Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By James Queally, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

A federal appeals panel has decided to uphold nearly all of the provisions of a Texas law that will force the closure of most of the state’s abortion clinics, according to an opinion published on Tuesday.

The ruling, which effectively affirmed the 2013 passage of House Bill 2, will force the closure of all but eight of the state’s clinics, advocates say.

“It’s a travesty that a state the size of Texas will only have eight safe, legal abortion clinics. The 5th Circuit has once again put their political ideology above the law,” Heather Busby, executive director of Pro-Choice Texas, said in a statement.

The measure, which first cleared the Texas Legislature nearly two years ago, was part of a wide-ranging bill that limited access to abortions and put restrictions on when they could be conducted.

The bill banned nearly all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape or incest with a minor. It also required that abortion-inducing drugs be administered in the presence of a doctor, which required most patients to visit clinics on three separate occasions.

The bill also required the doctors who performed abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, and required clinics to have the same equipment and building requirements as ambulatory surgery centers, even if those facilities only administered oral anti-abortion drugs.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel struck down the surgical center requirements statewide and the admitting privileges requirement for two facilities last summer, but Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who now serves as the state’s governor, filed an immediate appeal.

In its Tuesday ruling, the 5th Circuit overturned Yeakel’s ruling, but made an exception for a facility in McAllen, Texas, on the grounds that is the only abortion facility in the area.

Abortion rights advocates have already announced plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Once again, women across the state of Texas face elimination of safe and legal options for ending a pregnancy, and the denial of their constitutional rights,” said Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement. “The Supreme Court’s prior rulings do not allow for this kind of broadside legislative assault on women’s rights and health care. We now look to the justices to stop the sham laws that are shutting clinics down and placing countless women at risk of serious harm.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who championed the bill while he was a member of the state House of Representatives, praised the decision as a victory for women’s rights and safety.

“Abortion practitioners should have no right to operate their businesses from substandard facilities and with doctors who lack admitting privileges at a hospital,” Paxton said in a statement on Tuesday. “This ruling will help protect the health and well-being of Texas women.”

(Staff writer Maria L. La Ganga contributed to this report.)

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

File Photo: Protest in Texas state capitol, 2013. (Ann Harkness via Flickr)

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]