomed pregnancies to term.

Amanda Allen, the state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights — one of the groups that successfully litigated against Arizona’s ban — told ThinkProgress that all fetal pain bans are “as cruel as they are unconstitutional.” That’s because they typically have very narrow medical exceptions that prevent women from terminating a pregnancy even after they’ve discovered serious health issues.

“When states try to ban abortion earlier in pregnancy, they’re really banning it before the time that women can receive critical prenatal care,” Allen pointed out. “Now that it looks like Mississippi is following in Arizona’s footsteps with this bill, lawmakers have added all these bogus findings about why this legislation is necessary for women’s health. But of course, it’s actually directly the opposite — it could force women to continue their pregnancies until a potential health issue becomes life-threatening.”

But lawmakers typically aren’t persuaded by that point. Indeed, when Arizona was arguing in favor of its restrictive ban, lawyers tried to make the case that fatal fetal birth defects are simply the “woman’s problem.”

The American people, on the other hand, actually are sympathetic to the emotional context about later abortion care. When voters realize why women may need a later abortion, they oppose cutting off access to that type of reproductive health care. This has been put to the test. Last year, when abortion opponents put a proposed 20-week ban up for a popular vote in Albuquerque, voters resoundingly rejected it for exactly this reason.

Nonetheless, this incremental strategy to undermine Roe continues to be extremely successful in state legislatures across the country. Anti-choice politicians aren’t showing any signs of stopping the onslaught of 20-week abortion bills.

“We’re continuing to see these relentless attacks from politicians. Right now, I’m tracking 12 different 20-week bans that have either been introduced this year or carried over from last session, and three of those are moving,” Allen noted. “I think we need to ask why lawmakers are so insistent on spending their time passing unconstitutional bills when states like Mississippi have some of the highest rates of child poverty and women living in poverty.”

Source: Tara Culp-Ressler for ThinkProgress

h/t: Tara Culp-Ressler at Think Progress Health

h/t: Janet Reitman at Rolling Stone

On yesterday’s “Faith and Freedom” radio broadcast, Matt Barber and Mat Staver rejoiced that recent polls show that the majority of Americans now consider themselves to be “pro-life” and encouraged politicians to “get on the winning side of history” and start passing legislation to outlaw abortion.

What anti-abortion activists always fail to mention whenever they trumpet this claim is that polls consistently show that the vast majority of Americans believe abortion should remain legal and available, with generally no more than 20% of the population wanting it to be outlawed entirely.

But for Barber and Staver, these polls demonstrate that legal abortion will soon become a thing of the past.


h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW


41 years of protecting every woman’s constitutional right to make her own personal health care decisions. And we won’t let politicians take that right away.

Happy birthday, Roe v. Wade.

Wednesday is the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade handed down by SCOTUS. 
Our duties are to keep Roe intact at any cost and stop any further attacks against a women’s right to choose to have an abortion. 

Abortion rights activists let out a collective sigh of relief recently when the Supreme Court announced it wouldnot take up Horne v. Isaacson, which successfully blocked an Arizona pre-viability abortion ban specifically designed to try and upend Roe v. Wade. The refusal to hear the challenge fell just two weeks shy of the 41st anniversary of Roe, the landmark Supreme Court decision that decriminalized abortion nationwide, but that routine order from the Roberts Court was far from a given.

Though Roe’s foundation feels shakier today than ever, it has long been under attack—first with Harris v. McRae, the Supreme Court case decided just a few years after Roe that upheld the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment and effectively cut off access to abortion for the poor by making it too expensive to obtain. That attack accelerated after Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 Supreme Court decision that held states could restrict abortion rights so long as those restrictions did not pose an “undue burden.” Since Casey, but especially since 2010, anti-choice activists have rushed to find out just how far they can go to restrict abortion rights under that standard.

The result has been a mess. One federal appellate court upheld mandatory ultrasound requirements as consistent with Roe and Casey, while state supreme courts have struck them as violating those same decisions. Despite the fact that states cannot ban abortion pre-viability, at least 11 states currently have pre-viability bans on the books, with some, like Arkansas and North Dakota, brazenly banning abortion as early as six weeks. Meanwhile, states like Texas,Mississippi, and Wisconsin have used medically unnecessary mandates requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at their local hospital to try and drive providers out of business and force the legal question of whether or not states unduly burden a right to choose by shuttering clinics within its borders. So far, at least one appellate court seems to think they don’t.

But it’s been over the last four years that those attacks have truly escalated, as conservative lawmakers in states nationwide seized political opportunity and passed restriction after restriction, each more draconian than the last. And given the Roberts Court, its conservative majority, and deep sympathies to the anti-choice cause and tactics, well, it’s easy to see why this anniversary feels different.

Yet, when given the opportunity, the hostile anti-choice majority on the Roberts Court passed at taking another look at Roe. Not only that, but two other times this year the Supreme Court avoided calls from conservatives to “revisit” or “clarify” the ruling that prior to fetal viability states may not ban abortion, nor unduly burden a woman’s right to choose abortion, letting stand decisions supporting abortion rights. So what gives? Despite a career advancing the cause of the anti-choice right, has Chief Justice John Roberts softened on abortion rights?

Not quite.

First, let’s consider the role of the Roberts Court in helping make all that state-level anti-choice legislation possible, because it was the Court’s decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that opened the door for big money to connect with conservative model legislation and advance such restrictions, which RH Reality Check’s Adele Stan chronicles here. From that unholy union sprang copycat abortion-restricting legislation in Texas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. This already bleak landscape may be made even worse if the Roberts Court rules as expected and strikes individual donation limits later this term in McCutcheon v. FEC.

Then there’s the First Amendment. Building off its decision in Citizens United to grant corporations First Amendment speech rights, the Roberts Court looks primed to grant them First Amendment religious exercise rights too. But that’s not the only place where conservatives on the Roberts Court can, and likely will, use the First Amendment to roll back reproductive privacy rights. There’s good reason to think the Court will turn away from the reality of clinic protests and side with the “plump grandmas” and strike down a Massachusetts buffer zone law. A broad enough ruling there could make this kind of harassment routine at clinics everywhere at a time when anti-choice extremists are testing the limits of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act by arguing their promises to blow up abortion providers’ cars are not really “true threats” and are therefore protected free speech.

During his confirmation hearing, Justice Roberts famously quipped that he saw his role on the Court as one of an umpire—that he was there to call balls and strikes. That feigned objectivity served him well during the first round of challenges to the Affordable Care Act. As the author of the majority opinion, Justice Roberts managed to uphold the general architecture of the law while gutting one of its most important components, its broad Medicaid expansions. As a result, conservatives furiously fundraised, campaigned, and governed around ending health-care reform all together, while making it as difficult to obtain in the short-term.

So, more than four decades since Roe, and that is the question at hand: Will the Roberts Court do to Roe and abortion rights what it did to health-care reform and keep just enough of it intact to call it legal, while rendering it nearly impossible to obtain? So far, all signs point to yes.




The Supreme Court is considering a challenge to “buffer zones” for protesters around reproductive health clinics in Massachusetts—and media are downplaying the dangers of removing these buffer zones.

The New York Times and AP both profiled a grandmother anti-choice protester, framing her as “harmless.” But often when seeking help at these clinics, women face threats of violence from anti-choice protesters.

  • In 2012, Ralph Lang traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to threaten to kill people at a Planned Parenthood clinic, but was “arrested after allegedly firing his gun in a motel room while practicing drawing it.”
  • In 2012, Bobby Joe Rogers was indicted for allegedly using a Molotov cocktail to set a women’s health clinic on fire in Florida.
  • In 2012, Danny Mower was sentenced to five years in prison for throwing a Molotov cocktail at a Planned Parenthood clinic in California. he left a note that said, “Let’s see if you can burn just as well as your victims.”
  • In 2011, someone threw a Molotov cocktail at a Planned Parenthood clinic in McKinnery, Texas.
  • In 2011, Justin Carl Moose was sentenced to prison for giving an undercover FBI informant bomb-making instructions, who he thought was going to attack a women’s health clinic in North Carolina.
  • Scott Roeder was sentenced to life in prison for assassinating a women’s reproductive healthy physician in Kansas. 
  • In 2010, the FBI arrested Erlydon Lo for threatening to commit violent acts against a women’s clinic in Texas. He had filed a court document saying, “if I must use deadly force to defend the innocent life of another human being, I will.” 
  • In 2009, Matthew Lee Derosia was sentenced for intentionally driving a truck into a Minnesota Planned Parenthood clinic on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

The media needs to stop whitewashing this threat to women’s health and choice. 

h/t: Tara Culp-Ressler at Think Progress Health

Rachel Maddow explains how a potential big ruling by SCOTUS on birth control and contraception could have drastic consequences. 

From the 11.26.2013 edition of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show:

Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, more than 50 million unborn babies have been butchered. Hence, abortion has taken more lives than murderous dictators, such as Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin. Liberalism is responsible for more deaths than Nazism or Soviet communism.

Moonie Times' Kuhner: “Liberalism Killing Millions; Will Destroy Family, Religion And Civilization” | Right Wing Watch

Washington Times columnist Jeffrey Kuhner today reiterated his call for anti-Obama civil disobedience, warning that President Obama is pushing an agenda of “Christophobia” that seeks “the destruction of the family, Christian culture” and “Christian civilization” through abortion rights, same-sex marriage and secular government.

Kuhner’s entire column relies on the myth that Obamacare funds abortion and will make all Americans “pay for the abortionist’s knife” and “have the blood of innocent children on their hands.”

“It is genocide masquerading as ‘choice,’” Kuhner writes. “Liberalism is responsible for more deaths than Nazism or Soviet communism.”