law

CULTURE DIGEST: Parental notice law gains court approval

Baptist Press
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Posted: Jul 19, 2013 5:22 PM

NASHVILLE (BP) -- It took nearly 18 years, but Illinois' parental notification law finally appears ready to go into effect.

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously July 11 in favor of the constitutionality of a 1995 law that requires a parent or guardian to be informed at least 48 hours before an abortion is performed on a girl under the age of 18. The decision ended a torturous battle in the Illinois court system.

Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society, described the decision as a "huge victory for the rights of parents." The Chicago-based organization had been involved for nine years in seeking enforcement of the law.

Casey Mattox, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said, "The well-being of young women is more important than the bottom line of abortionists. All this law has sought to do since 1995 is to uphold the duty and desire of parents to protect their own children rather than allow them to be taken advantage of by others."

After the law's enactment, the Illinois Supreme Court failed to publish a rule to implement the judicial bypass provision but issued a permanent injunction that blocked the measure's enforcement. The high court finally announced the rule in 2006, and the law survived a lengthy challenge from the ACLU.

The state Supreme Court said in its July 11 opinion the law does not violate due process, equal protection or gender equality. The court decided the legislation "furthers a 'constitutionally permissible end' by encouraging an unmarried, pregnant minor to seek the help and advice of a parent or other adult family member in making the very important decision whether or not to bear a child."

During the long delay, Illinois -- as the only Midwest state without a parental involvement law -- became a destination for minors from other states seeking abortions, according to the Thomas More Society. These young girls sought to avoid parental notice or consent laws in their own states, often in the company of the adults who impregnated them.

VA.'S LEADING ABORTION CLINIC CLOSES -- Virginia's most prolific abortion clinic has shut down.

NOVA Women's Healthcare, a clinic in Fairfax City, closed after the state and local governments enacted new regulations the abortion provider appeared unable to meet. The northern Virginia clinic performed 3,066 abortions in 2012 and 3,567 in 2011, making it easily the state's No. 1 abortion provider, The Washington Post reported July 14.

The Virginia Board of Health gave final approval in April to new rules that require abortion clinics to comply with hospital-like building standards. The regulations implemented health and safety standards, including for the size of rooms and hallways, called for by a 2011 law. That measure was the first in the country to mandate such requirements for clinics performing first-trimester abortions.

The abortion clinic attempted to relocate earlier this year, but Fairfax City denied its request in May, according to The Post. After learning the clinic was seeking to relocate, the city council approved July 9 an amendment to its zoning ordinance that requires all clinics to receive a permit and council approval.

NOVA "was trying to relocate because they couldn't stay where they were, because of the new regulations," said Alena Yarmosky of NARAL Pro-choice Virginia, The Post reported.

Operation Rescue, which investigates the health and safety practices of abortion clinics, welcomed the news.

The closing is "huge," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, according to The Post. "Let's look at these places like what they really are, surgical facilities providing surgical procedures."

WIS. LAW REQUIRES ADMITTING PRIVILEGES FOR ABORTION DOCTORS -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed into law July 5 a bill requiring an abortion doctor to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of his clinic and mandating a woman receive an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion.

Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services, both operators of abortion clinics in the state, quickly challenged the law in federal court. The requirement regarding hospital privileges would cause two of the four abortion clinics in the state to close, the clinic operators predicted, according to the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal. One of its remaining open clinics would have to reduce abortions by at least 50 percent, Planned Parenthood said.

Susan Armacost, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life, thanked the Republican governor for signing the bill and expressed confidence it would withstand the legal challenge.

"Apparently, Wisconsin's abortion clinics don't believe their abortionists need to have hospital privileges at a hospital located within 30 miles of their clinic ... or anywhere at all," Armacost said in a written statement.

"Currently, when a woman experiences hemorrhaging or other life-threatening complications after an abortion in Wisconsin, the clinic puts her in an ambulance and sends her to a hospital ALONE where she is left to her own devices to explain her medical issues to the emergency room staff. The abortionist who performed the abortion is nowhere to be seen. This deplorable situation must change," Armacost said.

BAN ON 'TELEMEDICINE' ABORTIONS BECOMES LAW IN MO. -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced July 12 he would permit a state ban on "telemedicine," or webcam, abortions to become law.

Nixon, a Democrat, declined to veto the bill, thereby enabling it to take effect. Both chambers of the Missouri legislature had approved the measure with veto-proof majorities, the Senate in a 23-7 vote and the House of Representatives by a 115-39 margin.

The law requires a doctor to be present with a woman when she takes the first dose of RU 486 or any other abortion-causing drug he has prescribed or provided. It also calls for efforts by the doctor or clinic staff to make sure the woman returns for a follow-up visit.

In recent years, some abortion clinics have provided "telemedicine," or webcam, abortions, which occur when doctors at remote sites counsel women by means of videoconferencing. They dispense the two-drug abortion method RU 486 to the women without being in their physical presence.

LAWMAKER: CBO ESTIMATE ON ABORTION BAN 'SICKENING' -- The Congressional Budget Office has estimated federal spending for Medicaid would increase by $225 million during a 10-year period if a ban on abortions of babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization becomes law.

That price tag did not sit well with Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R.-Ind.

"The suggestion that the destruction of innocent life saves taxpayers money is sickening," said Stutzman, a Southern Baptist, in a written statement July 10. "While CBO's shockingly callous view of human life might be shared by the enforcers of China's one-child policy, such heartlessness has no place in the United States."

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act June 18. The ban is set at 20 weeks based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point. The Senate, however, is highly unlikely to approve the prohibition, and the White House has threatened to veto the bill if it were to reach President Obama's desk.

The CBO, which released its estimate June 27, also predicted Medicaid spending by states would grow by about $170 million from 2014-23 if the bill is enacted.

GIRL WITH WINDPIPE MADE FROM STEM CELLS DIES -- Hannah Warren, the 2-year-old girl who became in April the youngest person to receive a tissue-engineered organ, died July 6.

Surgeons implanted in Warren a windpipe made partly from her own stem cells at a hospital in Peoria, Ill. At the same time, doctors operated on her esophagus, which never healed, according to The New York Times. They performed another surgery on her esophagus in June, but she died from complications resulting from that operation.

"The trachea was never a problem," said Paolo Macchiarini, a regenerative medicine specialist who led the implantation of the windpipe, The Times reported. "It was her native tissue that was very fragile."

Stem cells are the body's master cells that can develop into other cells and tissues, giving hope for the development of cures for a variety of diseases and other ailments. Research with embryonic stem cells requires destruction of a human embryo and has failed to provide treatments for any disease. Research with adult stem cells does not harm the donor and has produced therapies in human trials for more than 70 afflictions.

SENEGAL PRESIDENT RESIST'S OBAMA'S CALL FOR GAY RIGHTS -- President Barack Obama's support of the Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage caused some friction with his African hosts during his trip to the continent in June, according to WORLD News Service.

Obama said during his stop in Senegal that all states should recognize same-sex marriage. Senegal is one of the many African countries that outlaw homosexuality. Senegalese President Macky Sall resisted Obama's call for Africans to give gays equal rights under the law.

"We are still not ready to decriminalize homosexuality," Sall said, insisting his country is "very tolerant" and needed time to digest the issue without pressure. "This does not mean we are homophobic," he said.

A report released by Amnesty International said 38 African countries criminalize homosexuality. In four of those -- Mauritania, northern Nigeria, southern Somalia and Sudan -- the punishment is death and the laws appear to have broad public support. A June Pew Research Center survey found at least nine of 10 respondents in Senegal, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria believe society should not accept homosexuality.

Obama was cautious in how he approached the issue while in Africa, despite pressure from Amnesty International to actively promote same-sex rights, as reported by Reuters. But Obama did tell U.S. diplomats and aid workers to champion the issue in other countries. Gay rights also did not come up in Obama's private meeting with Sall at the presidential palace, but Obama said that while he respects differing religious views, he believes it's important to have nondiscrimination under the law.

During his visit, the president focused on Senegal's recent achievements since its independence half a century ago. Sall ousted an incumbent president who attempted to change the constitution to ensure his reelection. The power-grab sparked protests that led to Sall's election.

"Senegal is one of the most stable democracies in Africa and one of the strongest partners that we have in the region," Obama said. "It's moving in the right direction with reforms to deepen democratic institutions."

Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode and WORLD News Service. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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