Tag Archives: Virginia

Virginia’s Ultrasound Law is the Latest Chapter in a Legal Battle over Abortion

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A controversial bill in signed this month in Virginia that has made ultrasounds for women seeking abortions mandatory, again highlights the division in America over the issue of abortion.

Abdominal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions in the Commonwealth will become mandatory after July 1, 2012. The measure was recently signed into law by Virginia’s Republican governor Bob McDonnell.

The bill was signed amid scenes of protest in Richmond, but earlier versions of the bill proved even more contentious because it proposed an invasive form of ultrasound.

The new law “requires all Virginia abortion providers to comply starting July 1 or pay a $2,500 fine for each violation,” CBS news reported.

Patients who live within a distance of 100 miles of the clinic performing the abortion must wait 24 hours after the ultrasound before having an abortion, under the new law. Victims of rape or incest who notified the police of their attacks are exempt. While woman have to be offered a chance to see the images under the new law they can’t be forced to do so.

The original measure attracted widespread criticism because it required women to undergo a transvaginal sonogram, a procedure in which a wand is inserted in the vagina to produce an image.

Critics said the measure deliberately sought to require an invasive procedure to dissuade women from having abortions when a less invasive method was available. McDonnell amended the bill to allow the use of an abdominal sonogram, in which the wand is instead rubbed over a woman’s belly. The initial bill also applied to all abortions including incest and rapes.

“As difficult as an abortion decision is, the information provided by ultrasounds, along with other information given by the doctor pursuant to current law and prevailing medical practice, can help the mother make a fully informed decision,” McDonnell said in a statement.

Virginia is not alone in requiring pre-abortion ultrasound screening. Seven other states have the measure.

The legislation closely resembles similar bills making their way through legislatures in 12 other states, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation.

Abortion law has been one of the most controversial areas of family law in the United States for more than a century, pitting arguments of a woman’s freedom of choice against those of the rights of the unborn child.

Laws banning abortion first appeared in America in the 1820s, originally forbidding abortion after the fourth month of pregnancy.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, remains the most important judicial decision in this volatile area.

Jane Roe was a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, woman from Texas who was pregnant but unmarried.  She wanted an abortion, but was denied under Texas law. A federal lawsuit was filed seeking to have the Texas law overturned as unconstitutional.

The US Supreme Court on a 7-2 vote agreed with Roe that the law criminalizing abortion violated her right to privacy. The case decided a state cannot regulate abortion in the first trimester beyond making sure the procedure is carried out by a licensed doctor in medically safe conditions. The court also ruled that a fetus is not a person protected by the constitution.

Before Roe v. Wade all states had laws on their books criminalizing abortions dating back to the 19th century. These laws stayed on the books until the 1960s and 1970s in many cases.

The landmark case failed to take the sting out of the abortion debate. If anything, it became more intense.

Opponents led by the Catholic Church, became more organized. In the 1980s, the Republican President Ronald Reagan, an outspoken opponent of abortion, argued for the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

The President appointed C. Everett Koop, an abortion opponent, to the position of surgeon general. But Roe v. Wade remained in place.

By the 1980s the abortion issue was spilling over into violence in the organized blocking of access to clinics which provided abortion services, organized primarily by a new group called Operation Rescue.

There were also bombings of abortion clinics by radicals. On Christmas Day, 1984, three abortion clinics were bombed. One of those convicted described the crimes as “a gift to Jesus on his birthday.”

Although the violence has died down, abortion continued to be a political and legal battleground as witnessed in Virginia.

The legal focus shifted to later term abortions in recent years. In the 2000 case of Stenberg v Carhart, Nebraska’s law that made the performing of partial-birth abortion illegal, was struck down by the Supreme Court.

In 2003, the federal government moved on the issue, enacting a Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Although several federal judges struck down  the law, citing the precedent of Stenberg v. Carhart, it was upheld by the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart.

Rules requiring a woman to get “informed consent” or parental consent have proved to be another volatile area for legal action

Generally an abortion provider must give information about the risks, the alternatives, the age of the fetus, and information about assistance available for the woman to have the child. Requirements by states for women seeking abortions to have ultrasounds, is part of the informed consent agenda.

The Supreme Court generally has upheld parental consent laws, provided they allow a minor the ability to obtain permission to have an abortion from a judge rather than a parent. There are 26 states that require parental consent to abortion and 37 states that require some kind of parental involvement such as parental notification short of consent. In all cases the lack of consent can be overturned by a court ruling.

Wide variations in abortion law remain at state level. For instance, 46 states allow individual health care providers to refuse carry out an abortion. And 43 states allow institutions to refuse to perform abortions.

In all 19 states mandate that women receive counseling before an abortion including information on factors such as the possible link between abortion and breast cancer in seven states and the ability of a fetus to feel pain in 11 states.

The Republican-controlled US House of Representatives is currently considering the “Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act” that would effectively federalize state laws of abortion for teens, and is aimed at preventing women under 18 from obtaining an abortion. It would impose harsh penalties on doctors or anybody else who helps a minor obtain an abortion without first informing her parent or guardian.

The law on abortion remains a fast moving and bitterly contested area.

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Identity Theft – a Threat Close to Home

In this article in the Daily Press in 2008, I explored the growing problem of identity theft.

David Macaulay, The Daily Press, June 29, 2008

HAMPTON — The fast-growing crime of identity theft conjures up notions of shadowy strangers diving into dumpsters to find personal information.

But for many victims, the threat is closer to home.

Identity theft is a lot more subtle than this

It often involves family members, friends, colleagues and partners, according to police.

Hampton police arrested 35-year-old Gladys Arrizza this month and charged her with 11 counts of identity fraud. They claim she applied for credit cards on the Internet under her ex-boyfriend’s name, running up thousands of dollars of debt.

“She started using two of his credit cards,” said Detective Randy Mayer of the Hampton police. “When he realized that, he kicked her out of the house and split off with her.”

About six months later, when he applied for credit, the man checked his credit report and realized there were 11 additional credit cards that had been opened in his name without his knowledge, police say.

More than $13,000 had been charged to his cards, Mayer said.

Arrizza was charged with 11 counts of identity theft/fraud, 11 counts of credit card fraud and 11 counts of obtaining goods using stolen credit cards.

Mayer said Arrizza opened up a post office box to keep the bills from being sent to her ex-boyfriend and made minimum payments by opening up new credit cards and transferring the money to pay old debts.

Mayer said the Internet has made it easier to steal someone else’s identity.

“It’s becoming a really huge problem the way the economy is,” Mayer said. “What’s really surprising to me is the amount of close friends and relatives that are doing it. That’s probably because it’s easier to obtain the information.

“A lot of my cases are even grandchildren or aunts and uncles.”

He said the first place the thieves are using stolen cards is at gas stations, where they fill up on expensive fuel.

“That’s huge. There are embezzlements where employees have company credit cards. They are using them to fill up their own gas tanks. We are seeing a rash of that,” Mayer said.

Newport News police also have seen a large increase in identity theft reports over the last decade, although they don’t break down fraud cases as specifically as Hampton.

“We are extremely busy. We are inundated with reports,” said Newport News Detective Lorain Crain, who is also on the Hampton Roads Regional Crime Task Force.

Crain said that while she does see some “black sheep” cases where someone may steal a family member’s identity, most of her cases involve suspects who are not known to the victim.

She said many identity fraud cases are prosecuted through the federal system – if they are serious enough – because more stringent sentences are usually passed down.

And although there have been instances of thieves digging through trash, a practice that is legal under a Supreme Court decision of 1988, most identity thefts are crimes of opportunity.

“Most people are too lazy to dig through trash,” said Hampton police spokeswoman Allison Good.

Mayer said that in the 14 years he has dealt with identity theft, it has grown as a crime.

“Dealing specifically with it now it seems overwhelming,” he said.

Over the past three years, Hampton police have dealt with more than 1,000 cases of identity theft or fraud.

There were 442 reports in 2006, 416 in 2007, and 218 reports have been made so far this year.

“It seems like we might see a slight increase on last year,” said Good.

Along with the ease of the Internet, police say new technology also makes it easier to create fraudulent checks.

Hampton and Newport News detectives are currently working a large fraudulent-check case that has already led to seven arrests in the last month.

Mayer said checks have been made with a company logo and the names of the suspects’ friends are printed on them. The suspects then use their own identification to cash them.

“The checks look very real. They have also gone out and stolen other people’s IDs. Then they use those IDs to cash these checks. They print the name on the check. When I try to pull up the name on the check it comes back to the victim who was at a shopping center,” Mayer said.

Angela Blythe, 23, of Roanoke Avenue in Newport News, was arrested on June 16 and charged with two counts of identity fraud and obtaining money by false pretenses for her alleged involvement in the check scam.

Blythe is accused of stealing a friend’s ID. And when she was arrested, Mayer said, Blythe looked a lot like the victim looked on her identification.

TO PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT

* Run regular credit checks. They can be accessed via http://www.annualcreditreport.com.

* Shred all documents that you intend to discard.

* Never give information in response to e-mails supposedly from financial institutions that ask for personal information.

* Don’t write your bank account PIN on paper.

* Don’t carry your Social Security number on you.

* Don’t leave personal documents in your car.

* Don’t leave personal items in a handbag in a shopping cart unattended.

* If you are a victim of identity theft, call the credit company immediately to report it.

* Keep a list of credit card companies you have accounts with in case your cards are stolen.

Source: Hampton Police Division

Veritas legal media – 757-582-1836, veritaslegalmedia@hotmail.com

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