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From The Hill, Week 3: Lawmakers address abortion rights, access to birth control

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill closed out the third week of the 45-day legislative session, passing a total of 57 bills so far. Representatives have addressed topics ranging from education to abortion rights, trying to get as many of their bill proposals in as possible. 

Many abortion bills directly address the access to abortion facilities and the laws surrounding that, while others focus mainly on the aftermath if the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was overturned. 

Bill passes that determines what happens to fetal remains

A bill passed in the Senate earlier this week presents options for women to choose how to dispose of the fetal remains with “respect and dignity.”

The bill sponsor, Sen. Curtis Bramble, drafted the legislation to mandate that fetal remains cannot be disposed of with medical waste. The woman can choose between a burial or cremation for the fetus. 

If she doesn’t want to choose, the medical facility can. 

Groups that oppose the bill say that it is a traumatic experience for women in that situation to choose what to do with the remains. Others are worried it is using legal authority to take steps toward defining a fetus a “grown human being” at conception. 

Lawmaker pushes to ban elective abortion

Sen. Dan McCay is proposing a bill that would put an end to elective abortions: procedures occuring before the 20-week mark and carried out for reasons other than maternal health or the health of the fetus. 

The bill wouldn’t immediately take effect — it only limits abortions if the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Specific language surrounding the bill hasn’t been clearly articulated; however, McCay says there would be exceptions for cases of rape or incest. It would also consider cases that put the mother at risk as an exception. 

Different kind of anti-abortion bill: increased access to birth control

Sen. Derek Kitchen drafted a bill in response to the ban on elective abortions. The bill would mandate increased access to contraceptives and birth control resources. 

Kitchen said if the government restricts access to abortion, they have the responsibility to increase access to these contraceptives. 

At the first hearing of the bill, the committee skipped over it with a vote to adjourn the meeting. However, Kitchen is pushing for Republicans to vote in favor of the bill. 

The bill would increase access through pre-approved Medicaid waivers that would cover birth control pills, IUDs, implants, etc. However, it’s specific to include that is does not cover abortion. 

Other bills gaining attention this week

Lawmakers have been busy, hurrying to finish drafts of bills to ensure they are considered before committee hearings. Plenty of those surround issues in education and public safety. 

Other bills that were previously killed on the floor — including one that bans the use of tanning beds among teenagers — were redrafted and passed upon second hearing. 

The end to texting and driving

A new bill, the Distracted Driver Amendments, hopes to put an end to texting, talking and video-taping while driving. 

The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, and it mandates that cell phones are put on the windshield, dashboard, or locked in the console while driving. 

The charge is an infraction upon first offense. However, upon second offense and if someone is harmed in the process, the driver can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. 

Drivers can still use wireless devices, use phones when legally parked and to capture moments that are a safety hazard or criminal activity. As for texting and Snapchatting — that will have to wait. 

A refresher on Driver’s Ed

Under a new bill sponsored by Rep. Craig Hall, it can become much more expensive if a driver is reckless around a school bus. 

The legislation proposes increasing the fine for drivers passing a school bus with flashing red lights. Specifically, it would increase the fine from $100 to $250. 

Hall says this is a pressing issue, with roughly 900 drivers illegally passing school buses a day. He says this can put several kids at risk, because the flashing lights indicate children are exiting the bus. 

Some lawmakers say there should be more severe penalties — with some proposing they add community service as a punishment. 


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