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Puerto Rico Governor Vetoes Common-Sense Restrictions on Abortion

While most states in the U.S. have at least some restrictions on abortion, in Puerto Rico legal restrictions on abortion are practically non-existent. A pro-life bill passed by the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly earlier this month would have helped change that.

Although the pro-life bill passed both houses of the commonwealth legislature with overwhelming majorities, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló has vowed to veto it.

The bill, entitled the “Law for the Protection of Women and the Preservation of Life” (PS 950), would have introduced a number of common-sense restrictions on abortion in the U.S. commonwealth. They include requiring parental consent for minors under 18 years of age seeking abortion and requiring that infants born alive after an abortion are provided with appropriate medical care. PS 950 also required doctors to provide women with informed consent and required abortion facilities to meet minimal health and safety standards.

On March 7, the Senate passed PS 950 with a two-thirds majority. The Puerto Rico lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, also passed the bill last Thursday with a final vote tally of 30-10. The bill’s sponsor, Hon. Nayda Venegas Brown, is from the governor’s own party, the New Progressive Party.

At a press briefing on Monday, Governor Rosselló indicated that he would veto the bill, arguing that PS 950 would impose “onerous restrictions” on women. Rosselló further argued that requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortion would “limit” the legal options available to teens.

Gov. Rosselló, while not a member of the Democrat Party, is a member of the Democrat Governors Association. The governor’s rejection of the bill comes after Democrats in Congress last month blocked a federal bill which similarly would have guaranteed abortion survivors with medical care and legal protection.

Pro-life lawmakers are seeking to override Gov. Rosselló’s veto. In Puerto Rico, overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

“We believe we have what it takes in the house,” says Daisy Quiles from Mujeres 950, a pro-life organization that has been advocating for the passage of PS 950. Quiles says they hope to secure enough votes in the Senate as well.

And pro-life lawmakers in the Senate may indeed be able to muster the votes for a veto override. When the Senate voted on PS 950 earlier this month, the bill passed with a veto-proof majority. It remains to be seen, however, whether Senators who voted for the bill the first time around will be willing to vote for the bill again over the governor’s veto.

PS 950 would introduce a number of basic abortion restrictions already enforced in many states across the U.S. The bill would require doctors to obtain in-person, written consent from a parent or legal guardian before performing an abortion on a minor under 18 years of age. According the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research organization, 26 states currently have laws requiring parental consent for a minor’s abortion.[1] An additional 11 states require that at least one parent be notified of a minor’s decision to have an abortion.[2]

The bill also establishes other safeguards for minors including a provision that would prevent a parent, a legal guardian, or a boyfriend from forcing a minor to undergo an abortion against her will.

PS 950 would protect infants born alive after an abortion by guaranteeing them protection as persons under the law. The bill would require medical staff to provide abortion survivors with the necessary medical care that would be provided to any other infant born at a similar gestational age.

The bill would also require doctors to provide women with basic information about the abortion procedure, including possible risks and complications. Doctors would be required to obtain their patient’s written informed consent prior to performing an abortion and it would become mandatory for abortion facilities to post visible signage informing women of their right not to be compelled by anyone into having an abortion.

PS 950 further sets basic health standards for abortion clinics. It requires abortion facilities to maintain written guidelines on procedures for the disinfection of medical equipment and management of biomedical waste. The bill would require abortionists and abortion facilities to be licensed and subject to annual inspection by the Department of Health. Abortion facilities would also need to be located only in buildings where emergency medical personnel can be guaranteed access to the patient, such as maintaining hallways and stairwells wide enough to fit a stretcher.

Initially, an earlier version of PS 950 had proposed more ambitious restrictions including a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, a mandatory 48-hour waiting period, and bans on sex-selective abortion and on abortion of a child diagnosed with a genetic disability. After Gov. Rosselló threatened to veto the original bill last September, however, substantial changes were made to PS 950 to improve the bill’s chances of success.

Even with only minimal abortion restrictions left in the final version approved by the Legislative Assembly last week, the bill was still rejected by the governor. It remains to be seen whether lawmakers in the Senate have the support to pass the bill over the Gov. Rosselló’s veto.

 

Segment Two

 

Heartbeat Bills Are Gaining Momentum

This year, with a new and hopefully consistent conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, several states have seized the opportunity to advance pro-life legislation aiming to overturn Roe v. Wade. One type of pro-life legislation in particular is increasingly gaining momentum on the state level—heartbeat bills that ban abortion from the moment an unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected.

Because heartbeat laws ban abortion prior to “viability,” a heartbeat ban could provide the basis for a case before the Supreme Court that could see Roe v. Wade overturned.

Currently, Supreme Court precedent under Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey prohibits states from banning abortion prior to “viability.” According to the Supreme Court’s definition of the term, “viability” is the point at which the unborn child has the ability to survive outside its mother’s womb.

However, Heartbeat laws ban abortion as early as 6 weeks gestation, far earlier than the Court’s “viability” benchmark. As a result, heartbeat laws directly challenge the Roe’s viability standard.

So far this year, heartbeat bills have been introduced in 15 states. Two states—Kentucky and Mississippi—have passed heartbeat bills into law, although a federal judge has temporarily blocked the Kentucky law from going into effect until a hearing can be held.

The Georgia legislature has passed a heartbeat bill that Governor Brian Kemp is expected to sign. So far, heartbeat bills have also passed at least one house of the state legislatures of Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee. Heartbeat bills have also been introduced in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia. Several states have also introduced heartbeat legislation for the first time this year including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, and West Virginia.

Already, more heartbeat bills have been introduced this year than in any other year since the first heartbeat bill was proposed in the Ohio General Assembly back in 2011.

A project page maintained by the Population Research Institute (PRI) tracks the status and history of heartbeat legislation in every state where bills have been introduced.

The Kentucky and Mississippi heartbeat laws passed this month would ban abortion from the moment an unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected. The only exception would be in cases to save the life of the mother or to prevent “a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed the Mississippi heartbeat bill into law last Thursday. “We think this is showing the profound respect and desire of Mississippians to protect the sanctity of that unborn life whenever possible,” he said.

Doctors who violate the new Mississippi heartbeat law would be liable to $1,000 fine, up to six months in prison, and a suspension of their medical license. The Kentucky heartbeat law would make aborting an unborn child with a detectable heartbeat a Class D felony, punishable in that state with one to five years in prison.

More heartbeat bills in other states are expected to be signed into law before the end of the year.

In Georgia, a heartbeat bill called the Living Infants Fairness and Equality Ac has passed both houses of the state legislature. Last Friday, the Senate passed HB 481 with several amendments strengthening the bill’s original language. The House is expected to vote on the amended version of the bill soon, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has indicated strong support for the bill. Unlike the Kentucky and Mississippi laws, the Georgia heartbeat bill would allow abortion in cases of rape, incest, and when the unborn child is “incompatible with sustaining life after birth.”

In Ohio, heartbeat bills had passed both houses of the state legislature in 2016 and again in 2018, but both bills were vetoed by then-Gov. John Kasich who argued that the pro-life measures were likely be struck down by the courts. Ohio’s current Gov. Mike DeWine, however, has said that he will sign any heartbeat bill passed by the General Assembly. Ohio’s 2019 heartbeat bill (SB 23) passed the Senate on March 13th and now needs only to pass the House, where a similar heartbeat bill passed last year with a veto-proof majority.

In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee has said that he will also sign his state’s heartbeat bill if it is sent to his desk. In Missouri, a heartbeat bill also passed the state House on February 27th, with a companion bill currently under consideration in the state Senate. Heartbeat bills in other states where pro-life lawmakers have majorities in the state legislature are also working their way through the legislative process.

Last year, Iowa had also passed a heartbeat law. However, a county judge struck down the law earlier this year, declaring the heartbeat law invalid under Iowa’s state constitution.

In 2013, Arkansas and North Dakota had passed heartbeat laws as well, but the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, bound by the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedent in Roe and Casey, was ultimately forced to strike down both laws. In 2016, the Supreme Court refused to hear the Arkansas and North Dakota heartbeat law cases, leaving the 8th Circuit’s decisions in place.

Some pro-life supporters in the past have criticized heartbeat bills for being too weak for failing to ban abortion outright. Proponents of heartbeat bills, on the other side, have argued that heartbeat legislation is useful from a legal standpoint in getting the Supreme Court to overturn Roe’s and Casey’s viability standard.

Supreme Court watchers are also uncertain whether the Supreme Court would allow states to ban abortion completely, even with the two new conservative justices added to the bench. Just last month, Chief Justice John Roberts, who previously had been considered a reliable pro-life vote on the Court, drew the ire of pro-lifers when he sided with the Court’s liberal wing to temporarily block a Louisiana law that would have required abortionists to maintain admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius.

If some justices among the Supreme Court’s conservative wing adhere strictly to stare decisis in abortion cases, it may be necessary to present the Court with a case that gives justices the ability to justify an allowance of state restrictions prior to viability within the parameters of existing precedent from Roe and Casey.

Heartbeat laws fall logically into Casey’s line of reasoning. In Casey, the Court acknowledged that states have “legitimate interests…in protecting…the life of the fetus”[1] “throughout pregnancy.”[2] If states are completely prohibited from banning abortion prior to viability under all circumstances, this “central holding” of Roe, as the Court in Casey called it, would have no significance.

Moreover, the Court in Casey conceded that the demarcation point of viability can change as developments in medical technology allow for infants to survive outside the womb at earlier gestational ages. But this is also a tacit admittance that the viability standard is inconsistent in its application over time.

Allowing states to enforce heartbeat laws would be more in line with Casey’s acknowledgement of the “substantial state interest”[3] to protect the life of the unborn and would provide for a “more consistent and certain marker than viability,”[4] as the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has reasoned.

Additionally, the plurality in Casey claimed that “there is no line other than viability which is more workable.”[5] But the presence or absence of a fetal heartbeat can be much more reliably, consistently, and clearly determined than whether or not an infant will survive outside the womb. Consequently, the moment a heartbeat can be detected is undoubtedly a “more workable” “line” than “viability.”

The more heartbeat bills are passed into law, the more likely the Supreme Court will be forced to take a position on the constitutionality of these laws. And in doing so, the Supreme Court will likely have to dismantle its viability standard, a crucial step that could allow states to finally adopt significant abortion bans.

Footnotes:

[1] Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 846 (1992).

[2] Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 876 (1992) (plurality opinion).

[3] Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 876 (1992) (plurality opinion).

[4] MKB Management Corp. v. Stenehjem, 795 F. 3d 768 (2015).

[5] Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 876 (1992) (plurality opinion).

 

Third Segment

 

Transgender people are suffering, and indulging
their delusions will not help them

Not long ago, Pope Francis stirred controversy in a discussion about so-called “transsexuals.”

The occasion was a press conference, where he told the story of meeting a person born a female who, even as a girl, had felt herself to be a boy. As the pope described it, “he” had undergone surgery and then married. Later, “he” had written to the pope, who had agreed that “he,” “with his wife,” could visit him in the Vatican. “He” — these are the pope’s direct words — “who was a she, but is a he” (lui, che era lei, ma è lui).

I found the pope’s statements regarding a biological impossibility — “he” becoming “she” — troubling when he first uttered them in 2016. I find them even more so now, as the transsexual craze is reaching the level of a mass psychosis among the impressionable young. Even psychiatrists and counselors who should know better are being pressured into simply “affirming” life-changing decisions made by confused adolescents, themselves in thrall to peer pressure.

“Life is life, and one must take things as they come,” explained the pope at the time.

Everything except babies, apparently, who, as everyone knows, come into the world bearing distinctly male or female parts. Even if those parts are later surgically removed or altered, at the cellular level, every cell of every transsexual’s body continues to proclaim its maleness (XY) or femaleness (XX). Bathing the body in artificial hormones may sprout beards and breasts, but IT has absolutely no effect on this underlying biological truth.

Perhaps I take biology a little too seriously. But then I take gravity seriously as well, and for the same reason: those who ignore reality will sooner or later be punished by it.

It was pastoral for the pope to meet privately with the “he who was a she,” who clearly was in great need of spiritual counsel. But in affirming this transsexual’s chosen sex at a press conference, the pope appears to be signaling that all Catholics should be willing participants in the transgender delusion.

But was he? And should we?

The forces that insist we do are certainly growing apace. You can now be banned from Twitter for “misgendering” someone. In Great Britain, you will even be visited by the police on suspicion of having committed a “hate crime.” There are those in the U.S. and Canada who want to send you to jail for refusing to engage in the pretense that “he” is who “she” says “he” is.

While the rest of us may be confused by gender-shifters, those who actually shift genders may suffer real harm. For them, in truth, the cure may prove to be worse than the disease. Much worse.

As psychiatrist Christian Spaemann has noted, “transsexuality is a cause of great suffering, above all for the people in question, but also for their family members and especially for their children. Hormonal or surgical means … cannot entirely remove [this suffering]. Studies show that transsexuals, even after sex-reassignment surgery, have a higher-than-average rate of psychological disturbances and suicide attempts, and an almost twenty-times-higher-than-average rate of suicide. Moreover, there are ever more cases of persons requesting reversal surgery.”

This is perhaps not surprising. In all other cases where there is a profound mismatch between the mental body image and the physical body, we treat the mind. Only in the case of transsexuality do we attempt to make the physical body conform to the mind’s conception of what it should look like. This is surely backwards.

Consider the disorder known as Body Integrity Dysphoria (BID). Like gender dysphoria, sufferers experience a mismatch between the mental image of one’s body and the actual physical reality. BID is frequently associated with an intense desire to become deaf or blind, or for the amputation of a leg or arm. Brugger and Lenggenhager report that the person sometimes has a sense of sexual arousal connected with the desire for loss of a limb or sense.  The sexual parallel here with the current transgender craze is obvious.

Some BID-sufferers act out their fantasies, pretending they are amputees. Some announce that they intend to damage the offending limb so badly that surgeons will have to amputate it, although cases of actual self-amputation are understandably rare.

I note here — without any attempt at humor — that if transgenders had to resort to self-amputation to, say, rid themselves of a penis and testicles, they might rethink their orientation. But in the current climate, it is no trouble for them to arrange for licensed medical professionals to do exactly this.

The vast majority of physicians would never purport to “treat” a patient with BID by amputating the offending limb, or by blinding his patient, or by in any way catering to the patient’s dysphoria. And yet for those suffering from gender dysphoria, we now have much of the Western world’s medical establishment in full cry to do just that.

They are more than ready to cut off the penis and testicles of a young man who is suffering from the delusion that “he” is really a “she.” They are more than willing to surgically create an artificial penis — a prosthesis — for a young woman, destroying her fertility in the process, simply because she has somehow convinced herself that “she” is really a “he.”

It is no surprise that those who have “transitioned” are much more likely to commit suicide. Imagine the disappointment of a young man who discovers that simply cutting off his boy parts and growing hormonally induced breasts leaves his disordered mental state — the actual source of his problem — untouched. His pain must be indescribable, made all the worse by all of the supposedly educated and experienced therapists, counselors, and physicians who “accompanied” him on his journey and “affirmed” his choice to embark upon this life-changing course.

Rather than admit this, the sexual revolutionaries among us insist that the real source of the transsexuals problem is…we. If only we accorded those proclaiming a new sexual identity the “social recognition” they deserved, we are told, all of their problems would go away.

This is nothing more than an attempt to shift blame for the unhappiness of those suffering from gender dysphoria onto society at large. The insistence — upon threat of punishment — that we never, ever use the wrong pronoun is the nub of this effort.

​Some say that this “he who was a she” business is merely a harmless fantasy that we should all simply be good sports and play along with. I disagree.

Let us say such-and-such a person imagines herself to be a cat. Would we want to play along with cat-woman’s fantasy on the grounds that it is not harmful? Any such fantasy is likely to collide with reality at some point, either in the realm of physical limitations (e.g., if she throws herself in the air, thinking that a cat always lands on its feet, she might do considerable harm to herself) or in the lack of social affirmation.

Obviously, even if the cat-woman’s therapist and friends play along with her fantasy, most of ​the people she encounters in ordinary life will not. Will this not be source of continual internal conflict for her?

It is no wonder that many transsexuals eventually come to see their lives as a cruel joke and choose to end them. The high suicide rate alone suggests ​that such transitions ought not to be encouraged. If any other drug, device, or medical procedure were known to cause this level of harm, it would surely be proscribed.

Those transsexuals who kill themselves are not, in the final analysis, acting alone. They are victims of assisted suicide, with the “assistants” in this case being those who aided; abetted; and, above all, “affirmed” their transition.

 

 

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