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Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Frank McGrath

Abortion is already a reality in Ireland and needs to be dealt with through legislation, Health Minister Simon Harris will tell the Dáil today.

The minister is to lead the Government side of the Eighth Amendment debate in the absence of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is still refusing to offer an opinion on the issue.

Two days of statements will get under way this evening with all 157 TDs entitled to speak for up to 20 minutes on the Oireachtas committee report, which recommended allowing terminations up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

Sources say Mr Harris will plead with deputies to set a “respectful” tone for the months ahead.

The Irish Independent understands he will use the opportunity to argue that abortion is already a reality for women in Ireland today.

The minister will point out that while it has been long known that Irish women travel abroad to end pregnancies, the growth of abortion pills now needs to be acknowledged.

A source said: “The minister will make the point that as a State it’s time to take action to protect women and look after their healthcare needs with care and compassion.”

Unusually for such a debate, Mr Harris told his advisers and department officials that he wants to write his own speech.

It comes as pressure mounts on the Taoiseach to offer clarity about his own position.

Mr Varadkar has been accused of “undermining” the work of the all-party committee on the Eighth Amendment by sending out mixed messages.

He has publicly warned that allowing unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks may be “one step too far”, but has also told Fine Gael TDs it is the “strong option” on the table ahead of a referendum.

In the Dáil, he said he was committed to having a referendum in May or June.

Mr Varadkar said he was not prepared to state his personal opinion until he knew exactly what question is being put to the people.

He said there was uncertainty about whether it would be a simple case of asking whether people want to repeal the Eighth, or if it should be repealed and replaced with a line giving the Oireachtas sole power to legislation for abortion.

“We are awaiting advice from the Attorney General about that because we would find ourselves in a very strange situation if we repealed the Eighth Amendment only to find out that other rights to life exist in other parts of the Constitution that might then make any legislation we pass unconstitutional,” he said.

On the type of abortion regime that might be introduced, Mr Varadkar said draft legislation should be prepared before a referendum but “the legislation would then be in the purview of the Oireachtas and this Government does not have a majority in the House”.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin criticised Mr Varadkar for not stating his view on the committee’s report, which was published before Christmas.

“I think that’s unfortunate. I think it is not giving leadership. We need clarity,” he said.

Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman Billy Kelleher accused the Taoiseach of “undermining” the process.

However, he defended his own party leader, Micheál Martin, for stalling on making his own position clear.

“When you’re telling [doctors] they need to provide [abortions] a certain way but not telling them how, it’s going to scare them away from providing care at all.”

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are preparing to ram through another anti-abortion measure based on junk science and scare tactics.

The “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” is based on the myth that infants are “born alive” after abortions—and that abortion providers routinely murder them. The GOP-held House vote is timed around Friday’s March for Life and next week’s 45th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion care.

“The point of this kind of legislation—it’s for shock value,” said Diane Horvath-Cosper, an OB-GYN, abortion provider, and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health. “It’s not medically accurate, [and] it’s not founded in any kind of actual science.”

The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002 already defines an infant “born alive” following “natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion” as a person with corresponding legal protections, according to President George W. Bush’s remarks upon signing it. The “Born-Alive” bill, written in the mold of Americans United for Life copycat legislation, would add criminal penalties for abortion providers and clinicians in the form of fines and up to five years in prison, along with potential criminal prosecution for murder. Patients who undergo an abortion could separately file a civil lawsuit.

The consequences could be dire, according to Amy Friedrich-Karnik, senior federal policy adviser for the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR).

“What’s interesting to know about this bill is that it describes something that is relatively vague,” Friedrich-Karnik said in an interview. “It requires providers to act in a certain way without any specificity, but then it couples that with criminal penalties for failing to comply.”

Friedrich-Karnik described a “chilling effect” on abortion providers.

“When you’re telling them they need to provide [abortions] a certain way but not telling them how, it’s going to scare them away from providing care at all,” she said. At the same time, she added, the bill “grossly interferes in medical practice” by bringing politicians into the exam room.

There are no indications that the U.S. Senate will follow the House’s vote anytime soon, if at all. The bill would almost certainly fail to meet the upper chamber’s 60-vote threshold to advance most controversial legislation.

But there’s more at stake than an individual legislative victory or defeat. Anti-choice advocates, for example, have urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring up a similarly doomed, House-passed 20-week abortion ban to test vulnerable Senate Democrats from red states ahead of the midterm elections. Their goal: Strengthen Republicans’ Senate majority and end the legislative firewall between a nationwide prohibition on legal abortion care at 20 weeks—and eventually, on legal abortion care entirely.

Their strategy isn’t infallible. McConnell told reporters gathered at the White House in October 2016 that the 20-week ban is “supported by virtually all of my members, and we expect to have a vote on it at some point,” but he still hasn’t scheduled it. And Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a prominent white nationalist, recently told LifeSiteNews that there’s a “turf battle” brewing among anti-choice groups. King resents that House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and the prominent anti-choice group National Right to Life are prioritizing the 20-week ban and the “Born-Alive” bill over his total abortion ban.

Junk Science Defines Bill—and Defies Reality

Kristyn Brandi’s first thought as she read the bill was that “clearly, this person [who wrote it] has no idea of what an abortion procedure actually is.”

Most abortions occur within the first trimester—“nowhere near the viability this bill describes,” Brandi, a California-based family planning doctor and abortion provider, said in a phone interview.

Indeed, 89 percent of all abortions occur within the first trimester, according to a 2017 fact sheet from the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that supports reproductive rights. Abortions are increasingly shifting earlier within the first trimester; per the same data, 66 percent occur in the first eight weeks.

The majority of second-trimester abortions similarly take place prior to viability, which differs for each pregnancy, but generally occurs around 24 weeks. And for second-trimester abortions that are “even close to viability,” Brandi said abortion care providers typically inject a patient’s stomach with medication prior to the procedure, typically a dilation and evacuation, or a D&E, to induce fetal demise and avoid a live birth.

“Usually, patients will not proceed with the abortion unless we’ve confirmed that fetal demise has happened,” Brandi said. “So really, this is not happening if you’re providing safe, legal care.”

Republicans, then, are trying to punish providers for a problem that doesn’t exist.

“It just shows how much they are not familiar with what’s actually happening in abortion care,” Brandi said.

CRR’s Friedrich-Karnik agreed.

“First and foremost, it is not about legislating to fix a problem,” she told Rewire. “And this timing makes clear that it’s all about anti-choice leaders giving something to their base on the anniversary of Roe. What this bill really does is stigmatize health-care providers and shame women who are seeking safe, legal abortion care.”

Scare Tactics Endanger Health

Until recently, the “Born-Alive” bill was most closely associated with Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), a proponent of racially biased anti-abortion myths and the lead sponsor of the 20-week abortion ban that actually prohibits abortion at 22 weeks’ gestation. Franks has long mischaracterized and conflated the medical realities of abortion with convicted rogue abortion provider Kermit Gosnell’s crimes.

Enough House Republicans nevertheless joined Franks in 2015 to pass the bill. An identical Senate version from Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) failed to gain traction across the Capitol.

Franks and Sasse again offered up the measures at the start of the 115th Congress in January 2017. By December, Franks resigned from the House following the sexual harassment revelation that he had asked female staffers to bear his child via surrogacy. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) subsequently reintroduced the bill under a new bill number, HR 4712. Blackburn is perhaps best known for collaborating with anti-choice extremists in an inflammatory, taxpayer-funded crusade against Planned Parenthood. She’s lifting much of the same rhetoric in her campaign for the Senate.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, described the bill’s resurgence as “alarming.”

“The bill bullies abortion providers, imposing draconian and unnecessary standards of care enforceable with criminal penalties,” DeGette told Rewire via email. “It’s no wonder most doctors’ advocacy groups oppose it; if this legislation becomes law, it will irreparably damage the critically important relationship between them and their patients.”

The head of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the “Born-Alive” bill “should never become law.”

“HR 4712 is a disservice to America’s women and gross legislative interference into the practice of medicine, putting politicians between women and their trusted doctors,” Executive Vice President and CEO Dr. Hal Lawrence said in an email. “This bill and others like it are part of a larger attempt to deny women access to safe, legal, evidence-based abortion care. We call on every member of the United States House of Representatives to stand with women and stand up for safe medical care.”

Ultimately, the bill and its anti-abortion scare tactics could endanger patient health.

“It’s just trying to frighten people that abortion doctors are doing things that are unethical when in actuality we’re providing safe and legal care. And it’s trying to push doctors to not provide care,” Brandi, the family planning doctor and abortion provider, told Rewire. “And with less and less doctors being able to provide these services, eventually no one will be able to provide this care for women and then we’re going back to before Roe v. Wade when people were dying from abortion[s].”

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2018/01/17/house-republicans-vote-shock-value-abortion-bill-anti-choice-protesters-descend-d-c/

A new effort from the progressive State Innovation Exchange aims to put reproductive rights at the forefront of the country’s agenda.


Renitta Shannon has never regretted her abortion.

Growing up, Shannon, who’s now a state representative in Georgia, never got any guidance from her well-meaning, very religious parents about sex. She knew birth control existed but didn’t know anything about it. She found out she was pregnant one day during her senior year of college, when she was studying for finals at the University of Florida.

“I knew it would unravel my life,” she says. “And ultimately, I knew that at 22, I was not ready to become a parent.”

Shannon — who has never before spoken publicly about her abortion — made her choice. She decided to talk about it now, 15 years later, she says, because she’s tired of keeping quiet about something she believes is so vital to women’s freedom.

“Abortion is only ever talked about when conservatives are trying to strip away rights,” she says. “It’s almost like nobody wants to talk about abortion until it’s time to defend it.”

Amid crackdowns on abortion access nationwide, Shannon and more than 200 other state legislators across the country have signed on to a new Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council launched on Thursday by the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), a nonprofit policy and resource center for progressive state legislators. The council’s objective is to put reproductive rights at the forefront of progressives’ — and the country’s — agenda.

“The goal is to send the message that despite the 401 state-level abortion restrictionsthat have been passed into law since 2011, we do have leaders at the state level who are willing to stand up and fight for our rights,” says Kelly Baden, SiX’s director of reproductive rights.

The council aims to bring state legislators from Oregon to Virginia together in pursuit of that common goal, and ensure that liberal legislators in Alabama — who might not have as many allies in the statehouse — are connected to progressives in states like Vermont. The alliance hopes to keep lawmakers updated on the latest reproductive rights legislation and other related news, as well as help them talk about the issue differently. A big focus, Baden says, is reframing the issue of reproductive rights as not just a constitutional right, but a personal one, too.

According to the Pew Research Center, about 7 in 10 Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that made access to abortion the law of the land. “Between local, state, and national laws — and this chaotic news culture — it’s hard for people to be fully informed of every attempt to restrict their reproductive rights,” Baden says. “But when people do hear about them, they don’t want them.” The council, she says, will encourage state legislators to speak out about their commitment to the issue in order to “ramp up the public opposition to bad bills and help reverse the trend.”

Last year, some Democrats, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, faced backlash when they suggested that there shouldn’t be a litmus test on abortion rights and the party should be open to anti-abortion politicians. SiX categorically decries progressives who claim reproductive rights aren’t a necessary component to membership in the Democratic party. “Reproductive freedom is a central and necessary component of an inclusive progressive agenda,” reads the new council’s platform.

Athena Salman, a state representative in Arizona who has signed onto the effort, says reproductive rights is one of the main reasons she decided to run for office in 2016. On Thursday, she plans to submit legislation that would repeal major restrictions on abortion access in the state, such as the mandatory 24-hour waiting period and the ban on state insurance coverage for the procedure.

“I think what happens, unfortunately, in the past, is that we let the other side drive the debate and change the debate,” says Salman, who believes women have been cut out of the conversation. “I’m hoping we can successfully shift the narrative and actually talk about the real reality that women face and also put the focus on respecting women’s decisions and not judging them.”

She likens the state legislators’ efforts on reproductive rights to the #MeToo movement. “The only reason that the support for the victims of sexual harassment has gained traction is because not just in one instance, not just in one state, but women across sectors, and men across sectors in our society, are speaking out,” she says. “And now you have this huge echo chamber and you’re actually seeing some policy shift as a result.”

This new coalition of progressive legislators, says Shannon, represents something of an offensive strike. “We are saying and affirming up-front: These rights are important to us. We want to advance reproductive rights. And we will not apologize for that.”

Source: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a15060139/reproductive-rights-council-state-innovation-exchange/

Attorneys for the State of Indiana want a federal appeals court to revive a law mandating doctors disclose a minor’s abortion to their parents.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard Indiana’s appeal to breathe life into SB 404, a law that bans doctors from performing abortions on teenagers without informing their parents first. A decision on the challenge, parts of which were barred from taking effect by another court, is expected within three months.

Do you want to watch Ginni Thomas interview her husband, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for her “Daily Caller News Foundation Series”? You do? OK. Here you go. Talk about #FakeNews.

Remember Google Bro James Damore? He’s the guy who got fired over the summer once his controversial Bro Manifesto about how gender difference means women aren’t cut out for the tech industry went viral. Since then, he has remained unemployed and dabbled with the alt-right, even admitting that he admires the titles, like “grand wizard,” that the KKK uses. He turned out to be a real gem. Well, he filed a class action lawsuit against Google last week alleging that Google discriminates against white conservative man. Yes, it’s OK to laugh.

A Nebraska couple’s malpractice lawsuit against a Boulder, Colorado, clinic and doctor began last week over a later abortion gone awry. The couple alleges the doctor missed part of the fetus’ skull, which was found embedded in her uterine wall more than a year later and, according to another physician, required a hysterectomy to remove.

A Wisconsin school district agreed to pay Ash Whitaker, a former Tremper High School student, $800,000 to settle Whitaker’s discrimination suit. Whitaker, who is transgender, was barred from using the boys’ bathroom when he attended Tremper High and was subjected to surveillance and disciplinary action stemming from his use of the boys’ bathroom. As part of the settlement, Kenosha Unified School District withdrew its U.S. Supreme Court appeal and has agreed to allow Whitaker to use the men’s bathroom if he returns to the school as an alumnus or as a community member.

The fight over an amendment—Amendment 1—that would strip the right to an abortion from the Tennessee Constitution has come to an end: A federal appeals court last week upheld the 2014 vote that adopted the amendment, paving the way for the Republican-dominated legislature to enact stricter abortion restrictions.

Native American tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North and South Dakota have been filing lawsuitsagainst opioid manufacturers and distributors in an effort to hold them responsible for the addiction epidemic in indigenous communities. The lawsuits seek compensation for costs they have incurred due to the crisis.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two Fourth Amendment cases that will determine the boundaries of warrantless searches. One will decide whether police authority to search vehicles without warrants extends to vehicles kept on private property, including, potentially, those housed in a garage. The other will decide whether a person driving a rental car can be subjected to a warrantless search if their name is not listed on the rental agreement.

The federal judiciary is not immune from the #MeToo movement: Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said that she will be asking all federal judiciary nominees whether they ever committed sexual misconduct. While we admire the idea, it’s not like people tend to tell the truth about these things.


Trump admin moves to block abortion for fourth undocumented minor
© Getty

The Trump administration has moved to block a fourth undocumented minor from receiving an abortion, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The woman, known to the court as Jane Moe, has requested an abortion but has been prevented from getting one by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an office within the Department of Health and Human Services.

A spokesperson said HHS does not believe it is required to facilitate the abortion.

“The Jane in this case, Jane Moe — who entered the country illegally — has the option to voluntarily depart to her home country or find a suitable sponsor. If she chooses not to exercise these options, HHS does not believe we are required to facilitate Jane Moe’s abortion, out of concern and responsibility for the mother’s best interests.”

The ACLU asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday for a temporary restraining order for Moe so she could obtain an abortion.According to court documents, Moe is a 17-year-old unaccompanied immigrant minor living in a government-funded shelter. Moe is in her second trimester of pregnancy.

She first requested an abortion two weeks ago, but her request has been denied.

This is the fourth time the ORR has tried to block immigrant minors in the care of the U.S. from getting abortions.

In the previous cases, the minors have been eventually allowed to obtain abortions.

In March, the administration established a policy of prohibiting all federally funded shelters from taking “any action that facilitates” abortion access for unaccompanied minors without the approval of ORR Director Scott Lloyd.

The ACLU argues the policy is unconstitutional.


“Someone does not lose the constitutional right to end a pregnancy simply because they are a college student.”

When Angelina discovered she was pregnant as a freshman at San Francisco State University, she wanted an abortion, but the student health center offered little more than flu shots, cold remedies, and condoms.

A grocery store cashier, Angelina lacked health insurance. After a hard conversation with her Greek immigrant parents, she drove across the bay to a Marin County Kaiser facility, where her abortion would be covered by her parents’ health plan. Then things got worse.

“I think I was asked upward of six times in a ten-minute appointment whether I was sure I wanted an abortion,” Angelina, now 25, recalled. Rewire is withholding her last name for privacy.

The earliest date she could get the procedure was ten days away. The delay put her at 12 weeks’ gestation—too far along to get the medication abortion she’d wanted.

State lawmakers could soon provide a new choice for people in Angelina’s position. A first-of-its-kind bill in the California legislature would require student health centers at California public colleges and universities to dispense medication abortion, a safe non-surgical regime of two drugs taken before ten weeks’ gestation. The service would phase in starting in 2022, affecting more than 400,000 students.

No public colleges in the state offer medication abortion, nor do any around the country, but the author of SB 320 aims to change that.

“Someone does not lose the constitutional right to end a pregnancy simply because they are a college student,” said state Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino).

The bill cleared the state senate’s education committee on Wednesday in a party line vote, and heads next to the senate appropriations committee.

Angelina, now a pre-med student at Mills College in Oakland, supports SB 320 because she thinks it would remove the emotional and logistical barriers she encountered getting an abortion as a college student.

“It was almost like every week I had to jump through a hoop,” she recalled. “It was a whole domino effect.”

Each month, more than 500 students at California’s 34 public college and universities leave campus to seek medication abortions, according to a recent analysis by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco. The service requires two office visits. But more than two-thirds of University of California (UC) students and one-third of California State University (CSU) students don’t have a car, and half of the student body qualifies as low income. At 22 campuses, the nearest abortion provider is more than 30-minutes away on public transit. At CSU Stanislaus, the trip on public transit takes 92 minutes.

Given the safety and effectiveness of medication abortion, “there is no reason to exclude it from services provided at the student health center,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, director of ANSIRH.

Opponents argue the bill ignores a growing unmet need on campus for services like mental health care, dental care, affordable child care, shelter, and pregnancy support services. A Google maps analysis by anti-choice group Californians for Life showed abortion providers were an average of 5.97 miles from UC and CSU campuses.

“This bill falls short of even pro-choice expectations in that it does nothing to address the comprehensive needs of women on campus,” said Wynette Sills, director of Californians for Life. “It exclusively focuses on abortion, abortion, and more abortion—when not every woman wants to make that choice. This creates a legislative mandate on our already over-stretched university system.”

The legislation, which was held over from last year and heavily amended, still faces hurdles. It must clear the full state senate by the end of this month. Its implementation hinges on full funding.

State Sen. Connie Leyva said expanding abortion access at California’s public colleges and universities will come at no cost to taxpayers. Video by Nicole Knight.

Leyva said taxpayers will not foot the bill for implementation. Instead, two foundations and a private donor have agreed to pay set-up costs for staff training and equipment such as sonograms. Dr. Ruth Shaber, president of Tara Health Foundation, one of the funders, said they do not yet have an estimate of the total costs.

In the end, Angelina had a surgical abortion. It wasn’t the medication abortion she’d wanted the day she walked into the student health center at San Francisco State.

She missed three days of work, and a week of school. The toll, she said, felt like more.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2018/01/12/california-campuses-soon-see-expanded-abortion-access/

If enacted, the ‘stop abortion’ bill would outlaw terminations carried out because of a congenital disorder of the foetus

Protesters spell out the phrase ‘women’s rights’ in Polish at a rally outside parliament in Warsaw
 Protesters spell out the phrase ‘women’s rights’ in Polish at a rally outside parliament in Warsaw on Wednesday. Photograph: Agencja Gazeta/Reuters

The Polish parliament has rejected proposed legislation to liberalise abortion laws, voting instead to pass proposals for tough new restrictions to a parliamentary committee for further scrutiny.

Poland already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, with terminations permitted only when the life of the foetus is under threat, when there is a grave threat to the health of the mother, or if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

If enacted, the “stop abortion” bill – a so-called citizens’ initiative proposed by hardline conservative groups – would outlaw abortions carried out because of a congenital disorder of the foetus.

Such cases account for about 95% of legal abortions in Poland. It is estimated that tens of thousands of illegal terminations occur in Poland each year, and many Polish women seeking abortions also go abroad, or order abortion pills online.

“This is a black day for Polish women,” said Krystyna Kacpura, an executive director of the Federation for Women and Family Planning. “If the bill is passed, Polish women will die. We are treated as unneeded – we are just there to give birth, and if we give birth to a very sick child, we are left to bring the child up by ourselves without any help.”

In 2016, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) was forced to back away from a blanket ban on abortion when the proposal’s passage to the committee stage provoked mass street demonstrations that came to be known as the “black protests”.

But the rightwing party’s leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, indicated that the government would continue to seek to tighten the law. He said: “We will strive to ensure that even in pregnancies which are very difficult, when a child is sure to die, strongly deformed, women end up giving birth so that the child can be baptised, buried, and have a name.”

Introducing the proposed restrictions on Wednesday, Kaja Godek of the anti-abortion Life and Family Foundation told MPs that “we have come to parliament today because we don’t want hospitals turning into abattoirs”.

Since assuming office in 2015, PiS has ended state funding for IVF treatment and restricted access to emergency contraception, introducing a requirement for a prescription in order to obtain the morning-after pill.

Łukasz Szumowski, appointed health minister during a government reshuffle this week, is one of almost 4,000 Polish doctors to have signed a “declaration of faith” committing not to participate in “abortion, euthanasia, contraception, artificial insemination, and/or in vitro fertilisation” on the grounds that such acts “not only violate the basic commandments of the Decalogue, but reject the creator as well”.

MPs considered a proposal to liberalise abortion laws. The “save women” bill would allow abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy and provide for better access to emergency contraception, medical care and sex education.

But its progress to the committee stage was rejected by eight votes, prompting recriminations as pro-choice activists accused opposition MPs of betraying Polish women by failing to show up. Dozens of opposition MPs who were present abstained.

“Many politicians believe their careers depend on the Catholic church,” said Kacpura. “But we will continue to fight this, because we are fighting for our lives.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/11/polish-mps-reject-liberalised-abortion-laws-but-back-new-restrictions