State legislatures expanding and limiting reproductive rights - What's Your Point?

- Tuesday the President is expected to highlight the issue of abortion in his State of the Union speech, amid widespread coverage of efforts by democratically controlled legislatures in New York and Virginia to expand a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy into the third trimester.

This week's panel: Jessica Colon - Republican strategist, Nyanza Davis Moore - Democratic Political Commentator Attorney,  Jacob Monty – Republican attorney,  Antonio Diaz- writer, educator and radio host,  Tomaro Bell – Super Neighborhood leader, Kathleen McKinley – conservative blogger discuss the pending legislation regarding late-term abortions and reproductive rights in general.


BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota's Republican-led House endorsed legislation Thursday that would prevent a doctor from using instruments like clamps, scissors and forceps to remove a fetus from the womb.

Representatives voted to outlaw the abortion practice known as dilation and evacuation, the most commonly used procedure in second-trimester abortions. The bill uses the non-medical term "dismemberment abortion" and is graphic in describing it.

Except in cases of an emergency, doctors performing the procedure would be charged with a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The measure says a woman having the abortion would not face charges.

Abortion-rights groups argue that banning the procedure is unconstitutional because it interferes with private medical decisions.

Laws banning the procedure are on the books in Mississippi and West Virginia, while Ohio's new law will take effect in March, according to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research organization. Similar laws are on hold because of legal challenges in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

Last month, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes North Dakota, heard oral arguments over a judge's decision to block Arkansas from enforcing its law.

The North Dakota bill now heads to the GOP-controlled Senate. Republican Gov. Doug Burgum has not indicated whether he would sign or veto the measure.

If passed, the measure would not take effect until the state's attorney general recommends it is "reasonably probable" it "would be upheld as constitutional," according to the bill.

Republican Rep. Luke Simons, the bill's sponsor, said the decision from the federal appeals court on the Arkansas law likely would decide if the North Dakota law moves forward.

North Dakota has one abortion provider, the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo. Clinic director Tammi Kromenaker has said her facility's lawyers would wait for a decision in the Arkansas case before deciding on possible legal challenges to North Dakota's legislation.

The measure is the second to pass North Dakota's House this week, and the first time in six years lawmakers in the conservative state have pushed bills restricting abortion.

On Monday, representatives approved legislation that would require abortion providers to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions that they could still have a live birth if they change their mind. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said there is no medically accepted evidence that a drug-induced abortion can be interrupted.

That proposal follows similar and successful bills in Idaho, Utah, South Dakota and Arkansas.

CULPEPER, Va. (AP) - Authorities say a Virginia pregnancy center has been vandalized days after a debate over late-term abortion in the state capital sparked controversy nationwide.

Police said in a statement that the vandalism reported early Friday at the Pregnancy Center of Culpeper included spray-painted messages on the building and signs and a broken window. Images from the scene show the messages include "YOU HATE WOMEN" and "FAKE."

The center is one of the Pregnancy Centers of Central Virginia. The Christian nonprofit's website says it is "dedicated to women and families facing unplanned pregnancy" and doesn't perform or refer for abortions. President and COO DJ Carter says they haven't experienced vandalism before and he's unsure of the vandal's motivation. The organization is changing its name to Thrive Women's Healthcare.

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis is urging politicians of all faiths to safeguard the rights of the unborn and is exhorting abortion opponents to also assure that children are born into a world where they can live with dignity.

Francis spoke Saturday at the Vatican to an Italian Catholic anti-abortion group. He praised their efforts but stressed that defending life also means assuring that people have health, education and job opportunities.

Francis encouraged politicians to defend the unborn for the common good, saying that the young bring hope and a future to society.

The pope decried "their killing in huge numbers" as undermining "the foundations of the construction of justice, compromising the proper solution of any other human and social issue."

Catholic teaching forbids abortion.


WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is temporarily keeping a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics on hold.

Justice Samuel Alito says in a brief order Friday that the justices need more time to review arguments for and against the law, which requires doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The law was set to take effect Monday, though clinics have asked the high court to block its enforcement.

The clinics say at least one and maybe two of Louisiana's three abortion clinics would have to close if the law is allowed to take effect. A federal appeals court that upheld the law said it's not clear that any clinic would close.


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas is appealing a judge's ruling that allows telemedicine abortions in the state even though legislators have enacted three laws against them within eight years.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed the appeal Friday with the Kansas Court of Appeals.

Schmidt hopes to overturn a Dec. 31 decision by Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis in a lawsuit filed by a Wichita clinic's operators. Since October, clinic doctors have conferred with some patients through teleconferences when providing pregnancy-ending drugs.

Theis ruled that a 2018 law banning telemedicine abortions has no legal force because it contained no way to punish violators.

The judge also ruled that 2011 and 2015 laws are on hold indefinitely because they're covered by an injunction in a separate lawsuit challenging abortion regulations that is still pending.

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