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Another Day, Another Abortion Restriction

The tan business envelope is postmarked Jan. 31, 1957. It is addressed to “MISS JANEY BEBOUT,” arriving via airmail from Annapolis, Maryland. Not to her home but to the house of a sympathetic aunt who could keep a secret, one town away in Ashtabula, Ohio.

The sole content of the envelope is one sheet of paper, crackly with age and separating at the folds. It is a form letter from the Maryland secretary of state’s office detailing requirements for marriage.

The letter reads, in part:

“IT SHALL BE UNLAWFUL WITHIN THIS STATE FOR ANY FEMALE BELOW THE AGE OF SIXTEEN YEARS OR FOR ANY MALE BELOW THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN YEARS TO MARRY. … EXCEPT ON THE CERTIFICATE OF A LICENSED PHYSICIAN, WHICH SHALL BE PRESENTED FOR THE APPLICATION FOR THE MARRIAGE LICENSE, TO THE EFFECT THAT THE GIRL IS PREGNANT.”

Note how the law insulated boys from adulthood a little longer, the better to preserve their options.

Maryland required no blood tests. The application fee for a marriage license was $1; if granted, the license cost an additional $2.

On the day this envelope was mailed, Janey was an unmarried 19-year-old, four months pregnant with me. She and my 20-year-old father would marry 11 days later in Cumberland, Maryland, after fleeing — “eloping,” she insisted to her children, “because we were so in love” — their family farms in the middle of the night.

I recognize my mother’s loopy handwriting in dark blue ink on the back of the envelope. She noted the mileage on my father’s car before they started driving and the total upon their return after a short honeymoon in Washington, D.C. She chronicled their gas stops, too, most in $1 increments.

They were two farm kids with virtually no money and no plan beyond saving my mother from a lifetime of public humiliation as an unwed mother. In 1957, marriage was her only option.

I just, this week, discovered this envelope. In a curious twist of timing, I found it one day after Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed the so-called heartbeat bill but signed into law his 18th restriction on a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. This latest one prevents a woman from getting an abortion after 20 weeks, which is when many medical abnormalities are first detected. No exceptions for rape or incest and a limited one to protect a mother’s life.

Kasich is not fooling anyone who’s paying attention, including Dawn Laguens of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

“(Kasich) may hope that by vetoing a six-week ban — which would have virtually banned abortion with almost no exceptions — he comes off as moderate,” Laguens said in a statement. “The 20-week ban will force women to travel long distances and cross state lines in order to access safe, legal abortion.”

Right-wing extremists who support laws such as this are driven by an insatiable desire to shame women. They want us to feel dirty and immoral and unworthy in the eyes of God as they define him.

Most of these legislators are men whose maleness exempts them from ever knowing what it feels like to have no control over their bodies or their daily lives. If they are impotent, they can take a drug to give them erections. If they want to have unprotected sex, they can do so without worrying about what an unplanned pregnancy would do to their bodies and their health, their families and their future.

These men will never know the desperation of scraping up enough money for a plane ticket, a train ticket, bus fare or gas for the tank of a car to get them to a state that still protects a woman’s constitutional right. They do not worry about bringing into the world children they — and we as communities — cannot afford.

My mother had no option but to give birth to me. Some readers who oppose abortion rights love to remind me that my mother didn’t abort me. Far too many of them wish aloud that she had, and isn’t that an interesting approach for people claiming to cherish life?

The discovery of that envelope reminds me, yet again, of what it was like not so very long ago for women like my mother. From the moment she found out she was pregnant until she and my father made that middle-of-the-night journey to a state that would marry them, she lived in fear of being exposed as an unmarried woman who dared to have sex.

A devout Christian, she was pro-choice when abortion rights became the law of the land, in 1973. A devoted mother, she encouraged all of her daughters to visit Planned Parenthood before having sex. “Stay in control of your life,” she once told me.

My mother never fully shed the shame of her unplanned pregnancy all those years ago.

“I still would have had you,” she told me when I was 36 and a newly single mother. “It just would have been so different here” — she pointed to her heart — “if the choice had been all mine.”

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: Demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court is due to decide today whether a Republican-backed 2013 Texas law placed an undue burden on women exercising their constitutional right to abortion in Washington, U.S. June 27, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Kasich Vetoes Ohio ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Ban, Signs 20-Week Legislation

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – Republican Governor John Kasich signed a 20-week abortion ban into law on Tuesday but vetoed stricter legislation that would have forbidden the procedure once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks after conception.

Kasich, an abortion opponent, said in a statement that the proposed six-week legislation would be contrary to U.S. Supreme Court rulings on abortion, opening the state to potentially costly legal battles, and the veto was “in the public interest.”

“I agree with Ohio Right to Life and other leading, pro-life advocates that SB 127 is the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life,” Kasich said in a statement on the 20-week law, which lawmakers approved last week.

Neither of the measures made exceptions for rape or incest, although both allow for abortions that would save the mother’s life.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide more than four decades ago, but states were allowed to permit restrictions once a fetus was viable. Some states, particularly those governed by Republicans such as Ohio, have sought to restrict abortion.

More than 10 states have put 20-week abortion bans in place, but federal courts in Arizona and Idaho have ruled them unconstitutional.

Under current law, Ohio prohibits abortion once a fetus is considered viable outside the womb, which is from 24 to 26 weeks of gestation.

Lower courts have struck down stricter “heartbeat” laws, like the one Kasich vetoed on Tuesday, in North Dakota and Arkansas. The Supreme Court refused to hear appeals on those rulings in January.

Kasich’s decisions quickly drew criticism from both anti-abortion and abortion rights organizations.

“John Kasich is treating women’s health care like a game,” Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, said in a statement after the signing.

“He thinks that by vetoing one abortion ban Ohioans will not notice that he has signed another. The 20-week abortion ban callously disregards the unique circumstances that surround a woman’s pregnancy.”

Meanwhile, anti-abortion group Faith2Action, called Kasich’s veto of the six-week ban a “betrayal of life,” and urged supporters to call lawmakers to try to persuade them to override Kasich’s veto.

At least three-fifths of the members of both the Republican-led state House of Representatives and the state Senate would have to vote in favor of overriding the governor’s veto in order to overturn it.

(Writing by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; editing by Dan Grebler and Jonathan Oatis)

IMAGE: Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Ohio Lawmakers Pass ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Bill

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – Ohio lawmakers approved a bill that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks after conception, clearing the way for one of the most stringent abortion restrictions in the United States if it becomes law.

The Republican-led state House of Representatives and Senate passed the so-called “heartbeat” measure late on Tuesday, sending it to be signed into law by Republican Governor John Kasich.

Kasich, an abortion opponent, has in the past questioned whether such legislation would be constitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide more than four decades ago, but states were allowed to permit restrictions once a fetus was viable. Some states, particularly those governed by Republicans such as Ohio, have sought to chip away at a woman’s right to end a pregnancy.

Lower courts have struck down similar “heartbeat” laws in North Dakota and Arkansas and the Supreme Court refused to hear appeals on those rulings in January.

But now, with Republican President-elect Donald Trump having the opportunity to fill at least one Supreme Court vacancy, conservatives in Ohio hope that the legislation can withstand a challenge in court.

“A new president, new Supreme Court appointees change the dynamic, and there was consensus in our caucus to move forward,” Senate President Keith Faber told the Columbus Dispatch.

“It has a better chance than it did before,” Faber said of the bill’s chances of surviving a constitutional challenge, according to the Dispatch.

The heartbeat legislation has been approved twice before by the state’s lower house only to fail in the Senate.

The abortion legislation was part of a wider bill on reporting child abuse. It does not make exceptions for rape and incest, though it does allow for abortions that would save the mother’s life, according to text of the legislation.

Some women’s rights groups were swift to condemn the approval of the bill. The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization that supports abortion rights and tracks abortion legislation, said it would be one of the most restrictive abortion laws if enacted.

“Banning women from getting a medical procedure is out of touch with Ohio values and is completely unacceptable,” abortion-rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Richard Lough)

Donald Trump Makes It Easy To Vote For Her

If this presidential election was an airplane flight, we’d all have barf bags on our laps. Just when you think it couldn’t possibly get any worse, it does.

Next Tuesday the nation is being forced to choose between Hillary Clinton, a calculating liar, and Donald Trump, a clumsy liar, proud tax dodger and serial sex creep.

These are the national standard-bearers of the Democratic and Republican parties. No wonder the rest of the world thinks we’ve gone crazy.

Clinton and Trump are two of the most unpopular figures ever to run for the White House, leaving millions of dispirited Americans to vote purely with the hope of minimizing the damage.

On one side is Hillary, who in a more sensible time would have lost in the primaries because of her mishandling of State Department emails and the shady stewardship of the Clinton Foundation.

On the other side is Trump, who in a sane universe would have no chance of winning because of basically every scummy thing he has said and done — from his rip-off “university” to his contorted tax returns, to his leering boast about grabbing women’s genitals.

Setting aside the not-so-minor issue of all those alleged assaults, Trump’s lazy ignorance of economic policy, foreign relations and even basic Government 101 is mind-blowing.

Yet his white hardcore base roars at his spray-tanned vaudeville act. Some of these people actually believe he’ll build a giant wall between the United States and Mexico, and that Mexico will pay for it.

Some of them actually believe he’s going to round up and deport five million undocumented aliens.

They also believed him when he first said the number was 11 million.

They would be the same people who actually think he can stop U.S. companies from moving jobs overseas, the same people who think he knows more about ISIS than the generals who are conducting the war on terror.

The folks who still believe all of Trump’s impossible promises are suckers. Most Republicans are well aware he’s full of crap, yet many will vote for him anyway just because they can’t stand Hillary.

Think about that. Their animosity toward one candidate is so visceral that they’re willing to hand the powers of the presidency to a dangerous, divisive and obviously uncontrollable buffoon.

It’s hard to imagine anything more unpatriotic than willfully putting your country — and the world — at such harrowing risk, simply because you dislike the Clintons and all they stand for.

Look at what Trump stands for.

Last week he was effusively endorsed by the Crusader, a leading voice of the Ku Klux Klan. It’s one of the few newspapers in the country to support Trump’s campaign, and his embarrassed staff hurried to denounce it.

Yet the ugly truth is that his hate-tinged bluster has energized the bigots, birthers, white separatists, and take-back-America xenophobes. He’s depending on all of them to turn out at the polls, and they probably will.

Ironically, they represent one of the few voting blocs that are genuinely enthusiastic about the election.

Most everyone else is trying not to vomit, including evangelicals who do not see in Trump a man who has modeled himself after Jesus Christ.

The campaign has been so awful that moderates in both parties are depressed and disgusted. Many Democrats wish Joe Biden was on the ballot, while Republicans fantasize about Paul Ryan or John Kasich, anybody but Donald.

Even though we’re stuck with two candidates who would blow up a polygraph machine, there are other issues — experience and a steady temperament, for example — that are somewhat crucial when electing the person who will have a finger on the nuclear button.

Anybody worried about what the future holds for their children or grandchildren ought to be asking themselves who, based on what we’ve seen, is likely to do the least harm — Clinton or Trump?

Which of them is least likely by their words and actions to damage the economic recovery, incite more anti-American terrorism at home or lead us into another pointless, costly overseas war? And which of them understands, for better or worse, how government really operates?

Choosing between the lesser of two evils is a common dilemma for voters, and no political candidates are unflawed. The respective imperfections of Trump and Hillary are glaring, but Trump is so much worse.

Undisciplined, unglued and uninformed, he actually makes it easy to vote for Hillary. The bar is that low.

Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132

IMAGE: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence speak in an overflow room at a campaign event in Roanoke, Virginia, U.S., July 25, 2016.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri