Urgent Issues

North Dakota House Passes Egg-as-Person Bill

By Kay Steiger
RHRealityCheck
Feb 19 2009

On Tuesday, one body of North Dakota's state legislature voted [1], 51-41, not only to ban abortion, but to define life as beginning at conception. Such a measure, considered extreme even by pro-life standards, would have far-reaching consequences on women's health.

State Rep. Dan Ruby introduced the legislation, which declares that "for purposes of interpretation of the constitution and laws of North Dakota, it is the intent of the legislative assembly that an individual, a person, when the context indicates that a reference to an individual is intended, or a human being includes any organism with the genome of homo sapiens."  

"It was at the bottom of the calendar and we didn't expect [the House] to get to it, so it caught us a little bit by surprise," said Tim Stanley, senior director of government and public affairs for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. "This bill dangerous, far reaching, and allows government -- not women and families -- to make critical decisions about health care."

Some state legislators have been quoted [2]  saying the intent of the measure is not to ban abortion outright. However, many legal experts agree that defining life as beginning at conception would affect access to birth control and emergency contraception as well as affect in vitro fertilization. "I'm not sure if this is naivete or if this is sincere," Stanley said. "The bottom line is that our attorneys have looked at this and are extremely concerned." 

The state's legislature, in a slightly more robust year for anti-choice legislation than usual, will also be considering other anti-choice legislation this session. Other bills under consideration would require the state's only abortion clinic to place signs outside declaring that no one can force a woman to have an abortion, and legislation that would mimic South Dakota's "informed consent" legislation, a requirement that abortion providers must read a statement to women seeking abortion care stating that the procedure "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."

The state legislature is also considering a measure that would resolve not to adopt a Freedom of Choice Act. "It's a sort of anti-FOCA," Stanley said. But because it hasn't been introduced in Congress, "it's a complete red herring." 

Stanley hopes that these other, "less extreme" measures that he believes will probably pass, will be enough to "placate" the anti-choice community in North Dakota's legislature.

Stanley also notes that his Planned Parenthood affiliate has only been in active in the state's legislature since 2007 and is the only pro-choice group that advocates at the state's legislature.  

"The grassroots pro-life base in North Dakota very vibrant," Stanley said. "This movement, if it had more of a foundation, be it money or what have you, that they would be a substantial group. And that I find fairly alarming."

During the panel hearing on the so-called personhood legislation, Stanley said he followed more than 90 minutes of anti-choice testimony by five or six anti-choice groups with a about six minutes of testimony pointing out the unconstitutional nature of the legislation. 

The personhood bill will go on to the state Senate by the end of the week, and Stanley says it is likely not to be voted on until the end of the legislature's session, in April.

Stanley believes that ultimately North Dakotans may not want to draw national attention with a challenge to Roe. If the bill does pass, Planned Parenthood's affiliate will begin reaching out to the medical and religious community to begin building a coalition of support to fight the measure. 

"My experience had been that this legislature is grounded in reality, as opposed to some other legislatures," Stanley said. "South Dakota is not the most rational legislature when it comes to this kind of stuff.

They're known as being slightly out there and willing to take those high-profile risks to fight this fight. My feeling is that North Dakota is just slightly more reticent to do that. To their credit they're not a state that looks [for] and seeks undue attention." 

Egg-as-Person in Pro-Choice Maryland

A state legislator in Maryland has proposed a similar measure. The state seems like a strange place for such a measure; it has an overwhelmingly pro-choice legislature and passed a law that codified Roe v. Wade in 1992. "It's public relations for them," said Wendy Royalty, public relations director of Planned Parenthood of Maryland. "There's very little likelihood of [the bill] passing at all." 

Delegate Don Dwyer, a socially conservative delegate who also introduced a ban on same-sex marriage this week as well, introduced the legislation on Thursday. The judiciary committee will consider the legislation and the chairman, Delegate Joe Vollario, is rated anti-choice by NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland. But Maryland's house has an overwhelming pro-choice majority, Royalty said, so it is most likely that the bill will be killed in committee. 

"Nobody wants to see a bill like that get on the floor because all it does is waste everybody's time," Royalty said. "We've seen the anti-choice people introduce bills that appear to be more reasonable, but this one will not be perceived this way." Three other states have introduced similar "personhood" measures: North Carolina, Montana, and Alabama. 

The lesson we might draw from the pushes for personhood legislation in these two states is that it pays to have a legislature that views anti-choice bills as a waste of time. 

In North Dakota, a strong grassroots anti-choice lobby can go far with incremental legislation because the legislature is far more amenable to its cause -- even if it's hesitant to pass an all-out ban.

While many resources aren't devoted to Midwestern states until direct attacks on Roe are presented, these states might have an easier time fighting both incremental and more sweeping anti-choice legislation if a strong anti-choice grassroots movement there didn't make being an anti-choice legislator worthwhile.

 

2008 INITIATIVES RFC IS MONITORING THAT THREATEN REPRODUCTIVE AND WOMEN'S RIGHTS

STATE BALLOT INIITIATIVES & FEDERAL BILLS

South Dakota -- South Dakota anti-choice activists are at it again. They are pushing for another statewide initiative and it will be on the ballot in November again.

Action: The same effective team that stopped them last time is back in place and working hard to shut those who would treat women like imbeciles and take away their rights.

Colorado -- Anti-choice activists have succeeded in collecting enough signatures to place an initiative on the November ballot that would amend the state constitution to define a fertilized egg as a person. That would extend constitutional protection to a fertilized egg. The initiative would also threaten the contraceptives used by millions of women, including birth control pills, IUD and emergency contraceptives. They are considered abortiafacient. It could also outlaw embryonic stem-cell research and invitro fertilization. Other states faced a similar threat; however, the ballot initiatives were all struck down before they could fulfill the necessary requirements.

Action: RFC is working on a grassroots public awareness campaign and funds-permitting will try to team
with other pro-choice activist groups in Colorado working to encourage pro-choice voters and moderates to defeat this initiative. Have run out of funds right now to continue our efforts until after the Convention.

Missouri --, anti-abortion activists are seeking to add a ballot initiative to the 2008 state ballot that would address what they claim are the long-term physical, psychological and emotional problems caused by
abortion. The so-called "Prevention of Coerced and Unsafe Abortion Act," would subject doctors to lawsuits
from women who later regretted their decision to terminate a pregnancy, and would offer no exception whatsoever for the victims of rape or incest.

Action: Lack funds to help right now. Will revisit after the Convention.

Michigan -- Also on ballots in Michigan this November is a bill that would open up restrictions on stem-cell research. Michigan is currently one of the most restrictive when it comes to stem-cells, and many people are excited for both the research and job opportunities it would bring to the state. The ballot has received support from both state Democrats and Republicans, and the group backing it includes former pro-choice Republican Congressman Joe Schwarz. Other states that are attempting similar measures and that RFC will be closely monitoring are Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

Action: RFC strongly supports this bill and will update our Michigan members on the progress of this bill. Hopefully we will be able to get more involved after the Convention.

RFC has already run ads in South Carolina and Tennesee to help defeat this measure and on other issues to protect women's rights.

Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals -- Forty years ago the Supreme Court decision, Griswold vs. Connecticut, legalized access to birth control. But today, women’s access to contraception is being threatened as never
before as a growing number of pharmacists around the country are refusing to fill prescriptions for all forms
of birth control.

Federal legislation has been introduced to ensure that a woman does not face unnecessary delays or public humiliation when she is trying to fill prescriptions for birth control pills, patches or emergency contraception.

Ninety-five percent (95%) of American women will use birth control at some point in their lives. So it follows
that access to contraception is a critical factor in reducing the number of unintended pregnancies in our country. Actually some antis support us on this issue.

Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies (CARE) -- The CARE
Act would ensure that all hospitals provide the victims of sexual assault with both accurate medical information and access to emergency contraception upon request. Emergency contraception contains similar hormones
to those in ordinary birth control and has been shown to that significantly reduces a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant if taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex.

Equity in Prescription Insurance & Contraceptive Coverage Act (EPICC) -- EPICC would prohibit private insurance companies from restricting benefits for prescription contraceptive drugs, devices, and out-patient services if the plan provides benefits for other outpatient prescription drugs, devices, or services. Failing to
cover contraception discriminates against women.

Title X Funding -- Title X of the Public Health Service Act is a federal program dedicated to family planning
and reproductive health services. The Title X clinic network provides millions of women with health services including contraception and breast cancer screening. For many women, Title X clinics provide the only basic health care that they receive.

Responsible Education About Life Act (REAL) -- For over a decade Congress has allocated well over a half billion dollars to programs that teach abstinence-only-until-marriage . By law, these programs must have
as their "exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity." Programs that emphasize abstinence but also teach about contraception and prevention
of sexually transmitted diseases (“comprehensive sexuality education”) are not eligible for this money.

The REAL Act also includes an evaluation process that will ensure states use the grant efficiently and that our youth receive the most effective education possible on this critical personal issue.

 

Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report Summarizes Editorials on FDA's Delayed Decision on Plan B

July 20, 2005 --- NEW HAMPSHIRE: First In The Nation Wants To Uphold Roe V. Wade

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"This Republicans For Choice committee is a political action group and is not a part of, or affiliated with, Planned Parenthood." 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antis are At It Again in South Dakota

Voters in South Dakota will face a second ballot initiative to ban abortions in the state. In November 2006 an abortion ban that allowed an exception only to save the life of the woman was rejected 56 percent to 44 percent.

The new proposal widens that exception to include rape and incest and to preserve a woman's health, the Associated Press reported Dec. 14.

Following the 2006 election, opinion polls indicated that about 55 percent of voters would approve an abortion ban if the exceptions were broadened. Only 39 percent of state residents approve of legal abortion rights, according to a November poll.

As written, the abortion ban would eliminate nearly all procedures currently performed in the state, which has only one abortion clinic. Last year, there were 748 procedures.

Anyone who performs an abortion could receive a $20,000 fine and a 10-year prison sentence.

Supporters have until April to collect the required 16,776 signatures to put the proposal on the 2008 ballot.

The 2006 initiative was designed to serve as a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the United States.

Anti-choice proponents believed that the climate on the current court is ripe to roll back abortion rights, particularly with the April 2007 ruling in Gonzalez v. Carhart, which for the first time barred a specific procedure used after 12 weeks of pregnancy, regardless of the health consequences.

OLDER ISSUES

RFC Announces its position on Supreme Court Ruling

SENATE PASSES STEM CELL BILL S5 -
But Battle Isn't Over Yet - Click here for full story

 

UNION PACIFIC DENIES COVERAGE TO WOMEN
Click here

 

New Revised Abortion Ban Introduced in South Dakota - See Feb. 21st Update

 

va flag

Update on Virginia

Delegate Marshall Introduces Harmful Amendment into VA State Budget

Here we go again. Marshall wasting time and taxpayer money on his own personal agenda. Anti-choice extremist Republican Delegate Marshall  has introduced a budget amendment in Virginia's state budget to restrict access to abortion services.

The budget is currently being negotiated by "Budget Conferees", members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, who compromise on differences in the budget. This Amendment would restrict coverage for medically-necessary abortions for Medicaid-eligible women, even if the health of the woman is in danger.

CONTACT BUDGET CONFEREE SENATORS OR DELEGATES -- and let them know you are adamantly opposed to the Marshall Amendment to the State Budget and that you want that budget item defeated!

Here are the Conferees:

Senate Conferees: Senators Chichester, Wampler, Stosch, Colgan, Houck

House Conferees: Delegates Callahan, Putney, Hamilton, Cox, Wardrup, Joannou

____________________________________________________________________________

OPPOSE HB 2797-Creation of Constitutional Rights for Pre-born Human Beings
This bill was an attempt to undermine Roe versus Wade and threaten women's access to some forms of FDA-approved methods of contraception. If passed, it would have set a precedent to create Constitutional rights for "pre-born human beings."

UPDATE ALERT: HB 2797 was defeated in the House of Delegates on Monday, February 5th, 2007. Special thanks to those of you who called, wrote and emailed to help defeat this bill. Here is the vote break down on the votes:

 

2/05/07  House: VOTE: ENGROSSMENT REFUSED (43-Y 53-N)


YEAS--Athey, Bowling, Byron, Carrico, Cline, Cole, Cox, Dudley, Fralin, Frederick, Gear, Gilbert, Hamilton, Hargrove, Hugo, Hurt, Iaquinto, Ingram, Janis, Jones, S.C., Kilgore, Landes, Lingamfelter, Lohr, Marshall, R.G., McQuigg, Miller, J.H., Nixon, Oder, Orrock, Peace, Phillips, Putney, Rapp, Reid, Saxman, Scott, E.T., Sherwood, Ware, R.L., Welch, Wittman, Wright, Mr. Speaker--43.

NAYS--Albo, Alexander, Amundson, Armstrong, BaCote, Barlow, Bell, Brink, Bulova, Callahan, Caputo, Cosgrove, Dance, Ebbin, Eisenberg, Englin, Griffith, Hall, Hogan, Howell, A.T., Hull, Joannou, Jones, D.C., Lewis, Marsden, Marshall, D.W., May, McClellan, McEachin, Melvin, Miller, P.J., Moran, Morgan, Nutter, O'Bannon, Plum, Poisson, Purkey, Rust, Scott, J.M., Shannon, Shuler, Sickles, Spruill, Suit, Tata, Toscano, Valentine, Waddell, Ward, Wardrup, Ware, O., Watts--53.

ABSTENTIONS--0.

NOT VOTING--Abbitt, Crockett-Stark, Johnson, Tyler--4.

Delegate Cosgrove recorded as nay.  Intended to vote yea.  Delegate Crockett-Stark recorded as not voting. Intended to vote yea.  

 

SUPPORT HB 2221 Birth Control Protection Act: This bill defines birth control using the FDA guidelines for contraception and prevents birth control from being regulated by Virginia’s abortion laws (mandatory 24 hour delay, state-scripted counseling, refusal protection, and parental consent). This bill was killed in the House Health subcommittee of the Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions 4-3.

Please thank the Bill's Chief Patron Delegate Kristen Amundson and other co-sponsors for standing up for reproductive health and rights. Let's show them our appreciation!

After that, please call the following four legislators who voted against the Birth Control Protection Act. Politely remind them that birth control is basic healthcare for many women and couples. If you can, try to find out why they voted against it. Then, if you have time, please send RFC any comments you get that you think might be helpful to us.  ( gop4choice@rcn.com )  

Del. John O'Bannon (R-73, Richmond) 804-698-1273
Del. Bill Janis (R-56, Glen Allen) 804-698-1256
Del. Dave Nutter (R-7, Christiansburg) 804-698-1207
Del. Harry Purkey (R-82, Virginia Beach) 804-698-1282

OPPOSE HB 2124 Virginia's Abortion BanIf and when Roe v. Wade is overturned by the US Supreme Court, this "trigger bill" would reinstate Virginia law of June 30, 1970, criminalizing abortion. This bill will be heard sometime by mid February in the House Courts of Justice Committee.

UPDATE ALERT: HB 2124 died in Committee. It never made it out of Committee for a vote. It is dead for this session. This is unfortunate. We wanted the opportunity to show we could defeat this outrageous legislation!

OPPOSE HB 1883 Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP): This bill would require any medical facility providing 25 or more abortions per year to comply with regulatory requirements of an ambulatory surgery center.

Last week, the House passed TRAP by 60-35. Although the bill passed by a very wide margin, there were six fewer votes than the measure received last year!  (See actual votes just below) After next week, this measure will be heard by the Senate Education and Health Committee. Stay tuned!

(floor) 01/23/07  House: VOTE: PASSAGE (60-Y 35-N)

YEAS--Abbitt, Albo, Armstrong, Athey, Bell, Bowling, Byron, Callahan, Carrico, Cline, Cole, Cosgrove, Cox, Crockett-Stark, Dudley, Fralin, Frederick, Gear, Griffith, Hamilton, Hargrove, Hogan, Hugo, Hurt, Iaquinto, Ingram, Janis, Jones, S.C., Kilgore, Landes, Lingamfelter, Lohr, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., May, McQuigg, Miller, J.H., Morgan, Nixon, Nutter, O'Bannon, Orrock, Peace, Phillips, Purkey, Putney, Rapp, Reid, Rust, Saxman, Scott, E.T., Sherwood, Suit, Tata, Wardrup, Ware, R.L., Welch, Wittman, Wright, Mr. Speaker--60.

NAYS
--Alexander, Amundson, BaCote, Barlow, Brink, Bulova, Caputo, Dance, Ebbin, Eisenberg, Englin, Howell, A.T., Hull, Joannou, Jones, D.C., Lewis, Marsden, McClellan, McEachin, Miller, P.J., Moran, Plum, Poisson, Scott, J.M., Shannon, Shuler, Sickles, Spruill, Toscano, Tyler, Valentine, Waddell, Ward, Ware, O., Watts--35.

ABSTENTIONS--0. NOT VOTING--Gilbert, Hall, Johnson, Melvin, Oder--5.
Delegate Hall recorded as not voting. Intended to vote nay.

If you live in Virginia and aren't sure of your legislators, simply click this link below to look up your legislators: http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform

 

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD NOW

New Bush Chief of HHS Family Planning Programs Appointee a Disaster

President Bush appointed Dr. Eric J. Keroack, a Boston-area gynecologist known for his vocal anti-abortion positions and advocacy for abstinence-only programs to be the Chief of Family Planning Programs at the Health and Human Services. 

This anti-choice activist is currently the supervising physician for 5 so-called crisis-pregnancy centers in Massachusetts that "counsel" women who are "abortion vulnerable" to carry their pregnancies to term.

Planned Parenthood has already filed cases with the Massachusetts Attorney General's office regarding Problem Pregnancy of Worcester, one of Keroack's crisis-pregnancy centers.

In a complaint from May of 2005 a woman stated that she called Problem Pregnancy about getting an abortion and "They told me they could and when I got there they started throwing everything about the baby in my face. I asked them once again if she (was) going to help me, she says no they don't do that. They had lied to me to get me into the clinic to stop me from doing it."

This appointment does not require Senate confirmation. Keroack will become Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs in the next two weeks unless we all act NOW.

Call President Bush at 202-456-1111 today and tell them you do NOT support the appointment of Dr. Eric J. Keroack, an anti-choice, anti-family planning advocate to HHS….haven’t they learned anything from the recent GOP loses how the public feels about the Religious Right using this Administration as their Puppet!

Call now -- make your voice heard!

 

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Issue Background

Emergency Contraception

Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report Summarizes Editorials on FDA's Delayed Decision on Plan B

Broadcast Coverage
" NewsHour with Jim Lehrer " on Friday included an interview with Peter Pitts, director of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest , and Alastair Wood, associate dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and chair of the FDA advisory committee on over-the-counter medications, about Plan B (Suarez, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 3/17). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. In addition, KCET's " Life & Times " on Monday is scheduled to include an interview with Susan Wood, former director of FDA's Office of Women's Health and senior policy adviser of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project . Wood in September 2005 resigned from the agency in protest of its indefinite deferment of Barr's application (Zavala, "Life & Times," KCET, 3/20). The complete transcript and audio of the program in RealPlayer will be available online a few days after the broadcast.

Bills Allowing Access to EC Not Linked to Political Boundaries, Post Letter to the Editor Says

Bills seeking to prevent unplanned pregnancies by increasing access to emergency contraception -- which can prevent pregnancy if taken up to 72 hours after sexual intercourse -- are not linked solely to politically and/or ideologically "red" and "blue" states, Belle Taylor-McGhee, executive director of Pharmacy Access Partnership , writes in a Washington Post letter to the editor in response to two recent articles on state funding for and access to EC. Taylor-McGhee writes that four "red" states are among the eight that currently permit access to EC without a prescription from a physician or clinic. She adds that a recent Guttmacher Institute study shows that California, Alaska, South Carolina and Alabama were ranked highest in providing access to the drug, saying the results are "scattered and not just along the 'blue' coasts" (Taylor-McGhee, Washington Post , 3/10).

Issue Background

ABORTION :


New York Times ' Steinfels writes that abortion, as a political issue, "is back, one might say, except that it has never gone away." Since 11/04, Dems "have been shifting this way and that, caught between the party's strong abortion rights constituency and the awareness that abortion may have been one of those issues that propelled" Pres. Bush and GOPers "over the finish line first. Republicans, for their part, have been shifting back and forth about whether President Bush has made rolling back abortion rights a central consideration in his nominations to the Supreme Court" (2/25).

Tough Roe To Hoe (Blow Back from South Dakota Ban)

New York Times ' Davey writes from SD that "reverberations" of the state's just-passed abortion bill "reached far beyond quiet Pierre. But even as abortion opponents declared a 'full frontal attack' on Roe ... one question emerged: Which side of the abortion battle will benefit? Activists on both sides claim they have the advantage, but they can't both be right."
      The strategy itself "has already splintered the anti-abortion movement. One faction is chafing at the timing of this campaign, wondering aloud whether the court -- and, perhaps more important, the American public -- will really embrace a complete reversal of Roe just yet. ... Think of what damage may be done, he said, if the court hears the case, but reaffirms Roe. And, should their forces devote money to this strategy, he asked, over all other efforts?"
      Meanwhile, abortion-rights leaders "were repeating their mantra that a challenge to Roe would awaken their complacent supporters and strengthen their side of the national debate. Representatives ... said they were receiving hundreds of calls and e-mail messages from people around the country" (2/26).

Echoes In Kentucky ...
      Lexington Herald-Leader 's Lockwood writes that if the SCOTUS overturns Roe, the fight to ban abortion in KY "would be brief and lopsided" in favor of abortion-rights opponents. "While losing their share of skirmishes" in DC, anti-abortion forces have triumphed repeatedly in KY, a state "where more than half of all residents call themselves born-again Christians.
      "The number of abortions in the state has plummeted. The procedure is available only in Lexington and Louisville. It is available only in the first two trimesters, and many Kentucky women must travel for hours to get one" (2/27).

... And New Hampshire
      In NH, "both sides showed at least some pessimism over future results stemming" from SD's likely move ( Yates , New Hampshire Union-Leader , 2/25).

So, Are Roe's Days Numbered?
      "Not exactly," writes Newsweek 's Brant / Evans . "On closer inspection, the abortion-rights battle is likely to be fought on the margins, limiting -- but by no means elmiminating -- a woman's right to choose. The question of abortion is much more ambiguous than the louder voices on either side of the pro-life/pro-choice divide are willing to admit" (3/6).
(Back to Contents)

New York Observer 's Conason writes: SD legislators who voted for a ban on abortions "may finally bring a measure of candor into this controversy." The bill's passage "should at last require every one of those politicians to explain why he or she believes that rape and incest demand exemptions to the anti-abortion rule." If life begins at conception, "there can be no moral distinction in cases of rape or incest." Those exceptions have always "been strictly a matter of political convenience rather than moral philosophy." Now "the old dodge has been exposed. The passage of their bill has required certain moralizing politicians to contort themselves into comical positions."
      Further, the SD law makes it a felony for doctors to perform abortions. "Yet if abortion equals murder and must be outlawed, then why should doctors but not patients be subject to criminal penalties for participating in an illegal conspiracy?" For pro-lifers, "there can be no moral justification to indict the doctor without prosecuting the patient as well. Such a law denies equal protection to physicians and might well be held unconstitutional -- even if there is no right to privacy that shields abortion itself." Americans should understand that "if the religious right wins this struggle, the consequences will be extreme indeed -- and there will be no exceptions" (3/20 issue).

 

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"This Republicans For Choice committee is a political action group and is not a part of, or affiliated with, Planned Parenthood."