Reproductive Rights Prof Blog

Editor: Caitlin E. Borgmann
CUNY School of Law

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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. . . .

July 31, 2014 in Abortion, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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)

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)

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. 

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)

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

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)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Commentary on Hobby Lobby

Balkinization: Religious Accommodations Cost More than Money, by Kara Loewentheil: 

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments in the consolidated cases ofHobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. With the publication of the full argument transcript online, it became clear that even the experienced lawyers arguing these cases – along with the Supreme Court Justices themselves – were struggling to understand how to think about the relationship between religious accommodations and third party rights. In this context, that means the impacts that accommodations granted to religious employers would have on their female employees who would otherwise have access to contraception without cost-sharing under the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement (and indirectly on their partners and children). 
 
This came as no surprise to me. In When Free Exercise Is A Burden: Protecting “Third Parties” In Religious Accommodation Law, a paper I authored that is shortly forthcoming in the Drake Law Review, I argue that neither scholars nor courts have thus far provided a satisfying account of how to balance free exercise rights against the impact of those rights on “third parties.” . . .
 
In my paper I argue that the contraceptive coverage requirement has an enormously important expressive element – it signifies a social and political commitment to women’s social and economic equality, and symbolizes an acceptance of social and shared responsibility for gender equality. . . .
 
 
Hobby Lobby is shaping up to be the most important free exercise of religion case the Supreme Court has heard in a very long time.    It’s also emerging as a key test for Justice Anthony Kennedy and his vision of individual liberty.  Will Justice Kennedy recognize that Hobby Lobby’s employees, who seek to protect their health and control their reproductive lives, are entitled to enjoy federal guarantees that safeguard women’s liberty and personal dignity by ensuring access to the full range of contraceptives? . . .

March 28, 2014 in Contraception, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

National Survey Shows Women Object to Religious Exemptions

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.
These findings—underscoring strong objections to religious exemptions for corporations—are consistent with other public polls on the topic that show that more than half of all voters oppose allowing employers to opt out of covering prescription birth control in their health plans as required under the Affordable Care Act. . . .

March 27, 2014 in Contraception, Public Opinion, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 3, 2014

More Opinion on Hobby Lobby and the Vetoed Arizona Bill

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. . . .

March 3, 2014 in Contraception, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

U.N. Committee Report Blasts Vatican for Policies on Sexual Abuse and Attitudes on Sexuality, Contraception, and Abortion

VaticanThe 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. . . .

February 6, 2014 in Abortion, Contraception, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Sexual Assault, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Potentially Broad Implications of a Supreme Court Ruling on the Contraception Mandate

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. . . .

December 7, 2013 in Contraception, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pope's Popularity Does Not Extend to Conservative U.S. Catholics

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. . . .

November 10, 2013 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Some Catholic Leaders Challenge Anti-Choice Advocates' Silence on Gun Deaths

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. . . .

January 27, 2013 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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. . . .

November 27, 2012 in Abortion, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Christian Conservatives See Need to Regroup Following Election

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. . . .

November 12, 2012 in 2012 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Congress, Politics, Religion, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 24, 2012

D.C. Circuit Upholds Federal Funding of Stem Cell Research

NBC News: Court rules controversial stem cell research is legal, by Maggie Fox:

Stem cellThe federal government may continue to pay for controversial human embryonic stem cell research, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

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.

August 24, 2012 in Congress, In the Courts, Religion, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Commentary on Why Many Religions Are Anti-Feminist

The Huffington Post (Blog): Why Religion Opposes Female Rights, by Nigel Barber:

Recently, the Catholic hierarchy moved to bring the Leadership Conference of Women Religious into line with orthodox Church teachings . This organization of American nuns had been in conflict with the Vatican over issues related to women's rights, including reproductive rights. The spectacle of an all-male task force being brought in to tell women what they must think may seem badly dated. Yet, male priests still tell most of the world's women what to think and their message is often anti-feminist. . . .

August 12, 2012 in Culture, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Congressman and Boxing Icon Pacquiao Opposes Philippines Reproductive Health Bill

The Wall Street Journal – blog: Manny Pacquiao Hits Out Against Contraception, by Shibani Mahtani:

 

When Philippine President Benigno Aquino pushed forward a controversial health bill yesterday that seeks to subsidize contraception in the predominantly Catholic country, he set himself up for possible criticism from more than just the country’s powerful Catholic church. Another likely foe: Boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.

 

The famous athlete, who is also a congressman representing the Philippines district of Sarangani, has come out swinging against the idea of using state funds to make contraception more widely available in the country, which has one of the highest birth rates in Asia. . . .

August 7, 2012 in Contraception, International, Poverty, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Sexuality Education | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

UN Urges Passage of Philippines Birth Control Bill, Opposed by Catholic Church

Philippines flagABC News: UN warns on Philippines birth law:

The United Nations is warning that failing to pass a controversial birth control law in the Philippines could reverse gains in development goals.

There has been considerable opposition from the Catholic church to the bill, which seeks to make it compulsory for the government to provide free contraceptives.

The UN Population Fund is hoping President Benigno Aquino's allies, who dominate the House of Representatives, can gather the numbers to pass the bill on Tuesday after years of debate. . . .

August 5, 2012 in Contraception, International, Poverty, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

German Court Bans Religious Circumcisions of Boys Too Young To Consent

The Chicago Tribune/Reuters: German court bans circumcision of young boys:

Jewish and Muslim groups protested on Wednesday after a German court banned the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons in the first ruling of its kind in the country.

The court in the western city of Cologne handed down the decision on Tuesday in the case of a doctor prosecuted for circumcising a four-year-old Muslim boy who had to be treated two days later for post-operative bleeding. . . .

June 27, 2012 in In the Courts, International, Men and Reproduction, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)