Monday, October 28, 2013

Texas District Judge Declares Portions of HB 2 Restricting Abortion Unconstitutional

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In his opinion in Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Abbott, Judge Lee Yeakel has enjoined portions of Texas HB 2, passed in July (despite a well-publicized filibuster by state senator Wendy Davis) and slated to become effective October 29, 2013.

 The judge found unconstitutional the "admitting privileges provision" that provided:

A physician performing or inducing an abortion:
(1) must, on the date the abortion is performed or induced, have active admitting privileges at a hospital that:
(A) is located not further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced; and
(B) provides obstetrical or gynecological health care services

He concluded that the provision placed a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion and failed the rational basis test.  As to the substantial obstacle, the judge noted that hospital admitting privileges for physicians performing abortions can be difficult to obtain; for example a physician performing low-risk abortions may simply not have sufficient surgeries to qualify.  Moreover, many physicians are not within the 30 mile limit.  Regarding a rational relationship, the judge found that hospital emergency rooms admitting a patient and hospitals subsequently treating her do not disfavor a patient whose physician does not have admitting privileges.

Judge Yeakel did not declare unconstitutional HB 2's revision of physician prescription of abortion-inducing medications such as RU-486.  HB 2 essentially mandates following the FDA protocol, a protocol that is not usually followed and about which there is substantial disagreement.  Judge Yeakel, however, found that HB 2 did not impose an undue burden because the physician could perform a surgical abortion.  An exception, however, must be added if the physician determines that the health or life of the woman is at stake.

Texas is reportedly already appealing the decision.  It is not the first time that Judge Lee (Earl Leroy) Yeakel has rendered an opinion declaring portions of a Texas statute restricting abortion unconstitutional and been appealed.  Last year in Planned Parenthood Ass'n of Hidalgo Cty. v. Seuhs, a panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed Judge Yeakel's preliminary injunction involving a Texas regulation that expanded the Texas Women's Health Program prohibition of funding for health care not merely to abortions, but to any organization affiliated with abortion.

 UPDATE: FIFTH CIRCUIT STAY

October 28, 2013 in Abortion, Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), Fourteenth Amendment, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Reproductive Rights, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sixth Circuit: Eden Foods Corporation Cannot Assert a Religion Under RFRA

The continuing question of whether a for-profit secular corporation can assert a religious belief against contraception sufficient to exempt it from the ACA's provision requiring an employer to include contraceptive coverage in its health care insurance was again addressed by the Sixth Circuit in its opinion in Eden Foods v. Sebelius.

Interestingly, a footnote in the opinion cast doubt on whether Eden Foods and its founder and sole shareholder Michael Potter could past the requirement of having a sincerely held religious belief:

Potter’s “deeply held religious beliefs,” see Complaint ¶ 83, more resembled a laissez-faire, anti-government screed.  Potter stated to Carmon [in an article in salon.com]  “I’ve got more interest in good quality long underwear than I have in birth control pills.” Carmon then asked the Eden Foods chairman why he didn’t seem to care about birth control when he had taken the step to file a lawsuit over the contraceptive mandate. Potter responded, “Because I’m a man, number one[,] and it’s really none of my business what women do.” The article continued:

So, then, why bother suing? “Because I don’t care if the federal government is telling me to buy my employees Jack Daniel’s or birth control. What gives them the right to tell me that I have to do that? That’s my issue, that’s what I object to, and that’s the beginning and end of the story.” He added, “I’m not trying to get birth control out of Rite Aid or Wal-Mart, but don’t tell me I gotta pay for it.”

 

Eden Foods 2


But the panel opinion rested on different grounds, following the decision of another panel of the circuit in Autocam Corp. v. Sebelius, decided in September, that agreed with the divided panel of the Third Circuit's July opinion in Conestoga Wood Specialties  that a for-profit secular corporation cannot assert a claim to religious freedom under RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

This is contrary to the holding of the divided  en banc Tenth Circuit's June majority opinion in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius presently before the United States Supreme Court on a petition for writ of certiorari filed by the Solicitor General on behalf of Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services.   In its response brief filed October 21, 2013, Hobby Lobby agrees that the Court should grant the writ and hear the case.   With the split in the circuits, numerous district court cases in litigation, and both parties contending it is a matter of great public importance, odds are that the Court will grant certiorari for the current Term. 

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October 28, 2013 in Family, First Amendment, Medical Decisions, Religion, Reproductive Rights, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sixth Circuit Rejects Secular For-Profit Company's Claim Challenging ACA Under RFRA

The Sixth Circuit's succinct and unanimous opinion in Autocam Corporation v. Sebelius sided with the Third Circuit's July opinion in Conestoga Wood Specialties and against the en banc Tenth Circuit's June majority opinion in Hobby Lobby on the issue of whether a for-profit secular business has a free exercise of religion right (as a person) under RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  There is some intertwining of the First Amendment free exercise of religion claim, but the Autocam decision rests on RFRA.

Autocam, like Conestoga Wood and Hobby Lobby, and its owners, argue that the regulations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“ACA”) requiring employers cover contraceptive methods for their employees - - - often called the contraceptive mandate - - - infringes on their religious rights.  Autocam, like the others, is a large corporation.  And a quick look at Autocam's "mission" on its website indicates no expression of a religious purpose, but only providing superior products. 

Autocam

 

The Sixth Circuit interestingly found that while Autocam as a corporation had standing to assert its claims, the Kennedy family as members (owners?) of a "closely held corporation" did not have shareholder standing:  "Generally, shareholders of a corporation cannot bring claims intended to redress injuries to a corporation, even when the corporation is closely held."  The Kennedys argued that this rule should not apply in RFRA claims, but the court found nothing in RFRA to support their view.  Further, the court rejected their claims they were individually harmed or that a "pass through" theory could be applied.

As to the merits of the corporation's assertion of personhood under RFRA, the court found that RFRA did not support such an interpretation, and moreover, "Reading the term “person” in the manner suggested by Autocam would lead to a significant expansion of the scope of the rights the Free Exercise Clause"  protected prior to Employment Division v.  Smith and the enactment of RFRA. 

By affirming the denial of the preliminary injunction by the district judge, the Sixth Circuit panel has entered the fray of a circuit split on the issue.   With its unamious opinion, it does tilt the "count" toward a nonrecognition of religious rights of secular for proft corporations (recall that the en banc Tenth Circuit opinion was closely divided and the Third Circuit panel opinion was also split; additionally earlier this month a senior district judge in the Tenth Circuit applied applied Hobby Lobby to a for-profit nursing home chain.)  However, the Sixth Circuit opinion adds little new to the analysis of this issue increasingly ripe for Supreme Court review.

September 18, 2013 in Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Family, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality, Standing, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Federal Judge Allows Lawsuit for Unconstitutional Sex Assignment Surgery to Proceed

In the closely watched case of M.C. v. Aaronson,  a minor claims a violation of both substantive and procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment by South Carolina doctors who performed genital surgery on a child in state custody (foster care).    We discussed the case when the complaint was filed in May.

IntersexualflagIn a 15 page order United States District Judge David Norton denied the motions to dismiss by the various defendants.  With regard to the substantive due process right, the judge found that "M.C. has articulated that defendants violated his clearly established constitutional right to procreation.," and as a "result, defendants’ assertion of qualified immunity must fail at this stage in the litigation."  Given this conclusion, the judge stated he "need not consider M.C.’s arguments that defendants also violated his rights to privacy and bodily integrity."

As for the procedural due process rights, the judge again found that M.C. stated a claim, and that further analysis of the Matthews v. Eldridge factors was not appropriate at this stage.

But as the judge's opinion made clear, the hurdle of summary judgment looms:

Underlying this case’s complex legal questions is a series of medical and administrative decisions that had an enormous impact on one child’s life. Details of how those decisions were made, when they were made, and by whom are as yet unknown to the court. Whether M.C.’s claims can withstand summary judgment challenges, or even the assertion of qualified immunity at the summary judgment stage, is not for the court to hazard a guess at this time. It is plain that M.C. has sufficiently alleged that defendants violated at least one clearly established constitutional right – the right to procreate – when they recommended, authorized, and/or performed the sex assignment surgery in April 2006.

Indeed, this same order included a grant of M.C.'s request for expedited discovery.

RR
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September 1, 2013 in Due Process (Substantive), Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Privacy, Procedural Due Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ninth Circuit Upholds California Ban on Reparative (Sexual Orientatation Conversion)Therapy Against First Amendment Challenge

A panel of the Ninth Circuit today upheld the validity of California's SB 1172, prohibiting licensed therapists from performing what is known variously as sexual conversion therapy, reparative therapy, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) on minors under the age of 18.

In its 36 page opinion in the consolidated cases of  Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown, the court reversed the senior district judge's opinion in Welch v. Brown enjoining the statute, and affirmed the opinion of a different district judge in Pickup v. Brown that had found the statute constitutional, and dissolved its own injunction pending appeal issued last December.

Judge Susan Graber, writing for the unanimous panel also consisting of  Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and Judge Morgan Christen, Judge Graber summarized the holding thusly:  

SB 1172, as a regulation of professional conduct, does not violate the free speech rights of SOCE practitioners or minor patients, is neither vague nor overbroad, and does not violate parents’ fundamental rights.

 

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"Le psychiatre" by Jeylina Ever, 2010
The panel held that SB 1172 did not merit heightened scrutiny under the First Amendment. Construing circuit precedent, it distilled several relevant principles:

 

(1) doctor-patient communications about medical treatment receive substantial First Amendment protection, but the government has more leeway to regulate the conduct necessary to administering treatment itself;
(2) psychotherapists are not entitled to special First Amendment protection merely because the mechanism used to deliver mental health treatment is the spoken word; and
(3) nevertheless, communication that occurs during psychotherapy does receive some constitutional protection, but it is not immune from regulation.

(emphasis in original).  The panel concluded that there is a continuum between speech and conduct, and that SB 1172 landed toward conduct, "where the state's power is great, even though such regulation may have an incidental effect on speech."   Applying a rational basis standard, the court rejected the claim that California legislature acted irrationally.

The court quickly dispatched the remaining arguments including that SB 1172 violated the right of "expressive association" as between counselors and clients, that SB 1172 was void for vagueness, that SB 1172 was overbroad, and that SB1172 violated the parents' fundamental due process rights over their children.

This is an important and well-reasoned decision likely to be persuasive to other courts, including the federal district judge deciding the constitutional challenge to New Jersey's similar statute.

RR
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August 29, 2013 in Family, First Amendment, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Jersey's Prohibition of Sexual Orientation Conversion Challenged

New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie (pictured) signed New Jersey A3371 banning so-called sexual conversion or reparative therapy on minors into law earlier this month. 

DSC_3546_smallIn his signing statement, Christie said:

At the outset of this debate, I expressed my concerns about government limiting parental choice on the care and treatment of their own children. I still have those concerns. Government should tread carefully into this area and I do so here reluctantly. I have scrutinized this piece of legislation with that concern in mind.

However, I also believe that on issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards. The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientation can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.

I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate. Based upon this analysis, I sign this bill into law.

 

 Despite Christie's careful articulation of  his support for the bill, it was criticized and quickly challenged in a complaint filed in federal court in King v. Christie.  The plaintiffs include Tara King, a licensed professional counselor, as well as National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (“NARTH”) and American Association of Christian Counselors (“AACC”).  They argue that the law violates their First Amendment rights of free speech, rights of their clients to "receive information," and free exercise of religion, as well as clients' parental due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, in addition to concomitant rights under the New Jersey state constitution.

RR

UPDATE: In Pickup v. Brown, the Ninth Circuit has upheld California's similar law banning sexual conversion therapy.

 

August 26, 2013 in Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Medical Decisions, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

North Dakota Federal Judge Enjoins North Dakota's Abortion Restrictions

 

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North Dakota State Capitol Building
Judge Daniel Hovland's opinion in MKB Management, Inc. v. Burdick grants a preliminary injunction against North Dakota House Bill 1456 passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, which would make it a criminal offense to perform an abortion if a “heartbeat” has been detected, thereby banning abortions beginning at approximately six weeks of pregnancy, with limited exceptions.  As the plaintiffs, who run the only abortion clinic in North Dakota, argued, abortions before six weeks are exceedingly rare, in part because a woman rarely knows she is pregnant before that time. 

 

A woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before viability has consistently been upheld by the United States Supreme Court in the forty years since Roe v. Wade. See e.g., City of Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reprod. Health, Inc., 462 U.S. 416, 420 (1983) (a woman has a constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy) (overruled on other grounds); Casey, 505 U.S. at 846 (a woman has a right to an abortion before viability without undue interference from the state); Stenberg, 530 U.S. at 921 (a woman has the right to choose an abortion before viability); Gonzales, 550 U.S. 124 (the state may not prevent “any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy”).

Indeed, Judge Hovland stated:

It is crystal clear from United States Supreme Court precedent that viability, although not a fixed point, is the critical point.

(emphasis in original).  He characterized the Defendants’ arguments as "necessarily rest[ing] on the premise that every Court of Appeals to strike a ban on pre-viability abortion care has misread United States Supreme Court precedent."  He stated that "until" Roe v. Wade and Casey are "overturned by the United States Supreme Court, this Court is bound to follow that precedent under the rule of stare decisis."

After briefly assessing the traditional standards for a preliminary injunction, Judge Hovland enjoined North Dakota House Bill 1456 which was to become effective August 1. 

Where and on what basis the "viability" line can be drawn remains uncertain in the continuing abortion debates, but six weeks is certainly too early.

RR

July 23, 2013 in Abortion, Due Process (Substantive), Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Privacy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Federal Complaint for Unconstitutional Sex Assignment Surgery on Infant

400px-3D_gender_symbol.svgThe surgical "assignment" of sex/gender to an infant born with "ambiguous" genitals is a problem that has garnered much attention.

The Constitutional Court of Colombia issued a series of opinions beginning in 1995, analyzed in a 2004 law review article by Kate Haas, Who Will Make Room for the Intersexed?, that recognize a constitutional right of children, albeit limited, with regard to the surgery.  A ground-breaking symposium issue of Cardozo Journal of Law & Gender in 2005 engages with many of the legal issues and proposed solutions, often recognizing the limits of constitutional remedies in the United States given that the surgeries are usually the result of private action.

But a complaint filed this week, M.C. v. Aaronson, by the Southern Poverty Center claims a violation of both substantive and procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment by South Carolina doctors who performed genital surgery on a child in state custody (foster care).  M.C., now 8 years old, brings the case through his adoptive parents. 

The substantive due process claim is a relatively obvious one, building on established United States Supreme Court cases finding a right to be free of coerced medical procedures including Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health (1990).  The right is a bit muddled, however, given that the highly discredited 1927 case of Buck v. Bell has never been actually overruled; the declaration that castration was as unconstitutional penalty for a crime in Skinner v. Oklahoma rested on equal protection grounds. 

The procedural due process claim is more novel, contending that the minor was entitled to a pre-deprivation hearing before the surgery.  Such a hearing would presumably be of the type that Erin Lloyd recommended for all minors (whether in state custody or not) in her article From the Hospital to the Courtroom: A Statutory Proposal for Recognizing and Protecting the Legal Rights of Intersex Children in the Cardozo Journal of Gender and Law Symposium issue. 

An accompanying lawsuit filed in state court alleges medical malpractice and failure to obtain informed consent, raising the same underlying facts and many of the same issues, but under state law.

Southern Poverty Center has produced a video featuring the parents and outlining the facts of the case:

 

 This is definitely a case to watch.

RR
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May 16, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Comparative Constitutionalism, Due Process (Substantive), Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Medical Decisions, Procedural Due Process, Sexuality, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Force-Feeding at Guantanamo

The ACLU and 19 other organizations sent a letter this week to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel opposing the military's force-feeding hunger-striking detainees at Guantanamo Bay.  According to the ACLU, 29 detainees are currently being force-fed.  We previously posted on a ruling by New York's high court upholding the practice of force-feeing in New York prisons.

The military's standard operating procedures (SOP) on fasting and force-feeding changed just recently (published on Al Jazeera), loosening protections against force-feeding.  (The earlier SOP is here.)  Most notably, the recent changes to the SOP charge the military commander of the base, not a medical doctor, with determining who is a hunger striker.

Here's the ACLU's legal case against force-feeding, from this week's coalition letter to Secretary Hagel:

Force-feeding as used in Guantanamo violates Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which bar cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment.  It also could violate the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits the "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" of prisoners "regardless of nationality or physical location."  Indeed, a 2006 joint report submitted by five independent human rights experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council (formerly the U.N. Commission on Human Rights) found that the method of force-feeding then used in Guantanamo, and which appears to remain in effect today, amounted to torture as defined in Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the United States ratified in 1994.  The report asserted that doctors and other health professionals authorizing and participating in force-feeding prisoners were violating the right to health and other human rights, including those guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States ratified in 1992.  Those concerns were reiterated this month by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and three UN Special Rapporteurs.

While the letter focuses on cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, there may be other problems with force-feeding, too.  For example, force-feeding may infringe on hunger-striking detainees' free speech.  But First Amendment claims by hunger-strikers in regular detention in the U.S. have not been successful; Guantanamo Bay detainees would almost certainly face even steeper First Amendment challenges in the courts.  There's also the right to refuse medical treatment.  As Michael Dorf (DorfonLaw.org) argues at jurist.org, "five Justices in [Cruzan v. Dir. Missouri Dep''t of Health] did say that they thought that competent adults have the right to refuse forced feeding, even if death will result."  But that runs up against Washington v. Harper, holding that prison officials could override a prisoner's objection to forcibly being administered medication, assuming it's in the prisoner's medical interest.

Anyway, as Dorf points out, some Guantanamo detainees might have a hard time even bringing a case.  Judge Kessler (D.D.C) dismissed a detainee force-feeding case in 2009, based on the jurisdiction-stripping provision in the Military Commissions Act of 2006.  That provision says,

Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1005(e) of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

The difference here is that some of the hunger-strikers now have been cleared for release--the U.S. just can't find a place to send them.  Those detainees are not "determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or [are] awaiting such determination," and are not barred by 2241(e)(2) from bringing suit.

SDS

May 15, 2013 in Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, First Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, Medical Decisions, News, Speech, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 3, 2013

New York's Highest Court on the Constitutionality of Force-Feeding Hunger Striking Prisoners

The hunger strike amongst prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has led to force-feeding, a situation prompting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN to issue a statement reiterating the disapproval of Guantanamo and remind the United States that:

in cases involving people on hunger strikes, the duty of medical personnel to act ethically and the principle of respect for individuals’ autonomy, among other principles, must be respected. Under these principles, it is unjustifiable to engage in forced feeding of individuals contrary to their informed and voluntary refusal of such a measure. Moreover, hunger strikers should be protected from all forms of coercion, even more so when this is done through force and in some cases through physical violence. Health care personnel may not apply undue pressure of any sort on individuals who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike. Nor is it acceptable to use threats of forced feeding or other types of physical or psychological coercion against individuals who have voluntarily decided to go on a hunger strike.

New York's highest court, in its opinion in Bezio v. Dorsey regarding a state prisoner on a hunger strike reached an opposite conclusion.  The court's majority stated:

The issue before us is whether Dorsey's rights were violated by a judicial order permitting the State to feed him by nasogastric tube after his health devolved to the point that his condition became life-threatening. We answer that question in the negative.

450px-Galler,_Hornsgatan_2012aYet the question of Dorsey's "rights" that were properly before the court occupied the bulk of the majority and dissenting opinions.  The state Department of Corrections and Correctional Services (DOCCS) had originally sought the judicial order relating to Dorsey, a "serial hunger striker," which Dorsey resisted with pragmatic rather than constitutional arguments.  But the state relied heavily on previous New York law - - - including a case involving Mark Chapman, the man convicted of murdering John Lennon - - - to support the constitutionality of forced-feeding. 

Chief Judge Lippman, dissenting (and joined by Judge Rivera) argued that there were too many factual distinctions, including any finding that the prisoner or the institution was actually in danger.

As noted, DOCCS's own consulting psychiatrist stated flatly in his assessment that Mr. Dorsey was not suicidal. He was undoubtedly manipulative [as the doctor had stated], but all civil disobedience is manipulative. Manipulativeness, obviously, is not a sufficient predicate for forced feeding by the State.

While concluding that the issues are not properly before the court, and that the case is moot under state constitutional doctrine, the dissenting judges nevertheless concluded

The right to refuse treatment, we have held, is a kind of liberty interest within the protective ambit of the Due Process Clause of the State Constitution. While the right may be overcome in compelling circumstances justifying the state's resort to its police power and the state may thus intervene to prevent suicide, the individual's basic prerogative to make decisions affecting his or her own personal health and right to be left alone, i.e. to personal privacy, ordinarily will trump even the best intended state intervention.  

For the majority of the court, however, the balance articulated in Turner v. Safley (1987) was easily resolved in favor of the legitimate penological interests of the prison, including the risk of a "significant destabilizing impact on the institution" by an inmate hunger strike, to allow force feeding an inmate.

RR
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May 3, 2013 in Due Process (Substantive), First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, International, Medical Decisions, News, Opinion Analysis, State Constitutional Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Oral Arguments in USAID v. Alliance for Open Society, the "Prostitution Pledge"

The Court heard oral arguments today, sans Justice Kagan, in United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc., involving a First Amendment challenge to a provision of federal funding statute requiring some (but not other) organizations to have an explicit policy opposing sex work. 

 

Courtesan_in_a_Window,
Courtesan in a Window, 18th C.
The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (“Leadership Act”), 22 U.S.C. § 7601 et seq. provides: "No funds made available to carry out this chapter, or any amendment made by this chapter, may be used to provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking, except that this subsection shall not apply to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organization, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative or to any United Nations agency"

 

In other words, a NGO must have a "prostitution pledge" - - - actually, an anti-prostitution pledge - - - as a condition of receiving funds, unless it is one of the "grandfathered" NGOs.   The question is whether this pledge is compelled speech and whether any compelled speech is sufficient to distinguish the situation from Rust v. Sullivan.  The Second Circuit had held the provision unconstitutional.

Arguing as Deputy Solicitor General in support of the provision's constitutionality, Sri Srinivasan stressed that the Congressional requirement was "germane" to the government's goal in "partnering" with private organizations.  Justice Scalia, in addition to finding the term "partnering" a "terrible verb," seemed to voice sentiments consistent with his previous conclusions in funding cases that the government can choose to spend its money as it wished. Interestingly, Justice Alito was more troubled, as he expressed in his first comment and question to the Deputy Solicitor General:

JUSTICE ALITO: I'm not aware of any case in which this Court has held that it is permissible for Congress to condition Federal funding on the recipient's expression of agreement with ideas with which the recipient disagrees. I'm not aware of any case in which that kind of compelled speech has been permitted.  And I would be interested in -- and it seems to me like quite a -- a dangerous proposition. I would be interested in whatever limitations you think there might be on that rule, which seems to be the general rule that you're advocating. Other than the requirement of germaneness, is there anything else.

 Alito soon thereafter posed an example mentioned in an amicus brief about the ability of government funding schools, and again, Srinivasan repeated the requirement of "germaneness."  Later, Alito mentioned another example, mixing advocacy of guns and receiving health care, and Srinivasan again answered similarly.

Justice Ginsburg's concerns were similar, with an addition of the question of the recipients as foreign NGOs as a distinguishing feature from precedent as well as a practical issue. 

David Bowker, arguing for Alliance for Open Society and other organizations, attempted to distinguish a funding criteria from mandated speech once the fnding decision had been made, although this led into a discussion of viewpoint discrimination rather than compelled speech.  Later, Bowker brought it back to the distinction based upon Rust v. Sullivan, in  a colloquy with Justice Sotomayor:

MR. BOWKER: And what Rust says, and I – I think we fall back on Rust, which we think is just on all fours with where we are here, and that is what the government cannot do -- and I think this answers your question -- is outside the government program the government cannot control private speech. And it was critical in that case -- Justice Rehnquist, at pages 196 and 197, said, "The doctors there and the public health organizations there are free to engage in their own private speech and their own activities, and they are not required to endorse any viewpoint they don't, in fact, hold." And here -­

It was not until the Government's rebutal that one of the oddest features of the statute was raised, when Sotomayor stated,

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: I would have less problem accepting your message if there weren't four major organizations who were exempted from the policy requirement . . .

There seems to be a bit of selection on the government in terms of who it wants to work with. It would seem to me that if you really wanted to protect the U.S., you wouldn't exempt anybody from this.

In his last moments of argument, Srinivasan, responding to Justice Ginsburg, argued that the exemptions made "good sense" given that three of the four have members that are sovereign entities.  Unfortunately, the rationale supporting that fourth entity was not explored.

The hypotheticals and examples raised by the Justices in oral argument showed some concern about just how far Congress could extend a provision similar to the one about prostitution in the Leadership Act.  The distinction between funding and compelled speech doctrines was often obscured, making the outcome uncertain.  More certain is that Justice Kagan's perspective will be sorely missed.

RR
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April 22, 2013 in First Amendment, Foreign Affairs, Gender, International, Medical Decisions, Oral Argument Analysis, Sexuality, Speech, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Idaho District Judge Holds Portions of State's Abortion Law Unconstitutional

In the latest chapter of McCormack v. Hiedeman, District Judge Lynn Winmill issued a 42 page opinion (Memorandum Decision and Order) yesterday holding various provisions in Idaho's abortion law unconstitutional, including the 20 week pregnancy ban unconstitutional.

Agrippine_de_Claude_MellanRecall that the Ninth Circuit last year found that Idaho's prosecution of McCormack for "self-abortion" constituted an undue burden and was unconstitutional.  McCormack, who purchased abortion "medications" over the internet, was the subject of an excellent indepth article which we discussed here. At that time, it seemed as if the case was concluded.

However, Judge Winmill rejected the prosecutor's argument that the case was moot, noting that a party "cannot conjure up mootness by ceasing the challenged conduct only for practical or strategic reasons - - - such as avoiding litigation."  The judge further held that the prosecutor's promise not to prosecute would not bind his successors and that his subsequent offer of transactional immunity to McCormack was not timely or binding.  Further, the judge noted that pregnancy is "capable of repetition yet evading review."

Judge Winmill also held that the physician in the case had standing, including to assert his patients' constitutional claims.

On the merits, Judge Winmill held that the self-abortion provision is a substantial obstacle and therefore unconstitutional, adopting the Ninth Circuit's reasoning.

Judge Winmill also held unconstitutional the provisions imposing criminal liability on abortion providers who perform first trimester abortions outside a hospital or a properly staffed and equipped office or a clinic and requires that “physicians have made satisfactory arrangements” for emergency hospital care.  The judge accepted the physician's argument that the terms “properly” and “satisfactory” are unconstitutionally vague therefore placing an undue burden on women seeking first trimester abortions. There is some confusion in the judge's reliance on Gonzales v. Carhart in this passage, but the judge finds that the Idaho statute is not sufficiently specific.

Additionally, the judge found unconstitutional the Idaho provisions  banning abortions at twenty weeks in PUCPA, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.  He reasoned that PUCPA does not contain mention the health or safety of the pregnant woman, that its only purpose was to limit the available options for the woman, and that the legislature cannot place viability at a set point. 

Given this opinion, it is likely that McCormack v. Heidman will be returning to the Ninth Circuit.

RR
[image via]

March 7, 2013 in Abortion, Due Process (Substantive), Family, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Federal Judge Denies Injunction Against NYC Circumcision Notice Regulation

In a 93 page  Memorandum and Order in Central Rabbinical Congress v. NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald has denied a preliminary injunction against NYC's regulation requiring notice and consent for a specific circumcision practice known as MBP, involving oral suction of the wound.  We previously discussed the regulation and the complaint. 

Much of Judge Buchwald's opinion is devoted to the empirical basis supporting the NYC regulation.  As she states, there is a "strong scientific consensus that direct oral suction puts infants at a serious risk of HSV-1 infection,"  yet there is some dispute whether such has actually occured during a Jewish ritual.  Given this dispute, Judge Buchwald ultimately sidelines the scientific studies and focuses on the legal standards.

On the speech claim, Judge Buchwald concludes that "the interpretation of section 181.21 begins and ends with the regulation’s text. The text of section 181.21 does not compel speech, thus plaintiffs are unlikely to prevail on their claim that the regulation violates" the Free Speech Clause. 

On the free exercise claim, Judge Buchwald distinguished Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (1993), the case involving the ritual slaughtering of animals as a practice of the Santeria religion in which the Court applied strict scrutiny.  The judge concluded that the NYC regulation has "several valid secular objects" and "there is also no indication in the record that it has a discriminatory object against religion in general or Judaism in particular."  Instead, the judge noted that the Department had been involved in extensive education outreach since 2005 to combat the risk of HSV-1 transmission:  "Viewed in the context of this educational outreach, the present regulation appears to be one component of a long-term, multifaceted strategy to reduce the incidence of neonatal herpes and promote informed parental decisionmaking," rather than any targeted hostility to a particular religious practice.

In an interesting construction, Judge Buchwald reframed the free exercise rights of the plaintiffs:

[the] mohels’ free exercise interest is inherently circumscribed by parents’ right to decide whether MBP is performed on their child or not. When mohels’ free exercise interest is framed thusly, one can see how limited the regulation really is: it ensures that a prerequisite to a mohel’s legitimate performance of MBP is in fact met. In light of these considerations, it is clear that the regulation is rationally related to the government’s interest in fostering informed parental decisionmaking.

Thus, the judge terminated her previous stay of the enforcement of the regulation.

RR

January 11, 2013 in First Amendment, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Religion, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Daily Read: The Story Behind The Ninth Circuit's Self-Abortion Opinion

In September, the Ninth Circuit rendered its opinion in McCormack v. Hiedeman regarding the constitutionality of Idaho's "unlawful abortion" statutes that makes it a felony for any woman to undergo an abortion in a manner not authorized by statute.  McCormack had been charged by the prosecutor Mark Hiedeman based on her procurement of abortion "medications" over the internet.  The court held that imposing a criminal sanction on a woman poses an undue burden under Casey, but the decision was restricted to McCormack given the absence of class certification.

But who is Jennie Linn McCormack?  And how common is procuring abortion "medications" via the internet?

Tnr-cover_1231121Journalist Ada Calhoun's cover article in this month's The New Republic, "The Rise of DIY Abortions," paints a vivid portrait of Jennie Linn McCormack, as well as her attorney ("an avid fan of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books. He saw the character of dogged reporter Mikael Blomkvist as a good role model for a lawyer. . . ").  

Calhoun also contextualizes McCormack's situation:

Determining how many American women have had home abortions is exceedingly difficult: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not track illegal abortions. There is no blood test for drugs like Cytotec, and so such an abortion is indistinguishable from a natural miscarriage, even to a doctor. However, the proliferation of online dispensers suggests a rising demand. There are thousands of websites selling Cytotec for as little as $45 to $75 (compared with $300 to $800 for a legal medicated abortion in a clinic). Some claim to offer the harder-to-come-by Mifeprex, but may in fact be peddling Cytotec, or aspirin, or nothing at all. (Possible sources for the drugs include Mexico, where Cytotec is available over the counter, or even the United States, since it’s also prescribed here as an ulcer medication.)

The question of how drugs like Mifeprex and Cytotec are sold and administered is emerging as the next major front in the abortion debate.

Calhoun's article is a must-read for anyone teaching, writing, or thinking about abortion and is sure to be discussed at the many conferences devoted to Roe v. Wade's 40th anniversary, such as this one at the NYC Bar.

RR

January 4, 2013 in Abortion, Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), Family, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Medical Decisions, Recent Cases, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NYC Bar Event on 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

NycbarlogoThe Fortieth Anniversary of the United States Supreme Court's Landmark Decision, Roe V. Wade
Monday, January 14, 2013 6:30 pm-8:00 pm

2013 marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, establishing the constitutionally-protected right to abortion. This program will discuss the evolution of the right to abortion in the courts, public opinion, and political discourse since then and will address the current status of reproductive rights in the United States, including its role in the 2012 presidential election.

Moderator: PRISCILLA SMITH, Senior Fellow at the Information Society Project at the Yale Law School

Speakers:
LOUISE MELLING
, Director, ACLU Center for Liberty
RUTHANN ROBSON
, Professor of Law & University Distinguished Professor, CUNY School of Law
KATHLEEN MORRELL, MD, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health
JESSICA GONZALEZ-ROJAS
, Executive Director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
BEBE ANDERSON, Director, U.S. Legal Program, Center for Reproductive Rights

Sponsors: Sex and Law Committee, Pamela Zimmerman, Chair

More information here.

January 4, 2013 in Abortion, Conferences, Due Process (Substantive), Family, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Medical Decisions, Privacy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Second Circuit On First Amendment Right to Promote Drug for Off-Label Use Without Criminal Consequences

In a sharply divided and long overdue opinion in United States v. Caronia issued today, a panel of the Second Circuit reversed a conviction relying primarily on the Supreme Court's 2011 decision in Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc.

The conviction, according to the jury verdict, was for "Conspiracy to introduce a misbranded drug into interstate commerce in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 331(a) and 333(a)(2)."  However, Judge Denny Chin, writing for the majority, emphasized that Caronia's statements - - - promoting the off-label use of the drug while he was as a pharmaceutical marketer - - - were the basis of the conviction: "Caronia was, in fact, prosecuted and convicted for promoting Xyrem off-label."  Thus, because the majority rejected the government's argument that the statements were (merely) evidence of intent, the conviction raised a First Amendment issue.  The panel then extensively discussed Sorrell, beginning with an explication of its two-step analysis:

First, the Court considered whether the government regulation restricting speech was content- and speaker-based. The Court held that it was; the regulation was therefore subject to heightened scrutiny and was "presumptively invalid."  Second, the Court considered whether the government had shown that the restriction on speech was consistent with the First Amendment under the applicable level of heightened scrutiny. The Court did not decide the level of heightened scrutiny to be applied, that is, strict, intermediate, or some other form of heightened scrutiny.

[citations omitted].  The panel concluded "that the government's construction of the FDCA's misbranding provisions imposes content- and speaker-based restrictions on speech subject to heightened scrutiny," and then that "the government cannot justify a criminal prohibition of off-label promotion even under Central Hudson's less rigorous intermediate test."  The majority seems especially troubled that the crime, at least as the court has constructed it,  is "speaker-based because it targets one kind of speaker -- pharmaceutical manufacturers -- while allowing others to speak without restriction." 

In a vigorous dissent, Judge Debra Ann Livingston stressed that speech acts are often evidence of intent and that "the majority calls into question the very foundations of our century-old system of drug regulation."  She provides a literary analogy to refute Caronia's argument that he "merely discussed “a perfectly lawful practice: the use of a lawful drug, Xyrem, for off-label purposes.” 

But the fact that a physician or a patient could legally use Xyrem for an off-label purpose is not enough to make out Caronia’s First Amendment claim. There might be no law forbidding the consumption of arsenic. But this would not endow Abby and Martha with a First Amendment right to offer arsenic-laced wine to lonely old bachelors with the intent that they drink it. See Arsenic and Old Lace (Warner Bros. Pictures 1944). And any statements Abby or Martha made suggesting their intent—even if all of the statements were truthful and not misleading—would not be barred from evidence by the First Amendment simply because arsenic might legally be consumed.

 

 

 

While Judge Chin's opinion could - - - taken to its logical conclusion - - - have a dramatic effect, it seems limited to the pharmaceutical arena.

RR

 

December 3, 2012 in First Amendment, Interpretation, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Recent Cases, Speech, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

District Judge to Hobby Lobby: No Substantial Burden on Religious Beliefs re: ACA Contraception Compliance

404px-Hobbies_Magazine_J._E._Standley_coverThe contraception provision requirement of the ACA continues to foment litigation.  However, unlike last week's decision by a federal district judge granting the preliminary injunction in favor of Tyndale House Publishers, a small Christian publishing house, yesterday a federal district judge denied a preliminary injunction sought by Hobby Lobby, a privately held corporation operating 514 arts and crafts stores in 41 states regarding the so-called "morning after"  or "Plan B" contraceptive pill.

In a 28 page opinion, Judge Joe Heaton of the Western District of Oklahoma, denied Hobby Lobby's claims, as well as the claims by Mardel, a Christian supply and bookstore chain; both corporations are owned by the Green family through a management trust.  Interestingly, much of the judge's analysis revolves around the identity of the plaintiffs as it relates to whether their First Amendment and RFRA are being violated.  

Denying the preliminary injunction, Judge Heaton concluded:

Plaintiffs have not demonstrated a probability of success on their First Amendment claims. Hobby Lobby and Mardel, secular, for- profit corporations, do not have free exercise rights. The Greens do have such rights, but are unlikely to prevail as to their constitutional claims because the preventive care coverage regulations they challenge are neutral laws of general applicability which are rationally related to a legitimate governmental objective.

Plaintiffs also have failed to demonstrate a probability of success on their Religious Freedom Restoration Act claims. Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not “persons” for purposes of the RFRA and the Greens have not established that compliance with the preventive care coverage regulations would “substantially burden” their religious exercise, as the term “substantially burdened” is used in the statute. Therefore, plaintiffs have not met their prima facie burden under RFRA and have not demonstrated a probability of success as to their RFRA claims.

The applicability of free exercise rights and RFRA rights to corporations is resoundingly rejected by Judge Heaton.  His analysis as to the persons involved does, in part, depend upon their attentuated relationship to the entities subjected to the ACA requirements.

RR
[image via]

November 20, 2012 in Family, First Amendment, Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Privacy, Religion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ninth Circuit on the Unconstitutionality of Criminalizing Women's Self-Abortion

449px-The_PrisonerIn its opinion in McCormack v. Hiedeman today, a panel of the Ninth Circuit considered the constitutionality of Idaho's "unlawful abortion" statutes, making it a felony for any woman to undergo an abortion in a manner not authorized by statute.  McCormack had been charged with a felony by the prosecutor Mark Hiedeman based on her procurement of abortion "medications" over the internet.  While a state magistrate had dismissed the charge without prejudice, the prosecutor had not determined whether or not to re-file a criminal complaint. McCormack brought an action in the federal district court challenging the constitutionality of the Idaho statutes.  The district judge granted a preliminary injunction against the statutes' enforcement.

At the heart of the constitutional inquiry was whether or not a pregnant woman could be constitutionally held criminally liable under an abortion statute.  The prosecutor essentially argued that criminalizing nonphysicians performing abortions is consistent with Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.   

The Ninth Circuit, however, agreed with the district judge that imposing criminal sanctions on a pregnant woman imposes an "undue burden" under Casey.  The "undue burden" resulted because the statute required the woman to police the abortion providers' actions or risk criminal sanctions herself:

If a woman terminates her pregnancy during the first trimester but fails to ask the physician whether the office has made “satisfactory arrangements with one or more acute care hospitals within reasonable proximity thereof providing for the prompt availability of hospital care as may be required due to complications or emergencies that might arise,” she would be subject to a felony charge if the physician has not made such arrangements. Idaho Code § 18-608(1). If a woman finds a doctor who provides abor- tions during the second trimester of a woman’s pregnancy, but the doctor fails to tell the pregnant woman that the abortion will be performed in a clinic as opposed to a hospital, the pregnant woman would be subject to felony charges. Idaho Code § 18-608(2). Or, as is the case here, if a woman elects to take physician prescribed pills obtained over the internet to end her pregnancy, which is not authorized by statute, she is subject to felony charges. Idaho Code §§18-608(1)-18- 608(3).

The court also found McCormack's economic situation and the lack of abortion providers in her area to contribute to the "undue burden."

The Ninth Circuit panel found McCormack had standing, but narrowed the district court's injunctive relief to apply only to McCormack since there had been no class certification.

For pregnant women facing prosecutions under abortion statutes, the Ninth Circuit's opinion is an important and persuasive statement on the unconstitutionality of criminal sanctions.

RR
[image: The Prisoner, artist unknown, circa 1907, via]

September 11, 2012 in Abortion, Due Process (Substantive), Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eighth Circuit En Banc Upholds Compelled "Suicide Warning" for Abortion Procedures

In a 7-4 en banc opinion today in Planned Parenthood v. Rounds, the Eighth Circuit disagreed with the panel opinion and the district judge and upheld the constitutionality of a South Dakota statutory provision requiring the disclosure to patients seeking abortions of an “[i]ncreased risk of suicide ideation and suicide,” S.D.C.L. § 34-23A- 10.1(1)(e)(ii).

372px-Chassériau,_Théodore_-_Sappho_Leaping_into_the_Sea_from_the_Leucadian_Promontory_-_c._1840Planned Parenthood contended that requiring a physician to present the suicide advisory imposes an undue burden on abortion rights and violates the free speech rights of the physician.  The court conflated the undue burden (due process) claim and the physician First Amendment claim:  "In short, to succeed on either its undue burden or compelled speech claims, Planned Parenthood must show that the disclosure at issue “is either untruthful, misleading or not relevant to the patient’s decision to have an abortion.”

Judge Gruender's opinion for the majority seemingly acknowledged that there was no evidence that abortion caused suicidal ideation.  Instead, the issue was the "accepted usage of the term 'increased risk' in the relevant medical field."  The opinion found that based on the medical usage, the statutory requirement "does not imply a disclosure of a causal relationship," instead it is merely a disclosure that "the risk of suicide and suicide ideation is higher among women who abort compared to women in other relevant groups, such as women who give birth or do not become pregnant."  

The majority rejected the relevancy of  Planned Parenthood's argument that certain underlying factors, such as pre-existing mental health problems, predispose some women both to have unwanted pregnancies and to have suicidal tendencies, resulting in a misleading correlation between abortion and suicide that has no direct causal component.  Planned Parenthood argued that the required disclosure would be misleading or irrelevant to the decision to have an abortion because the patient’s decision would not alter the underlying factors that actually cause the observed increased risk of suicide.  But the majority found that a correlation - - - seemingly for any reason - - - was sufficient: "the truthful disclosure regarding increased risk cannot be unconstitutionally misleading or irrelevant simply because of some degree of 'medical and scientific uncertainty,' as to whether abortion plays a causal role in the observed correlation between abortion and suicide."

 In contrast, the four dissenting judges, in an opinion by Judge Murphy, stated that the "record clearly demonstrates"  that "suicide is not a known medical risk of abortion and that suicide is caused instead by factors preexisting an abortion such as a history of mental illness, domestic violence, and young age at the time of pregnancy."   The dissenting opinion read the statutory provision to require doctors to tell a pregnant woman that a greater likelihood of suicide and suicide ideation is a "known medical risk[]" to which she "would be subjected" by having an abortion. S.D.C.L. § 34-23A-10.1(1)(e) (2005) (emphasis added).  This causal language troubled the dissenting judges, who concluded that the suicide advisory places an undue burden on a pregnant woman's due process rights and violates a doctor's First Amendment right against compelled speech.

Both opinions rehearse and discuss the social science and psychological studies before the court and both opinions admit the studies are flawed.  However, by rejecting the necessity for causation in a warning about a medical procedure given for informed consent, the majority rests its opinion on correlation even if there is "some degree of 'medical and scientific uncertainty" as to the reasons for any correlation.

RR
[image:Sappho Leaping into the Sea from the Leucadian Promontory, circa 1840, via]

July 24, 2012 in Abortion, Due Process (Substantive), First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

PRENDA - The Sex Selection Anti-Abortion Bill Fails to Pass House of Representatives, But . . . .

As the Washington Post reports, members of the House of Representatives "voted 246 to 168"  on PRENDA, HR 3541, the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act, that bans sex-selective and race-selective abortions.  While the 246 majority voted for PRENDA, it "failed to pass as House Republicans brought it up under a suspension of normal rules that required it to earn a two-thirds majority vote."

PRENDA defines "‘‘sex-selection abortion’’ as an "abortion undertaken for purposes of eliminating an unborn child of an undesired sex," and ‘‘race-selection abortion’’ is "an abortion performed for purposes of eliminating an unborn child because the child or a parent of the child is of an undesired race."  The bill is similar to one in Arizona that did become law; the few other states that do have statutes focus on sex-selection.

As I've written elsewhere:

The specter of sex-­selection prohibitions in abortion statutes is said to pose a political dilemma for feminists,who can be “torn” between “support for reproductive autonomy” and “distaste for sex-­‐selection practices driven by a gendered and patriarchal society.” It also provokes opposing logical constructions. On one account, if there is right to an abortion for any or no reason, this includes a right to an abortion even for a problematical reason.165 On an opposing account, “[t]he right to not have a child for any reason does not logically encompass the right not to have a child for any specific reason.”  Whatever the logic, however, an interrogation of a woman’s “reason” for having an abortion demonstrates a distrust of women similar to the distrust apparent in other abortion restrictions that treat women have abortions quite differently than ungendered patients providing informed consent for other medical procedures. However, unlike other abortion restrictions such as mandatory ultrasounds or waiting periods, sex-­‐selective prohibitions are not cast as being beneficial to women or assisting decision-­‐ making; rather, they clearly seek to remove the power of a woman’s choice to terminate a pregnancy in service to a larger societal and state interest.

Indeed, PRENDA's findings on sex include:

(subsection L) Sex-selection abortion results in an unnatural sex-ratio imbalance. An unnatural sex- ratio imbalance is undesirable, due to the inability of the numerically predominant sex to find mates. Experts worldwide document that a significant sex-ratio imbalance in which males numerically predominate can be a cause of increased violence and militancy within a society. Likewise, an unnatural sex-ratio imbalance gives rise to the commoditization of humans in the form of human trafficking, and a consequent increase in kidnapping and other violent crime.

PRENDA bases this finding on the experience of nations such as China, mentioning "son preference" but not China's accompanying one-child policy.  For some, the interest in prohibiting sex-selective abortion is a "manufactured controversy."  For others, PRENDA may be part of an election year strategy.

For those teaching a summer course in ConLaw, this could be the basis of an excellent problem.  ConLawProfs might want to also consider the constitutional provisions on which Congress grounds its power, including the Thirteenth Amendment.

RR

May 31, 2012 in Abortion, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Family, Gender, Medical Decisions, Race, Teaching Tips, Thirteenth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)