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With Abortion Cases On Horizon, Breyer Warns Of SCOTUS Eagerness To Overturn Precedent

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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer sounded the alarm about the court’s conservative majority’s eagerness to overturn decades-old precedent in a dissent to a 5-4 decision where the court reversed a 1979 ruling regarding state sovereignty.


Breyer’s statement was widely interpreted to be a warning about Roe v. Wade, given that he teed up his warning with a reference to a 1992 abortion case that upheld the 1973 landmark decision enshrining the constitutional right to abortion.

“Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next,” Breyer said, after quoting the decision 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Breyer’s dissent was in a lower-profile case not having to do with abortion, but rather the question of whether a state can face a private lawsuit in another state’s court without its consent. The conservative justices on Monday overturned the 1979 decision in Nevada v. Hall that had allowed such lawsuits. The court’s other liberal justices joined Breyer’s dissent.

Last term, the conservative justices also overturned a longstanding decision allowing public unions to extract fees from non-union members.

Since President Trump was able to solidify an abortion-hostile conservative majority on the courts — by replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was at times sympathetic to abortion rights, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh — states have moved quickly to pass anti-abortion laws that could serve as the test cases to rolling back Roe.

The most recent is a bill signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) last week banning most abortions after a fetus’ heart beat is detected — which is usually around six weeks into a pregnancy. There are other anti-abortion laws already being challenged in court in cases that will soon be at the Supreme Court’s doorstep as well as one from Indiana that the court is already considering whether it should take up.

Writing for the majority Monday in the state sovereignty case, which was called Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt,  Justice Clarence Thomas included his own hints that the conservatives were ready to cast certain court precedents aside. The legal term for the posturing towards upholding the Supreme Court’s previous precedent is stare decisis.

“With the historical record and precedent against him, Hyatt defends Hallon the basis of stare decisis,” Thomas wrote, referring to the party in the case that was arguing for the precedent to be upheld.

“But stare decisis is ‘not an inexorable command,’” he continued, “and we have held that it is ‘at its weakest when we interpret the Constitution because our interpretation can be altered only by constitutional amendment.’”

(Reporting by Talking Points Memo)

Abortion

Missouri Lawmakers Send Anti-Abortion Bill To Governor’s Desk, Joining Other GOP States In Passage

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BREAKING: Missouri’s Republican-controlled House passed legislation banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy, sending the bill to Gov. Mike Parson (R).

The House passed an emergency clause, meaning the abortion law will go into effect as soon as the governor signs it, according to Trevor Fox, with Missouri House communications. Without the clause, the bill wouldn’t have gone into effect until end of August.

The Missouri legislation comes after Alabama’s governor signed a bill Wednesday making performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.

Once enacted, the law will only kick in if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and Planned Parenthood was assuring women in the state that facilities that provide abortions are still open in Missouri and neighboring Illinois.

If the courts block the eight-week ban, the bill has built-in concessions of less-restrictive time limits that would prohibit abortions at 14, 18 or 20 weeks or pregnancy.

Here are some of the provisions of the bill:

  • The measure bans all abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.
  • If the courts do now allow the ban at eight weeks, there is a series of other limits that would go into effect: at 14 weeks, at 18 weeks and at 20 weeks.
  • The bill includes a “trigger” mechanism that would ban abortion in Missouri if Roe v. Wade was ever overturned.
  • The measure prohibits selective abortions based on sex, race or Down Syndrome.
  • It requires that both parents provide written consent for a minor to have an abortion.
  • In-state abortion facilities must hand out required printed materials when the patient is from out of state.

This story will be updated.


Missouri lawmakers have passed a strict antiabortion bill that will criminalize the procedure at eight weeks of pregnancy, following several other conservative states that have approved similar measures.

Missouri’s Republican-controlled House voted 110 to 44 on Friday to pass the bill and send it to Republican Gov. Mike Parson for his approval. Parson, who has vowed to make Missouri “one of the strongest pro-life states in the country,” is expected to sign it into law.

HB 126, known as the “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act,” would ban abortions before many women know they are pregnant, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

The vote came just hours before the state’s legislative session was set to end, and was preceded by an emotional debate in the House, where some lawmakers recounted their own experiences with abortion. Aside from some outbursts from spectators in the gallery and quiet sobbing at times that appeared to come from the House floor, the chamber was largely silent during the arguments about the bill.

Supporters said the bill would protect unborn children’s lives, but opponents argued it would also put the mothers’ lives at risk, forcing them to either suffer or go underground to seek illegal and unsafe procedures.

“We will be killing women with this bill,” Rep. Sarah Unsicker, a Democrat from the St. Louis suburbs, said before the vote.

But the Republican House speaker, Elijah Haahr, celebrated the passing of the bill.

“Today, the Missouri House stood for the unborn,” the speaker said in a statement.

…The Missouri House made the statement that in Missouri, we believe an unborn child is a human life worth protecting,” he added. “We value the life of every Missourian and renewed that commitment all session. In passing this bill, we took a powerful step forward to show this includes the unborn. Our children will remember the moral, not political, vote members took today to protect the voice to the unborn.”

[Graphic: The widening gap in abortion laws across the U.S.]

Missouri’s Senate had approved the bill early Thursday amid an apparent race among conservative states to get the Supreme Court to consider overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, but with provisions for protecting women’s health and prenatal life. Similar legislation passed in Georgia, Mississippi and Ohio — and Alabama’s governor on Wednesday signed the nation’s most-restrictive abortion ban into law. The Alabama law makes it illegal for a woman to have an abortion at six weeks of pregnancy.

[Haven’t been following the abortion ban news? Here’s everything you need to know.]

If Missouri’s HB 126 is signed into law, as expected, it will make it illegal for a woman to get an abortion after the eighth week of pregnancy and provide no exceptions for rape or incest — only for medical emergencies.

The legislation defines a medical emergency as “a condition which, based on reasonable medical judgment, so complicates the medical condition of a pregnant woman as to necessitate the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert the death of the pregnant woman or for which a delay will create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”

Doctors who violate such a law would face a Class B felony, punishable by five to 15 years in prison, as well as suspension or revocation of his or her professional license, according to the bill.

[States racing to overturn Roe v. Wade look to a Supreme Court that prefers gradual change]

The Missouri governor has showed strong support for the bill, tweeting before the votes: “Thanks to leaders in the House and Senate, we are one vote away from passing one of the strongest #ProLife bills in the country — standing for life, protecting women’s health, and advocating for the unborn.”

Following the House vote, the Missouri GOP thanked lawmakers who “voted to protect the lives of the unborn.”

“Missouri just passed the strongest, most comprehensive pro-life bill in the country,” the party announced on Twitter. “This bill was designed to withstand a legal challenge, not to attract one.”

Planned Parenthood vowed on Twitter: “We. Will. Not. Stop. Fighting.”

Missouri Democrats called the bill “far too extreme.”

“In their quest to join the legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, the extremist majority is putting $7 billion in healthcare dollars at risk for the most vulnerable Missourians, including children in parts of the state with higher infant mortality rates than in developing countries,” the group said in a statement. “This vote demonstrates in stark terms the importance of voting for candidates that will focus on policies that improve health outcomes rather than go backwards.”

(Reporting by Washington Post, NBC News, and CNN)

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Missouri Poised To Pass Restrictive Abortion Law, Days After Alabama

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(Reuters) – Missouri House lawmakers are expected to pass a bill on Friday to ban most abortions eight weeks after conception, days after Alabama introduced the nation’s most restrictive abortion law.


Missouri senators overwhelmingly approved the legislation early on Thursday and Republican Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign it into law. He has said he would make Missouri “one of the strongest pro-life states in the country.”

In the bill, the only exclusion would be for medical emergencies. On Wednesday, Alabama banned abortions at any time barring the same exception.

Similar laws have been proposed in more than a dozen other states as Republican-controlled legislatures push to restrict the rights of women to terminate their pregnancies.

Renewed efforts to roll back Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973 have been emboldened by two judicial appointments by President Donald Trump that have given conservatives a solid majority on the Supreme Court.

At a time when U.S. rates of abortion have sharply declined, the issue has also reignited clashes between religious conservatives and others who say pro-life protections should extend to the unborn, and those, including civil libertarians, who see such measures as an infringement on women’s rights.

The sharpened national focus on the highly charged debate also coincides with the run-up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

HEALTH RISK?

U.S. abortion rights activists have vowed to go to court to block enforcement of the Alabama law, which is scheduled to take effect in six months.

Should the Missouri measure win final passage in the House it would go into effect on Aug. 28, with or without the governor’s signature.

Dubbed the Missouri Stands for the Unborn bill, it passed the Senate on Thursday in a party-line vote, with 24 Republicans supporting it and 10 Democrats opposed.

In common with the Alabama bill, it would outlaw abortion even in the case of rape or incest. Violations by doctors would be punishable by prison sentences, though women who seek out the procedure would not be subject to criminal prosecution.

The measure also would ban abortions altogether except for medical emergencies should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

As of May, legislation to restrict abortions has been introduced in at least 16 states this year. Governors in four have signed bills into law banning the procedure if an embryonic heartbeat can be detected, generally considered to be as early as six weeks.

Abortion-rights activists argue that rolling back 45 years of legal precedent to criminalize abortion would expose many women to dangerous health risks posed by illegal abortion providers.

Some Republicans pushing for abortion restrictions acknowledge they are deliberately doing so to instigate court challenges that will ultimately force the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade.

It held that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment provides a fundamental right to privacy that protects a woman’s right to abortion.

It also allowed states to place restrictions on the procedure from the time a fetus could viably survive outside the womb. The opinion stated that viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier.

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US Senate Confirms Abortion Opponent As US Judge In Louisiana

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has confirmed Louisiana lawyer Wendy Vitter as a federal judge, overcoming opposition from Democrats who criticized her anti-abortion stance and accused her of trying to hide her record on the issue.


Maine Sen. Susan Collins was the only Republican to oppose Vitter’s nomination, which was approved 52-45 on Thursday.

A former prosecutor, Vitter is general counsel for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray said Vitter failed to disclose hundreds of documents highlighting her opposition to abortion, including a claim at a political rally that Planned Parenthood is responsible for killing 150,000 women a year.

Murray, a Democrat, called the remark careless, reckless and wrong, and said it showed “incredibly poor judgment for somebody who is being considered for a lifetime judicial appointment.”

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