A week after Alabama legislators voted to ban abortions for nearly every case, Missouri became the eighth state on Friday to join the band. While Alabama went ahead with an outright ban on abortions, Missouri along with Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio passed a bill to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is also being called as ‘heartbeat bills’.
Heartbeat bills effectively prohibit abortions after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, when doctors detect a heartbeat; whereas Utah and Arkansas voted to limit the procedure to the middle of the second trimester.
What’s this abortion bill that’s in news?
The recent restrictions challenge the constitutional right established in Supreme Court’s Roe decision of 1973 which had declared abortion being legal until the fetus reaches viability, usually attained at 24 to 28 weeks.
The Missouri House led by Republicans overwhelmingly approved the abortion bill and it is expected to be signed by the Midwestern state’s Republican governor. Doctors who perform abortions could be subject to prison sentences between five and 15 years. The move by these states are fuelling hopes in the minds of abortion opponents who are hoping that it will prompt the nation’s highest court, which currently has a conservative majority, can overturn the landmark decision in the case of Roe vs Wade.
Alabama first to pass legislation
The Republican-dominated Alabama legislature was the first to pass the legislation earlier this week, which places a near-total ban on ending a pregnancy, even in the cases of rape and incest. Neither does the Missouri bill allow exceptions for rape and incest, but it does in a situation where the mother’s life is in danger. The bill also bans abortions based solely on race, sex or a diagnosis indicating the potential for Down Syndrome.
It also requires a parent or guardian giving written consent for a minor to get an abortion to first notify the other parent, except if the other parent has been convicted of a violent or sexual crime, is subject to a protection order or is “habitually in an intoxicated or drugged condition.” After hours of late-night negotiations in the state Senate, a change was made to also remove the requirement when the other parent lacks legal or physical custody.
Texas not leading battle this time, passing laws
Texas which has passed some of nation’s strictest anti-abortion laws in the past decade is, however, digressing from the bigger battle fought elsewhere in the US related to abortion. On Friday, Texas Republicans pushed a bill towards Governor Abbott’s desk which bans the state’s liberal capital city Austin from leasing a downtown building to Planned Parenthood for just $1.
Democrats said the bill they are pushing would reduce access to women’s health care and fought the bill for more than eight hours before is was passed on Friday night in the GOP-controlled House.
Alabama boycott gains momentum
A movement to boycott Alabama for the near-overall ban on abortion began on Thursday as officials in Maryland and Colorado called for economic retaliation and online flyers urged people to not buy anything in or from Alabama. Maryland’s Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot said he would advise his state’s $52 billion pension fund to divest from Alabama urging other states to follow suit, according to a Reuters report.
“The radical anti-abortion bill signed into law yesterday by the Governor of Alabama is a malicious assault on the rights and protections of women,” Franchot wrote on Facebook.
Colorado’s Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold called for a boycott of Alabama and urged the Election Center, an organization that trains election officials from across the country, to move out of the state. The hashtag #BoycottAlabama gained momentum online, with activists calling for boycotts of products ranging from Mercedes-Benz cars to broiler chickens that are produced in Alabama. Meanwhile, in January, New York had enacted a measure that guarantees a “fundamental right” to abortion in the state.
President Trump’s hot issue
Donald Trump has been ramping up for the 2020 re-election campaign with abortion being a hot presser for him. While the Supreme Court previously reaffirmed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, however, anti-abortion activists believe the time to turn the tables has come. Trump appointed two conservative justices- Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, since assuming office and abortion opponents saw the appointment of Justice Kavanaugh as tipping the balance of the court in their favour.
Elizabeth Warren, who is also engaged in her Democratic presidential campaign on Friday called for a series of measures designed to safeguard abortion rights which centers on the establishment of “affirmative, statutory rights” that would ‘block states from interfering in the ability of a health care provider to provide medical care, including abortion services,” and sets similar restrictions on states’ power to block patients from getting medical care, including abortions.
Activists, celebrities take to social media to voice angst
Celebrities, activists and politicians have been swarming social media airing their opinions on the law, signed on Wednesday banning abortion in Alabama and other states in America. Singer Lady Gaga led the chorus of outraged voices with many women tweeting under the hashtag #YouKnowMe to declare they had abortions and were unashamed.