Initiatives by social conservatives to limit abortion inched forward in three southern US states this week, contributing to one of the most emotionally-charged debates in US politics.
In Florida, the House of Representatives voted 78-33 in favor of imposing a 24-hour waiting period on women seeking an abortion and requiring new abortion clinics to be owned by doctors.
The latter point would effectively ban Planned Parenthood, the biggest single provider of abortions in the United States, mainly to low-income women, from opening new facilities.
“This isn’t an insidious war against women — it’s a righteous war for children,” said Republican lawmaker James Grant in an impassioned debate Thursday, as the bill moved on to the state Senate for further debate.
A day earlier, Georgia’s House of Representatives voted 102-65 for a “fetal pain” bill that would slash from 26 weeks to 20 weeks the period in which women could get elective abortions.
That time frame is based on what the bill calls “substantial evidence” that, 20 weeks after fertilization, an unborn child can feel pain. Doctors who break the law would risk up to 10 years in prison.
Doug McKillip, the bill’s Republican sponsor, said it would “save 1,000 to 1,500 lives,” but critics argued it amounts to lawmakers dictating what doctors can or cannot do.
“It is time for the government to get out of my examination room and my office,” said obstetrician Ruth Cline, quoted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper.
Meanwhile, Virginia was on track to become the eighth state to mandate pre-abortion ultrasounds, after a toned-down version of a highly contested bill cleared its final legislative hurdle.
Like Florida and Georgia, Virginia’s legislature is Republican controlled.
The Virginia House of Delegates approved a Senate-amended version of the “informed consent” bill by a 61-35 vote Thursday, leaving it in the hands of Governor Bob McDonnell to sign into law.
“The governor will act upon the bill within seven days of its delivery to him,” his spokesman Jeff Caldwell told AFP by email Friday, adding that a firm signing date remains to be set.
In its original form, the bill triggered a national furor by insisting that abortions in Virginia be preceded by transvaginal ultrasounds, in which an electronic probe is inserted deep into a woman’s vagina.
No other state with pre-abortion ultrasound laws, including Texas, call for such an invasive procedure.
Under fire from pro-choice activists, and ridicule from late-night TV comics, McDonnell — a potential Republican candidate for vice president — rejigged the bill so as to make only external abdominal ultrasounds mandatory.
State senators further amended the text to exempt rape and incest victims from ultrasounds, before sending it back to the House where its mainly Republican supporters and Democratic opponents locked horns one last time.
“I have trouble going to sleep at night” knowing that more than 54 million abortions have been carried out since abortion was ruled legal by the US Supreme Court in 1973, said House majority leader M. Kirkland Cox.
To which David Englin, a Democrat, riposted: “The true nature of this bill is to use emotional blackmail, practical logistical barriers and just plain old government bullying to try to prevent women from having abortions.”
Among other southern states, Mississippi’s Republican-dominated legislature is considering about two dozen bills and constitutional amendments to limit abortion, including ultrasound and fetal-pain bills.
Last year, a proposed change to the state constitution to grant personhood to unborn children — effectively outlawing abortion — was rejected by 58 percent of Mississippi voters.
Outrage against Dianne Feinstein as potential Judiciary chair comes out against Senate reform
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) received harsh criticism on Monday after coming out against Senate reform of the filibuster.
“I don't believe in doing that. I think the filibuster serves a purpose," Feinstein argued.
"It is not often used, it's often less used now than when I first came, and I think it's part of the Senate that differentiates itself," Feinstein falsely claimed.
Feinstein is in line to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee if Democrats regain the Senate, despite never attending law school or having ever tried a case.
Lindsey Graham announces embattled Sen. Joni Ernst will vote for whomever Trump nominates to replace RBG
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday announced that GOP members of the body would be united in voting for whomever President Donald Trump nominates to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The nominee’s going to be supported by every Republican in the Judiciary Committee," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, as reported by The Washington Post's Aaron Blake.
If Graham is correct, that would mean that Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) would be backing the nomination, despite trailing Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield.
A Never-Trump Republican changed her mind — then crumbled when she tried to explain why
In a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, Republican Danielle Pletka declared that despite the fact that she refused to vote for Donald Trump in 2016, she now feels compelled to support him in 2020. The piece quickly caught fire online, inspiring ridicule and sympathy from differing corners and triggering a surprising amount of discussion.
In one sense, it’s hard to see what the big deal was. The Post publishes opinion pieces in support of Trump frequently, and this one was not particularly special. Pletka herself is not a particularly notable figure. Like many op-eds, it was sloppy and unpersuasive, making huge leaps of reasoning and glossing over critical points in the argument. It didn’t take seriously any compelling counterarguments. It was, in other words, a mere display of partisan loyalty from a Republican who would prefer to be inside the tent than outside of it.