Monday, May 20, 2024

Tobin-Tyler on "Abortion Rights and the Child Welfare System: How Dobbs Exacerbates Existing Racial Inequities and Further Traumatizes Black Families"

Elizabeth Tobin-Tyler has published Abortion Rights and the Child Welfare System: How Dobbs Exacerbates Existing Racial Inequities and Further Traumatizes Black Families in volume 51 of the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. Here is an excerpt on how to advocate for Black families post-Dobbs:

Abortion rights organizations are now working to support women living in states with bans or restrictions to obtain abortions in states where abortion is still legal and to access self-managed medication abortion. But many women will be unable to obtain an abortion when they want or need one. Given this fact, an advocacy agenda must be built around supporting mothers and children, defending them from unjust CPS intervention, and promoting access to reproductive healthcare. This agenda should be grounded in reproductive justice which accounts for and calls out racism and other forms of oppression that trample human rights and affirms that women not only have the right to decide if and when to have children, but also “to parent the children they have in safe and sustainable communities.” This includes freedom from state removal of their children due to structural racism and poverty.

Now that anti-abortion policymakers have achieved their wish, they must be held accountable for the effects of abortion bans on women, children and communities. Reproductive justice requires an intersectional approach to the myriad ways in which policy choices affect marginalized people. The voices of affected women who can speak to the reality of what abortion bans mean--including the impact of forced birth, parenting an unwanted child in poverty, experiencing CPS involvement and child removal--should be prioritized and promoted by advocates. Building coalitions with those seeking economic justice and child welfare system reform will broaden the constituency base and call attention to the ramifications of failing to enact policies that invest in families. Academic researchers and policy analysts should support community-based advocates by tracking the evidence linking abortion bans to increases in poverty and CPS caseloads.

* * * Ultimately, reform will only be possible through acknowledgement of the structural racism inherent in multiple systems, most profoundly, the child welfare system. * * * Post-Dobbs, the call to action to replace the current child welfare system with one framed by reproductive justice--which encompasses racial justice, gender justice, economic justice, and human rights--is more important than ever.



May 20, 2024 in Abortion, Family, Healthcare, Poverty, Pregnancy, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Symposium Advancing Pregnant Persons' Right to Life

Boston University School of Law, Advancing Pregnant Persons' Right to Life

On February 8, 2024, scholars of law, medicine, and religion from across the world came together at Boston University School of Law to discuss the potential of promoting and protecting reproductive justice through advancing pregnant persons’ right to life. Stemming from that event are six articles and an annotated bibliography from leading legal scholars. This historic and important symposium is captured in its entirety in the video below.

The Free Exercise Right to Life
David A. CarrilloAllison G. Macbeth, & Daniel Bogard
104 B.U. Law Review Online 19 (2024)

Religion Clause Challenges to Early Abortion Bans 
Caroline Mala Corbin
104 B.U. Law Review Online 37 (2024)

Medical Authority and the Right to Life
Jessie Hill
104 B.U. Law Review Online 67 (2024)

The Right to Life as a Source of Abortion Rights: Lessons from Kansas
Richard E. Levy
104 B.U. Law Review Online 87 (2024)

Turning Away from Criminal Abortion Laws and Towards Support for Pregnant People and Families
Cynthia Soohoo
104 B.U. Law Review Online 109 (2024)

Reproductive Justice and the Thirteenth Amendment
Rebecca E. Zietlow
104 B.U. Law Review Online 143 (2024)

Annotated Bibliography: “Persons Born” and the Jurisprudence of “Life
Martha F. Davis
104 B.U. Law Review Online 161 (2024)

May 14, 2024 in Abortion, Conferences, Constitutional, Pregnancy, Religion, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 29, 2024

HHS Publishes Reproductive Health Care Privacy Rules

The Biden Administration issued final rules governing reproductive health care privacy. The key points were summarized in a Press Release from the Department of Health and Human Services. The Final Rule: 

  • Prohibits the use or disclosure of [protected health information] PHI when it is sought to investigate or impose liability on individuals, health care providers, or others who seek, obtain, provide, or facilitate reproductive health care that is lawful under the circumstances in which such health care is provided, or to identify persons for such activities.
  • Requires a regulated health care provider, health plan, clearinghouse, or their business associates, to obtain a signed attestation that certain requests for PHI potentially related to reproductive health care are not for these prohibited purposes.
  • Requires regulated health care providers, health plans, and clearinghouses to modify their Notice of Privacy Practices to support reproductive health care privacy.

The Final Rule is published here

April 29, 2024 in Abortion, Healthcare, Pregnancy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Final Rule Published Implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The EEOC published its Final Rule implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The Final Rule and its interpretive guidance are available here. The EEOC's announcement highlighted the following key points of the Final Rule: 

  • Numerous examples of reasonable accommodations such as additional breaks to drink water, eat, or use the restroom; a stool to sit on while working; time off for health care appointments; temporary reassignment; temporary suspension of certain job duties; telework; or time off to recover from childbirth or a miscarriage, among others.
  • Guidance regarding limitations and medical conditions for which employees or applicants may seek reasonable accommodation, including miscarriage or still birth; migraines; lactation; and pregnancy-related conditions that are episodic, such as morning sickness. This guidance is based on Congress’s PWFA statutory language, the EEOC’s longstanding definition of “pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions” from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and court decisions interpreting the term “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions from Title VII.
  • Guidance encouraging early and frequent communication between employers and workers to raise and resolve requests for reasonable accommodation in a timely manner.
  • Clarification that an employer is not required to seek supporting documentation when an employee asks for a reasonable accommodation and should only do so when it is reasonable under the circumstances.
  • Explanation of when an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on an employer and its business.
  • Information on how employers may assert defenses or exemptions, including those based on religion, as early as possible in charge processing.

The EEOC also provides the following guidance: What You Should Know about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.


April 29, 2024 in Abortion, Equal Employment, Family, Healthcare, Pregnancy, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 1, 2024

New Report on Harms of Michigan's Forced Parental Consent Law for Abortion

A new report is available on the harms of Michigan's forced parental consent law. The report was authored by the ACLU of Michigan, Human Rights Watch, and the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health after in-depth interviews, data analysis, and a survey of secondary sources. The full report is available here

Its findings are excerpted here: 

Young people who can, do involve a parent in an abortion decision and care. While most young people do talk to a parent when facing a pregnancy, every situation is different, and not every young person can.

Young people who do not involve their parents have compelling reasons, rooted in their safety and well-being. They often fear abuse, alienation, or being forced to continue a pregnancy against their will.

Some young people are belittled, humiliated, or punished by their parents. Some parents even ask doctors to withhold pain medication for young people’s procedural abortions, against medical advice.

Judicial bypass is burdensome and difficult to navigate. For young people without resources or access to information, it can be impossible.

Judicial bypass is invasive, distressing, traumatizing, and often arbitrary. It feels punitive to young people, and may be especially harmful to young people of color.

Forced parental consent delays abortion care. Judicial bypass often delays care by a week or more, limiting patients’ already constrained and time-sensitive healthcare options and pushing them into more expensive and invasive procedures. In some cases, the delays caused by navigating forced parental consent and judicial bypass leave young people ineligible for medication abortion, a noninvasive and more common method of care, available only up to 11 weeks of pregnancy.

Young people are capable of making healthcare decisions. Michigan law allows young people to consent to all other forms of pregnancy-related health care — including those with significantly higher health risks than abortion — such as a C-section.

The Report recommends that "[a]ll young people should be safe and healthy. Michigan should invest in solutions that promote healthy families and strong healthcare networks and keep private family conversations free from intrusive laws and policies." It asks the Michigan legislature to "[r]epeal the Parental Rights Restoration Act 211 of 1990 as a matter of urgency and ensure that young people under 18 can access abortion care without being forced to involve a parent or legal guardian, or a judge, in their decision-making."

April 1, 2024 in Abortion, Courts, Healthcare, Legislation, Pregnancy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Symposium, Securing Reproductive Justice After Dobbs, in Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics

Aziza Ahmed, Nicole Huberfeld & Linda McClain, Introduction: Securing Reproductive Justice After Dobbs, 51 Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 463 (Fall 2023)

By overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and throwing the question of how to regulate abortion to the “people and their elected representatives,” Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization radically reset the legal, ethical, medical, public health, and political landscape. This introduction to a special multidisciplinary symposium, “Seeking Reproductive Justice in the Next 50 Years,” in the Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics, sets the stage for the twenty-five symposium articles that map and document the post-Dobbs landscape. Dobbs has already had dire and far-reaching effects on the legal regulation of pregnancy and reproduction. In this new landscape, questions arise about how to secure reproductive justice and about what strategies and approaches hold promise. This essay introduces the several organizing parts of the symposium, Beginnings, Social and Legal Dimensions of the Post-Dobbs Health Care Environment, Legal Regulation of Pregnancy and Reproduction, and New Strategies and Approaches. We explain how each article contributes a critical aspect of the bigger picture, demonstrating the need for working across disciplines.

I was glad to be a part of this symposium. See Tracy Thomas, Protecting Abortion with State Health Care Freedom of Choice, 51 J. Law, Medicine & Ethics 601 (2023).

March 28, 2024 in Abortion, Constitutional, Healthcare, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Judge Enjoins Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Finding it Violates Constitution's Quorum Clause

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Blocked in Texas as Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Texas this week dealt a blow to a landmark piece of legislation protecting pregnant workers, ruling that there was no quorum in the U.S. House when the law passed, making it unenforceable.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, was part of a $1.7 trillion spending package that Congress passed in late 2022. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), first introduced the bill in 2012, and worked for more than a decade to get it passed.

“Texas: Won’t let you have an abortion but also won’t do anything to help you have a safe and healthy pregnancy,” Casey said in a statement to the Capital-Star on Wednesday. “This is Republican governance at its finest and downright insulting to women in Texas and beyond who want and need to continue working safely through pregnancy.”

Last February, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration arguing that since members of Congress were allowed to vote by proxy for the spending package, there were not enough members physically present to form the quorum required in the Constitution. 

Then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi regularly allowed House members to vote by proxy during the COVID-19 pandemic.


US Judge in Texas Rules Congressional Passage of 2022 Spending Bill Unconstitutional, Reuters

A federal judge in Texas on Tuesday ruled that a $1.7 trillion government funding bill was unconstitutionally passed in 2022 through a pandemic-era rule that allowed lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives to vote by proxy rather than in person.
U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix in Lubbock reached that conclusion as he granted Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's request to block a provision of that bill that gave pregnant workers stronger legal protections.
The judge, an appointee of Republican former President Donald Trump, called the scope of his ruling "limited," and said it did not block all of the spending law. Texas had only sought to block two provisions ultimately.
Hendrix blocked one provision, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, from being enforced against the state after finding the bill was wrongly passed. That law requires employers to provide pregnant workers with reasonable accommodations.

February 29, 2024 in Constitutional, Family, Legislation, Pregnancy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 26, 2024

Ziegler, Cahn, and Suter on "The Massive Legal Fallout from Alabama's IVF Ruling"

Mary Ziegler, Naomi Cahn, and Sonia Suter have published a commentary with MSNBC titled The Massive Legal Fallout from Alabama's IVF Ruling is Just the Beginning. The full published opinion from the Alabama Supreme Court can be accessed here. The Court held that "[t]he central question . . . is whether the Act contains an unwritten exception to that rule for extrauterine children -- that is, unborn children who are located outside of a biological uterus at the time they are killed. Under existing black-letter law, the answer to that question is no: the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location."

Ziegler, Cahn, and Suter preview the problematic breadth of this holding. Here is an excerpt: 

Increasingly, since the Dobbs ruling, states like Alabama put a high price tag on pursuing justice for reproductive harms. While the unintentional destruction of embryos that occurred in this case was well-suited to some sort of legal remedy, it seems perverse to choose between a punitive vision of fetal rights and restitution for those grieving the loss of potential parenthood. There are remedies that don’t go all the way to personhood. Even in the Alabama case, the plaintiffs had other claims unrelated to personhood. Others have claimed breach of contract, malpractice, and even loss of the right to become a parent. 


Instead, the state court turned a case about three couples’ grief into an opportunity to proclaim the close relationship between Christianity and state constitutional law — and to advance an idea of personhood that so-called abolitionists in the anti-abortion movement argue requires the punishment of women themselves. Strikingly absent from the court’s decision, however, is a meaningful discussion of what the decision means for those who seek to become parents – or for those who don’t. 

February 26, 2024 in Abortion, Courts, Family, Healthcare, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Legal Experts Examine Controversial Forensic Test That Has Helped Convict Women of Murder for Stillbirth

Legal Experts to Examine a Controversial Forensic Test That Has Helped Convicted Women of Murder

Legal experts from two universities will convene a group to study a dubious forensic test that has helped send some women to prison for murder though the women insisted they had stillbirths.

Last month, ProPublica reported on what’s known as the lung float test, which some medical examiners use to help determine whether a child was stillborn or was born alive and took a breath.

In response to the investigation, Aziza Ahmed, a professor at Boston University School of Law, and Daniel Medwed, professor of law and criminal justice at Northeastern University, announced they will lead the Floating Lung Test Research Study Group. The group, which will consist of lawyers and medical professionals, will be sponsored by the Boston University Program on Reproductive Justice and the Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration at Northeastern University School of Law.

December 12, 2023 in Courts, Healthcare, Pregnancy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 20, 2023

A People's Tribunal to End Obstetric Violence and Obstetric Racism

Continuing the success of the Birth Justice Tribunal held in October, the next Birth Justice Tribunal will be held on December 1 in Memphis. Interested parties can participate by zoom by registering here. This event brings together speakers to describe their experiences of mistreatment in pregnancy and childbirth. The presence of others lends further impact and solidarity. Learn more about birth justice work at Elephant Circle's helpful resource page. The Birth Rights Bar Association is another helpful resource

November 20, 2023 in Healthcare, Pregnancy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 6, 2023

Infant Mortality Rate Rises by 3%

The National Center for Health Statistics released data on infant mortality for 2022. The infant mortality rate in the United States rose from 2021 to 2022. Roni Caryn Rabin of the New York Times reports on these findings (November 1, 2023): 

The infant mortality rate — defined as the number of babies who die before they are a year old for every 1,000 live births — [] increased by a statistically significant 3 percent last year, to 5.6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, up from 5.44 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2021 . . .

The mortality rate of babies who were between 4 weeks and a year old increased by 4 percent, while neonatal mortality rates — that of babies less than a month old — increased by 3 percent.

Rates increased significantly among both premature babies born before 37 weeks of gestation and those born extremely early, at less than 34 weeks of gestation.

Overall, the statistically significant increases in mortality rates were seen only among male infants, whose survival rates have always been slightly lower than those among females.

Black infants have the highest mortality rate in the United States, rising slightly last year to 10.86 deaths per 1,000 live births, from 10.55 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2021, an increase that was not statistically significant.

By contrast, the infant mortality rates of both white and Native American and Alaska Native babies increased by statistically significant amounts last year.

November 6, 2023 in Family, Healthcare, Pregnancy, Race, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Clarifying What Is and Isn't Part of the Proposed Ohio Constitutional Amendment for Reproductive Freedom on the Ballot Next Week

In this interview with NBC News, I try to clarify what is--and isn't--part of the proposed Ohio Constitutional Amendment for Reproductive Freedom on the ballot next week.

Adam Edelman, NBC News Ohio GOP Candidate and Issue 1

 [As to claims the amendment is about parents' rights"]

 For one, they say, there is nothing in the text or in the intent of the proposed amendment that could affect the legal rights of minors or parents in Ohio. That’s because federal and state courts, going back decades, have upheld an existing Ohio law requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortion care.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision even upheld that law, which requires any unemancipated minor to receive consent from one parent or guardian or custodian, unless a judge has ruled that an abortion is “in the best interests of the minor.”

Tracy Thomas, director of the Center for Constitutional Law at the University of Akron Law School in Ohio, said there was "no conflict" between Issue 1 and existing minors' rights — "even when the amendment language is read broadly."

"We have 50 years of case law about minors' rights and parents’ rights," Thomas said.

Those rulings, she said, have determined that “even though individuals, including minors” have constitutional reproductive rights, “they can be more regulated than adults because minors are more vulnerable, more immature.” 

“There’s no reason that would change,” she said.

In a legal analysis of the measure published last month, even Dave Yost, a Republican and the state’s attorney general, acknowledged that the measure “does not specifically address parental consent.”

Thomas explained that the claim that a woman's rapist could somehow manipulate that law to force his victim to have an abortion is also false.

"They are saying that a rapist would be an accomplice who would be immune" — under a provision in the amendment language that protects a person who "assists" someone with receiving an abortion — "and that’s just not textually accurate."

“The amendment is not doing that in any way, shape or form," Thomas said.

That's because the amendment language also makes clear that an individual's right to reproductive care is protected only if it's "voluntary."

"Someone who is assisting in an abortion that’s not voluntary is not going to be protected by this at all," Thomas explained.***

“A parent who wants to support a minor’s decision to have an abortion cannot do so,” under the law, Thomas explained. “So, defeating it actually cuts into parents’ rights.***

But there is no mention of transgender rights or parental rights in the amendment. Legal experts say it would be wrong to interpret the language to apply to most topics not specifically mentioned in the measure’s language — even when the “not limited to” phrase is considered.

“Opponents have latched on to the ‘but not limited to’ language to say that this could provide a constitutional right to, among other things, gender-affirming care rights. That’s not a legally persuasive argument,” Jonathan Entin, a constitutional law expert and professor emeritus at the Case Western Reserve School of Law in Cleveland, told NBC News earlier this year.

That’s because courts have for decades developed rules about interpreting legal documents that include lists — including ones that have “but not limited to” language — dictating that such language covers things considered only “plausibly related” to the specific items mentioned.

See also Change in Ohio Ballot Language May Have a Big Effect on Support for Issue 1 Reproductive Freedom Constitutional Amendment

Tracy Thomas, Language post

Dan Kobil, Op ed, What Ohio's Proposed Abortion Amendment Really Does

The proposed Ohio amendment reinstates the freedoms that women -- and men -- had before Dobbs. It guarantees “individuals” the right to make their own reproductive decisions, and lists contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one’s own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion, before viability. Viability means that the fetus has a “significant likelihood” of surviving outside the womb. The amendment will not automatically invalidate any existing Ohio laws apart from the current six-week ban.

Rather than engage the merits of the proposal, opponents have attempted to distract voters about what the amendment actually does. They contend that the amendment is aimed at depriving parents of their ability to help children decide whether to seek an abortion or “sex changes.”

This contention is highly misleading. Ohio’s current law already limits the ability of parents to choose reproductive options for their child, such as ending a pregnancy resulting from a rape. Moreover, the amendment does not include gender reassignment in its examples of protected “reproductive decisions.” The contention that “sex changes” will suddenly have constitutional status is thus a significant stretch.

And contrary to what is claimed by opponents, the amendment will not repeal Ohio’s existing law requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions. This statute provides that an unemancipated minor must obtain the consent of one parent to obtain an abortion, unless a minor has obtained a court order that an abortion is in her best interests.

The amendment says nothing about this law, and it is unlikely that courts would invalidate parental consent if the amendment passes. In 1990, when Roe was in effect, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s parental consent rule. The amendment aims to reinstate the rights that Roe guaranteed                           

November 2, 2023 in Abortion, Constitutional, Legislation, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 30, 2023

Malinda L. Seymore on "Social Costs of Dobbs' Pro-Adoption Agenda"

Malinda L. Seymore has posted Social Costs of Dobbs' Pro-Adoption Agenda on SSRN. This article is forthcoming in volume 57 of the U.C. Davis Law Review in 2023. Here is an excerpt from the abstract. 

Abortion opponents have long claimed that women denied access to abortion can simply give their children up for adoption. * * * Of course, this claim assumes away the burdens of the pregnancy itself, which can result in economic strife, domestic violence, health risks, and potentially death in childbirth. But even on its own terms, the argument that adoption is an adequate substitute for abortion access makes normative assumptions about adoption as a social good in and of itself, ignoring the social costs of adoption for birth parents and adoptees. Idealizing adoption then influences decisions about what constitutes a valid adoption, with courts minimizing the requirements for voluntary consent. In a new post-Roe landscape that narrows choices for those facing an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, what reforms are necessary to ensure that birth parents are not coerced into adoptions they do not want?

First, this Article looks to patterns of adoption placement before and after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, and relies on newly available empirical data since Dobbs, to paint a picture of the adoption landscape in a post-Roe world. It concludes that the Dobbs ruling will not appreciably increase the “domestic supply of infants” for adoption . . . . Second, drawing upon insights from psychosocial literature the Article explains how pregnant persons make the decision about adoption, who relinquishes for adoption, and the salience of abortion to that decision; thus informing our understanding of laws and practices of consent in adoption. Third, the Article outlines many of the potentially coercive tactics that have been employed by adoption professionals to persuade birth parents to relinquish their constitutionally-protected parental rights, including high-tech targeting ofpotential birth parents, the use of crisis pregnancy centers to steer pregnant persons to adoption, manipulating the emotional stress of pregnancy to procure consent, and taking advantage of the duress of circumstances of poverty. Fourth, the Article proposes reforms to adoption that give enhanced meaning to the requirement of consent: increased regulation of adoption agencies, independent options counseling, recognition of duress of circumstances as vitiating consent, greater procedural protection to include appointment of counsel, and judicial education about the realities of adoption.

October 30, 2023 in Family, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Gender, Health and the Constitution Conference at the Center for Con Law at Akron



Con Law Conference Focuses on Gender, Health & the Constitution

The Center for Constitutional Law at The University of Akron School of Law held its annual conference on Oct. 13. This year’s theme was Gender, Health and the Constitution. The Center is one of four national resource centers established by Congress, along with Drake University, Howard University and the University of South Carolina, to support research and public education on issues of constitutional law. It includes five faculty fellows, student fellowships, a J.D. certificate program and an online journal, ConLawNOW.

“Speakers at this year’s conference all agreed on the need for attention to these issues of gender discrimination in the health care context,” said Akron Law Professor and Con Law Center Director Tracy Thomas. “The 20 featured panelists included national scholars and local practitioners in both law and medicine who provided a broad range of expertise from theoretical to practical implications.”

Those attending the conference included judges, attorneys, academics, students and members of the community interested in learning more about these emerging issues. Akron Law faculty Bernadette Bollas GenetinMike GentithesDr. George Horvath and Brant Lee moderated the panels.

The first topic was reproductive rights and the profound legal and medical changes since the U.S. Supreme Court’s invalidation of the long-recognized fundamental right to reproductive choice. Maya Manian, director of the Health Law and Policy Program at American University, recommended a new theoretical approach grounded in health justice. Dr. Allison Kreiner, medical analyst with Plakas Mannos, revealed the stark detriment of the invalidation to patients in practice. Legal scholars Naomi Cahn from the University of Virginia, Tiffany Graham from Touro Law and Sonja Sutter from George Washington University discussed applications in the contexts of minors’ rights and assisted reproduction.

 The second panel turned to the topic of gender identity. Panelists spoke about recent bans on gender-affirming care, the history and meaning of gender identity, and new laws prohibiting transgender girls from participating in sports. Noted national legal scholars speaking on gender identity included Deborah Brake from the University of Pittsburgh, Noa Ben-Asher from St. John’s University, Jennifer Bard from the University of Cincinnati, Susan Keller from Western State University and Dara Purvis from Penn State University.

 The next panel discussion focused on bias in medical science and the ways in which medical science excludes women in research, resulting in significant negative physical effects. Panelists diagnosed existing problems and suggested preventive measures. These legal experts on medical science included former Akron Law Professor Jane Moriarty, now at Duquesne University; Jennifer Oliva from Indiana University; and Aziza Ahmed from Boston University. Dr. Rachel Bracken from Northeast Ohio Medical University also presented.

The final panel of the day focused on the broader meanings and implications of medical autonomy. Professor Thomas discussed Ohio’s unique health care freedom constitutional amendment and how it might apply to reproductive freedom. Abby Moncrieff, co-director of the Health Law Center at Cleveland State University, considered the theoretical neutrality bases of medical autonomy and how they applied to several of the emerging legal issues discussed at the conference, including gender-affirming care and reproductive rights. Attorneys Marie Curry from Legal Aid and Megan Franz Oldham ’05, partner at Plakas Mannos, discussed how these issues from daily medical practice. Oldham addressed how medical malpractice claims arise when physicians discount women patient’s reported symptoms. Curry shared information about racial impacts and discrimination in pregnancy care, and alternative patient-centered approaches to redress these concerns.

 Many papers presented at the conference will be published in the Spring symposium of ConLawNOW.

October 25, 2023 in Abortion, Conferences, Constitutional, Family, Gender, Healthcare, Law schools, LGBT, Pregnancy, Race, Reproductive Rights, Science, SCOTUS, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 23, 2023

Alabama Woman Files Civil Suit After Being Forced to Give Birth in a Jail Shower

An Alabama woman has sued county officials after she gave birth in a jail shower while detained. The complaint alleges the following: 

For almost the entirety of Ms. Caswell’s high-risk pregnancy, which she spent behind bars, ECDC staff continuously exhibited callous indifference toward Ms. Caswell’s pregnancy-related medical needs. Jail staff ignored her requests for regular prenatal care, refused to provide her with access to her critical mental-health prescription medications, and even denied her basic accommodations, forcing her to sleep on a thin mat on a concrete floor. This ongoing mistreatment culminated on October 16, 2021, the day of her delivery. Although Ms. Caswell was obviously in painful labor, ECDC staff refused to transport her to the hospital. Instead, ECDC staff forced Ms. Caswell to endure nearly 12 hours of unmedicated labor alone in a jail cell and ignored her cries of pain and repeated pleas for assistance. Ms. Caswell ultimately had no choice but to deliver her baby unassisted—not in a hospital or even ECDC’s medical unit—but in a jail shower room. Ms. Caswell suffered excruciating pain and a placental abruption that almost led to her death. After Ms. Caswell delivered, ECDC staff looked on as she lay on the floor bleeding. Instead of attending to Ms. Caswell, ECDC staff took pictures with her newborn baby while the umbilical cord was still connected to Ms. Caswell.  

The complaint further suggets that these issues are more systemic in Etowah County: 

Etowah County subjects more pregnant and postpartum women per capita to criminal prosecution and pretrial incarceration for pregnancy-related charges than any other large county in Alabama or throughout the United States. Between 2015 and 2023, Etowah County arrested at least 257 pregnant women and new mothers. Accordingly, it was foreseeable and plainly obvious that Defendants would need to attend to the medical needs of pregnant and postpartum women, yet Defendants developed a persistent policy, custom, and practice of doing precisely the opposite.

Indeed, Ms. Caswell’s experience, shocking as it is, is not an isolated event. There is a persistent and widespread history, custom, and practice at ECDC of denying, delaying, or providing plainly inadequate medical care to detained individuals who are pregnant or postpartum in the face of serious and obvious medical needs. In recent years, Defendants’ conduct has resulted in many other pregnant women at ECDC receiving grossly inadequate pre- and postpartum care, or, in many instances, no care at all. Ms. Caswell herself experienced callous indifference to her medical needs at ECDC during an earlier pregnancy in 2019. ECDC staff has denied medical care to numerous other women with serious and obvious medical needs similar to Ms. Caswell’s while they were pregnant or postpartum, including denial of adequate prenatal care, refusal to provide prescribed medications, refusal to provide access to external medical providers even in the face of emergency medical issues such as ongoing labor and delivery, refusal to provide beds and other basic living necessities for pregnant and postpartum women, and denial of proper postpartum care, including provision of a breast pump. This pattern of deficient care has resulted in grievous harm, including at least one stillbirth. 

The complaint alleges that defendants violated plaintiff's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. It also alleges negligence, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress claims.  

You can read the full complaint here

October 23, 2023 in Healthcare, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 20, 2023

California Passes New Reproductive Loss Leave Law

California Establishes New Leave for Reproductive Loss

On Oct. 11, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law allowing for up to five days of time off work for reproductive-related losses.

Senate Bill 848 makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to grant an eligible employee's request to take up to five days of unpaid leave following a reproductive loss event.

Previously, California law required employers to provide bereavement leave upon the death of an employee's family member. Reproductive-related losses, however, largely remained unaddressed. Such losses are a common occurrence with more than 1 in 4 pregnancies resulting in miscarriage, and they may result in post-traumatic stress disorder (with almost 1 in 3 women developing pos-traumatic stress disorder after a miscarriage).

What Does this New Leave Require?

SB 848 acts as a subset of California's bereavement leave law and increases an employee's leave entitlements for a reproductive loss event, which is defined as "the day or, for a multiple-day event, the final day of a failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or an unsuccessful assisted reproduction." Covered employers must provide up to five days of leave for reproductive loss events.

The law limits the amount of reproductive loss leave to a maximum of 20 days within a 12-month period.  Thus, although an employee may be subject to multiple reproductive loss events in a 12-month period, an employer is not required to provide more than 20 days of reproductive loss leave.

Like many other California leave laws, SB 848 prohibits employers from retaliating against any employee for requesting or taking leave for a reproductive loss.

California employers with five or more employees are covered under the law

October 20, 2023 in Family, Legislation, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Understanding Ohio's Constitutional Amendment for Reproductive Rights

A state constitutional amendment for reproductive freedom is on the ballot in Ohio. The "Right to Reproductive Freedom and Protections for Health and Safety" Amendment essentially restores the legal standard of Roe v. Wade of recognizing a fundamental right of reproductive choice and subjecting regulations to strict scrutiny and the least restrictive means. It does eliminate the undue burden standard of Casey, restoring the regular direct and indirect burden standard for infringements of fundamental rights generally. The Ohio amendment expressly allows prohibition of abortion after fetal viability, with an exception for the life and health of the pregnant person, thus restoring the balanced result of Roe. This seems to be a reasonable approach to abortion regulation matching what polls suggest is the view shared by a majority of people.  Yet the political opposition has centered on parents' rights, gender-affirming care, sex trafficking, and the alleged "exclusive scrutiny" of the proposal. 

Here is the amendment language:

  1. Every individual has a right to make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one's own pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion.
  2. The State shall not, directly or indirectly, burden, penalize, prohibit, interfere with, or discriminate against either an individual's voluntary exercise of this right or a person or entity that assists an individual exercising this right, unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means to advance the individual's health in accordance with widely accepted and evidence-based standards of care.
  3. However, abortion may be prohibited after fetal viability. But in no case may such an abortion be prohibited if in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient's treating physician it is necessary to protect the pregnant patient's life or health.
  4. As used in this Section, "Fetal viability" means "the point in a pregnancy when, in the professional judgment of the pregnant patient's treating physician, the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus with reasonable measures. This is determined on a case-by-case basis"; and "State" includes any governmental entity and political subdivision.
  5. This Section is self-executing.

This is what voters will see on the ballot:

    The proposed amendment would:

  • Establish in the Constitution of the State of Ohio an individual right to one's own reproductive medical treatment, including but not limited to abortion;
  • Create legal protections for any person or entity that assists a person with receiving reproductive medical treatment, including but not limited to abortion;
  • Prohibit the State from directly or indirectly burdening, penalizing, or prohibiting abortion before an unborn child is determined to be viable, unless the State demonstrates that it is using the least restrictive means;
  • Grant a pregnant woman's treating physician the authority to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether an unborn child is viable;
  • Only allow the State to prohibit an abortion after an unborn child is determined by a pregnant woman's treating physician to be viable and only if the physician does not consider the abortion necessary to protect the pregnant woman's life or health; and
  • Always allow an unborn child to be aborted at any stage of pregnancy, regardless of viability if, in the treating physician's determination, the abortion is necessary to protect the pregnant woman's life or health.

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld this rewritten "summary" of the proposed amendment, with only minor changes. State ex rel Ohioans for Reproductive Rights v. Ohio Ballot Board, Ohio S.Ct. (Sept. 19, 2023)

The Ohio Attorney General took the unusual step of issuing a legal opinion said to explain rather than advocate for the amendment. Issue 1: A Legal Analysis by the Ohio Attorney General

One year ago, a trial court in Preterm Cleveland v. Yost, invalidated the state's six-week abortion ban on grounds that it violated the state constitutional rights of liberty, privacy, and health care freedom. Ohio is one of four states that has a unique health care freedom amendment protecting the right of choice in health care decisions. It was passed as a challenge to the federal health care insurance mandate to affirm the individual right to choice in health care decisions and health care insurance. The insurance provision is preempted by the federal health care statute. The Preterm Cleveland court granted a TRO and then preliminary injunction staying enforcement of the ban. The government appealed the injunction and oral arguments were held last week. But the appeal is limited to the questions of 1) whether the order is a final appealable order that the government can appeal at this preliminary stage, and 2) whether the providers have standing. The Ohio Supreme Court did not grant cert on the merits of the constitutional question.

For more on the Ohio Reproductive Freedom Amendment, see:

Susan Tebben, Long-fought Abortion Battle in OH Could End in Amendment of Six-Week Ban

Julie Carr Smyth & Christine Fernando, AP, An Ohio Ballot Measure Seeks to Protect Abortion Access. Opponents' Messaging is on Parental Rights.

Jo Ingles, Ohio Voters Will Decide a Constitutional Amendment on Abortion. Here's What You Need to Know.

Valerie Richardson, Wash Times, Parental Rights Take Center Stage in Ohio's Ballot Battle Over Abortion

Christine Fernando & Ali Swenson, AP, Ohio Votes on Abortion Rights this Fall. Misinformation is Spreading.

Susan Tebben, Ohio Issue 1 Attacks on Parental Rights Do Not Appear in Amendment, Ohio Capital J.

Eric Heisig, Ohio Case Pits State Against Doctors Suing to Treat Patients

October 17, 2023 in Abortion, Constitutional, Healthcare, Legislation, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 9, 2023

Webinar on "Rise of Pregnancy Criminalizations"

Pregnancy Justice is hosting a Webinar on October 25th at 3:30 ET. The Webinar focuses on the spike in pregnancy criminalization in the years before Dobbs. It highlights the research and findings in this report. The Webinar features these speakers:

  • Khiara M. Bridges, Law Professor at UC Berkeley
  • Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director at Drug Policy Alliance
  • Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, Incoming Board Chair at Physicians for Reproductive Health, and 
  • Purvaja S. Kavattur, Pregnancy Justice lead researcher 

You can register for the Webinar here



October 9, 2023 in Healthcare, Pregnancy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 25, 2023

Milan Markovic on "Charging Abortion"

Milan Markovic has posted Charging Abortion on SSRN. The article is forthcoming in the Fordham Law Review. The abstract is excerpted here. 

As long as Roe v. Wade remained good law, prosecutors could largely avoid the question of abortion. The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health has now placed prosecutors at the forefront of the abortion wars. Some chief prosecutors in anti-abortion states have pledged to not enforce anti-abortion laws whereas others are targeting even out-of-state providers. This post-Dobbs reality wherein the ability to obtain an abortion depends not only on the politics of one’s state but also the policies of one’s local district attorney has received minimal scrutiny from legal scholars.

Prosecutors have broad charging discretion, but prevailing ethical rules and standards do not allow them to disregard laws that they regard as unjust. Nevertheless, since prosecutors do not have unlimited resources, and abortion cases are complex and sensitive, they should use their discretion to focus only on cases where abortion care endangers women and in instances of coercion, as they did pre-Roe. Extraterritorial applications of anti-abortion law are constitutionally suspect and are unlikely to further the public interest.

Abortion is one of the most contentious issues in American life. In a morally pluralistic society, prosecutors must strive for neutrality in the abortion wars by relying on professional standards to guide their charging discretion rather than following public opinion and the dictates of individual conscience.

September 25, 2023 in Abortion, Courts, Pregnancy | Permalink | Comments (0)

California Attorney General Sues "Crisis Pregnancy Centers"

California has sued "crisis pregnancy centers" alleging violations of consumer protection laws. The complaint is available here. The core claims are excerpted here: 

Defendants have engaged in and continue to engage in, aided and abetted and continue to aid and abet, and conspired to and continue to conspire to engage in acts or practices that constitute violations of Business and Professions Code section 17500 et seq., by making or causing to be made untrue or misleading statements with the intent to induce members of the public to undergo [Abortion Pill Reversal] APR. Defendants’ untrue and misleading representations include, but are not limited to, the following:


a. that APR can “reverse” a medication abortion, as well as an “effective” process that “has been shown to increase the chances of allowing the pregnancy to continue,” and that APR has a 64-68% success rate, even though no credible scientific evidence supports these claims;


b. that APR may be effective after a 72-hour window following administration of mifepristone by encouraging pregnant people to contact them “even if more than 72 hours have passed,” even though no credible scientific evidence supports this claim;


c. that the rate of birth defects following APR “is less or equal to the rate in the general population,” even though no credible scientific evidence supports these claims;


d. that “thousands of lives” have been saved via APR, even though no credible evidence supports this claim;


e. that APR may be effective following administration of misoprostol and methotrexate, even though no credible scientific evidence supports this claim; and


f. that APR can cause only non-life-threatening side effects, when in fact APR can cause severe, life-threatening bleeding. 


Defendants knew or should have known that these statements were misleading.


* * * 


Defendants have engaged in and continue to engage in, aided and abetted and continue to aid and abet, and conspired to and continue to conspire to engage in unlawful, unfair, and/or fraudulent acts or practices, which constitute unfair competition within the meaning of section 17200 of the Business and Professions Code.


September 25, 2023 in Abortion, Healthcare, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)