A group in Arkansas who wants to give legal rights to fertilized eggs is not taking defeat lying down. In response to having their proposed constitutional amendment language turned down for being “too vague,” Personhood Arkansas is responding by calling the attorney general “blatantly pro-abortion.”
The group submitted language for the proposal to Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who rejected it on the basis of it being too vague. Personhood spokesman Keith Riley says that was no shock.
“They discussed several pro-life bills in the Arkansas legislature last year and he [McDaniel] sent somebody from his office to testify in opposition to every single one of them,” says Riley. “So, he’s been described in media circles as blatantly pro-abortion.”
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Alabama’s Republican-dominated legislature is once again proposing some of the country’s most radical measures to restrict abortion care.
Republicans have filed a pair of bills that would outlaw abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which would ban the procedure as early as six weeks’ gestation, or before many people even know they are pregnant.
So-called heartbeat abortion bans have been repeatedly found to be unconstitutional because they seek to ban the procedure months before the point at which a fetus is viable.
Mia Raven, legislative director of Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates, told Rewire that she thinks lawmakers should focus on priorities that benefit all of the state’s residents.
“They need to work on better solutions for Alabama,” Raven said. “All these bills end up debated in courts of law and that cost money, and that is money that the state of Alabama nor its citizens have for these types of bills.”
HB 21, sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), would prohibit a physician from performing an abortion on a pregnant person without first determining if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat. If a physician performs an abortion after the detection of a heartbeat, the physician could be charged with a Class C felony, which carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Collins, who has compiled a staunchly anti-choice voting record during her time in the legislature, co-sponsored a similar bill in 2014 and was the primary sponsor of one in 2015.
Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) introduced an identical companion bill, SB 9, and is partnering with Collins on the legislation. Allen told Rewire that Collins has been a “very strong advocate for the sanctity of life,” and the two lawmakers will attempt to move the bills through their respective chambers.
Allen said that it’s important to take opportunities “to put together legislation that will encourage the mother to carry that child full-term and to have that child instead of aborting the baby.”
Allen has sponsored several pieces of anti-choice legislation during his time in the legislature. He was elected as a state representative in 1994 before being elected to the senate in 2010. Allen sponsored bills to restrict medication abortion and ban insurance coverage of abortion in 2011 and 2012, and he was a co-sponsor of a so-called personhood bill in 2013.
Courts have repeatedly rejected so-called heartbeat bans. Republicans in Arkansas and North Dakota passed so-called heartbeat legislation in 2013, and both laws were blocked in court.
Allen acknowledged the successful court challenges to “heartbeat” bans, but said that it was important to continue to debate the issue.
“We do understand that there are certain court battles taking place and some rulings that are forthcoming, and this may be discouraging to pro-life people like myself,” Allen said. “But I think it’s important to keep it before the people.”
Both bills have been referred to committee, and await hearings.
Allen declined to speculate on the possibility of either bill being being passed by committee or receiving a floor vote, and reiterated that he thinks it’s important to keep raising the issue.
Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) is reportedly drafting a pair of anti-choice bills, but has yet to file any legislation, including a bill that would propose a constitutional amendment that would define life as beginning at conception.
So-called personhood amendments seek to classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as “persons,” and to grant them full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution, including the right to life from the moment of conception.
Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, told Rewire that these laws, if enacted, could have widespread impact on reproductive health care.
“If they declare a fetus is a person at conception that would prevent access to safe and legal abortion,” Watson said. “It could also have an impact on many other health-care areas.”
Henry told the Times Daily that he would like the amendment to appear on the November ballot despite repeated voter rejection of the anti-choice measure. “If I can get it on any ballot, I think it will pass,” Henry said. “It’s just a matter of getting it out of the legislature.”
If a “personhood” ballot measure were to be approved in Alabama, it would be the first time voters in any state approved such a measure. “Personhood” amendments have been defeated by wide margins in Colorado, North Dakota, and Mississippi.
“If it did not pass in Mississippi, it will not pass in Alabama,” Raven said. “I think when people come to realize the full scope of personhood, including the possible bans on contraception, they think it’s government overreach gone way too far.”
Henry is reportedly preparing to file a bill, similar to legislation he sponsored in 2015, that would prohibit the Alabama Department of Public Health from issuing or renewing a health center license to an abortion clinic or reproductive health center located within 2,000 feet of a public school.
The bill would have regulated abortion clinics in the same manner as registered sex offenders. “It’s insulting to women to compare a reproductive health-care center to sex offenders,” Raven said.
The legislation targeted the Alabama Women’s Center in Huntsville, which is the only clinic that provides abortion services in northern Alabama. The Rev. James Henderson, an anti-choice activist and member of the Alabama State Republican Executive Committee, took credit for drafting the legislation and said that the bill was designed to force the Alabama Women’s Center to close.
“You can’t target a particular clinic just because you don’t like what they’re doing,” Watson said.
During an anti-choice protest in January, Henderson told AL.com that the legislation would be a priority for Gov. Robert Bentley (R) during the 2016 legislative session. “We think that’s a disgrace that there’s an abortion clinic directly across the street from a public school,” Henderson said. “We have good pledges from our legislators to help get this through the system.”
The bill was passed by lawmakers in the Republican-controlled house, and then passed by a state senate committee with three days left in the 2015 legislative session. The bill was never brought to the state senate floor for a vote.
Alabama lawmakers in 2015 failed to pass any anti-choice legislation, despite Republicans having a sizable majority.
This week on the campaign trail, Ben Carson proposed transgender people get their own bathrooms, Mike Huckabee advocated for “personhood” laws, and Hillary Clinton met with families who lost their children to police violence.
Ben Carson Calls for Trans People to Have Separate Bathrooms to Avoid Making Other People Uncomfortable
Speaking with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos about the failed Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) during a Thursday interview, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said that transgender people should have their own restrooms: “How about we have a transgender bathroom?” Carson suggested. “It’s not fair for them to make everybody else uncomfortable.”
Carson went on to claim that measures like HERO grant LGBTQ people “extra rights” over the rest of the population. “It’s one of the things that I don’t particularly like about the [LGBTQ] movement. I think everybody has equal rights, but I’m not sure that anybody should have extra rights—extra rights when it comes to redefining everything for everybody else and imposing your view on everybody else,” Carson said.
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The Humans Rights Campaign (HRC) condemned Carson’s comments in a statement outlining the candidate’s factually incorrect rhetoric about transgender people. “Ben Carson’s hateful comments are out of touch and all candidates should immediately make clear that they disavow his dangerously transphobic views,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Ben Carson can’t go a week without invoking reckless and irresponsible stereotypes about the LGBT community, and his suggestion that transgender people be required to use segregated bathrooms echoes an ugly past our country should never revisit.”
Mike Huckabee Advocates for Using “Personhood” Laws to Outlaw Abortion
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee invoked radical “personhood” laws as a solution for criminalizing abortion, advocating for using the Fifth and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution in order to outlaw the procedure.
Speaking in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday at “Freedom 2015,” hosted by the the National Religious Liberties Conference, an event organized by a notorious anti-LGBTQ pastor and radio host, Huckabee claimed that the United States has “acted like a savage uncivilized country” in allowing abortion under Roe v. Wade.
Redefining a fetus as a person under the law, the GOP presidential candidate said, would allow conservatives to bypass a new constitutional amendment or overturn Roe. Huckabee claimed that anti-choice advocates have been going about their fight “the wrong way.”
“What we have not done is what we should be doing and what I would do, which is to say we would invoke the Fifth and 14th Amendment as it relates to this issue. Because here’s the fact: We don’t have to pass a constitutional amendment. We already have two of them,” said Huckabee.
“The Fifth Amendment says that you cannot deprive a person of life or liberty without due process. And the 14th Amendment says that everybody has equal protection under the law. There is but one question to be resolved—is the unborn child a person or just a blob of tissue? If a blob of tissue, then it has no constitutional rights. If the unborn child is in fact a person, no need to pass a new amendment.”
Hillary Clinton Meets With Families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Jordan Davis
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton met this week with families from across the country who lost relatives to gun violence.
At a two-hour meeting in Chicago on Monday, Clinton sat down with the families of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Jordan Davis in the midst of the former secretary of state’s push to address criminal justice and gun reform as part of her presidential campaign.
The mothers of the victims said that “Clinton did not make any explicit promises to them, but did pledge to stay engaged in their causes and work on criminal justice reform,” according to CNN.
Speaking about the meeting with People magazine, Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, said that “[Clinton] seemed genuinely passionate and enthusiastic about meeting us. Secretary Clinton sat at a table with ten mothers, and some of us had stories about the loss of a child to police brutality; others talked about losing a child to senseless gun violence in neighborhoods that have sometimes three or four murders a night.”