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Senate Health Committee Passes Pro-Life Bills

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, April 2 the Alabama Senate Health Committee, chaired by Senator Greg Reed (R) from Jasper, held a public hearing on a package of bills related to abortion.

Predictably, Pro-Life advocates and abortion advocates were both on hand to state their cases for and against the proposed legislation.  The Senate Health Committee gave favorable reports to HB 490, HB 493, and HB 494.

Nikema Williams the Vice President of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast said in a written statement,

“Let’s be clear: these bills reflect an extreme and out-of-touch personal agenda on the part of politicians who are driving them.  They seek to delay or even prevent a woman from receiving medical care, putting her health and life at risk.  It’s time our elected officials stand up for the women of Alabama and stop playing politics with women’s lives.”

The CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast Staci Fox said,

“Planned Parenthood will continue to fight these harmful restrictions with everything we’ve got—in the state house and the courthouse. This very week, politicians in Alabama are considering further dangerous restrictions on abortion, including a patently unconstitutional bill that could ban abortion as early as six weeks. It’s clear that this law is part of the same dangerous agenda to end access to safe and constitutionally protected medical care in Alabama.”

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Cheryl Ciamarra with Alabamians United for Life said that HB 494 will,

“…reduce statutory rape and coverup of sexual abuse of minors tomorrow in Alabama…a very reasonable measure to insure Minor girls (under 18) have actual parental involvement when making an irreversible abortion decision by passage of HB 494.”

Rep. Jones sponsored HB 494 which strengthens the requirement that minors must have consent before they can have an abortion in the state of Alabama.  Rep. Jones said that his legislation would require that the parent actually bring the minor in for an abortion rather than the miner simply show up at a clinic with a signed consent form.  It also requires that the parent provide proof that they are actually the parent, such as the birth certificate.

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Rep. Jones said, “This is so the 40 year old boyfriend doesn’t claim to be the parent of the 16 year old girlfriend.”

Ciamarra said in a written statement,

“Planned Parenthood of Southeast located in Birmingham Alabama has repeatedly disregarded Alabama Parental notification and consent laws as evidenced by its repeated violation records that can be viewed at the AL Dept. of Public Health website…This dirty little secret of covering up statutory rape of minor girls has been exposed by live Action, where Lila Rose posing as a 14 year old with a 31 year old boyfriend recorded their director saying the Planned Parenthood center can bend the rules (inferring her parents would never know she was pregnant or terminated the life of their grandchild). This is illegal activity in Alabama, which has pushed the State Legislature to request these forms to be signed in the presence of the parent and the abortion provider.”

Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R) from Indian Springs is the sponsor of the Heartbeat bill, HB490, which bans performing abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

The executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, Susan Watson, said of the passage of the abortion bills in the State House of Representatives,  “Although the fetal heartbeat bill is the most controversial, it should be noted that all of the bills present grave consequences to women.”

Director Watson said, “All of these bills are another attempt by politicians to own a woman’s body. Reproductive health choices should only be made by the woman, her doctor, her family and her faith—not by the opinions and faiths of unqualified elected officials.  They’re not in the exam room and each woman’s story is different.”

Meg Tillman from Huntsville spoke in opposition to the bill.  She said that a heartbeat is not a right to personhood.  She said that she was concerned that if this bill is passed doctors who perform abortion would leave the State of Alabama.

Opponents of the legislation said that with the right equipment a fetal heart beat can be detected as early as six weeks.  The critics claimed that this bill would effectively abolish all abortions in Alabama.  They also were concerned that the requirement that abortion clinics store the information would be too harsh a burden on the clinic operators.

Rep. Kurt Wallace (R) from Maplesville is the sponsor of the Perinatal Hospice bill, HB493.  It would provide compassionate option information to families for severe fetal anomalies through providing perinatal hospice services.

Rosalyn McDermott from Huntsville said, “All four of these bills are attempts to limit women’s rights to an abortion and there will be challenges like there was to last year’s bill.”

Longtime Pro-Life advocate Cheryl Ciamarra (R) told the Alabama Political Reporter, “The ACLU was opposed to every one of those bills. Why would they be opposed to giving women more information?”  Mrs. Ciamarra is running for state representative in Alabama House District 43 where incumbent Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin is retiring.

All three of the Pro-Life bills before the committee were passed.  To become law the bills have to be brought to the Senate floor and passed by the Senate.  Today (May 2) and tomorrow (May 3) are the last days of the 2014 legislative session.  If not passed by the Senate the bills will die from a lack of time.

The Health Committee also gave a favorable report to HB 291 sponsored by Rep. Jim McClendon from Springville, dealing with Palliative Care and Quality of Life.  HB 291 creates a state Advisory Council on Palliative Care appointed by the State Health Officer.  Palliative care focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients. Unlike hospice care, palliative medicine covers all disease stages, including those receiving treatment for curable illnesses, those living with chronic diseases, and patients nearing the end of their life.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Elections

Congresswoman Martha Roby endorses Jeff Coleman

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Congressional candidate Jeff Coleman. (CAMPAIGN)

Congresswoman Martha Roby endorsed Jeff Coleman for Congress Thursday. “I fully support Jeff Coleman to be our next Congressman,” Roby said. “Jeff Coleman is a businessman who supports cutting government regulation and lowering taxes to help grow a strong economy. Jeff strongly supports our men and women serving in uniform, as well as our veterans.”

She continued, “The Second District needs someone who will support our interests right here in southeast Alabama, particularly our farmers. Jeff will do just that. He’ll get results for Alabama.”

“I am humbled and honored to receive this strong endorsement from Representative Roby. She has been a staunch supporter of our military men and women, as well as our farmers. I am looking forward to continuing her legacy of fighting for our conservative Alabama values, protecting the family farm, and fighting to ensure our veterans and active-duty personnel have all the resources they need,” Coleman said of the endorsement.

Coleman has now been endorsed by 10 mayors, multiple business associations in the state, the U.S. Chamber, and Roby. Coleman finished the Republican Primary on March 3 with 38 percent of the vote — 18 points ahead of his closest challenger.

Coleman has never run for public office and touts a 35-year successful business career.

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Elections

Secretary of state says office will assist voters in complaints if local authorities punish voters without masks

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told the Alabama Political Reporter that all 1,980 polling places will be open on Tuesday for in-person voting if a voter chooses to cast their ballot in person.

COVID-19 has been a paramount concern for people across the state and citizens have to deal with a number of business, Church and government office closures since March, but Merrill insisted that voters will be able to vote in either the Republican or Democratic Party runoffs on Tuesday at the polling place they are assigned.

A number of cities and counties are requiring masks whenever anyone goes out in any public place and government offices and businesses are refusing service to persons who do not have a mask or who refuse to wear one.

Merrill told APR that the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Scott Harris and other public health authorities are suggesting that you should wear a mask when you go out. Many polling places will provide them to voters that need them, but wearing a mask is not required to vote.

“There are only five requirements to vote in Alabama: You have to be 18 years of age. You have to be a citizen, You have to be a resident of Alabama, You must not have been convicted of an act of moral turpitude that has taken away your voting rights, and you must have a valid photo ID,” Merrill told APR. “When you meet those requirements you can vote in the state of Alabama.”

When asked whether voters in those jurisdictions with face mask requirements have to wear masks when at the polls, Merrill said, “I don’t think anybody at the local level is trying to prevent people from voting.

Merrill said if localities place police or other law enforcement outside polls and attempt to ticket those who try to enter or exit without the required mask his office would get involved.

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“If they want to try to do that, we will assist the voter in filing a lawsuit on infringement of their civil rights,” Merrill said.

Public health authorities are urging that everyone wear masks or cloth face coverings to protect themselves from becoming infected with the coronavirus and to avoid spreading the virus to others. Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Alabama press corps Tuesday that 20 to 40 percent of people infected with the virus have no symptoms and don’t event know that they are infected.

Thursday is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot to participate in the Tuesday, July 14 party primary runoff election. The close of business Thursday is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot. The last day to return those completed absentee ballots is the close of business on Monday.

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Voters with a health concern due to the possibility of getting or transmitting the coronavirus may obtain an absentee ballot. The voter will still have to check a reason for asking for the absentee ballot. If the reason is fear of the coronavirus, mark that there is a health reason for the application. You will be allowed to vote absentee. Remember to fill out all the paperwork completely and to mail or return the ballot on time.

In the Republican primary runoff, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions are running for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate. Judge Beth Kellum faces challenger Will Smith for the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

There is no statewide Democratic primary runoff races, but in the 1st Congressional District, James Averhart and Kiani Gardner are running for the Democratic nomination for Congress.

On the Republican side, former State Sen. Bill Hightower, R-Mobile, and Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl are running for the Republican nomination for Congress.

In Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, former State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, faces Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman. There are also a number of local races being decided in primary runoffs on Tuesday.

Notably in Etowah County, the revenue commissioner’s race is a runoff between State Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden, and Jeff Overstreet for the Republican nomination.

In Jefferson County, State Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield, faces Eyrika Parker in the Democratic primary runoff for county treasurer.

If either Nordgren or Scott win the local offices they seek, that will lead to a special election for what would become open seats in the Alabama House of Representatives.

The polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 7 p.m. A valid photo ID is required to participate in any Alabama election.

Absentee ballot applications are available online.

On Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported that 25 more Alabamians have died from COVID-19, raising the state death toll from the global pandemic to 1,032. Also, on Wednesday, another 1,162 Alabamians learned that they were infected with the novel strain of the coronavirus, raising the number of cases in the state to 46,424.

Only about 9 percent of the state has been tested at this point in time.

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Elections

Sessions says that he will never stop fighting for law enforcement officers

Brandon Moseley

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Jeff Sessions testifies before a Congressional committe. (CSPAN)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Sessions said on social media that he will “never stop fighting” for law enforcement officers. This was in response to the Saturday slaying of Ohio police officer Anthony Dia.

“We must end the violence against police,” Sessions said. “The last words of Officer Anthony Dia before he died on Saturday was ‘Tell my family I loved them.’”

“The disrespect and even attacks on our courageous law enforcement officers have reached a totally unacceptable level,” Sessions continued. “It is immoral and insane.”

Sessions prioritized good relations with law enforcement while he was U.S. attorney general.

“I understand how difficult their job is and how important it is for the peace and safety of our people,” Sessions said. ”I will never stop fighting for them. Let us remember Officer Dia and pledge that we will not forget his sacrifice.”

Toledo Police Officer Anthony Dia was 26-years old when he responded to a call about an intoxicated man in a store’s parking lot. When he “approached the male to check his safety,” the man turned around and fired a single bullet from a handgun, police said, citing witnesses account.

“He bled out, pretty much. They did what they could with lifesaving measures, but there was nothing they could do,” Dia’s widow Jayme told the Toledo Blade newspaper. “The last thing he said over the radio was, ‘Tell my family I love them.’ He lived for his family, and he loved, just loved, being a police officer.”

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American law enforcement has come under heavy criticism by politicians, the media and the public alike following the death of George Floyd during an arrest by the Minneapolis Police Department.

Sessions served in the Senate from 1997 to 2017, when he was confirmed as U.S. attorney general in the Trump administration. Sessions is also a former U.S. attorney, Alabama attorney general and assistant U.S. attorney.

Following his service as U.S. attorney for both the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, Sessions was chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. Sessions is a former U.S. Army reserve officer. He has a bachelor’s degree from Huntingdon College in Montgomery and a law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law.

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Sessions and his wife, Mary Blackshear Sessions, started the first college Republican club at Huntingdon College. They have three children as well as grandchildren. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was born outside of Camden in Wilcox County in 1946. Sessions is a native Alabamian. He is 73 years old.

Sessions is running in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff. His opponent is former Auburn University head football Coach Tommy Tuberville. The winner of the GOP nomination will face incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, in the Nov. 3 general election. Defeating Jones is considered critical for Republicans efforts to try to retain control of the Senate.

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Courts

Supreme Court hands down two rulings expanding religious liberty

Brandon Moseley

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The United States Supreme Court. (STOCK PHOTO)

The United States Supreme Court on Wednesday handed down two decisions strengthening religious liberty and expanding freedom of religion.

In the first case, the Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor, saying that the Catholic nuns do not have to pay for medical procedures that they object to including abortion.

The decision was written by pro-life Justice Clarence Thomas. The 5-4 decision majority opinion is the biggest pro-life decision of the Trump presidency. This overturns a lower court ruling saying employees are entitled to abortion and birth control services.

The Montgomery-based Foundation for Moral Law praised the Supreme Court’s decision in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania. The Foundation had filed an amicus brief with the Court arguing in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor’s case.

This case arose from Obamacare’s contraception mandate. The Little Sisters objected to complying with the Obamacare mandate of contraception and abortion services based on their religious convictions. The Trump administration issued new rules that exempted employers with religious and moral objections to complying with the mandate. The States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey sued, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled against the Trump administration and the Little Sisters.

The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Third Circuit. The Court held that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 allowed the Trump administration to craft these regulations and that the Trump administration had complied with the Administrative Procedures Act in enacting the rules.

Consequently, it did not reach the religious freedom claim, but it held that it was proper for the Trump administration to consider the effect of federal religious freedom law when it passed the rules.

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“GREAT win at the Supreme Court today on the Obamacare abortion drug mandate,” said Republican Senate candidate Jeff Sessions. “For the first time in nearly a DECADE, the Little Sisters of the Poor & other religious groups can do their good work without fear of being forced to violate their beliefs.”

“As Attorney General, I reversed the Obama administration’s position in the Little Sisters of the Poor litigation, and said NO MORE to government persecution of religion,” Sessions said. “I have a lifelong record of fighting to protect religious freedom. This is one of many issues on which President Donald J. Trump and I worked on together to take a strong stand for religious liberty. I also started the Religious Liberty Task Force at the Department of Justice to protect religious freedom across the entire government.”

Sessions is running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in the Republican primary on July 14. His opponent is former Auburn head football Coach Tommy Tuberville.

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“Although the majority opinion focused more on administrative law than on religious liberty, the Court’s decision was a win for religious freedom because it upheld important rules that protect Americans with religious and moral objections to Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate,” said Matt Clark, the attorney who wrote the Foundation’s amicus brief in this case.

“Justice Alito’s concurring opinion importantly emphasized that the courts must defer to a person’s interpretation of his religious obligations when he raises a religious objection,” Clark continued. “As James Madison wrote in 1785, ‘The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.’”

Kayla Moore is the President of the Foundation for Moral Law.

“The main opinion said that Congress considers religious liberty to be an ‘unalienable right,’” Moore said. “We commend Congress and the Court for recognizing it as such, and we hope that the Court will take that principle to its logical conclusion in every religious freedom case that it considers.”

Bible scholar and cultural commentator Dr. Michael Brown said, “This is a tremendous victory for freedom of religion and conscience in America. Under Obamacare, employers were forced to provide birth control coverage as part of their health plans, which for many Catholics in particular would be in violation of their faith. The court has overwhelmingly ruled for religious freedom, honoring moral objections of employers who now may opt out of providing abortion or birth control services.”

The Supreme Court also released a ruling Wednesday saying religious institutions have the right to pick their own employees and are exempt from secular anti-discrimination laws.

“Trump and moral conservatives won two big ones,” Brown said.

In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru the Court ruled that the First Amendment prevents courts from intervening in employment disputes between religious schools and the teachers at those schools who are entrusted with the responsibility of instructing their students in the faith.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission. Judicial review of the way in which religious schools discharge those responsibilities would undermine the independence of religious institutions in a way that the First Amendment does not tolerate.”

Brown is the author of the new book, “Evangelicals at the Crossroads: Will We Pass the Trump Test?” He has written 35 books and hosts a nationally syndicated daily talk radio show The Line of Fire, as well as the host of shows on GOD TV, NRBTV, and METV.

Barbara Ann Luttrell is the Vice President of External Affairs for Planned Parenthood Southeast.

Planned Parenthood SE was upset with both rulings.

“Today, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld two Trump administration rules that allow employers and universities to push their religious or moral beliefs on employees and students by denying them access to insurance that covers birth control,” Luttrelll said in a statement. “Bosses and universities will be able to decide — based on their own objections — if their health insurance plans cover birth control.”

Staci Fox is the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast.

“Today’s ruling deals yet another devastating blow to health care access in this country,” Fox said. “As is so often the case, it will hit people of color and low-income people hardest, and in the middle of a global pandemic that is already ravaging those communities. It is more proof that reproductive rights are under attack at all levels – not just abortion access.”

Both decisions were victories for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. The State of Alabama, under Marshall’s leadership, had previously joined multistate amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in both cases, supporting the Little Sisters of the Poor and Our Lady of Guadalupe School: Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania; and Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru.

“The First Amendment rightly recognizes that one of the unalienable rights all men and women possess is the right to exercise their faith,” Marshall wrote in a statement. “And today the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that fundamental truth in two important decisions. Thankfully, the Court recognized that the federal government need not force nuns to violate their sincerely held beliefs by providing contraceptive coverage to employees who help them care for the sick. And the Court likewise reaffirmed that the government has no authority to tell religious schools who they must hire or retain to teach their faith.”

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