Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Rewire (May 24, 2016): ACLU Sues for Complaints Filed Against Catholic Hospitals for Denying Reproductive Health Care, by Nicole Knight Shine:
The ACLU has brought an action under the Freedom of Information Act against the federal Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) seeking complaints against Catholic hospitals for denial of emergency medical treatment. CMS receives and investigates complaints of violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which requires that hospitals receiving federal funds provide emergency care to stabilize a medical condition, including a miscarriage. The ACLU complaint describes instances where women seeking treatment for miscarriages were turned away from emergency rooms at Catholic hospitals. Religious Directives written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops forbid doctors in Catholic hospitals from performing abortions unless a woman is in grave danger.
Roughly one in six hospital beds are in a Catholic facility, with the top four U.S. Catholic health systems expected to take in more $90 billion from Medicare and Medicaid in 2016, according to the ACLU’s 10-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
ACLU Blog (May 18, 2016): The Religious Refusals Fight Comes to Washington, by Ian S. Thompson:
When the Supreme Court remanded Zubik v. Burwell last week, it avoided answering questions about the limits of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The petitioners in Burwell argued that a generally applicable law (the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employee health plans include contraceptive coverage) should not apply to them and that the accommodation given to them (that they fill out a sheet indicating their religious objection, allowing them to avoid paying for contraceptive coverage, but triggering coverage by their insurer) substantially burdened their free exercise of religion. The Supreme Court's failure to issue a decision may embolden arguments that religion can justify opting out of non-discrimation laws and other laws of general application.
And now Congress is getting into the act. Last month, an Oklahoma Congressman added an amendment to the the defense authorization bill that would allow religiously affiliated government contractors and grantees to discriminate in hiring. According to the ACLU, the bill would allow these grantees to claim a right to:
- Fire a woman who uses birth control or who is pregnant and unmarried.
- Fire a man who marries his same-sex partner.
- Refuse to interview anyone, however qualified, based on their religious beliefs, effectively adding language to job applications that says: “Jews, Sikhs, Catholics, Mormons need not apply.
So far efforts to strip the amendment from the defense bill have been unsuccessful. But efforts also are underway to curb the use of religion as an excuse to discriminate. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass) have introduced the Do No Harm Act to amend RFRA to ensure that it can't be used as a justification for discrimination or to otherwise harm others.
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
ACLU Blog (Feb. 25, 2016): The Rising Threat of Religious Hospitals Denying Women Medical Care, by Alexa Kolbi-Molinas:
Catholic hospitals across the country follow the religious directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This means that such hospitals will, for example, withhold medical services when a pregnant woman is hemorrhaging until her death is sufficiently imminent rather than induce labor to complete a miscarriage.
Currently, 10 of the 25 largest hospitals in the US are Catholic-affiliated. These hospitals receive federal funds, but they follow religious policies that deviate from the medical standard of care. These unlawful procedures have prompted the ACLU to file suit in cases such as Tamesha Means v. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in order to force changes in policy.
Sunday, February 7, 2016
New York Times (Feb. 5, 2016): Female Genital Cutting: Not Just "an African Problem," by Pam Belluck and Joe Cochrane:
New documentation shows that female genital cutting is widespread in Indonesia, one of the most populous countries in Asia and the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation. It is estimated that 60 million women and girls have been cut, using a technique that is less invasive than is common in Africa. Current regulations require the cutting to be performed by a medical professional who may do no more than scratch the clitoral hood without injuring the clitoris. Most cutting is performed on infants. Unicef has been working in Indonesia to end the practice.
The practice of female genital cutting persists, despite reductions in its incidence worldwide. The reductions are not keeping up with population growth with the result that the number of girls and woman being cut is expected to rise over the next 15 years. Cultural beliefs about the practice vary, including that without it women cannot truly be women and cannot marry.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Does Hobby Lobby Open Door To Renewed Conscience-Based Claims for Exemptions from Abortion Restrictions?
MSNBC: Satanists Aren't the Only Ones Following Hobby Lobby's Lead, by Irin Carmon:
On Monday, the Satanic Temple drew headlines for declaring that, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, it was “asserting a religious exemption from the burden of state mandated ‘informational’ abortion materials for those who share their deeply held beliefs.”
In other words, they wanted a conscience clause from laws intended to dissuade women from having abortions by mandating an ultrasound or that a doctor impart biased or medically-inaccurate information about abortion. . . .
But the Satanists are hardly the first to use religion to make an affirmative argument for reproductive rights. For decades, pro-choice activists have been trying to make a religious claim for their view – and generally failing. . . .
But now that the Supreme Court has opened the door to more robust religious exemptions under RFRA, there might be a new opportunity for supporters of abortion rights to try their luck. . . .
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. . . .
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
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. . . .
Monday, July 14, 2014
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.
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.
Monday, June 30, 2014
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.
Friday, March 28, 2014
Balkinization: Religious Accommodations Cost More than Money, by Kara Loewentheil:
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Planned Parenthood: Women Voters' Reaction to Religious Exemptions, by Hart Research Associates:
Overview of Key Findings:
Our new national survey of 1,004 women voters between the ages of 18 and 55 shows that a large majority strongly object to the religious exemptions for corporations that are being sought in the Hobby Lobby case.
- Women voters consistently and overwhelmingly disagree with the idea that corporations should be able to exempt themselves from observing laws because those laws violate their religious beliefs.
- Women age 55 and younger specifically reject corporations’ claims that they should be exempted from covering prescription birth control in their health plans because of religious objections to contraception.
- Democrats and independents reject these claims overwhelmingly, while Republicans are divided evenly.
Monday, March 3, 2014
The New York Times - opinion column: Arizona Did Us All a Favor, by Timothy Egan:
YOU’RE a fundamentalist Mormon — that is, the breakaway sect, not recognized by the main church, with a scary compound in Northern Arizona. Women wear long prairie dresses, men rule with an iron fist. You believe in a host of things that violate civil and even criminal law. But your beliefs are “sincerely held.” They come directly from God.
Until Gov. Jan Brewer joined the avalanche of sanity and vetoed Arizona’s so-called religious liberty bill, you may have found some protection in the law. The bill was a green light for bigotry. And indeed, the measure gave those with “sincerely held” religious beliefs the right to refuse service to perceived sinners.
But if you drill down on the logic that all but three of the state’s House Republican legislators tried to enshrine into law, you see a very un-American tenet at work — far beyond the implications for gays and lesbians. You can follow this strain of reasoning up to a pivotal case that will be heard later this month by the Supreme Court. . . .
Thursday, February 6, 2014
U.N. Committee Report Blasts Vatican for Policies on Sexual Abuse and Attitudes on Sexuality, Contraception, and Abortion
The Huffington Post/AP: UN Report Denounces Vatican For Sex Abuse And Stands On Contraception, Abortion And Homosexuality, by Nicole Winfield:
The Vatican "systematically" adopted policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, a U.N. human rights committee said Wednesday, urging the Holy See to open its files on pedophiles and bishops who concealed their crimes.
In a devastating report hailed by abuse victims, the U.N. committee severely criticized the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion and said it should change its own canon law to ensure children's rights and their access to health care are guaranteed. . . .
Saturday, December 7, 2013
SFGate: Supreme Court birth control ruling could ripple widely, by Bob Egelko:
If a corporate employer can refuse on religious grounds to provide workplace insurance for contraception, what about employers with religious objections to blood transfusions or vaccinations? Or those who believe in healing by prayer?
Those questions lurk below the surface of the challenge the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review to regulations in the new federal health care law requiring employers to make contraceptive coverage available to their employees. That mandate, two groups of corporate owners argue, violates their freedom of religion. . . .
Sunday, November 10, 2013
The New York Times: Conservative U.S. Catholics Feel Left Out of the Pope’s Embrace, Laurie Goodstein:
. . . In the eight months since he became pope, Francis has won affection worldwide for his humble mien and common touch. His approval numbers are skyrocketing. Even atheists are applauding.
But not everyone is so enchanted. Some Catholics in the church’s conservative wing in the United States say Francis has left them feeling abandoned and deeply unsettled. On the Internet and in conversations among themselves, they despair that after 35 years in which the previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, drew clear boundaries between right and wrong, Francis is muddying Catholic doctrine to appeal to the broadest possible audience. . . .
Sunday, January 27, 2013
The New York Times: In Fight Over Life, A New Call by Catholics, by Laurie Goodstein:
The March for Life in Washington on Friday renewed the annual impassioned call to end legalized abortion, 40 years after the Roe v. Wade decision. But this year, some Roman Catholic leaders and theologians are asking why so many of those who call themselves “pro-life” have been silent, or even opposed, when it comes to controlling the guns that have been used to kill and injure millions of Americans. . . .
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
NY Archbishop Promotes Sainthood for Social Activist Who Received Abortion, But Later Adopted Church's Position
The New York Times: In Hero of the Catholic Left, a Conservative Cardinal Sees a Saint, by Sharon Otterman:
Dorothy Day is a hero of the Catholic left, a fiery 20th-century social activist who protested war, supported labor strikes and lived voluntarily in poverty as she cared for the needy.
But Day has found a seemingly unlikely champion in New York’s conservative archbishop, CardinalTimothy M. Dolan, who has breathed new life into an effort to declare the Brooklyn native a saint. . . .
Monday, November 12, 2012
The New York Times: Christian Right Failed to Sway Voters on Issues, by Laurie Goodstein:
Christian conservatives, for more than two decades a pivotal force in American politics, are grappling with Election Day results that repudiated their influence and suggested that the cultural tide — especially on gay issues — has shifted against them.
They are reeling not only from the loss of the presidency, but from what many of them see as a rejection of their agenda. They lost fights againstsame-sex marriage in all four states where it was on the ballot, and saw anti-abortion-rights Senate candidates defeated and two states vote to legalize marijuana for recreational use. . . .
Friday, August 24, 2012
NBC News: Court rules controversial stem cell research is legal, by Maggie Fox:
The three-judge panel says the government has correctly interpreted a law that bans the use of federal funds to destroy human embryos for research. The ruling is unlikely to put the issue to rest and one of the judges pleaded for Congress to make clear what the government should and should not be able to do. . . .
See also this story by the Associated Press.