News in Brief: States Roll Back Abortion Rights and More

Foes of abortion have been advancing their cause at the state level, reported The New York Times, with at least 11 states passing legislation this year regulating or restricting abortion. In four other states, laws are in the works, having passed at least one house of the legislature. Arizona has banned coverage of abortion in the state employees’ health plan, while Nebraska has banned all abortions after 20 weeks on the basis that the fetus can feel pain at any stage. In Mississippi, the governor signed a bill barring insurers from covering abortion in the new insurance exchanges that are mandatory under the new health care bill. The Oklahoma legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Brad Henry of a bill which would require doctors who do abortions to answer 38 questions each time they perform an abortion, including the woman’s reason for ending her pregnancy.

Joseph W. Dellapenna, a law professor at Villanova University and the author of “Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History,” said, “The right-to-life folks are seeing just how far they can push things.” Dellapenna thought it was “almost a certainty” that one of the laws would end up in front of the Supreme Court, where the abortion views of Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, the newest court nominee, are untested.


The bodies of the nine dead activists killed aboard the Gaza aid flotilla have been returned to Turkey, reported Democracy Now!, as forensic experts confirmed that all nine victims were shot with guns. Eight were Turkish nationals, and one was a US citizen of Turkish origin, identified as 19-year-old Furkan Dogan. Dogan reportedly had four bullet wounds to the head and one wound to the chest. The remaining 450 activists also arrived in Turkey Thursday, some of whom were rushed to the hospital for immediate medical treatment. Survivors of the assault have accused Israel of firing on the ship before it was boarded by commandos, while the United Nations has called for an independent inquiry into the event.

Meanwhile, another aid ship is heading to Gaza carrying 15 activists, including a northern Irish Nobel Peace laureate, reported Reuters. The ship expects to reach Gaza by Saturday morning if given clear passage by Israel, and is now about 280 miles away from Gaza. Israel has offered to escort the ship and deliver the civilian aid for it, and Egypt offered to do the same, but the ship’s owner and crew member, Derek Graham, said that would prefer a United Nations escort.

“We’re willing to let the U.N. come and inspect the cargo. We will accept an escort from the U.N.,” said Graham. “Everybody was very upset at what happened. Everybody has been more determined than ever to continue on to Gaza.”


President Obama has ordered government agencies to expand benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, including assistance services, hardship transfers and relocation expenses, reported Democracy Now!. Obama said Wednesday that current federal law prevents him from furthering the benefits provided to same-sex couples to that of heterosexual married couples. He called on Congress to pass legislation to fix the discrepancy.

New York City may pass the nation’s first law to offer protections to domestic workers, reported The New York Times, as the Senate passes a bill that would require paid holidays, sick days, vacation days and overtime wages for domestic workers. The bill would also require 14 days’ notice, or termination pay, before a domestic worker is fired. The bill will affect an estimated 200,000 workers in the New York City metropolitan area: citizen, immigrant and undocumented immigrant.


The White House considered offering an administration job to a Democratic politician in Colorado to sidetrack his primary challenge, reported The New York Times. The White House said it “wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters.” But when the candidate, Andrew Romanoff, replied that he was committed to the Senate race against Sen. Michael Bennet, “that ended the discussion” and “there was no offer of a job.” According to Romanoff, the White House had suggested several possible jobs with the administration to get him to drop out of the race. The White House also considered an administration position in a failed attempt to divert Rep. Joe Sestak from running in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary.