Alabama Senate to vote on bill banning abortion

FILE PHOTO: The Alabama State Capitol building is pictured in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – Alabama’s state Senate was due to vote on a bill on Tuesday that would outlaw nearly all abortions, but will first consider whether to allow the procedure for women and girls impregnated by rape and incest.

Debate on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States was set to begin in the Republican-controlled chamber at 4 p.m. CDT (2100 GMT). It would be the latest in a procession of anti-abortion bills across the country that activists are hoping will result in the issue going before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The bill previously passed the Republican-dominated Alabama House of Representatives. Republican Governor Kay Ivey has withheld comment on whether she would sign it but generally is a strong opponent of abortion.

The Alabama debate follows passage of anti-abortion laws in states that border it to the east and west, Georgia and Mississippi, creating what abortion rights advocates have warned would be a large “abortion desert.”

Legislation to restrict abortion rights has been introduced in 16 states this year, four of whose governors have signed bills banning abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for abortion rights.

Opponents called that legislation a virtual ban because fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks, before a woman may be aware she is pregnant.

The Alabama bill goes further, banning all abortions except to prevent serious health risk to the mother. People who perform abortions would be subject to a Class A felony, punishable by 10 to 99 years in prison. A woman who receives an abortion would not be held criminally liable.

A Senate committee added an amendment that would create exceptions for cases of rape and incest, but the matter stalled on the Senate floor.

Debate will resume without the rape and incest amendment attached.

Anti-abortion advocates know any laws they pass are certain to be challenged in court, but they are hoping the matter will land before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court, now with a majority of conservative justices after Republican President Donald Trump appointed two, could possibly overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision establishing a woman’s right to an abortion.

Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio have outlawed abortion after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat.

Courts have blocked the Iowa and Kentucky laws, and the others face legal challenges.

Actress and activist Alyssa Milano has called for a sex strike under the social media hashtag #SexStrike in response to the campaigns against abortion rights, urging women to refuse sex with men “until we get bodily autonomy back.”

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Alabama Senate delays vote on strict anti-abortion bill

FILE PHOTO - An exam room at the Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is seen in Austin, Texas, U.S. June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ilana Panich-Linsman

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – Alabama’s state Senate on Thursday delayed until next week a vote on the strictest abortion bill in the United States after disagreement arose on the Senate floor about whether to allow women impregnated by rape and incest to have a legal abortion.

The Alabama debate follows passage of anti-abortion laws in states that border it to the east and west, Georgia and Mississippi, creating what abortion rights advocates have warned would be a massive “abortion desert.”

Anti-abortion legislators have introduced strict bills in states across the country, inviting legal challenges in hopes that a case will land before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court now has a majority of conservative judges, including two appointed by Republican President Donald Trump, who could possibly overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion.

Alabama’s House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would have banned abortion except in cases where the mother’s life was in danger, which would make it the strictest state abortion law in the country.

After the bill moved to the Senate, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday added an amendment by Senator Tom Whatley that would also include exceptions for cases of rape and incest.

When the matter came before the full Senate on Thursday, and it was evident there was no consensus on the rape and incest amendment, the Senate delayed the vote until Tuesday, said Kim Robertson, a spokeswoman for Whatley.

Debate on a version of the bill without the rape and incest amendment was set to begin at 4 p.m. Central Time (2100 GMT) on Tuesday, she said.

Georgia on Tuesday became the fourth U.S. state this year to outlaw abortion after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, which abortion-rights advocates vowed to challenge in court.

Opponents called the legislation a virtual ban because fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks, before a woman may be aware she is pregnant.

Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have enacted heartbeat laws since mid-March, and Iowa passed one last year. Courts have blocked the Iowa and Kentucky laws, and the others face legal challenges.

Anti-abortion advocates have introduced measures in 15 states to ban the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, according to Rewire.News, a site specializing in the issue.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; editing by David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)

Mississippi governor signs ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban

FILE PHOTO: Phil Bryant, governor of Mississippi, speaks during an election night party for Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S., November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

(Reuters) – Mississippi’s Republican governor signed one of America’s strictest abortion bills on Thursday banning women from obtaining an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can often occur before a woman even realizes she is pregnant.

Dubbed the ‘heartbeat bill,’ this is the second legislative attempt in less than a year aimed at restricting abortions in a state with a single abortion clinic.

In a tweet earlier this week, Governor Phil Bryant thanked the state’s legislature for “protecting the unborn” by passing the bill and sending it to him for his signature.

The Mississippi law joins a wave of similar Republican-backed measures recently introduced in Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia.

Conservative Republican proponents say these bills are intended to challenge Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark ruling that women have a constitutional right to an abortion.

U.S. states are jostling for a showdown on abortion rights in 2019, with all eyes on the conservative-dominated Supreme Court.

Just last November, a U.S. federal judge struck down a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks, ruling that it “unequivocally” violates women’s constitutional rights.

The new Mississippi bill prohibits the abortion of a fetus with a detectable heartbeat, before the point where a woman may be aware she is pregnant.

It also states that any physician who violates the restriction is subject to losing the license to practice medicine.

The law makes exceptions for women whose health is at extreme risk. It is a victory for anti-abortion groups, but abortion rights advocates have promised to pursue legal action to overturn it.

“This ban is one of the most restrictive abortion bans signed into law, and we will take Mississippi to court to make sure it never takes effect,” Hillary Schneller, staff attorney at the global abortion rights advocacy group Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

“This ban, just like the 15-week ban the Governor signed a year ago is cruel and clearly unconstitutional.”

A fetus that is viable outside the womb, usually at 24 weeks, has widely been considered the threshold in the United States to prohibit an abortion.

Last week, a federal judge blocked Kentucky’s fetal heartbeat abortion law. An Iowa judge overturned that state’s heartbeat law in January after declaring it violated the state’s constitution.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Nick Carey and Richard Chang)

Iowa passes ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion ban, most restrictive in U.S.

Opponents of a California law, requiring anti-abortion pregnancy centers to post signs notifying women of the availability of state-funded contraception and abortion, hold a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Chung

By Barbara Goldberg

(Reuters) – Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the most restrictive abortion ban in the United States on Wednesday, outlawing the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected, often at six weeks and before a woman realizes she is pregnant.

The Senate voted 29-17 to pass the House of Representatives-approved bill, according to the legislature’s online voting tallies. The bill now goes to Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, an abortion opponent, who has not said publicly whether she will sign it into law.

The legislation is aimed at triggering a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark decision which established that women have a constitutional right to an abortion, activists on both sides of the issue said.

Abortion opponents aim to land abortion questions back in front of the nation’s top court, where they believe the 5-4 conservative majority could sharply curtail abortion access or ban it outright.

“We created an opportunity to take a run at Roe v. Wade – 100 percent,” said Republican state Senator Rick Bertrand of Sioux City, who said the legislation is designed to be “thrust into the court” that has become more conservative following President Donald Trump’s appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Spokeswoman Becca Lee of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which supports access to abortion, called it an “intentionally unconstitutional ban on 99 percent of safe, legal abortion, designed to challenge Roe v. Wade.”

“The bill weaponizes fetal heartbeat, which is by all accounts an arbitrary standard that bans abortion long before the point of fetal viability,” Lee said in an email to Reuters.

Mississippi’s Republican governor in March signed into law a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks with some exceptions, sparking an immediate court challenge by abortion rights advocates.

A similar court challenge is underway in Kentucky, which in April enacted a ban on a common abortion procedure from the 11th week of pregnancy.

The newest Iowa bill, which the state Senate passed early Wednesday after overnight wrangling by lawmakers, requires any woman seeking an abortion to undergo an abdominal ultrasound to screen for a fetal heartbeat. If one is detected, healthcare providers are barred from performing an abortion.

Among the few exceptions are if the woman was raped or a victim of incest and has reported that to authorities.

The bill would ban most abortions in the state and was passed in the final days of the Iowa legislative session.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

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Illinois bill expands abortion coverage, faces governor’s veto

FILE PHOTO: Illinois Gov-elect Bruce Rauner speaks to the media after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and other Governor-elects from seven U.S. states at the White House in Washington December 5, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo

By Timothy Mclaughlin

CHICAGO (Reuters) – An Illinois bill that expands state-funded coverage of abortions for low-income residents and state employees passed the Democratic-controlled Senate on Wednesday but faces a likely veto by the state’s Republican governor.

The measure, which passed the Senate 33-22, also aims to keep abortions legal in Illinois if the U.S. Supreme Court follows President Donald Trump’s call to overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling 44 years ago that made abortions legal.

Illinois’ Medicaid program covers abortions in cases of rape, incest and when a mother’s life or health is threatened. The expansion would enable poor women to obtain elective abortions. Also, the legislation would allow state employees to have the procedures covered under state health insurance.

The vote was a rare legislative victory for U.S. abortion-rights advocates at a time when foes have ratcheted up the heat with the election of Trump and a conservative Congress.

However, the victory will likely be short lived because Governor Bruce Rauner has promised to veto the legislation, saying Illinois should focus on less “divisive” issues and instead pass a full-year operating budget for the first time in nearly two years.

A spokeswoman for Rauner directed questions on Wednesday evening to previous statements where he said he did not support the measure. However, as a candidate in 2014, he supported expanding abortion access.

Republican lawmakers have criticized the bill as both burdensome to tax payers and immoral.

“We should be focused on ways to reduce costs—not advance costly controversial proposals that will cost the taxpayers even more,” Republican state senator Dan McConchie said in a statement on Wednesday.

A veto override would take 71 votes in the Democrat-led House, where the bill passed 62-55 in late April. It would take 36 votes in the Senate.

A veto by Rauner would be a sharp turn from his previous position, which political opponents are poised to exploit.

“We cannot allow Illinois to return to the days when women had so few options for reproductive care that they desperately resorted to back-alley quacks, poison, knitting needles, disappearing from public sight or suicide to deal with unwanted pregnancies,” state senator Daniel Biss, a Democrat, said in a statement after the bill passed on Wednesday.

(Additional reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by David Gregorio)

Delaware legislature moves to guarantee abortion access in Trump era

An exam room at the Planned Parenthood South Austin Health Center is shown following the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a Texas law imposing strict regulations on abortion doctors and facilities in Austin, Texas, U.S. June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Ilana Panich-Linsman

By Barbara Goldberg

(Reuters) – The Delaware state Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would keep abortion legal in the state if a future U.S. Supreme Court shaped by President Donald Trump overturns the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized it nationally.

The measure was approved by a vote of 11-7 but needs to be passed by the House and signed by Democratic Governor John Carney Jr. to take effect.

Democrats control both houses of the Delaware legislature but are facing a June 30 end to this year’s session.

Carney “supports the rights and protections afforded women under Roe v. Wade” but has not yet said whether he will sign the bill into law, said his spokeswoman Jessica Borcky.

Trump has promised to appoint justices to the nation’s top court, including recent appointee Neil Gorsuch, who would overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling and leave it up to the individual states to decide whether to legalize abortion. Trump received strong support from anti-abortion groups in the election campaign.

Delaware is one of 11 states with a pre-Roe abortion ban still on the books, according to the Guttmacher Institute which tracks reproductive policy.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion would be almost immediately illegal in four states – Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota, according to Guttmacher and the Center for Reproductive Rights. In the other 46 states, abortion would remain legal but in at least 10 states – including Delaware – it could become illegal with a step as simple and swift as a state attorney general’s opinion, Guttmacher said.

“There wasn’t a sense of urgency until President Trump got elected,” said Kathleen MacRae, executive director of the ACLU of Delaware. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood of Delaware formed the “She Decides Delaware” campaign to lobby for legislation to keep abortion legal.

“We don’t want to leave the women of Delaware in a vulnerable position,” MacRae said. “It’s up to the woman and the family to decide when she would like to become a parent.”

Momentum for the bill grew in April when a coalition of state religious leaders including Jewish, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and Unitarian clergy publicly declared “acceptance” of abortion in a show of support for Planned Parenthood. The state’s Catholic leader, Bishop Francis Malooly of the Diocese of Wilmington, immediately denounced the statement.


The bill itself has a minimalist design. It aims to keep the provisions of Roe v. Wade rather than repeal the 1953 state ban.

“This bill simply seeks to codify the framework in place for a very long time – that a woman has a right to choose,” Senator Bryan Townsend, a Democrat who is the bill’s sponsor, told colleagues before the vote.

“It’s a decision that belongs with the woman, her doctor and her family,” said Senator Stephanie Hansen, a Democrat and bill co-sponsor.

Opponents denounced the move. “Any civilized society restricts an individual’s right to choose when it would affect an innocent person. I can think of no more innocent person than an unborn child,” said Senator Bryant Richardson, a Republican.

“You can codify abortion all you want but you are still codifying the murder of an unborn child,” said Delaware Right to Life spokeswoman Moira Sheridan.

Under the 1950s’ Delaware ban, terminating a pregnancy is a felony for the provider and a misdemeanor for the woman, except when it is deemed a “therapeutic abortion” in either case.

Dr. Larry Glazerman, medical director at Planned Parenthood Delaware, said he is confident the bill is enough to protect him and other doctors who provide abortion from prosecution.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)