Sup­port­ers want le­gal chal­lenges to force jus­tices to re­visit Roe rul­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

When and if the Supreme Court does agree to hear a chal­lenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade de­ci­sion, Repub­li­can state Rep. Terri Collins wants to see it come from Alabama.

Her bill ef­fec­tively ban­ning abor­tion in nearly all cir­cum­stances was signed Wed­nes­day by Gov. Kay Ivey, mak­ing Alabama one of al­most a dozen states this year to ap­prove sweep­ing pro-life leg­is­la­tion as Repub­li­cans jump on the over­turn-Roe band­wagon bar­rel­ing to­ward the Supreme Court.

Such bills have hardly any chance of sur­viv­ing the in­evitable lower-court chal­lenges, but that’s the point. Repub­li­can law­mak­ers are spoil­ing for a le­gal fight, hop­ing their state’s pro-life bill will be­come the ve­hi­cle for the high court’s 5-4 con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity to put the brakes on Roe.

“States are ac­tu­ally rush­ing to be­come that first state to be­come abor­tion-free,” said Kris­tan Hawkins, pres­i­dents of Stu­dents for Life of Amer­ica. “They’re try­ing to out­com­pete each other. And this is ac­tu­ally a good thing for us, that we’ve got so many cases.”

The Alabama bill, which won fi­nal pas­sage Tues­day in the state House as the most re­stric­tive in the na­tion, pro­hibits abor­tion ex­cept in cases when the life of the mother is in dan­ger or preg­nancy poses a “se­ri­ous health risk.” Its spon­sor, Ms. Collins, beat back at­tempts to add rape and in­cest ex­cep­tions, ar­gu­ing that the bill needed to be as “clean” as pos­si­ble for the courts.

“My goal with this bill, and I think all of our goal, is to have Roe v. Wade turned over, and that de­ci­sion be sent back to the states so that we can come up with our laws that ad­dress and in­clude amend­ments and things that ad­dress those is­sues,” Ms. Collins said at a Wed­nes­day press con­fer­ence.

Mean­while, House Mi­nor­ity Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Mary­land joined other Democrats in de­nounc­ing the abor­tion mea­sures, ac­cus­ing Repub­li­can state leg­is­la­tures of try­ing to one-up one an­other with ever more re­stric­tive bills.

“Th­ese laws are part of a sys­tem­atic ef­fort by Repub­li­can law­mak­ers around the coun­try to outdo each other with how re­stric­tive they can be in tak­ing away re­pro­duc­tive choice for women with the goal of un­der­min­ing Roe v. Wade,” Mr. Hoyer said in a state­ment.

Hot on Alabama’s heels are Louisiana and Mis­souri. Both state leg­is­la­tures took up bills Wed­nes­day to pro­hibit abor­tion af­ter the fe­tal heart­beat can be de­tected, typ­i­cally at six to eight weeks of ges­ta­tion, which have al­ready been signed this year in Georgia, Ken­tucky, Mis­sis­sippi and Ohio.

None of those bills has taken ef­fect. The Ken­tucky bill was blocked by a judge March 15, shortly af­ter it was signed by Gov. Matt Bevin. An­other Ken­tucky mea­sure ban­ning sec­ond-trimester “di­la­tion and evac­u­a­tion” pro­ce­dures was halted by a fed­eral judge last week.

“We pro­foundly dis­agree with the court’s de­ci­sion and will take this case all the way to the Supreme Court, if nec­es­sary, to pro­tect un­born chil­dren from be­ing dis­mem­bered limb by limb while still alive,” Bevin spokes­woman El­iz­a­beth Goss Kuhn said in a state­ment.

Mis­souri Gov. Mike Par­son cheered pro-life state leg­is­la­tors as the Sen­ate con­sid­ered the mea­sure, which would also ban abor­tions based on race, sex and po­ten­tial for Down syn­drome.

“It’s time to make Mis­souri the most Pro-Life state in the coun­try!” tweeted the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor. “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.”

The leg­isla­tive surge be­hind bills sharply cur­tail­ing abor­tion ac­cess comes de­spite enor­mous op­po­si­tion from pow­er­ful pro-choice groups such as Planned Par­ent­hood and the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, which have vowed to de­feat the bills in court, and Democrats stunned by the mo­men­tum.

“It’s kind of chill­ing what’s hap­pen­ing na­tion­ally, in­clud­ing Wis­con­sin,” said Gor­don Hintz, the Demo­cratic mi­nor­ity leader in Wis­con­sin’s state Assem­bly.

Democrats have made it clear that they plan to lever­age the is­sue in the 2020 cam­paign.

Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand, New York Demo­crat, an­nounced that she was go­ing to Georgia to “fight back, hard on the front lines” as part of her pres­i­den­tial pri­mary bid.

The Demo­cratic Sen­a­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee said the bills show the ur­gency of tak­ing back the Sen­ate “to pro­tect the Supreme Court and de­fend Roe v. Wade” from Pres­i­dent Trump, who has ap­pointed two con­ser­va­tive jus­tices in his first term.

“This isn’t a scene from ‘ The Hand­maid’s Tale.’ This is hap­pen­ing in Alabama — in our coun­try — in the year 2019,” Sen. Ka­mala D. Harris, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat and a 2020 pres­i­den­tial pri­mary con­tender, said in a fundrais­ing plea on be­half of pro-choice groups.

In her sign­ing state­ment in Alabama, Ms. Ivey ac­knowl­edged that the bill may be “un­en­force­able” and that “we must al­ways re­spect the au­thor­ity of the U.S. Supreme Court even when we dis­agree with their de­ci­sions.”

“Many Amer­i­cans, my­self in­cluded, dis­agreed when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973,” said the gov­er­nor. “The spon­sors of this bill be­lieve that it is time, once again, for the U.S. Supreme Court to re­visit this im­por­tant mat­ter, and they be­lieve this act may bring about the best op­por­tu­nity for this to oc­cur.”

Mean­while, Planned Par­ent­hood South­east Pres­i­dent and CEO Staci Fox said her or­ga­ni­za­tion would chal­lenge the mea­sure, which makes it a felony to per­form abor­tions ex­cept to “pre­vent a se­ri­ous health risk” to the preg­nant woman. Doc­tors found in vi­o­la­tion could face up to 99 years in prison.

“We vowed to fight this dan­ger­ous abor­tion ban ev­ery step of the way and we meant what we said,” Ms. Fox said in a state­ment. “We haven’t lost a case in Alabama yet and we don’t plan to start now.”

Whether this year’s round of bills will pass Supreme Court muster is an­other ques­tion. While some Repub­li­cans ar­gue that the heart­beat bills are the ideal test cases, Amer­i­cans United for Life se­nior coun­sel Clarke D. Forsythe dis­agreed.

He said less-re­stric­tive mea­sures such as pain-ca­pa­ble bills, which pro­hibit abor­tions af­ter the fe­tus is able to feel pain at about 20 weeks of ges­ta­tion, may be more ad­van­ta­geous. Such bills have passed in 21 states.

“The heart­beat bill or an ear­lier pro­hi­bi­tion such as Alabama’s might be the least at­trac­tive to the court,” Mr. Forsythe said.

He ar­gued that the court un­der Chief Jus­tice John G. Roberts Jr. has shown that it prefers in­cre­men­tal ac­tion in pre­vi­ous abor­tion cases. In ad­di­tion, the court may want to take up mea­sures with more pub­lic sup­port, such as the pain-ca­pa­ble bills.

“Cer­tainly le­gal no­tions about le­git­i­macy are go­ing to be present in any case re-ex­am­in­ing Roe,” Mr. Forsythe said.

Ms. Hawkins said such dif­fer­ences of opin­ion are in­evitable as red states chart their own cour­ses.

“There’s a lot of dif­fer­ent le­gal strate­gies here, and there’s not one group at the helm di­rect­ing all th­ese,” said Ms. Hawkins. “I’m not wor­ried. I’m watch­ful to see which case the Supreme Court does pick up.”


Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill Wed­nes­day that vir­tu­ally out­laws abor­tion in the state. Sup­port­ers hope chal­lenges to the law will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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