Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Impact of Liberal Feminism and Critical Race Theory on Reproductive Rights and Justice in the U.S.

Lisa Chiyemi Ikemoto, Reproductive Rights and Justice: A Multiple Feminist Theories Account in Research Handbook on Feminist Jurisprudence (Robin West and Cynthia Bowman eds., Elgar Press, Forthcoming)

This chapter examines the impact of liberal feminism and critical race theory on reproductive rights and justice in the United States. Liberal feminism has played a key role in this fight. Other feminist theories, including, prominently, critical race theory, have taken the mainstream reproductive rights movement to task for marginalizing the voices and experience of women of color and low-income women, thus reinforcing stratified reproduction. This work has put issues like surrogacy, coerced sterilization, welfare family caps and criminal prosecution of pregnant women on the reproductive rights and justice agenda. Interaction among feminist theories has produced a dialectic and evolution that enable them to meet new challenges. Similarly, a multi-theory account of reproductive rights and justice issues produces a more useful analysis and range of strategies than a single theory approach.

September 19, 2018 in Abortion, Family, Race, Reproductive Rights, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Massachusetts NASTY Women Act Repeals Old Anti-Abortion Law

The NASTY Women Act: Massachusetts Repeals a 173-Year-Old Anti-Abortion Law in Case of a Roe v. Wade Reversal

Massachusetts wants to ensure that abortion continues to be officially legal in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court after President Trump names a new justice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy.

And so, while the procedure is already legal under state and federal law, Massachusetts moved to abolish a 173-year-old law that banned “procuring a miscarriage.”

The bill, called the Negating Archaic Statutes Targeting Young Women, or NASTY Women Act, passed in a landslide in the state legislature, gaining unanimous approval from the Senate in January, and passing by 138-9 in the House. It is now expected to be signed by Gov. Charlie Baker.

Massachusetts State Senate President Harriette Chandler explained to Timethat the retirement of Justice Kennedy spurred the drive to abolish the law, as “these are strange times we live in.”

July 31, 2018 in Abortion, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

SCOTUS Overturns CAL Disclosure Law for Pro-Life Pregnancy Counseling Centers

In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, the US Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision blocked a California law that required “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide information about abortion.

The decision written by Justice Thomas and joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, and Gorsuch is here at NIFLA v. Becerra.  Concurrence by Justice Kennedy. Dissent written by Justice Breyer.

Commentary on the decision:

Mary Ziegler, Wash Post, The Supreme Court's Big Abortion Hypocrisy

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down a California law regulating antiabortion crisis pregnancy centers, which are Christian counseling centers that try to persuade women to continue their pregnancies. California had required pregnancy centers with a medical license to tell women that the state provided free or low-cost services, including abortion, to low-income women. If a center wasn’t licensed, the facility had to post a sign saying so.

 

For all the justices, the case boiled down to a question of fairness. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas accused California of discriminating against Christians. After all, the state demanded that crisis pregnancy centers — and no similar facilities — post notices about other services. Justice Stephen G. Breyer argued that the discrimination actually ran the other way: The Supreme Court had upheld laws requiring abortion providers to recite a state-mandated script but wouldn’t do the same when antiabortion activists made their case.****

 

But the court’s decision to treat crisis pregnancy centers as religious institutions has created two  contrasting sets of rules when it comes to free speech on abortion. While abortion providers have their speech rights curbed — they are required by law to say certain things to their patients — the majority seemed to suggest that crisis pregnancy centers are different. 

 

Emma Green, The Atlantic, The Supreme Court Hands a Win to the Pro-Life Movement

These radically different readings of the case suggest that the Court is still wrestling with how it thinks about abortion: as a medical procedure, an act with heavy moral consequences, or both. Looking ahead, the Court’s decision in NIFLA may be most consequential as a boundary line for the way the government treats pro-life groups. In this respect, Kennedy’s concurring opinion is most telling, wrote Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University, in an email. “He is concerned about freedom of thought and religion for conservative Christians, and he thinks the fact Act shows evidence of bias against believers who work in [crisis-pregnancy centers],” she said. “This may turn out to be the most significant part of the opinion.”

 

Volokh Conspiracy, NIFLA v. Becerra and Speech Compulsions

 

Caroline Corbin, Compelled Disclosures, 65 Alabama Law Review 1277 (2014)

 

Abortion Providers Have Less First Amendment Rights than Abortion Opponents

One of the centerpieces of the Supreme Court’s First Amendment decisions is that the Constitution does not permit “viewpoint discrimination.” The government may, in certain limited cases, enact laws that place restrictions on speech — but discriminating between two opposing sides of a debate is a big no-no.

 

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court created an “except when we do it” carve-out to this rule. When you boil down the opinion’s rhetoric, the holding of National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra is that abortion opponents enjoy the full force of a robust First Amendment, while abortion providers must accept a watered-down right to free speech.

June 27, 2018 in Abortion, Constitutional, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Unfinished Story of Roe v. Wade

Reva Siegel & Linda Greenhouse, The Unfinished Story of Roe v. Wade, in Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories (Melissa Murray, Kate Shaw & Reva Siegel eds., forthcoming 2019)

We tell the story of Roe v. Wade for a forthcoming volume in the Foundation Press Law Stories series. To those who support abortion rights, Roe demonstrates the Court’s crucial role in protecting individual rights in the face of determined political opposition. For its critics, Roe was the work of an “unelected” Court creating new constitutional rights; supposedly, by deciding matters properly left to democratic determination, the Court inflamed conflict over abortion and riled our politics.

We explain the origins of the abortion right and conflicts over it differently. The story we tell is not simply a litigation history of a landmark case, but as importantly a story about the democratic foundations of our constitutional law. We start our account of the abortion conflict before Supreme Court litigation begins. Conflict enters the picture well before the courts do, as people argue over the Constitution’s meaning in their everyday lives. We recount how citizens who lacked power in any conventional sense were able over time to change the way the nation and its courts understood longstanding guarantees of liberty, of equality, and of life.

Roe itself, filed in federal district court in Dallas in March 1970, was one of many cases in the late 1960s and early 1970s that invoked the Constitution to challenge the century-old regime of criminal abortion statutes; Roe just happened to be first in line on the Supreme Court's docket. These cases emerged from principled and heated dialogue among powerful social movements that initially did not even have courts in view. The story of Roe v. Wade is the story of conflict born in democratic politics that engendered the rights claims that the Court would ultimately recognize. The conflict continues to this day, even as advocates and their arguments have changed as few would have expected. 

This framework offers a fresh context for reading Roe. Enlarging our perspective in this way allows us to recover claims for and against abortion rights to which the Court’s opinion in Roe responded, as well as claims that the Court ignored—claims for women’s equality and for protecting potential life that played an important role in reshaping the abortion right nearly twenty years later in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey

The account of Roe’s history the chapter offers can inform both normative and predictive debate about Roe’s future.

June 12, 2018 in Abortion, Constitutional, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Jurisprudence of Uncertainty: Knowledge, Science & Abortion

Mary Ziegler, The Jurisprudence of Uncertainty: Knowledge, Science & Abortion, 2018 Wisconsin L. Rev. 316 (2018)

While the outcome of abortion cases seems to depend exclusively on the undue-burden standard, we have mostly missed the linchpin of recent decisions: conclusions about who has the authority to resolve uncertain scientific or moral questions. Using original archival research, this Article traces the history and present-day impact of the law and politics of uncertainty doctrine in abortion law.

 

The Article makes sense of the inconsistency running through the Court’s abortion jurisprudence: that the Court has not applied a single, coherent definition of uncertainty. Specifically, the Court has confused objective uncertainty, involving gaps in knowledge that can theoretically be closed through research, and subjective uncertainty, involving moral, ethical, or philosophical questions. Conflating these two kinds of uncertainty has led the Court to inject moral disapproval and disgust into what theoretically are questions of fact.

 

The Article proposes that the Court should formally distinguish between objective and subjective uncertainty. In cases of subjective uncertainty, the Court should generally defer to legislatures’ views on matters like the value of fetal life or equality for women, balancing them against the constitutional liberty recognized in Casey and Roe. When dealing with objective uncertainty, the Court should look for evidence on the purpose and effect of a law as the Court recently explained in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Disentangling the two forms of uncertainty will make abortion jurisprudence more coherent, consistent, and faithful to the balance of competing constitutional values that Casey and Whole Woman’s Health command.

June 11, 2018 in Abortion, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

SCOTUS Denies Cert in Abortion Protest Case Leaving in Place Noise Restriction Law

Supreme Court Declines Appeal of Ruling Against Pastor Who Preaches Outside Planned Parenthood

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of a ruling that overturned a lower court decision granting a preliminary injunction to a Maine minister who asserted that he was being unlawfully targeted by police outside of a Planned Parenthood facility for his pro-life preaching.

 

The high court declined certiorari in the case of March v. Mills, et. al. without comment on Monday, allowing a First Circuit ruling against the preacher’s public proclamations to stand.

 

However, as the courts ruled solely on the merits of the law and not how it was being applied specifically to Andrew March of Cell 53 Church, his attorneys will refile and continue the fight.

 
“The case is far from over,” Kate Oliveri of the Thomas More Law Center told the Bangor Daily News. “There are several challenges that we will go back to the District Court with.”...

 

In May 2016, U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen, appointed to the bench by Barack Obama, sided with March, opining that the “intent to interfere” portion of the law would pertain to the content of the speech, and would therefore only relate to pro-life speech, which would consequently be an unconstitutional content-based restriction.

 

“Continued enforcement of a content-based restriction on speech would result in irreparable harm to the Plaintiff,” Torreson ruled.

 

She said that there are other ways to keep order on the public sidewalk, as police “can further their interests of maintaining order and protecting individual patients through the criminal code, most obviously the disorderly conduct and harassment statutes.”

 

However, in August, the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Torreson’s ruling, stating that they rather found the law to be content-neutral and that it does not ban abortion opponents from conversing with others, as opposed to lifting up one’s voice to preach—if in doing so the person’s voice can be heard inside the building.

 

“[T]he requirements laid out on the face of the noise provision do not indicate that the measure would apply to speech expressed at a normal, conversational tone—or even at a louder volume—absent the speaker’s intent to disrupt the provision or receipt of medical services,” it wrote.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals case is here, March v. Mills (2017)

April 18, 2018 in Abortion, Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Leveling Down Gender Equality

My latest article thinking about gender and remedies.

Tracy A. Thomas, Leveling Down Gender Equality

Introduction

The Supreme Court resurrected its “leveling down” jurisprudence in 2017 when it remedied an equal protection violation of gender discrimination by denying, rather than extending, the requested benefit. This approach of nullifying the benefit for all had previously been confined to a handful of cases, over thirty years old; but with the decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana the Court brought new life and currency to this limitation of equality law. In Morales-Santana, a six-Justice majority of the Supreme Court led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, struck down a gender-based distinction in the federal immigration statute.  The statute had two different standards for mothers and fathers for determining derivative citizenship for children born abroad to unwed citizen parents. It seemed to be an easy case of facially unequal rules based on gender: one year prior U.S. residence for mothers, five years prior residence for fathers. However, the Court then refused to grant the plaintiff father the same benefit of the shorter time frame allotted mothers.  It instead equalized the gendered rules by denying the previous benefit of the shorter one year to mothers. While Justice Ginsburg’s decision in Morales-Santana purported to be a strong, historic decision on the merits of equality, the denial of meaningful relief actually weakened the meaning of equality with a reach far beyond the contours of this one case. 

This “leveling down” of the remedy – responding to inequality by reducing benefits to all rather than leveling up and extending benefits to the disadvantaged group -- is unusual, but not unheard of.  It has been judicially endorsed in a few cases, where the courts have ratified the voluntary actions of defendants.  In one example, the city of Jackson, Mississippi remedied its racially segregated swimming pools by closing down all pools.  In another, Congress redressed the disparity of Social Security benefits that gave extra benefit to women by reducing the women’s benefit to the lower level previously applicable to men.  And in yet another example, a high school found to have discriminated against a pregnant teen by denying her membership in the school’s National Honor Society, eliminated the honor society for all students.

Defendants seem to choose this remedy almost in defiance, refusing to grant a benefit to the petitioner with the audacity to challenge inequality.  This retrenching is deemed an acceptable organizational response, as seen for example, in the example of the BBC and its overseas editors.  When the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) was exposed in the media for paying its women overseas editors substantially less than its men editors, it responded by reducing the men’s pay. The women were thus not only denied equal pay for the past discrimination, but were exposed to potential peer retaliation for “rocking the boat” and making the men worse off.  But for the BBC, as with other wrongdoing defendants, leveling down seemed to be a quick and easy way to erase the inequality problem.    

The Court in Morales-Santana similarly believed it needed to defer to the defendant’s choice of remedy for the gender discrimination.  This was ironic given that the Court in that same case expressly rejected such deference to Congress in the merits part of the decision.  It departed from previous decisions upholding gender distinctions in the derivative citizenship statute based on deference to Congress’s plenary power over immigration; this time, the Court forcefully applied constitutional norms of equality to a different end.  Yet, in the same breath, the Court turned around and espoused the importance of deference to the defendant’s choice for the remedy.  It struggled to find such legislative intent, trying to second guess what Congress would have done had it known its derivative citizenship statute was unconstitutional.  The Court decided Congress would have stricken the second of two statutory clauses, rather than the first provision or instead of utilizing the gender neutral term “parent” instead of “mother.” It thus achieved equality by a simple formal textual exercise which resulted in the elimination of the shorter-time benefit to all unwed parents.   

This textualist analysis, however, depended upon the assumption that leveling down is an equally-valid remedial option for inequality.  But this is where the Court went wrong.  The Court failed to question the constitutionally legitimacy of this nullification in light of the constitutional mandates of due process and equal protection.  Had the Court engaged in an analysis of the remedy as much as it did of the right, it might have discovered that more was demanded than mere neutral formality and equivalency of benefit across the board.  Equality itself, as a constitutional right, dictates more than just empty formalism.  And due process, I have argued, requires that rights be granted meaningful remedies. Together, this means that where the operative substantive right is based on equal protection, as in Morales-Santana, a meaningful remedy is one that grants the “protection” promised.  For equal protection does not merely mandate a logical parallelism of genders, but normatively values equal opportunity and benefit. Examining the leveling down remedy in light of equality, beyond the strict mandates of a particular statutory benefit, reaches a different conclusion than the Court.  Asking the additional question of whether the plaintiff has received a meaningful remedy for the past inequality casts doubt on the validity of leveling down relief for gender discrimination.  

This Article first examines the Court’s decision in Morales-Santana and its justification for choosing the “mean remedy” of leveling down and denying a citizenship benefit to the child of both mothers and fathers.  Part II then explores the Court’s general, but unexplained, impression that ordinarily leveling up is the proper remedial course.  It provides a normative foundation for this remedial presumption grounded in the meaning of equal protection and in the due process right to a meaningful remedy.  Given these constitutional norms, the Article then argues that the remedial calculus should be changed.  Rather than accepting the Court’s assumption, renewed in Morales-Santana, that leveling down and leveling up are equally valid remedial choices, it argues for a strong presumption of leveling up in cases of gender discrimination, with only narrow exceptions permitted to rebut.  Part III of the article explains that these exceptions permitting leveling down would be rare, and would be grounded in equity, but only in concerns that would inflict undue burden on the defendant or third parties from the leveling up itself.  Such a deferential rule to the plaintiff’s rights better effectuates the meaning of equal protection and protects against judicial and voluntary action that by remedial formalism of leveling down could eviscerate the very meaning of equality.

 

April 10, 2018 in Abortion, Constitutional, Courts, Family, Gender, SCOTUS, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 16, 2018

Federal Court Issues Preliminary Injunction Blocking Ohio Ban on Abortion in Down Syndrome Cases

Ohio Judge Blocks Legislation Preventing Abortion in Down Syndrome Cases

An Ohio federal district court judge blocked legislation that would have banned abortion in cases where a fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation into law in December of last year, and it was scheduled to go into effect March 23. The legislation is now blocked until a final ruling is made in the lawsuit.
 
In a court order granting a preliminary injunction Wednesday, Southern District of Ohio Judge Timothy Black said that federal abortion law is "crystal clear" that "a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability."...
 
The law prohibits abortions after prenatal tests reveal Down syndrome in a fetus, or if there's "any other reason to believe" the fetus has the genetic condition.
 
A person performing an abortion in such a case could face a fourth-degree felony charge, and physicians could lose their licenses. The woman seeking the abortion would not be held accountable, according to the legislation.
 
The ACLU filed a complaint in mid-February calling the legislation unconstitutional.....
 
Similar laws have passed in North Dakota and Indiana, though a federal judge blocked the Indiana law. The North Dakota law went into effect in 2013.

FYI, Judge Black was also the trial judge in the Obergefell case on same-sex marriage.

The decision in Pre-Term Cleveland, et al v. Himes is here:  Order Granting Preliminary Injunction (March 14, 2018)

March 16, 2018 in Abortion, Constitutional | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Book Review "Scarlet A": More Talking and Less Shouting About Abortion, Ethics and Law

NYT, "Scarlet A" Wants Less Shouting About Abortion and More Talking, reviewing Katie Watson, Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, & Politics of Ordinary Abortion (Oxford Press 2018)

Certain issues have become so noisy and stigmatized that they seem to be all-consuming and invisible at once. Abortion is one of them, and Katie Watson wants to change how Americans talk about it — when, that is, they deign to truly talk about it at all.

 

Rates of abortion may be on the decline, largely because of long-term contraceptive use, but as Watson points out in “Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law, & Politics of Ordinary Abortion,” the procedure is far from a fringe practice. Nearly one in five American pregnancies ends in abortion (a number that doesn’t include “spontaneous abortions,” the medical term for miscarriages). Nearly one in four American women will have an abortion in her lifetime.

 

Yet silence perpetuates a belief that abortion is atypical, even when the statistics say otherwise. The conversational void is then filled by advocates on both sides, who emphasize what Watson calls “extraordinary abortion.” Abortion rights activists highlight severe fetal abnormalities and pregnant 12-year-olds; anti-abortion activists highlight pregnancies that are terminated after viability. Such cases are all too real, but fixating on them distorts our understanding of what abortion ordinarily is....

 

Watson, a bioethicist at Northwestern’s medical school and a senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, comes to the debate with her own convictions. Forty-five years ago, with Roe v. Wade, “abortion was correctly identified as a constitutionally protected right, and it must remain legal,” she writes. “That’s not negotiable for me.” What she wants to do is engage directly with the fact that the majority of Americans, even those in favor of abortion’s legality, have deeply ambivalent feelings about abortion itself. “We should be able to acknowledge the complexity of private decision making,” she writes, “without threatening the right of private decision making.”

February 15, 2018 in Abortion, Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Comparing Reproductive Freedom in the US and China

Marisa Cianciarulo,  For the Greater Good: The Subordination of Reproductive Freedom to State Interests in the United States and China, 51 Akron Law Rev. 99 (2017)

This Article provides a comparative analysis of two very different restrictions on reproductive freedom that have startling parallels and similarities. Both China and the United States impose limits on reproductive freedom: China restricts the number of children that families can have, often in ways that violate international law, while some U.S. states have attempted to restrict access to abortion in ways that violate the precepts of Roe v. Wade as well as international law. Both China and U.S. states impose restrictions on reproductive freedom in order to achieve compelling state goals: protecting development and sustainability in China, and protecting prenatal life in the United States. Finally, both China and the United States have means other than severe restrictions on reproductive freedom at their disposal to achieve the governments’ goals: broad access to birth control and sex education. This Article uses the lens of international human rights law to evaluate the concept of subordinating individual reproductive choice to a perception of the common good. Part II provides an overview of the major international instruments addressing individual rights and how they interact with the rights and responsibilities of the state. Part III discusses anti-abortion laws in the United States and the anti-abortion movement’s rationale that protecting prenatal life justifies limiting reproductive choice. Part IV discusses China’s vast and population control system and the government’s rationale that providing a controlled, sustainable population justifies limiting reproductive choice. Part V examines three levels of coercion—compulsory sex education and unrestricted access to contraception, monetary incentive and disincentive programs, and forced abortion and forced child-bearing—and analyzes whether these levels of coercion are consistent with international human rights principles. Finally, the Article concludes that in light of modern access to education and contraception, and the ability to reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancies via those means, more coercive means are unnecessary (in the case of monetary incentives and disincentives) and unjustifiable (in the case of forced abortion and forced child-bearing).

January 11, 2018 in Abortion, International, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ohio Passes Law Prohibiting Abortion for Down's Syndrome

Reuters, Ohio Passes Law Barring Abortion over Down Syndrome Diagnosis

Women in Ohio would be prohibited from receiving abortions because of a fetal Down syndrome diagnosis under a bill that passed the state senate on Wednesday and is heading to Republican Governor John Kasich’s desk.

 

Lawmakers voted 20-12 in favor of the law, which criminalizes abortion if the physician has knowledge that the procedure is being sought due to a diagnosis of Down syndrome, a genetic disorder caused when abnormal cell division results in an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21.Doctors would lose their medical licenses in the state and face a fourth-degree felony charge under the law if they were to perform an abortion with that knowledge. Mothers would not face criminal charges.

 

The bill makes Ohio the third state to pass a law outlawing abortions due to fetal anomalies. Similar laws were passed in Indiana and North Dakota. The Indiana provision was struck down by a U.S. District Judge in September after a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

 Ohio Senate Sends Down Syndrome Abortion Ban to Gov John Kasich

A bill banning abortion after a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome has cleared the Ohio General Assembly and will now go to Gov. John Kasich's desk.

 

The Ohio Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to House Bill 214 in a 20-12 vote. The bill was passed by the House in November.

 

Three Republicans, including Gayle Manning of North Ridgeville and Matt Dolan of Chagrin Falls, voted with Democrats against the bill.

 

Kasich, who has signed 18 abortion restrictions into law since 2011, told cleveland.com last month he generally supported the idea but wanted to see the legislation before deciding how to act.

December 14, 2017 in Abortion, Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 13, 2017

SCOTUS Grants Cert in Case Challenging Disclosures Required by CAL Reproductive FACT Act

Today the US Supreme Court granted cert in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra

The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted and limited to the following question: “Whether the disclosures required by the California Reproductive FACT Act violate the protections set forth in the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, applicable to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment."

For a prior post on the case see Petition for Cert on Required CAL Disclosures for Pregnancy Crisis Centers as Violating Free Speech

See also USA Today, Abortion, Contraception Return to Supreme Court in Free Speech Case

The Ninth Circuit's decision below upholding the law and disclosures is here.

November 13, 2017 in Abortion, Constitutional, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

DC Circuit en banc Allows Immigrant Teen's Abortion to Proceed

The DC Circuit sitting en banc overruled a panel decision from late last week delaying an immigrant teen's abortion, granted by a state court. 

Garza, as GAL to J.D. v. Hargan, No. 17-5236 (D.C. Cir. en banc, Oct. 24, 2017), overruling the panel decision in Garza v. Hargan (D.C. Cir. Oct. 20, 2017)

Concurring Opinion to the Order by Judge Millett (the dissent in the panel decision).

Abortion on demand? Hardly. Here is what this case holds: a pregnant minor who (i) has an unquestioned constitutional right to choose a pre-viability abortion, and (ii) has satisfied every requirement of state law to obtain an abortion, need not wait additional weeks just because she—in the government’s inimitably ironic phrasing—“refuses to leave” its custody, Appellants’ Opp’n to Reh’g Pet. 11. That sure does not sound like “on demand” to me. Unless Judge Kavanaugh’s dissenting opinion means the demands of the Constitution and Texas law. With that I would agree.

Dissenting Opinion by Judge Kavanaugh (majority opinion in the panel decision).

The en banc majority has badly erred in this case.

The three-judge panel held that the U.S. Government, when holding a pregnant unlawful immigrant minor in custody, may seek to expeditiously transfer the minor to an immigration sponsor before the minor makes the decision to obtain an abortion. That ruling followed from the Supreme Court’s many precedents holding that the Government has permissible interests in favoring fetal life, protecting the best interests of a minor, and refraining from facilitating abortion. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the Government may further those interests so long as it does not impose an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.

Today’s majority decision, by contrast, “substantially” adopts the panel dissent and is ultimately based on a constitutional principle as novel as it is wrong: a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in U.S. Government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand, thereby barring any Government efforts to expeditiously transfer the minors to their immigration sponsors before they make that momentous life decision. The majority’s decision represents a radical extension of the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence.

Judge Karen Henderson also dissent in a separate opinion.

October 24, 2017 in Abortion, Constitutional, Family, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Court Upholds Denial of Parole to Pregnant Woman to Protect Unborn Child

Commonwealth v. Becker, (Pa. Super. Ct. Oct. 10, 2017)

P & P opposed Becker's parole because of the risk that she may use heroin while pregnant. The trial court shared similar concerns, among others, and denied Becker's petition for parole. 

Becker first claims that the denial of her parole was manifestly unreasonable, as she had incurred no misconducts during her incarceration, attended treatment and counseling, and had a stable address and family support. Becker's claim is without avail.

“Parole is nothing more than a possibility, and, when granted, it is nothing more than a favor granted upon a prisoner by the state as a matter of grace and mercy shown by the Commonwealth to a convict who has demonstrated a probability of his ability to function as a law-abiding citizen in society.”

 Here, the record does not support Becker's assertion that the denial of her parole was manifestly unreasonable. First, we note, Becker's gender and concomitant pregnancy are incidental to her well-chronicled heroin addiction. As such, the basis of the Becker's parole denial, as stated by the trial court, was the substantial risk that she would use heroin, not her unique status. In coming to its decision, the trial court expressed concern for the health of Becker's unborn child. However, the trial court did not discuss prisoner access to women's healthcare, prenatal care, child welfare resources or other associated services that might indicate its decision was motivated entirely by Becker's status. Rather, it focused on Becker's prior use of heroin and the dangers it posed to her and others. Specifically, the trial court reiterated its concern with “[Becker] using drugs and ․ harming herself” and the potential for relapse. N.T. Parole Hearing, 8/22/16, at 7, 15–17, 69 (“[S]he has a bad history [of heroin abuse][,] and history dictates when she gets out [of prison], she uses”).

 The trial court's concerns are well founded.

 Becker next claims that the trial court violated her substantive due process rights when it denied her parole based solely on her pregnancy. Becker concedes that in Pennsylvania, “a prisoner has no absolute right to be released from prison on parole upon the expiration of the prisoner's minimum term.” However, citing Block v. Potter, 631 F.2d 233, 235 (3rd Cir. 1980), Becker argues that the trial court based its denial of parole on factors she avers are unconstitutional and/or arbitrary, including gender, pregnancy and the safety of the unborn child.

 Here, Becker asks us to determine whether the trial court's consideration of her gender, pregnancy and the health of the unborn child was, like in Block, an unconstitutional arbitrary government action. We decline to conduct such an analysis.

 Under the Administrative Agency Law, a court can only review an action of a Commonwealth agency where its decision constitutes an adjudication. The Supreme Court found that the act unambiguously defines adjudication to exclude parole decisions. The Court also addressed the theory that parole decisions would be applicable for review under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Court rejected this argument, as there was no precedent to support it.

 Becker's next claim on appeal is that the trial court violated her equal protection rights by denying her petition for parole. Equal protection requires that “all persons similarly situated should be treated alike.” Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985). Legislative classifications based on gender call for a heightened standard of review. See Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, 506 U.S. 263, 295 (1993). However, the Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly held that we cannot reasonably presume opposition to abortion reflects an animus against women and/or pregnant women as a class. See Id. at 269–70;  see also Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. v. EEOC, 462 U.S. 669 (1983) (finding that discrimination based on pregnancy was discrimination based on gender only because Congress specifically intended it to be when it amended 42 U.S.C. § 2000e). “Where the challenged governmental action does not burden ‘fundamental’ or ‘important’ rights, and does not make a suspect classification or a quasi-suspect classification, it does not offend the Equal Protection Clause as long as it is rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest.” Small v. Horn, 722 A.2d 664, 672 (Pa. 1998) (citations omitted). Furthermore, drug users are not a suspect or a quasi-suspect class. New York City Transit Authority v. Beazer, 440 U.S. 568, 592–93 (1979). This argument affords Becker no relief.

 The trial court based its decision denying Becker's petition for parole on her status as an incarcerated, pregnant heroin addict. The court's action does not burden a fundamental or important right, nor is Becker's status a suspect or quasi-suspect classification. Therefore, the trial court's action need only pass a rational basis test. Small, 772 A.2d at 672. Our Supreme Court has defined the rational basis test as examining a law to find if it is “unreasonable, unduly oppressive or patently beyond the necessities of the case, and the means which it employs must have a real and substantial relation to the objects sought to be attained.” Nixon, 839 A.2d at 286–87 (citation omitted). If it is not, then the discrimination is permissible under the Equal Protection Clause. Id. at 286. Here, we find protecting Becker's unborn child was a legitimate governmental interest. Planned Parenthood, 505 U.S. at 846. By denying Becker parole, the trial court ensured Becker could not use heroin and harm her unborn child. Denying parole until going into labor was reasonable, as the only other alternative was releasing Becker on parole. Therefore, there was no equal protection violation.

October 16, 2017 in Abortion, Constitutional, Family, Pregnancy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Are Women's Narrative Stories Admissible Evidence in the Supreme Court?

Linda Edwards, Telling Stories in the Supreme Court: Voices Briefs and the Role of Democracy in Constitutional Deliberation, 29 Yale J. L & Feminism 29 (2017)

On January 4, 2016, over 112 women lawyers, law professors, and former judges told the world that they had had an abortion. In a daring amicus brief that captured national media attention, the women “came out” to their clients; to the lawyers with or against whom they practice; to the judges before whom they appear; and to the Justices of the Supreme Court.

The past three years have seen an explosion of such “voices briefs,” 16 in Obergefell and 17 in Whole Woman’s Health. The briefs can be powerful, but their use is controversial. They tell the stories of non-parties—strangers to the appellate case—with no vetting by cross examination or the rules of evidence. Yet, despite their controversial nature, they have thus far received little academic attention. 

The time has come to ask some tough questions: Are these briefs legally permissible? Theoretically legitimate? How do they compare with other sources consulted regularly by the Court? Are they really so different from the policy arguments we have accepted without blinking for over a hundred years?

These foundational questions quickly take us into even murkier waters—legal and constitutional theory; narrative theory; framing; and cognitive science. Voices briefs prompt us to look at constitutional decision-making in a new way. Soon we find that voices briefs are interrogating long-accepted assumptions rather than the other way around. The analysis produces some surprising reasons why voices briefs can play an important role in constitutional interpretation and some realistic ideas about handling the undeniable concerns that still haunt their use.

September 26, 2017 in Abortion, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Maintaining the Constitutional Theory of the Private Choice of Abortion

Erwin Chemerinsky & Michele Goodwin, Abortion: A Woman's Private Choice, 95 Tex. L. Rev. 1189 (2017)

The uncertainty about abortion rights makes it especially important to provide a strong constitutional foundation and the best possible constitutional defense for their protection. That is our purpose in this Article, because abortion rights in the United States are in serious jeopardy. Despite the fact that a legal abortion is medically safer than carrying a pregnancy to term in the United States, that right may soon be more illusory than real. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, lessons from the era preceding that landmark decision underscore the broad harms women will encounter, particularly because 49% of pregnancies in the United States are unintended. In traditionally conservative states, the rates of unintended pregnancies are even higher: 54% in Texas, 55% in Alabama and Arkansas, 60% in Louisiana, and 62% in Mississippi, among others. Yet these states also have some of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the developing world: Texas ranks worst in the developing world on maternal mortality.

The Article proceeds in three parts. First, it explains the flawed foundation for the protection of reproductive rights under the Constitution, noting that the problem began in Griswold v. Connecticut, the first case to protect reproductive freedom. Second, it seeks to reconceptualize abortion rights and underscore the value and relevance of a reproductive justice framework, including taking serious account of women’s lived lives. Finally, in Part III we discuss what it would mean for abortion to be regarded as a private choice. In this Part, we identify three implications: a) restoring strict scrutiny to examining laws regulating abortions, which would mean that the government must be neutral between childbirth and abortion; b) preventing the government from denying funding for abortions when it pays for childbirth; and c) invalidating the countless types of restrictions on abortion — often referred to as “targeted restrictions of abortion providers” — that have the purpose and effect of limiting women’s access to abortion rather than promoting safety and health. We especially focus on “informed consent” and waiting period laws and show that they are inconsistent with regarding abortion as a private choice for each woman.

and the response:

Aziza Ahmed, Abortion in a Post-Truth Moment: A Response to Erwin Chemerinsky and Michele Goodwin, 95 Tex. L. Rev. See Also 198  (2017)

In Abortion: A Woman’s Private Choice, Erwin Chemerinsky and Michele Goodwin respond to the crisis of abortion rights in our current political moment. While preserving the right to abortion is an ongoing challenge for reproductive-justice advocates and lawyers, the arrival of a new Republican administration led by Donald Trump and a Republican majority in the House and Senate heightens these concerns. In the face of ongoing and new threats to abortion access, Chemerinsky and Goodwin argue that abortion should be treated as a woman’s private choice. I agree with Chemerinsky and Goodwin, as all supporters of abortion rights should. This response to their insightful essay situates their argument in a set of debates and discussions that undergird many of the logics utilized by the court to justify their choice of standard: medical, psychological, and scientific evidence on abortion.

September 26, 2017 in Abortion, Constitutional | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Ohio Supreme Court Hears Case on Abortion Clinic Closure

Ohio Supreme Court Hears Dispute on Abortion Clinic Closure

Government attorneys on Tuesday asked the Ohio Supreme Court to override lower court rulings and uphold the state Health Department’s order to shut down Toledo’s last abortion clinic.

 

A lawyer for the clinic told the court that the state is trying to prevent women in northwestern Ohio from seeking legal abortions and is putting them at greater risk.

 

The case involves one of several restrictions Ohio lawmakers have placed on abortion clinics in recent years.

 

The Ohio Department of Health issued an order in 2014 to close Capital Care of Toledo because the clinic didn’t have a patient-transfer agreement with a local hospital.

 

Such agreements were mandated, and public hospitals barred from providing them, under restrictions Ohio lawmakers passed in 2013. The University of Toledo Hospital, which is public, withdrew from its transfer arrangement with Capital Care after the law passed.

 

The clinic sued and won in the lower courts, which ruled the restrictions were unconstitutional. Judges have allowed the clinic to continue operating as the legal dispute carries on.

 

Abortion-rights groups contend the transfer agreements and other restrictions not at issue in the case are medically unnecessary. They also say the city of 275,000 residents would be the first major city in Ohio without access to abortion services.

 

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor on Tuesday asked about alternatives women would have if the Toledo clinic closes.

 

The state’s attorney, Stephen Carney, said the closest options would be Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich. — both about an hour’s drive from Toledo.

 

“Certainly we are not telling women, ‘You can’t have an abortion in Ohio, but you can go to Michigan’?” Justice William O’Neill asked.

 

Jennifer Branch, an attorney representing Capital Care, said women seeking an abortion would have to make more than one trip, adding up to several hundred miles.

 

“The danger to those women from an unlawful abortion would be health risks,” she said. “They could bleed. They could have an infection.”

 

Branch also argued that transfer agreements are unnecessary.

 

“They could call 911 if they needed to, there is nothing to prohibit that,” she told justices. “No one ever asks if there is a written transfer agreement.”

 

O’Connor asked, “Are there any other (ambulatory surgical centers) precluded from contracting or entering into a (written transfer agreement) with hospitals, any hospital public or private?”

 

Branch replied: “No, your honor, only abortion clinics.”

September 13, 2017 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 25, 2017

The History of Abortion Law in Victoria

Bronwyn Taylor, Judge-Made Law: The "Menhennit Ruling" and Abortion Law Reform in Victoria, 88 Victorian Historical J. (June 2017)

Women’s right to access abortion has historically been seen as controversial by lawmakers, secular and religious. Th is article examines the sources of change in Victoria’s abortion laws, and in particular the role of judicial law making. Th e late 1960s was a time of challenges to class, gender and political inequalities, locally and internationally. In Victoria during this period, with politicians unwilling to introduce abortion law reforms despite substantial community support, a conventional — even conservative — judicial ruling in 1969 changed the law in Victoria at one stroke and provided a model of legal access to abortion for other jurisdictions for the next 40 years. Th e article examines the context for, and consequences of, the decision of Mr Justice Menhennit in R v Davidson, the ‘Menhennit ruling’.

August 25, 2017 in Abortion, International, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 21, 2017

OR Enacts Nation's Most Progressive Reproductive Health Policy

Oregon Approves Sweeping Bill Expanding Abortion Access

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) on Tuesday signed into law what advocates called the nation’s most progressive reproductive health policy, expanding access to abortion and birth control at a time when the Trump administration and other states are trying to restrict them.

 

Called the Reproductive Health Equity Act, the measure requires health insurers to provide birth control and abortion without charging a co-pay. It also dedicates state funds to provide reproductive health care to noncitizens excluded from Medicaid.

August 21, 2017 in Abortion, Healthcare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Podcast: After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate

New Legal History Podcast: Mary Ziegler's After Roe

In this special summer episode, we take a step back from reviewing to introduce listeners to H-Law's new legal history podcast. Robert interviews H-Law's podcast producer and host Siobhan Barco and we run in full her first episode, an interview with legal scholar Mary Ziegler, author of After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate (Harvard University Press, 2015). From Siobhan's description of the episode:

Ziegler’s work uses the landmark American abortion rights case, Roe vs. Wade to explore litigation as a vessel for social change and the role the court plays in democracy. In addition to traditional archival research, Ziegler recorded over one hundred oral histories of people in the pro-life and pro-choice camps, allowing her to move beyond caricatures and delve more precisely into the  catalysts for these individual’s points of view.

Topics we discuss include:

(1)Whether Roe is overstated as a cautionary tale for judicial intervention

(2)How the bright line divide between the pro-life and pro-choice movements had not yet coalesced in the 1970s.

(3)Roe as a canvas onto which activists could project different strategic aims

July 31, 2017 in Abortion, Books, Legal History | Permalink | Comments (0)