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Trump absent but still dominates as GOP presidential rivals clash at first debate

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lailluminator.com – Jacob Fischler – 2023-08-24 07:00:01

Trump absent but still dominates as GOP presidential rivals clash at first debate

by Jacob Fischler, Louisiana Illuminator
August 24, 2023

Eight Republican presidential candidates gathered onstage Wednesday night in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for a heated first primary debate heavily influenced by former President Donald Trump, though the party's front runner refused to attend the two-hour event.

Trump instead recorded a competing 46-minute interview with former Fox News personality Tucker Carlson that aired on X, formerly known as Twitter, posted minutes before the debate began. Trump throughout the interview insulted President Joe Biden's health and mental capacity, mocked his fellow Republican candidates and repeated his unfounded claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

With just five months before voters head to the first-in-the-nation GOP caucuses in Iowa, each of the eight Republicans who qualified for the debate sponsored by conservative broadcaster Fox News tried to convince viewers they are the best politician to defeat Biden in the 2024 election.

Attending the GOP debate were North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

A handful of the candidates criticized Trump, who faces criminal indictments in four cases and is expected to report to the Fulton County Jail in Georgia on Thursday for a voluntary surrender in a case centering on interference in the 2020 election.

All the candidates but Hutchinson and Christie raised their hand to indicate they would still support Trump if he were convicted of any of the four criminal prosecutions he faces. Ramaswamy said he would pardon Trump on his first day in office.

Abortion policy 

In one of the more contentious exchanges, the Republican candidates — who all consider themselves “pro-life” — differed over whether a GOP president should press for a nationwide ban on abortion access, likely to be a major issue in the 2024 election following the Supreme Court ruling striking down Roe v. Wade.

Haley said the candidates need to be honest with Americans that it's unlikely a majority of U.S. House members and at least 60 U.S. senators would vote to pass a nationwide ban.

If elected, Haley said, she would look for consensus to prevent abortions late in a pregnancy, encourage adoptions, protect doctors and nurses who don't believe they should have to perform abortions, ensure contraception is available and make sure women don't go to jail if they choose to end a pregnancy.

“Let's treat this like the respectful issue that it is and humanize the situation and stop demonizing the situation,” Haley said.

Pence rejected that assertion, arguing that “consensus is the opposite of leadership.”

The former vice president said he would press for a nationwide ban on abortion access after 15 weeks.

“When the Supreme Court returned this question to the American people, they didn't just send it to the states only. It's not a states-only issue. It's a moral issue,” Pence said. “And I promise you, as president of the United States, the American people will have a champion for life.”

Scott also advocated for a nationwide ban of at least 15 weeks, saying Democratic states should not be able to set their own abortion laws.

“We cannot let states like California, New York, Illinois have abortions on demand up until the day of birth. That is immoral. It is unethical. It is wrong,” Scott said. “We must have a president of the United States who will advocate and fight for at the minimum a 15-week limit.”

DeSantis was somewhat less clear than the other candidates, saying he believes in a “culture of life” and was proud to sign a six-week ban as Florida governor, though he didn't say what he would press for if elected president.

“Look, I understand Wisconsin is going to do it different than Texas. I understand Iowa and New Hampshire are going to do different. But I will support the cause of life as governor and as president,” DeSantis said.

There were approximately 930,160 abortions in the United States during 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The majority of the abortions within the country are now done through medication abortion, a two-dose regimen that is approved for up to 10 weeks gestation.

About 93% of abortions take place during the first trimester, defined as at or before 13 weeks of gestation. Another 6% take place between 14 and 20 weeks and about 1% of abortions take place at 21 weeks or later in a pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Minnesota Democratic Sen. Tina Smith said on a press call hosted by the Biden-Harris campaign on Tuesday in advance of the event that the Republican debate would “make really clear what Americans already know, which is that none of the Republican candidates for president will protect access to health care, including abortion.”

“These candidates are completely out of touch with American voters who strongly support abortion rights,” Smith said.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America has called on all of the Republican candidates to commit to pressing for a nationwide ban on abortions after 15 weeks gestation, while other conservative organizations have pressed for a nationwide abortion ban earlier in pregnancy.

Republican presidential candidates former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, left, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy participate in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by Fox News at the Fiserv Forum on Aug. 23, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Eight presidential hopefuls squared off in the first Republican debate as former U.S. President Donald Trump, currently facing indictments in four locations, declined to participate in the event. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Biden blamed for economic problems

Before the first question of the night, Fox News played a montage of voters complaining about rising prices.

Year-over-year inflation reached its highest point in two decades under Biden, at 9.1% in June 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That dropped to 3.2% last month, much closer to the Federal Reserve's target of 2%.

In Trump's absence, the first question of the night went to the candidate leading in the polls behind Trump, DeSantis, who said the nation was in decline under Biden. He called for opening more energy production as a way to boost the economy.

Christie said he and others on the stage “predominantly” agreed with DeSantis' answer on the economy, but said he had the strongest leadership experience that would be required.

The other candidates largely used their first round of speaking to criticize the economy under Biden.

The Republicans sought to present themselves as the most conservative option on spending and taxes, describing Biden and congressional Democrats as irresponsible free spenders.

But Haley said Democrats weren't the only ones to blame, noting the $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief law was passed on a bipartisan basis and signed by Trump. She also said Republicans asked for three times as much money in federal earmarks this year.

“So you tell me who are the big spenders,” she said. “I think it's time for an accountant in the White House.”

She criticized Scott, DeSantis and Pence for voting to raise the debt limit.

Scott said his votes to approve large spending packages under Trump were a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three candidates — DeSantis, Ramaswamy and Burgum — specifically named Biden's energy policies as a hurdle to economic growth.

“We will be energy-dominant again,” DeSantis said, borrowing a favorite phrase of Trump.

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Climate change

The second topic of the night, perhaps a surprise to Republican primary voters, was about climate change. A Catholic University of America student asked how the candidates would soothe young voters concerned about climate change.

Moderators Brett Baier and Martha MacCallum sought to have candidates raise their hands if they agreed human activity was causing climate change. Hutchinson appeared ready to raise his hand when DeSantis shut down the exercise.

“Look, we're not schoolchildren, let's have the debate,” he said. “I'm happy to take it to start.”

He did not substantively answer the question, instead criticizing Biden's response to the recent wildfires on Maui and complaining about media coverage.

Ramaswamy was the most clear on the issue, though he took the opposite position to even most Republican voters.

“The climate change agenda is a hoax,” he said. “The anti-carbon agenda is the wet blanket on our economy.”

Haley and Scott both nodded to environmental protection but declined to advocate for reducing domestic carbon emissions. Instead, they said, the U.S. should focus on forcing developing countries to reduce theirs.

“Is climate change real? Yes it is,” Haley said. “But if you want to go and really change the environment, then we need to start telling China and India that they have to lower their emissions.”

Average global temperatures in July set a new mark for the hottest month on record, coming after the hottest June ever recorded. This year is likely to be the hottest year since record keeping began in the 1880. The last nine years are the nine hottest ever, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Majorities of voters in both parties now say human activity is causing a warming climate, but still differ on whether those rising temperatures are primary factors in dangerous weather events — such as wildfires, floods, drought and severe storms — according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll published Wednesday.

“Climate change is real, by the way,” Biden tweeted during the exchange.

Divide on Ukraine aid

One of the starkest dividing lines Wednesday was on aid to Ukraine, with Ramaswamy and DeSantis saying the U.S. should not send more funding to the country defending a Russian invasion.

Ramaswamy's position in particular seemed to rankle Pence and Haley, who have longer foreign policy resumes.

Ramaswamy said Haley could look forward to board positions with defense contracting companies.

“You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows,” Haley shot back. “It shows.”

The U.S. has sent $110 billion to Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into that country last year. Biden asked Congress to approve $24 billion more as part of a supplemental funding request this month that also called for additional funds for disaster relief and border security.

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Wisconsin setting

The debate took place at Fiserv Forum, the home arena of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team. Located downtown, the forum can seat more than 17,000 people for concerts and sporting events. Since the arena opened in 2018, it has hosted performers such as Elton John, Lizzo, Harry Styles and Bon Jovi.

Biden narrowly won Wisconsin during the 2020 general election with 49.5% of the vote compared to Trump's 48.8%. The two were separated by fewer than 20,700 votes. During his interview with Carlson, Trump claimed to have won Wisconsin.

Biden said Wednesday afternoon during a family trip to Lake Tahoe, Nevada, that he planned to watch as much of the Republican primary debate as he could, though when asked about his expectations, he laughed and said, “I have none.”

Trump defends Jan. 6

Trump in his interview with Carlson hinted at armed conflict and lobbed insults at his GOP rivals and Biden. Trump also presented an alternate version of history about the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, saying the crowd was filled with “love and unity.” Trump has been indicted in connection with his activities that led to the day's events.

“People in that crowd said it was the most beautiful day they've ever experienced,” he said. “There was love in that crowd. There was love, and unity. I have never seen such spirit, and such passion, and such love, and I've also never seen, simultaneously and from the same people, such hatred of what they've done to our country.”

Carlson said Trump has been impeached and indicted and asked him, “Don't they have to kill you now?” And asked by Carlson if open conflict was possible in the future, Trump said he didn't know.

“I can say this, there's a level of passion that I've never seen, there's a level of hatred that I've never seen, and that's probably a bad combination.”

Candidates pledge to support a convicted Trump

On the debate stage, the moderators asked the candidates to raise their hands if they would still support Trump's candidacy if he is convicted.

Ramaswamy's hand went up first, followed quickly by Haley, Scott and Burgum, then DeSantis and Pence.

Christie and Hutchinson indicated they would not support Trump if he's convicted.

“Someone's got to stop normalizing this conduct,” Christie said. “Whether or not you believe the criminal charges are right or wrong, the conduct is beneath the office of president of the United States.”

The crowd reacted with a mix of boos and cheers.

Ramaswamy called Trump the best president of the century and said Christie's “entire campaign” was “based on vengeance and grievance against one man,” Trump. Ramaswamy dismissed the federal prosecutions of Trump as political.

Christie responded that Ramaswamy's approach was hypocritical because the 38-year-old entrepreneur said he supported law and order.

“You make me laugh,” Christie said, prompting prolonged boos from the audience.

Candidates left on the sidelines

Several GOP presidential hopefuls didn't qualify for the debate, including former Texas Rep. Will Hurd and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

Hurd criticized the Republican National Committee's debate criteria, saying a “the lack of transparency and confusion around the RNC's debate requirements is antithetical to the democratic process.”

“I have said from day one of my candidacy that I will not sign a blood oath to Donald Trump,” Hurd said in a statement. “The biggest difference between me and every single candidate who will be on the debate stage in Milwaukee is that I have never bent the knee to Trump.”

The RNC required candidates to sign a pledge committing to support the official Republican nominee in the general election as one of the benchmarks for participating in the debate. Trump said in early August he would not sign the pledge.

Suarez said in a statement he was “sorry that this debate will not include my perspectives from the largest growing voting block in our country — young, conservative Hispanics.”

The Miami mayor said earlier this month that any candidates who didn't make the debate stage should drop out, though he didn't withdraw his candidacy after he failed to make the stage.

The second Republican presidential primary debate will be Sept. 27 in Simi Valley, California, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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Domestic violence shelter funding cut in Gov. Jeff Landry’s budget plan

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lailluminator.com – Julie O'Donoghue – 2024-02-25 10:45:11

Domestic violence shelter funding cut in Gov. Jeff Landry's budget plan

by Julie O'Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator
February 25, 2024

Gov. Jeff Landry's proposed state budget slashes funding for domestic violence victims by millions of dollars starting July 1, even as the governor says crime victims and public safety are his top priority.

State and federal funding for domestic violence shelters could go from $14.6 million in the current fiscal year to just $6.2 million in the next cycle, according to advocates for domestic violence victims. It would be the lowest level of funding for the shelters since Gov. Bobby Jindal was in office 10 years ago. 

If the cut goes through, the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence will have to pull back on plans to add more shelter beds across the state. It would put the brakes on opening up five new shelters and expanding six of 16 existing facilities, executive director Mariah Stidham Wineski said. 

“The new shelters that are opening will shut down,” Wineski said.

Domestic violence is one of the largest public safety issues facing Louisiana. In 2020, the state had the fifth highest female homicide rate in the country. More than half of women victims that year were killed by an intimate partner, according to the Violence Policy Center

It's unclear what led the Landry administration to propose a cut to funding for domestic violence shelters. The governor's office has not responded to a question about why the money was removed. A spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Family Services, where much of the funding is housed, declined to comment.

Most of the cut, $7 million, came from the removal of state money the Louisiana Senate added for shelters in 2023. Wineski and other advocates said lawmakers told them the funding increase would be ongoing and baked into the family welfare budget for years to come.

But when Landry took office in January, he stripped down the state spending plan in preparation for a significant financial downturn next year. He took out money for dozens of programs legislators added in 2023, including for domestic violence shelters, higher education and economic development.

Landry and lawmakers will face annual budget shortfalls of over half a billion dollars after a 0.45% state sales expires in 2025. The governor said he wants to start limiting state spending this year to make it easier to deal with smaller, leaner budgets in the future.

Yet Landry isn't sparing any expense when it comes to other public safety measures he is personally pushing. 

State lawmakers are swiftly moving a package of Landry's bills through a special session on crime. They are expected to add millions of dollars in prison expenses each year by lengthening the time incarcerated people stay behind bars.  

At the same time, domestic violence shelters face reductions in funding, the governor has asked lawmakers to approve approximately $10 million more for a new state police troop for New Orleans and $3 million to send Louisiana National Guard members to the Texas border with Mexico over the next four months. 

Landry said he is pushing these changes to benefit crime victims, but advocates for domestic violence shelters wonder why then their organizations haven't been made a budget priority alongside state police and prisons.

“Every single person we are serving is a victim of crime,” said Julie Pellegrin, executive director of The Haven, a domestic violence shelter that serves Terrebonne, Lafourche and Assumption parishes. 

A 2021 investigation by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor concluded the state desperately needed more shelter beds for domestic violence victims. Louisiana's 16 shelters had a total of 389 spaces, while Louisiana had an average of 2,700 unmet requests for shelter beds every year.

The audit noted no domestic violence shelter exists in central Louisiana, even though Rapides Parish had the 10th highest number of protective orders issued in the state in 2020. 

Wineski has been able to open a shelter in Iberia Parish after receiving a small boost in federal funding from the state a few years ago. The funding increase last year was expected to take shelter bed capacity around the state from around 390 to at least 600 slots, she said.

New facilities had been planned or recently opened in Livingston, Lafourche, St. Tammany, Caddo and Avoyelles parishes. The Avoyelles location would have helped fill the shelter gap in central Louisiana. 

“Domestic violence shelters do keep people alive,” Wineski said.

Iris Domestic Violence Center in Baton Rouge is one of the domestic violence shelters that received more state funding this year. (Julie O'Donoghue/)

At The Haven in Houma, Pellegrin used the extra state money to open up shelter beds and provide outreach services to remote portions of Assumption, Lafourche and Terrebonne. 

A parent can be reluctant to leave an abusive relationship if it means they have to cross parish lines and send their children to a different school, she said. By having more locations, her organization can reach more people.

This year's funding increase is the first hike in state support The Haven had seen in more tha 10 years, Pellegrin said. If Landry cuts that funding in the next cycle, she'll have to close some of the satellite locations she only recently opened.

The Haven's emergency shelter operates at near total capacity yearound already.

“When you make that phone call [to get help from a domestic shelter], you may have to wait,” she said. 

In the Baton Rouge region, Iris Domestic Violence Center was using the money this year to expand its shelter capacity and provide children's programming. 

Construction is already underway on playrooms, study areas and a teen library at Iris. Executive director Patti Joy Freeman also hopes to add a music room  to the facility with donated instruments for children.

Freeman said programs for children and teens are as important as what is offered to the adult victims. Teenagers in abusive families often take on a lot of responsibility helping raise younger children and need space of their own. 

All children also need counseling and programming to ensure the familial cycle of violence is broken, according to Freeman. Those types of resources are crime prevention tools because they help keep domestic violence at bay.

But Freeman won't have the resources to open the new children programs at Iris if state funding for domestic violence shelters gets cut next year. She won't be able to afford the extra staff and utilities needed to run the program. 

“I have to be a good steward with our money,” she said.

Before coming to Iris, Freeman oversaw domestic violence investigations for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office. A former law enforcement officer, she considers shelters and their programs to be essential to fighting crime. Some victims feel comfortable coming to a shelter for help long before they are willing to interact with police, she said.

“Why are we wondering why these statistics don't go down when we only have 16 shelters with wraparound services?” she said.

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Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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IVF patient vows to fight for access to treatment in Alabama following court ruling

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lailluminator.com – Kelcie Moseley-Morris – 2024-02-25 10:00:39

IVF patient vows to fight for access to treatment in Alabama following court ruling

by Kelcie Moseley-Morris, Louisiana Illuminator
February 25, 2024

Birmingham resident Hannah Miles has been trying to have a baby for more than three years, fighting obstacles like endometriosis, diminished ovarian reserve and cancer treatment that affected her husband's sperm.

The couple is already nearly $40,000 into the in vitro fertilization process after one failed transfer into her uterus in January. Their last embryo is scheduled to be transferred March 19.

She messaged her IVF nurse through tears earlier this week, asking if she should continue the medication injections that cost $800 per vial out of pocket to keep her endometriosis from flaring up.

Her clinic, Alabama Fertility, indicated her transfer can move forward, she said, but it has paused any new treatments or transfers because of the Feb. 16 ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court declaring that frozen embryos are equivalent to human children. The clinic made a post on its Facebook page Thursday addressed to patients.

That means Miles won't have another shot at egg retrieval for the foreseeable future in Alabama if this one doesn't work.

Trump comes out against Alabama IVF ruling as national Republicans scramble for distance

IVF requires the collection of as many eggs as possible that are then fertilized. Some that would not make it after implantation in the uterus because of abnormalities or other health factors are destroyed. That could leave clinics open to prosecution as a result of the new ruling.

“It's heartbreaking, and it's something you don't think you'll ever have to face,” Miles, 29, said. “Now we're here, and we're paying $20,000 a cycle in the hopes that maybe one day we'll get a baby, and now we're facing not even being able to pay exorbitant amounts of money to be able to have a baby.”

The 8-1 decision, authored by Justice Jay Mitchell, has already led more clinics in Alabama to pause IVF treatments, including the state's largest hospital, the University of Alabama Birmingham, for fear of prosecution. Companies have also decided to stop shipping frozen embryos to and from Alabama, according to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.

The ruling came as a shock to many Americans, but experts say it is the culmination of more than 40 years of efforts to grant “personhood” status to embryos and fetuses.

State Sen. Tim Melson, chairman of the Alabama Senate Healthcare Committee, plans to introduce a bill that would protect IVF by saying an embryo should be considered a potential life but not a human life unless and until it is implanted in the uterus and a viable pregnancy can be detected. As of Friday, Feb. 23, Melson's legislation hadn't been introduced yet.

Miles and a few friends are hoping to make it to the Alabama Capitol on Feb. 28 for an advocacy day and to testify at a public hearing on a similar bill introduced by Democrats, House Bill 225, if it's being heard.

“We have to do something about it,” Miles said. “It feels like there's not much we can do, but we have to do something.”

Previous ‘personhood' efforts failed

It's unclear whether the bill will conflict with the concurring opinion authored by Chief Justice Tom Parker, who wrote, “… any legislative (or executive) act that contravenes the sanctity of unborn life is potentially subject to a constitutional challenge under the Alabama Constitution.”

Parker has long been active in the anti-abortion rights space, and his opinion quoted extensively from the Bible, using religious reasoning for the decision — something he has often done during his time on the court, according to ProPublica reporting from 2014. He worked at former chief justice Roy Moore's think tank, the Foundation for Moral Law, which promotes the idea that the Bible should be the basis of the law in America and championed the “personhood” movement in Alabama. Parker also served as Moore's spokesperson during the controversy over a Ten Commandments monument that ultimately got Moore ousted from his position as a judge in 2003.

Margaret Marsh, historian and professor at Rutgers University, said many anti-abortion groups have opposed the fertility treatment since the world's first IVF baby was born in 1978, calling it a “morally abhorrent” technology and successfully lobbying against federal funding for research using human embryos.

“Their goal was to try to make sure that the American people would think of embryos as people,” Marsh said.

Alabama Attorney General's Office: No plans to prosecute IVF families, providers

In 1983, the U.S. Senate held a vote on the passage of a constitutional amendment to declare that human life begins at conception, but the measure was defeated. In the following years, at least 38 states passed “fetal homicide” laws that allowed prosecution for the death of a fetus as a result of domestic violence or other assault, and some included the option to prosecute a pregnant person for using drugs that caused the death of a fetus.

But attempts to go further at the state level largely haven't been successful, Marsh pointed out. In 2011, an initiative on the ballot in Mississippi that would have granted full personhood status to fertilized eggs failed by a vote of 57% to 42% after doctors and abortion rights groups raised concerns about the consequences it could have for birth control, IVF and other reproductive care. A similar measure in North Dakota failed in 2014 by an even wider margin, 64% to 35%.

“If these things are put to a vote, for the most part, the voters have turned them down, and I think it is likely because they are thinking of either themselves needing infertility treatment, or their friends, or their sisters,” Marsh said. “So they may be anti-abortion, but I don't think they see assisted reproductive technology in the same way they see being pregnant and having an abortion.”

Legislation weighed in other statehouses

Several state legislatures have considered bills this year that relate to “fetal personhood” laws, including Kansas, Florida and Idaho. A bill in Idaho to change the words “embryo” and “fetus” in state law to “preborn children” was pulled back earlier in the session when a doctor from a local IVF clinic raised concerns about its implications for fertility treatments.

Kansas' bill specifies that the embryo must be “in utero,” but it would allow pregnant people to seek child support at any stage of gestation. Representatives for Planned Parenthood in Kansas said it's a tactic to open the door for anti-abortion laws, two years after voters soundly rejected an attempt to amend the constitution to ban abortion in the state.

In Florida, the legislature is considering a bill that would add a fetus to those who could be counted in a wrongful death lawsuit. An amendment would establish that the fetus is a person from conception, according to Florida Phoenix.

The state with one of the most successful personhood laws is Georgia, where abortion is banned after six weeks, and any embryo or fetus with detectable cardiac activity can be claimed as a dependent on a resident's tax returns.

Shana Gadarian, a political scientist professor at Syracuse University who studies public opinion, said despite the support at the legislative level for such laws, she's not sure this latest development out of Alabama will be politically popular with the majority of the country.

“IVF is a pretty common procedure now, and if someone directly hasn't gone through it, it is relatively common among groups that are more likely to be conservative,” Gadarian said. “These are procedures people think of as important in their own lives and are probably separable from abortion.”

Polling from Pew Research Center in 2023 found that 42% of adults in the U.S. say they or someone they know has used fertility treatments, and a majority of Democrats and Republicans surveyed thought insurance should cover the treatments. Less than half of the country has mandated insurance coverage for IVF, according to Stateline.

Whatever happens next, Miles said she's ready to contact her representatives at the local, state and federal levels to change the laws, including helping to elect Democrat Greg Griffin, who's running to replace Parker as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

“Until IVF is protected at the federal level, we are all at risk of having something like this happen,” Miles said. “There is no one angrier at the world than someone going through IVF. They've pissed off the wrong people.”

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Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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AP calls race for Trump as soon as polls close in South Carolina

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lailluminator.com – Abraham Kenmore – 2024-02-24 18:53:36

AP calls race for Trump as soon as polls close in South Carolina

by Abraham Kenmore, Louisiana Illuminator
February 24, 2024

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Former President Donald Trump won an expected blowout victory Saturday over former Gov. Nikki Haley in the South Carolina Republican presidential primary.

The Associated Press called the race at 7 p.m. with 0% of the precincts reporting.

“This is a little sooner than we anticipated and “an even bigger win than we anticipated,” Trump said as he took the stage to Lee Greenwood's “God Bless the USA.” He told supporters who had been gathering at the fairgrounds in Columbia all day, “You can celebrate for about 15 minutes and then we have to get back to work.”

The candidates and their allies have spent the past month pushing their message to voters across the state. Trump held Get Out the Vote rallies in Conway, North Charleston and Rock Hill, and a Fox town hall in Greenville, while his proxies toured the state. Haley meanwhile spent weeks crisscrossing the state on her tour bus.

Trump has held a steady lead over every other primary opponent in the Palmetto State since last spring, according to polling aggregator 538.

The former president also made international news during his visits to South Carolina, including saying he told the head of a NATO ally he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” if they did not meet defense spending goals.

Messages like that rang true for Andrew Middleton, a 40-year-old IT network engineer in Charleston, who said he wants a president who will keep the U.S. out of foreign conflicts and focus on a domestic agenda. Middleton, who grew up in rural Illinois but has lived in the Charleston area for 12 years now, pushed his young son in a stroller as he walked out of West Ashley High School in the Lowcountry after casting his ballot for Trump.

Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during Trump's administration, attacked the former president over his comments, and President Joe Biden said the remarks were “shameful” and “dangerous.”

Trump's comments, however, did not lessen enthusiasm for the former president at the polls.

“If anybody can get things straightened out quickly, it'll be him,” said Charleston-area voter Amy Coffey.

Saturday marked the first time the 48-year-old office administrator had cast a ballot in a primary. She said the current presidential race felt “crucial” to her and Malcolm Coffey, a 49-year-old electrician, prompting them to come out.

Both cast ballots for Trump, citing border security as the top issue concerning them.

“It's not that I don't like Nikki Haley,” Amy Coffey said. “ I just don't think now is the perfect time to bring someone new in. She'll have her time.”

Former South Carolina Gov. and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley casts her ballot in the South Carolina Republican primary on Feb. 24, 2024, in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Haley has been careful to manage expectations for her results in South Carolina, saying victory would be “making sure it looks close” rather than winning outright.

“All I can do is my part; I don't know if it will make a difference or not,” said Colleen Geis, a 48-year-old medical care coordinator living in the Charleston area who voted for the perceived long-shot Haley.

While Haley cast her own ballot on gated Kiawah Island, Geis was among a steady stream of James Island residents who stepped into the polling place at Harbor View Elementary.

Some living in the surrounding neighborhood used the opportunity to walk their dogs as they fulfilled their civic duty.

“Anybody but Trump,” said Lauren May, a 32-year-old doctor's assistant, after casting her vote.

Haley also earned the support of Mark Leon. The 51-year-old marketing consultant said 2016 was a difficult year. It was the first time he saw people become emotional and angry over politics. It was the first time he saw lifelong friendships end based on who they voted for.

“It's only going to get worse this year because it's the same players,” Leon said of a Trump-Biden faceoff.

He felt if Haley were chosen as the Republican nominee, she would bring more empathy to the race rather than instantly polarizing an issue.

On Tuesday, Haley gave a defiant speech in Greenville where she reiterated that she plans to stay in the race until Super Tuesday on March 5, when 15 states will vote.

“I feel no need to kiss the ring,” she said in that speech. “And I have no fear of Trump's retribution. I'm not looking for anything from him.”

According to the Election Commission, 205,099 people voted early in the primary and 12,018 people had cast absentee ballots ahead of Saturday.

That number far greater than the total number of South Carolinians who voted in the Democratic primary, which drew about 131,000 voters.

Haley is the last major candidate opposing Trump, but two extreme long-shot candidates remain in the running — Pastor Ryan Binkley of Texas and veteran Air Force combat pilot David Stuckenberg of Florida.

Three other candidates, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, all dropped out of the race after making it onto the South Carolina ballot.

This story will be updated.

This report was first published by SC Daily Gazette, part of the States Newsroom nonprofit news network with the . It's supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. SC Daily Gazette maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Seanna Adcox for questions: info@scdailygazette.com. Follow SC Daily Gazette on Facebook and X.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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The post AP calls race for Trump as soon as polls close in South Carolina appeared first on lailluminator.com

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