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Federal court strikes down an Alabama abortion law

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, federal appeals court struck down an Alabama state law, the Alabama Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Act, prohibiting physicians from providing dilation and evacuation (D&E). Abortion proponents argue that dilation and evacuation is a medically proven method for performing abortions. The decision from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union is the first by a federal appeals court on the constitutionality of a ban on the D&E procedure.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) issued a statement commenting on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower court decision striking down the Alabama Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Act.

“I was supportive of the bill when it passed through the Legislature in 2016, and I signed it as president of the Senate,” Gov. Ivey said. “I am disappointed in the court’s ruling today; however, we should not let this discourage our steadfast commitment to protect the lives of the unborn, even if that means taking this case to the U.S. Supreme Court. This ruling clearly demonstrates why we need conservative justices on the Supreme Court, and I look forward to the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.”

The ACLU of Alabama defended the abortion industry in court.

“Today, the court told Alabama politicians they can’t disregard a woman’s health and decision-making in favor of their ideological agenda,” said Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. “This ruling ensures that doctors can continue to use their best judgement to provide the care that is right for their patients.”

Andrew Beck, the senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said, “The upshot of this ruling is that women’s health, not politics, will guide important medical decisions about pregnancy. Laws like this are part of a larger strategy by anti-abortion politicians to push abortion out of reach entirely. Today, the court affirmed a woman’s right to get the care she needs.”

While the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals criticized the Supreme Court’s abortion decisions, calling them an “aberration of constitutional law,” the court of appeals acknowledged it is not the Supreme Court, and thus affirmed the lower court’s decision that found Alabama’s law prohibiting dismemberment abortions of live unborn babies, known as Dilation and Extraction (D&E), violates the High Court’s decisions.

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In her special concurrence, Judge Dubina wrote:

“I write separately to agree on record with Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124, 168-69, 127 S. Ct. 1610, 1639-40 (2007) (Thomas, J., concurring), with whom then Justice Scalia also joined. Specifically, Justice Thomas wrote, ‘I write separately to reiterate my view that the Court’s abortion jurisprudence, including Casey [Planned Parenthood of Se. Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 112 S. Ct. 2791 (1992)] and Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113, 93 S. Ct. 705 (1973), has no basis in the Constitution.’ Id. at 169, 127 S. Ct. at 1639. The problem I have, as noted in the Chief Judge’s opinion, is that I am not on the Supreme Court, and as a federal appellate judge, I am bound by my oath to follow all of the Supreme Court’s precedents, whether I agree with them or not.”

Kayla Moore, the President of the Montgomery based Foundation for Moral Law took issue with the ruling:

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“Because the Eleventh Circuit had an amicus brief in front of it explaining why the court’s duty was to follow the Constitution instead of the Supreme Court, the court knew it had a duty to disregard Roe and protect the children’s right to live.” Moore added, “The Eleventh Circuit cannot wash its hands of the blood of the innocent by placing the blame on the Supreme Court. The victims of the Eleventh Circuit’s passivity are Alabama’s unborn children, who can now be murdered by having their limbs torn from their bodies while their hearts are still beating.”

In West Alabama Women’s Center v. Thomas Miller, Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief on behalf of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American College of Pediatricians, defending the Alabama law that prohibits dismemberment abortions of live unborn babies based on the medical evidence of their ability to feel intense pain.

Liberty Counsel and Alabama’s Pro-Life legislators argue that the scientific evidence supports the assertion that unborn babies feel pain as early as eight weeks gestation.

The court used very graphic language to describe the abortion procedure:

“This case involves a method of abortion that is clinically referred to as Dilation and Evacuation (D & E). Or dismemberment abortion, as the State less clinically calls it. That name is more accurate because the method involves tearing apart and extracting piece-by-piece from the uterus what was until then a living unborn child. This is usually done during the 15- to 18-week stage of development, at which time the unborn child’s heart is already beating.”

“Under the Act, the one performing the abortion is required to kill the unborn child before ripping apart its body during the extraction. [citation omitted] Killing an unborn child and then dismembering it is permitted; killing an unborn child by dismembering it is not. The parties agree that for these purposes an unborn child is alive while its heart is beating, which usually begins around six weeks. See How Your Fetus Grows During Pregnancy, Am. Coll. of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (April 2018).”

The Alabama Legislature did not ban abortions in the state; but rather just this particularly type of abortion.

“In this method of ending a pregnancy, dismemberment abortion ‘requires the abortionist to use instruments to grasp a portion (such as a foot or hand) of a developed and living fetus and drag the grasped portion out of the uterus into the vagina.’ [Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914, 958, 20 S. Ct. 2597, 2624 (2000)]. The practitioner then “uses the traction created by the opening between the uterus and vagina to dismember the fetus, tearing the grasped portion away from the remainder of the body.”

“Alabama’s law is a common-sense solution to a barbaric and gruesome procedure,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “If the vilest criminal has human dignity that prevents cruel and unusual punishment, then how much more should laws protect an innocent unborn child from the most despicable form of torture and death? There are just seven countries in the world that allow children to endure this barbaric procedure and that disgraceful list includes the United States. We must make the womb a safe place again. This case or one like it cries out to the Supreme Court Justices to reverse the horrible abortion decisions. As the court correctly noted, the Supreme Court abortion decisions are an ‘aberration of constitutional law.’ This is true, but they also violate higher law and condone the worst kind of infanticide.”

The Alabama ACLU argued that leading medical experts such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose this type of abortion restriction. An evidence-based and non-partisan report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine described D&E as a “superior method” of abortion, finding that it is extremely safe with minimal complications.

Similar bans in Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas have all been blocked when challenged in court. The ACLU is challenging a similar law in Kentucky.

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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Congress

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne announces new chief of staff

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, on Friday announced that Seth Morrow will serve as his chief of staff.

“As we enter the last half of 2020, my office remains busy assisting constituents and advancing our legislative priorities. I know Seth shares my focus on finishing out my term in Congress strong, and he is well prepared to move into the Chief of Staff role,” Byrne said in a statement. “My staff and I will continue working hard every day to fight for the people of Southwest Alabama and advance our conservative agenda.”

Morrow is a native of Guntersville and has worked for Byrne since June 2014, serving as deputy chief of staff and communications director. 

“I am grateful for this opportunity, and I’m committed to ensuring our office maintains our first class service to the people of Southwest Alabama. Congressman Byrne has always had the hardest working team on Capitol Hill, and I know we will keep that tradition going,” Morrow said in a statement.

Morrow replaces Chad Carlough, who has held the position of Byrne’s chief of staff since March 2017. 

“Chad has very ably led our Congressional team over the last few years, and I join the people of Southwest Alabama in thanking him for his dedicated service to our state and our country,” Byrne said. 

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Congress

Voting rights activist calls for federal Department of Democracy

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

Micah Danney

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(VIA BLACK VOTERS MATTER)

The co-founder of an organization that is working to mobilize Black voters in Alabama and elsewhere used the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Thursday to call for a new federal agency to protect voting rights nationwide.

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

“The Voting Rights Act should be reinstated, but only as a temporary measure. I want and deserve better, as do more than 300 million of my fellow Americans,” Brown said.

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the law in a 5-4 ruling in 2013, eliminating federal oversight that required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get approval before they changed voting rules.

“To ensure that the Voter’s Bill of Rights is enforced, we need a federal agency at the cabinet level, just like the Department of Defense,” Brown said. “A Department of Democracy would actively look at the patchwork of election systems across the 50 states and territories. With federal oversight, our nation can finally fix the lack of state accountability that currently prevails for failure to ensure our democratic right to vote.”

She cited excessively long lines, poll site closings and voter ID laws in the recent primaries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas as voter suppression techniques that disproportionately affect Black and other communities of color.

Brown said that the July 17 passing of Rep. John Lewis, who was nearly killed marching for voting rights in Selma in 1965, has amplified calls for the Voting Rights Act to be strengthened. That’s the right direction, she said, but it isn’t enough.

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“History happens in cycles, and we are in a particularly intense one. We have been fighting for the soul of democracy, kicking and screaming and marching and protesting its erosion for decades,” Brown said.

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Congress

Negotiations on a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill appear to have broken down

Brandon Moseley

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The United States Capitol Building (STOCK PHOTO)

Both parties in Congress and the White House hoped to have agreement on a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill, but those hopes appear to have been dashed after a Thursday night meeting at the White House.

The Washington Post reports that the White House and Democrats failed to reach an agreement late Thursday night on the fifth virus relief bill. White House officials and Democratic leaders ended a three-hour negotiation with no agreement and both sides far apart on basic issues.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has insisted on a $3.4 trillion package. The White House wants a $1 trillion relief package.

“We’re still a considerable amount apart,” said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows after emerging from the meeting with Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Trump was called into the meeting several times, but they were unable to resolve key issues.

Pelosi said that the meeting was “consequential,” but blamed Republicans for the breakdown in negotiations.

“They didn’t take the virus seriously in the beginning, they’re not taking the consequences of the virus seriously at this time, and that’s why it’s hard to come to terms,” Pelosi said.

Mnuchin said that if the administration decides that further negotiations are futile, Trump would move ahead unilaterally with executive orders to address things like unemployment aid. Schumer said Democrats were “very disappointed” in how the meeting went and that any White House executive orders could be challenged in court.

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Pelosi claimed that Meadows pounded the table at one point. Meadows denies the allegation.

“We are very far apart,” Pelosi said. “It’s most unfortunate.”

Over 30 million unemployed Americans will see their unemployment checks dramatically cut next week without an extension of benefits. Trump has suggested that he could increase the benefits through unilateral executive action. Critics suggest that would be unconstitutional.

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Democrats want about $1 trillion in aid for cities and states, but Trump has dismissed that demand as a “bailout” for mismanaged states and has agreed to just $150 billion in aid for states.

Meadows said that the White House has agreed to go above $1 trillion, but that Democrats still have refused to go below $3.4 trillion. Democrats are also pushing for more money for food stamps, child care and the U.S. Postal Service as part of the plan. All of this would be paid with more deficit spending.

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Corruption

Arrest warrant issued for Rep. Will Dismukes for felony theft

Dismukes is charged with first-degree theft of property in connection with a theft that occurred at his place of employment between the years 2016 to 2018.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Alabama State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, has been accused of theft of property, a Class B felony. (WSFA)

An arrest warrant has been issued for Alabama State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, for felony theft from a business where he worked, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said Thursday.

Dismukes is charged with first-degree theft of property in connection with a theft that occurred at his place of employment between the years 2016 to 2018, Bailey said during a press conference.

Bailey said the charge is a Class B felony and levied when a person steals in excess of $2,500 and that “I will tell you that the alleged amount is a lot more than that.” 

“The warrant has just been signed, his attorney has been notified and we are giving him until late this afternoon to turn himself in,” Bailey said.

Bailey said the employer contacted the district attorney’s office with a complaint about the theft on May 20, and after reviewing bank records and interviewing witnesses, the decision was made to charge Dismukes with the theft. 

WSFA reported Thursday that the theft occurred at Dismukes’ former employer, Weiss Commercial Flooring Inc. in East Montgomery. Bailey did not provide any more specifics on the charge but said the employer signed the arrest warrant after countless hours of investigation on the part of the DA’s office.

While the charge stems from a complaint filed months ago, Dismukes been in the headlines recently and faced a torrent of calls for his resignation in recent weeks after posting to Facebook an image of himself attending a birthday celebration for the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest.

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The event was hosted by an individual with close ties to the League of the South, a hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In response, Dismukes stepped down from his post as a pastor at an Autauga County Baptist church but defiantly refused to step down from the Legislature.

If convicted of the felony, Dismukes would be immediately removed from his seat in the Alabama House, to which he was elected in 2018.

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In June, the Alabama Democratic Party called for his resignation over previous social media posts glorifying the Confederacy.

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