Friday, January 26, 2018
NBC News (January 24, 2018): Satanic Temple challenges Missouri's abortion law on religious grounds, by Corky Siemaszko:
On January 23, the Supreme Court of Missouri heard argument in Doe v. Greitens, a case challenging Missouri abortion regulations under the state religious freedom restoration act and the Establishment Clause of the federal constitution. The Plaintiff, Mary Doe was forced to view an ultrasound and confirm that she had read a state mandated booklet stating that “life of every human being begins at conception.” Doe alleges that Missouri's requirements violate her religious beliefs as a member of the Satanic Temple that "a nonviable fetus is not a separate human being but is part of her body and that abortion of a nonviable fetus does not terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being." A spokesperson for the Satanic Temple argues that the Missouri law seeks to indoctrinate a single religious viewpoint and punish women who disagree.
According to NBC News, in October 2017, the Missouri Court of Appeals sent the case to the state Supreme Court because
"Neither the Missouri Supreme Court nor the U.S. Supreme Court has considered whether a Booklet of this nature, an Ultrasound, an Audible Heartbeat Offer, and a seventy-two-hour Waiting Period violate the Religion Clause rights of pregnant women," Judge Thomas Newton wrote for the majority. "Because we believe that this case raises real and substantial constitutional claims, it is within the Missouri Supreme Court's exclusive jurisdiction.”
The case appears to have already resulted in some change in abortion regulation in Missouri because at oral argument, the Missouri's Attorney General stated that “it’s the position of the State that an ultrasound does not have to be conducted unless a person says they want the opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat.”
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
ABC News (January 23,2018), Trump's global gag rule goes far beyond abortion, groups say, by Cara Anna:
One year after President Trump reinstated and expanded the scope of the global gag rule health groups describe the the impact as "devastating." The global gag rule prohibits recipients of U.S. foreign aid from engaging in abortion related activities or discussing abortion as an option with patients.
When President Trump took office last year, he expanded the global gag rule beyond the scope of the rule under the George W. Bush administration making it apply not just to $575 million in U.S. family planning funds but also to $8.8 billion in U.S. global health aid.
It was widely expected that President Trump would reinstate the global gag rule, but its extension to global health aid including the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has dramatically expanded its impact.
"For the rest of the global health community this is a huge wake-up call," said Robin Gorna with SheDecides, a global movement that sprang up last year to raise money to help fill the U.S. gap and brought in $450 million throughout 2017. "The HIV community, for example, was ill-prepared for it. ... It's really exceptionally problematic."
At least 1,275 foreign NGOs, and about $2.2 billion in global health funding, could be affected by the expanded global gag rule, the Kaiser Family Foundation says.
It is also clear that the global gag rule has devastated access to family planning and other health services for women around the world. For instance, "Marie Stopes International announced it faces a funding gap of $80 million in the 37 countries where it works, with more than 2 million women risking the loss of contraceptive services." In Africa, Marie Stopes has cut its outreach sites in half from 1200 to 600. In addition to the loss of family planning, the closure of these sites will result in the loss of other health care services including treatment for HIV and other diseases for women and men.
Monday, January 22, 2018
NPR (January 18, 2018): Trump Admin Will Protect Workers Who Refuse Services on Religious Grounds, by Alison Kodjak:
The Department of Health and Human Services announced that it is creating the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom to protect health care workers who refuse to take part in procedures like abortion or treat certain people because of moral or religious objections. The creation of the division marks a sharp departure from Obama-era regulation that barred health care workers from refusing to treat people seeking abortions and transgender individuals. (The enforcement of the regulation was enjoined by a Texas judge in December 2016).
One of the primary aims of the Division appears to be protecting health care workers from participating in abortion services because it goes against their religious beliefs.
Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said those conscience objections could expand to allow health workers to refuse some services to gay, lesbian and transgender people.
"This administration has taken a very expansive view of religious liberty," she said in an interview. "It understands religious liberty to override antidiscrimination principles."
HHS makes clear that it won't allow gender discrimination that is banned by federal law. The question, according to Melling, is whether the administration includes gender identity and sexual orientation in the definition of gender.
Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan claims that the Division is necessary because "[f]or too long many of these health care practitioners have been bullied and discriminated against because of their religious beliefs and moral convictions." However, claims of conscience objection raise broader questions about health care workers' ethical responsibility to provide services and patients' rights to health care and non-discrimination.
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
This term the U.S. Supreme Court will hear National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. The case concerns the California Reproductive FACT Act, which requires that Crisis Pregnancy Centers disclose if they are not licensed medical facilities and display information about access to low cost birth control and abortion care. NIFLA argues that the law violates the First Amendment.
SCOTUSblog has organized a symposium on the case with contributions from Priscilla Smith of Yale Law School, Mark Rienzi of the Catholic University of America, Columbia School of Law, Julie Rikelman of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute, Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of UC, Berkeley School of Law and John Bursch of Bursch Law PLLC.