Thursday, July 17, 2014

Federal Legislation Proposes to Regulate Abortion Clinics Like All Other Health Clinics

Women's Health Protection Act: A Brilliant Bill to Protect Abortion Rights

Democrats in the Senate on Tuesday took a major step in pushing back against the growing trend of regulations that are designed to shut down safe abortion clinics. The Senate Judiciary Committee is hearing testimony on a bill introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Tammy Baldwin, a bill that would do significant damage to anti-choice efforts to go around Roe v. Wade by regulating abortion clinics out of existence. It's called the Women's Health Protection Act, and it would end the attacks on abortion clinics through one simple measure: requiring states to regulate abortion providers in exactly the same way they do other clinics and doctors who provide comparable services. No more singling out abortion providers. 

 

The bill goes into detail about the specific abortion-only regulations that would not be allowed, but the general principle is that if you don't require it for other outpatient procedures, you can't require it for abortion. Want to force women seeking abortion to listen to a script full of lies and then make them wait 24 or 48 hours to think it over? Better be prepared to do the same for people who need colonoscopies. Want to require a bunch of unnecessary visits before a woman is allowed to have a procedure? Now you need to do that for a biopsy, too. Want to force abortion clinics to meet ambulatory surgical center standards and abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges? Well, dentists will have to meet the same standards before they can drill a tooth. If this bill passes (more on that below), states would be forced to let abortion providers operate in peace or make everyone else—including, gasp, men—endure the same kind of hassles and mistreatment women seeking abortion now have to endure in much of the country. 

 

July 17, 2014 in Abortion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Women's Health Care Protection Act

From the Reproductive Rights Blog, Senate Judiciary Committee to Hold Hearing on Women's Health Care Protection Act

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on S.1696, The Women’s Health Protection Act: Removing Barriers to Constitutionally Protected Reproductive Rights on July 15.  The hearing will be live streamed on the Committee's website.

 

Via the Center for Reproductive Rights:

 

The Women's Health Protection Act would prohibit laws and regulations that single out the provision of abortion services for restrictions that are more burdensome than those imposed on medically comparable procedures, do not significantly advance women's health or the safety of abortion services, and make abortion services more difficult to access. The bill currently has 34 co-sponsors in the Senate and 121 in the House.  It includes a list of regulations that are per se violations, which you can read here. . . .

July 12, 2014 in Abortion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

More Hobby Lobby Fallout

Yes, still more on Hobby Lobby.  For women, this is a game-changing decision with both significant legal and practical consequences.  It's not going to go away quietly.

Dahilia Lithwick, After Hobby Lobby, McCullen and Harris v. Quinn: The Men of the Supreme Court Leave Women Reeling

Congress takes action. NYT, Democrats Push Bill to Reverse Supreme Court Ruling on Contraceptives

Protesters Swarm Hobby Lobby Grand Opening

July 10, 2014 in Abortion, Equal Employment, Healthcare, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Contrasting the Abortion Buffer Zone Decisions: McCullen, Hill, and Madsen

The US Supreme Court has issued three decisions on abortion buffer zones: 

McCullen v. Coakley 573 US ___(Roberts, J.) (2014) unanimous court strikes down MA abortion buffer zone

Hill v. Colorado, 530 US 703  (2000) (Stevens, J.) 6-3 upholds CO abortion buffer zone law

Madsen v. Women’s Health Center, 512 US 753 (1994) (Rehnquist J.) upholds FLA abortion buffer zone

 

As legislators consider other possible options, it might be helpful to compare and contrast the factual differences:

1.  Distance:  100 ft (8 ft. no approach person) Hill / 35 ft McCullen / 36 ft. Madsen

2.  Place:  Health care facility Hill v. Reproductive health care facility McCullen v. clinic Madsen

3.  Legislature v. Judiciary:   Injunction (Madsen) v. Statute (Hill & McCullen)

4.  Prophylactic: imposing additional safeguards to prevent future violations of law (All)

5.  Prior illegal conduct: Madsen & Hill.  Not McCullen.

6.  The most empathetic party:

            Hill: "The unwilling listener's interest in avoiding unwanted communication has been repeatedly identified in our cases."

            Madsen: The patients and employees subjected to assaults and intimidation, and also the political speech rights of the protestors

            McCullen: The caring, godly, helpful counselor.

7.  Content neutral:  All

8.  Where: Public place or sidewalk McCullen v. Public way or sidewalk area Hill v. public right-of-way  Madsen

9.   “Sidewalk counseling”:  Offensive speech Hill v.  personal, caring, consensual conversation McCullen

10.  Less restrictive alternatives tried:  None.  McCullen v. Prior statute Hill v. narrower injunction Madsen.

June 28, 2014 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

SCOTUS Declares Abortion Buffer Zone Law Unconstitutional

From WaPost: Yet Another Unanimous Judgment in McCullen v. Coakley

In today’s other decision, McCullen v. Coakley, all nine justices concluded that Massachusetts’ abortion clinic buffer zone law violated the First Amendment.  So here we have yet another opinion unanimous in the judgment.  That makes 48 out of 71 decisions thus far this term, or 67.6 percent.

 

Writing for the Court, the Chief Justice concludes that the statute was content-neutral, and thus avoids strict scrutiny, but is not narrowly tailored because it burdens more speech than is necessary to advance the government’s interests in ensuring clinic access and public safety. Four justices (Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and Alito) concurred in the judgment would have gone further.  The opinion is here

I previously blogged about the case here..   Some observations on today's option:

1.   It did seem to matter to the Court that this was legislation rather than a remedy.  The opinion notes that the government did not seek "one single prosecution or injunction."  Thus suggesting, as the Court has previously held in Madsen v. Women's Health Center (1994), that prophylactic injunctions to remedy particular instances of abortion protesting problems are ok.

2.  The Court calls the protestors' speech "personal, caring, consensual conversation" that is just trying to "help" the women.  How is intimidating, harassing, inflammatory, confrontational personal assault caring and helpful?  The patients and employees might call these "fighting words."  Such a characterization perpetuates the paternalistic and protectionist rhetoric of the Gonzales v. Carhart (2007) abortion decision to help women too emotionally fragile and incompetent to exercise their own autonomy.  What was Ginsberg thinking in signing on to this opinion?    

 

 

June 26, 2014 in Abortion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Explaining Justice Powell's Decision on Abortion

Samuel Wolfe Calhoun (Washington & Lee), has posted Justice Lewis F. Powell's Baffling Vote in Roe v. Wade, 71 W&L Law Rev. 925 (2014):

This article explores Justice Powell’s vote with the majority in Roe v. Wade. The piece builds upon the unissued 1970 abortion opinion of Judge Henry J. Friendly, who, although personally pro-choice, concluded that the Fourteenth Amendment does not require abortion freedom. The article also presents research from the Powell Archives at Washington and Lee University School of Law. On its face, Powell’s Roe vote is perplexing due to its inconsistency with his stated philosophy of judicial restraint.

Calhoun quickly dismisses what seems to me to be the most pursuasive explanation: that Powell voted based on his own personal experience.   As I noted in my recent article, Back to the Future of Regulating Abortion Rights in the First Term , 29 Wis. J. L, Gender & Soc'y 47, 70 (2014), that's how Powell himself explained it.  

 When the conservative Justice Powell was later asked why he supported abortion, he answered based on personal experience rather than constitutional theory. Linda Greenhouse, Lewis Powell, Crucial Centrist Justice, Dies at 90, N.Y. TIMES, Aug. 26, 1998, at A1; David Westin, Eulogy: Lewis Powell, TIME, Sept. 7, 1998. He told the story of a young, black messenger at his old law firm in Richmond, Virginia who was terrified that he would be arrested for the death of his girlfriend, for whom he had helped get an illegal abortion from a “back-alley butcher.” Greenhouse, supra. Powell helped negotiate with the city prosecutor and no charges were ever brought. Id. Powell gained an appreciation for the practical implications of the legal issue of abortion and its impact of people of different races and economic class. Id.

This is familiar as a basic precept of feminist legal theory--that realities and personal experiences do matter to the interpretation of law.   And reminds me of the conclusion of a recent study that conservative judges vote for women's rights in discrimination cases when they have a daughter.  

June 24, 2014 in Abortion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

SCOTUS Allows Challenge to Anti-Abortion Political Speech

Yesterday, the Supreme Court in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus unanimously allowed a pro-life group to challenge a state election law prohibiting lies in election speech.  An analysis of the opinion is here: SCOTUS Opinion Analysis

I commented on the case before in Susan B. Anthony List's Right to Lie and again here about the political misuse of Susan B. Anthony's name and representation as an anti-abortion icon. 

June 17, 2014 in Abortion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Backstory of Abortion Informed Consent Laws

I have just published Back to the Future of Regulating Abortion in the First Term, 29 Wisconsin J. Law, Gender & Soc'y 47 (2014).  In this work, I draw on original research of oral histories and recovered documents to explore the historical and legal context that spawned informed consent laws so early after Roe v. Wade seemingly resolved the legal question over abortion.  

From the abstract:

This article contextualizes the recent aggressive anti-abortion legislation  by examining the backstory and historical context of two early U.S. Supreme Court cases challenging abortion regulation in the first term: City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, and Ohio v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health . Little has been written about these foundational cases. Yet at the time of the first Akron case, the Supreme Court’s decision was “celebrated as the most far-reaching victory on reproductive rights since Roe v. Wade.” Now the arguments, strategies, and motivations of the Akron cases have renewed relevance, as first-term regulations are fast tracked through the judicial system and placed at the center of the ongoing debate over abortion. ***

 

This legal history offers insights and analyses gleaned from a review of the historical record found in archives and long-forgotten files in dusty basements. It relies on interviews with key players in the cases to fill in the story between the black and white lines of judicial opinions.Revisiting the legal and factual details of the foundational cases of first-term abortion regulation offers a more nuanced understanding of the opposition to abortion and the unsatisfactory nature of the judicial compromises. 

April 29, 2014 in Abortion, Legal History, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 18, 2014

(Grand)Motherhood, Abortion Politics and Chelsea Clinton's Pregnancy

 Beth Burkstrand-Reid (Nebraska) joins us as guest blogger this month.  Her research focuses on reproductive rights and women's health, specifically abortion, birth control and pregnancy-related law. She is the recipient of the 2014 Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Status of Women, presented by the UNL Chancellor and the Chancellor's Commission on the Status of Women . Prior to her legal career, Professor Burkstrand-Reid was a journalist, with her writing appearing in The New York TimesThe Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. She's on Twitter @beth_burkstrand. 

 Former first-daughter Chelsea Clinton announced yesterday that she is pregnant, news that was used by some as an opportunity to talk about abortion. (Yes, abortion).

 It seems that Chelsea's use of the word "child" when making her announcement struck a nerve: 

 Abortion supporter Chelsea Clinton announced today that she’s pregnant — not with a fetus or clump of cells but with a "child."  This is the same Chelsea Clinton who lamented last year that her grandmother didn’t have access to Planned Parenthood."   Clinton’s news was greeted with similar responses on Twitter. 

 The announcement also spawned speculation over whether impending grandmotherhood spells the end of Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations:

Others have noted that Hillary Clinton has seemed more cheerful and relaxed in recent appearances, fueling theories that there was good news in her life. With continued speculation around the former first lady’s plans for the 2016 presidential race, where she is the presumed frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, some have wondered whether a grandchild might make Clinton less likely to enter the fray.

“Some” have also wondered if that issue would ever have been raised if it was a grandfather-to-be mulling the race.

H/T @LEBassett

 

April 18, 2014 in Abortion, Family | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Susan B. Anthony List's Right to Lie

Next week the US Supreme Court hears argument in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus.   The case involves an election campaign attack ad by the anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony List, which arranged to post a billboard sign against then-Congressional representative Steve Driehaus to read: "Shame on Steve Driehaus!  Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion.”  The claim was based very loosely on Driehaus's vote for Obamacare, even though that federal healthcare law prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion.  But never mind the facts.  

Ohio has a truth-in-election law that prohibits false statements in a campaign. Ohio Rev. Code § 3517.21 (eff. 1995). The election comission sided with Driehaus.  Much of the case now before the Supreme Court is procedural.  The state of Ohio"borked" by filing dualing briefs, it's required brief in defense of the law and also an amicus brief challenging it on First Amendment grounds.  

So is this case really about a First Amendment right to lie?  Even the petitioner's name is a lie, since nineteenth-century feminist Susan B. Anthony did not advocate anti-abortion positions, or really say much about abortion at all, as I and other scholars have explained.  Tracy A. Thomas, Misappropriating Women's History in the Law and Politics of Abortion, 36 Seattle Law Rev. 1, 15 (2012);  Ann Gordon & Lynn Sherr, Sarah Palin is No Susan B. Anthony, Wash. Post Blog, May 21, 2010.

 

 

 

 

 

April 17, 2014 in Abortion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ziegler on Women's Rights on the Right

Mary Ziegler (Florida State) joins us as a guest blogger this month.  Her work in legal history focuses on the law and history of abortion, illegitimacy, contraception, marriage, and child care. 

Whom are we studying when we study the history of gender and the law? Some answers to this question seem obvious. We study pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul. We celebrate the accomplishments of thinkers like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Catharine MacKinnon. In researching my book, I often found the answer to this question much less clear-cut. In contemporary politics, the identities of the pro-choice and pro-life movements seem stable and straightforward. In the immediate aftermath of the Roe decision, things were far less simple. An influential committee in the ACLU worked to identify fetal rights compatible with reproductive liberty for women. Feminists viewed issues like fetal tissue research with ambivalence. Influential antiabortion activists fought for federal legislation banning pregnancy discrimination. Indeed, some pro-lifers argued for what they saw as women’s right to choose, claiming that women did not enjoy true reproductive freedom unless the State protected them against both pregnancy discrimination and the perils of poverty.

A rapidly shifting gender politics forced many of these lawyers and grassroots activists to make painful choices. The mobilization of the New Right and Religious Right, the focus of abortion-rights activists on electoral politics, and the realignment of both political parties helped to create the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” categories we now know. So too did difficult and hotly debated strategy decisions made by members of each opposing movement. For many, the creation of contemporary abortion politics was a painful change, forcing women to choose between two identities when neither accurately reflected their fundamental beliefs about gender or sex discrimination.

Part of the task for historians of women and the law is to remain open to the stories of those who don’t always come to mind when we think about feminist legal history. These stories may not change our politics or our views of the relationship between gender and the law today. Just the same, these stories powerfully illustrate why gender matters and how gender changes. They remind us how entrenched political and legal realities once seemed—and may once again seem—far from inevitable

March 18, 2014 in Abortion, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

No Father's Rights in the Delivery Room

New Jersey Judge Rules Women Can Keep Fathers Out of the Delivery Roomor at least non-marital fathers.

A New Jersey judge likely made history this week when he released an opinion that found women can keep the biological father of their children out of the delivery room.

The case was argued by telephone — while the New Jersey woman was in the hospital to give birth.

 

The judge ruled that requiring the father's presence would pose 'unwarranted strain' on the mother.

 

He cited a patient's right to privacy and a pregnant woman's right to control her body. The ruling says women also are not obligated to inform a father when they're going into labor. Some fathers' rights groups say the decision is discriminatory. The New Jersey ruling applies only to biological fathers not married to the mother.

         Across the U.S., more than 40 percent of births are outside marriage.

 

March 13, 2014 in Abortion, Family, Healthcare, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Redefining Feminism

Mary Ziegler (Florida State) joins us as a guest blogger this month.  Her work in legal history focuses on the law and history of abortion, illegitimacy, contraception, marriage, and child care. Her post last week introduced her topic of exploring feminist legal history.

What do we mean when we talk about feminism? My book project has forced me to reconsider how I would answer this question. My scholarship fits comfortably within any classic definition of feminist legal history: I focus on the intersection of law and history in the context of reproductive health, divorce, marriage, and abortion. I consider myself a feminist and a historian. I brought these understandings of myself and my work to the book and the question at its core: how did Roe v. Wade impact social-movement debate and what can the history of the decision teach us about law as a tool for social change, in the context of gender relations more broadly? Research for the project took me to over seventeen archives, to the basement of convents, and the offices of anti-feminists. The most fun came in the oral histories I conducted with over 100 of those who participated in the abortion wars in the decade after Roe. I spoke with men and women, doctors and homemakers, lawyers and activists, abortion opponents and population controllers, and feminists of every stripe. What I learned made me wonder what it meant to be “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” As importantly, the research made me question who should count as a proper object of study for women’s legal history.

At the beginning of my research, I had treated pro-choice activism as synonymous with the women’s movement—unquestionably a core subject for feminist legal historians. I learned that the relationship between women’s rights and the legalization of abortion was much more contested than I had predicted. Identifying a cause with women’s rights had profound ideological and strategic ramifications. Physicians, population controllers, and even feminists wondered if embracing the rhetoric of women’s rights would set back the progress of abortion reform.

Law also played a surprising and unanticipated role in the creation of the abortion-rights cause. On the one hand, feminists could use the Roe decision in arguing that their movement should frame abortion as an issue of women’s rights. The Supreme Court’s approval made the idea of abortion as a woman’s right more legitimate, more mainstream, and more politically palatable. On the other hand, feminists’ wish to preserve that victory created damaging internal debates about the proper scope of a reproductive-justice agenda, about protections against sterilization abuse, and about what counted as true reproductive liberty.

I wonder how often causes and social movements we identify as feminist have a more troubled history. Did different legal movements once count as feminist? Might social causes associated with feminism today once have had a radically different meaning, both legally and politically? It is questions like these that make Women’s History Month more exciting than ever for feminist legal historians.

March 11, 2014 in Abortion, Family, Legal History, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Obamacare and Contraceptives

There is a quick and easy to follow online symposium at SCOTUS on Obamacare and contraceptives.  

February 28, 2014 in Abortion, Reproductive Rights, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

NY's Omnibus Women's Equality Act

New York State Assembly Passes Omnibus Women's Equality Act.

The Women’s Equality Act codifies Roe v. Wade, ensuring that a woman can get an abortion within 24 weeks of pregnancy, and protects providers from prosecution.  It also closes loopholes in equal pay laws, extends protections against sexual harassment to all workplaces, allows the recovery of attorney fees in harassment cases, ends employment discrimination based on whether a woman has children or is pregnant, stops housing discrimination toward victims of domestic violence, and strengthens order of protection laws and human trafficking laws in the state.

February 8, 2014 in Abortion, Equal Employment, Violence Against Women, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Corbin on Religious Exemptions for Corporations

Caroline Mala Corbin at U of Miami has uploaded Corporate Religious Liberty: Why Corporations Are Not Entitled to Religious Exemptions.  A longer version is available here.  The abstract reads:

One of the main questions before the Supreme Court in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius is whether large for-profit corporations are entitled to religious exemptions under the Free Exercise Clause or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In particular, the plaintiffs seek religious exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s so-called “contraception mandate.”

This is an entirely novel claim. It is also without merit. The Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protect the religious practices of individuals and churches. They do not, and should not, extend to the for-profit corporate form for at least three reasons. First, corporate religious liberty makes no sense as free exercise is understood to (a) protect an individual’s relationship with the divine and (b) respect the inherent dignity of the individual. Furthermore, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission provides no theoretical foundation for corporate religious liberty: The justifications for extending free speech protection to for-profit corporations do not translate into the free exercise context. Second, there is no precedent for the claim that for-profit corporations are entitled to religious liberty exemptions; on the contrary, precedent points in the other direction. Third, recognizing corporate religious liberty will benefit employers at the expense of their employees, who risk losing protection of the employment laws as well as their own free exercise rights.

February 3, 2014 in Abortion, Business, Religion, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Remembering Roe v. Wade

From the Founding Feminist daily herstory column on women's history.

January 25, 2014 in Abortion, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was not Against Reproductive Rights

Today’s anniversary of Roe v. Wade renewed the debate over abortion and feminism. One group, Feminists for Life says that feminists should oppose abortion because it devalues motherhood.  FFL rests much of its strategy both in the press and in the courts on a claimed historical record of "feminist foremothers" against abortion.  It has, quite literally, adopted Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as their poster children, claiming these famous women were “strongly opposed to abortion.”  (See also the Susan B. Anthony List, a PAC to elect pro-life women to Congress).

  SBA

 I wrote an article challenging this conclusion as to Stanton, Misappropriating Women's History in the Law and Politics of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. Rev. 1 (2012).  Scholars of Anthony have similarly refuted the claim on her legacy.  Ann Gordon & Lynn Sherr, Sarah Palin is No Susan B. Anthony.  For Stanton, the historical evidence is flimsy at best.  FFL reluctantly admitted this and at least temporarily stopped selling the Stanton anti-abortion coffee mugs.  More importantly, Stanton advocated a woman's “right to her own self.”  What she called “the right of self-sovereignty” was woman’s singular right to control her own body, sexual relations and reproductive decisions.   

 

January 23, 2014 in Abortion, Legal History, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Abortion Buffer Zone in Doubt

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard argument in the case over an abortion buffer zone.  We previously blogged about this case here.

The Court has upheld such prophylactic legislation for buffer zones around clinics in Hill v. Colorado.  And it has upheld a similar 35 foot buffer zone in Madsen v. Women's Health Center as a prophylactic remedy to protect against further assaults and violations of constitutional rights.  In these past cases, the Court seemed to give more deference to legislation rather than judicial remedies.  But now, in possibly striking down a legislated buffer zone, it seems to be leaning the other direction: contemplating permitting a broader restriction on the protestors protected speech only after a harm has been established in a judicial case.  I wrote a little about this contrast between prophylactic legislation and remedies in Congress' Section 5 Power and Remedial Rights, 34 UC Davis L. Rev. 673 (2001).  

 

January 16, 2014 in Abortion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

SCOTUS Revisits Abortion Protest Laws

From my colleague, Professor Wilson Huhn, Associate Director of Akron's Center for Constitutional Law, one of four center's established by Congress.  A summary of the January US Supreme Court case, McCullen v. Coakley, revisiting abortion protest laws. 

McCullen v. Coakley:

 ABA Preview: http://www.americanbar.org/publications/preview_home/12-1168.html 

In this case the Supreme Court will revisit the question of the constitutionality of laws prohibiting protests near abortion clinics. In previous cases such as Hill v. Colorado, 530 U.S. 703 (2000) the Court split 5-4 in upholding most of these laws, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in the majority and Justice Anthony Kennedy dissenting. Since then Justice O’Connor has been replaced on the Court by Justice Samuel Alito.

 

Under consideration in this case is a Massachusetts statute that creates a 35-foot “buffer zone” banning protests around reproductive health care facilities. The petitioners wish to approach closer to the clinic, and challenge the constitutionality of the law under the doctrine of Freedom of Expression.

 

The Supreme Court will have to decide the following issues:

 

(1) Which category of laws affecting speech this law falls into; that is, is the law is content neutral, content based, or viewpoint based; and

(2) Whether the law satisfies the standard that is applicable to that particular category.

 

If the law is found to be viewpoint based (that is, if the law was adopted because of the particular position that protesters take on the issue of abortion), then the law would be per se unconstitutional.

 

If the law is found to be content based (that is, if the law was adopted because it dealt with the subject of abortion), then in order to be constitutional the law would have to pass strict scrutiny, that is, the law would have to be the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling governmental interest. It is unlikely that this law could survive strict scrutiny.

 

If the law is found to be content neutral (that is, if the law was adopted not because of the ideas being expressed by the protestors but because of the danger that the protests posed to clinic patients and staff) then in order to be constitutional the law would have to be narrowly tailored to serve a legitimate state interest. This is a relatively weak form of intermediate scrutiny, and it is likely that the Court would uphold the law if it is found to be content neutral.

January 9, 2014 in Abortion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)