The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down the Arizona law that put a ban on abortions beginning with the 20th week of pregnancy.
This is good news for abortion rights generally, though not necessarily in Arkansas since we are in a different judicial circuit. But it should give some ammunition to fire at the new Arkansas ban on abortions at 20 weeks, a law that takes effect this summer. Legal action is being planned on that Arkansas law, but it presents more difficulties than the 12-week ban, recently enjoined by federal Judge Susan Webber Wright.
Very few abortions are performed in Arkansas at 20 weeks or later (50 in 2011 according to state statistics) and they are not routinely provided by the centers that provide most of the abortions in the state, many of them medicine-induced abortions at the early stage of pregnancy. So the abortion providers who are plaintiffs in the 12-week suit aren't readily suited to be plaintiffs in the 20-week case, Most likely, a Jane Doe will be necessary and time will be critical, particularly to the woman, since surgical abortions provided late in pregnancy are invariably prompted by a serious medical condition of the woman or the fetus.
Arizona tried to use the same defense for its 20-week law that anti-abortionists cooked up in Arkansas for the 12-week ban. Because the law allows some exceptions, it doesn't amount to a "ban. But the 9th Circuit rejected that reasoning, saying the law still banned many abortions before viability, or the time the fetus could live outside the womb. That is prohibited by U.S. Supreme Court precedent. So far.
Hard to see how these same words from the 9th Circuit wouldn't apply in Arkansas:
The panel reversed the district court’s order denying declaratory and injunctive relief to plaintiffs and held that the Constitution does not permit the Arizona legislature to prohibit abortion beginning at twenty weeks gestation, before the fetus is viable.
The panel held that under controlling Supreme Court precedent, Arizona may not deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at any point prior to viability. The panel held that Arizona House Bill 2036, enacted in April 2012, effects such a deprivation by prohibiting abortion from twenty weeks gestational age through fetal viability. The panel held that the twenty-week law is therefore unconstitutional under an unbroken stream of Supreme Court authority, beginning with Roe v. Wade and ending with Gonzales v. Carhart.
Concurring, Judge Kleinfeld stated that the current state of the law compelled him to concur, and that what controls this case is that the parties do not dispute that the twenty week line Arizona has drawn is three or four weeks prior to viability.
Bettina Brownstein, representing the ACLU, said she didn't think that portion of the law could be severed and kept intact because it was so intertwined with the purpose of the law, to ban abortions. It was noted that the law doesn't have a severability clause.
Bro. Rapert opined that a severability clause was automatic under Arkansas law. Given his generally poor practice as an attorney to date, I thought I'd check the fiddlin' preacher and found, shazam, he's found an acorn. From a manual of the National Conference of State Legislatures on statutory drafting rules of the various states:
(e) SEVERABILITY CLAUSE.
A severability clause provides that if a part of a law is declared invalid the remaining part stays in force. A general severability clause is not necessary, and should not be used. Arkansas Code § 1‐2‐117 states that the provisions of the Arkansas Code are severable, and Arkansas Code § 1‐2‐ 205 states:
“...The provisions of each and every act enacted by the General Assembly after July 24, 1973, are declared to be severable and, unless it is otherwise specifically provided in the particular act, the invalidity of any provision of that act shall not affect other provisions of the act which can be given effect without the invalid provision”.
(f) NON‐SEVERABILITY CLAUSE.
If the author does not want the provisions to be severable or does not want specific provisions to be severable, add a section declaring the provision to not be severable. Bills having a statement of non‐severability are rare.
SECTION 6. The provisions of this act are not severable, and if any provision of this act is declared invalid for any reason, then all provisions of this act shall also be invalid.
This does not fully resolve the question, but it is a strong leg for Rapert to stand on. Courts can rule against severability, however, and have done so. In the famous Malvern school choice case, a federal judge said it was impossible to sever the race-related bar to school transfers, held to be impermissible, from the rest of the act and struck the whole thing down. In that case, you can find the Arkansas Supreme Court guidance on severability.
The Arkansas Supreme Court looks to two considerations to determine severability: “(1) whether a single purpose is meant to be accomplished by the act, and (2) whether the sections of the act are interrelated and dependent upon each other.” In U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Hill, the Arkansas Supreme Court provided further guidance, stating “it is important whether the portion of the act remaining is complete in itself and capable of being executed wholly independent of that which was rejected.”
It is laughable, of course, that Jason Rapert would say he'd be happy to testify as to his intent that a part of the law be severable. It'd have no more weight than my aging French bulldog's testimony. Legislative intent in Arkansas is demonstrated solely by the words of the statute itself.
I'm afraid, however, there's a case for arguing that the mandatory ultrasound clause is capable of being executed independently, even if it was included only to create the standard for criminalizing an abortion, which it no longer can do.
A woman seeking an abortion has no need for an ultrasound test in that she plans to terminate the pregnancy. But anti-abortion forces like to require these tests for the emotional influence the test might bring to the decision. The Guttmacher Institute, while noting that an ultrasound is not medically necessary in the first trimester, says that eight states mandate an ultrasound for women seeking abortions.
The law is suspended while the lawsuit by abortion providers, brought by the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights, is tried, but the judge made clear that, based on evidence so far, the state was likely to lose its defense of the law.
The awarding of an injunction is a strong signal of how the case is likely to turn out because one standard is the likelihood of prevailing on the merits.
Sen. Jason Rapert, sponsor of the legislation, was on hand to caterwaul about the murderers and baby killers and plot his next round of talking points on Twitter. The lawyers whose hours will be paid by the state of Arkansas talked to reporters afterward, too. A spokesman for the attorney general had no comment on whether there'd be an appeal of the injunction.
The bill was passed over the veto of Gov. Mike Beebe, a lawyer who can read Supreme Court precedent. Judge Wright noted the precedents in her ruling and the likelihood that the law was unconstitutional. Evidence to the contrary: Jason Rapert says abortions ought to stop. Happily, I don't think he'll qualify as expert testimony.
And why did the judge think the law likely to be unconstitutional in the end? She said: "I believe the plaintiffs established this because the Supreme Court has consistently used viability as a standard with respect to any law that regulates abortion."
Leslie Peacock reports that the judge raised a question about the portion of the law that requires an ultrasound and a report to a woman about the results of that test. She asked whether that portion of the law could be severed from the abortion ban itself and said she was inclined to preserve it. Bettina Brownstein, attorney for the ACLU, objected to severing that portion of the law. The judge said she could submit a brief on the question. The idea about severability was raised in a proposed friend of the court brief submitted by an Arkansas anti-abortion group.
The state argued that the plaintiffs couldn't prove there were woman outside the exceptions allowed by the law who'd want an abortion after 12 weeks but before viability. The judge noted that the state's own data show that a significant number of abortions are performed during that period.
The judge dismissed the state's effort to use a 2007 partial-birth abortion ban case as an avenue to expand a ban before fetal viability. She said that case was about a procedure used post-viability. She sympathized with the tortured arguments raised by the attorney general's office. "I know you're in a tough position," she said.
It really is that simple. As I wrote this morning.
A news release from the Center for Reproductive Rights follows on the jump.
For the case books, the case is styled:
LOUIS JERRY EDWARDS, M.D., on
behalf of himself and his patients, ET
JOSEPH M. BECK, M.D., President of
the Arkansas State Medical Board, and
his successors in office, in their official
capacities, ET AL
More from the hearing:
After the Judge Wright handed down her decision, Brownstein said she believes the state has "a tough row to hoe" to prove that Act 301 is not unconstitutional. Colin Jorgensen from the Attorney General's office surely knew he was on thin ice having to argue, as he did, that he did not necessarily accept that the Arkansas Department of Health's data, figures that show that 20 percent of abortions are performed after the 12th week, are correct and that there is "no evidence that there is a single woman who will choose to have an abortion past 12 weeks" pregnancy, "outside the exceptions," being the life of the mother, rape or fatal fetal anomaly. "Does it matter" what the numbers are? Wright asked Jorgensen. "I'm not going to require the plaintiffs to wait."
When Wright pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court has said that state legislators can't determine viability, Jorgansen said there "was no reference to viability in the act," a singularly odd statement since the act specifically defines "viability," describing it as a "medical condition that begins with a detectible human heartbeat." The bill does not base its restriction on abortion based on viability, but on the heartbeat, he argued. But if A equals B and B equals C ...?
With Wright repeatedly observing that the Gonzales case applies only to one method of abortion and not to abortion itself, Jorgensen had to struggle mightily to keep drawing parallels between Act 301 and the Supreme Court case, at one point apologizing for "talking in circles."
The judge said she would "concede" that "there has been a nibbling away at Roe, and there is some indication that voters now want to tighten up" abortion laws, but reminded the state that she was only to rule on whether state law passes constitutional muster. "This act defines viability as something that viability is not."
Wright also noted that the language in the bill requiring the woman to undergo and ultrasound and her doctor to make a report to her was clearly "all part of a scheme to limit" abortions (she quickly noted that "scheme" has perjorative connotations and that she should have said "plan"), but that that motivation was not in itself unconstitutional.
Do the plaintiffs have a high likelihood of succeeding on the merits? They do, as Judge Susan Webber Wright telegraphed clearly in her order refusing to dismiss the lawsuit. She referenced so-far ironclad U.S. Supreme Court precedent in two benchmark cases — Roe and Casey.
Do plaintiffs also have proof of irreparable harm if an injunction is not issued, the other key standard to suspend the law? The law doesn't take effect until August. It will indisputably bring irreparable harm to women and doctors who provide abortion services, but that time lag might give the judge some time to mull the inevitable injunction.
Advance coverage in the Democrat-Gazette today included some points worth mentioning.
For one thing, I don't believe it's a certainty that the U.S. Supreme Court WILL take up this law or the North Dakota law that are frontal assaults on Roe. It could let stand the inevitable lower court precedent-based rulings striking down these invasions on women's medical autonomy.
Sen. Jason Rapert also spoke mendaciously as usual in being allowed by the newspaper to say without challenge that 93 percent of abortions kill babies. He might as well have said 100 percent, since he believes there's a baby the moment a zygote forms. Law, medicine and even many religions don't believe a "baby" exists until it is viable outside the womb. That 93 percent figure he cites presumably begins around 5 or 6 weeks, when a heartbeat can be detected. This is months shy of viability, as the 12-week limit is. According to the CDC, fewer than 2 percent of abortions occur after 21 weeks, which is still several weeks shy of fetal viablity.
Finally, I don't think the weight of legal opinion — outside Liberty University legal circles — is that the 2007 decision allowing a prohibition of so-called partial birth abortions opened the door to pre-viability abortion bans. By a 5-4 vote, that 2007 decision that allowed bans on post-viability later-term abortions indeed damaged the notion of an unfettered constitutional right to abortion. But it did nothing to disturb the Roe and Casey rulings that held rights of women paramount to a fetus that can't survive outside the womb. If it does, we ain't seen nothing yet. Bro. Rapert will be back with his 5-week ban, vaginal probes, bans on IUDs and bans on pills that might — might — prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. If they win, the damage to women will be enormous.
Or so my unlearned legal analysis goes.
Plaintiffs allege that, with certain narrow exceptions, Act 301 bans all abortions beginning at twelve weeks gestation, which they assert is a pre-viability point in a pregnancy. Plaintiffs further allege that at the twelve-week mark, a fetus has a detectible heartbeat but is still months away from the point of viability, and in Arkansas, twenty percent of abortions take place at or after twelve weeks. Accepting these allegations as true, as the Court must do at this juncture, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have alleged facts sufficient to state a claim that the provision of Act 301 that prohibits abortions at twelve weeks gestation when a fetal heartbeat is detected impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to chose to terminate a pregnancy before viability. See Casey, 505 U.S. at 845-846, 112 S.Ct. at 2804 (1992)(holding that an abortion law is unconstitutional on its face if “in a large fraction of the cases in which [the law] is relevant, it will operate as a substantial obstacle to a woman's choice to undergo an abortion”)
She will proceed
tomorrow Friday with holding a hearing on a request for an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect while the suit is being decided.
The judge's order, which you can read in full here, rejected a request for dismissal because the suit was brought by doctors. She said the Supreme Court has allowed doctors to sue to protect rights of their patients and they had standing because of potential disciplinary action against them should they perform abortions in the future.. She also said "Plaintiffs have standing to challenge Act 301 on the basis that it imposes an undue burden on their patients’ right to choose."
The state argued that because Act 301 doesn't prohibit ALL abortions at any point before viability (it allows some narrow exceptions) it was not subject to constitutional challenge. The judge also rejected that argument, saying:
In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the fundamental holdings of Roe v. Wade—including the standard that the line between a woman's interest in control over her destiny and body and the state's interest in promoting the life or potential life of the unborn is drawn at viability—“the time at which there is a realistic possibility of maintaining and nourishing a life outside the womb, so that the independent existence of the second life can in reason and all fairness be the object of state protection . . . . ” The Casey Court noted that although the line of viability may come earlier with advances in neonatal care, the attainment of viability continues to serve as the critical factor
Nobody has yet argued that viability is possible at 12 weeks. Arkansas also passed a law this session, not yet challenged but likely to be, that sets a 20-week cutoff for abortions.
Interesting story from Texas on the Texas legislature. Republicans, who control nearly everything in Texas, apparently suffered huge blowback from their war on women in the last legislative session that cut health care to women in the battle to destroy Planned Parenthood.
Result: A "grand bargain," engineered by a female Republican legislator from the Houston area.
No abortion bills have, so far, made it to the floor of the legislature. Plus, nobody is offering crippling amendments to the legislation to restore health services, including family planning, to women.
“A lot of people really felt they got snookered by some of the people in the pro-life movement about that family-planning issue,” said State Senator Bob Deuell, Republican of Greenville, who has been a strong advocate for restoring family-planning financing for low-income women by way of primary care.
Dr. Deuell, a primary care physician, is an ardent opponent of state money going to Planned Parenthood clinics. But he said the vitriol of some abortion opponents last session had prevented the state from pursuing good policy decisions. He recalled being compared to Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, when he argued that cutting family-planning services would lead to more unwanted pregnancies, and therefore more abortions and more children living in poverty.
Texas is actually going to increase family planning spending, though no money may go to places affiliated with abortion clinics. Some direct federal grants have managed to keep some money flowing to Planned Parenthood family planning clinics.
No Arkansas Republican would believe this. Their votes were automatic on these issues, though Democratic strength in a House committee did manage to derail some of the anti-woman agenda, including a bill to stop sex education funding in Little Rock because the program was provided by Planned Parenthood.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross made encouraging sounds about looking out for women's medical services and the ability to choose abortion when he announced last week. But his past record has included votes to restrict abortion and funding for Planned Parenthood, which recently survived a legislative attack on funding for its sex education work in Little Rock.
Republicans, who LIKED Ross' past record, have been hooting about Ross' pitch to women. Bill Halter, his Democratic opponent, has been beating up Ross as the next Jason Rapert. Ross himself has explicitly said 1) he'd have vetoed the abortion restriction bills Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed and 2) he would NOT support defunding of Planned Parenthood's non-abortion services in Arkansas.
An issue for the long-term? Republicans arguing that Mike Ross isn't as liberal as he wants to you believe? Maybe not. But the Democratic primary is something else. So this internal e-mail to Planned Parenthood supporters from Brenda Kole, director of advocacy for the local affiliate, is of interest:
PPVA Board Members,
I'm sure that you have been aware/following the coverage of Mike Ross's announcement tour over the last few days. He has been making statements about women's health and access that do not seem to reconcile with his record in Congress and in all of his statements, he really hasn't offered an explanation for this change of direction. Also, since yesterday, Bill Halter has gone on the attack on Ross's voting record as well. (both attached)
Based on these statements and actions, we believe that it is important for Planned Parenthood Voters of Arkansas to pose questions to Ross. He has clearly opened up the door to a conversation about it. We do not intend to do this in an attacking way, merely a way to gather more information in order to understand his evolution on these matters.
Overall - we want to give him an opportunity to explain himself and his votes. Also, if he has TRULY made an evolution on this, Jill would like us to have a goal of getting Ross to publicly denounce all of his bad votes in Congress on women's health, otherwise we have absolutely no reason to believe a word he says.
Also, despite what Ross has said, he HAS voted to defund PP. That was the vote from 4/14/11, otherwise known as the Pence Amendment. (attached)
In one of the comments from his campaign manager, he talks about "private meetings" that Ross has had on these issues and what his statewide approach should be. Ross has not reached out to any of us, has he reached out to any of you or others supportive of PP in Little Rock? Just curious...
ACTION - Our plan is to do a joint statement with Planned Parenthood Voters of Arkansas and Planned Parenthood Action Fund on the matter of Ross, his record and inviting him to engage in a conversation about this—in the tone mentioned above. We will do this next week once the legislature goes into recess. We felt it was best to wait on this until the legislature does this since we know that Rapert, Stubblefield etc. could still cause some shenanigans, so we don't want to rock the boat on defunding until the legislators have left town.
Mike Ross' entry into the Democratic primary race for governor, with a full-throated cry for women's rights against the Republican legislature, naturally invited an examination of his voting record. It's not so hot on abortion rights. Evolution on issues is good, of course, but as Democratic candidate Bill Halter's campaign says, it might give a voter pause on trusting which position should be believed. See jump for Halter's statement.
Republicans have been piling on this point, too. They REALLY want to damage Ross now because their polls and other polls show Ross as the stronger Democratic candidate in the fall.
It is something of an ironic spectacle to have Halter claiming he is WAY more liberal on abortion than Mike Ross on the heels of a legislative session in which some of the country's most punitive abortion laws were passed with bipartisan votes and speedy overrides of Gov. Mike Beebe's veto. I tend to believe Arkansas is somewhat more in the middle than those votes reflect. But I'm not sure even Democratic primary voters are as far left on this issue as the Halter campaign's vigorous pro-abortion-rights thrust might have you believe.
We'll see in time. I'll update if Ross responds to my query.
UPDATE: Statement from the campaign:
Mike Ross is pro-life, but, like Governor Beebe, believes abortion should be safe, legal and rare. And, as governor, he would have done just what Gov. Beebe did and he would vetoed both abortion bills. In his announcement, Mike Ross said that instead of focusing on these divisive issues, we should come together as a state and focus on education, economic development and job creation - issues Mike Ross will campaign on and issues Mike Ross will lead on as our next governor.
The Arkansas affiliate of the ACLU, as promised, is suing to challenge Arkansas' new legal ban on most abortions beginning at the 12th week of pregnancy. It will discuss the lawsuit at a 1 p.m. news conference today at the Capitol. Here's the text of the lawsuit. Plaintiffs are Drs. Louis Jerry Edwards and Tom Tvedten, on behalf of themselves and their patients; defendants are the members of the State Medical Board, which the new Act names as the enforcers of the ban.
Others are considering filing a lawsuit also against the bill that invokes a 20-week abortion ban. Both bans fall well short of the fetus viability standard that has long guided federal courts.
A news release follows about the lawsuit.
Lincoln, now a high-dollar member of the Washington lobbying/consultant community like many other former members of Congress, writes about the assault on women's medical autonomy by the Arkansas legislature and the effort to destroy Planned Parenthood's health services for women and others. She's nothing but right. She had a sound record on choice issues as a legislator. I'm willing to take it at face value. But that's me.
Identified as a spokesman for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, one of the worst lobbies in Washington when it comes to progressive government, Lincoln nonetheless wrote, in part:
... Arkansans — like the majority of Americans — understand and respect a woman's constitutional right to make deeply personal and often complex health care decisions without the interference of politicians and in an environment that feels most comfortable to her.
By now, you've seen the headlines. The new Republican-controlled Arkansas State Senate have focused like a laser — not on creating jobs or expanding opportunity — but on banning abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood.
Their playbook is really quite simple: First, pass the nation's most extreme early abortion ban over the veto of the governor and with guaranteed litigation costs to the State with the ACLU of Arkansas saying they'll challenge the unconstitutional law in federal court. Second, the day after it passes, introduce an extreme bill designed to defund Planned Parenthood on the backs of Arkansas women who rely on the nonprofit for a wide-range of affordable preventive health care.
What's clear — this is not what Arkansans want and certainly not what they need.
... The extreme Arkansas abortion ban is in clear violation of a woman's constitutional right to safe and legal abortion and, if enforced, would outlaw the procedure before a woman may have important information about her health or the health of her pregnancy. Further, the Arkansas defunding bill is so extreme it would restrict all funds passing through the State from Planned Parenthood's nonprofit health centers in Arkansas. These centers are serving a critical role in our State's health care system and provide an array of services to the working poor that would otherwise be ignored. Withholding funding from Planned Parenthood could have a detrimental effect on their services and education programs, which in turn would have an enormously detrimental impact on the health of our State.
One in five of America's women have turned to Planned Parenthood at some point in her life — not to make political statements but to get high quality, affordable health care. Without the care that Planned Parenthood health centers provide — Pap tests, well-woman exams, STD testing and treatment, and breast exams — the health of our mothers, daughters, sisters and wives will suffer.
Most immediately, the bill would end an important teen health education prevention program in Little Rock at a time when Arkansas's teen birth rate ranks third in the nation because less than three percent of Planned Parenthood's health services in Arkansas happen to be abortion related. But the bill goes further by blocking State funding from any health care provider or organization that merely provides information to a woman about abortion services. Think about it: A rape crisis center could lose funding if, tragically, a woman became pregnant after an assault and sought counsel about where to go for a safe and legal medical procedure.
This is not just bad policy, this is also bad politics. While the National Republican Party leadership has been doing a lot of talking these days about fine-tuning their tactics in order to win votes in 2014, Republican leadership in Arkansas is taking the exact opposite course and proving to be more extreme than any other State in the country. Arkansas deserves better than this divisive agenda that will only lead to costly, lengthy litigation and diminished health care for our women and families.
The line is open. Finishing up (after aerial footage above of the Mayflower oil spill, hard to get now because of an FAA no-fly rule on the area).
* THERE WILL BE BLOODY NUKES: There's the oil spill. And then there's the giant industrial accident at Arkansas Nuclear One, for which many assurances have been given against serious harm (beyond the one person killed, of course). This post on Daily Kos begs to differ. By the way, The River Valley Leader has photos of the mess inside the Arkansas Nuclear One .
* OK. IT REALLY COULD BE WORSE: Now that the bill filing deadline is past in Arkansas, it's safe to report North Carolina is ahead of the wackjob curve with Republican majority leader-supported legislation that would allow establishment of a state religion and otherwise declare the U.S. Bill of Rights null and void in North Carolina. It's somewhat akin to Bullet Bob Ballinger's federal gun law nullification in Arkansas. North Carolina has that, too.
* A VOTE FOR THE ARTS: And let's mention a small piece of good news from the legislature. The House this afternoon passed, over some objections, a bill to establish an arts-infused curriculum in public schools. Several representatives testified to the benefits of arts education in lifting students in other areas. The bill goes to the Senate. Our Leslie Newell Peacock has been tracking this effort — and the value of the arts generally — on her arts blog, Eye Candy, and in the regular pages of the Times.
* THE LITTLE ROCK CITY GOVERNMENT DIVIDE: Interesting bit of film from Arkansas Community Organizations. City Director Erma Hendrix moved that the Little Rock City Board not always place citizen communications at the end of (frequently long) board meetings, but alternate placement of the comment period. Director Ken Richardson noted that citizen communications already labor under an arbitrary three-minute time limit, where agenda items can stretch on without limit. Mayor Stodola favored his policy of giving agenda first priority at every meeting. The motion was defeated. The vote: Directors from south of Interstate 630 voted for the motion, except Joan Adcock, who voted present, same effect as a no. It was opposed by directors from north of Interstate 630.
* OBAMACARE WATCH: Pennsylvania is giving a look at the Arkansas method of expanding Medicaid coverage under Obamacare through private insurance. A South Carolina official, Tony Keck, on the other hand, says it still smells like Obamacare to him.
“If Republicans are for this plan, I don’t know what exactly they were against before,” says Keck, who runs South Carolina’s Medicaid program. “It covers the same number of people, with the same benefits and is more expensive. I have a hard time understanding what it is that some of these Republican legislators like about that.”
Perhaps Speaker Davy Carter, who says flatly that expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare is not Obamacare, can explain to Mr. Keck.
* AND SPEAKING OF LOOKING AFTER THE LEAST AMONG US: In the Times this week, a guest column by four clergy/activists makes the case for a fairer approach to tax revision than giveaways to the wealthy.
It comes down to a moral case, the writers argue. (Persuasively, to me.) Write Steve Copley, Pat Bodenhamer, Wendell Griffen and Howard Gordon:
As people of faith, we are called to seek justice for "the least of these" and care for what affects the quality of their daily lives. This faith places requirements upon the followers.
Today, six out of every 10 families in Arkansas (60 percent of our population) earn less than $44,000 a year. They pay roughly 12 cents of every dollar they earn in taxes. But Arkansans who earn more than $300,000 (1 percent of our population) pay only 6 cents of every dollar in taxes.
A system that taxes middle and low income earners TWICE what the highest earners pay is not moral and just.
Yet several proposals being considered by Arkansas legislators would make the existing unfair system even WORSE. HB 1966 cuts taxes on investment profits, vastly benefiting the wealthiest Arkansans. HB 1585 lowers the Arkansas income tax in a manner that would give the top 5 percent of wage earners half the tax reduction. Both bills passed the House Revenue and Tax Committee last week and now move to the House floor. How can these legislative proposals be considered moral and just?
* THE WAR ON WOMEN CONTINUES: The war on women continues. A Senate committee will take up anti-abortion cookiecutter legislation being introduced around the country to cut off the flow of public money to Planned Parenthood. No money goes to Planned Parenthood in Arkansas for abortion. The state Health Department passes along $60,000 in federal money to pay for HIV and sexual disease education. But because Planned Parenthood provides abortion — not clinical ones in Arkansas — and otherwise supports a woman's right to choose abortion, it has been targeted for loss of unrelated money. This battle by anti-choice forces is underway in several states, along with lawsuits challenging the punitive measures that inevitably leave some women with untreated disease, without birth control and with unwanted pregnancies that sometimes end in abortions.
Planned Parenthood has put out a call for support at the State Agencies meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Old Supreme Court room. Wear pink and arrive early, the note says.
UPDATE: Planned Parenthood was confused. The bill came for afternoon consideration TODAY in the State Agencies Committee after adjournment of the Senate. Jerry Cox, the anti-choice leader of the rightwing religio-political lobby Family Council explained the bill in place of Sen. Gary Stubblefield, who's just a stooge on the issue. Stubblefield, a spectator said, didn't know Planned Parenthood did STD screening.
UPDATE II: The committee, with a solid majority Republican membership, recommended the bill for passage, says an opponent who was in the room. Last hope likely will be the House committee, which has a slightly more favorable makeup, a Democratic majority if not a pro-choice majority. You'd hope they could muster a pro-health majority on this bill, since the money isn't used for abortion, but that's asking a lot in this legislature. Stubblefield, just to give you a flavor, asked a lot of questions about lubricants and flavored condoms and encouraging homosexuality. (Sex is not supposed to be enjoyable, the anti-choice forces believe. If you do it out of matrimony you should either get pregnant or die from AIDS and have no pleasure in the process.) He said other groups that don't countenance abortions should be able to compete for the money. (Presumably so long as they don't also "encourage homosexuality" by passing out condoms to gay people.) A report I received said the bill was amended so as not to affect Medicaid funding, so the impact may be less than originally thought.
ON THE JUMP: A statement from Planned Parenthood which notes the crazily broad language of the bill which would bar public funds to anybody who barely associates with someone or something that is pro-choice.
Good interview by the Washington Post with the director of North Dakota's only abortion provider, a a clinic that the legislature there has been trying by man means — several similar to efforts underway in Arkansas — to legislate out of existence. She's standing firm.
A sad day for Jason Rapert, who's luxuriating in attention over his leadership of the war on women's medical rights. The North Dakota governor today signed legislation putting an even earlier and more comprehensive limit on abortion — as soon as a fetal hearbeat can be detected, around six weeks. North Dakota has also banned abortions performed on account of genetic defects, among other anti-abortion measures.
This should put North Dakota rather than Arkansas more at the center of the debate, but I'm betting Rapert will still manage to reap plenty of public exposure. The North Dakota bill is essentially the same thing he originally proposed here, but watered down to a ban on abortions after 12 weeks when some got uneasy over the fact that vaginal probes would be necessary to detect fetal heartbeats at the earliest stages of pregnancy.
Of course, there are always other avenues for publicity. Arkansas is pushing personhood down to the zygote stage in several areas of the law; it could always try to outlaw the in vitro fertilization program at UAMS as contrary to personhood, given, as the anti-choice movement likes to put it, the murders of babies that sometimes occur in the process. Or, life doesn't just begin at conception. It begins with the sperm and the egg. Maybe there's something in the masturbation restriction realm that the Fiddlin' senator could work up.
A reminder of the social media-driven rally at the Capitol at 3 p.m. Saturday over the legislature's unprecedented and unconstitutional infringement on women's medical rights.
Some 1,400 women have indicated a willingness to participate. All it takes is showing up. A news release follows on planned speakers and the background of the organizing.
Arkansas women, accustomed now to being slapped around by the Arkansas legislature, which has embarrassed the state nationally with its anti-woman bills, are greeting with deep sighs state Rep. David Meeks' new bill, HB1898, the "Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act," that would allow doctors and hospitals not to provide the following treatments if they ran counter to their "moral" principles: Artificial birth control; artificial insemination; assisted reproduction (read in-vitro), human embryonic stem-cell research and sterilization.
This bill assumes that there are hospitals or ethical systems that force doctors and nurses to practice medicine they don't want to practice. That there are doctors helping childless women become pregnant only because the doctor police are making them. That Arkansas hospitals require their nurses to sign a pledge that they'll assist in sterilization procedures. That it can protect Catholic institutions from having to provide their employees insurance coverage for birth control.
Or perhaps it assumes this: That there are doctors, or non-Catholic hospitals run by people who think like Meeks, who want to stop, wholesale, offering those services and need his helping hand to do that. Or perhaps it assumes this: That UAMS is so eager to affiliate with St. Vincent that it's willing to stop offering those things that Catholic institutions don't offer anyway and hope this legislation will allow it. That's nonsense.
How would this bill affect UAMS? Not at all, says Dr. Nicholas Lang: UAMS allows employees on the front end to indicate what procedures they will not participate in. They can't wait until the middle of a procedure, Lang said, but they can opt out at hiring. I've got a call in to Baptist Health for comment.
Nor does the bill apparently affect pharmacists, who are not required by the state pharmacy board to fill birth control prescriptions; they may exercise their preference.
So here's what the bill, provided to Meeks by the national Americans United for Life anti-abortion group, really accomplishes: It lets Meeks not get out-woman-hated by his fellows in our esteemed General Assembly. If Rapert and Mayberry et al are going to front legislation to remove a woman's right to choose and give embryos all the powers that people have, well, by golly, he's going to get in on the hate-fest. He's only co-sponsor of the abortion bills. He's leading the charge on this meaningless legislation.
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