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Part 5:

2019:
States pass "heartbeat" anti-abortion laws.
Actor Alyssa Milano proposes sex strike.
Missouri's 8 week ban becomes law.
Mississippi passes heartbeat law.
Resistance by some District Attorneys.
Missouri attempts to close last clinic.
Maine, Illinois, etc. increase abortion access.
National Network of Abortion Funds
facilitates abortion access.
Presidential Candidate Joe Biden (D) refused communion.

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This topic is a continuation from Part 4

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2019-MAY-09: Many states have passed "heartbeat" anti-abortion laws:

"Heartbeat laws" refer to legislation passed by Republican-dominated state legislatures and signed into law by the governor that prohibit women from obtaining a legal abortion if her pregnancy has developed to the point where the embryo's heartbeat can be detected.

Actually, the term "heartbeat" is not an accurate term. What is detected is is often mere pulsing of cells that are starting to specialize their function and will eventually develop into a heart later during the pregnancy. The New York Times used the term "embryonic pulsing" in their MAY-29 article on the Louisiana law. They referred to:

"... the pulsing of what becomes the fetus’s heart can be detected. 7

Life News, a pro-life web site, disagreed with the Times' terminology. Micaiah Bilger said the language:

"... dehumanizes unborn babies and ignores decades of scientific evidence. This new terminology is not based on facts or scientific evidence. It’s based on an agenda that supports abortion on demand. ‘... It disguises the truth and attempts to manipulate the public into believing something different from what they know to be true." 8

Other columnists agreed with Life News:

Alexandra DeSanctis of National Review said tht The Times was "taking its cues from the euphemisms of abortion-rights activists."

Columnist JD Mullane tweeted that the Times was "dehumanizing the unborn. ... Progressives are all about science, until it comes to human life."

However, the Times descrption appears to be accurate. Before an embryo has a heart that is actually pumping blood, there is only a group of pulsing cells present that will later form a heart and pump blood.

During 2019, between JAN-01 and MAY-14 (Mother's Day), heartbeat bills have become law in six states: Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Ohio. Georgia's law goes into effect on 2020-JAN-01. Laws in Mississippi and 0hio are scheduled to become effective on 2019-JUL-01. The laws in other states are held up or have been struck down by various courts. 1

On the U.S. Supreme Court, the ratio of liberal to conservative Justices switched from 5 to 4 and became 4 to 5 with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and President Trump's appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Thus, if any lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state heartbeat law reaches the High Court, it might be found constitutional, and Roe v. Wade might be overturned. Roe allows women to freely choose to have an abortion during the first two trimesters of pregnancy, and allows increasing state restrictions after that point.

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2019-MAY-11: Actor Alyssa Milano proposes a sex strike:

Apparently motivated by Georgia's heartbeat law, Alyssa Milano has urged women to stop having sex "until we get bodily autonomy back."

She said:

"We need to understand how dire the situation is across the country. It’s reminding people that we have control over our own bodies and how we use them.”

The Guardian reported that:

"Milano received support from fans and her fellow actor Bette Midler joined her in calling for a sex strike. But both liberals and conservatives also lampooned the idea, conservatives praising her for promoting abstinence and liberals saying she was pushing a false narrative that women only have sex as a favor to men.

Milano said the criticism didn’t bother her and that her tweet was having her desired effect, 'which is getting people to talk about the war on women'." 2

She delivered by hand a letter to Governor Kemp's office that was signed by 50 celebrities who promised to boycott the state if the bill was signed into law. The state has had a growing television industry which might be hurt by a boycott.3

According to Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, almost 300 antiabortion bills have been introduced so far this year in a total of 36 states. 3

Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Ariana Eunjung Cha, writing for the Washington Post, said:

"Similar “heartbeat” bills are in the works in 10 other states — Missouri, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina and West Virginia — according to the Guttmacher Institute. A federal judge has already blocked Kentucky’s law. Other courts struck down similar laws that were recently enacted in Iowa and North Dakota."3

State Rep. Terri Collins (R) in Alabama received a standing ovation at the Alabama State House in Montgomery, AL., after her near-total ban on abortion passed. She said:

“Just keep it at the heart of the issue: Is the baby in the womb a person?

The law also criminalizes abortion procedures. Doctors would face felony prison time of up to 99 years if convicted.

However, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights,

  • "At least nine states in addition to Kansas have constitutions that specifically protect a woman’s right to an abortion, according to state high court rulings: Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico.

  • Other states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Oregon and Washington have statutory protection for abortion rights."3

Highly restrictive abortion laws do not prevent women from seeking an abortion. They can simply travel to another state or country which has more liberal laws and have an abortion there.

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2019-MAY-16: Missouri bill to ban abortions after 8 weeks gestation becomes law:

The majority-Republican Senate debated the bill into the early hours of MAY-16, and finally passed it by a vote of 24 to 10. The abortion ban does not include any provision for victims of incest, rape, or human trafficking to obtain a later abortion. It prohibits abortions based on the embryo's or fetus' sex, race, or a: "prenatal diagnosis, test, or screening indicating Down Syndrome or the potential of Down Syndrome." The bill contains provisions so that doctors violating the 8 week limit could receive 15 year jail sentences. The bill also contains provisions so that if courts strike down the 8 week limit, then the bill's limit would automatically adjust up to as much as 20 weeks to make it comply with the court's decision.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr said:

"This is not a piece of legislation that is designed for a challenge. This is the type of legislation that is designed to withstand a challenge and to actually save lives in our state."

The bill, HB 126 is called the "Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act." It was approved by the House on MAY-17 by a vote of 110 TO 44, and was signed into law by Governor Mike Parsons (R) on MAY-24. 4 It is scheduled to come into effect in August.

On MAY-28, Planned Parenthood announced that the state is not renewing the license for its St. Louis. MO health clinic. Since their license expires on MAY-31, and since their clinic is the only one in Missouri that performs abortions, at the end of May, the state was scheduled become the first state in the U.S. where residents have no access to an abortion clinic since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Roe v. Wade lawsuit during 1974 -- almost a half century ago. That would leave five states with only one clinic that performs abortions.

Closing the clinic would be largely a symbolic matter, because a clinic is located in Granite City, IL which is across a Missouri state line ten miles (16 km) from St. Louis.

The clinic -- the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region -- filed a lawsuit asking the court for a restraining order against the state. 5 On Friday, MAY-31, Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer granted the facility a temporary restraining order, allowing it to remain open.

That leaves five states in the U.S. with only one abortion clinic: Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

On JUN-11, Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer issued a temporary injunction that allows the Planned Parenthood clinic to stay open until JUN-21. 9 He later extended this to JUN-28.

Calvin Freiburger, writing for Life Site News, said:

"Health officials want to interview five contract physicians regarding seven incidents flagged by inspectors, which Planned Parenthood opposes on the grounds that their answers could lead to criminal charges.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a physician at the clinic, in a statement:

"The terrifying reality is that access is hanging on by a thread with a narrowing timeline. The truth is, if the Administrative Hearing Commission does not act by Friday, abortion access in the state of Missouri will be gone.” 12

 

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2019-MAY-21: Federal judge holds a hearing on Mississippi's new "heartbeat" anti-abortion law:

A lawsuit against SB 2116 was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights who represented the Jackson Women's Health Organization. The latter is the only clinic in Mississippi that performs abortions.

Six months previously, Federal Judge Carlton Reeves of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, had struck down an earlier law that banned abortions after 15 week gestation in the state.

He held a hearing on the constitutionality of the state's new MAY-16 "heartbeat law." It bans abortion when an embryo heartbeat can be detected -- often at 6 weeks gestation. He issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the new law from coming into effect in July. During the hearing, he was visibly angry -- both because the Legislature and Governor had violated his previous injunction, and because the new law did not have exemptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

On MAY-24, Judge Reeves issued a permanent injunction against HB 126.

Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center promised to challenge all abortion access bans like Mississippi's. Referring to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1972 ruling in Roe v. Wade, she said:

"... at every turn. ... The Constitution protects a woman's right to make decisions over her body and her life. The district court's decision today was a resounding affirmation of this settled law." 6

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2019-MAY-31: Some DAs promise to not enforce new anti-abortion laws:

David Cooke, chief prosecutor in Macon, GA said:

"I am never going to enforce a law that’s unconstitutional, and furthermore, especially not one that targets women and girls. I’ve spent my entire career protecting women and girls and doing everything I can to get justice for them, and I am not about to abandon them now,

They see the recently invoked "heartbeat" laws as being in conflict with the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade which guarantees women's free access to abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy, and defines limits on the extent that state laws can restrict access in the second and third trimester.

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2019-JUN: Maine, Illinois and some other states expand abortion access:

Even while states like Alabama and Georgia are limiting abortion access, other states are increasing access. 10 FiveThirtyEight have analyzed these changes and found that one quarter of these liberalizing laws have been passed in the past two weeks. 11

  • Maine: Governor Janet Mills (D) signed a bill into law that allows nurse practitioners and physician assistance to perform abortions. The law will also increase the number of clinics offering abortions.

  • Other states that have been increasing access to abortion are Arizona, California, Colorado Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada. New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and .Washington State

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2019-JUN-28: The only abortion clinic in Missouri will stay open for a while:

The only clinic in the state will be allowed to say open until at least AUG-01.

On JUN-28, Federal Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer ruled that the closing of the clinic should be handled by the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC). The Commission has scheduled a hearing for AUG-01. 13

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Groups within the National Network of Abortion Funds assist women to arrange abortions:

With so many states severely limiting access to abortions, many women who seek abortions need to travel to nearby states. Sometimes, they are poor and cannot arrange for transportation and other costs. The National Network of Abortion Funds is a group of non-profit agencies in many states that facilitate travel to access abortion facilities.

Their website has links to U.S. and international funds. It lists over 75 abortion funds across the U.S.

The national group's Mission Statement is:

"The National Network of Abortion Funds builds power with members to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice."

Their Vision Statement is:

"We envision a world where every reproductive decision, including abortion, takes place in thriving communities that are safe, peaceful, and affordable. We envision a world where all people have the power and resources to care for and affirm their bodies, identities, and health for themselves and their families -- in all areas of their lives. As we shift the conversation about abortion, it will become a real option, accessible without shame or judgment."

They offer an alternative path to women who cannot afford an abortion and, at the same time, cannot afford the costs of a child.

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2019-OCT-27: Presidential Candidate Joe Biden refused communion:

Joe Biden (D) was refused communion in a Roman Catholic church in South Carolina because of his support for women's choice to have an abortion.

Father Robert Morey, of Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Florence, SC denied Biden communion, and stated to the Florence Morning News that:

"... any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching. Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that. ... as a priest, it is my responsibility to minister to those souls entrusted to my care, and I must do so even in the most difficult situations. I will keep Mr. Biden in my prayers." 14

Biden is apparently opposed to abortions personally, but said in 2012:

"I just refuse to impose that on others. ... I do not believe we have a right to tell women that they can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor." 14

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Other information sources

Women Help Women (WHW) has a website that offers information about and access to safe, early abortions with pills.

Planned Parenthood, who provide abortions across the U.S., has information on their website for women who are considering abortion. Their main tasks are providing contraceptive information, sexually transmitted disease information, etc. See: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/

Crisis Pregnancy Centers: There are about 246 Roman Catholic and 2,000 evangelical Christian CPC's across the U.S. They typically promote abstinence, and direct women to support groups with the goal of helping them continue their pregnancies.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Moira Donegan, "Georgia's six-week abortion ban reveals the cruelty of the anti-choice movement," The Guardian, 2019-MAY-09, at: https://www.theguardian.com/
  2. "Alyssa Milano calls for sex strike as protest over Republican abortion laws," The Guardian, 2019-MAY-11, at: https://www.theguardian.com/
  3. "Georgia governor signs ‘heartbeat bill,’ giving the state one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation," Washington Post, 2019-MAY-07, at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/
  4. Scott Slayton, "Missouri Senate Advances Bill Banning Abortion after 8 Weeks," Christian Headlines, 2019-MAY-17, at: https://www.christianheadlines.com/
  5. Amanda Michelle Gomez, "Missouri could be the first state with no abortion clinics since Roe v. Wade come Friday," Think Progress, 2019-MAY-28, at: https://thinkprogress.org/
  6. Ariane de Vogue, "Federal judge blocks Mississippi abortion law," CNN, 2019-MAY-24, at: https://edition.cnn.com/
  7. "Louisiana Moves to Ban Abortions After a Heartbeat Is Detected," New York Times, 2019-MAY-29, at: https://www.nytimes.com/
  8. Micaiah Bilger, "New York Times Tries to Dehumanize Unborn Babies, Calls Baby’s Heartbeat 'Embryonic Pulsing'." Life News, 2019-MAY-31, at: https://www.lifenews.com/
  9. Calvin Freiburger, "Missouri’s scandal-plagued last abortion mill allowed to stay open until June 21, judge rules," Life Site News, 2019-JUN-11, at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/
  10. Anna North, "While some states try to ban abortion, these states are expanding access," Vox, 2019-JUN-12, at: https://www.vox.com/
  11. Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, "Abortion Rights Haven’t Been A Priority In Blue States — Until Now," FiveThirtyEight, 2019-JUN-10, at: https://fivethirtyeight.com/
  12. Mahita Gajanan, "Missouri Judge Allows Planned Parenthood to Perform Abortions Until Friday," Time, 2019-JUN-24, at: https://time.com/
  13. Art Toalston, "Last abortion clinic in Missouri gets Aug. 1 reprieve," Baptist Press, 2019-JUL-01, at: http://www.bpnews.net/
  14. Eic Bradner, "Joe Biden was denied communion at Catholic church in South Carolina," CNN Politics, 2019- OCT-29, at: https://www.cnn.com/

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Copyright © 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2019-OCT-29
Author: B.A. Robinson
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