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American Scene: Judge says Arizona’s abortion ban can take effect

- - Monday, July 30, 2012

PHOENIX — Arizona's ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy will take effect this week, as scheduled, after a federal judge ruled Monday that the new law is constitutional.

U.S. District Judge James Teilborg said the statute may prompt a few pregnant women who are considering abortion to make the decision earlier. But he said the law is constitutional because it doesn't prohibit any women from making the decision to end her pregnancy.

The judge also wrote that the state provided "substantial and well-documented" evidence that an unborn child has the capacity to feel pain during an abortion by at least 20 weeks.

The ban, set to take effect Thursday, is similar but not identical to those enacted by other states. It prohibits abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy except in medical emergencies. That is a change from the current ban at viability, which is the ability to survive outside the womb and generally is considered to be about 24 weeks. A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks.

Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed the ban into law in April, making Arizona one of 10 states to enact types of 20-week bans.

A second Arizona anti-abortion law, enacted earlier this year, also faces a court challenge. That law bars public funding for non-abortion health care provided by abortion doctors and clinics.

NEW YORK

Foster care population drops for 6th straight year

NEW YORK — The number of U.S. children in foster care has dropped for the sixth straight year, falling to about 400,000 compared to more than 520,000 a decade ago, according to new federal figures, demonstrating the staying power of reforms even amid economic turbulence.

The drop results primarily from a shift in the policies and practices of state and county child welfare agencies. Many have shortened stays in foster care, expedited adoptions and expanded preventive support for troubled families so more children avoid being removed from their homes.

The new figures released by the Department of Health and Human Services show there were 400,540 children in foster care as of Sept. 30. That's down from 406,412 a year earlier and about 523,000 in 2002.

NORTH CAROLINA

Soldier accused of negligent homicide not guilty

FAYETTEVILLE — A military jury has found an Army sergeant not guilty of negligent homicide in the death of an Army private who killed himself in Afghanistan.

Adam Holcomb was found guilty Monday on two lesser charges, maltreatment of a subordinate and assault. He faces a maximum of 21/2 years in prison.

The 10-member jury deliberated for two hours in military court at Fort Bragg on Monday after hearing closing arguments.

Holcomb was the first of eight soldiers to be court-martialed for the alleged racial hazing of Pvt. Danny Chen, who killed himself last October.

Throughout the trial, the defense painted Chen as an incompetent soldier disowned by his family. Prosecutors said Holcomb abused Chen and drove him to suicide.

OHIO

Student in Twitter threat ordered to avoid Kent St.

COLUMBUS — A Kent State University student accused of posting a message on Twitter saying he planned to "shoot up" the northeastern Ohio campus was instructed Monday to stay away from the school and its president.

William Koberna, a 19-year-old sophomore, was released Monday after posting part of a $50,000 bond set at Portage County Municipal Court in Ravenna. He appeared via video from the Portage County Jail.

Conditions of his bond require Mr. Koberna to wear a GPS tracking device and stay away from university President Lester A. Lefton and the school.

University officials say an employee was monitoring social media mentions of the school when a profanity-laced tweet posted July 25 was discovered. The public tweet mentioned Kent State University, identified the university president by name and included the threat: "I'm shooting up your school ASAP."

Mr. Koberna was arrested Sunday afternoon at his parents' home in the Cleveland suburb of Brunswick after university officials contacted police about the tweet. Officials say he was taken into custody without incident.

Mr. Koberna has been charged with inducing panic, a felony, and aggravated menacing, a misdemeanor. A preliminary hearing is scheduled Friday at the Kent branch of the municipal court.

NEW JERSEY

Girl grabs wheel when grandfather dies

BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP — A 12-year-old girl steered a car to safety when her grandfather died at the wheel with his foot on the accelerator.

Miranda Bowman was returning to her Burlington Township home after spending the day racing go-karts at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville with Paul Parker, 63, on Tuesday.

Miranda told the Burlington County Times her grandfather told her he didn't feel well before closing his eyes and putting his head on the glass.

She slid over as the car approached 80 mph, pressed the brake and steered the vehicle toward some bushes.

She was not injured in the crash. Relatives said her grandfather had a chronic heart condition and died of heart failure.

From wire dispatches and staff reports