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Heidi Crowter, 26, is bringing legal action over a ruling that allows the abortion of babies with the condition up until birth. She is fighting the Department of Health and Social Care in the hope of removing a section of the Abortion Act she believes to be an “instance of inequality”. Ms Crowter, from Coventry, said: “I am someone who has Down’s syndrome and I find it extremely offensive that a law doesn’t respect my life, and I won’t stand for it. “I want to change the law and I want to challenge people’s perception of Down’s syndrome. I want them to look at me and say, ‘This is just a normal person.’
“That’s what this is about. It’s about telling people that we’re just humans with feelings.”
In England, Wales and Scotland there is a 24-week time limit on having an abortion.
But terminations can be allowed up until birth if there is “a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”, which includes Down’s syndrome.
At a two-day High Court hearing that began yesterday, lawyers on behalf of Ms Crowter argued the law is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore unlawfully discriminatory.
A demonstration was held outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London ahead of the landmark case, during which dozens of people held banners, some of which read: “Love doesn’t count chromosomes.”
Maire Lea-Wilson, 33, whose son Aidan has Down’s syndrome, is also bringing the case. She said: “I was 34 weeks pregnant when I discovered Aidan had Down’s syndrome, and I was asked if I wanted to terminate the pregnancy.
“I want Aidan to grow up knowing he’s not someone people have to cope with. He’s not a burden to society, he is a wonderful human being in his own right.
“I want the law to change so that the rules for a typical baby apply for those with Down’s syndrome.”
The Government said the case should be dismissed on the grounds there is no evidence of a connection between the law and discrimination against those with Down’s syndrome, and that it does not constitute “negative stereotyping”.
A spokesman said: “The Government is deeply committed to eliminating disability discrimination. There is a broad range of measures in domestic law which are aimed at disability discrimination and advancing equality of opportunity.”
It is expected the court willgive its ruling at a later date.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Texas high school student who used her valedictorian speech to call for abortion rights will speak at a rally at the state Capitol on Sunday.
Paxton Smith, the valedictorian at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, made headlines when she spoke out against Senate Bill 8, also known as the heartbeat bill, at her graduation last weekend.
On Sunday, she will join a group of young Texans rallying against the controversial bill at the Texas Capitol in Austin.
Speakers will discuss abortion rights at 11 a.m., before marching to the Governor’s Mansion.
At her graduation, Smith, who plans to attend the University of Texas and study the music business, scrapped a speech approved by her school to deliver the comments about abortion rights.
“I have dreams and hopes and ambition. Every girl graduating today does. We have spent our entire lives working towards our future, and without our input and without our consent, our control over that future has been stripped away from us. I am terrified that if my contraceptives fail, I am terrified that if I am raped, then my hopes and aspirations and dreams and efforts for my future will no longer matter. I hope that you can feel how gut-wrenching that is, I hope that you can feel how dehumanizing it is, to have the autonomy over your own body taken from you,” she said.
Senate Bill 8 bans any abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. That can be as early as six weeks into pregnancy, when many women do not yet know they are pregnant.
A battle in the courts is expected to take place before the bill would become law in September – with analysts saying it has a steep hill to climb to survive those court challenges.
Author: Harley Tamplin
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin
As politicians and higher courts debate the legality of such legislation, much of the discourse around these bills—and, in some cases, their actual wording—reveal multiple misconceptions about, well, conception. Abortion is a topic that triggers strong emotions on all sides, but when it comes to anatomical facts, there’s no room for disagreement. Here’s what you need to know to understand the latest laws.
How easy is it to prevent pregnancy?
No method of contraception is 100 percent effective except for total abstinence. The most effective methods, short of surgical sterilization, are hormonal implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs). Even these devices will fail in some circumstances and no amount of responsibility or diligence excludes a sexually-active person from the risk of pregnancy. (This obviously doesn’t apply to all people, all couples, or all kinds of sexual intercourse.)
Texas’s legislation limits the termination of pregnancy only after six weeks, which means it’s not technically a complete ban. The potential confusion here lies in the way these “weeks” are calculated. Doctors track gestation starting on the first day of their patient’s last normal menstrual period. But conception isn’t actually possible at that time. Conception occurs only in the 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, when the ovary releases an egg, which is usually about 14 days after the first day of the menstrual cycle. So, somewhat confusingly, a person is likely on their second week of “pregnancy” at the moment they become pregnant. This means most pregnant people would have only four weeks after conception to realize they are pregnant (which in and of itself tends to take at least two weeks), decide to seek termination, and abort the pregnancy. This is especially daunting in a state with restrictions like Texas has, where abortions are not covered by insurance, clinics are few and far between enough to sometimes require hours of travel, and a patient must undergo an ultrasound and a 24-hour waiting period before receiving care.
When do pregnancy tests work?
Four weeks might still sound like a long time to make a decision, gather funds, and get to an appointment. But the ability to know you are pregnant does not begin immediately at conception. The most sensitive at-home pregnancy tests are effective four or five days before your next period should start. Menstrual cycles vary, but that means many people will be, as far as a doctor and the law is concerned, about three weeks pregnant by the time a test can reveal their condition, which leaves just three weeks to get a termination. Tests are most reliable after your missed period would have started, at which point you may be four weeks pregnant and have just two weeks to seek an abortion. Before and around this point, false negatives are a possibility.
When do most people realize they’re pregnant?
Many individuals who have no reason to suspect a pregnancy will not think to take a test on the first day of their missed period. Menstrual cycles vary in many people for many reasons, and some methods of birth control can make periods stop entirely. If it is not unusual for your cycle to vary in length by a couple of days, you may find yourself in your fifth week of pregnancy before even realizing your period is late. While some signs of pregnancy can appear during this time, many of those early symptoms are identical to those experienced right before a period—including cramping and light bleeding—which could delay suspicions of pregnancy instead of prompting you to take a test.
When does the fetus’ heart start beating?
Many of the six-week abortion bans are referred to as “heartbeat” bills, with the logic being that fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks. But the rhythm a doctor can pick up on an ultrasound at that time isn’t a heartbeat, because the embryo has no heart. The embryo is just 3 or 4 millimeters long with no developed organs. Cells are just starting to group together in ways that might eventually grow into hearts and brains. Thanks to the modern-day sensitivity of ultrasound technology, doctors can catch the electrical activity—a rhythmic pulsing—of these cells. But there is no beating heart or even a guarantee that one will develop. Miscarriages up to the eighth week of pregnancy are usually indistinguishable from a heavy period.
What is an ectopic pregnancy?
A bill introduced in Ohio got a lot of attention not because it sought to ban insurance coverage for abortion (as well as birth control that can prevent the implantation of fertilized eggs), but because it included a provision for the coverage of an impossible alternative. State Representative John Becker included an allowance for insurance companies to reimburse patients for “a procedure for an ectopic pregnancy that is intended to reimplant the fertilized ovum into the pregnant woman’s uterus.”
An ectopic pregnancy is one where the fertilized egg implants—and starts growing—somewhere other than the uterus. In 95 percent of cases, the implantation occurs in the fallopian tube, which will rupture within weeks (potentially killing the patient) without the intervention of an abortion. In extremely rare instances the egg can implant somewhere in the abdomen, where there is more room to grow. There have been a handful of surviving babies and mothers under these circumstances, but death for one or both parties is the far likelier outcome: the placenta, which is the organ that provides blood to the growing fetus, can only provide sufficient nourishment by attaching to other organs. The uterus is designed to withstand this; other vital organs are not.
Contrary to the language of Becker’s bill, there is no existing medical procedure that moves a fertilized egg or a growing embryo from one part of the body to another.
“I fell out of the truck and I became unconscious. And they put me in a CT scan machine to find out what was happening to me and I was unconscious that whole time,” she said.
“Then when I came to, I was on a table in a very quiet emergency room, which is never good – when it’s like no one’s in there, just the doctor, no one’s running around, nobody’s doing anything urgently.
“And the doctor is just looking at me so compassionately, and I was like, ‘Am I dying?’ Because I realised this is a bad situation.”
After revealing she then passed out again, it was here that she remembers seeing a “tunnel of light” after she was laid on a gurney to be transferred elsewhere.
“All of a sudden, that was it and I was just gone,” Sharon explained.
In a legislative session that has leaned heavily conservative, not all Texans agreed with the priorities set by their legislators. Only 7 percent said the gun debate should be the top priority for lawmakers, and 5 percent said the same for voting rights. Of more concern were the economy, the power grid, the coronavirus pandemic and border security, which ranked highest at 36 percent, according to a recent poll by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
Texas, long the most populous Republican-dominated state in the country, has increasingly tilted toward a more moderate electorate. Barack Obama lost Texas by nearly 16 percentage points in 2012, but Joseph R. Biden Jr. gained tremendous ground and lost it by just nearly six percentage points in 2020. In the 2018 Senate race, Beto O’Rourke lost to Ted Cruz by just shy of 215,000 votes.
But amid such political and demographic changes, Texas Republicans remain galvanized and invigorated in the post-Trump era. Just as Texas relished playing the conservative antidote in the Obama era, the state’s Republican leaders are taking on the same role in the Biden presidency.
During one 48-hour period this month, the state’s House of Representatives passed several Republican-led measures. With two weeks before the end of the session, legislation passed includes allowing Texans to carry firearms without permits; new voter restrictions mirroring those enacted in Georgia, Florida and other states; penalties against municipal governments attempting to “defund police”; and proposed restrictions on transgender youth.
“It’s certainly been the most conservative session that we’ve seen in a decade,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston. “The push on guns, on abortion, on defunding the police have all been national Republican issues. That national rightward trend has hit Texas and it stuck in Texas.”
The Supreme Court will not hear arguments in the Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy until the fall, and a decision could be more than a year away. Still, advocates for reproductive rights said they feared that the court, which has a conservative majority, could strike down a 50-year precedent.
Elizabeth Nash, a senior state policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights organization, called the Texas abortion law “new and uniquely cruel” because it would make scores of medical providers vulnerable to lawsuits.
“This ban in Texas is clearly about controlling pregnant people’s bodies and preventing them from making decisions about their lives and futures,” Ms. Nash said. “It is going to have a chilling effect.”
Edgar Sandoval reported from San Antonio, and Dave Montgomery from Austin, Texas. Manny Fernandez contributed reporting.
Author: Edgar Sandoval and Dave Montgomery
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott, surrounded by members of the Texas Legislature, signed into law Wednesday morning one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
The signing of Senate Bill 8, or the Texas heartbeat bill, ensures Texas will be at the center of the new legal challenges to Roe v. Wade. It’s supposed to take effect in September.
The law prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, and while the bill doesn’t specify a timeframe, fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. In many instances, women don’t even know they are pregnant at that time. It also allows anyone to sue a doctor who performs or assists in an abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
The bill makes an exception in cases of medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest.
Abbott signed the law to loud cheers from the bill’s 91 sponsors. Abbott called the bill bipartisan, but 90 of those co-sponsors are Republicans with the lone Democrat being Sen. Eddie Lucio. Lucio and Rep. Ryan Guillen were the only two Democrats to vote for the bill.
“Millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” Abbott said. “In Texas, we work to save those lives.”
The bill passed through the Texas Senate 18-12 with one senator abstaining. It passed on third vote in the Texas House 83-64 with two Democrats abstaining. Every Republican lawmaker voted for the bill.
Abortion advocates call the bill one of the most extreme restrictions nationwide. Diana Gomez, the advocacy manager for Progress Texas, said it’s unconstitutional.
“Let me be clear: Abortion is health care and it is still legal in Texas,” Gomez said. “This six-week abortion ban is unconstitutional and others like it have been struck down by federal courts across the nation.
“Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land and regardless of whatever bill Gov. Abbott signs, no law will stop abortions from happening. It’s unfortunate that anti-abortion politicians were more focused on restricting access to essential medical care this session than providing COVID relief and tackling our failed power grid.”
Author: Billy Gates
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin
The Supreme Court on Monday said it would hear a case from Mississippi challenging Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. The case will give the court’s new 6-to-3 conservative majority its first opportunity to weigh in on state laws restricting abortion.
The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19- 1392, concerns a law enacted by the Republican-dominated Mississippi legislature that banned abortions if “the probable gestational age of the unborn human” was determined to be more than 15 weeks. The statute included narrow exceptions for medical emergencies or “a severe fetal abnormality.”
Lower courts said the law was plainly unconstitutional under Roe, which forbids states from banning abortions before fetal viability — the point at which fetuses can sustain life outside the womb, or around 23 or 24 weeks.
Judge Carlton W. Reeves of Federal District Court in Jackson, Miss., blocked the law in 2018, saying the legal issue was straightforward and questioning the state lawmakers’ motives.
“The state chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Judge Reeves wrote. “This court follows the commands of the Supreme Court and the dictates of the United States Constitution, rather than the disingenuous calculations of the Mississippi Legislature.”
“With the recent changes in the membership of the Supreme Court, it may be that the state believes divine providence covered the Capitol when it passed this legislation,” wrote Judge Reeves. “Time will tell. If overturning Roe is the state’s desired result, the state will have to seek that relief from a higher court. For now, the United States Supreme Court has spoken.”
A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, affirmed Judge Reeves’s ruling. “In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and reaffirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,” Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham wrote for majority.
Judge James C. Ho, issued a reluctant concurring opinion expressing misgivings about the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence.
“Nothing in the text or original understanding of the Constitution establishes a right to an abortion,” he wrote. “Rather, what distinguishes abortion from other matters of health care policy in America — and uniquely removes abortion policy from the democratic process established by our Founders — is Supreme Court precedent.”
Lynn Fitch, Mississippi’s attorney general, urged the justices to hear the state’s appeal in order to reconsider their abortion jurisprudence. “‘Viability’ is not an appropriate standard for assessing the constitutionality of a law regulating abortion,” she wrote.
Lawyers for the clinic said the case was straightforward. The law, they wrote, “imposes, by definition, an undue burden.”
“It places a complete and insurmountable obstacle in the path of every person seeking a pre-viability abortion after 15 weeks who does not fall within its limited exceptions,” they wrote. “It is unconstitutional by any measure.”
The court will hear arguments in the case during its next term, which starts in October. A decision is not expected until the spring or summer of 2022.