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Texas Democrats to spotlight national voting rights with week of events

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The Texas Democrats who fled the state last week to block voting restrictions are planning a week of events with civil rights leaders, national advocates, election officials and other Democrats as they seek to keep the pressure on Congress to pass federal voting legislation.

The lawmakers will participate in in a five-day conference starting Monday that will bring guest speakers and other lawmakers to work with the Texas coalition. Service Employees International Union Texas and Mi Familia Vota, a national civic engagement group, are hosting the event.

Guest speakers include labor leader Dolores Huerta, four secretaries of state from around the country, and lawmakers from other states where Republicans have advanced voting restrictions.

Organizers said the event will be educational for participants, while highlighting the need for Congress to pass federal voting legislation, including the For the People Act, Democrats’ sweeping election overhaul bill that Republicans have so far blocked thanks to filibuster rules that prevent legislation from passing without 60 votes in the Senate.

“Once there’s a little sunshine on this issue, I think there’s nobody in America that would disagree that voting rights are more important than Senate rules,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a Democrat from San Antonio.

After three of the Texas lawmakers in Washington tested positive for Covid-19, the event was adapted to be more virtual; the state Democrats will participate as a group from an event space in their hotel while the majority of the speakers join virtually.

“We didn’t want to wait or postpone the conference given everything going on right now. All eyes are on this issue, because of what the state legislators have done,” SEIU Texas President Elsa Caballero said. “The climate is just right for us to continue to put that extra light and pressure on to get something done.”

More than 50 Democrats from the Texas House of Representatives flew from Austin to Washington last Monday to break quorum and block voting restrictions from being passed by the state’s Republican majority. To prevent quorum from being restored, at least 51 House members will need to stay out of state through the expiration of the special legislative session on Aug. 7, or they can be arrested and brought back to the state Capitol.

Huerta will speak on Monday, and advocates, including Cliff Albright from Voters Matter Fund, will address the group Tuesday. On Wednesday, Texas legislators will meet with lawmakers from Colorado and Nevada about election administration and best practices. The county clerk in Denver, Paul López, will speak about the city’s well-regarded mail election system.

Thursday will feature top election officials from four states: Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill.

On Friday, the group will connect with Democratic lawmakers from Arizona, Florida and Georgia, where Republicans were able to enact significant new restrictions.

“With this conference, we will help prepare our voting rights champions for the fight ahead,” Héctor Sánchez Barba, CEO of Mi Familia Vota, said in a statement. “We will show them they aren’t alone in defending our democracy and fighting for us all.”



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'Blame Macron and his stupid red tape!' Britons furious as French bemoan M&S closures

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FURIOUS BRITONS have slammed French citizens for bemoaning the imminent closure of numerous Marks & Spencer stores in their country.

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SNP running out of cash! Sturgeon under pressure over 'substantial' finance black hole

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SNP chiefs fear they may not have enough cash to fight off a “tough” opposition to a second independence referendum from the UK Government.

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Texas doctor says he violated the state’s new law banning abortions after six weeks

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A Texas doctor revealed on Saturday that he recently performed an abortion in violation of the state’s new law that bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, arguing he “had a duty of care to this patient” and she had a “fundamental right” to an abortion.

Dr. Alan Braid, a physician who provides abortion care in San Antonio, wrote in an op-ed published in The Washington Post that he performed one on Sept. 6 for a woman who, although still in her first trimester, was beyond the state’s new limit.

“I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested,” Braid said. “I have daughters, granddaughters, and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care.”

“I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972,” Braid said.

The new law forbids abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually at around six weeks of pregnancy, before most people know they are pregnant. However, it allows no exceptions for rape or incest.

The law also prohibits state officials from enforcing the ban. Instead, it allows individuals to sue abortion providers or anyone who may have helped someone get an abortion after the limit and seek financial damages of at least $10,000 per defendant.

Braid, who has provided abortion care for over 40 years and operated clinics in Houston, San Antonio, and Oklahoma, said he was already challenging the strict law in court. His clinics are among the plaintiffs represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights in an ongoing federal lawsuit against the law, known as S.B. 8.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Texas over its law earlier this month, arguing it violates the constitution. Last week, the department also filed a motion in federal court asking a judge to temporarily block the enforcement of the law. The judge scheduled a hearing date of Oct. 1.

Texas Right To Life, an anti-abortion group, said they are “aware of the situation.” Rebecca Parma, a senior legislative associate at the group, warned “we’re cautious about the allegation as it seems like another attempt to thwart the law” and “the pro-life movement is still dedicated to ensuring that the Texas Heartbeat Act is fully enforced.”

However, Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, praised Braid, saying he “courageously stood up against this blatantly unconstitutional law.”

“We stand ready to defend him against the vigilante lawsuits that S.B. 8 threatens to unleash against those providing or supporting access to constitutionally protected abortion care,” Northup said. “For more than two weeks this unconscionable law has been in effect, harming numerous Texans, and falling hardest on those struggling to make ends meet and people of color, who already face barriers to health care.”

In the op-ed, Braid said he started his obstetrics and gynecology residency at a San Antonio hospital in 1972, before Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to the procedure.

“At the time, abortion was effectively illegal in Texas — unless a psychiatrist certified a woman was suicidal. If the woman had money, we’d refer her to clinics in Colorado, California or New York. The rest were on their own,” Braid said.

The Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling, he said, “enabled me to do the job I was trained to do.” But this month “everything changed” when the law took effect, which “virtually banned any abortion beyond about the sixth week of pregnancy” and “shut down about 80 percent of the abortion services we provide.”

Braid added, “I understand that by providing an abortion beyond the new legal limit, I am taking a personal risk, but it’s something I believe in strongly.”



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