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Abortion

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The Minnesota Senate debated late into the night on a bill to write broad protections for abortion rights into state statutes, which would make it difficult for future courts to roll back. Democrats have made the bill one of their top priorities in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe v. Wade. While a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court decision protects abortion rights, sponsors want to make sure those protections remain in force no matter who sits on future courts. The House passed the bill last week. Gov. Tim Walz hopes to sign it before the end of the month.

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Groups representing social workers and women say they have succeeded in forcing a small Ohio city to significantly narrow its abortion ban and dropped their lawsuit. The National Association of Social Workers and the Abortion Fund of Ohio said their move Jan. 12 followed the city of Lebanon removing provisions that made aiding and abetting an abortion a crime. The city opted to revise the law rather than defend it in court. But the leader of the Texas group that pushed the ban said the revisions were of little consequence to the fact that abortion remains illegal in Lebanon from conception.

In Part II of this special two-part episode, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call, and Sarah Varney of KHN join KHN chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner to discuss how the abortion debate has evolved since the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to abortion in 2022, and what might be the flashpoints for 2023. Also, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their most memorable reproductive health stories from the last year.

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A Democratic-led Virginia Senate panel has defeated several bills that would have restricted abortion access in the state. Among them was a measure that was a priority for Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin. The Senate Committee on Education and Health voted the measures down without debate Thursday morning after a subcommittee had previously recommended that they be defeated. The votes were not a surprise. Democrats control the state Senate and have promised since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year to defeat any effort to curtail abortion access. That includes a push by Youngkin and Republican lawmakers for a 15-week ban with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

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In Part I of this special two-part episode, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Sandhya Raman of CQ Roll Call, and Sarah Varney of KHN join KHN chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner to discuss how the abortion debate has evolved since the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to abortion in 2022, and what might be the flashpoints for 2023. Also in this episode, Rovner interviews Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, about changing reproductive policies in the states.

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An abortion ban is once more beginning to move through the South Carolina General Assembly. A House subcommittee on Thursday approved the first such ban to get a public hearing in the state this year. Sponsored by 43 House Republicans, the bill indicates that proponents of a ban have been undeterred by recent setbacks. A long special session last year failed to produce a new abortion restriction. In early January, the highest court in South Carolina had ruled a 2021 law violated the state’s right to privacy. The effort comes as other state lawmakers across the country debate the issue for the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal abortion protections.

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North Carolina Democrats have introduced legislation to codify abortion protections into state law as Republicans are discussing early prospects for further restrictions. Their legislation, filed Wednesday in both chambers, would prohibit the state from imposing barriers that might restrict a patient’s ability to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability, which typically falls between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Current state law bans nearly all abortions after 20 weeks, with narrow exceptions for urgent medical emergencies that do not include rape or incest. House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters he didn’t expect the Democrats’ bill to get considered.

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Abortion rights proposals were front and center this week in Olympia, Washington, as state lawmakers heard hours of public testimony on seven proposals that would reinforce abortion access. The Seattle Times reports the emphasis on four legislative committees hearing abortion bill testimony in one day Tuesday was intended to demonstrate majority Democrats’ support for abortion rights following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Democratic lawmakers have introduced bills that would protect abortion providers in Washington from facing retaliation from other states and lower costs for patients, among others. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is pushing for a state constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights in the state.

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A central Illinois man has been charged with setting fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic earlier this month. The U.S. Attorney's Office says 32-year-old Tyler W. Massengill of Chillicothe is accused of “malicious use of fire and an explosive to damage, and attempt to damage” the building in Peoria. Massengill was arrested by that city's police Tuesday. Online records do not indicate whether he has appeared in court or been assigned an attorney yet. The attack on the clinic took place Jan. 15, two days after the state enacted sweeping reproductive health care legislation aimed at protecting abortion patients and providers.

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Supporters of abortion rights have filed separate lawsuits challenging abortion pill restrictions in North Carolina and West Virginia. The lawsuits were filed Wednesday. They are the opening salvo in what’s expected to a be a protracted legal battle over access to the medications. The lawsuits argue that state limits on the drugs run afoul of the federal authority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency has approved the abortion pill as a safe and effective method for ending pregnancy. More than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills rather than surgery.

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Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has laid out his priorities to the Republican-controlled Legislature twice in the past month, first in his inaugural address and in more detail this week in his State of the State speech. Some, such as repealing the state's abortion ban law and legalizing recreational marijuana, are clearly dead on arrival. But Evers and Republicans appear to be in general agreement on using 20% of the state sales tax to fund local governments. And they're both prioritizing cutting taxes. However, Evers wants to target the middle class while Republicans favor a flat income tax rate that would benefit wealthy tax filers.

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This year's North Carolina General Assembly session begins in earnest on Wednesday, two weeks after lawmakers met to pick leaders. While the legislature starts from scratch when each odd-numbered year begins, there should be plenty of familiar issues. They include whether to approve Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana and sports gambling. Republicans also are likely to try to enact looser gun laws and tougher immigration directives given they hold a veto-proof majority in the Senate and are just one seat short in the House. Gov. Roy Cooper and fellow Democrats aim to block more restrictive abortion rules in light of the Supreme Court ruling striking down Roe v. Wade.

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, along with the state’s Republican attorney general, say the state will prosecute pharmacists who dispense abortion-inducing pills. The Food and Drug Administration recently implemented a rule change that broadens access to the pills. The rule change’s impact has been blunted in states like South Dakota by laws limiting abortion broadly and the pills specifically. The Republican governor and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley released a letter to South Dakota pharmacists saying they are “subject to felony prosecution” if they procure or dispense abortion-inducing drugs. The state bans all abortions except to save the life of the pregnant person.

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Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo says he wants to cut business taxes, suspend the state gasoline tax for a year, make the single biggest investment in education in Nevada history and raise state employee pay 12% over the next two years. In his first State of the State address Monday in the state capital Carson City, the Republican has also proposed stiffening penalties for criminals, creating a new state office to expand school choice and repealing election reforms mandating mail-in ballots be sent to all voters. He insists all the initiatives can be accomplished without any new taxes.

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Florida's ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy will be allowed to stand until a hearing before the state Supreme Court. The court said late Monday it will hear the case, which has been part of a legal fight since it took effect last July. The Florida law prohibits abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking. Violators could face up to five years in prison.

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Oregon is launching a hotline offering free legal advice on abortion. The Oregon Department of Justice announced the hotline Monday. It will be staffed by attorneys from local law firms. The lawyers will return calls within 48 hours, and help callers understand abortion laws in Oregon and issues related to access. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said the hotline fills an important need as the state shares a border with Idaho, which has a near-total abortion ban. Abortion is legal at all stages of pregnancy in Oregon. The state has worked with California and Washington to promote the West Coast as a safe haven for abortion.

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New Mexico's attorney general is asking the state Supreme Court to nullify abortion ordinances that local elected officials passed in recent months in some communities. Democrat Raúl Torrez claims in a writ filed with the court Monday that the ordinances exceed local government authority to regulate health care access, and violate the New Mexico Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. On the heels of the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Torrez's filing targets Roosevelt and Lea counties, and the cities of Hobbs and Clovis — all located in conservative areas of the state along the Texas border.

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Women's marches demanding the protection of abortion rights drew thousands of people to the streets across the country on Sunday. The day marks the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision for abortion rights that was overturned by the court last June. The main march was being held in Madison, Wisconsin. Organizers say they chose that location because of an upcoming state Supreme Court election that could determine the balance of power on the court and the future of abortion rights in Wisconsin. Abortions are unavailable in the state due to legal uncertainties faced by abortion clinics there.

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Vice President Kamala Harris is rallying supporters against efforts in Washington and in Republican-led states to restrict abortion on what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Speaking Sunday in Tallahassee, Florida, Harris invoked fundamental American values such as freedom to make the case for protecting abortion access despite the Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate constitutional protections for it. The White House is trying to show it's determined to restore abortion rights, even though there’s little chance of progress on that front in Washington. Debates over abortion are playing out today in individual statehouses rather than in the halls of Congress or before the Supreme Court.

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