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Abortion Debate
June 12, 2019

Just weeks after neighboring Missouri passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, Illinois is flipping the switch.

The state's Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) on Wednesday signed into a law a bill that provides sweeping protections for abortion rights, which he has said makes Illinois the "most progressive" state in the nation when it comes to the issue. The news comes at a time when several states, including Missouri, Alabama, and Georgia, have passed and signed laws that provide numerous challenges for those seeking access to abortion, such as early cutoff timelines and eliminating rape and incest as viable exceptions. But Pritzker and Illinois opted to go in a different direction, with the governor touting the progressive nature of the new bill.

"In a time when too many states are taking a step backward, Illinois is taking a giant step forward for women's health," Pritzker said in a statement. "Illinois is demonstrating what it means to affirm the rights of individuals to make the most personal and fundamental decisions of their lives, no matter your income level, race, ethnicity, or religion." The Reproductive Health Act, as its called, is effective in the state immediately. Whereas the restrictive laws elsewhere are widely viewed as part of a movement to overturn Roe v. Wade at the federal level, the sponsors of the Illinois law said that the new bill is meant to serve as a "firewall" should Roe be overturned.

The bill states that a "fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights," protects the right of individuals to make "autonomous" choices about their own reproductive health, and repeals a 1975 state law that penalized doctors for performing "unnecessary" abortions. Tim O'Donnell

June 5, 2019

Former Vice President Joe Biden, an early frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, has held an evolving stance on abortion rights for most of his career. A devout Roman Catholic, Biden has said in the past that he is personally opposed to abortion, but does not believe he should impose his religious beliefs on others. Therefore, he supports upholding Roe v. Wade, which he reconfirmed on Tuesday — perhaps a crucial thing to tell Democratic voters as several Republican-led states have passed strict abortion laws in recent weeks, sparking outrage from those who oppose them.

Biden's campaign team also confirmed to NBC News, however, that the candidate still supports the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for abortions unless the life of the mother is in danger, or in the cases of rape and incest. This differentiates Biden from his Democratic competition, NBC News reports, who are more staunchly pro-choice — every female Senator running for president has come out in favor of overturning Hyde, and no other candidate has openly supported keeping it intact.

The middle-of-the-road stance could ultimately prove to be an issue for Biden — within the span of just one month, a Morning Consult poll shows that the number of Democrats prioritizing issues affecting women, which includes matters such as contraception and abortion rights, has grown by eight percent.

The Morning Consult conducted its poll online between May 31 and June 2 among a national sample of 1,997 registered voters. The margin of error is two percentage points. Read more about Biden's stance on abortion rights at NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

May 28, 2019

Missouri could soon become the first state in the U.S. without a functioning abortion clinic since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, CBS News reports.

Planned Parenthood said in a statement on Tuesday that the last remaining clinic in the state, which is located in St. Louis, expects to be shut down within 72 hours, as Missouri's health department refuses to renew its annual license to provide abortions in the state.

The news comes after Missouri lawmakers passed and approved a bill banning abortions after eight weeks, the lone exception being in cases of medical emergencies. The bill is one of several restrictive laws passed by states in recent weeks as part of a plan to challenge Roe v. Wade at the federal level. Refusing to renew the lease on the clinic is seemingly another way to effectively eliminate abortion in Missouri, despite the fact that it remains legal.

The health department's potential decision to not renew reportedly stems from three issues — new requirements for the clinic's state-mandated counseling, an additional pelvic exam now required for abortion patients, and the health department's outstanding request to interview seven physicians who provide care at the clinic as part of an investigation into "deficient practices." It's the third reason that could prove to be the sticking point because not all of the doctors are Planned Parenthood employees, leaving the matter outside of their control.

Planned Parenthood is preparing to file a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of St. Louis later on Tuesday, The Guardian reports. Tim O'Donnell

May 25, 2019

Some of the momentum gathered by states seeking to implement more restrictive abortion measures in recent weeks was halted when a federal judge on Friday issued a preliminary injunction, blocking a Mississippi law that bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

Attorneys for the state's only abortion clinic said the law would effectively make all abortions illegal because most women are not yet aware of their pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat is first discovered. The bill makes an exception when the mother's health is at risk. The law, which is one in a series of Republican-sponsored abortion bills across the United States, was scheduled to take effect in July.

The judge, Carlton Reeves, wrote that a woman's free choice "outweighs any interest the state might have in banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat." Reeves also blocked a 2018 Mississippi law that would have banned abortion at 15 weeks. The state is still appealing that decision. Reeves added that the fact Mississippi lawmakers passed another ban after the first was struck down "smacks of defiance to this court." Tim O'Donnell

May 21, 2019

More than 500 abortion ban protests sprouted up throughout the United States on Tuesday, as demonstrators decried the recent wave of restrictive abortion legislation.

In the last week, the Republican governors of Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri signed into law several bills effectively banning abortions between six and eight weeks. The measures are considered part of a larger plan to challenge the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

Tuesday's largest protest was held on the steps of the Supreme Court building in Washington. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke at the event, reportedly going after Republican lawmakers who have "distanced themselves" from Alabama's law, while also voting for judges who have criticized Roe v. Wade. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) spoke as well, opening up to the crowd about her personal experience.

Several Democratic presidential candidates also showed up to the event, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

But the rallies didn't stop in the capital. They've taken place all over the country, including in St. Louis and Atlanta. Protesters also marched on the Alabama statehouse on Monday. Tim O'Donnell

May 19, 2019

President Trump on Saturday night tweeted that he is "strongly pro-life," but like former President Ronald Reagan supports three exceptions for abortions — rape, incest, and when it is necessary to protect the life of the mother.

The tweet comes just days after Alabama's state legislature passed a near-total ban on abortion, which does not allow any exceptions for rape or incest. The governors of Missouri and Georgia signed their own restrictive abortion bills last week, as well, as part of a movement to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is the first time Trump has publicly commented on the recent wave of abortion laws, USA Today reports.

Trump followed his initial tweet with two more calling for unity within the pro-life movement. It's possible he was offering a veiled critique of the Alabama law, which even the likes of Pat Robertson have argued goes "too far." Tim O'Donnell

May 15, 2019

Pat Robertson — a renowned former Southern Baptist minister and televangelist who is opposed to abortion — thinks Alabama has gone too far.

In an appearance on The 700 Club, Robertson questioned Alabama's restrictive new abortion legislation, which passed through the state Senate and now awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Kay Ivey. Robertson was particularly skeptical of the harsh 99-year sentences the state could dole out to doctors or anyone else who perform abortions, as well as the fact the law does not provide exceptions for rape and incest.

That said, Robertson was not implying that he had switched sides in the abortion debate. He has made his stance on the matter very clear, writing that abortion is "tantamount to murder." But he has practical reasons for disapproving of Alabama's bill. Robertson argues that if the goal is to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Alabama bill would likely fail at the Supreme Court. Therefore, in Robertson's opinion, it's not the right piece of legislation to bring forward. "I think this one will lose," he said. Tim O'Donnell

May 7, 2019

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Tuesday signed into law a "heartbeat bill," which would outlaw most abortions after a doctor is able to detect a fetal heartbeat.

The bill would effectively ban abortions beyond about six weeks of pregnancy, when a heartbeat usually becomes audible. Fetal heartbeats are often detectable before many women even know they're pregnant, CBS News reports.

Kemp boasted about having the "toughest abortion bill in the country," saying Georgia is state that "values life." The bill does include exceptions for rape, incest, and situations when the mother's health is at risk.

Opponents of the bill have called it draconian, The Washington Post reports, and they hope to launch a court battle that could go all the way to the Supreme Court. Organizations like NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia and Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates have launched a #ReclaimGeorgia campaign to mobilize activists and raise money to defeat the bill's legislative supporters in Georgia's elections next year.

This is not the first "six-week" abortion ban in the country, nor is it expected to be the last. In fact, some states likely view the tightening restrictions as part of a process toward a blanket ban. Tim O'Donnell

Tim O'Donnell

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