A federal judge has struck down Idaho’s law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on beliefs held by physicians and others that the fetus is able to feel pain at that point.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled late Wednesday in favor of Jennie Linn McCormack, who was 33 at the time she decided to challenge the state’s so-called fetal pain law and other abortion laws.
Idaho was one of seven states to adopt fetal pain laws in 2011, following in the footsteps of Nebraska’s approval of the law in 2010. But those laws are no longer the most restrictive. This week, lawmakers in Arkansas overrode a veto of a near-ban on the abortion procedure starting from the 12th week of pregnancy.
In his 42-page decision, Winmill sided with McCormack and her attorney, Richard Hearn, declaring Idaho’s fetal pain law places an undue burden on a woman’s right to have an abortion. The judge also took the Legislature - dominated by Republicans in both chambers - to task for the motives driving adoption of the law, finding that efforts to protect a fetus don’t outweigh a women’s right to choose.
The judge found “compelling evidence of the legislature’s `improper purpose’ in enacting it,” Winmill wrote. “The state may not rely on its interest in the potential life of the fetus to place a substantial obstacle to abortion before viability in women’s paths,” he said.
The ruling also finds unconstitutional at least two other Idaho laws dealing with abortion that Hearn and McCormack also challenged.
One hypothesis on how Plan B works was by preventing implantation post fertilization - however recent findings show that’s not the case, it works through preventing ovulation.
For years, scientists knew the pills, particularly Plan B, were highly effective in preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex but weren’t exactly sure how they managed that. “It wasn’t really clear whether it worked before ovulation or after ovulation,” says Wood.
Scientists did know the drug worked primarily by preventing ovulation. It stops an egg from being released from a woman’s ovary and thus prevents any chance of fertilization and pregnancy. But they also thought the drug might make it more difficult for a fertilized egg to implant in a woman’s uterus.
Technically, that’s not an abortion, says Wood.
“We know that about half of fertilized eggs never stick around. They just pass out of the woman’s body,” she says. “An abortifacient is something that interrupts an established pregnancy.”
But people like Rudd worry that even if what the drugs do is not technically abortion, it’s still objectionable if it happens after fertilization.
But it turns out, at least when it comes to Plan B, there is now fairly definitive research that shows the only way it works is by preventing ovulation, and therefore, fertilization.
“We’ve learned a lot about how these drugs work,” says Diana Blithe, a biochemist and contraceptive researcher at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “I think it’s time to revise our speculations about how things might work in view of data that show how things do work.”
For example, says Blithe, a study published just last year led the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics to declare that Plan B does not inhibit implantation. And some abortion opponents in the medical community are beginning to accept that conclusion.
“Up until recently I would not prescribe the Plan B product because we didn’t have enough science to say it doesn’t have a post-fertilization effect,” says Rudd. “Now, I’m becoming — sitting on the fence with that.”
Women in Tennessee soon may have to get an ultrasound before an abortion, under a bill filed in the state legislature.
State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, has filed a measure that would require women to undergo a “transabdominal ultrasound” and wait at least 24 hours before going forward with an abortion.
Tennessee currently does not require women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, in part because the state Constitution has its own privacy clause. That has so far limited lawmakers’ ability to place restrictions on women seeking to end a pregnancy.
For that reason, Tracy’s proposal would almost certainly face a court challenge.
But eight other states do have ultrasound requirements, making them another battlefront between people seeking to discourage abortions and those who say ultrasounds violate women’s privacy and interfere in their relationships with their doctors.
DesJarlais won reelection earlier this month, despite the campaign-season revelation that, over a decade ago, he pressured a mistress to have an abortion. In October, he had explained that story by saying he didn’t believe his mistress was really pregnant at the time, and had urged her to get an abortion to call her bluff.
But a 679-page court transcript from his divorce trial in 2001, released in the days after Election Day, made public much more about DesJarlais’ past — including the fact that his first wife had two abortions. In an interview with The Knoxville News Sentinel this week, DesJarlais said he never intentionally misled voters about his past, and has no plans to resign.
‘I am human,’ he told the paper. ‘I don’t think I ever put myself out there to be somebody that was perfect. I put myself out there as somebody who wanted to serve the public.’
According to the News Sentinel, the court document states that DesJarlais’ first wife had her first abortion when she was on an experimental drug that raised potential risks with the pregnancy. The second abortion occurred when the pair were having problems in their relationship. DesJarlais told the paper his views on abortion have evolved, and that charges of hypocrisy were unfair.
Things like this could easily happen in the US if the “conscience” bills are allowed to stand and fundamentalist anti-choice lobbies win at the Supreme Court level. Note the level of arrogance here in forcing Catholic views and practices on someone who was Hindu.
Savita Halappanavar’s family said she asked several times for her pregnancy to be terminated because she had severe back pain and was miscarrying. Her husband said it was refused because there was a foetal heartbeat. Ms Halappanavar’s death, on 28 October, is the subject of two investigations.
An autopsy carried out two days after her death found she had died from septicaemia. Ms Halappanavar, who was 31 and originally from India, was a dentist.
Praveen Halappanavar said staff at University Hospital Galway told them Ireland was “a Catholic country”.
When asked by the BBC if he thought his wife would still be alive if the termination had been allowed, Mr Halappanavar said: “Of course, no doubt about it.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) met Democratic opponent Jim Graves for their second debate on Thursday and faced pointed questions on the issues of a rape exception for abortion and President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.
Moderator Kerri Miller, a host for Minnesota Public Radio, kicked off the debate by asking the candidates to weigh in on controversial comments by Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who last month explained his opposition to abortion in cases of rape by saying that pregnancy in such cases was “something that God intended.”
Graves stated his opposition to the remarks, the St. Cloud Times reports, adding that women should have a right to choose. Bachmann, an avid abortion opponent, attempted to walk a much finer line.
Presumably seeking to avoid the same pitfalls that have damaged the campaigns of both Mourdock and Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) before him, Bachmann avoided the word “rape” altogether in her response.
“My position is in line with the Catholic Church,” Bachmann said. “That’s been my position for 40 years, it hasn’t changed.”
ThinkProgress has more of Bachmann’s delicate answer.
By stating her agreement with the Catholic Church, Bachmann is reiterating a shared belief that abortions should only be permitted in cases in which the life of the mother is at risk. That means no rape exception. And even in instances in which the mother’s health is in danger, abortions are sometimes controversial.
Democrats Jump on the Mourdock opening.
This is exactly why you can’t trust the GOP in office. Their overweening zealotry overpowers all else, and they will make this their reason for being in office instead of running the country. This is exactly why we have a total do nothing house of representatives and filibuster everything Senate right now. It’s really important for the country that we start turning the GOP out of their offices until they get the message that we aren’t going back to the fifties.
Mourdock, who’s been locked in one of the country’s most expensive and closely watched Senate races, was asked during the final minutes of a debate Tuesday night whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” Mourdock said.
Mourdock became the second GOP Senate candidate to find himself on the defensive over comments about rape and pregnancy. Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin said in August that women’s bodies have ways of preventing pregnancy in cases of what he called “legitimate rape.” Since his comment, Akin has repeatedly apologized but has refused to leave his race despite calls to do so by leaders of his own party, from GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on down.
It was not immediately clear what effect Mourdock’s comments might have during the final two weeks in the increasingly tight race against Democratic challenger Rep. Joe Donnelly. But they could prove problematic. Romney distanced himself from Mourdock on Tuesday night — a day after a television ad featuring the former Massachusetts governor supporting the GOP Senate candidate began airing in Indiana.
Meet Clifford Russell a Romney Campaign Worker in Bedford, Virginia.
I ask him to elaborate and he complies, vigorously.
“What’s killing us is all these entitlements, we’ve got to get rid of all of them. All this welfare, food stamps, Medicare, and then big government health care on top of it, it’s all just too much! When do we say enough is enough?’
What do you mean, exactly, I ask him. You say people are suffering under Obama, don’t they need some help?
‘No. No more help, enough is enough. People have to pick themselves up, take some responsibility. Why should we be paying for people’s mistakes and bad choices? All these illegitimate families just adding to the population, making all these bad decisions, then asking us to pay for it? It’s time to cut them off.”
I ask for some clarification: what do you mean, just starve them out? What if people can’t find work? Let them starve?
“Look, there’s always something you can do. You telling me people can’t make a choice for a better life? We have to help all of them? No. I’ll tell you what really need to do with these illegitimate families on welfare—give all the kids up for adoption and execute the parents.”
I stare at him and blink in a glaze of shock.
Just to be sure I heard him right, I ask him to repeat it, twice.
“Yes, I mean it. Get rid of all of them, give the kids up for adoption, execute the parents, and you get rid of the problem.’ (When I call him back to revisit the issue, he elaborates: ‘put the children up for adoption and execute the parents, and word would get out soon’ that poor people shouldn’t have kids.)
This is a local Romney headquarters in swing-state Virginia, not some far-right Tea Party fringe group (or maybe that’s what the GOP has become). This is, at least in growing part, today’s mainstream GOP.
Mr. Russell has several other opinions about government programs and policies to share with us in the article, most equally as bad. How is it that these types of beliefs have become acceptable enough within the GOP so as not to preclude him from fronting a Romney campaign office? This is really the kind of man the Romney campaign wants talking to prospective voters when they come thru the door?
The author of the article did miss one question that I definitely would have asked Mr. Russell…
“If the both the parents of any illegitimate child are put to death for their “crime” what do you suppose that would do to the abortion and murder rates?”
After all when a pregnancy becomes a matter of life or death you have to believe that 99.9% of people would make the choice to terminate it. Some women certainly would not want to tell their boyfriends that they were pregnant either, they might end up being murdered if they did.
Then again, perhaps Mr. Russell has thought about that side of things and simply sees his suggestion as a “legal” means of minority/underclass population control?