News Abortion

South Dakota GOP Proposes Unconstitutional 20-Week Abortion Ban

Jenn Stanley

South Dakota Republicans last week introduced legislation that would ban abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization with very few exceptions.

South Dakota Republicans last week commemorated the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade by introducing a 20-week abortion ban. The state senate gave a first read of SB 72 on Friday.

The bill seeks to ban abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, unless there is a “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, not including a psychological or emotional condition” to the pregnant person.

Sen. Jeff Monroe (R-Pierre) is SB 72’s primary sponsor, and all 13 co-sponsors are Republicans. Rep. Isaac Latterell (R-Sioux Falls) sponsored the corresponding house bill, along with 36 Republican co-sponsors.

South Dakota currently adheres to the viability laws as outlined in the Roe v. Wade decision. In the 1973 decision, the court defined viable to mean capable of prolonged life outside the womb, and accepted the conventional medical opinion that a fetus becomes viable at the beginning of the third trimester, typically between the 24th and 28th week.

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South Dakota has found other ways to restrict abortion rights. It was one of 15 states to receive a failing grade for its reproductive health record on the Population Institute’s 2014 report card, which measured effectiveness, prevention, affordability, and access. Since 2011, South Dakota’s GOP has forced a 72-hour waiting period and a crisis pregnancy center visit on women seeking abortion care.

There is one abortion clinic operating in the state.

Several states have passed similar unconstitutional bans based on the dubious suggestion that the fetus can feel pain 20 weeks post-fertilization. The medical community, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, has disputed that claim.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to revive an even more restrictive law in North Dakota, which would have banned abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, letting stand a federal appeals court decision striking it as unconstitutional.

If South Dakota’s 20-week ban passes, doctors would be required to attempt to save the fetus in abortions attempted at 20 weeks and later. Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, said in a statement that these types of laws take deeply personal decisions away from women and their medical providers.

“In states that have passed laws like this, some women and their families have been put into heartbreaking and tragic situations—needing to end a pregnancy for serious medical reasons, but unable to do so,” Stoesz said. “Decisions about pregnancy are not for state politicians to make and the latest polls show that the overwhelming majority of voters say this is the wrong issue for state legislators to be spending time on. This bill is about politics, not medicine.”

The South Dakota GOP holds a 58-12 majority in the house and a 27-8 stranglehold in the state senate.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”

News Politics

Congresswoman Pushes Intersectionality at Democratic National Convention

Christine Grimaldi

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) charges that reproductive health-care restrictions have a disproportionate impact on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

The members of Congress who flocked to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week included a vocal advocate for the intersection of racial and reproductive justice: Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

Watson Coleman’s longstanding work in these areas “represented the intersection of who I am,” she said during a discussion in Philadelphia sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Cosmopolitan. Reproductive health-care restrictions, she stressed, have a disproportionate effect on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

“These decisions impact these communities even more so [than others],” she told Rewire in an interview. “We don’t have the alternatives that middle-class, suburban, white women have. And we’d rather they have them.”

Watson Coleman has brought that context to her work in Congress. In less than two years on Capitol Hill, she co-founded the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls and serves on the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a GOP-led, $1.2 million investigation that she and her fellow Democrats have called an anti-choice “witch hunt.”

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Coleman said she’s largely found support and encouragement among her fellow lawmakers during her first term as a woman of color and outspoken advocate for reproductive rights.

“What I’ve gotten from my Republican colleagues who are so adamantly against a woman’s right to choose—I don’t think it has anything to do with my being a woman or an African American, it has to do with the issue,” she said.

House Republicans have increasingly pushed anti-choice policies in advance of the ongoing August recess and November’s presidential election. The House this month passed the Conscience Protection Act, which would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in such care.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) lauded passage of the bill and the House’s thus-far unsuccessful effort to prove that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donations—allegations based on widely discredited videos published by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-choice front group that has worked closely with GOP legislators to attack funding for Planned Parenthood.

On the other side of the aisle, Watson Coleman joined 118 other House Democrats to co-sponsor the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act (HR 2972). Known as the EACH Woman Act, the legislation would overturn the Hyde Amendment and ensure that every woman has access to insurance coverage of abortion care.

The Hyde Amendment’s restriction of federal funding for abortion care represents a particularly significant barrier for people with low incomes and people of color.

The Democratic Party platform, for the first time, calls for repealing the Hyde Amendment, though the process for undoing a yearly federal appropriations rider remains unclear.

For Watson Coleman, the path forward on getting rid of the Hyde Amendment is clear on at least one point: The next president can’t go it alone.

“The president will have to have a willing Congress,” she said. She called on the electorate to “recognize that this is not a personality contest” and “remove some of those people who have just been obstructionists without having the proper evidence.”

In the meantime, what does a “willing Congress” look like for legislation with anti-choice roadblocks? A majority voting bloc helps, Watson Coleman said. But that’s not everything.

“There are lots of bills that Republicans will vote for if their leadership would simply bring them up,” she said.