Poland’s Politicians Condemn Aggression Against LGBT March

Poland’s politicians are condemning violence against the first LGBT rights parade through the eastern city of Bialystok.

Police said Monday that 28 “hooligans” have been detained and have heard charges of disturbing a legal gathering.

Local police have published images of at least two more men suspected of having thrown bottles and stones at police and at the marchers Saturday.  Police responded with tear gas.

The interior minister in the right-wing government, Elzbieta Witek, and the deputy prime minister Beata Szydlo, have condemned the violence and spoke in favor of tolerance.  

The spokesman for Poland’s Roman Catholic Church said that “violence and contempt” can’t be accepted.  

The government has tolerated marches by far-right extremists in Bialystok in the past.
 

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Puerto Rico Prepares for Massive Protest to Expel Governor

Puerto Rico braced early Monday for what many people expected to be one of the biggest protests ever seen in the U.S. territory as irate islanders pledged to drive Gov. Ricardo Rossello from office.

Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to take over one of the island’s busiest highways Monday morning to press demands for the resignation of Rossello over an obscenity-laced leaked online chat the governor had with allies as well as federal corruption charges leveled against his administration.
 

FILE – Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello speaks during a press conference in La Fortaleza’s Tea Room, in San Juan, July 16, 2019.

The anticipated march in the capital of San Juan came a day after Rossello announced that he would not quit, but sought to calm the unrest by promising not to seek reelection or continue as head of his pro-statehood political party. That only further angered his critics, who have mounted street demonstrations for more than a week.
 
“The people are not going to go away,” said Johanna Soto, of the northeastern city of Carolina. “That’s what he’s hoping for, but we outnumber him.”
 
Organizers labeled the planned road shutdown “660,510 + 1,” which represents the number of people who voted for Rossello plus one more to reject his argument that he is not resigning because he was chosen by the people.
 
Monday would be the 10th consecutive day of protests, and more were being called for later in the week. The island’s largest mall, Plaza de las Americas, closed ahead of the protest as did dozens of other businesses.
 
In a video posted Sunday night on Facebook, Rossello said he welcomed people’s freedom to express themselves. He also said he was looking forward to defending himself against the process of impeachment, whose initial stages are being explored by Puerto Rico’s legislature.
 
“I hear you,” he said the brief video. “I have made mistakes and I have apologized.”
 
The 889 pages of chat on the encrypted app Telegram between the governor and 11 close allies and members of his administration, all men, showed the governor and his advisers insulting women and mocking constituents, including the victims of Hurricane Maria.
 
Hours after Rossello spoke Sunday, another top government official submitted his resignation. “Unfortunately the events in recent weeks, including the attitudes reflected in the comments of officials and advisers of the current administration, do not match my values and principles,” wrote Gerardo Portela, principal investment officer, president of Puerto Rico’s Economic Development Bank and executive director of the Housing Finance Authority.

FILE – Demonstrators protest against governor Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 19, 2019.

Since the chat leaked July 13, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have marched to Rossello’s official residence in the largest protest movement on the island since Puerto Ricans successfully demonstrated to bring an end to U.S. Navy military training on the island of Vieques more than 15 years ago.
 
Ramphis Castro of Guayama arrived in San Juan late Sunday after more than an hour-long drive to prepare for Monday’s march. He said he was incensed after Rossello’s announcement Sunday.
 
 “When is he going to say that he’s resigning,” Castro exclaimed. “This makes people even more angry.”
 

FILE – View of neighborhood damaged by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 3, 2017. (Photo: C. Mendoza / VOA)

The upheaval comes as the U.S. territory is struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria and trying to restructure part of $70 billion in debt amid a 13-year recession in this territory of more than 3 million American citizens who do not have full representation in Congress or a vote for president.
 
Normally, a governor who resigns would be replaced by Puerto Rico’s secretary of state, but Luis Rivera Marin quit that job amid the uproar over the chat, so the next in line would be the justice secretary, Wanda Vazquez.
 
Pressure on Rossello to step down has intensified as the chorus calling for his resignation grew to include Puerto Rico music superstars Ricky Martin, Bad Bunny and Residente and a string of U.S. politicians including Congress members from both parties, several Democratic presidential candidates and Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Congress.
 
Rossello was elected governor in November 2016 with nearly 50% of the vote, and he had already announced his intention to seek a second term. A graduate of MIT with a doctorate in genetics, he is the son of former Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello, who flew to the island to marshal support after the chat was made public.
 
The governor belongs to the New Progressive Party, which seeks statehood for the island, and he is also a Democrat. Most of his time has been spent seeking federal funds since Hurricane Maria devastated the island on Sept. 20, 2017, and battling austerity measures implemented by a federal control board that Congress set up to oversee the island government’s finances.
 
The upheaval against Rossello prompted at least four cruise ships to cancel visits to Puerto Rico, and many officials worry about the impact a resignation would have on the already fragile economy as the island rebuilds from Maria, a Category 4 storm that caused more than an estimated $100 billion in damage.
 
Another concern is the recent string of arrests involving federal corruption charges targeting Puerto Rico officials, among them two former agency heads, including former education secretary Julia Keleher.

 

 

 

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Relief in Sight After US Heat Wave

Areas of the central and eastern United States are getting relief Monday in the form of lower temperatures after suffering through days of sweltering conditions that led to power outages, canceled events and several deaths.

A cold front sweeping to the east is bringing with it some severe storms and heavy rain that forecasters warn could produce flash flooding and damaging winds.

But behind the front, the coming days will feature weather with lower humidity and high temperatures below 30 degrees Celsius in many areas that had experienced temperatures around 38 degrees Celsius.

Events were canceled across the country on Saturday and Sunday, from festivals and concerts to sporting events. In New York City, tens of thousands of people were still without power Monday as crews worked to repair the grid and try to prevent a more widespread outage.  

Officials in Boston and Washington expanded access to public pools to help residents cope with the heat.

 

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Irishman Shane Lowry Wins British Open

Ireland’s Shane Lowry won golf’s British Open on Sunday, his first career major championship, in front of thousands of cheering fans at Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush course alongside the Atlantic Ocean.

The bearded, 32-year-old Lowry led going in to the final round of professional golf’s last major championship of the year by four shots and was never seriously challenged.

He finished the 72-hole tournament at 15 under par, shooting a one-over par 72 in gusty winds and intermittent rain during the last day of the four-day event. His playing partner, Britain’s Tommy Fleetwood, started Sunday in second and finished second, but six shots behind Lowry, with a final round 74.

As the Irish throngs cheered Lowry’s final tap-in par on the last hole, Lowry raised his arms to the leaden skies and broke into a smile of satisfaction.

Lowry’s victory meant that four different golfers won the sport’s major championships in 2019, with Americans winning the other three — Tiger Woods at the Masters, Brooks Koepka at the Professional Golfers championship and Gary Woodland at the U.S. Open.
 

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Japan’s Ruling Coalition Secures Upper House Majority

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition secured a majority in Japan’s upper house of parliament in elections Sunday, according to vote counts by public television and other media. Exit polls indicated Abe could even close in on the super-majority needed to propose constitutional revisions.

NHK public television said Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner Komeito had won 64 seats in the upper house after two hours of vote counting. The two-thirds majority needed for constitutional revision could be within reach if the ruling bloc can gain support from members of another conservative party and independents.  
 
Up for grabs were 124 seats in the less powerful of Japan’s two parliamentary chambers. There are 245 seats in the upper house — which does not choose the prime minister — about half of which are elected every three years.
 
The results appeared to match or even exceed pre-election polls that indicated Abe’s ruling bloc was to keep ground in the upper house, with most voters considering it a safer choice over an opposition with an uncertain track record. To reach the two-thirds majority, or 164 seats, Abe needs 85 more seats by his ruling bloc and supporters of a charter change.
 
Opposition parties have focused on concerns over household finances, such as the impact from an upcoming 10% sales tax increase and strains on the public pension system amid Japan’s aging population.
 
Abe has led his Liberal Democratic Party to five consecutive parliamentary election victories since 2012.
 
He has prioritized revitalizing Japan’s economy and has steadily bolstered the country’s defenses in the backdrop of North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats and China’s growing military presence. He also has showcased his diplomatic skills by cultivating warm ties with President Donald Trump.
 
Abe was hoping to gain enough upper house seats to boost his chances for constitutional revision, his long-cherished goal before his term ends in 2021. Abe needs approval by a two-thirds majority in both houses to propose a revision and seek a national referendum. His ruling bloc already has a two-thirds majority in the more powerful lower house.
 
But Abe and his conservative backers face challenges because voters seem more concerned about their jobs, the economy and social security.
 
The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and three other liberal-leaning parties teamed up in some districts. They stressed support for gender equality and LGBT issues _ areas Abe’s ultra-conservative lawmakers are reluctant to back.
 
At a polling station in Tokyo’s Chuo district on Sunday, voters were divided over Abe’s 6 1/2-year rule.
 
A voter who identified himself only as a company worker in his 40s said he chose a candidate and a party that have demonstrated an ability to get things done, suggesting he voted for Abe’s ruling party and its candidate, as “there is no point in casting my vote for a party or a politician who has no such abilities.”
 
Another voter, Katsunori Takeuchi, a 57-year-old fish market worker, said it was time to change the dominance of Abe and his ultra-conservative policies.
 
“I think the ruling party has been dominating politics for far too long and it is causing damage,” he said.

 

 

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US Accuses Venezuela Jet of Aggressive Action Over Caribbean

U.S. authorities say a Venezuelan fighter jet “aggressively shadowed” an American intelligence plane flying in international airspace over the Caribbean, underscoring rising tensions between the two nations.

 The U.S. Southern Command said Sunday that Venezuela’s action demonstrates reckless behavior by President Nicolas Maduro, whose government accused the U.S. of breaking international rules.
 
U.S. authorities say their EP-3 plane was performing a multi-nationally approved mission and the Venezuelan SU-30 fighter jet closely trailed the plane, which the U.S. says endangered its crew.
 
Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez says the U.S. plane entered Venezuelan airspace without prior notification.
 
He says it also endangered commercial flights from Venezuela’s main airport.
 
The U.S. backs opposition leader Juan Guaido’s attempt to oust Maduro.
 

 

 

 

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American Crocodiles Thriving Outside Nuclear Plant 

MIAMI — American crocodiles, once headed toward extinction, are thriving at an unusual spot — the canals surrounding a South Florida nuclear plant. 

Last week, 73 crocodile hatchlings were rescued by a team of specialists at Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point nuclear plant and dozens more are expected to emerge soon. 

Turkey Point’s 168-mile (270-kilometer) man-made canals serve as the home to several hundred crocodiles, where a team of specialists working for FPL monitors and protects them from hunting and climate change. 

From January to April, Michael Lloret, an FPL wildlife biologist and crocodile specialist, helps create nests for the creatures. Once the hatchlings are reared and left by the mother, the team captures them. They are measured and tagged with microchips to observe their development. Lloret then relocates them to increase survival rates. 

“We entice crocodiles to come in to the habitats FPL created,” Lloret said. “We clear greenery on the berms so that the crocodiles can nest. Because of rising sea levels wasting nests along the coasts, Turkey Point is important for crocodiles to continue.” 

Wildlife biologist/crocodile specialist Michael Lloret points out a crocodile nest on one of the berms along the cooling canals next to the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station, July 19, 2019, in Homestead, Fla.

Now ‘threatened,’ not ‘endangered’

The canals are one of three major U.S. habitats for crocodiles, where 25% of the 2,000 American crocodiles live. The FPL team has been credited for moving the classification of crocodiles on the Endangered Species Act to “threatened” from “endangered” in 2007. The team has tagged 7,000 babies since it was established in 1978. 

Temperature determines the crocodiles’ sex: the hotter it is, the more likely males are hatched. Lloret said this year’s hatchlings are male-heavy because of last month’s weather — it was the hottest June on record globally. 

Because hatchlings released are at the bottom of the food chain, only a small fraction of them survive to be adults. Lloret said they at least have a fighting chance at Turkey Point, away from humans who hunted them to near-extinction out of greed and fear, even though attacks are rare. Only one crocodile attack has ever been recorded in the U.S. — a couple were both bitten while swimming in a South Florida canal in 2014, but both survived. 

“American crocodiles have a bad reputation, when they are just trying to survive,” Lloret said. “They are shy and want nothing to do with us. Humans are too big to be on their menu.” 

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Japan Votes in Upper House Election 

TOKYO — Japanese voters cast ballots Sunday in an upper house election, with Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc looking to protect its majority and keep on track plans to amend the country’s pacifist constitution. 
 
Abe, 64, who is on course to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, is also hoping to shore up his mandate ahead of a crucial consumption tax hike later this year, along with trade negotiations with Washington. 
 
Opinion polls suggest his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner Komeito are likely to win a majority, mostly because of a lackluster opposition. 
 
Sunday’s vote is for half the seats in the House of Councilors — the less powerful house of parliament — and polling stations across the country open at 7 a.m. (2200 GMT Saturday). 
 
The vote outcome is expected to become clear shortly after the polls close at 8 p.m., with pollsters suggesting turnout could be lower than 50 percent,  significantly less than usual. 

‘Disarray’ in opposition camp
 
Abe’s ruling coalition is forecast to win a solid majority of the 124 seats contested in the election, according to pre-election surveys. 
 
The two parties control 70 seats in the half of the chamber that is not being contested, meaning the projections put them on track to maintain their overall majority in the body. 
 
“Abe’s strength is largely based on passive support resulting from disarray in the opposition camp and a lack of rivals,” Shinichi Nishikawa, professor of political science at Meiji University in Tokyo, told AFP. 
 

FILE – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, June 26, 2019.

A win means Abe should be able to stay in power until November, when he will break the service record of Taro Katsura, a revered politician who served three times as premier between 1901 and 1913. 
 
During campaigns, Abe’s ruling coalition has sought to win voter support for a rise in the nation’s consumption tax to 10 percent later this year as part of efforts to ease swelling social security costs in the “ultra-aged” country. 
 
Abe is also hoping that his coalition and a loose group of conservatives from smaller opposition parties can grab a two-thirds majority in the upper house, giving him the support to move ahead with plans to amend the constitution’s provisions on the military. 
 
“This is an election to decide whether to pick parties who take responsibility for firm discussions on the constitution,” Abe told voters in a campaign speech earlier this month. 

Self-defense provisions
 
Abe vowed to “clearly stipulate the role of the Self-Defense Forces in the constitution,” which prohibits Japan from waging war and maintaining a military. 
 
The provisions, imposed by the U.S. forces after World War II, are popular in the public at large, but reviled by nationalists like Abe, who see them as outdated and punitive. 
 
Local media predict that forces in favor of revising the constitution, led by Abe’s LDP, are likely to win close to 85 of the seats being contested, giving them a “supermajority” in the chamber. 
 
“Since the ruling coalition is widely expected to win the election, attention is now focused on whether the pro-revision forces can win a two-thirds majority,” Nishikawa said. 
 
But even if Abe secures it, any constitutional revision also requires approval in a national referendum, a result that is far from guaranteed. 

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Nigerian President Condemns Latest Killings in Sokoto State 

ABUJA — Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari condemns the killing of 37 people by bandits in the northwestern state of Sokoto, his spokesman said Saturday in a statement. 

Armed gangs have killed hundreds of people in northwest Nigeria this year and forced at least 20,000 to flee to neighboring Niger, adding to security problems in a country also struggling with an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and clashes between farmers and herders in central states. 

“President Muhammadu Buhari strongly condemns the killing of 37 innocent people by bandits in the Goronyo Local Government Area of Sokoto State,” the presidency said in the statement. 

Local media said the attacks took place late Friday. 

Troops have been deployed to the areas hit in the latest flashpoint, the presidency statement said. Military and police have been dispatched to tackle criminal gangs blamed for a spate of killings and kidnappings over the last year. 

Buhari, a former military ruler, began his second four-year term in May after winning a presidential election in February. 

During his campaign he vowed to improve security but — against the backdrop of the northwest’s wave of banditry, high-profile kidnappings nationwide and attacks by Islamist insurgents — he has reiterated that it remains a priority. 

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Japan Animation Studio Chief Mourns Bright, Young Staff

Many victims of an arson attack on an animation studio in the western Japanese city of Kyoto were young with bright futures, some joining only in April, the company president said Saturday, as the death told climbed to 34.

Thursday’s attack on Kyoto Animation, famous in Japan and overseas for its series and movies, was the worst mass killing in two decades in a country with some of the world’s lowest crime rates.

Company president Hideaki Hatta said many of the victims were young women.

“Some of them joined us just in April. And on the eighth of July, I gave them a small, but their first, bonus,” he said. “People who had a promising future lost their lives. I don’t know what to say. Rather than feeling anger, I just don’t have words,” Hatta said.

Policemen stand behind a police line at the torched Kyoto Animation building in Kyoto

Fifteen of the victims were in their 20s and 11 were in their 30s, public broadcaster NHK said. Six were in their 40s and one was at least 60. The age of the latest victim, a man who died in hospital, was not known. The names of the victims have not been disclosed.

The studio had about 160 employees with an average age of 33, according to its website.

Police have confirmed the identity of the suspect as Shinji Aoba, but have declined to comment further.

Aoba had been convicted of robbery and carried out the attack because he believed his novel had been plagiarized, NHK and other media have said.

But Hatta said he had no idea about any plagiarism claim, adding he had not seen any correspondence from the suspect.

Police have not arrested Aoba, as he is being treated for heavy burns, NHK said, although police have taken the unusual step of releasing his name.

Two days after the fire, animation fans gathered near the burned studio to add to a growing pile of flowers, drinks and other offerings.

A man prays for victims in front of the torched Kyoto Animation building in Kyoto

Bing Xie, 25, a Chinese student at Kyoto University, said she could not forgive the arsonist.

“The criminal who does this seems to have been mentally disturbed, but I can’t forgive him. The young people at Kyoto Animation were beautiful and warm and it is hard to accept they are gone.”

Police guarded the site as investigators, some on the roof near where many died in a connecting stairwell, examined the blackened building. The smell of smoke lingered over the quiet suburban neighborhood.

Hatta said the building needed to be torn down because it was so badly damaged.

Tributes to the victims lit up social media, with world leaders and Apple Inc.’s chief executive offering condolences. The hashtag #PrayforKyoAni, as the studio is known among fans, has become popular.
 

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Hawaii Seeks Peaceful End to Telescope Protests

Officials in Hawaii said Friday that they will not call up additional National Guard troops or use force on peaceful telescope protesters blocking access to the state’s highest peak.

Gov. David Ige said that his priority is to keep everyone in the community safe, including the activists at the base of Mauna Kea. The 80 guard members on the Big Island since the start of the protests will remain, state officials said.

“We will not be utilizing tear gas, as some of the rumors have been (saying),” Ige said. “We are looking for the best way forward without hurting anyone.”

The governor said last week that National Guard units would be used to transport personnel and equipment as well as to enforce road closures.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige speaks at a news conference in Honolulu, July 17, 2019, about issuing an emergency proclamation in response to protesters blocking a road to prevent the construction of a giant telescope.

Ige said Friday no more troops would be called in to the Big Island, but he stopped short of removing an emergency proclamation that he enacted Wednesday. The emergency order broadened the state’s authority to remove protesters from the mountain, including the use of National Guard for security.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim, who met with Ige Friday morning as about 800 to 1,200 activists gathered on the mountain, said he hopes the protesters and state officials will take some time to discuss a better way forward.

“We all need to step back a little bit,” Kim said. “This is still our home, this is still our family. On both sides.”

Presidential candidates comment

The move comes after some notable politicians weighed in on the issue Friday.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii followed fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in supporting protesters.

She said in a statement that Ige should withdraw the emergency declaration and sit down with protesters to find a peaceful way forward.

“Trust must be earned — it is wrong that state leaders have approved the development of a new telescope on a new site on Mauna Kea, without first ensuring the timely removal of decommissioned facilities along with full restoration of those sites,” Gabbard said. “This failure and a history of broken promises has resulted in the standoff that we are seeing today.”

Earlier in the day, Sanders said in a tweet that has since been deleted: “We must guarantee native people’s right to self-determination and their right to protest. I stand with Native Hawaiians who are peacefully demonstrating to protect their sacred mountain of Mauna Kea.”

Sanders’ campaign didn’t immediately respond to an email asking why the tweet was deleted.

Protesters brace for arrests

Protest leader Kaho’okahi Kanuha said protesters have been bracing for law enforcement to show up in force ever since the governor signed the emergency proclamation. That was the day officers arrested 34 protesters.

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Sources: Trump Officials Weigh Delay of Abortion Curbs

The Trump administration has told federally funded family planning clinics it is considering a delay in enforcing a controversial rule that bars them from referring women for abortions. That comes after clinics had vowed defiance.

Two people attending meetings this week between the Department of Health and Human Services and clinic representatives told The Associated Press that officials said the clinics should be given more time to comply with the rule’s new requirements. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly before any decision has been announced.

HHS said Friday that its policy has not changed.

Rule announced, to take effect immediately

On Monday, agency officials announced that the government would immediately begin enforcing the rule, catching the clinics off-guard and prompting an outcry. Planned Parenthood said its 400 clinics would defy the requirement. Some states, including Illinois and Maryland, backed the clinics. The family planning program serves about 4 million women a year, and many low-income women get basic health care from the clinics.

The administration’s abortion restrictions, cheered by social and religious conservatives, are being challenged in court by groups representing the clinics, several states, and the American Medical Association. The litigation is still in its early stages. An enforcement pause may allow for a clearer indication of where the court cases are headed.

The people who spoke to AP said that HHS Office of Population Affairs Director Diane Foley told representatives of the clinics the administration is considering rewinding the clock on enforcement. Instead of requiring immediate compliance, the administration would issue a new timetable and start the process at that point.

Some requirements would be effective in 60 days, others in 120 days, and others would take effect next year.

The clinics had complained to HHS that the agency gave them no guidance on how to comply with the new restrictions, while expecting them to do so immediately.

No abortion referrals

The rule bars the family planning clinics from referring women for abortions. Abortion could still be discussed with patients, but only physicians or clinicians with advanced training could have those conversations. All pregnant patients would have to be referred for prenatal care, whether or not they request it. Minors would be encouraged to involve their parents in family planning decisions.

Under the rule, facilities that provide family planning services as well as abortions would have to strictly separate finances and physical space.

Known as Title X, the family-planning program funds a network of clinics, many operated by Planned Parenthood affiliates. The clinics also provide basic health services, including screening for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. The program distributes about $260 million a year in grants to clinics, and those funds cannot be used to pay for abortions.

The family planning rule is part of a series of Trump administration efforts to remake government policy on reproductive health to please conservatives who are a key part of its political base.

Other regulations tangled up in court would allow employers to opt out of offering free birth control to women workers on the basis of religious or moral objections, and grant health care professionals wider leeway to opt out of procedures that offend their religious or moral scruples.

Legal procedure

Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.

Planned Parenthood is also the nation’s leading abortion provider, and abortion opponents see the family-planning money as a subsidy, even if federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortions.

Planned Parenthood is in the midst of a leadership upheaval, after its board abruptly ousted the organization’s president this week.

Leana Wen, a physician, had sought to reposition Planned Parenthood as a health care provider. In her resignation letter, she said the organization’s board has determined the top priority should be to “double down on abortion rights advocacy.”
 

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