Gender and the Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

In Another Shadow Docket Order, SCOTUS Stays Abortion In-Person Medication Requirement During COVID Found Unconstitutional by District Court

In another shadow docket ruling, the Supreme Court stayed a district court's preliminary injunction enjoining the unconstitutional application of a Covid abortion requirement that women seeking medicated abortions appear in person.

The order is here,  FDA v. American College of OB/GYNS (Jan. 12, 2021), with concurrence by Justice Roberts and dissent by Justice Sotomayor.

NYT, Supreme Court Revives Abortion Pill Restriction

In the Supreme Court’s first ruling on abortion since the arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the court on Tuesday reinstated a federal requirement that women seeking to end their pregnancies using medications pick up a pill in person from a hospital or medical office.

The court’s brief order was unsigned, and the three more liberal justices dissented. The only member of the majority to offer an explanation was Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who said the ruling was a limited one that deferred to the views of experts.

The question, he wrote, was not whether the requirement imposed “an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion as a general matter.” Instead, he wrote, it was whether a federal judge should have second-guessed the Food and Drug Administration’s determination “because of the court’s own evaluation of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Here as in related contexts concerning government responses to the pandemic,” the chief justice wrote, quoting an earlier opinion, “my view is that courts owe significant deference to the politically accountable entities with the ‘background, competence and expertise to assess public health.’”

In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, said the majority was grievously wrong.

“This country’s laws have long singled out abortions for more onerous treatment than other medical procedures that carry similar or greater risks,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “Like many of those laws, maintaining the F.D.A.’s in-person requirements” for picking up the drug “during the pandemic not only treats abortion exceptionally, it imposes an unnecessary, irrational and unjustifiable undue burden on women seeking to exercise their right to choose.”

January 13, 2021 in Abortion, Constitutional, Healthcare, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

COVID, Abortion Restrictions, and Public Health in the Culture Wars

Laura D. Hermer, COVID-19, Abortion, and Public Health in the Culture Wars, 47 Mitchell Hamline L.Rev. (2020)  

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 36 governors ordered or requested a halt to all elective health care visits, procedures, and tests in March or April 2020 to conserve scarce personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing supplies and to help prevent the spread of the virus. Among those states, at least nine expressly chose to include many or most abortion services within the order’s scope, whether directly or through informal clarification. Civil liberties and women’s health care organizations rapidly filed suit in eight of the states to enjoin the various orders. Over the course of about three weeks, federal district courts in six of the cases granted plaintiffs’ requests for temporary restraining orders. The Sixth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits upheld the district courts’ decisions on appeal, but the Fifth and Eighth Circuits reversed. Both of those reversals were ultimately rendered moot when Texas and Arkansas each permitted elective procedures to resume. Three other cases settled.

The states that implemented abortion restrictions generally took substantial efforts to protect their populace from COVID-19, except in health care contexts involving abortion. At the same time, the lower-income women and women of color who disproportionately provided essential services during the pandemic and were infected with and suffered more severe cases of Covid-19 also disproportionately need abortion services. While they were making the greatest sacrifices for all of us, they also found their reproductive safety net in grave jeopardy.

Documents filed in the litigation over state-level COVID abortion restrictions make it clear that the states that sought to use pandemic PPE shortages to restrict abortions were not concerned about the health or welfare of any of the parties involved, including fetuses. The article examines the arguments that they and their amici made to support their policy choices and details the implications of those policies on the patients seeking abortions, their health care providers, their fetuses, and their loved ones in the context of the pandemic. The evidence demonstrates that the restrictions had nothing to do with protecting anyone’s life or health or conserving scarce PPE. The juxtaposition of these restrictions against our society’s fierce fight against the pandemic makes the disparities in how we treat certain biological problems rather stark. The time is ripe for a re-evaluation of when, if ever, it may be reasonable for a state to restrict the right to an abortion.

January 12, 2021 in Abortion, Courts, Healthcare, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Abortion Rights on the Ballot: LA Passes Anti-Abortion Constitutional Amendment, CO Rejects 22 Week Ban on Abortion

Louisiana Just Passed an Amendment

Louisiana voters have just passed an amendment to the state constitution to clarify that nothing in it protects the right to abortion in the state. Given the current makeup of the courts, and, notably, a new anti-choice justice on the Supreme Court, it is a clear step toward preparing for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, which would make abortion access a state issue rather than a federal one. If that happens, Louisiana, it seems, wants to waste no time in banning it. 

As such, the following language will be added into Louisiana’s constitution: “To protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” Three states—Tennessee, Alabama, and West Virginia--have similar constitutional language.

NY Times Election Results: LA Ban (62% to 37%)

 

Colorado Proposition 115 Results: 22 Week Abortion Ban Rejected

The state remains one of seven with no gestational limits on abortion.

Colorado voters just rejected a measure that would have banned abortion in the state after 22 weeks’ gestation, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press.

The measure, Proposition 115, was backed by the anti-abortion group Due Date Too Late, which argued that abortions after 22 weeks were inhumane. But supporters of abortion rights were concerned about the impact of the measure on pregnant people, not just in Colorado, but around the country.

Abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy are rare, with nearly 99 percent of abortions happening before 22 weeks’ gestation. But a small percentage of patients seek abortion later in pregnancy, sometimes because of severe fetal abnormalities that can only be diagnosed at that time. Proposition 115 did not have an exception for such abnormalities, or for rape, incest, or the health of the pregnant person, allowing abortion only if it was “immediately required to save the life of a pregnant woman.”

Abortion-rights advocates nationwide were especially concerned about the measure because Colorado is one of just seven states in the country with no gestational limit on abortion. That means patients seeking later abortions in states with such limits often come to Colorado for care, sometimes traveling thousands of miles to do so.

NYT, NYT Election Results: Ban Late Term Abortions (59% to 40%)

 

See also Wash Post, Abortion is on the Ballot in Two States, Providing a Glimpse at a Post-Roe World

November 4, 2020 in Abortion, Legislation, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Geography of "Modest-Looking" Abortion Restrictions

Jessie Hill, The Geography of Abortion Rights, Georgetown L.J. (forthcoming 2021)  

Total or near-total abortion bans passed in recent years have garnered tremendous public attention. But another recent wave of more modest-looking abortion restrictions consists of laws regulating the geography of abortion provision through management of spaces, places, and borders. In the 1990s and early 2000s, numerous states adopted laws regulating the physical spaces where abortions can be performed. These laws include mandates that abortions be performed in particular kinds of places, such as ambulatory surgical centers, or that abortion-providing facilities have agreements in place with local hospitals. One consequence of such regulations has been to reduce the availability of abortion services within the geographical borders of a particular state and to require people to travel out of state in order to terminate a pregnancy. Other abortion controversies, too, have foregrounded the significance of state and even national borders, as in the cases of unaccompanied immigrant minors who sought abortions while in the custody of the U.S. Government. Thus, an entire subset of abortion restrictions intentionally targets the geography of abortion provision, inevitably impacts the geographical distribution of abortion services, or both. Yet, the geographical dimension of abortion restrictions has gone largely unappreciated in the legal literature. This Article thus aims to provide an overview of the geography of abortion regulation. It first considers the unique impact and attractiveness of spatial regulations, demonstrating that spatial regulations differ from other forms of abortion regulation in their tendency to exploit and aggravate preexisting social inequality in ways that make it appear natural or unavoidable. Second, this Article considers the jurisprudential implications of this “spatial turn” in three specific areas: the right to travel, private non-delegation doctrine, and the concept of viability in abortion doctrine

October 21, 2020 in Abortion, Legislation, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Book Review Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories

Leah Litman, Redefining Reproductive Rights and Justice, reviewing Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories (Melissa Murray, Katherine Shaw, & Reva Siegel, eds. 2019),  118 Mich. L. Rev. 1095 (2020).

Against this backdrop comes Melissa Murray, Katherine Shaw, and Reva Siegel’s edited collection of essays, Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories. The collection could not be timelier. Their volume contains a series of essays that “bring[] together important cases involving the state regulation of sex, childbearing, and parenting.” 

The two goals of the collection are to expand the contours of the field of reproductive rights and justice and to decenter the role of courts in that field. The editors’ pathbreaking volume cements a definition of reproductive rights and justice that is both more coherent and more nuanced than many earlier definitions, which often limited discussions of reproductive rights
and justice to contraception and abortion. The volume makes significant headway in illustrating the many different ways that law affects reproductive rights and justice.

Broadening readers’ understandings about what constitutes reproductive rights and justice has several benefits. It illuminates the many different ways that law and society construct and constrain what parenthood—and particularly motherhood—entails. Unpacking how law and society have made motherhood carry certain roles and expectations clarifies the stakes of
traditional reproductive rights and justice issues. For example, if becoming a parent, and in particular becoming a mother, entails assuming a particular identity, then the autonomy and liberty interests at stake in parentage decisions are much greater than just bodily autonomy.

The collection of essays also offers a lens through which to understand myriad legal issues. The volume makes clear that many different topics— ranging from workplace protections, to labor law, to disability law, to criminal procedure, to insurance law—implicate reproductive rights and justice in addition to decisions about whether to criminalize abortion or contraception. That has the salutary benefit of unearthing the complex web of laws and social conventions that influence parentage decisions. Understanding all of the influences on parentage decisions would also make it easier to construct a system that is supportive of families.

By broadening the definition of reproductive rights and justice to include the many different ways that law and society shape individuals’ decisions about whether to have children, the volume also pushes its readers to think about additional ways in which law and society influence decisions about sex and parentage.

 

October 7, 2020 in Abortion, Books, Family, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 2, 2020

Making the Case for Accepting Judicial Defeat on Roe v. Wade

Joan Williams, The Case for Accepting Defeat on Roe

The argument that the left has already lost the abortion fight reflects the fact that there’s no abortion clinic in 90 percent of American counties. This is the result of the highly successful death-by-a-thousand-cuts anti-abortion strategy, which has piled on restriction after restriction to make abortion inaccessible to as many American women as possible.

Chief Justice John Roberts’s concurring opinion this summer in June Medical Services v. Russo — the one that mattered — was hailed as a surprise victory for abortion rights, but not by me. Justice Roberts refused to uphold Louisiana restrictions virtually identical to those the court struck down as unconstitutional just four years earlier, but clearly stated that his reluctance was because of his respect for precedent. Anyone with their eyes open could see the justice signaling to abortion opponents to continue the process of eroding Roe v. Wade’s nigh-absolute protection of access to abortion during the first trimester by inventing new types of restrictions, which they have been remarkably creative in doing.

If Judge Amy Coney Barrett becomes the next Supreme Court justice, Justice Roberts’s vote will be irrelevant, anyway. And if things already looked pretty grim, now they look much worse: Up to 21 states have passed laws banning or limiting abortions in ways that are currently unconstitutional. Many will go into effect immediately if Roe is fully overturned.

So what should we do now? Often forgotten is that R.B.G. herself had decided that Roe was a mistake. In 1992, she gave a lecture musing that the country might be better off if the Supreme Court had written a narrower decision and opened up a “dialogue” with state legislatures, which were trending “toward liberalization of abortion statutes” (to quote the Roe court). Roe “halted a political process that was moving in a reform direction and thereby, I believe, prolonged divisiveness and deferred stable settlement of the issue,” Justice Ginsburg argued. In the process, “a well-organized and vocal right-to-life movement rallied and succeeded, for a considerable time, in turning the legislative tide in the opposite direction.”

What Ginsburg called Roe’s “divisiveness” was instrumental in the rise of the American right, which was flailing until Phyllis Schlafly discovered the galvanizing force of opposition to abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment. Schlafly wrote the culture wars playbook that created the odd coupling of the country-club business elite with evangelicals and blue-collar whites. In exchange for business-friendly policies like tax cuts and deregulation, Republicans now allow these groups to control their agenda on religion and abortion. It’s hard to remember now but this was not inevitable: abortion was not always seen as the partisan issue it is todaynor did evangelicals uniformly oppose abortion.

Whether or not R.B.G.’s assessment of Roe was correct, the best tribute we can pay to her is to do what she suggests: open up the kind of dialogue that occurred in Ireland, where young people knocked on grannies’ doors and persuaded them to vote to legalize abortion, which — much to the distress of the Catholic Church — they did. (At the same time, activists galvanized to ensure that, in the absence of a referendum, women throughout the country would have access to and knowledge about medication abortions.)

I don’t want Roe to be overturned, but if that happens, it could bring political opportunity. The emotional heat that surrounds abortion as an issue manages to obscure that the attitudes driving opposition to abortion actually reveal some surprising common ground with progressives on economic issues.

October 2, 2020 in Abortion, Constitutional, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Book Podcast: Michele Goodwin's Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood

Michelle Goodwin, Podcast, New Books in Law: Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood (Cambridge Press 2020)

Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood (Cambridge University Press, 2020) a brilliant but shocking account of the criminalization of all aspects of reproduction, pregnancy, abortion, birth, and motherhood in the United States. In her extensively researched monograph, Michele Goodwin recounts the horrific contemporary situation, which includes, for example, mothers giving birth shackled in leg irons, in solitary confinement, even in prison toilets, and in some states, women being coerced by the State into sterilization, in exchange for reduced sentences. She contextualises the modern day situation in America’s history of slavery and oppression, and also in relation to its place in the world. Goodwin shows how prosecutors abuse laws, and medical professionals are complicit in a system that disproportionally impacts the poor and women of color. However, Goodwin warns that these women are just the canaries in the coalmine. In the context of both the Black Lives Matter movement, and in the lead up to the 2020 Presidential election, her book could not be more timely; Not only is the United States the deadliest country in the developed world for pregnant women, but the severe lack of protections for reproductive rights and motherhood is compounding racial and indigent disparities.

October 2, 2020 in Books, Healthcare, Poverty, Pregnancy, Race, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Exploring the Legal Divide Between Pregnancy Discrimination and Reproductive Rights under Title IX

Deborah Brake & Joanna Grossman, Reproducing Inequality Under Title IX, 43 Harvard J. Law & Gender 171 (2020)

This article elaborates on and critiques the law’s separation of pregnancy, with rights grounded in sex equality under Title IX, from reproductive control, which the law treats as a matter of privacy, a species of liberty under the due process clause. While pregnancy is the subject of Title IX protection, reproductive control is parceled off into a separate legal framework grounded in privacy, rather than recognized as a matter that directly implicates educational equality. The law’s division between educational equality and liberty in two non-intersecting sets of legal rights has done no favors to the reproductive rights movement either. By giving a formal “right” to stay in school and the right to equal treatment with temporarily disabled students, Title IX may be strategically deployed by proponents of restricting abortion rights to minimize the educational consequences of involuntary motherhood. The hard realities of how pregnancy and parenting impact schooling are obscured.

The article explores the legal divide between pregnancy discrimination and reproductive rights in relation to education in three parts. Part I discusses the rights included in, and omitted from, Title IX relating to pregnancy and reproduction. Part II surveys the liberty-based reproductive rights framework for pregnancy prevention and termination and discusses its limits in protecting young women from the educational effects of unwanted pregnancy and motherhood. Part III concludes by discussing the implications of separating out pregnancy discrimination from the broader set of reproductive rights and elaborating on the harms that flow from the law’s failure to recognize the educational equality dimensions of the denial of reproductive rights.

September 29, 2020 in Education, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Congress Introduces Legislation to Repeal Helms Amendment Prohibiting US Foreign Aid for Abortions

First-Ever Legislation to Repeal Helms Amendment: Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act

Today, Congress introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020—the first-ever legislation to repeal the Helms Amendment. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowksy (D-Ill.) and co-sponsored by Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Norma Torres (D-Calif.).

 

Established in 1973 (notably the same year as the Roe decision), the Helms Amendment—introduced by former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), an ultraconservative senator marked by blatant racism and other odious behavior—dictates U.S. foreign aid cannot be used for abortions.

 

Though there are exceptions for rape, incest and threat to the pregnant person’s life, in practice, the Helms Amendment has created a complete ban on abortion funding abroad—even in countries where abortion is legal.

 

Since its enactment, the Helms Amendment has been criticized as an imperialist, ideological, racist and classist policy.

 

“The Helms Amendment is a policy deeply rooted in racism,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “It imposes our arbitrary and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions on international communities, allowing the United States to control the health care and bodily autonomy of billions of Black and brown people around the world.”

 

Moreover, many argue abortion restrictions like Helms have led to the avoidable deaths of thousands of women by coercing them to seek unsafe alternatives.

 

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 35 million women per year have abortions in potentially lethal conditions. What’s more, unsafe abortions are one of the leading causes of maternal mortality worldwide. 

The bill is here: Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act: "To amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to authorize
the use of funds for comprehensive reproductive health care services, and for other purposes."

August 4, 2020 in Abortion, International, Legislation, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Study Calls into Question Anti-Abortion Legal Arguments about Regret and Harm to Women

New Yorker, The Study That Debunks Most Anti-Abortion Arguments

Over the past several years, findings from the Turnaway Study have come out in scholarly journals and, on a few occasions, gotten splashy media coverage. Now Foster has published a patiently expository precis of all the findings in a new book, “The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having—or Being Denied—an Abortion.” The over-all impression it leaves is that abortion, far from harming most women, helps them in measurable ways. Moreover, when people assess what will happen in their lives if they have to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, they are quite often proven right. That might seem like an obvious point, but much of contemporary anti-abortion legislation is predicated on the idea that competent adults can’t really know what’s at stake in deciding whether to bear a child or not. Instead, they must be subjected to waiting periods to think it over (as though they can’t be trusted to have done so already), presented with (often misleading) information about the supposed medical risks and emotional fallout of the procedure, and obliged to look at ultrasounds of the embryo or fetus. And such scans are often framed, with breathtaking disingenuousness, as a right extended to people—what the legal scholar Carol Sanger calls “the right to be persuaded against exercising the right you came in with.

 

Maybe the first and most fundamental question for a study like this to consider is how women feel afterward about their decisions to have an abortion. In the Turnaway Study, over ninety-five per cent of the women who received an abortion and did an interview five years out said that it had been the right choice for them.

July 23, 2020 in Abortion, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

SCOTUS Holds that Employer's Religious Liberty Trumps Women's Right to Healthcare and Birth Control

The U.S. Supreme Court decided Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania (July 8, 2020), in a split opinion, with the majority written by Justice Thomas.  Justices Kagan and Breyer concurred in the judgment.

Justice Ginsburg strongly dissented,. recognizing the threat to not just women's healthcare, but women's equality.

In accommodating claims of religious freedom, this Court has taken a balanced approach, one that does not allow the religious beliefs of some to overwhelm the rights and interests of others who do not share those beliefs. Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree. *** Destructive of the Women’s Health Amendment, this Court leaves women workers to fend for themselves, to seek contraceptive coverage from sources other than their employer’s insurer, and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets. The Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause, all agree, does not call for that imbalanced result. Nor does the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U. S. C. §2000bb et seq., condone harm to third parties occasioned by entire disregard of their needs. I therefore dissent from the Court’s judgment, under which, as the Government estimates, between 70,500 and 126,400 women would immediately lose access to no-cost contraceptive services. 

July 8, 2020 in Healthcare, Religion, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

June Medical Returns SCOTUS Precedent to Less Demanding Standard of Casey

Caroline Mala Corbin, June Medical is the New Casey

The atmosphere awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey felt similar to the one awaiting today’s decision in June Medical Services v. Russo.  At stake was whether the U.S. Constitution would continue to protect a woman’s right to abortion. Casey reaffirmed that right but lowered the level of protection. June Medical does the same. In fact, Casey is likely to be the controlling Supreme Court precedent on abortion once again.

 

To understand what this means, let me provide a brief background on abortion and the Supreme Court.  As most people realize, the Supreme Court declared that the right to abortion was a fundamental right in Roe v. WadeRoe also required strict scrutiny of any abortion regulation, where regulations of first trimester abortion (when the vast majority of abortions occur) were presumptively unconstitutional.

 

What many do not realize is that the Supreme Court subsequently dialed back the level of protection in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that abortion was still a constitutional right. However, the Court replaced the strict scrutiny test with the undue burden test, making abortion much easier to regulate.  According to the Casey Court, as long as a law did not impose an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion, it was fine.  An undue burden occurs when the state places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman hoping to end her pregnancy. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court in Casey and subsequent cases made clear their view that very few regulations impose an undue burden. Waiting periods? No undue burden.  Outlawing a safer procedure? No undue burden.  Under the Casey regime, states were able to severely restrict access to abortion by passing laws ostensibly to protect women’s health, but in reality undermined it by making abortion more expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to obtain due to clinic closures.

 

Quite unexpectedly, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), the Supreme Court strengthened the undue burden test, providing heightened protection for abortion rights. The analysis of whether a law imposed an undue burden now had two questions instead of one. As before, courts must consider whether a law created a substantial obstacle in the path of a women seeking an abortion.  But in addition, the Court would consider the actual benefit of the law. If the stated goal was to improve women’s health, states must provide evidence to that effect. This is critical because, as mentioned above, states regularly passed laws which they claimed were to make abortion safer for women but were really designed to just make it harder.***

 

However, also similar to CaseyJune Medical signals less protection for abortion rights going forward. Although Justice Breyer’s plurality opinion relied on the highly protective undue burden test as formulated by the Whole Woman’s Health majority, which requires examination of both the actual benefit of the law, as well as the burden imposed by the law, Chief Justice Roberts did not.  Chief Justice Roberts, who provides the crucial fifth vote to reaffirm that abortion was a constitutionally protected right, repudiates the Whole Woman’s Health test. Instead, he wrote that “the only question for a court is whether a law has the ‘effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.’” In other words, the test for whether an abortion regulation violates the constitution is the Casey test with one question, not two. Thus, like CaseyJune Medical reaffirms abortion is a constitutional right while cutting back protection for abortion.

July 7, 2020 in Abortion, Constitutional, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Women are Being Written Out of Abortion Jurisprudence

Dahlia Lithwick, Women are Being Written Out of Abortion Jurisprudence

It was hard not to miss that there were six separate opinions filed in June Medical Services v. Russothe major abortion litigation of this year’s Supreme Court term, and that every one of those six separate opinions was penned by a man. When Roe v. Wade was written in 1973, the majority opinion also came from the pen of a man, Justice Harry Blackmun, who was at pains to protect and shield the intimate and vital relationship between a doctor (“he”) and the pregnant women. Of course, there were no women on the Supreme Court in 1973, so one could hardly have expected a woman to write the decision, or even for a man to write it with the experience of women at front of mind. Oddly, almost half a century later, none of the three women on the high court wrote a word in June Medical.

 

In the interest of being perfectly clear, I herein lay my cards on the table: I’m not a huge fan of this kind of essentializing and almost four years ago to the day I did a little touchdown dance when the opinion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Texas abortion ruling with facts virtually identical to those from this year’s, was assigned to Justice Stephen Breyer. At the time I found myself moved by the fact that, as I wrote then, there was “something about Breyer, the court’s sometimes underappreciated fourth feminist, reading patiently from his opinion about the eye-glazing standards that Texas would have required in constructing an ‘ambulatory surgical center,’ that makes the announcement of Whole Woman’s Health just fractionally more perfect. This isn’t just a women’s case about women’s rights and women’s health. ***

 

There are no women in the plurality opinion in June Medical. There are a lot of physicians (mostly male) seeking admitting privileges at hospitals, and there are a lot of judges (mostly male) substituting their own judgment for the women who desire to terminate a pregnancy. And now there are a whole lot of Supreme Court justices, every last one of them male, substituting their judgment for doctors who tried to get admitting privileges and for the judgment of the other men who have myriad and complicated feelings about women who seek to terminate a pregnancy. While the dissenters are voluble about bits of fetal tissue (Justice Neil Gorsuch) and concern for women as victims of greedy abortionists (Justice Samuel Alito), their complete and utter silence about actual women and their actual choices and their lived lives and their hardship is impossible to escape. All these years later, they are being read out of a theoretical dialogue about which kind of balancing tests the men prefer to administer. It is into this woman-shaped silence that Ginsburg has poured out her own life experience, in cases about wage discrimination, contraception, and harassment, in so many other cases over her career. But it is into this woman-shaped silence that we will now fight the next abortion battles, over a constitutional right—as laid out in Roe, reaffirmed in Casey, strengthened in Whole Woman’s Health—which now comes down to a sort of elaborate agency review of whether clinics and physicians acted “in good faith” to comply with laws whose efficacy doesn’t much matter. And one cannot escape the feeling that we have not come a very long way from Blackmun’s deep regard for the wisdom of the male physicians in Roeand  Justice Anthony Kennedy’s deep regard for the wisdom of male Supreme Court justices in 2007’s Gonzales v. Carhart, as we limp toward a celebration of Roberts’ deep regard for precedent and processThe regard for a woman’s right to choose itself? That doesn’t even register as material.

July 7, 2020 in Abortion, Constitutional, Judges, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Webinar: Past, Present and Future of the Law and Politics of Reproduction

The Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law is sponsoring a webinar with the Harvard Law and Policy Review on the past, present, and future of the law and politics of reproduction on June 30, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. ET.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, June Medical Services v. Russo, we are convening the authors of four influential books on reproductive justice and health, Professors David S. Cohen, Michele Goodwin, Carol Sanger, and Mary Ziegler, for a timely conversation moderated by NPR’s Sarah McCammon. There will be time for questions from participants. 

To register for the webinar, please visit https://bit.ly/JuneMedicalCPHLR

June 10, 2020 in Abortion, Conferences, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

How Courts Have Responded to Equal Protection Claims of Pregnant Citizens Since the Nineteenth Amendment

Reva Siegel, The Pregnant Citizen, from Suffrage to the Present, Georgetown L. J. (forthcoming)

This Article examines how courts have responded to the equal protection claims of pregnant citizens over the century women were enfranchised. The lost history it recovers shows how equal protection changed—initially allowing government to enforce traditional family roles by exempting laws regulating pregnancy from close review, then over time subjecting laws regulating pregnancy to heightened equal protection scrutiny.

It is generally assumed that the Supreme Court’s 1974 decision in Geduldig v. Aiello insulates the regulation of pregnancy from equal protection scrutiny. The Article documents the traditional sex-role understandings Geduldig preserved and then demonstrates how the Supreme Court itself has limited the decision’s authority.

In particular, I show that the Rehnquist Court integrated laws regulating pregnancy into the equal protection sex-discrimination framework. In United States v. Virginia, the Supreme Court analyzed a law mandating the accommodation of pregnancy as classifying on the basis of sex and subject to heightened scrutiny; Virginia directs judges to look to history in enforcing the Equal Protection Clause to ensure that laws regulating pregnancy are not “used, as they once were . . . to create or perpetuate the legal, social, and economic inferiority of women.” In Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, the Court then applied the antistereotyping principle to laws regulating pregnancy, as a growing number of commentators and courts have observed.

I conclude the Article by considering how courts and Congress might enforce the rights in Virginia and Hibbs in cases involving pregnancy under both the Fourteenth and the Nineteenth Amendments. To remedy law-driven sex-role stereotyping that has shaped the workplace, the household, and politics, the Article proposes that Congress adopt legislation mandating the reasonable accommodation of pregnant employees, such as the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. These sex-role stereotypes affect all workers, but exact the greatest toll on low-wage workers and workers of color who are subject to rigid managerial supervision.

When we locate equal protection cases in history, we can see how an appeal to biology can enforce traditional sex roles as it did in Geduldig—and see why a court invoking Geduldig today to insulate the regulation of pregnancy from scrutiny under Virginia and Hibbs would not respect stare decisis, but instead retreat from core principles of the equal protection sex-discrimination case law.

June 9, 2020 in Constitutional, Legal History, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 28, 2020

What I'm Watching Today, Thursday, at Law & Society on Gender & Law

Law & Society Association, Virtual Conference Program

Gender and Punishment

May 28 - 11:00 AM - 12:45 PM
Moving away from antiquated perspectives that neglected to study gender because there were "so few" women in the criminal justice system, these papers use feminist perspectives to examine disparate treatment, gender gaps, and punitivism.
Chair/Discussant(s) Rupali Samuel, LLM, Harvard Law School

Gender Equality and the Shifting Gap in Female-To-Male Incarceration Rates
Presenter(s) Heather McLaughlin, Oklahoma State University
Co-Presenter(s) Sarah Shannon, University of Georgia
 

Negotiating Criminal Records: Access to Employment for Reintegrating Women in Canada
Presenter(s) Anita Grace, Carleton University

 

The Gap Between Correctional Law & Practice: An Intersectional Feminist Analysis
Presenter(s) Alexis Marcoux Rouleau, Université de Montréal

 

The Gendered Economy of Prison Intimacy
Presenter(s) Joss Greene, Columbia University

 

Moving Rules: Struggles for Reproductive Justice on Uneven Terrain

May 28 - 11:00 AM - 12:45 PM
Moving Rules will consider how recent developments in the struggle for reproductive justice in Argentina, Poland, Ireland and Mozambique contribute to our understanding of legal rules as complex entities that move as they are made. The papers will consider how rules move across space and time as they are made through feminist cause lawyering, witnessing legal reproduction, communist legacies, and oppositional legal consciousness.
Chair(s) Paola Bergallo, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella
Discussant(s) Ruth Fletcher, Queen Mary University of London
Presentations

Building Democracy and Legal Change: A Study of Feminist Cause Lawyering in Argentina
Presenter(s) Paola Bergallo, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella

 

We Were Communists - Historical, Political, and Ideological Determinants of Sexual Reproductive Rights
Presenter(s) Carmeliza Rosario, CMI / Centre on Law and Social Transformation

 

Witnessing Legal Reproduction
Presenter(s) Ruth Fletcher, Queen Mary University of London

 

Sexual Harassment: Victims and Survivors

May 28 - 11:00 AM - 12:45 PM

Sexual harassment and violence are pervasive problems in various institutional spheres. Many victims and survivors are discounted and ignored. The papers in this session explore a range of questions involving victims and survivors of sexual harassment, such as: what obstacles has the #MeToo movement encountered when confronting sexual assault and harassment in the military? What roles do and should victim impact statements have in revealing systemic institutional sexual abuse in specific cases and shaping broader policy to meet the needs of victims? What role does time have in shaping a victim's experience of sexual violence? Does the law represent an adequate feminist response to such violence? How do innovative multi-media exhibits,provide new ways for observers and bystanders to listen to survivors' stories and experiences?
Chair(s) Julie Goldscheid, City University of New York
Discussant(s) I. India Thusi, California Western School of Law
Presentations

#MeToo, Confronts Culture, and Complicity in the Military
Presenter(s) Rachel Van Cleave, Golden Gate University School of Law

 

From "Larry" the "Monster" to Sisterhood: What the Nassar Victim Impact Statements Reveal About Systemic Institutional Sexual Abuse
Presenter(s) Jamie Abrams, University of Louisville
Non-Presenting Co-Author(s) Amanda Potts, University of Cardiff

 

Multiracial Women, Sexual Harassment, and Gender-Based Violence
Presenter(s) Nancy Cantalupo, Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law

 

Sexual Harassment, Workplace Culture, and the Power and Limits of Law
Presenter(s) Suzanne Goldberg, Columbia University

 

Female Judges in Five Fragile States

May 28 - 02:15 PM - 04:00 PM
In post-conflict and transitional developing countries, situations of political rupture may create new opportunity structures that favour the entry of women into public positions of power. Post-conflict assistance often includes gender friendly rule of law reforms, and the conflict itself may have placed rights issues in focus. How these conditions affect women's access to, and utilization of, positions of judicial power has not received much scholarly attention. This session explores three main questions regarding women judges in five fragile and conflict-related states: Angola, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Haiti, and Uganda: (1) What are the main pathways of women judges to the bench? (2) What are the gendered experiences of women on the bench? (3) How and in what ways does having more women on the bench impact on judicial outcomes?
Chair(s) Paola Bergallo, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella
Discussant(s) Ulrike Schultz, Fernuniversitat in Hagen

Presentations

Female Judges in Angola: When Party Affiliation Trumps Gender
Presenter(s) Elin Skaar, Chr. Michelsen Institute
Non-Presenting Co-Author(s) Aslak Orre, Chr. Michelsen Institute

 

Women Magistrates in Haiti: Challenging Gender Inequality in a Frail Justice System
Presenter(s) Marianne Tøraasen, Chr. Michelsen Institute

 

Women on the Bench in Afghanistan: Equal but Segregated?
Presenter(s) Torunn Wimpelmann, Chr Michelsen Institute
Non-Presenting Co-Author(s) Antonio De Lauri, Chr. Michelsen Institute

 

Women on the Bench in Guatemala: Between Professionalization and State Capture
Presenter(s) Ana-Isabel Braconnier, University of Texas at Austin, Rachel Sieder, CIESAS

 

Women on the Bench – Perspectives from Uganda
Presenter(s) Pilar Domingo, Overseas Development Institute
Non-Presenting Co-Author(s) Siri Gloppen, University of Bergen

 

May 28, 2020 in Conferences, Gender, Judges, Reproductive Rights, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Doctors File Lawsuit to Lift Restrictions on Abortion Pill During Pandemic

Lawsuit Asks FDA to Lift Restrictions on Abortion Pill During Pandemic

Reproductive rights advocates are suing the Trump administration, asking a federal court to suspend restrictions on the abortion drug mifepristone during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

The drug mifepristone was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 20 years ago for use in medication abortions in early pregnancy. It's also used to help manage miscarriages for some women trying to avoid surgery.

 

In a federal lawsuit filed in Maryland on behalf of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other groups, the American Civil Liberties Union requests an emergency order lifting regulations requiring patients in the United States to pick up the drug at a hospital or medical facility.

 

Julia Kaye, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said that requirement is putting patients at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

"A patient who has already been evaluated by a clinician, either through telemedicine or at a prior in person visit, still must make this entirely unnecessary trip just to pick up their prescription," Kaye said during a conference call announcing the lawsuit.

 

ACOG supports lifting the restrictions, called the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy or REMS, and has said they are medically unnecessary to preserve patient safety. In 2017, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in Hawaii, seeking to force the FDA to remove the REMS for mifepristone.

 

But this new lawsuit is more narrow, Kaye said, in asking the court to suspend the rules during the pandemic only. The lawsuit asks for an emergency order allowing the mifepristone to be dispensed through the mail or by pharmacies. It notes that in other areas of medicine, federal agencies "have taken substantial action ... to encourage telemedicine use" and "forego unnecessary in-person visits" during the coronavirus crisis.

May 28, 2020 in Abortion, Healthcare, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 22, 2020

"Jane Roe" from Roe v. Wade Retracts Anti-Abortion Conversion in Posthumous Documentary, "AKA Jane Roe"

Michelle Goldberg, Jane Roe's Pro-Life Conversion Was a Con

It was a cultural coup for the right when McCorvey publicly turned against legal abortion. Jane Roe rejecting Roe v. Wade was something abortion opponents could throw in the faces of pro-choice activists. So it is a bombshell that McCorvey has revealed, in the posthumous new documentary “AKA Jane Roe,” that it was, at least in some sense, an act. “I am a good actress,” she said.

 

The movie, which debuts on Friday on FX, also makes clear that anti-abortion leaders understood this. They’ve been perpetrating a scam on us all for 25 years.

 
In the documentary’s final 20 minutes, McCorvey, who died of heart failure in 2017, gives what she calls her “deathbed confession.” She and the pro-life movement, she said, were using each other: “I took their money, and they put me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say, and that’s what I’d say.”
 

In her career as a pro-life icon, she collected nearly half a million dollars. But at the end of her life, she once again affirmed a belief in the right to abortion, and evinced pride in Roe v. Wade. “Roe isn’t going anywhere,” she said early on election night in 2016, when she thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. “They can try, but it’s not happening, baby.”***

 

Given the political damage done by her cynical about-face, it’s surprising how sympathetic McCorvey — campy, foul-mouthed and irreverent — comes off. She was a lost soul from a traumatic background. Her father was absent and her mother beat her, and she ended up in reform school after running away from home at 10. She entered an abusive marriage at 16, became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and lost custody of her first child.

 
As she’s told the story, she signed up as the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade not because she wanted to make history but because she was desperate for an abortion. She never got one: By the time the case was decided, she’d given birth and put the baby up for adoption.

 

Later, McCorvey resented not being given a more prominent role as a pro-choice activist. The movement found her embarrassing, especially when, in 1987, she admitted that she’d lied when she’d said the pregnancy at the heart of Roe was a result of rape.***

 

“She was not the poster girl that would have been helpful to the pro-choice movement,” Charlotte Taft, a former director of the Abortion Care Network, says in the film. “However, an articulate, educated person could not have been the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade.” It was women like McCorvey — those without the resources to travel to pro-choice states — who endured forced childbirth in the years before Roe was decided. “People who are plaintiffs in cases are usually messy people,” said Kissling.

 

Many of the headlines about “AKA Jane Roe” have emphasized that McCorvey was paid to renounce abortion rights, but after watching it I don’t think it was all about money. McCorvey wanted respect and attention, to be honored and cherished. At times, people in the pro-choice movement tried to help her; for a while she was represented by the feminist superlawyer Gloria Allred. She made money giving speeches and selling the rights to her story, including for an Emmy-winning made-for-TV movie.

May 22, 2020 in Abortion, Constitutional, Pop Culture, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Papers from the Feminist Legal Theory Research Network at Next Week's Law & Society Association Virtual Meeting

I am probably one of the few people in the world who is thrilled that the Law & Society Annual Conference is virtual -- since I will now be able to attend.  In general virtual conferences open up access to some barriers to participation due to finances,  travel, family, disability, and health issues.

You can register for the virtual conference here at the Law & Society Association website.  

Scheduled papers to be presented from the Feminist Legal Theory Research Network:

 

Time

Title

Type

Wed, 5/27
1:00 PM - 2:45 PM

#MeToo: The Narrative of Resistance Meets the Rule of Law

Plenary Session 

Thu, 5/28
11:00 AM - 12:45 PM

Moving Rules: Struggles for Reproductive Justice on Uneven Terrain

Paper Session 

Thu, 5/28
11:00 AM - 12:45 PM

Sexual Harassment: Victims and Survivors

Paper Session 

Thu, 5/28
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

CRN07: Feminist Legal Theory Business Meeting

Business Meeting 

Thu, 5/28
2:15 PM - 4:00 PM

Families, Laws, and Institutions

Paper Session 

Thu, 5/28
2:15 PM - 4:00 PM

The State and Violence: New Proposals for Stopping the Cycle

Paper Session 

Fri, 5/29
11:00 AM - 12:45 PM

Normativity in Men, Women, and Bodies

Paper Session 

Fri, 5/29
11:00 AM - 12:45 PM

The Politicization of Safety: Critical Perspectives on Domestic Violence Responses

Roundtable Session 

Fri, 5/29
1:00 PM - 2:15 PM

Sexual Harassers, Sex Crimes, and Accountability

Paper Session 

Fri, 5/29
4:00 PM - 5:45 PM

Women's Rights in the Shadow of the Constitution

Paper Session 

Sat, 5/30
11:00 AM - 12:45 PM

Perspectives on Sex, Work and New Legal Orders

Paper Session 

Sat, 5/30
1:00 PM - 2:45 PM

Trans and Queer Life in Private and Public

Paper Session 

Sat, 5/30
4:00 PM - 5:45 PM

Human Rights in an Unequal World: Autonomy, Status, and Other Stories

Paper Session 

Sun, 5/31
11:00 AM - 12:45 PM

Feminist Legal Theory in a Public/Private World

Paper Session 

Sun, 5/31
11:00 AM - 12:45 PM

Laws of Social Reproduction

Paper Session 

Sun, 5/31
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Intimate Lies and the Law

Author Meets Reader (AMR) Session 

Sun, 5/31
2:15 PM - 4:00 PM

Feminist Judgments on Reproductive Justice and Family Law

Roundtable Session 

Sun, 5/31
2:15 PM - 4:00 PM

Women and Gender in Private, Public, and Places in Between: Old Doctrines Meet New Realities in the Twenty-First Century

Paper Session 

May 20, 2020 in Conferences, Constitutional, Equal Employment, Family, Masculinities, Reproductive Rights, Theory, Violence Against Women | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Women of the Supreme Court are Sick of These Nonsense Objections to Birth Control

The Women of the Supreme Court are Sick of These Nonsense Objections to Birth Control

Conservatives have been trying to unwind the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for nearly a decade now, and the women justices on the U.S Supreme Court are over it.

 

That much was apparent during oral arguments Wednesday in Trump v. Pennsylvania and its companion case, Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania.

 

It’s the third time the Court has heard a challenge to the birth control benefit, which guarantees access to FDA-approved contraception methods at no additional cost or co-pay in most employer-sponsored health plans. But this case is the most absurd and dangerous challenge yet

 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg drove that point home from the hospital, where she was recovering from a gallbladder procedure while defending the rights of hundreds of thousands of employees the Trump administration is trying to “toss to the winds entirely,” to use her words. Justice Sonia Sotomayor reminded Solicitor General Noel Francisco that should the Court side with the Trump administration, the benefits of around a hundred thousand employees (by even the most conservative estimate) would be in jeopardy. And Justice Elena Kagan appeared to be searching for a compromise she could get the chief justice to sign onto.

 

At its core is the same central question: Can your boss deny you health insurance coverage for contraception based on a religious objection? But these cases take that question and, like everything in the Trump years, extend it to absurd lengths by asking if your boss can deny you those same benefits based on a moral objection as well.

 

The moral exemption to the birth control benefit is a toxic addition inserted by the Trump administration three years ago after conservative efforts to upend the benefit in court fell flat. Trump announced the exemption in a Rose Garden ceremony flanked by the Little Sisters of the Poor, the nuns who would continue on as the face of the administration’s efforts to undermine the benefit. It was the kind of reality-TV spectacle that has come to define this administration—full of pomp, empty on substance, but with the potential to unleash an unfathomable amount of chaos in its wake.

 

And that’s precisely why the administration brought the nuns along. Someone has to sell this pile of garbage to the Roberts Court, and the nuns have proven more than willing to play along.

 

There is no world in which the nuns would have to provide contraception coverage for their employees. None. Not a single one. They are covered by exemptions, court orders, and a provision of employee benefits law that guarantees the federal government mostly stay out of their business. So when Paul Clement, the attorney representing the Little Sisters, suggested that the nuns would stop providing care to the elderly and poor should they have to simply fill out a form noting their objection to the benefit, I was glad to be covering the arguments from home. Had I been at the Court, I definitely would have been ejected for the spontaneous, “OH COME THE FUCK ON, PAUL” that response requires.

 

Turns out, I’m as fed up with these cases as the women justices of the Court.

May 11, 2020 in Constitutional, Religion, Reproductive Rights, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)