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The ‘Death Sentence’ Abortion Bill Would Make Abortion Punishable By Up To 99 Years In Prison

The addition of conservatives on the Supreme Court has energized Republicans in the south to start legal fights in their states that could challenge Roe v. Wade. The latest is also potentially the most extreme: Alabama has proposed a bill that would essentially ban the reproductive health procedure in the state.

On Tuesday, Alabama representative Terri Collins introduced legislation that would make performing abortions at any point during a woman’s pregnancy a felony. The bill does not make exceptions for cases of rape and incest, but does if the pregnancy poses “a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.”

HB314, or as Collins is touting it, a bill that “simply criminalizes abortions,” would ban the procedure after two weeks of conception, “which is the earliest point that pregnancy can be medically determined,” Refinery29 reports. Currently, abortion care is banned in the state after 21.6 weeks and there is a 48-hour waiting period.

Under the bill, should a doctor perform the procedure, they could be charged with a Class A felony, which carries a prison sentence of 10 to 99 years.

The legislation also compares abortion care to the Holocaust and other genocides.

“More than 50 million babies have been aborted in the United States since the Roe decision in 1973, more than three times the number who were killed in German death camps, Chinese purges, Stalin’s gulags, Cambodian killing fields and the Rwandan genocide combined,” it reads.

According to Collins, prohibiting abortion is the “logical next step” for Alabama, which last year voted to ratify “a constitutional amendment declaring Alabama as a pro-life state.”

Sixty-five Alabama legislators out of its 105-member House of Representatives signed the bill as co-sponsors.

Since the start of 2019, 250 abortion restrictions have been introduced throughout the country. In the past year, two states have successfully passed six-week abortion bans, and Georgia will likely soon follow.

Many of these bills, especially HB314, will be met with legal challenges if they pass. This is the goal. Sponsors of the legislation understand these measures violate the precedent set in Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the US, and hope to ultimately bring their case before the now conservative-leaning SCOTUS, where the decision could be overturned and roll back abortion rights and care for people all over the country.

The ACLU of Alabama has slammed lawmakers for putting politics before women’s health and knowingly passing a bill that could cost taxpayers “hundreds of thousands” of dollars to cover the bill’s legal fees.

“These lawsuits are a part of a plan to overturn Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court,” Randall Marshall said in a statement. “They know they will not win in federal, district, or appeals courts because these bills are flagrantly unconstitutional. However, if a state loses in lower courts, appeals to the Supreme Court and is denied review, then they will owe potentially hundreds of thousands of taxpayer money in attorney fees. None of these states including Alabama can afford to throw money away like that.”

Read: A New Site Is Making Access To Abortion Medication A Lot Safer And Easier For Women

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Evelyn Hernandez Is Facing A Third Trial And Angered Protesters Used A New Way To Show Their Frustration

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Evelyn Hernandez Is Facing A Third Trial And Angered Protesters Used A New Way To Show Their Frustration

@bbcstories / Twitter

There are rising tensions in El Salvador as activists are protesting the attorney general’s decision to seek a third trial for a woman accused of killing her stillborn son. The woman, Evelyn Hernandez, was exonerated in an August retrial after an earlier judgment found her guilty of killing her stillborn son and sentenced her to 30 years behind bars. Hernandez, 21, was found innocent after the judge said there was not enough evidence to convict her of the crime. 

The issue of abortion has always been a widely-debated and divisive topic in conservative El Salvador where abortion is illegal. Many women in the country have been prosecuted for attempting abortions even in dire medical situations. Activists look at Hernandez’s case as an example of an unjust system targeting her due to her limited financial status. 

 “We do not want Evelyn to be viewed as a criminal and persecuted,” Claribel Ayala, a protester outside the attorney general’s office in El Salvador told Reuters. “We’re going to stand with her until justice is done.”

While activists see Hernandez’s case as a trial against women rights, prosecutors are looking at her as a criminal.

Credit: @NARAL / Twitter 

Activists dressed in clown attire took to the streets of El Salvador this week to voice their disapproval of the news that attorney general Raul Melara would be seeking a third trial in Hernandez’s case. Many of them threw confetti-filled eggs at his office and even painted his door red with paint. Melara acknowledges their anger but sees the case with a different lens.  

“There are groups that have a big interest in seeing this as persecution against poverty, that this woman is being targeted because she had an emergency outside the hospital, but the proof is overwhelming and shows this isn’t the case,” Melara told reporters.

Hernandez’s release from prison was viewed as a victory for women rights. 

Credit: @karlazabs / Twitter

Hernandez said she was raped by a gang member and was unaware of her pregnancy until just before delivering a stillborn son back in 2016. She was found on her bathroom floor covered with blood and would be taken to an emergency room by her mother and a neighbor. When doctors examined her they noted that there were visible signs of delivery but found no baby. They reported Hernandez to local authorities and would later find her newborn dead inside of a septic tank.

She’s been convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for the alleged killing of her child. Prosecutors said that she had purposely induced abortion only to leave the newborn to die. Hernandez wound up only serving 33 months out of her original 30-year sentence before being released in February. 

This was due to an appeal before the Supreme Court who said that Hernandez should be released due the original conviction being based on prejudice and insufficient evidence. The acquittal was looked at as a huge victory for women’s rights not only in El Salvador but globally. 

“It was tough to be locked up, especially when I was innocent,” Hernandez said the day she was released. “There are others who are still locked up and I hope they are freed soon.”

Hernandez has maintained her innocence from the start that she had no knowledge of being pregnant. Now prosecutors are looking at a third trial to convict her of killing her newborn child. 

Credit: @marlasirens / Twitter

The attorney general is seeking to convict Hernandez of murder even after being released from prison. While many see Hernandez as the true victim in this ordeal, prosecutors see things differently.  

“As Attorney General of the Republic, we are responsible for the support and accompaniment of women victims in any crime and in any of its modalities, but, in the case of Evelyn Hernández, there are no elements to consider her a victim of any fact, on the contrary, the only victim is her son,” prosecutors said in a statement . “This appeal is the manifestation of the legal protection of … the life of a helpless being who depended absolutely on the care of his mother, who caused his death.”

Hernandez’s legal team is fighting back against these claims saying that the attempt at a retrial is a waste of resources that could be used to serve more important issues. 

“We expected this persecution against Evelyn to stop,” one of her lawyers, Elizabeth Deras, told BuzzFeed News. “Instead, they are spending the state’s resources unnecessarily. Resources that could be used to fight corruption.”

As of now, the request for a new trial must be assessed by a different court before it can proceed legally. The prosecution is looking to sentence Hernandez to 40 years in prison.  

READ: These Are Our Favorite Fast Foods You Can Get In Latin America But Not In The US, Dos Por Favor!

Google Maps Has Been Directing Women In Search Of Abortion Clinics To Anti-Choice Clinics

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Google Maps Has Been Directing Women In Search Of Abortion Clinics To Anti-Choice Clinics

For many abortion-seekers in rural areas across the country, a search on Google Maps for a clinic where they can obtain the lawful family planning procedure could actually lead them to anti-choice centers that shame them for wanting to terminate their pregnancies. VICE News conducted an investigation into the matter, looking specifically at 55 cities across 22 states that are at risk if Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

In 21 of the cities, the reporters discovered that Google directs users to centers that either do not provide abortions or would attempt to dissuade them from attaining the procedure.

In North Dakota, searching for “Where can I get an abortion in Bismarck, North Dakota” leads users to North Dakota Right to Life, an anti-abortion clinic that, as you might guess, doesn’t offer the procedure.

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Red River Women’s Clinic, which does provide abortions, does not show up in the search. In Tennessee, similar anti-choice centers also populate. However, the Google Maps search also leads to the National Memorial for the Unborn, a site “dedicated to healing generations of pain associated with the loss of aborted and miscarried children.” While it should be noted that some people do regret having an abortion, according to the American Psychological Association, a single first-trimester abortion is no riskier to a woman’s mental health than carrying a pregnancy to term.

Similarly, the search for, “Where can I get an abortion in Little Rock, Arkansas?” offers a combination of family planning centers that do provide abortions, like a Planned Parenthood location, but also generates Arkansas Right to Life, a pro-life organization that’s website states the procedure influences “society’s acceptance of infanticide.”

Additionally, through their study, VICE News found Google Maps results from crisis pregnancy centers that used misleading language about their family planning options or outright shamed abortion-seekers as well as centers that claim to “reverse” a medication abortion using the “abortion pill reversal,” a drug that has not been proven to work. 

Google’s struggle to help give abortion-seekers accurate information isn’t knew.

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In February 2018, Gizmodo found that when users search, “Where can I get an abortion near me?” Google Maps directed many of them to “crisis pregnancy centers.” These facilities, while legal, have become largely controversial because they disguise themselves as abortion centers yet shame and counsel people who think they are obtaining the procedure against it. Additionally, they fail at providing “comprehensive, accurate, evidence-based clinical information” and instead try to sway abortion-seekers into believing that becoming a parent or considering adoption are better options for them.

Since that investigation more than a year ago, VICE News notes that Google Maps has gotten better at differentiating between abortion clinics and crisis pregnancy centers, but the problem of sending abortion-seekers to pro-life clinics still remains. 

Google, which is aware of the problem, claims that it exists because pro- and anti-abortion centers usually operate on the same keywords. 

“There are situations in which it can be overt misrepresentation and the business knows what they’re doing. I mean, that’s the purpose of the business,” spokesperson Paul Pennington told the news outlet, referring to misleading crisis pregnancy centers.

He continued: “If you are picking the right business category, if you are — again — being very clear in your website and you say, ‘We do not provide these services, etc.,’ that’s on us.”

That’s why Google deploys human analysts from its fraud and spam team to physically investigate businesses that might be misrepresenting themselves on Maps.

If a business identifies as an “abortion clinic,” a protected category, an additional certification is required from these analysts. 

According to Pennington, the question is, “What is that balance of having something that’s automated and scalable but also maintaining some level of manual labor that really has people kind of going in and reviewing this?”

During its probe, VICE reached out to COPE Pregnancy Center, a clinic that appeared in a Google Maps search for abortion clinics in Montgomery, Alabama but does not provide or refer the procedure.

“That is absolutely insane. We would not do that and certainly didn’t do that, especially today — when it’s, when pregnancy centers have such a bad reputation anyway,” COPE executive director Lorie Mullins said of the inaccurate label, adding that she planned on contacting Google to correct it. “We really fight to be upfront and open about what we are and what we provide, and certainly would not lie.”

However, a Google spokesperson told VICE News that the facility continually applied to be certified as an “abortion clinic.”

They believe that a Google employee must have mistakenly approved them. After VICE flagged the miscategorization to Google, the company said it would fix the problem in 24 hours.

Despite the improvements, problems still persist, leaving some pro-abortion rights groups to take matters into their own hands. For instance, Abortion Access Front has an initiative called exposefakeclinics.com, which encourages supporters to review anti-abortion centers and abortion providers on Google Maps.

“We saw Google reviews as a tool to combat that misinformation,” Anna Bean, the nonprofit’s community engagement manager, told the outlet. “Write a completely accurate review: ‘As a consumer, I see that this place does not provide abortion services.’ As simple as that. So that when people then upvote that review — you know, give it that little thumbs-up — that rises to the top of the page.”

But even this is limited, as anti-choice groups have started their own copycat movement, using Exposefakeclinics.org — instead of .com — to defend anti-abortion centers.

“There’s an influx of these clinics. They’re more empowered than ever before by the Trump administration now,” Bean said. “Google needs to play a role in ensuring that people are getting factual information about the services in their community.”

Read: When Abortion Meets Immigration: How I Help The Undocumented Obtain An Abortion