Louisiana’s new bill requiring abortion providers to play audio of the heartbeat of an embryo or fetus prior to an abortion has passed the full Senate and is now heading to the House, according to a report from AM870. The state already requires a woman to view an ultrasound prior to abortion, but has added this new addition to the restriction after declaring that the bill must be constitutional, since it is the same as the one used in Texas.
The full state senate Tuesday approved a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to first listen to the fetus’ heartbeat. Senator Sharon Weston Broome (D-Baton Rouge) says the bill passes constitutional muster.
“It tracks the language of a law passed in Texas last session,” Broom said on the senate floor. “That law was upheld by a unanimous panel of the 5th Circuit federal Court of Appeals.”
Now the Senate will next vote on a bill that will create new sentencing guidelines should an abortion be provided by someone who is not a licensed doctor. SB 330 creates two new crimes: “criminal abortion” and “aggravated criminal abortion,” both punishable by jail time, rather than the civil penalties previously faced if either a medication or surgical abortion is performed by someone who is not a licensed physician or is performed outside of a licensed clinic.
“Criminal abortion” would net the provider a $5,000 to $50,000 fine and 5 years “hard time,” while “aggravated criminal abortion” is a $10,000 to $100,000 fine and 10 years.
Congressional Republicans investigating widely discredited claims about fetal tissue trafficking and abortion expect to spend $1.2 million on the anti-choice crusade by the end of the year.
The figure represents the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives’ total estimated budget for calendar year 2016, a high-ranking GOP aide in the U.S. House of Representatives told Rewire. The disclosure marks the first time Republicans have revealed how much taxpayer money they are spending on the investigation rooted in deceptively edited Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos, dubbed by Democratic legislators as a “witch hunt.”
The Committee on House Administration has tapped nearly 80 percent of the chamber’s funding reserves, approving $790,000 for the investigation, split two-thirds and one-third between Republicans and Democrats. The committee initially transferred $300,000 to the panel in 2015, which was only for that year.
Excluding the 2015 transfer, the 2016 budget shortfall totals about $710,000. Including the transfer, about $410,000.
Republicans, however, anticipate a roughly $450,000 shortfall, according to the aide, who acknowledged that they have yet to figure out how they would make up the shortfall. Details about potential funding sources could not be immediately ascertained, though the aide said Republicans would have to produce the funding no later than December 1.
Several options exist for GOP lawmakers. Republicans could earmark the money in an increasingly likely continuing resolution, which would fund the overall U.S. government in the absence of viable appropriations bills. However, that would require U.S. Senate passage—hardly a guarantee with such a controversial rider, according to a House Democratic aide.
Republicans could amend the initial resolution creating the panel and bring it back to the floor, the Democratic aide told Rewire. Resolutions only require passage by one chamber, the aide said, providing a more failsafe option.
Another possibility is for Republicans to draw from the budget of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the panel.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), the panel’s ranking member, denounced the investigation following the disclosure of taxpayer dollars behind it.
“Republicans continue to waste taxpayer dollars recycling inflammatory and thoroughly discredited allegations of anti-abortion extremists,” Schakowsky told Rewire in an email. “The Select Panel started with a lie, and has been conducted to perpetuate that lie through manufactured, misleading ‘evidence’ and suppression of facts that run contrary to the Republicans’ predetermined narrative. It would be bad enough if this were just a waste of taxpayer time and money. But this Panel is putting women’s health care and life-saving research at risk. America deserves better. Speaker Ryan can and should stop this witch hunt now.”
In a July 14 interview with Rewire, Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), a once outspoken proponent of fetal tissue research, didn’t know how much, if any, committee funding has gone toward the select panel’s work. Upton referred Rewire to a committee spokesperson, who did not reply to requests for comment.
Select panel Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) similarly could not answer Rewire’s funding inquiries at a July 14 press conferenceproviding an interim update on the investigation a year after the release of the first CMP videos. Blackburn deferred to Republican leadership regarding how much financial support Energy and Commerce may have provided the panel beyond the House’s reserve coffers.
GOP-backed "personhood" laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.
An Iowa Republican plans to introduce a measure defining life as beginning at conception in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down an anti-choice Texas law, which has limited states’ ability to restrict abortion care access.
GOP-backed “personhood” laws have been an unmitigated failure. Voters in state after state have rejected by wide margins personhood ballot initiatives, and personhood bills have failed to gain traction in many legislatures.
Rachel Lopez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told IowaWatch that personhood measures are routinely introduced in Iowa but have failed to gain traction in the GOP-dominated legislature.
“Although we have not yet seen the details of this impending effort, we are confident that it also will fail to advance,” Lopez said. “Personhood bills are a waste of both time and taxpayer dollars, as they have failed time and again in Iowa and other states.”
Iowa lawmakers this year introduced SJR 2001, a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution specifying that the document does not secure or protect a fundamental right to abortion care.
SJR 2001 was referred to the senate rules and administration committee, but never received a hearing or a vote.
Schultz, who was elected to the state senate in 2014 after serving in the house, has sponsored or co-sponsored several anti-choice bills while in the state legislature, including personhood measures.
SF 478, sponsored by Schultz during the 2015 legislative session, would have defined “person” when referring to the victim of a murder, to mean “an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.”
Mark Kende, director of Drake University’s Constitutional Law Center, told IowaWatch that Schultz’s proposal would not survive in the courts.
“He can try to pass that legislation but it certainly wouldn’t trump the federal Constitution,” Kende said. “Even if that language got into the state constitution it can’t defy three Supreme Court decisions in the last 40 years.”
“I’m pro-life and I want to do what I can to encourage things that can protect the lives of unborn children,” Branstad said. “Yet I also recognize that we have to live with the restrictions that have been placed on the states by the courts.”