Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed sweeping anti-abortion legislation Friday, giving his state a new law to block tax breaks for abortion providers, ban sex-selection abortions and declare that life begins “at fertilization.”
Many provisions take effect in July, though the tax changes will be effective for 2014. The measure cleared the Republican-dominated Legislature by wide margins earlier this month.
The GOP governor is a strong abortion opponent who urged lawmakers to create “a culture of life” after taking office in January 2011.
“All human life is sacred. It’s beautiful,” Brownback said just before signing the measure, flanked by abortion opponents. “With this, we continue to build this culture of life in our state.”
An Associated Press photo taken before the signing shows a page of notes about the bill on Brownback’s desk that included a handwritten message at the top: “JESUS + Mary.” Further down the page were typewritten notes spelling out Brownback’s belief that the bill would create “a culture of life.”
Republicans in the Pennsylvania House on Monday pushed out of committee a bill that would prevent most coverage for abortions under the health exchange in Pennsylvania being set up as part of the federal health care overhaul.
The Health Committee voted 15-9 in favor of the proposal that provides exceptions only for victims of rape and incest or when the mother’s life is in peril. One Democrat voted for it.
A Democratic sponsored amendment that would have added an exception for the mother’s health was defeated along party lines.
Committee chairman Matt Baker, R-Bradford, said the health exception would represent a substantial change from the state’s longstanding public policy that does not permit public funding of abortions under most circumstances.
He said the health exception amendment was too vague, as doctors’ “good faith clinical judgment” can be a subjective matter.
“I do not believe health care should include killing babies,” Baker said, drawing applause from some of his fellow GOP lawmakers. He argued the exchange will be supported with public money.
Over loud objections from Democrats, Montana’s Republican-controlled Senate on Friday voted to put proposals on the 2014 ballot that would tighten voter registration and restrict the rights of third parties to compete in general elections.
The measures, which are expected to be approved by the Republican-majority House, do not need approval from the Democratic governor. They would go before Montana voters in November of next year.
Democrats tried to stall action on the bills through a rarely used parliamentary procedure, demanding that the vote be delayed until a missing Democratic senator was found and brought into the chamber.
But Republicans moved forward anyway, prompting Democrats to leap to their feet, shout objections and pound on their desks with everything from coffee mugs to copies of the Montana constitution.
Legislation giving health care providers the right to refuse to provide care if it violates their religious principles won final approval in the Missouri House Tuesday.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where similar legislation was approved by a committee yesterday.
House Speaker Tim Jones, a Eureka Republican who sponsored the measure, said the legislation protects workers’ rights.
“We want to encourage those people in the health care field and give them a shield, so they can have an opt-out, with proper notice, to their employer,” Jones said.
State law already allows doctors, nurses and other health care workers to refuse to participate in an abortion. Under the bill, that right to refuse would be extended to include providing birth control, sterilization and assisted reproduction services and stem cell research. Medical professionals would also be able to deny referrals for care and could not be punished legally or professionally for their actions.
There is an exemption in the legislation for emergency situations, Jones said, adding that in those instances “you can throw this bill out. It wouldn’t apply.”
But critics of the bill said it sacrifices the health of women to the religious beliefs of medical providers.
The latest assault on Planned Parenthood was launched Tuesday with a committee hearing a proposal to ban the organization from teaching or supplying materials about sex education to schools.
Dozens of people showed up to support a bill by Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, whose bill also would mandate schools notify parents when any outsider presents information regarding human sexuality.
Paxton said he is concerned that Planned Parenthood will attempt to promote a pro-abortion agenda to students.
Many of the speakers also said they distrusted Planned Parenthood and that they supported a strict abstinence-only curriculum. Teaching about contraception sends a mixed message to teenagers that premarital sex is acceptable, some of the parents testified.
The bill was left pending, but Education Committee chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said he liked the bill enough to become a co-author.
Current state law provides any sex education instruction in public schools must primarily stress abstinence. Parents must be notified about sex instructions offered by schools and and can keep their children out of that class if they chose.
SENATOR MOVES TO TIGHTEN ABORTION PILL RULES
A senate committee has heard testimony on a bill that would tighten rules for doctors prescribing abortion pills.
Sen. Dan Patrick laid out Senate Bill 97 to the Senate Health and Human Services on Tuesday, the first step to passing the bill into law.
The Houston Republican wants to turn the drug manufacturer’s guidelines into state law. Doctors frequently prescribe drugs in ways that differ from established guidelines.
Some Alaska legislators think they, not doctors, should be the ones to decide when an abortion is medically necessary. And they’ll be getting support Wednesday from a panel of national medical professionals who will help decide which conditions constitute a medically necessary abortion, and which do not.
The Alaska Supreme Court decided in 2001 that the state must pay for abortions for people in the Medicaid program if the procedure is “medically necessary,” but provided little guidance on how that term should be defined.
That gray area includes a debate over whether mental health issues can be considered among factors contributing to medical necessity for abortion.
Fervent abortion opponent Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, said he fears that without a definition, women may be able to get abortions that are not medically necessary under Medicaid. To prevent that possibility, Coghill has sponsored Senate Bill 49, which he said will “prevent public funds from being used to pay for elective abortions.”
State data from 2011 show 632 Medicaid-funded abortions in Alaska, out of a total of 1,637.
A bill introduced in the Kansas House would require the state’s schools to provide evidence in classrooms questioning the existence of climate change.
The bill, introduced last week, says instruction about scientific controversies should include evidence for and against the theory. The only controversy identified in the bill is “climate science.”
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports no hearings have been scheduled for the bill before the House Education Committee.
Opponents argued that the Constitution isn’t trumped by law, even those directly passed by voters.
“Our constitution was written to make sure that certain basic rights, like privacy, religious freedom, and equal protection under the law, aren’t stripped away at the whim of a popular vote of the majority,” said Niki Zupanic of the ACLU of Montana. “History is full of examples of voters or legislatures seeking to restrict the rights of an unpopular or powerless minority.”
Opponents, led by pro-abortion rights advocates, said most teens already involve their parents. They argued that some cannot, such as in cases of incest, and said requiring such permission can lead to more illegal abortions.
The advocates said that abortions have proven to be among the safest of medical procedures, contrary to the information in the lengthy consent form the bill would require.
It has been more than 25 years since the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that mandated religious instruction in science classes, yet lawmakers in many states are still pushing ahead with attempts to force creationist concepts into the public schools.
The 2013 legislative session has just begun, and there are already anti-evolution bills (in some cases more than one) circulating in Missouri, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma and Indiana.
According to our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), the latest bill is Missouri’s HB 291, a whopping 3,000-word manifesto masquerading as an attempt to provide a “standard science” curriculum for public elementary and secondary schools. It also seeks to create introductory science courses in public colleges and universities and would require those institutions to give “the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design.”
The bill even includes an incorrectly alphabetized glossary of bogus terms such as “biological intelligent design,” which is defined as “a hypothesis that the complex form and function observed in biological structures are the result of intelligence and, by inference, that the origin of biological life and the diversity of all original species on earth are the result of intelligence.”
Unfortunately, HB 291 is just the latest attempt in Missouri to create a science curriculum that would teach creationism and evolution side by side. NCSE noted that this bill is very similar to one that failed in 2004 and another that flopped in 2012.
The creationism proposals in Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma and Indiana aren’t much different from the Missouri plot, although some of those pretend to promote “academic freedom.”
The freedom to do what, you might ask? Teach creationism in public schools, of course.
As my colleague Rob Boston noted in a recent piece for Alternet, fundamentalist Christians have been on a crusade to force Bible-based creationism into public schools for decades. As the article shows, the Religious Right has evolved in its approach but not its goal, a fact not lost on those who follow this issue.
“It’s ironic that creationist strategies continue to evolve,” NCSE Executive Director Eugenie Scott told the Joplin (Mo.) Independent. “At first, creationists tried to ban the teaching of evolution in the public schools altogether. When they were no longer able to do so, they tried to ‘balance’ it with the teaching of biblical creationism, or scientific creationism, or intelligent design.
“After the Kitzmiller trial in 2005,” she continued, “in which teaching intelligent design was found by a federal court to be unconstitutional, there’s been a shift toward belittling evolution - as just a theory, or as in need of critical analysis, or as the subject of scientific controversy.”