Breaking precedent, Trump to attend Washington anti-abortion march

(Reuters) – Donald Trump will become the first U.S. president to attend the annual “March for Life” to be held in Washington on Friday, organizers said, underscoring his outspoken support for the anti-abortion movement as it celebrates key legislative gains.

Thousands of protesters from around the country were expected to converge in the nation’s capital for the event, which began in 1973 after the U.S. Supreme Court, in its Roe v. Wade decision, established a woman’s constitutional right to get an abortion.

“See you on Friday … Big Crowd!” Trump posted on Twitter on Tuesday in response to a tweet from March for Life promoting the event.

With the 2020 presidential campaign season heating up, abortion remains one of the most divisive issues in the United States. Opponents cite religious beliefs to declare it immoral, while abortion-rights activists say the procedure is protected by a constitutional guarantee that gives women control over their bodies and futures.

About 58% of American adults say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll last year.

Even so, anti-abortion advocates made significant legislative strides in 2019. Twenty-five bans on various types of abortions were signed into law, according to the Guttmacher Institute, although many have not taken effect because of pending legal challenges.

Conservative lawmakers have said some of the bans were passed with the knowledge that they likely would be struck down in court but with the hope that those rulings might prompt the Supreme Court to review its Roe v. Wade decision.

In Roe v. Wade, the court found that certain state laws outlawing abortion were an unconstitutional violation of a woman’s right to privacy, effectively legalizing abortion nationwide.

Even though he had declared support for abortion rights years earlier, Trump vowed during his 2016 campaign to appoint Supreme Court justices he believed would overturn Roe. Since his election, he has appointed two justices to the court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, cementing the court’s 5-4 conservative majority.

“You’ve heard a lot of religious leaders and a lot of Republicans say that this president is the biggest champion for life … the biggest advocate for the pro-life movement in history,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters on Thursday.

March For Life President Jeanne Mancini said the organization “was deeply honored” to welcome Trump in person, after he delivered televised remarks in support of the anti-abortion movement at the 2019 march. Vice President Mike Pence attended the event in person last year.

Past U.S. presidents have opted to stay from the march. Republicans Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both delivered remarks remotely.

In June, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on a case that could drastically limit doctors’ ability to provide abortions in Louisiana, a Republican stronghold state. The case will test the willingness of the court to uphold Republican-backed abortion restrictions being pursued in numerous conservative states.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Frank McGurty and Leslie Adler)

U.S. Supreme Court leaves in place Kentucky abortion restriction

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left in place a Kentucky law requiring doctors to show and describe ultrasound images to women seeking the procedure, turning away a challenge arguing that the measure violates the free speech rights of physicians.

The justices declined without comment to hear an appeal by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of a lower court ruling that upheld the law after a federal judge previously had struck it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

The Supreme Court has a 5-4 conservative majority and is closely divided on abortion rights.

The ACLU said the law has no medical basis and that its sole purpose is to coerce a woman into not getting an abortion.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Kentucky’s only licensed abortion clinic, as well as physicians who work there shortly after the law was passed in 2017.

Kentucky requires a physician or qualified technician to perform the ultrasound and position the screen so the woman can view the images of the fetus. The medical staff are required to describe what the images show, including the size of the fetus and any organs or appendages visible. They are also required to make audible the sound of the fetal heartbeat.

The law requires the physicians to continue with the process even if the patient objects and shows signs of distress. Doctors can be fined and referred to the state’s medical licensing board if they fail to comply with the Kentucky law.

The Supreme Court on March 4 is scheduled to hear its first major abortion case in three years in a dispute over the legality of a Republican-backed Louisiana law that imposes restrictions on abortion doctors. The court’s ruling could lead to new curbs on access to abortion. Numerous Republican-backed measures restricting abortion have been passed at the state level in recent years.

The Louisiana case will test the willingness of the court, which includes two conservative justices appointed by Republican President Donald Trump, to uphold laws that lower courts have ruled unconstitutional. The court has shifted to the right after Justice Anthony Kennedy, a decisive vote in favor of abortion rights, retired in 2018 and was replaced by Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh, who has a thin judicial record on the issue.

In 2018, the Supreme Court blocked a California law requiring clinics that counsel women against abortion to notify clients of the availability of abortions paid for by the state, finding that it violated the free speech rights of the facilities. In that 5-4 ruling along ideological grounds, the court’s conservative justices were in the majority.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; editing by Grant McCool)

Federal judge blocks Alabama abortion ban from being enforced

Federal judge blocks Alabama abortion ban from being enforced
(Reuters) – A federal judge blocked Alabama on Tuesday from enforcing the strictest abortion laws in the country, which were due to come into effect next month and would ban all abortions unless a mother’s health was in danger.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, had signed the bill into law in May. Those performing abortions would be committing a felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison. A woman who receives an abortion would not be held criminally liable.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued to overturn the law, which clashes with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973 that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Conservative Republicans have sought to enact a wave of abortion restrictions around the country in the hopes that one case or another might reach the Supreme Court and lead to the erosion of the Roe v. Wade ruling.

Judge Myron H. Thompson of the United States District Court in Middle Alabama has blocked the Alabama abortion ban from being enforced until the lawsuit is resolved.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Tens of thousands march for ban on abortions in Slovakia

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – Tens of thousands marched in Slovakia’s capital on Sunday calling for a total ban on abortions in the predominantly Catholic central European country.

Abortion laws in Slovakia are relatively liberal compared to those in countries like Poland or Malta, which have among the strictest laws in the European Union and often allow them only in cases like rape.

In Slovakia, on-demand abortions are legal up until 12 weeks of pregnancy while abortions for health reasons are allowed until 24 weeks.

Conservative and far-right lawmakers want to allow them only to up to six or eight weeks of pregnancy or ban them outright, and parliament starts debating draft laws to restrict abortions this month.

It is unclear if the proposals will become law since the ruling Smer – a leftist, socially conservative party – and junior center-right Slovak National Party in the government, have not said whether they will back any of them.

Abortions have fallen in the country of 5.4 million to 6,000 last year, from almost 11,000 a decade ago. A Focus agency opinion poll this month found 55.5% of people disagreed with restricting abortions while 34.6% supported the move.

Protesters carrying signs saying “A human is human regardless of size” and “Who kills an unborn child kills the future of the nation” marched in the capital on Sunday demanding a total ban on abortions, including in cases of severe birth defects or rape.

“The life of every human is invaluable, therefore it needs to be protected from conception until natural death,” one of the protest organizers, backed by the Catholic church, said on stage.

The organizers estimated turnout at the protest at about 50,000.

The ruling Smer party has led Slovakia nearly non-stop since 2006 and has built its base by lifting social benefits amid years of economic growth and backing conservative issues.

Ahead of an election next year, the party pledged to back legislation to ban gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples. Slovak law does not recognize same-sex civil unions.

The most recent official census in 2011 found 62% of the country identify as Roman Catholics, while 6% are Protestants.

(Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova, editing by Deepa Babington)

Federal judge blocks restrictive Missouri abortion law

FILE PHOTO: Abortion rights advocates attend a rally after a judge granted a temporary restraining order on the closing of Missouri's sole remaining Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. May 31, 2019. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant/File Photo

(Reuters) – A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Missouri from enforcing a law banning abortion in the state after eight weeks except in cases of medical emergency.

The law was set to take effect on Wednesday, but U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs in Kansas City ruled that the state not enforce it, pending litigation or further order of the court, according to a court document.

The ban, like others by U.S. states this year, was written in the knowledge it would likely be struck down but with the hope it would prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to review its landmark 1973 decision protecting abortion rights.

“While federal courts should generally be very cautious before delaying the effect of State laws, the sense of caution may be mitigated when the legislation seems designed, as here, as a protest against Supreme Court decisions,” the judge wrote.

“The hostility to, and refusal to comply with, the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence is most obviously demonstrated in the attempt to push ‘viability’ protection downward in various weekly stages to 8 weeks.”

Women’s healthcare provider Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued Missouri last month over the law, which also bans abortions sought on the grounds of the fetus’ race, sex or disability and makes it a felony for doctors to perform abortions in violation of the law.

Planned Parenthood’s Missouri clinic and the ACLU have argued the law will cause “significant and irreparable constitutional, medical, emotional” harm to patients in that state, who may not even know they are pregnant at eight weeks, according to court documents.

The law declares Missouri to be a “sanctuary of life” that protects “pregnant women and their unborn children.” It does not make exceptions for cases of rape and incest, and it includes a provision that would trigger a statewide abortion ban if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which established a woman’s constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy.

Abortion is one of the most divisive political issues in the United States. Several conservative states have passed restrictive laws on abortion in 2019 to try to make the Supreme Court revisit the constitutional issue.

Missouri has been at the center of the nation’s escalating abortion debate, as Planned Parenthood is fighting a state health department decision not to renew the license of the provider’s clinic in St. Louis, the only abortion clinic in the state.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; additional reporting by Andrew Hay; editing by Scott Malone, Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. abortion rights groups fight new Missouri law in court

FILE PHOTO - A imaging table inside the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood St. Louis Region, Missouri's sole abortion clinic, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) – Opponents of a new law in Missouri restricting most abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy will ask a federal judge on Monday to stop the law from taking effect this week.

Abortion rights groups Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit in July and want a judge to put the law on hold until their legal challenge is heard in court.

The new law, signed by Republican Governor Mike Parson in May and set to take effect on Wednesday, allows for an abortion after the eighth week only in the case of medical emergencies and does not exempt victims of rape or incest.

The law is one of the most restrictive in the United States and activists say it effectively forbids most abortions since many women do not know they are pregnant yet at eight weeks.

The 31-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri contends that the legislation is unconstitutional.

“Without this relief, the bans will have a devastating effect on patients seeking access to abortion in the state,” lawyers wrote in the complaint.

In a perennially divisive moral and political fight, similar laws have been proposed in more than a dozen other U.S. states as Republican-controlled legislatures flex their muscles.

Efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in 1973, have been emboldened by two appointments by President Donald Trump giving conservatives a solid majority on the court.

Parson said in May the new law would make Missouri “one of the strongest pro-life states in the country.”

Plaintiffs in the Missouri complaint said the law conflicts with more than four decades of binding precedent, would prohibit “the vast majority of pre-viability abortions”, and denied patients healthcare they were entitled to.

Currently the state law allows abortions up until 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Attorneys for the governor’s office, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood were not available for comment early on Monday.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Darren Schuettler)

ACLU, Planned Parenthood sue over Alabama abortion ban

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Flag and Alabama State Flag fly over the Alabama Governor's Mansion as the state Senate votes on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States at the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. May 14, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit on Friday challenging a law enacted by Alabama last week that bans nearly all abortions and makes performing the procedure a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison.

The lawsuit is one of several the groups have filed or are preparing to file against states that recently passed strict anti-abortion measures in an effort to prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that guarantees a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.

“This dangerous, immoral, and unconstitutional ban threatens people’s lives and well-being and we are suing to protect our patients’ rights,” Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

The ACLU’s Alabama chapter and Planned Parenthood of America filed their complaint in federal court in Alabama on behalf of the Southern state’s three abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood Southeast.

Anti-abortion advocates expected legal challenges to Alabama’s new law, which will be the most restrictive in the nation when it takes effect in November, and say they welcome the chance to have a court test their conviction that a fetus’ right to life is paramount.

Also on Friday, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed a bill into law that bans abortion beginning in the eighth week of pregnancy.

Earlier this year, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio outlawed abortion after a doctor can detect an embryonic heartbeat, which can occur at six weeks, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.

The wave of anti-abortion legislation reflects a boost of confidence among anti-abortion advocates after Republican President Donald Trump nominated two conservative judges, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, to the U.S. Supreme Court, tilting the court’s political balance to the right.

Alabama state Senator Clyde Chambliss, a Republican, supports his state’s new law and said the whole point of the ban was “so that we can go directly to the Supreme Court to challenge Roe versus Wade.”

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood obtained an injunction from a judge in Kentucky in March, blocking that state’s abortion ban. The organizations have filed lawsuits in Ohio and are preparing to do so in Georgia, they said in a statement on Friday.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jonathan Oatis)

Missouri governor expected to sign new abortion restrictions into law

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with the Governor of Missouri Mike Parson as he arrives in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., July 26, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

(Reuters) – Missouri’s Republican governor could sign a law as early as this week banning most abortions in the Midwestern state after the eighth week of pregnancy, part of a wave of restrictions aimed at driving a challenge of abortion to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republican Governor Mike Parson told reporters on Friday he planned to sign the bill, which was approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature last week and would enact one of the United States’ most restrictive bans. He did not set a date for the signing but has until July 14 to do so, according to local media reports.

The state is one of eight where Republican-controlled legislatures this year have passed new restrictions on abortion. It is part of a coordinated campaign aimed at prompting the nation’s now conservative-majority top court to cut back or overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

The most restrictive of those bills was signed into law in Alabama last week. It bans abortion at all times and in almost all cases, including when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest but allows exceptions when the mother’s life is in danger. The Missouri bill also offers no exception for cases of rape or incest.

The American Civil Liberties Union has said it will sue to block Alabama’s law from taking effect. Last week, the ACLU joined Planned Parenthood, the women’s reproductive healthcare provider, in suing Ohio over its recent six-week abortion ban.

Abortion is one of the most bitterly contested social issues in the United States. Opponents often cite religious belief in saying that fetuses deserve rights similar to those of infants. Abortion rights advocates say the bans deprive women of equal rights and endanger those who end up seeking riskier, illegal methods to end a pregnancy.

Kentucky, Georgia, Utah, Mississippi and Arkansas have also passed new restrictions on abortion this year.

Conservative lawmakers have been emboldened in their efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade by two judicial appointments by President Donald Trump that have given conservatives a 5-4 majority on the court.

The Supreme Court could act as early as Monday on appeals seeking to revive two abortion restrictions enacted in Indiana in 2016.

Abortion rights activists on Sunday marched on the Alabama state capital in Birmingham to protest that state’s new law, which would take effect in two months.

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

U.S. Supreme Court takes no action in Indiana abortion cases

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, U.S., March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday took no action on appeals seeking to revive two restrictive Republican-backed abortion laws from Indiana, even as debate rages over a new measure in Alabama that would prohibit the procedure almost entirely.

Neither Indiana case was on the list of appeals on which the court acted on Monday morning. The court could next announce whether or not it will hear the cases on May 28.

If the nine-justice court takes up either case, it would give the conservative majority an opportunity to chip away at the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide and recognized a right under the U.S. Constitution for women to terminate pregnancies.

One of the Indiana laws requires fetal remains to be buried or cremated and bans abortions performed because of fetal disability or the sex or race of the fetus. The other law requires women to undergo an ultrasound examination at least 18 hours before they undergo an abortion.

Both Indiana measures were signed into law in 2016 by Vice President Mike Pence when he was Indiana’s governor and were struck down by federal judges the following year. The state of Indiana is appealing to the Supreme Court.

The Alabama law was signed by Republican Governor Kay Ivey last week but is not set to go into effect for six months. It would outlaw almost all abortions, including in cases of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Exceptions would be allowed only to protect the mother’s health. Doctors who perform abortions could face up to 99 years in prison.

The Alabama law was written with the assumption that it would face legal challenges and could ultimately end up at the high court.

Conservative activists have long denounced the Roe v. Wade decision and hope that the conservative Supreme Court justices, who hold a 5-4 majority, will undermine or even overturn it.

Their chances of success were given a boost last year by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had backed abortion rights in two key cases. Kennedy was replaced by President Donald Trump’s conservative appointee Brett Kavanaugh, who has a thin record on abortion.

Legislation to restrict abortion rights has been introduced this year in 16 states. Four governors have signed bills banning abortion if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected.

Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts, who has voted against abortion rights in previous cases, are seen by legal experts as the key votes to watch.

The high court has two other abortion cases on its docket that it will also act on in the coming months – attempts by Alabama and Louisiana to revive other previously blocked abortion restrictions.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Bill Berkrot and Will Dunham)

U.S. judge blocks new Trump abortion rule for health clinics

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

By Steve Gorman and Nate Raymond

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Washington state on Thursday blocked a Trump administration rule that would prohibit taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring patients to abortion providers.

The preliminary injunction bars enforcement nationwide of a policy that was due to go into effect on May 3 over the vehement objections of abortion supporters who have decried it as a “gag rule” designed to silence doctor-patient communications about abortion options.

“Today’s ruling ensures that clinics across the nation can remain open and continue to provide quality, unbiased healthcare to women,” Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement announcing the decision.

Washington state was a named plaintiff in the case challenging restrictions proposed by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to its Title X program subsidizing reproductive healthcare and family planning costs for low-income women.

Neither the White House nor HHS immediately responded to requests from Reuters for comment.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima, in eastern Washington, capped a hearing in which oral arguments were presented by both sides.

“There is no public interest in perpetuating unlawful agency action,” Bastian wrote in his ruling.

Bastian also wrote that the “Plaintiffs have presented reasonable arguments that indicate they are likely to succeed on the merits.”

He said that the plaintiffs “are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction.”

A federal judge in Oregon earlier this week said he intended to grant a preliminary injunction in a similar but separate lawsuit brought by 20 states and the District of Columbia. Two more lawsuits challenging the Title X restrictions are pending in California and Maine.

The restrictions are aimed at fulfilling Republican President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to end federal support for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides abortions and other health services for women under Title X.

Congress appropriated $286 million in Title X grants in 2017 to Planned Parenthood and other health centers to provide birth control, screening for diseases and other reproductive health and counseling to low-income women.

The funding is already prohibited from being used for abortions, but abortion opponents have long complained that the money in effect subsidizes Planned Parenthood as a whole.

Planned Parenthood provides healthcare services to about 40 percent of the 4 million people who rely on Title X funding annually, and the organization has argued that community health centers would be unable to absorb its patients.

Under the new rule, clinics that receive Title X funding would be barred from referring patients for abortion as a method of family planning. The regulation also would require financial and physical separation between facilities funded by Title X and those providing abortions.

Abortion opponents have argued the plan would not ban abortion counseling but would ensure that taxpayer funding does not support clinics that also perform the procedure.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Nate Raymond in Boston; Additional reporting by Eric Beech in Washington and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Tom Brown and Cynthia Osterman)