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Texas Senate Vote
Puts Bill Restricting Abortion
Over Final Hurdle
July 13, 2013
The New York Times
By JOHN SCHWARTZ
Tex. — The Texas Senate gave final passage on Friday to one of the strictest
anti-abortion measures in the country, legislation championed by Gov. Rick
Perry, who rallied the Republican-controlled Legislature late last month after a
Democratic filibuster blocked the bill and intensified already passionate
resistance by abortion-rights supporters.
The bill, which Mr. Perry is expected to sign, bans abortions after 20 weeks of
pregnancy and holds abortion clinics to the same standards as hospital-style
surgical centers, among other requirements. Its supporters say that the
strengthened requirements for the structures and doctors will protect women’s
health; opponents argue that the restrictions are actually intended to put
financial pressure on the clinics that perform abortions and will force many of
them to shut their doors.
Debate over the bill has ignited fierce exchanges between lawmakers, and tense
confrontations between opponents of the bill, who have worn orange, and
supporters of the bill wearing blue. Signs and slogans have been everywhere,
bearing long, impassioned arguments or the simple scrawl on a young man’s orange
shirt, a Twitter-esque “@TXLEGE: U R dumb.”
The bill had come nearly this far before: a version had been brought to the
Senate in the previous session of the Legislature, in June, and was killed by
State Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat from Fort Worth, with an 11-hour
filibuster that stalled the bill until after the deadline for ending the
session. The filibuster became an overnight sensation on Twitter and other forms
of social media, with more than 180,000 people viewing the filibuster live
Almost immediately, however, Governor Perry called for another special session
to reconsider the bill. When the bill passed the House of Representatives after
a contentious day and a half of proposed amendments and floor debate, Mr. Perry
said he looked forward to the next step of the process, as “the Senate continues
its important work in support of women’s health and protecting the lives of our
most vulnerable Texans.”
The fight has been heavy with symbols. The House bill’s author, Representative
Jodie Laubenberg, a Republican from Parker, dangled a pair of baby shoes before
her as she spoke on Tuesday; Representative Senfronia Thompson, who offered an
early amendment to the bill, was flanked by colleagues holding wire hangers,
representing the brutal abortion methods they said would return if legitimate
clinics were run out of business.
Ms. Laubenberg has said that the bill would close no facilities, adding, “It is
time these clinics put patients ahead of profits.”
Supporters of the bill in the Legislature have been angered by the language of
their opponents. During floor debate on Tuesday, Representative Jason Villalba,
a Republican of Dallas, said that “I shall stand with Texas women, but I shall
stand here no longer and be accused of conducting a ‘war on women.' ” He said
“we care for and we fight for human baby lives,” and he showed a sonogram of his
own child at 13 weeks. “I will fight, and I will fight, and I will fight to
protect my baby,” he said.
The bill is opposed by many doctors, including leaders of the American Congress
of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Texas Medical Association; the
gynecologists’ group has run advertisements locally that question the scientific
underpinnings of the legislation and tell legislators to “Get out of our exam
The Senate took up the bill on Friday afternoon, but people had begun lining up
for seats in the third-floor Senate gallery early in the morning, a line that
stretched from that floor into the basement of the Capitol. Department of Public
Safety officers, their numbers swelled in anticipation of crowds and tumult,
searched every bag and confiscated anything that could be thrown — including,
for part of the day and until the practice became an object of derision online,
tampons. But Department of Public Safety officials stated that the searches had
turned up jars “suspected to contain” urine, feces and paint, along with glitter
Senators worked through the evening surrounded by tumult and ruckus. Shouts,
chants and singing could be heard outside of the chamber, and as the final
amendment was voted down protesters tried to chain themselves to the railing of
the Senate gallery and were taken out.
Though defeated in the Legislature, State Senator Royce West, a Democrat who
represents Dallas, said the next step was clear: the ink from Mr. Perry’s
signature on the bill is not likely to be dry for long before a lawsuit is
“I’m a lawyer,” Mr. West said. “The reality is, I’m used to being in court. We
believe the whole thing is unconstitutional.”
Mr. West would not comment on any specific legal strategy, but the many
amendments and discussion of them during deliberations over the bill were
clearly intended to build a record that could eventually be reviewed by the
The Democrats who opposed the bill never had the votes to defeat it — Mr. West,
during discussion of proposed amendments, said, “We know the bill is going to
pass.” But State Senator Kirk Watson, the chairman of the Senate Democratic
caucus, posted a Facebook photo on Wednesday of an orange T-shirt with a slogan
about why the fight has continued. It read: “A foregone conclusion has never
stopped a group of citizens committed to ideals of democracy and liberty from
taking a stand and fighting with everything they’ve got. This is Texas, baby.
Remember the Alamo.”
Texas Senate Vote Puts Bill Restricting Abortion Over Final Hurdle,
Why I Am Signing
Marriage Equality Into Law
May 1, 2013
The New York Times
By LINCOLN CHAFEE
ON Thursday, the Rhode Island House of Representatives is expected to approve
legislation to extend the right to marry to all Rhode Islanders, regardless of
sexual orientation. I plan to sign the Marriage Equality Act into law
immediately after the vote, on the steps of the Rhode Island State House,
overlooking downtown Providence. This is the same spot where, in my 2011
inaugural address, I called for Rhode Island to embrace marriage equality.
Signing the bill will be gratifying for many reasons. When I first defended gay
marriage in 2004, as a Republican United States senator, most of my party
colleagues were extreme in their opposition. In fact, to draw a line in the
sand, they scheduled a vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage
in June 2006 — just before the height of a campaign season.
In the end, only six Republican senators joined me in opposing the amendment:
Susan Collins, Judd Gregg, John McCain, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter and John E.
Sununu. Of those, only Mr. McCain and Ms. Collins remain in the Senate. Even
many of those Republicans opposing a constitutional ban avoided taking a
position on gay marriage by saying it was an issue best left to the states. But
I went further and announced my support for full marriage equality.
I was one of only four members of the entire Senate to take that stand, along
with Senators Ron Wyden, Edward M. Kennedy and Russell Feingold — three of the
most socially liberal members of the chamber at the time. Hardly common company
for a Republican.
As it turned out, I did lose office in 2006, as part of the general rejection of
Republican leadership that year. But I was elected governor as an independent in
2010, and I was proud to see that my stand on gay marriage stood up well over
A historic realignment is happening all around us, as Americans from all walks
of life realize that this is the right thing to do. It is occurring both inside
and outside of politics, through conversations at the office and over kitchen
tables, and at different speeds in different parts of the country. But once the
people have spoken, politics should do its part to make the change efficient and
Much of the argument for and against gay marriage has revolved around the
morality of the issue. Each side feels intensely that its position is more
righteous than the other side’s. I personally feel that Rhode Island is a better
state, and America is a better country, when we are as inclusive as possible.
But over the last few years, as governor, I have been impressed by another
argument, one that is less connected to convictions of personal morality, and
one that ought to unite all Rhode Islanders. No issue is more important to my
state than job creation. Rhode Island was badly battered by the recession of
2008, but we are moving in the right direction. Jobs are the only way forward —
we need to keep the ones we have, and we need to create new ones.
There are good signs — our unemployment rate has just undergone the largest
yearly drop since 1985 — but one needless obstacle to our recovery remains.
Rhode Island is part of a highly regional economy, with the other New England
states and New York in constant competition with us for innovative companies,
and particularly for the young, open-minded individuals who are close to the
heartbeat of the new digital economy. In our small cluster of states, it is
relatively easy for a company or a person to cross a border seeking a more
favorable climate. And in recent years Rhode Island has been an outlier among
our surrounding states: we are the only one prohibiting same-sex couples from
Many experts have found evidence of a strong correlation between tolerance and
prosperity, particularly in high-tech sectors. One of them, the author Richard
Florida, has identified the “three T’s” — talent, technology and tolerance — as
the fundamental basis for the growth of new economies.
With a high concentration of outstanding colleges and universities, Rhode Island
certainly has the talent. The technology is there as well, with our state’s
broadband speed and coverage ranked among the nation’s best. The Beacon Hill
Institute’s most recent State Competitiveness Report also placed Rhode Island
fifth among all states in the technology category. Now we are poised to adopt
the third and final T: tolerance.
The point is not simply that we are welcoming to gay people, though we are. It
is that we want to welcome everyone. The talented workers who are driving the
new economy — young, educated and forward-looking — want to live in a place that
reflects their values. They want diversity, not simply out of a sense of
justice, but because diversity makes life more fun. Why would any state turn
away the people who are most likely to create the economies of the 21st century?
I have been heartened in recent months to see members of my old party coming
around on marriage equality, including the entire Republican caucus in the Rhode
Island Senate — the first time a caucus of either party has been unanimous in
its support. That reflects sound political judgment, and some values that are at
least as Republican as they are Democratic, including a belief in marriage as an
institution and a desire to keep government out of our personal lives.
The push for equality will continue to grow stronger in statehouses, courthouses
and polling places in every state in America. This is, by and large, a
generational issue, not a geographic one. Even in the reddest states, the rising
generations are far more tolerant than their parents and grandparents. As this
shift continues, marriage equality will inevitably become law in more and more
states. The states that cling to their old prohibitions will then be viewed as
the outliers. Like Rhode Island in recent years, they will be seen as islands of
This is also true, more broadly, at the national level. The United States is at
a competitive disadvantage in attracting skilled workers to fill high-level jobs
in technology, finance and health care, as noted by industry leaders and Wall
Street executives at Monday’s annual “Out on the Street” conference. It is my
hope that the Supreme Court will choose to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act,
and that my fellow governors will lobby their Congressional delegations to
address our country’s discriminatory policies at the federal level.
So tomorrow, when I sign the Marriage Equality Act into law, I will be thinking
of the Rhode Islanders who have fought for decades simply to be able to marry
the person they love. I will be thinking of how Rhode Island is upholding its
legacy as a place founded on the principles of tolerance and diversity. But I
will also be thinking, as all governors must, about the economy. With marriage
equality becoming law tomorrow night in Rhode Island, we are sending a clear
message that we are open for business, and that all are welcome. I hope that
leaders in capitals across the country — including Washington — will soon
realize that marriage equality is an issue where doing the right thing and the
smart thing are one and the same.
Lincoln Chafee, an independent, is the governor of Rhode Island
and was a United States senator from 1999 to 2007.
Why I Am Signing Marriage Equality Into
Law, NYT, 1.5.2013,
Passes Gay Marriage Bill
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island is on a path to becoming the 10th state to allow gay
and lesbian couples to marry after a landmark vote in the state's Senate on
The Senate passed gay marriage legislation by a comfortable 26-12 margin,
following a House vote of approval in January. The bill must now return to the
House for a largely procedural vote, likely next week, but the celebration began
Hundreds of people filled the Statehouse with cheers following the vote.
"I grew up in Rhode Island and I'd like to retire in Rhode Island," said Annie
Silvia, 61, who now lives with her partner of 30 years just across the border in
North Attleboro, Mass. "No. 10 is a nice round number, but I'd like it to be
bigger. Fifty sounds good to me."
Heavily Catholic Rhode Island is the last remaining New England state without
gay marriage. Marriage legislation has been introduced in the state for nearly
two decades, only to languish on the legislative agenda.
Supporters mounted a renewed push this year, and the Senate vote was seen as the
critical test after the House easily passed the bill. Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an
independent, called Wednesday's vote historic.
"I'm very much looking forward to signing this," he told The Associated Press as
he congratulated supporters.
The first gay marriages in Rhode Island could take place Aug. 1, when the
legislation would take effect. Civil unions would no longer be available to
same-sex couples as of that date, though the state would continue to recognize
existing civil unions. Lawmakers approved civil unions two years ago, though few
couples have sought them.
Hundreds of opponents also gathered at the Statehouse for the vote, singing
hymns and holding signs as the Senate deliberated. Rev. David Rodriguez, a
Providence minister, said he was disappointed by the vote. He said he planned to
continue to stand up for traditional marriage.
"Marriage between a man and a woman is what God wanted," he said. "We will
continue to do what we know how to do: Keep praying and preaching."
The Roman Catholic Church was the bill's most significant opponent. During the
Senate's emotional debate several senators said they struggled mightily,
weighing their personal religious beliefs against stories they heard from gay
constituents or their families.
Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, D-Providence, said she lost sleep over her vote but
decided, despite opposition from the Catholic Church, to vote "on the side of
"I'm a practicing Catholic. I'm proud to be a Catholic," she said, adding that
it was the personal stories of gays, lesbians and their families in her district
who convinced her. "I struggled with this for days, for weeks. It's certainly
not an easy vote."
Opponents to the bill tried unsuccessfully to send the question to the voters as
a ballot referendum. After that failed, Sen. Harold Metts, D-Providence, told
his colleagues that he couldn't go against his religious convictions and that
residents in his community are more concerned about other matters.
"My constituents are more concerned with bread-and-butter issues," he said.
"They want food on the table. They want their kids to get a good education."
The Rhode Island legislation states that religious institutions may set their
own rules regarding who is eligible to marry within the faith and specifies that
no religious leader is obligated to officiate at any marriage ceremony and no
religious group is required to provide facilities or services related to a gay
While ministers already cannot be forced to marry anyone, the exemption helped
assuage some senators' concerns and ease the bill's passage this year.
Delaware could be the next state to approve gay marriage. Legislation legalizing
same-sex marriage narrowly passed the Delaware House on Tuesday and now heads to
that state's Senate for consideration.
Two years after gay marriage legislation foundered in Rhode Island, supporters
regrouped and this year mounted an aggressive and coordinated campaign that
included organized labor, religious leaders, business owners and leaders
including Chafee and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras.
The bill's chances improved further when Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed said
she would allow the bill to move forward, despite her opposition to gay
marriage. The Newport Democrat voted no on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, the Senate's five Republicans announced they would support
the measure. Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere, R-Westerly, said the
decision came down to core Republican principles.
"This is an issue of fairness, equality and civil rights," Algiere said. "Those
are our values, and we stand by them."
House Speaker Gordon Fox, D-Providence, who is gay, had vowed to hold a vote on
gay marriage early in the session. He said his chamber will hold a Tuesday
hearing on the small changes made to the bill in the Senate. A final vote is
tentatively scheduled for Thursday.
Rep. Frank Ferri, D-Warwick, who also is gay and lobbied for gay marriage before
becoming a lawmaker himself, said it will be a vote to savor.
"After all these years, all these setbacks, all the hearings, we kept at it and
we got closer and closer each year," he said. "I'm pumped. I'm excited. I'm
thrilled. It's almost surreal."
marriage is legal in nine states and Washington, D.C.
Rhode Island Senate Passes Gay Marriage Bill, NYT, 24.4.2013,
The New York Times
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
California’s Proposition 8 rewrote the state’s Constitution so that “only
marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The
1996 Defense of Marriage Act, for purposes of any federal law, defined the word
marriage to mean “only a legal union between one man and one woman.”
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on challenges to Proposition 8 on Tuesday
and Defense of Marriage on Wednesday. In both cases, the court should rule that
the Constitution prohibits the federal government and every state from defining
the fundamental right of marriage so narrowly and fully protects the liberty of
When Proposition 8 was on the California ballot in 2008, the official pamphlet
explaining the initiative said that it did not “take away any rights or benefits
of gay or lesbian domestic partnerships,” which have the “ ‘same rights,
protections, and benefits’ as married spouses.”
As the California Supreme Court said about legal attacks on same-sex marriage,
the point of denying gay marriages was to say officially that these
relationships were not of “comparable stature or equal dignity” to opposite-sex
marriages. The intent was to stigmatize them, enshrine discrimination in law and
encourage discrimination against gay men, lesbians and same-sex couples. The
federal Defense of Marriage Act does the same, with the same effects. And in
depriving same-sex couples and their children of federal recognition and
benefits, it fails to meet any test under the Constitution.
In the Proposition 8 case, it is widely agreed that the Supreme Court has four
options, if it does not, unconscionably, uphold the initiative. It could allow
same-sex marriage only in California or it could dismiss the case on grounds
that the initiative’s sponsors had no standing to bring the appeal (by not
ruling on the merits, the result would very likely be to allow same-sex couples
to marry in California).
The court could also decide that California and the seven other states that
allow civil unions equivalent to marriage cannot deny same-sex couples the
status of marriage. But accepting the “eight state solution” would be a
half-step and would have to be revisited in the near future.
The soundest approach is to recognize same-sex marriage broadly as a matter of
equality under the Constitution — and therefore compel all states as well as the
federal government to recognize this right. In the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas,
which struck down a Texas sodomy law as violating constitutionally protected
liberty, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said, “As the
Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in
their own search for greater freedom.”
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have been seeking the freedom to
live openly, to be treated equally and to marry as they choose. They have helped
bring about a major shift in public opinion in the past decade in favor of
same-sex marriage; they are now joined by leading Republicans and many of
America’s most important companies in making the powerful case for marriage
equality before the court.
Support now for same-sex marriage — more than half in favor, about one-third
against — is roughly the public divide on the question of public school
desegregation in 1954 when the Supreme Court outlawed segregated schools in
Brown v. Board of Education. But the court’s call then for states to end racial
discrimination in public schools “with all deliberate speed” was a big error. It
gave states far too much latitude to move slowly and gave them an excuse for
resistance, which delayed desegregation in many school districts for many years.
The court should avoid that kind of error in the same-sex-marriage cases. It
should broadly declare that under the Constitution the right to marry applies
equally to all couples, period, and that this principle applies to the federal
government and every state.
Meet The New
York Times’s Editorial Board.
A 50-State Ruling, NYT, 25.3.2013,
States Gone Wild
March 24, 2013
The New York Times
By BILL KELLER
NO sooner had Arkansas adopted the country’s most regressive
abortion law earlier this month — a ban after about 12 weeks of pregnancy — than
North Dakota lowered its limit to as early as six weeks. Both measures are
expected to be ruled unconstitutional, but here’s my question: Is North Dakota
that much more conservative than, say, South Dakota, where abortions are
permitted up to 24 weeks?
Colorado has now decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Is
Colorado really more libertarian than neighboring Wyoming, where possession can
still get you a year in prison?
Pennsylvania allows same-sex couples to adopt children. Are Pennsylvanians so
much more enlightened than the citizens of Ohio, where gay parents have hardly
Maryland has just decided to repeal the death penalty. Good for Maryland. But
why not Delaware, next door, where the 17 inmates on death row are still biding
time until their lethal injections?
And don’t get me started on gun laws. South Dakota is currently leading the race
to the bottom by arming teachers in their classrooms, but just wait; the
pandering to the gun lobby is ferociously competitive.
There is nothing especially new about states going their own way. We fought a
civil war, after all. And we have become accustomed to categorizing states as
red or blue, based on their electoral choices. But it feels as if every news
cycle brings another seemingly random example of a state veering off the
mainstream, especially on these issues of personal liberty. What’s up with that?
In recent years our disjointed political system has gotten considerable
attention from journalists and academics seeking to explain why our supposedly
indivisible nation seems so intractably divided. At the level of Congress, the
diagnosis is pretty well understood: gerrymandering of Congressional districts
makes incumbents safe in general elections but vulnerable in party primaries,
where the most passionate voters decide the outcome. So the incumbents (these
days, especially the Republicans) avoid any sign of reasonableness that could be
used against them in a primary. The same thing is happening to some extent at
the state level, but none of this fully explains the wild disparities.
Bill Bishop’s 2008 book “The Big Sort” attracted high-profile attention (Bill
Clinton touted it) with its hypothesis that like-minded Americans were
clustering in communities where they reinforced one another’s prejudices.
According to this theory, Americans choose neighborhoods they find compatible:
“pockets of like-minded citizens that have become so ideologically inbred that
we don’t know, can’t understand, and can barely conceive of ‘those people’ who
live just a few miles away.”
Bishop’s book was provocative, and was pummeled by some political scientists for
relying too much on data from presidential elections. Because they offer voters
a stark either-or choice, presidential elections overstate the partisan divide.
When you look at voter registration or opinion polling, the fastest-growing
political allegiance is not red or blue but “independent.” And while there are
anecdotal accounts of, for example, gay couples choosing homes in communities
that respect their rights, there’s not much evidence that deliberate ideological
self-segregation is a widespread phenomenon.
Dante Chinni and James Gimpel, in a 2010 book called “Our Patchwork Nation,”
subdivided America into a dozen categories, with special emphasis on the
urban-rural divide, to explain why different places go in such different
directions. Gimpel, who teaches at the University of Maryland, told me that
rural and small-town residents feel belittled by “what they perceive as the
cultural imperialism of big cities.” They hunker around their Fox News, which
feeds their resentment.
He is surely right about rural alienation, but, as Gimpel acknowledges, America
is increasingly neither urban nor rural; it is suburban, or urban-ish. The
Patchwork formula doesn’t fully explain why Iowa, one of our least urbanized
states, has accepted same-sex marriage, or why voters in the most urbanized
state, California, voted to reject it.
I heard a more satisfying if somewhat depressing explanation for the seemingly
random eruptions of political idiosyncrasy from Samuel Abrams, who teaches
politics at Sarah Lawrence and Stanford. Abrams, who has spent the last decade
or so researching our political habits, begins with the evidence that most
Americans are simply not engaged in local politics, except perhaps on pocketbook
issues. In the absence of public attention, motivated, well-financed and
sometimes extreme elites have captured the lawmaking process in many state
capitals. Legislatures are vulnerable to (and often populated by) the most
ardent believers in a cause, the ones who care enough to take the time, raise
the money, turn out on Election Day and lobby relentlessly.
“People who participate in state and local government tend not to be
representative of the masses at all,” Abrams told me. “They tend to be highly
engaged political elites — 15 percent of the population who think they’re
fighting this culture war. They’ll see an opening. They’ll see a judge, they’ll
see a legislature that looks amenable to something, and they’ll try to push it
through and build a groundswell around that.”
This dynamic applies to both liberals and conservatives, by the way, although a
variety of studies show Republicans have pulled much further to the right than
Democrats have to the left.
To this mix of public indifference and activist opportunism, people who study
our odd political folkways add several other contributing factors:
Bill Bishop of “Big Sort” fame pointed out to me that there are fewer divided
state legislatures — one house Republican, one house Democratic — than at any
time in decades. State legislatures are increasingly partisan monocultures,
given to herd-like behavior. “Mixed company moderates,” he said. (Except when,
as in today’s Washington, it paralyzes.)
Morris Fiorina of Stanford says that state legislatures change hands more often
than they used to, so lawmakers “believe that they may have one shot to
accomplish their policy goals before they lose power. They go for it.”
Michael Dimock of Pew Research adds that the drastic downsizing of statehouse
news coverage means state lawmakers operate with less accountability.
So in Arkansas the amendment outlawing abortion at 12 weeks was not the product
of a popular groundswell, but largely the triumph of a single, entrepreneurial
Tea Party state senator, who whisked the measure through a newly Republican,
mostly inexperienced Legislature with virtually no debate. As Jay Barth, a
politics professor at Hendrix College in Arkansas, notes, thanks to strict term
limits the Legislature in Little Rock doesn’t develop strong leadership and
discipline; it is susceptible to populist charisma — from right and left, but
these days mostly right.
Of course, it helps if those with an agenda have money behind them. In Colorado,
liberals like billionaire Peter Lewis sensed an opportunity, outspent opponents
10 to 1, and got an amendment to legalize marijuana.
Sometimes, as in the growing momentum for gay marriage, states catch a changing
national tide. Sometimes, as in Arizona’s reactionary anti-immigrant laws,
states seem to be gasping the last gasp of a waning trend.
When we disapprove of the outcome — in my case, those extremist anti-abortion
laws — we call it opportunism or special-interest politics. When legislatures
bypass public opinion and do something we admire — in my case, Gov. Martin
O’Malley’s successful push to abolish the death penalty in Maryland, where 60
percent of voters favor executions — we call it leadership.
Does all of this make for a healthy democracy? If 80 percent of the electorate
is sitting on the sidelines, that’s a recipe for demagogy and cynicism. But
maybe what we’re seeing is states performing a useful role as laboratories of
policy. These experiments may produce smart ideas that deserve to be replicated
at the national level: the Massachusetts health care law, for example, which
inspired Obamacare. Or the state labs may cook up poisons — Arizona’s
anti-immigrant statutes, or those new, restrictive abortion laws — and you pray
that Congress or the courts will find an antidote.
States Gone Wild, NYT, 24.3.2013,
North Dakota Bans Abortion
Heartbeat Is Found
The New York Times
By ERIK ECKHOLM
than a week after Arkansas adopted the country’s most stringent abortion limits,
banning the procedure at 12 weeks of pregnancy, the North Dakota Legislature on
Friday passed a more restrictive bill that would ban most abortions as early as
6 weeks into pregnancy.
The Legislature, which is dominated by Republicans, also passed a second measure
that would ban abortions sought because of a genetic abnormality or to select
the sex of the child.
Both bills must be signed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple, a Republican, to become law.
As of Friday afternoon, the governor had not said whether he would do so.
No other state has barred abortions because of evidence that a fetus has a
genetic defect like Down syndrome, which rises in incidence with maternal age,
leading many pregnant women to seek tests for the disorder. Pennsylvania,
Oklahoma and Arizona have all banned abortions for the purpose of gender
National abortion rights groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights,
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, condemned the
measures that passed the North Dakota Senate on Friday, after previous approval
by the House. These groups warned that if adopted, both measures would be
declared unconstitutional by federal courts.
Under Supreme Court rulings, women have a right to an abortion until the fetus
is viable outside the womb, generally around 24 weeks into pregnancy.
“We urge the governor to veto all of these bills to ensure that this personal
and private decision can be made by a woman and her family, not politicians
sitting in the Capitol,” said Jennifer Dalven, the director of the A.C.L.U.’s
Reproductive Freedom Project.
One of the newly passed North Dakota bills outlaws abortions when a fetal
heartbeat is “detectable” using “standard medical practice.” Heartbeats are
often detectable at about 6 weeks, using an intrusive transvaginal ultrasound,
or at about 10 to 12 weeks when using abdominal ultrasounds.
The bill does not specify a time threshold or whether doctors with a patient in
the initial weeks of pregnancy must use the transvaginal probe. A proposed law
in Virginia last year that would have required use of the transvaginal
ultrasound caused a national outcry, and the bill was ultimately shelved.
Arkansas declared a 12-week limit specifically to avoid that controversy.
But some experts said that doctors in North Dakota, which has only one clinic
performing abortions, in Fargo, could face prosecution if they did not use the
vaginal ultrasound when necessary to detect a heartbeat. Doctors who knowingly
perform abortions in violation of the measure, if it is adopted, could be
charged with a felony that carries a five-year prison sentence; the patients
would not face criminal charges.
The law makes exceptions for abortion to save the life of the mother or for
other severe medical emergencies, but not in cases of rape or incest.
In 2011, according to state data, 1,247 abortions were performed in North
Dakota. If the ban becomes law, more than 75 percent of the procedures could be
outlawed, according to Elizabeth Nash, a state issues manager with the
Guttmacher Institute in Washington, a research group that supports abortion
The early abortion ban was sponsored by Representative Bette Grande, a
Republican from Fargo.
“A heartbeat is accepted by everyone as a sign of life,” she said in a blog
posting on Tuesday as she argued that it was time for the Supreme Court to
revisit the definition of viability.
has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 15, 2013
Because of an editing error,
version of this article incorrectly stated
when a blog
post by Rep. Bette Grande was published.
appeared Tuesday, not Wednesday.
Bill in North Dakota Bans Abortion After Heartbeat Is Found, NYT, 15.3.2013,
After Rancorous Debate,
Colorado Senate Advances
Strict New Measures on Gun Control
March 9, 2013
The New York Times
By JACK HEALY
DENVER — Colorado took a major step late Friday toward
enacting some of the toughest new gun measures that have been introduced since
the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut touched off a
national debate about gun control.
After more than 12 hours of emotional and bitterly divided debate, the
Democratic-controlled State Senate gave preliminary approval to a package of gun
bills. At its heart are measures that would require universal background checks
for private gun sales and limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds.
Other measures would create a fee for background checks; require those convicted
of domestic abuse to surrender their firearms; and require residents applying
for permits to carry concealed weapons to take in-person training classes,
outlawing the handful of online-only courses now offered in the state.
If the bills win final approval — they must now survive a recorded vote from
lawmakers this week — they would be Colorado’s first new firearms restrictions
in more than a decade. Their passage in a state with a deep history and culture
of hunting, sport shooting and gun ownership would also represent a significant
victory for gun control advocates.
To Democrats, who now control both chambers of the Statehouse as well as the
governor’s office, the measures are moderate solutions intended to stem a tide
of gun violence and mass shootings, like the massacres at Columbine High School
in 1999 and at an Aurora movie theater in July. Some Democrats spoke of being
gun owners and hunters and said the new restrictions would not ban weapons or
amount to the “gun grab” opponents warn of.
Unlike lawmakers in New York, Democrats here did not pursue a ban on
assault-style rifles. And on Friday, they withdrew two bills that faced wavering
support from fellow Democrats and unified opposition from Republicans. Those
would have banned concealed weapons from college campuses and would have made
some gun makers and dealers liable for deaths and injuries involving their
Republicans called the effort misguided and futile, saying the bills strip
law-abiding gun owners of their Second Amendment rights while doing little to
keep guns and bullets away from criminals. In speech after speech, hour after
hour, they warned that the measures would drive businesses away, keep hunters at
bay and ultimately be a political millstone for Democrats.
“I really believe this will represent an Alamo for freedom-loving Coloradans,”
said Senator Greg Brophy, a Republican. “This is an immediate threat to them,
and the backlash will be severe.”
Gov. John W. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has said he will support the package.
Among those absent from the drama inside the State Capitol on Friday was Dave
Hoover, a police sergeant whose nephew, A. J. Boik, was among the 12 people
killed in Aurora. Since the shooting, Mr. Hoover has spoken out for new gun
On Saturday morning, his feelings were bittersweet.
“You have to realize that none of this will ever bring back our family,” Mr.
Hoover said. “We may have some responsible gun laws in our state now, but that
doesn’t change what our family goes through every day. It’s good to see some
change, and it’s good to see some people paying attention. It’s not going to do
us any good. We’ve already gone through so much.”
After Rancorous Debate,
Colorado Senate Advances Strict New Measures on Gun Control,
a Ban on Abortions After 12 Weeks
March 6, 2013
The New York Times
By ERIK ECKHOLM
Arkansas adopted what is by far the country’s most restrictive
ban on abortion on Wednesday — at 12 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat
can typically be detected by abdominal ultrasound.
The law, the sharpest challenge yet to Roe v. Wade, was passed by the newly
Republican-controlled legislature over the veto of Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat,
who called it “blatantly unconstitutional.” The State Senate voted Tuesday to
override his veto and the House followed suit on Wednesday, with several
Democrats joining the Republican majority.
The law contradicts the limit established by Supreme Court decisions, which give
women a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually
around 24 weeks into pregnancy, and abortion rights groups promised a quick
lawsuit to block it. Even some anti-abortion leaders called the measure a futile
Adoption of the law, called the Human Heartbeat Protection Act, is the first
statewide victory for a restless emerging faction within the anti-abortion
movement that has lost patience with the incremental whittling away at abortion
rights — a strategy used by groups like National Right to Life and the Catholic
Church while they wait for a more sympathetic Supreme Court.
“When is enough enough?” asked the bill’s sponsor in the legislature, Senator
Jason Rapert, a Republican, who compared the more than 50 million abortions in
the United States since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to the Holocaust and the
Rwandan genocide. “It’s time to take a stand.”
But abortion rights groups and many legal experts, including some in the
anti-abortion movement, say the law so deeply contradicts existing
constitutional doctrine that it may quickly be voided.
“The 12-week ban actually bars abortion within the first trimester,” said Nancy
Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. “It has no
chance of surviving a court challenge.”
The center and the American Civil Liberties Union have vowed to bring a case in
federal court, aiming to head off the law before it takes effect, 90 days after
the legislature adjourns in the next month or so.
Senator Rapert, who cited strong backing for his bill from conservative
evangelical groups like the Arkansas Family Council, hopes the law will start a
groundswell of support. “We crafted a bill that apparently has the ability to
stand the test in courts and change abortion policy in our nation coast to
coast,” he said in an interview this week.
But so far, more radical measures elsewhere have fallen short. In Mississippi a
so-called personhood amendment lost at the polls, while in Ohio a “fetal
heartbeat” bill resembling that in Arkansas was defeated in the legislature, in
part because it was opposed by one of the state’s leading anti-abortion groups,
Ohio Right to Life.
Those proposals have caused soul-searching and dissension within some of the
largest anti-abortion groups, with many traditional leaders expressing
skepticism or opposition to such sweeping challenges to constitutional law until
a more conservative Supreme Court seems ready to scrap the legacy of Roe v.
Much like Tea Party activists, who have caused exasperation among Republican
leaders with demands to slash budgets almost indiscriminately, the abortion
rebels feel there is little to lose by pushing for aggressive curbs and testing
the courts. But other anti-abortion leaders say that strategy, exemplified by
the Arkansas law, is likely to backfire, causing courts to endorse the current
limits and wasting resources that could bring real, if smaller, gains.
“As much as we would like to protect the unborn at that point, it is futile and
it won’t save any babies,” said James Bopp Jr., a prominent anti-abortion lawyer
who opposed the Arkansas law. Mr. Bopp, who lives in Indiana, is general counsel
of National Right to Life.
He said that lower courts are virtually certain to affirm existing Supreme Court
rulings and, like many other legal experts, he predicted that the Supreme Court
was very unlikely to agree to hear such a case.
Mr. Rapert originally proposed setting the Arkansas ban even earlier, at about
six weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. But the nascent fetal heartbeat
can be detected at that point only by using intrusive technology like a
Wary of the national firestorm that erupted last year after Virginia tried to
require the intrusive procedure, Mr. Rapert and his allies revised the bill to
specify that a fetal heartbeat should be detected by abdominal ultrasound or
other external methods, which are not feasible at six weeks.
The strategy of incrementally narrowing abortion rights has yielded results,
especially since 2010, when Republicans gained control of many more states.
Measures have been adopted by the dozens in the past few years, including
waiting periods, parental consent for minors, ultrasound requirements and
stringent regulations aimed at making it harder for abortion clinics to operate.
In Mississippi, a rule requiring doctors performing abortions to have visiting
privileges at local hospitals threatens to close down the state’s only remaining
abortion clinic, which relies on traveling doctors. A court decision on the
measure is expected any day.
Ten states have pushed time limits for abortions down to 20 weeks into pregnancy
on the theory, disputed by most medical experts, that a fetus can feel pain by
then. Such laws have wider support in the anti-abortion movement. Arkansas
adopted a 20-week ban over the governor’s veto last week, and most who supported
it went on to vote for Mr. Rapert’s more stringent bill as well.
The 20-week laws also violate the existing standard of fetal viability. They are
under legal challenge in Arizona and Georgia, and on Wednesday, a federal judge
ruled the 20-week ban in Idaho to be unconstitutional, Reuters reported. But the
laws are in effect in seven other states. Very few abortions take place so late
in pregnancy, and those are often for serious medical reasons that may be
permitted in any case.
By contrast, a 12-week ban would affect an estimated 12 percent to 15 percent of
abortions nationwide, said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager with the
Guttmacher Institute, a research group in Washington that supports abortion
rights. In Arkansas in 2011, 4,033 abortions were performed; 815 of them, or 20
percent, were at 12 weeks or more after the last menstrual period, according to
state data. How many of these later procedures involved medical emergencies or
cases of rape or incest — exceptions allowed under the new law — is not known.
The state currently has only one clinic, in Little Rock, that performs surgical
abortions; a second, run by Planned Parenthood, offers medicinal abortions,
which are done only within the first eight weeks of pregnancy.
The final approval of the bill on Wednesday was a surprisingly unemotional
event, with the House consideration of the override taking only moments — less
time than it took just before to recognize a college volleyball team.
With the outcome, at 55 votes to 33, a foregone conclusion in a state that has
turned steadily to the right in recent years, two House Republican leaders spoke
briefly in favor of the bill, and not a single legislator spoke against it.
Representative Ann V. Clemmer, the bill’s House sponsor, called it “a statement
consistent with what Arkansas voters want.”
“It will be tested,” she said. “I’m O.K. with that. That’s the job of the
Abortion rights advocates, however, watched the legislation with chagrin.
“It sets Arkansas back several decades in the eyes of the nation and the world,”
said Rita Sklar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas. “It
shows an utter disregard for women and their ability to make important personal
decisions about their own reproductive health.”
Steve Barnes contributed reporting.
Arkansas Adopts a Ban on Abortions After 12
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