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Abortion: Virginia Governor Backpedals On Transvaginal Ultrasound Bill

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Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell today requested the state legislature amend its highly controversial bill requiring women considering abortion to have a medically unnecessary and highly-invasive transvaginal ultrasound, and change the language to require “only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound … to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age.” Curiously, pro-choice advocates are fully aware the bill was not created “to determine gestational age,” but rather to humiliate women, force additional costs upon them, and force additional waiting times upon them. Pro-choice advocates pointed to the FBI whose new definition of rape requires undesired penetration, calling the original bill “state-sponsored rape.”

The MaddowBlog notes:

After more than a thousand people staged a silent protest at the state capitol, the Virginia House of Delegates twice put off voting on the bill this week. Last night the Washington Post reported that Governor McDonnell wasn’t so committed to the measure anymore.

Here is the full text of Governor McDonnell’s statement. Note how it sounds like he’s running for higher office?

Statement of Governor Bob McDonnell on SB 484
RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement today regarding SB 484, a bill before the General Assembly that would require an ultrasound prior to an abortion being performed.

“I am pro-life. I believe deeply in the sanctity of innocent human life and believe governments have a duty to protect human life. The more our society embraces a culture of life for all people, the better country we will have. Over the course of my 20-year career in elected office, I have been glad to play a leading role in putting in place common-sense policies that protect and defend innocent human life in the Commonwealth. One of those bills was Virginia’s informed consent statute, of which I was the chief patron in the House of Delegates, finally seeing its passage in 2001. This session, the General Assembly is now considering amending this informed consent statute to include a requirement that any woman seeking an abortion receive an ultrasound in order to establish the gestational age for appropriate medical purposes, and to offer a woman the opportunity to voluntarily review that ultrasound prior to giving her legal informed consent to abortion.

Over the past days I have discussed the specific language of the proposed legislation with other governors, physicians, attorneys, legislators, advocacy groups, and citizens. It is apparent that several amendments to the proposed legislation are needed to address various medical and legal issues which have arisen. It is clear that in the majority of cases, a routine external, transabdominal ultrasound is sufficient to meet the bills stated purpose, that is, to determine gestational age. I have come to understand that the medical practice and standard of care currently guide physicians to use other procedures to find the gestational age of the child, when abdominal ultrasounds cannot do so. Determining gestational age is essential for legal reasons, to know the trimester of the pregnancy in order to comply with the law, and for medical reasons as well. 

Thus, having looked at the current proposal, I believe there is no need to direct by statute that further invasive ultrasound procedures be done. Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure. 

For this reason, I have recommended to the General Assembly a series of amendments to this bill. I am requesting that the General Assembly amend this bill to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily. I am asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age. Should a doctor determine that another form of ultrasound may be necessary to provide the necessary images and information that will be an issue for the doctor and the patient. The government will have no role in that medical decision.

I have requested other amendments that help clarify the purposes of the bill and reflect a better understanding of prevailing medical practices. It is my hope that the members of the General Assembly will act favorably upon these recommendations from our office. We will await their action prior to making any further comments on this matter.”

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Fort Worth ISD Drops Sex Ed Despite $2.6 Million Purchase of Materials in April

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Fort Worth ISD students will not take sex education this school year after the superintendent told parents she is scrapping plans to adopt a controversial curriculum that the district appears to have purchased last year for nearly $2.6 million.

Superintendent Angélica Ramsey made the announcement at the end of her weekly newsletter sent Jan. 27. She told parents the district is restarting its curriculum adoption process. For nearly a year, administrators planned to re-adopt instructional materials from California-based HealthSmart.

In April, the Fort Worth ISD school board approved a nearly $2.6 million purchase of new digital-only instructional materials from HealthSmart. Trustees did not discuss the purchase. The purchase was part of the consent agenda, a list of items considered routine that can be approved in one motion.

District spokesperson Claudia Garibay did not respond to a dozen questions from the Fort Worth Report by publication time.

Angélica Ramsey, the new Fort Worth ISD superintendent, talks to reporters after the school board hired her during a special meeting on Sept. 20, 2022. (Jacob Sanchez | Fort Worth Report)

“There is not an approved, adopted or recommended Human Sexuality Curriculum for the 2022-23 school year. The delay will suspend the instructional delivery of the sexual education unit for the 2022-23 school year,” Ramsey wrote to parents.

Students whose parents opt them into sex education were expected to take the course later in spring semester, according to the district. Consent forms had a due date of Feb. 28.

The School Health Advisory Council — the school board-appointed, 26-member committee reviewing sex education — is expected to examine different options for Fort Worth ISD’s next curriculum, Ramsey said.

Ramsey’s announcement comes after a Jan. 24 school board meeting that saw dozens of residents and parents speak out against the HealthSmart curriculum, which the district has used since 2014. The Report filed an open records request for the proposed curriculum.

Fort Worth ISD bought HealthSmart’s instructional materials for all grade levels. Sex education is included in lessons for middle school and high school, according to HealthSmart.

State law requires school board members to make decisions on sex education curriculum, the Texas Education Agency told the Report.

‘Superintendent inherited a situation’

State Board of Education member Pat Hardy wants to see Fort Worth ISD succeed. However, as she watched the district attempt to adopt HealthSmart, she did not see administrators being transparent nor working with parents enough to make an informed decision, she told the Report.

Pat Hardy is a member of the State Board of Education. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Hardy, a Republican who represents west Tarrant County, criticized Fort Worth ISD’s sex education curriculum adoption in a recent opinion article. All Fort Worth ISD needed to do was follow the process outlined in state law, Hardy said.

Hardy blamed Fort Worth ISD’s previous leadership for its sex education issues. Ramsey has been superintendent since late September; she replaced Kent Scribner.

“The superintendent inherited a situation that was going on before she got here,” Hardy said.

Hardy praised Ramsey for telling parents her plans to get Fort Worth ISD’s next sex education curriculum right and to follow state law.

“My hat’s off to her,” Hardy said.

What has happened, so far

New sex education curriculum standards were introduced in 2020. Without state-aligned materials, Fort Worth ISD cannot teach sex education.

What is the process for adopting a sex education curriculum?

Texas law and Fort Worth ISD school board policy detail the process for adopting new instructional materials for sex education. Here’s what the district’s policy, which aligns with state law, says:

The following process shall apply regarding the adoption of curriculum materials for the district’s human sexuality instruction:

  1. The school board shall adopt a resolution convening the district’s school health advisory council to recommend curriculum materials for the instruction.
  2. The advisory council shall hold at least two public meetings on the curriculum materials before adopting recommendations to present to the board.
  3. The advisory council recommendations must comply with the instructional content requirements in law, be suitable for the subject and grade level for which the materials are intended, and be reviewed by academic experts in the subject and grade level for which the materials are intended.
  4. The advisory council shall present its recommendations to the Board at a public meeting.
  5. After the school board ensures the recommendations from the advisory council meet the standards in law, the board shall take action on the recommendations by a record vote at a public meeting.

Texas school districts are not required to teach sex education. Districts that choose to do so are required to have parents opt their students into the course.

The State Board of Education recommended school districts use sex education curriculum for middle school students from publisher Goodheart-Wilcox. However, the state board did not make it mandatory.

In early January, the school board stopped the School Health Advisory Council’s review of sex education curriculum.

At that same meeting, trustees also rescinded a December resolution directing the council to officially convene and hold two public meetings before offering a curriculum recommendation. When trustees OK’d the resolution in December, its agenda item had the wrong title. It was “approve resolution concerning implementation and enforcement of school safety measures.” District officials blamed the mistake on a clerical error.

The School Health Advisory Council worked on recommending HealthSmart to the school board since September. Garibay described that work as “informational,” according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Two public meetings were held Sept. 6 and 7. Agendas for those meetings were not publicly available Jan. 26, and no minutes were posted. On Oct. 12, the School Health Advisory Council voted to recommend the proposed sex education curriculum to the school board, according to minutes of the meeting.

However, school board records show trustees did not consider a resolution convening the School Health Advisory Council to begin the sex education review process. The resolution is the first step toward adopting a new curriculum, according to board policy.

Another meeting was held Nov. 5 when 15 new council members, who were appointed in October, participated for the first time. The council again voted to recommend the curriculum; minutes of the meeting were not available on the district’s site.

No complaints about Fort Worth ISD’s sex education curriculum have been filed with TEA, according to agency officials.

For the past few months, Hardy has heard from her constituents about Fort Worth ISD. Most of the comments, she said, focus on one thing the district should be doing: Be transparent.

“They’re tired of things not coming to the forefront,” Hardy said. “They just want Fort Worth ISD to be honest.”

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at jacob.sanchez@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

 

Top image via Shutterstock

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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

Trump-Aligned Christian Nationalist Group ‘Taps Into Unholy Well’ That Threatens Democracy

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A well-funded and powerfully connected extremist group is raising alarms about its activities ahead of the 2024 election.

ReAwaken America, a project organized by Oklahoma businessman Clay Clark and funded by Donald Trump ally Patrick Byrne, has blended conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the 2020 election to promote a Christian nationalist political message at rallies and other events, reported The Guardian.

“Christian nationalism has deep roots in American history and has gained traction at different points,” said Amanda Tyler, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. “The ReAwaken America Tour taps into the unholy well of Christian nationalism to sow doubt about the U.S. election system and the safety of COVID-19 vaccines while equating allegiance to Trumpism with allegiance to God.”

“Clay Clark and others who run this tour are using the name of Jesus, Holy Scripture, and worship music to promote a partisan political agenda and personal business interests,” she added.

READ MORE: Bill Barr’s ‘hollow and self-serving’ image rehabilitation tour shredded in scathing NYT editorial

Michael Flynn, the Trump-pardoned former national security adviser, and convicted Capitol rioter Dr. Simone Gold have each made multiple appearances at ReAwaken America events, and a recent gathering hosted at the Tennessee church of right-wing pastor Greg Locke drew My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, Eric Trump, Roger Stone and Kash Patel.

“The religious nature of these events is a pretext for a rally by people who are united by feeling victimized and outraged,” said Samuel Perry, a sociologist at the University of Oklahoma. “This is incredibly corrosive for democracy because you have a group of political leaders and their followers who not only feel victimized by the culture, but they feel like the very political system is against them. That’s how you get populist coup attempts.”

Trump National Doral will host a ReAwaken America gathering in May, which could give the impression that Trump still has strong support from evangelical voters, but mainstream religious leaders are concerned about the convergence of conspiracy theories about Trump’s election loss and COVID-19 could have a corrosive effect on democracy.

“White evangelicals are among the least educated of Americans,” said David Hollinger, a history professor emeritus at Berkeley. “The Republican Party’s increasing reliance upon them marks an unprecedented stage in American history: for the first time, one of the major political parties displays contempt for learning. Not even the Democratic party of Andrew Jackson was so dependent for its success on anti-intellectual postures.”

 

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‘Low Energy Donald’: Trump Buried for ‘Monotonous’ Kick-Off Speeches in Critical Battleground States

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Donald Trump’s first two speeches touting his 2024 Republican Party presidential bid before smaller crowds in New Hampshire and South Carolina ended up being a rehash of old complaints and with a few lines that garnered applause but his demeanor was lacking the usual fire once seen at his raucous rallies.

On the morning after the speeches, MSNBC host Katie Phang shared clips of the president speaking and noted the lack of enthusiam from the former president when one considers how important the first foray into public in 2023 was to his third presidential bid with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and a bevy of GOP lawmakers nipping at his heels.

As the MSNBC host pointed out, the president’s uncharacteristically short speeches were nothing less than monotonous.

“Do you guys remember low-energy Jeb?” Phang began, referencing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, “That was the moniker Donald Trump branded on the former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush while they compete with others for the Republican nomination in 2016.”

“Well, now it seems like we have a low-energy Donald,” she continued. “Here was Donald Trump yesterday when he tried to kick his third white house run into high gear.”

RELATED: ‘All washed up’: Republican insider says Trump needs to ‘move on’ because ‘he’s bleeding support’

After showing a clip of the subdued former president telling the crowd, “So, we’re here. We start, we begin. I want to thank New Hampshire for the warm welcome outside. We are so far ahead in the polls, both in New Hampshire — one came out this morning, very nice poll — we are way ahead. We had a tremendous period of time. We had a tremendous thing happening just two and a half years ago,” Phang noted Trump’s demeanor.

“King of the monotone,” she pointed out, “Despite trump saying he is leading in the polls the reality is so far he is the only Republican who has even announced a run for president.”

“Trump’s first lethargic campaign stops of the 24 race come as sources are telling NBC News that [Rep.] Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is angling to be his vice president,” she added. “The MAGA conspiracy theorist slash insurrectionist, slash election denier, reportedly sees herself as someone who can bridge the divide between the party’s far-right hard-liners and its, quote, establishment wing.”

Watch below or at the link:

 

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