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Anti-abortion initiatives inch forward in southern U.S.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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Trump has an ‘invulnerable reality distortion field’ — that makes Republicans defend the indefensible: GOP strategist

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Republicans are put in a difficult position by President Donald Trump's refusal to accept reality, a top GOP strategist explained on MSNBC on Monday.

Anchor Kasie Hunt played a clip of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempting to defend Trump's public statements that he could accept foreign election interference in hopes of being re-elected in 2020 despite his lousy poll numbers.

GOP strategist Michael Steel offered his analysis of the situation facing Republicans.

"This is the hardest thing for every surrogate of President Trump and every Congressional Republican to deal with," Steel explained. "His position is wrong. His position is indefensible. His position, even when he cleaned it up, wasn’t really right."

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Ex-DOJ lawyer explains how Trump is engaged in a cover-up — and it has nothing to do with Russia

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On Monday's edition of MSNBC's "The Beat," former White House attorney and law professor Neal Katyal walked anchor Ari Melber through the egregious ways President Donald Trump has abused executive privilege — and is covering up more than just the Russia scandal.

"Executive privilege is this concept, Ari, that goes all the way back to the founding, the idea that presidents should have some zone of secrecy around them, to have confidential deliberations and decision making," said Katyal. "I've been in two different administrations and I would say particularly President Obama was really careful to make sure that he wouldn't invoke executive privilege unless absolutely necessary. He only invoked it once in eight years, even though many years he had Congress opposed to him in terms of being from the opposite party."

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Ex-Ambassador to Russia explains how Putin will exploit the divisions between Trump and his advisors

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The former U.S. ambassador to Russia explained how Vladimir Putin will exploit the divisions between President Donald Trump and his advisors.

"A double bombshell in reporting from The New York Times this weekend about the president and his relationship with Russian president Putin," anchor Kasie Hunt said.

"First, The Times reports that the U.S. is escalating online attacks on Russia’s power grid in an effort, 'partly as a warning and partly to be poised to conduct cyber strikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow.' But that’s not all," she noted. "The second bombshell in that report that officials are worried about briefing the president."

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