OVERNIGHT HEALTH: House panel OKs national late-term abortion ban

The House Judiciary on Wednesday approved a national late-term abortion ban that is due on the floor next week. The bill from Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) would ban nearly all abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, making an exception only for women whose lives are in danger. This narrow exemption was the subject of debate during the bill's markup, with Republicans unanimously blocking three amendments to make the terms more generous to rape and incest victims, as well as to women whose health is at risk.

At first, Franks's ban was written only to affect the District of the Columbia — it was the revival of a bill that failed to pass the House last year under suspension of the rules. But Franks expanded it to apply nationwide after the recent murder conviction of abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, which has been a rallying cry for opponents of abortion rights.

Wednesday's markup drew wide attention after Franks commented that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is "very low." The remark drew criticism from Democrats and comparisons between Franks and former GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin (Mo.), who famously said that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely become pregnant. Franks later clarified that he meant to describe the low number of rape-induced pregnancies compared with those tied to normal intercourse. "I would hope that my comments would be heard in the spirit that they were offered," he said.


ACLU sues to block Alabama abortion law

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Tuesday in an effort to block new abortion restrictions in Alabama.

The ACLU said the state's anti-abortion law would force three of the state's five abortion clinics — including two Planned Parenthood clinics — to stop providing abortions.


GOP-led panel advances national late-term abortion ban

A House Judiciary subcommittee advanced legislation Tuesday that would prohibit U.S. abortions from being performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

The Subcommittee on the Constitution modified the legislation from its chairman, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), to apply nationwide. An original draft would only have implemented the ban in the District of Columbia. 

Franks praised the new language and compared late-term abortions to the actions of Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, who was recently convicted of killing three viable infants delivered alive after failed procedures. 


OVERNIGHT HEALTH: House panel weighs DC abortion bill

A House Judiciary subcommittee will hold a hearing Thursday on legislation to ban late-term abortions in the District of Columbia. The measure's sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), has declared his intent to revise the bill to apply nationwide in light of the recent murder conviction of abortion provider Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell was recently convicted of killing three infants born alive after failed abortions. 

Franks's plan to extend his bill's reach comes as many conservative lawmakers use Gosnell's trial to indict late-term abortions, or procedures performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion-rights opponents claim fetuses can feel pain at this stage, a premise that is disputed. Abortion-rights supporters point to recent court decisions knocking down 20-week bans because they prohibit abortions before fetal viability, which occurs at about 24 weeks.

Franks said Wednesday that his bill will have a "good chance" of coming to the House floor, but leaders could advance it under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority for passage. Franks's D.C.-only measure failed to pass the House under suspension last year. Abortion-rights groups claimed the vote as a victory. 

TBI bill: Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) introduced legislation Wednesday intended to help prevent concussions in youth sports that can result in traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The bill would permit federal regulators to make safety recommendations and new rules for sports equipment manufacturers. It would also empower the Federal Trade Commission to crack down down on false claims in the marketing of sports protective gear.

"We need to make sure that protective sports equipment is sold based on the latest science, not false or deceptive claims," Rockefeller said in a statement. "Parents and coaches must be able to have confidence in the sports safety equipment they buy for their children and the protection it claims to offer." 


Appeals court strikes down Arizona abortion law

A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down an Arizona law banning most abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

A panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the Arizona law is unconstitutional, citing an "unbroken stream" of Supreme Court rulings on abortion rights.

Arizona's law banned abortion after 20 weeks except in the case of a "medical emergency."


Week ahead: House GOP takes up nationwide late-term abortion ban

House Republicans will take up the abortion issue this week as Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) expands his proposed ban on late-term procedures to apply nationwide.

Franks announced Friday that he would expand his current D.C.-only measure, which failed to pass under suspension of the rules last year, in light of Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell's conviction on three counts of first-degree murder.

Gosnell was convicted last week of killing three viable infants after failed abortion procedures. His grisly trial has been a rallying cry for opponents of abortion rights seeking to raise objections to late-term abortion.


Federal judge blocks Arkansas's 12-week abortion ban

A federal judge on Friday temporary blocked the enactment of Arkansas's new abortion ban, which would prohibit the procedure in most cases after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright granted the preliminary injunction after a request from several abortion-rights groups who filed suit against the law.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), one of those groups, praised the decision in a statement.