Reproductive Rights Prof Blog

Editor: Caitlin E. Borgmann
CUNY School of Law

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Obama's Anti-Discrimination Executive Order Protecting LGBT Employees Will Not Exempt Religious Groups

The New York Times:  Obama Set to Bar Federal Contractors From Anti-Gay Discrimination, by Julie Hirschfeld Davis:

President Obama plans to sign an executive order on Monday that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do federal government work, fulfilling a promise to a crucial Democratic constituency, White House officials said on Friday. But the directive will not exempt religious groups, as many of them had sought. . . .

July 19, 2014 in President/Executive Branch, Religion, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Idaho Asks Ninth Circuit To Reverse Ruling Invalidating 20-Week Abortion Ban

The Oregonian/AP: Idaho defends fetal-pain abortion law in federal court:

A federal judge's ruling striking down Idaho's law banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy should be reversed because criminal charges against the eastern Idaho woman who filed the initial lawsuit had been dismissed, Idaho attorneys said. . . .

July 18, 2014 in Abortion Bans, In the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Half of Texas Abortion Clinics Have Closed in Wake of Restrictions

NPR - Shots blog: Half Of Texas Abortion Clinics Close After Restrictions Enacted, by Carrie Feibel:

In a little over a year, the number of clinics that provide abortions in Texas fell to 20 from 41, and watchdogs say that as few as six may be left by September.

Many clinics closed because of a requirement that doctors at those clinics obtain hospital admitting privileges within a certain radius of the clinic, and many doctors couldn't comply. The requirement took effect last November. This week marks the first anniversary of the state law that started it all. . . .

July 18, 2014 in State and Local News, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Republicans Block Senate Bill Aimed at Countering Effects of Hobby Lobby Decision

The Hill: Dem birth control bill stalls, by Ramsey Cox:

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation that would require companies to provide birth control coverage in their employee healthcare plans.

The bill failed to advance in a 56-43 vote, with Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) voting with Democrats. . . .

July 16, 2014 in Congress, Contraception, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Hobby Lobby Decision

Massachusetts Senate Passes New Abortion Clinic Protection Legislation

Reuters: Massachusetts lawmakers take up bill on abortion clinic buffer zones, by Elizabeth Barber:

Massachusetts lawmakers took up consideration on Wednesday of a bill to limit protests around abortion clinics after the U.S. Supreme Court last month struck down an earlier law that kept demonstrators at least 35 feet (9 meters) from clinic entrances.

The new bill would allow police to issue a dispersal order if at least two demonstrators are found to be blocking patient or staff access to abortion clinics. Such an order would bar protesters from coming within 25 feet (7.6 meters) of the clinic's entrance for a maximum of eight hours. . . .

Boston Herald/AP:  Senate approves abortion clinic safety bill:

The Massachusetts Senate scrambled Wednesday to pass a bill designed to tighten security around abortion clinics.

The bill, filed Monday, was the subject of a public hearing Wednesday. Hours later the full Senate approved it on a voice vote, meaning no individual votes were recorded. . . .

July 16, 2014 in Abortion, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on Women's Health Protection Act

View the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held today, July 15, on the Women's Health Protection Act on C-Span here.

Slate - The XX Factor blog: The Democrats’ Brilliant Idea for How to Stop Unnecessary Abortion Clinic Regulations, by Amanda Marcotte:

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 New York Times - editorial:  A Defense of Reproductive Rights:

Facing a torrent of state laws restricting access to safe and legal abortions, supporters of a woman’s right to make her own childbearing decisions have been forced to play a defensive game — trying to block enactment of the laws, and, when that doesn’t work, challenging them in court. An important hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday could begin to move the dynamics of the fight in a positive direction. . . .

July 15, 2014 in Abortion, Congress, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fewer Abortion Restrictions Enacted in the First Half of 2014

Guttmacher Institute: States Continue to Enact Abortion Restrictions in First Half of 2014, But at a Lower Level Than in the Previous Years:

So far this year, 13 states have adopted 21 new restrictions designed to limit access to abortion, about half the number (41) of similar restrictions that had been enacted by this point last year. These restrictions range from requirements that abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals to bans on insurance coverage to limitations on medication abortion. At the same time, and building on momentum from last year, three states moved to protect access to abortion services, while four states and the District of Columbia took steps to improve access to other reproductive health services...

Several reasons exist for the drop in abortion restrictions. Some of the decline is the result of cyclical trends, as states historically have shorter sessions in election years and some state legislatures that have been particularly active on abortion issues (Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas) are not in session in even-number years (see A Surge of State Abortion Restrictions Puts Providers—and the Women They Serve—in the Crosshairs). In addition, an array of other issues (responses to the heroin epidemic, the expansion of full-benefit Medicaid as allowed by the Affordable Care Act, the common core educational initiative and minimum wage increases) moved to the front burner in many legislatures, perhaps limiting legislative attention to abortion. . . .

July 14, 2014 in Abortion, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lyle Denniston on Proposed Legislation To Undo Hobby Lobby

SCOTUS blog: A Bill to Undo Hobby Lobby, by Lyle Denniston:

With fewer than a dozen crucial words, a group of U.S. senators and representatives this week proposed what they have called a “legislative fix” to undo the Supreme Court’s June 30 decision inBurwell v. Hobby Lobby.  Here is the key language in the Senate version, bill number S. 2578:  ”Application: Subsection (a) shall apply notwithstanding any other provision of federal law, including Public Law 103-141.”. . . 

The bill would modify — but without directly amending — the federal law that was the basis of the Supreme Court’s ruling — that is, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (officially enacted as Public Law 103-141).  The new measure would have the effect of simply overruling the Hobby Lobby decision.  Identical versions were introduced in the Senate and House on Wednesday. . . .

July 14, 2014 in Congress, Contraception, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Legal Scholars Urge Obama To Resist Calls for Overly Broad Religious Exemption in Anti-Discrimination Executive Order

Columbia Law School press release:  Public Rights/Private Conscience Project Spearheads New Effort:

Legal Scholars Urge President Obama to Resist Calls for Overly Broad Religious Exemption in Proposed Executive Order

New York, July 14, 2014—More than 50 legal scholars today strongly urged President Obama to resist calls for an overly broad religious exemption in a proposed executive order prohibiting sexual orientation and/or gender identity discrimination by federal contractors. 

The effort is being spearheaded by Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, as part of its recently launched Public Rights/Private Conscience Project. The new initiative is one of the first independent law school projects aimed at re-conceptualizing religious exemptions and the law, particularly as the exemptions impact reproductive and sexual liberty and equality rights.
 
In a letter signed by 54 legal scholars from around the country, Columbia Law School Professor Katherine Franke, Public Rights/Private Conscience Project Director Kara Loewentheil, and Brooklyn Law School Professor Nelson Tebbe argue that the broad exemption urged by some religious leaders and several law professors is not required by the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), or accommodations of religious liberty in other federal non-discrimination laws, including Title VII. 
 
"The Supreme Court's recent opinion in Hobby Lobby and order in Wheaton College do not compel in any way the inclusion of religious exemptions language in an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors," said Franke. "Including an exemption for religious discrimination in an executive order securing work-place rights for LGBT people sends a message that the federal government has a more ambivalent commitment to sexual orientation and gender-identity based discrimination as compared with other forms of workplace equality.”
 
Loewentheil said the letter "reflects an emerging consensus among legal scholars that a proper balance between religious liberty and equal rights can be struck without creating carve-outs for religion in new laws protecting LGBT or reproductive rights."
 
"We are delighted that many prominent scholars in the legal academy signed this letter," Loewentheil said. "The views of these scholars provide responsible counsel to the White House as it considers the wording of an important new executive order securing LGBT and gender identity non-discrimination rules for employers who receive public funding." 
 

July 14, 2014 in Law School, President/Executive Branch, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Center for Reproductive Rights Seeks Stories for "Draw the Line" Campaign

From the Center for Reproductive Rights:

CRR Storytelling Project Guidelines:

The Center is looking for stories to launch the second phase of our Draw the Line campaign. With this shift in the campaign, we are aiming to collect a diverse set of personal stories around reproductive health care and the key role it has played in folks' lives. The stories can include everything from abortion to contraception to fertility to breast cancer treatment.

The goal is to humanize the public conversation around reproductive health care to get the attention of key stakeholders in the fight by 1) illustrating how reproductive health is essential to everyone's life; and 2) illustrating the impact of current anti-reproductive health legislation on people's lives.

We are accepting several formats — video, text, and audio. But currently, we're looking for stories in video — 1 minute in length. Here are the guidelines for sharing your story:

For your video, do what comes naturally to you in telling us your story, but consider telling us:

  1. A little bit about yourself (e.g., where you're from, what you do, what role you play in your family or community)
  2. Why reproductive health care is so important in your life, and how having access to it (or not having access to it) has impacted you (e.g., your family, your education, your career)
  3. What you'd like to say to politicians who attack the reproductive health care that's been important to you and others across the country

Again, here a few pointers on taking a good video:

• If using your smartphone/iPhone: Hold phone HORIZONTALLY to get the widest angle of footage available

• To make sure we can hear you, please shoot in a quiet environment

• Make sure light is on your face and not behind it

Any questions? Email Kristen Thompson at kthompson@reprorights.org.

Send video to Kristen Thompson at kthompson@reprorights.org or Melissa Green at mgreen@reprorights.org OR upload it to www.youtube.com (make sure to make it private!) and send Kristen the link.

July 10, 2014 in Pro-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Virginia Man's Plea Bargain Includes Vasectomy

Northern Virginia Daily (6/13): Edinburg Man's Plea Deal Includes Vasectomy, by Joe Beck:

An Edinburg man will undergo a vasectomy as part of an agreement in which he pleaded guilty to child endangerment, hit and run driving and driving on a suspended license...

Jessie Lee Herald, 27, was also sentenced to a total of one year and eight months in prison and three years supervised probation and two years unsupervised probation. . . .

July 9, 2014 in Men and Reproduction, Sterilization | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court Will Review Pregnancy Discrimination Case

Bloomberg BNA:  Justices Will Review Accommodation Issue Arising Under Pregnancy Discrimination Act, by Kevin P. McGowan:

Granting a United Parcel Service Inc. driver's petition, the U.S. Supreme Court July 1 agreed to review whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires an employer to accommodate the work restrictions of pregnant employees when it does so for some non-pregnant employees with temporary impairments.

On the final day of its term, the court granted Peggy Young's request to review a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decision that the PDA didn't require UPS to accommodate Young's pregnancy-related lifting restriction even though the company offered light duty to workers injured on the job, those disabled within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act and drivers who temporarily lost their federal certification (707 F.3d 737, 116 FEP Cases 1569 (4th Cir. 2013). . . .

July 9, 2014 in Pregnancy & Childbirth, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Missouri Governor Vetoes 72-Hour Waiting Period for Abortions

ACLU press release: Nixon Vetoes Bill Forcing Women to Further Delay Abortions, Hearing Outcry from Missouri Women:

Jefferson City, Mo. – Hearing the voices of Missouri women, Governor Jay Nixon has vetoed a bill that would have forced a woman who has already met with her health care professional and decided to have an abortion to delay getting the medical care she needs for at least 3 days. Last month, women and men gathered in front of the capitol for 72 hours in protest of the bill.

"Missouri women have been clear: They are beyond fed up with legislators playing politics with their health," said Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "Governor Nixon has shown that he understands that extreme politicians can’t be allowed to interfere with a woman’s ability to get an abortion just because they disagree with her decision."

A woman who decides to have an abortion has already carefully considered her decision. Bills that create additional wait times force a woman to make an extra trip to the state’s only clinic. This is especially burdensome for low-income women and rural women, who often can’t take extra days off work or travel long distances.

Extremist politicians in Missouri, who are already criticizing Gov. Nixon for standing up for women’s health, continue to show they care more about politics than women. This legislative session alone, Missouri politicians introduced more than two dozen bills designed to restrict access to abortion. Earlier this year, Missouri Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger compared a woman’s decision about whether to continue a pregnancy to buying a new car or carpet. 

Talking Points Memo:  Why Gov. Jay Nixon’s Anti-Abortion Bill Veto Matters, by Robin Marty:

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has vetoed a 72-hour waiting period between an initial consultation and an abortion, stopping the state from becoming the third to implement a three-day waiting period for a pregnancy termination. While the veto is fantastic news for women who are pregnant and wants to obtain an abortion in Missouri or the surrounding area, it is even better news for reproductive rights activists overall, as it signals a noticeable shift in the political waters when it comes to opposing abortion. . . .

July 9, 2014 in Abortion, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Politics, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Senate Judiciary Committee To Hold Hearing on Women's Health 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 9, 2014 in Congress, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Court Issues Order on Contraception Mandate that Reinforces Female Justices' Concerns About Hobby Lobby Ruling's Scope

The New York Times:  Birth Control Order Deepens Divide Among Justices, by Adam Liptak:

In a decision that drew an unusually fierce dissent from the three female justices, the Supreme Court sided Thursday with religiously affiliated nonprofit groups in a clash between religious freedom and women’s rights.

The decision temporarily exempts a Christian college from part of the regulations that provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. . . .

___________________________________

The reason this order  is so frustrating is that Justice Alito's opinion in Hobby Lobby emphasized that its ruling was justified in large measure because the accommodation already provided to certain non-profits could simply be extended to closely held for-profits.  In relying on the existing accommodation, the Court implied that the accommodation was constitutionally acceptable.  Indeed, the Court dismissed Justice Ginsburg's concerns about the opinion's scope, referring to the existing accommodation for non-profits and saying, "[O]ur holding is very specific."  Justice Kennedy in concurrence even felt obliged to issue a separate reassurance: "[I]t should be said that the Court’s opinion does not have the breadth and sweep ascribed to it by the respectful and powerful dissent."  Justice Kennedy pointed out that "there is an existing, recognized, workable, and already-implemented framework to provide coverage" and "[t]hat accommodation equally furthers the Government’s interest but does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs" (emphasis added).  The majority itself assured that the goverment's accommodation "does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious belief that providing insurance coverage for the contraceptives at issue here violates their religion."

There was a clue, however, in the majority's opinion, that left Justice Ginsburg and others concerned as to whether the Court was sincere in suggesting it would ultimately find the existing accommodation adequate.  The Court noted, "We do not decide today whether an approach of this type complies with RFRA for purposes of all religious claims," referring to Little Sisters of the Poor, a case in which the Court  issued a previous order addressing the accommodation as applied to a non-profit entity.  This caveat, buried in an opinion full of reassurances about the decision's narrow scope, coupled with today's order supports Justice Ginsburg's concern that the true implications of Hobby Lobby are broad and as yet unclear.

-CEB

July 4, 2014 in Contraception, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hobby Lobby Majority, in Contrast to Justice Ginsburg, Largely Ignores Women and Their Well-Being

The Washington Post - WonkBlog: The 49-page Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling mentioned women just 13 times, by Emily Badger:

. . . Th[e] idea — that women's reproductive well-being is vital to both their personal prospects and the country's fortunes — runs throughout Ginsburg's dissent. It is notably absent from Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion. . . .

 

June 30, 2014 in Contraception, Supreme Court, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Concurring Opinions Offers a Round-Up of Comments on McCullen

Concurring Opinions: Nine Comments on McCullen, the Abortion Buffer Zone Case, by Ronald K.L. Collins:

I thought it might be interesting to share excerpts from some of the commentary on McCullen v. Coakley. Here are 9 views on the case. . . .

June 30, 2014 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Q&A on Hobby Lobby

Here is the link to UltraViolet's Twitter Q&A  on Hobby Lobby, which I participated in this morning.

The effects of Hobby Lobby decision are already being felt in the non-profit context, with the 11th Circuit enjoining the government, pending appeal, from enforcing the contraception rule against Eternal Word Television Network, a tax-exempt non-profit organization, "[i]n light of the Supreme Court's decision today" in Hobby Lobby.  Also, via Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog:  "Over the dissents of two Justices, the Supreme Court on Monday evening temporarily barred enforcement of the birth-control mandate against Wheaton College, a non-profit religious institution in Illinois."

June 30, 2014 in Contraception, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Hobby Lobby

Justice Alito wrote the opinion. There are qualifications to the Court's ruling. It appears to be limited to closely held corporations and to contraception, for example. SCOTUSblog is live blogging the decision here. The opinion is available here.  I will be participating in a Twitter chat hosted by UltraViolet to answer questions about the opinion.

June 30, 2014 in Contraception, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)