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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  September 21, 2021 4:30am-5:01am BST

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the headlines: votes are being counted in canada after monday's snap election called by the prime ministerjustin trudeau. the country's biggest broadcaster is projecting a victory for mr trudeau's governing liberal party. the liberals are hoping to regain the parliamentary majority they lost in the last election in 2019. the us has announced plans to ease air travel restrictions imposed eighteen months ago to try to control the pandemic. fully vaccinated travellers from brazil, china, india, and many european nations will be able to travel from november. covid testing and contact tracing will be needed, but not quarantining. a bbc investigation has found the uk's ministry of defence compromised the safety of afghan interpreters, because of a serious data breach following the withdawal of western forces from afghanistan. the ministry of defence says it'll launch an urgent investigation into the bearch, describing it as unacceptable.
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now on bbc news, hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. republicans in texas have managed to ban abortion in almost all cases in their state. anyone performing, aiding or abetting the termination of a pregnancy after roughly six weeks can now be sued in court. the implications are enormous, notjust in texas but across the us, and it points to a wider phenomenon. ideological conservatives are using state activism to confront federal power. my guest is texas republican state senator bryan hughes. has a new front opened up in america's culture wars? bryan hughes in austin, texas, welcome to hardtalk.
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thank you for having me. it's a pleasure to have you on the show, senator hughes. let me ask you a very simple question, is the era of roe versus wade — that famous supreme court decision which essentially enshrined the right of a woman to have an abortion in the us — is that era over in texas? we believe the end may be in sight.
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you know, for the last 30 years, the supreme court has been chipping away at that opinion and giving the states more authority to protect innocent human lives. so, this is not the end of roe versus wade, but the end may be in sight. we hope it is. this texas legislation, which you were one of the architects of, pushing it through the texas legislature. let's be clear, this was not a result of popular demand or will, was it? it was an ideologically committed move on your part and your fellow republicans. millions of americans and millions of texans are involved in politics for this reason — because they care about protecting innocent human life. and so it's the will of the people. it has to be passed by a majority, it has to be supported by a majority. of course, that's how this works. so, this is definitely... well, now, but it's obviously not how it works, senator, cos people vote for you for all sorts of different reasons. many of them would not have voted for you specifically on the issue of abortion. the point i'm getting to is that opinion polls over decades, since roe vs wade, have made it plain that america's pretty settled opinion, by roughly 60% to a0%, is that americans want the legal right
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to an abortion for women. now, you have ignored that in your legislation. polls can be phrased different ways. most americans are not in favour of most abortions in texas — elective abortions, convenience abortions — difficult things to talk about, of course, but most americans are not in favour of that. texans, if you look at the issue, the heartbeat bill, when you poll the question of protecting life when a heartbeat is present, its pretty close. there seems to be more people for it than against it. it's pretty close. more people are motivated by the issue than by other issues. but of course, this is how the process works. and there's a democratic process response. if the people of texas are not happy with what the legislature does, they elect new legislators. but for years, texas has been passing pro—life legislation to protect innocent human life. so this didn't catch anybody by surprise, or it shouldn't have. we'll get to the detail, and it is very important, the detail of the legislation, in a minute.
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butjust in constitutional terms, it is quite clear that the supreme court took a decision, we called it roe versus wade, which enshrined the right of a woman to have an abortion. to choose, if you like. you, in texas, have taken it upon yourselves to challenge that established constitutional right. what is it about the supreme court and its decision making that you in texas have now decided is so unacceptable? in 1973, seven old men on the us supreme court ignored 200 years of precedent and created the right to terminate a pregnancy. it was not in the constitution. if you read the words, the due process clause says that people cannot be deprived of due process of law. that's what it says. but with respect, what's in the constitution is the legal supremacy of the supreme court. you are choosing... no. you are choosing to try and undermine the supremacy of the supreme court. it's called supreme for a reason. what's in the constitution is that the constitution and laws are supreme.
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the role of the supreme court is debated and it will continue to be. we respect the supreme court. you'll note... you'll note that ever since 1973, beginning in the �*80s, �*90s, even the 2000s, the supreme court has limited, has scaled back roe vs wade, because technology has taught us so much more about the development of the little baby. and technology tells us that babies can live earlier in the process. and so the supreme court has been chipping away at roe versus wade. we believe roe versus wade was wrongly decided. we follow the law, we respect the law, and we work through the legal process to get the law correct. that's what we're trying to do. all right. now, you've just nodded to the essence of the bill. i think many people call it the heartbeat bill, because at the centre of it is this idea that an abortion in texas becomes unlawful, or at least anybody involved in it becomes prone to civil legal action, after the so—called heartbeat moment, which you define is at around, i think, six weeks when a heartbeat can be detected. now, the implication, it seems to me, of what you're doing with that focus on the heartbeat is to imply that there's some sort of viability to the foetus when a heartbeat of some sort — of course, the heart is hardly formed at that point — but you seem to be suggesting
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there is some sort of viability at that stage. of course, that's absolute nonsense. so, why all this focus and importance attached to the so—called heartbeat? well, two points on that. there was expert medical testimony from an obstetrician gynaecologist before the texas senate that told us that foetal heartbeat is the best predictor of a live birth. so there's that. as far as if you're concerned about the viability paradigm from roe versus wade. well, hang on, you're trying to tell me that a foetus at six weeks is in any meaningful way viable? i'm telling you that the foetal heartbeat, according to medical testimony, is the best predictor that there will be a live birth, that the child will develop to term. so that's one point on viability. beyond that, the heartbeat. . .the heartbeat is a sign of life. everybody gets that. everyone watching us has a heartbeat. think of your mother's
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heartbeat, your earliest memories, think of the loved one in a hospital and that heart monitor, that's the universal sign of life. and so it makes sense. fundamentally, we get that in our heads and in our hearts. the heartbeat is the sign of life. it's the logical place for us to look. well, i'm not sure if logic carries through in the sense that the heart you're talking about, of a grown adult, has nothing to do with what is formed in a foetus at six weeks, which has no viability to it whatsoever. and you know it. a one—week—old newborn is not developed as you and i are, but they�* re human. that's what we're talking about here. we're talking about human life, man. come on. let's talk about humans and humanity. state senator, we've never met, we don't know each other, but do you have children of your own? i do not. you do not. i mean, i'mjust wondering if you have the ability to put yourself in the frame of mind of a father of a daughter who has been raped, possibly even raped by a member of your own family, and she becomes pregnant. and under the new texas legislation, she is not allowed to have an abortion.
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can you imagine that you, in that scenario, would find that acceptable? we've spoken to many, many rape victims, horrible, unspeakable situations like that. we've also spoken to people who tell us that they were conceived in rape, and they're now adults and they are involved in these debates, as well. and so, when a horrible situation like that takes place, we want to help the mother, love her, come alongside her, respect her. we want to punish the rapist to the fullest extent of the law. that's a felony in texas. we don't punish the little unborn baby. after a rape, you have a horrible situation. we can make it worse by taking the life of that little baby. we don't want to do that. so you... you have... there's no sense in your mind
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that you might be punishing the young woman who has suffered, in this hypothetical, has suffered the most terrible experience, does not want to give birth, and you are saying, "doesn't matter what you want, what you feel, what you've experienced, you will give birth in texas." it's a difficult situation. what we acknowledge is that little baby growing inside her mother's womb is a living human being. so we have two human beings we want to protect and help. we want to do that in the best way we can. that's what this is about. we don't kill the little baby because of the father. that would be a horrible... it would make a horrible situation even worse. we don't want to do that. and just to be clear about your attitude to women and choice, the writer, the lawyer behind the so—called sb8 legislation, jonathan mitchell, he said, when asked about his view of women and choice when it comes to sex, he said, "of course this legislation changes nothing. women still have a choice. that is, they have the choice to practise abstinence from sexual intercourse as their way to control their reproductive lives." is that your view, too? that's the way you see women and choice in their sexuality, is it?
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jonathan mitchell is a very sharp lawyer, argued before the supreme court, worked on this bill, and we respect him on the law and on what the law means, how we read it. this is a difficult decision when you talk about a horrible thing like rape. and again, the women we spoke to who've been through it, it'sjust an indescribable situation. in a horrible situation like that, let's not make it worse. but you've gotten to the very point, haven't you? thatjonathan mitchell posits that women are entirely free to choose whether to have sex or not, that he doesn't talk about men and their responsibilities at all. it all comes down to women. and if women live in this texas world where abortion is de facto completely illegal, then theyjust have a right to abstain from sex. i haven't seen his full quote in context. i'll trust you to be reading it accurately. i don't know what he
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said in the context. i know that this bill says we protect the innocent human life and we come alongside the mother with real, tangible help. i'm talking about counselling, parenting classes, diapers, baby formula. we spend $100 million now in state and federal money in the alternatives to abortion programme to help mothers in those horrid situations. last cycle, we helped 100,000 expectant mothers and adoptive parents in these difficult situations. so, you set up a false dichotomy that we have to protect the child or the mother. we can do both. we can save the baby's life while we love and respect and give tangible support to that mother. and that's what we're going to do. now, senator, the legislation has been in place, as i understand it, and enforced for, what, the best part of 20 days now because it came in at the beginning of september. yes. all the evidence from clinics that carry out abortions in states beyond texas, neighbouring states, but as far away as illinois and beyond, is that they've seen a spike
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in numbers of texan women who are travelling to get their out—of—state abortions in those out—of—state clinics. are you out to get the people who are involved in those abortions beyond texas�* borders? no, of course not. and, as you may recall, you've read before roe v wade in 1973, each state made its own laws. in texas and america, we have this system of federalism where the states created a federal government. the states have great liberty in setting their own laws. so, before roe v wade, states like california and new york had more permissive abortion laws than states like texas. if the supreme court sees fit to overturn roe v wade and give this back to the states, we'd be in that situation again where different states have different laws, different rules, and that's how the american system was designed. your bill was carefully crafted to ensure that the sort of legal enforcement, if you like, comes from the citizenry rather than from agents of the state.
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that's one reason that the supreme court so far has decided not to intervene. how many vigilantes thus far in the 20 days the legislation has been in place have actually begun legal actions against women or the people that they believe have helped women get abortions? well, as you probably know, the concept of qui tam we inherited from ourfriends in english common law, and it gives citizens the right to bring cases on behalf of the public, on behalf of the common good. nothing new in america, nothing new in texas. in this case, we're not aware of any suits that have been brought because, as far as we can tell, the abortion industry is following the law. so, if there are no illegal abortions, there will be no law suits. well, but...i cannot believe you seriously think there hasn't been a single abortion in texas since september 1st — because that ain't true. i mean, i can tell you it ain't true... let's be clear, this law does not prevent abortion. this law says you cannot do an abortion on a little baby with a heartbeat. we want to be clear about that. i want to be clear, too, because i'm telling you, there is irrefutable evidence that abortions have been carried out in texas on foetuses beyond the six—week heartbeat threshold that
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you've just outlined. we know it because alan braid, a veteran physician who's been involved for 50 years in the medical profession, has been out in the open in recent days saying that he has carried out an abortion on...to help a woman with a foetus that was well beyond the six—week threshold. i'm just wondering whether any citizen vigilante has done anything to pursue dr braid or any of the other people involved in that operation? well, so, you and dr braid both set up this straw man — this is not a six—week ban. this law says that a doctor must check for the foetal heartbeat. if the doctor doesn't check, and does the abortion, it's against the law. if the doctor checks and detects a heartbeat, it's against the law to do the abortion. i don't know why you're dancing around this. i wasn't. .. it's quite clear. dr alan braid said this, he said... "0n the morning of september 6th, i provided an abortion
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to a woman who, though still in her first trimester, was beyond the state's new limit. and i acted because i had a duty of care to this patient, as i do to all patients." so i'm just asking you, is your law, you use the phrase "straw man", is your law serious, or is your law some sort of political posture that you're not actually intending to implement? if you have read any news reports from america or watched anything or, for that matter, from bbc, and talked to abortion providers writ large, they've told us they have scaled back. most of the clinics say they have scaled back considerably because the heartbeat law is in effect. i read the column from the doctor you're talking about — and that's being investigated. i'm not sure if anything's been filed, but i've read that. and again, that's how this works — if the abortion industry responds and follows the law, there won't be lawsuits. if they continue to take little babies�* lives who have a foetal heartbeat, then there will be lawsuits. are you working with lawmakers in other red states — republican—dominated states — to have this anti—abortion strategy of yours rolled out
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across other states, too? we've heard from a number of legislators in various states who want to make their laws look more like this. so the answer is yes. about 15 states had passed heartbeat bills, but those bills were blocked by the courts and so, many of those states are going back to make amendments to use the similar mechanism that texas has used here. and again, this is nothing new, the pieces were always there. we've done citizen enforcement for a long time. we just put all the pieces together in this setting, and so that's one of the reasons the supreme court has done what they've done because this follows the law. and that is also one reason why thejustice department is doing now what it's doing — which is to view what you are doing as sowing the seed of something fundamentally dangerous to the nationwide right of women to get an abortion. why attorney general merrick garland has called your initiative an unprecedented effort to, quote, "whose obvious and expressly acknowledged intention is to prevent women from exercising their constitutionally
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protected right." that's why now the justice department has launched proceedings against texas. so, you may, if i can use a phrase, have bitten off more than you can ultimately chew here. we believe that that little baby growing inside her mother's womb is a human being with rights that need to be protected. since 1973, the supreme court has consistently chipped away at roe — in 1989, with webster, in �*92 with casey, in texas cases, in the partial birth abortion case. the supreme court has given states more and more latitude to protect innocent human life. we believe they're going to continue to do that. we certainly hope they do. this law was written with supreme court precedent, with circuit court precedent in view, in a way that will follow the law and protect little babies, and that's what this is about. it seems to me, if i may say so, senator hughes, that you and others, particularly in texas, but maybe some other red state republican states too, really want to go to war with the federal government. you're doing it in this case over roe v wade and the role
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of the supreme court, but you're doing it in other ways, too. and i'm now thinking about texas and reaction to the covid—19 pandemic. why is it that you in texas — both the governor and the legislature — are determined to challenge the federal government when it comes to the vaccines and the wearing of face masks? there's always a tension between the state and federal government in the american system, you know this. again, the states created the federal government. we yielded part of our sovereignty to the feds and there's always going to be that tension as each government pushes back and forth for its jurisdiction. many people believe — many texans, many americans believe — the federal government is too big, it has too much authority, and so the states push back, and the feds push back. and this is all sorted out in the american democratic process. but with respect, you're not really... that's nothing new. this isn't really about pushing back against the federal government, it's about pushing back against the basic
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facts of science. you in texas, i believe you've got nearly four million covid cases now. you've got deaths running at over 60,000. you've got icu units in waco, corpus christi and other cities which are pretty much full. and yet, you and the governor, you're trying to fight the idea that masks should be mandatory in public offices and schools, and you're also trying to fight joe biden who says that people who work in workplaces that have over 100 people should have to have the double vaccine. why on earth are you doing it? it's funny you mention the vaccine. back in 2020, when president trump was pushing the vaccine, read what biden said at the time. he was not big on the vaccine. "i don't know if we can trust that vaccine." now the vaccine is magically good because we have a new administration. we believe people should make their own decisions about their health, should be given the best information, and we trust texans to do that. it should not be political, it should be about personal choices for protecting one's health and the health
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of one's family, that's what this should be about. so you don't acknowledge the best way to protect one's health and, more importantly, the health of others, is first to wear a mask but, even more important, to get double vaccined? you don't accept that, don't you? if i go to your home or your business and you want me to wear a mask, i'm going to wear a mask. i'm going to respect your property, respect your will. it's in your space, i'm going to do that. that's the courteous thing to do. that's what we should do. when folks are sick, they should stay home. there's many common—sense things that people can do. there's no question about that. but whether to take the vaccine, whether to wear a mask in premises under your own control, that's a personal decision that folks can make. and we trust adults to make those decisions and adults to make those decisions for their children, for theirfamilies. one other area i'd like to get to before we finish where i am, again, somewhat puzzled by the texas legislature and its attitude is on voting. now, in a democracy, a proud democracy like the united states, you'd kind of assume that you and other legislators would want as many people as possible to vote. but you're clearly intent on trying to make it more difficult for americans
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to vote in texas. why? senate bill 1, senate bill1 expanded early voting hours in more counties in the state, made it easier to cast a mail ballot and make sure it gets counted. it also says that if you're in line to vote and the polls close during early voting, you must be allowed to vote. the bill also says during early voting, your employer has to let you off work to vote. many ways that bill expands... in some of the most populous counties like harris county, you've actually, you've now banned 24—hour voting, you've banned the drive—thru voting process which more than 140,000 voters in harris county used last election cycle. harris county, of course, is not full of natural republican voters. it is quite clear, and it's notjust in your state, but other republican states, that you guys at the state level are now intent on using law to suppress the votes of people who don't vote republican. yeah, that's a good sound bite, but let's be clear, it was one county, harris county only. let's talk about drive—thru voting.
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we got a testimony in drive—thru voting when they got the numbers done. they had more votes than they had voters. and the county administrator in harris county said, "we're going to stop this before we get to election day because we're concerned the votes may not count." as far as 24—hour voting, we scoured the country and tried to find anyone who had done 24—hour voting. you know who had done it? los angeles, california, did 24—hour voting... audio distortion. ..and then they stopped it for the general election. i haven't heard you accuse them of voter suppression. this bill, what's in the bill makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat, and that's what it does. i'm disappointed folks want to talk about other states and national movements, but this texas bill makes it easier to vote. read the bill. it's very clear. just strikes me, senator hughes, that on a whole raft of issues, and we've covered a few of them today, you know, whether it be abortion, whether it be the electoral and voter laws that you're changing, whether it
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be your attitude to covid, if you look at where middle america is, the swing voters who dictate elections, you're not with them. you're pursuing an ideological agenda which certainly fires up your base but it's a massive gamble because it's going to turn off an awful lot of americans, too. well, this is a texas bill. i mean, other states can do what they want to do. this is about texas. i represent the people of texas. and so we're going to implement their will through the legislature in the best way we can see. and again, we believe in the electoral system. folks can elect someone else. they're not going to send me here forever. but while i'm here, i want to honour their will and do thisjob the best i can. that's what this is about. the people of texas don't see things the same way as the people of new york on every issue, or california, or florida. that's federalism. that's how the system is supposed to work. and i'll say this — in this system, people can vote with their feet. and people continue to flee to texas. they're fleeing california and new york and illinois. they're fleeing those high states, those high tax states that control your lives, micromanage your life, and they're coming to texas.
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they're coming here for a reason. senator hughes, we have to end there. it's a pleasure having you on hardtalk. thank you very much indeed. thanks for having me. hello there. for central and southern parts of the uk this week, it's not going to be looking that bad at all. with high pressure always nearby, it'll be dry, quite warm with plenty of sunshine. but we'll start to see some changes from wednesday onwards across the north of the uk, more especially for scotland, where it will turn windier with some rain at times and it will feel cooler. so, a bit more of an autumnal feel there. high pressure, though, dominates the scene into tuesday, many places starting dry.
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there will be some mist and fog around, some dense patches across east anglia and the southeast which will tend to dissipate through the day. bit of mist and fog to start the day for scotland and northern ireland, and then it'll turn cloudier and windier for western scotland, perhaps western northern ireland, with some light and patchy rain here. but eastern scotland, eastern northern ireland, most of england and wales, fine and dry with some sunshine. and again, feeling quite warm, temperatures into the low 20s celsius. into tuesday night, it starts to turn cloudier, windier and wetter across the northwest of the uk. further south, closer to high pressure, winds will be lighter, there will be some clear spells again, one or two chilly spots, but a bit milder further north and west. this is where we start to see the changes, then, around the middle part of the week. indeed, it's on cue during the autumn equinox, with some rain and strong winds pushing in to scotland, northern and western areas, and then this band of rain will move southwards into northern ireland, southern scotland later in the day. behind it, sunshine, blustery showers, gales here. to the south of this rain band, though, for the majority
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of england and wales, another fine day to come. and quite warm, top temperatures of 22 or 23 degrees. as we move into thursday, another area of low pressure skirts the north of the uk. that'll bring another swathe of wet and windy weather across scotland, maybe some gales later in the day. a bit more cloud further south, but again, for much of england and wales, the midlands southwards, it'll be dry with some lengthy spells of sunshine, top temperatures 20 or 21 degrees. but cooler in the north, ten to 16 degrees here — particularly chilly when you factor in the wind. through friday and then into the weekend, we start to see the winds change direction. low pressure develops to the west of the uk. that draws up some mild south—westerly winds across the uk, but we'll start to see some wet weather pushing into western areas as we reach part two of the weekend. but again, across the south, it could stay dry with plenty of sunshine.
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will be no law suits.
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this is bbc news, i'm sally bundock with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. canadian prime ministerjustin trudeau is projected to win the general election, but with only enough votes to form a minority government. world leaders arrive in new york for the un general assembly, with coronavirus and climate change likely to dominate. after more than 18 months, the united states announces an easing of its covid travel restrictions. a bbc investigation finds the uk ministry of defence compromised the safety of dozens of afghan interpreters. and a cathedral for movies — hollywood's new academy museum is to finally open its doors.

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