Les anglonautes

About | Search | Vocapedia | Learning | Podcasts | Videos | History | Culture | Science | Translate

 Previous Home Up


Vocapedia > USA > Politics


State Houses, State Senates
























State lawmakers





Alabama lawmakers






New Jersey lawmakers



















coronavirus relief bill







House bill
























pass a bill


















be passed

by the newly Republican-controlled legislature

over the veto of Gov. ...














sign (a bill) into law






enact a law




































California constitution






California’s Proposition 8






Alabama legislature






Florida legislators






Louisiana State Legislature






Mississippi Legislature






North Dakota Legislature






 the Oklahoma House of Representatives

voted overwhelmingly

to bar doctors from performing abortions

in all cases except to save the woman’s life.






West Virginia House
















































State Senate










Alabama Senate






Florida Senate






New Hampshire






Texas Senate






state senator






override Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of a bill...






advance new measures on N






vote > end capital punishment





















Corpus of news articles


USA > Politics


State Houses, State Senates



Texas Senate Vote

Puts Bill Restricting Abortion

Over Final Hurdle


July 13, 2013

The New York Times



AUSTIN, 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 online.

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 rooms.”

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 and confetti.

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 filed.

“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 courts.

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



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 the years.

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 constructive.

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 marrying.

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 old thinking.

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,






Rhode Island Senate

Passes Gay Marriage Bill


April 24, 2013
The New York Times


PROVIDENCE, 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 Wednesday.

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 Wednesday.

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 love."

"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 marriage.

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."

Gay marriage is legal in nine states and Washington, D.C.

    Rhode Island Senate Passes Gay Marriage Bill, NYT, 24.4.2013,






A 50-State Ruling


March 25, 2013
The New York Times


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 same-sex couples.

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



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 any rights?

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,






Bill in North Dakota Bans Abortion

After Heartbeat Is Found


March 15, 2013
The New York Times


Little more 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 selection.

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 rights.

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.



This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 15, 2013

Because of an editing error,

an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated

when a blog post by Rep. Bette Grande was published.

The post 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


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 firearms.

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 laws.

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,
    NYT, 9.3.2013,






Arkansas Adopts

a Ban on Abortions After 12 Weeks


March 6, 2013

The New York Times



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 gesture.

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. Wade.

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 trans-vaginal ultrasound.

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 courts.”

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 Weeks,










Related > Anglonautes > Vocapedia


politics > USA > states > governors



end / abolish capital punishment



politics > USA



politics > UK



politics > activism > UK / USA



politics > world > countries, foreign policy,

Arab Spring, Middle East, diplomacy, U.N.




home Up