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LIFE DIGEST: Alabama bans abortions after 20 weeks; U.S. House stops 'telemed' funds
Posted on Jun 24, 2011 | by Tom Strode

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WASHINGTON (BP)--Alabama has become the fifth state to enact a ban on abortions at 20 weeks or more into pregnancy based on evidence a baby in the womb experiences pain by that point.

Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, signed the Alabama Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act into law June 15. The measure prohibits an abortion beginning at 20 weeks' gestation unless it is required to prevent the mother's death.

"I believe that life begins at conception and I signed this bill to further commit my promise to protect the life of an unborn child," Bentley said in a written statement.

In 2010, Nebraska became the first state to outlaw pain-capable abortions. This year, Idaho, Kansas and Oklahoma have enacted similar bans. The pain-capable model sets the benchmark earlier than one based on fetal viability, which can be 22 to 24 weeks.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, however, vetoed a pro-life measure on the same date. Lynch, a Democrat, rejected a parental notification bill despite strong support in the state legislature. The Senate voted 17-7 for the legislation while the House approved it 256-102.

The bill would have required an abortion doctor to notify in writing at least one parent of an under-age girl 48 hours before doing an abortion.

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) said Lynch's stated reasons for the veto form a "litany of excuses" that support exceptions that would aid abusers of minor girls.

"Governor Lynch's veto says to New Hampshire parents: if your minor daughter is pregnant, you have no rights," Mary Spaulding Balch, NRLC's director of state legislation, said in a written release. "This is a totally irresponsible decision which can only give comfort to pedophiles."

There are 29 states with parental involvement laws that are being enforced, according to NRLC.

In other state actions:

-- The North Carolina Senate passed in a 29-20 vote June 15 a bill requiring a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion, according to the Charlotte Observer. The legislation also would require an abortion doctor to show the mother considering an abortion an ultrasound image of her unborn child. The House had passed the bill 71-48.

-- The North Carolina House voted 70-44 in a June 7 roll call to authorize Choose Life license plates, with $15 of the $25 fee going to pro-life pregnancy help centers, according to LifeNews.com.

-- The Maine House voted down three pro-life proposals, LifeNews reported June 8. The House voted 80-63 against a bill to strengthen a parental consent law, 88-58 against an informed consent measure and 81-63 against a 24-hour waiting period.

HOUSE BANS 'TELEMED' FUNDS -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed June 16 a measure barring funding for the abortion drug RU 486, including its use in "telemedicine," or Webcam, abortions.

Members of the House voted 240-176 for the amendment, which was attached to a spending bill for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and related agencies. The House approved the overall spending bill in a 217-203 roll call.

The pro-life amendment, sponsored by Rep. Steve King, R.-Iowa, prohibits any money granted in the bill from being used for the two-step abortion drug. It takes particular aim at "telemed" abortion, a method developed by Planned Parenthood in Iowa to dispense RU 486 to a woman by means of videoconferencing.

As used by Planned Parenthood for nearly three years, a doctor in Des Moines or another Iowa city assists via videoconferencing a woman seeking an abortion at another Planned Parenthood center in the state. After he reviews sonogram images and visits with the woman by means of videoconferencing, the physician can dispense the two-step abortion drug to her by pressing a computer button, thereby opening a drawer from which the woman in the remote clinic may remove the pills.

King's amendment clarifies that "telemedicine" grants may not be used to disburse the abortion drug, according to his office. About 1,900 "telemed" abortions using RU 486 have been performed in Iowa, King's office reported.

"American taxpayers should not be asked to subsidize abortions, and federal telemedicine grants should not be used to enable abortion providers like Planned Parenthood to dispense the RU 486 abortion drug," King said in a written statement.

FORCED ABORTION TRY GETS 13 YEARS -- A Columbus, Ohio, man was sentenced June 9 to 13 years in prison for seeking to force his girlfriend at gunpoint to have an abortion.

Dominic Holt-Reid, 28, pleaded guilty to attempted murder under an Ohio law that permits the charge for a criminal act that could lead to the death of an unborn child, The Columbus Dispatch reported. He also pleaded guilty to abduction and illegal possession of a firearm.

Holt-Reid's girlfriend, Yolanda Burgess, told him she did not want an abortion, but he pointed a handgun at her and drove her to a Columbus abortion clinic in October, according to The Dispatch. She gave a note revealing the threat to a clinic staff member, who called police.

"Dominic had given me an ultimatum: It was either him or our baby," wrote Burgess, who did not attend the court hearing. "Of course, I wanted both. However, I am not a weak, needy or desperate woman willing to hurt my child for a man."

Burgess gave birth to the child, one of two she has with Holt-Reid.
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Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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