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New Abortion Restrictions Reignite Culture Wars

A crowd shouts ‘Shame, shame, shame!’ as law enforcement officers stand outside the North Carolina legislative building after the state Senate gave its approval to a series of abortion restrictions July 3. Photo by Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images

The Morning Line

Correction appended.

States across the country are advancing legislation that advocates say restrict abortions, a re-ignition of the culture wars ahead of the midterm elections and key gubernatorial contests in 2014.

The movement is something that’s been slowly building at the state level for years, beginning when Republicans captured larger majorities in legislatures as part of the 2010 tea party wave that returned them to control of the House.

Juliet Eilperin examined the new efforts on the front page of the Washington Post Saturday.

She notes that according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks the issue, lawmakers and governors “have approved more than 40 restrictions in statehouses around the country” and more than 170 have been enacted since 2011.

In Wisconsin Friday, Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed two measures — requiring a woman to get an ultrasound before she can get an abortion and adding regulations that opponents believe would force the closure of two of the state’s four abortion clinics. Doctors who perform abortions would need admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics.

Advocates filed a lawsuit to block the laws from taking effect.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich*, also a Republican, signed a new law requiring an ultrasound and likely leading to a funding cut for Planned Parenthood at the end of June. Democrats and advocacy groups at the state and national level made clear they will use the issue to pummel the popular governor ahead of his re-election bid next fall.

In North Carolina, the state Senate cleared broad legislation that would impose stricter regulations on abortion clinics and would ban the coverage of abortions for those with insurance through the state’s health exchange, among other things.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory campaigned on a promise he wouldn’t sign measures restricting abortion access into law, and has signaled he’s frustrated with how lawmakers attached the abortion language to an unrelated bill. He has declined to comment on whether he would sign this package of legislation.

And that all comes after a state senator’s filibuster over a 20-week abortion ban in Texas made national headlines.

Politico’s David Nather notes that the Texas battle is dividing Democrats attempting to turn the state “blue” in future election cycles, in part because the new generation of Latino voters organizers are trying to pull together are more strongly opposed to abortion than other demographic groups.

Earlier this year, states including North Dakota and Arkansas inked new laws restricting access to abortions.

The NewsHour looked at the issue this winter, on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Outgoing NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan and Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, debated which states will take action to curb abortions. We revisited the debate in April with Yoest and Ilyse Hogue, NARAL’s new president.

Watch the April segment here or below:

With Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., expected this week to say whether he’ll sponsor legislation banning abortion from taking place more than 20 weeks after fertilization, the issue will again shift from the states to the national stage.

The 20-week measure already passed the Republican-controlled House this summer, 228-196.

  • Ed. note: We misidentified the governor of Ohio in an earlier version of this post.


Congress returns this week from its Fourth of July recess with immigration reform still at the top of the agenda.

With the Senate having approved a comprehensive plan on a 68 to 32 vote before the break, the debate now shifts to the Republican-controlled House, where GOP leaders continue to advocate for a piecemeal approach.

“Americans don’t want a comprehensive bill like what we saw with Obamacare,” House Homeland Security chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said Sunday during an appearance on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” “What they want is regular-order pieces of legislation.” McCaul likened the Senate measure to throwing “candy” on the border.

House Republicans are expected to meet Wednesday to discuss the strategy of the GOP conference moving forward. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told his members last Friday that a border security measure would likely reach the floor this month.

But Democrats in the House are pushing back, insisting that the chamber follow the broader path laid out by the Senate bill. “You have to fix the entire machine,” California Democrat Xavier Becerra told CBS.

Supporters of reform got a boost over the weekend when former President George W. Bush urged lawmakers to seize the opportunity before them.

“I think it’s very important to fix a broken system, to treat people with respect. And have confidence in our capacity to assimilate people,” Mr. Bush said in an interview with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl. “It’s a very difficult bill to pass because there’s a lot of moving parts, and the legislative process is — can be ugly.”

“But it looks like they’re making some progress,” Mr. Bush added.

The country’s 43rd president said GOP lawmakers should focus on crafting a plan that solves the problem and not worry about the political consequences of their actions. “The reason to pass immigration reform is not to bolster a Republican Party, it’s to fix a system that’s broken. Good policy yields good politics, as far as I’m concerned.”

And Mr. Bush will speak at a naturalization ceremony in Dallas Wednesday to make the case for reform, just as Republican members begin hashing out their differences in earnest.

There is also word that the current occupant of the White House plans to hit the trail in support of immigration reform.

The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Nicholas writes that President Barack Obama plans campaign-style pushes in “some of the battleground states he won with the help of a robust Latino vote–possibly including Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida,” despite mostly staying out of the debate for the last few months. Nicholas writes that the president intends to treat the issue carefully and remind reluctant Republicans that their 2016 fate hinges on supporting comprehensive immigration reform.

But the Washington Post frames the summertime effort as “aggressive” and aiming “to pressure House Republicans who remain skeptical of proposed changes.” Mr. Obama will work “to rally GOP constituencies friendly to the cause, as well, including business and evangelical groups,” writes Zachary Goldfarb.

Politico’s Seung Min Kim has details on what is in the measure being negotiated by the House bipartisan immigration group, but notes that each time they have set a deadline for releasing a bill, the members “have blown it.” She writes:

They do have a bill — right now, it’s about 500 pages and has been reviewed by House legislative counsel. The group is still cagey on when it will be released, although Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth, one of the group’s Democratic members, said he would be “stunned” if that doesn’t come by the August recess.

“There is absolutely no hesitation in moving forward,” Yarmuth said in a phone interview. “And still, I think both sides are optimistic that ultimately, this can be the vehicle that gets through the House.”

The Democratic side — led by California Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s office, according to two sources — did the actual writing of the legislation. That’s left Republicans to pore over the bill with extra scrutiny before signing off, and they’ve found several wrinkles in the language that they want to smooth out before its official unveiling.

Backers of the Senate plan are willing to let the House work its will, so long as their colleagues produce legislation that can used as a base for compromise.

“We are not trying to dictate what the House of Representatives should do,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Sunday. “I believe that if they can come up with a bill, we would be more than eager to negotiate with them.”


  • Americans for Prosperity is spending more than $1 million on this new television ad going after Obamacare in Virginia and Ohio. The president’s campaign spinoff Organizing for Action, meanwhile, is up with this television ad detailing the end of insurance companies using lifetime caps on coverage.

  • Furloughs for more than 650,000 civilians working within the Defense Department start Monday, and Pentagon officials are warning it will disrupt operations at installations around the country.

  • Jonathan Weisman uses this stat for his piece on a do-nothing Congress: “At this time in 2011, Congress had passed 23 laws on the way toward the lowest total since those numbers began being tracked in 1948. This year, 15 have been passed so far.”

  • Lawmakers staked out different positions Sunday on whether the U.S. should suspend aid to Egypt following last week’s ouster of the country’s president, Mohamed Morsi.

  • Jonathan Martin had a great piece over the weekend in the New York Times about Liz Cheney’s increasingly likely-seeming Senate bid in Wyoming, whether or not Republican Sen. Mike Enzi retires. It goes into Cheney family politics.

  • Teresa Heinz Kerry was in critical but stable condition Sunday in a Massachusetts hospital.

  • Colorado Sen. Mark Udall’s brother was found dead in Wyoming last week.

  • Phil Rucker followed ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, around last week as their gun-control group embarked on a red-state tour.

  • Former New York Gov. Elliott Spitzer will run for comptroller.

  • House Republicans launched a committee investigation into the administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

  • National Review’s Jonathan Strong sums up Speaker John Boehner’s history with the so-called “Hastert Rule.”

  • Valerie Jarrett is “magic,” according to a White House memo obtained by Mark Leibovich, author of the forthcoming gossip tome “This Town.” The Washington Post has the details. Leibovich has the cover story in the New York Times magazine, detailing one Capitol Hill aide’s rise, and fall, and rise.

  • Here’s a review of the book, here is another one, and here is a great Dana Milbank column about it.

  • BuzzFeed posted a photo essay on all the ways President George W. Bush thanked troops.

  • Heard on the Hill has the details on what vegetarians eat when working in the halls of Congress.

  • How many billionaires does your home state have? Check out this cool map.

  • The Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and SparkAction chose 24 people under the age of 24 who they have dubbed “changemakers who are working to keep our democracy strong for generations to come.” Disclosure: Christina serves on the youth council’s board of advisors.

  • You can thank DeadSpin for ranking cheap American beer.

  • “It never occurred to me that Metro would think it was more efficient to rip out the plants than to let someone water them.” Yeah, Metro officials earned some real bad publicity for removing flowers planted by a local do-gooder.

  • It’s Monday. If you live in the DC-area, why not go get a hug?

  • On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Christina is guest-hosting again for Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU 88.5 in Washington D.C. Tune in.


  • We brought together four historians to examine the long-term consequences of the Supreme Court’s blockbuster term. Watch the discussion, unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else, here or below.

  • Ray Suarez talked with Nina Perales from MALDEF and James Burling of the Pacific Legal Foundation about the state-by-state reverberations from the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act decision.

  • David Brooks and Ruth Marcus talked about Egypt, the delay of the employer mandate and the VRA ruling. Watch here or below.

  • We have two takes on the second phase of health care implementation — enrollment in insurance exchanges. Watch.

  • Judy Woodruff reflected on the protests in Turkey when returning from her vacation.

  • Jenny Marder has details on the Nobel laureates who are doodling their discoveries.

  • What’s the jobless rate for poor black teen dropouts? Try 95 percent. Paul Solman reported on increasing rates of youth unemployment on Friday, when the June jobs report showed 25 percent joblessness for teens. Check out Paul’s Solman Scale to see what real unemployment looks like in America.

  • Team NewsHour brings you some great summer reading recommendations.


Tiffany Mullon contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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