Tuesday, May 25, 2021
By Kelly Folkers (May 25, 2021)
Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that poses a direct challenge to the right to seek an abortion in the United States. It’s a test case that has been expected by reproductive rights advocates since the Supreme Court’s rightward lurch during Donald Trump’s four years in office: Trump appointed three conservative justices, all of whom have signaled willingness to roll back reproductive rights. If the Court significantly alters abortion jurisprudence or overturns Roe v. Wade (1973) entirely, reproductive rights will evaporate in many states, leaving millions of women and people who can get pregnant without a fundamental right to their bodily autonomy.
In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Court has agreed to consider whether all bans on pre-viability abortions are unconstitutional. Although pre-viability bans on abortions are unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the rightward swing of the federal judiciary has emboldened state legislatures to pass pre-viability bans to test the courts. Just this past month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed into law a bill banning abortion as early as six weeks—before many people know they are pregnant. South Carolina enacted a similar law in February. Texas and South Carolina join more than a dozen other states with similar laws, many of which have been held unconstitutional and enjoined by court order.
Dobbs involves a Mississippi law called the Gestational Age Act, which prohibits abortions if the “probable gestational age” of the fetus is more than 15 weeks. While there is dispute within the medical community regarding the exact age at which a fetus becomes viable and states vary in their definition of fetal viability (i.e., the fetus’s ability to survive outside the uterus), most experts agree that it is clinically improbable for a fetus to be viable under 22 to 24 weeks. Notably, the Act does not contain exceptions for rape or incest, allowing exceptions only for medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities. Mississippi’s sole abortion provider filed suit within hours of the law being enacted, and for now, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi’s ruling to permanently enjoin the law.
Though the Supreme Court is more conservative than it has been in decades, abortion jurisprudence has long been settled in the United States: The state cannot place an undue burden on a pregnant person’s right to have an abortion pre-viability. In 1992, the Supreme Court reaffirmed Roe’s “central holding” that pregnant people have a protected right to seek an abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Casey adopted the “undue burden” test, which provides that state action violates the right to an abortion if it has the purpose or effect of imposing a substantial obstacle to a person seeking to abort a non-viable fetus. Although Casey permits regulation of abortion before viability, it does not question that bans on abortions before fetal viability are a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S Constitution.
Since Casey, Supreme Court decisions have focused on how to apply the undue burden test to laws that regulate the provision of abortion. In the 2016 case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court struck down a Texas law requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that facilities where abortions are performed meet the requirements for ambulatory surgical centers. The Court found that the requirements placed a substantial obstacle in the path of people seeking abortions and there was no evidence showing that either requirement made abortions safer. Balancing the law’s benefits and burdens, the Court held that the law imposed an undue burden. Even more recently, in 2020, the Supreme Court struck down an almost identical Louisiana admitting privileges law in June Medical Services v. Russo. The outcome of the cases was similar, but a notable difference was the justices who voted with the majority and their reasoning. In 2016, Chief Justice John Roberts was a dissenting justice, but in 2020 he added the crucial fifth vote to strike down the law in a separate concurring opinion. Justice Roberts stated that his respect for precedent motivated his decision to vote with the Court’s liberal bloc in June Medical, but he stood firm in rejecting the balancing test the Court applied in Whole Woman’s Health.
After June Medical, it remains uncertain what test the Court will apply to determine if restrictions on the provision of abortion impose an undue burden. But Dobbs presents the court with a different issue that goes to the heart of Roe’s central holding: whether a law banning abortion before viability can ever be constitutional.
Some constitutional law experts predict that if the Court holds that bans on pre-viability abortions are permissible, it will effectively allow states to outlaw abortion. Indeed if Roe v. Wade is reversed, more than 20 states have laws banning abortion at various points in fetal viability that are designed to be triggered automatically, enacted swiftly, or dormant only because of Roe, according to Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. These laws would make abortions difficult or impossible to obtain in many states.
A decision in Dobbs is not expected until the spring or summer of 2022, but some state legislatures are already taking action to codify protections for pre-viability abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Some states are going even further: In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown (D) recently signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which requires private insurers to cover abortions with no out-of-pocket costs. Similar bills are pending in New Jersey and Virginia. These bills go beyond what the federal Constitution guarantees because they obligate public and private insurers within their states to pay for abortion; the Supreme Court has previously held in Maher v. Roe and Harris v. McRae that state and federal payers, respectively, are not constitutionally obligated to cover abortions.
Until the Supreme Court hands down what may be a landmark decision for reproductive rights, people seeking abortions retain their right to do so, but just barely.
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
By Fallon Parker (March 2, 2021)
In the wake of Amy Coney Barrett’s fast-tracked ascendance to the U.S. Supreme Court last fall, headlines have spotlighted the flurry of anti-abortion legislation making its way through state legislatures in anticipation of a receptive Supreme Court. However, in the four months since Barrett's confirmation, several states have introduced measures that would shore up reproductive rights and protect them against federal assault.
This legislation is vital given the conservative majority on the Supreme Court and the 17 pending abortion cases that could be argued before the court in 2022.
New Mexico made headlines on February 19th when state legislators voted to repeal a 1969 law that banned most abortions in the state after a failed 2019 attempt to rescind it. Although the statute has been dormant since 1973 when Roe v. Wade was decided, it could go back into effect if Roe is overturned. The statute mandated hospital board approval for medical termination of a pregnancy and restricted abortion to situations of incest, rape reported to the police, grave medical risks to the pregnant person, or indications of grave medical defects in the fetus. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed the repeal bill on February 26th, making it law as of that date.
In Minnesota, two Democratic state legislators, Representative Kelly Morrison, and Senator Jennifer McEwen, introduced the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act on January 21st. The bill would establish the fundamental right of Minnesotans to make individual decisions about reproductive health care, including abortion; recognize a fundamental right to privacy with respect to personal reproductive decisions; and prevent the state from interfering with reproductive decisions. According to Rep. Morrison's press release, this legislation is in response to the nationwide attack on abortion rights and the possibility of a Supreme Court challenge to Roe. However, Minnesota’s state legislature is under split control, with Democrats controlling the House of Representatives and Republicans controlling the Senate, which makes it unlikely the legislation will pass.
In Virginia, after years of organizing, in 2019 Democrats gained control of both state chambers for the first time since 1996. The Senate quickly passed the Reproductive Health Protection Act in April of 2020 repealing a number of medically dubious restrictions on abortion. More recently, the Senate and House each passed a parallel bill to repeal the ban on abortion coverage for people on the state’s healthcare exchange. This legislation is expected to be signed by Governor Ralph Northam (D) in April. Similar bills mandating healthcare abortion coverage have recently been introduced in Arizona, Hawaii, California, and New Jersey, although only Virginia’s has been brought to a vote.
Massachusetts--a historically liberal state--acted quickly to codify abortion rights following Barrett’s appointment. In late 2020, the state legislature expanded access to abortion beyond 24 weeks in cases of fatal fetal anomalies, and lowered the age of consent from 18 to 16. Governor Charlie Baker (R) vetoed the bill, but the Massachusetts legislature easily overrode the veto by a vote of 107-46 in the House and 32-8 in the Senate making it law as of December 29, 2020.
Overall, since Barrett's confirmation, at least 13 states have introduced measures to protect the right to an abortion. As advocates face what could be a long battle over reproductive rights in federal courts, the importance of state-level organizing and the resulting legislation could prove paramount in the fight for abortion access. If a challenge to abortion reaches the Supreme Court, the disparity in abortion access among states could return the country to pre-Roe v. Wade conditions. If that happens, a pregnant person's access to reproductive choices will depend entirely on the political makeup and policy priorities of their state legislature.
Saturday, November 23, 2019
Bustle (Nov. 13, 2019): SCOTUS Will Hear An Abortion Rights Case With Major Implications, by Jo Yurcaba:
The Supreme Court of the United States will hear the Louisiana abortion case June Medical Services v. Gee. The case was appealed from the 5th Circuit by June Medical and challenges a state law that will require abortion-providing clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
Louisiana, in the course of the appeal, also seeks the have the Court overturn "third-party standing" precedent. This long-standing rule allows clinics and providers to sue on behalf of their patients. Without such a rule, many pregnant persons would not choose to lose their anonymity by filing a case or else may not have the means to pursue comparable litigation in defense of their rights.
Anti-abortion activists and lawmakers hope to eliminate third-party standing as a way to keep challenges to abortion restrictions out of courts in the first place. Should the court strike down the validity of third-party standing, it may also call into question prior abortion precedent--including 1973's landmark Roe v. Wade--which was won without a direct patient-plaintiff.
Third-party standing was established just three years after Roe. Justice Blackmun at the time held that physicians have a unique ability to speak for their patients, stating that the physician is particularly qualified "to litigate the constitutionality of the State's interference with, or discrimination against" a person's abortion rights. Blackmun specifically acknowledged the gamut of challenges those facing abortions face. Experts cite, for example, that half of all women who get abortions are low-income and certainly cannot match the resources of their abortion providers in defending their rights.
Travis J. Tu, Senior Counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, is arguing the June Medical Services case before SCOTUS and says that overturning third-party standing could "take a wrecking ball to 40 years of abortion jurisprudence."
June Medical Services echoes a prior case SCOTUS decided in 2016: Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. Hellerstedt ruled that Texas' House Bill 2, which attempted to implement similar targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP), was unconstitutional and placed an undue burden on persons seeking abortion access.
Despite the 2016 decision in Hellerstedt, the 5th Circuit decided against precedent, upholding the Louisiana law.
Proponents of laws imposing admitting privileges generally justify them on the purported ground that they protect the health of pregnant persons seeking abortions. In reality, many hospitals will not grant admitting privileges, because they are not necessary.
TRAP regulations at their core are intended by anti-abortion activists to regulate abortions out of legal existence. Like the law at issue in June Medical, TRAP regulations generally require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, but they may also impose other requirements, including that abortions only be provided in certain, costly, far-more-complicated facilities than is reasonably necessary. The intended effect of TRAP laws is the same: severely limiting, if not outright abolishing, any clinics or providers who can legally offer abortions.
If the Louisiana law is upheld, June Medical Services will be the only remaining abortion-providing clinic in the state after two others are regulated out of existence. The eventual decision in June Medical will bring comparable consequences, whichever way it goes, for the many pending cases challenging similar abortion-restricting laws around the country.
November 23, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Courts, Politics, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, October 31, 2019
The Washington Post (Oct. 29, 2019): Alabama abortion law temporarily blocked by federal judge by, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux:
A federal district court in Alabama blocked the state's extremist abortion ban, passed in May, earlier this week. The law would almost entirely proscribe the termination of a pregnancy in Alabama, including in cases of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. The single exception to to the ban would be in the case of serious risk to the life of the pregnant person.
Alabama state representative Terri Collins--the author of the bill--has framed the law as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, and stated in response to the preliminary injunction that this decision "'is merely the first of many steps'" in the anti-abortion movement's "effort to preserve unborn life." Rep. Collins aims for challenges to the law to make it to the Supreme Court and called this week's ruling "both expected and welcomed" on the journey to SCOTUS.
Judge Myron H. Thompson, who penned the decision out of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, "wrote that it violates Supreme Court precedent and 'defies' the Constitution."
The Alabama law joins eight other states' blocked attempts at restricting abortion access unconstitutionally.
Saturday, March 30, 2019
New York Times (Mar. 28, 2019): Opinion: The Flood of Court Cases That Threaten Abortion, by Linda Greenhouse:
Within the next few weeks, Linda Greenhouse writes, a challenge to Louisiana’s abortion law will arrive at the Supreme Court as a formal appeal. Louisiana requires that doctors who perform abortions in the state "do the impossible by getting admitting privileges in local hospitals." The law, she writes, is “substantially similar” to the Texas law the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt in 2016, and yet the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit "implausibly upheld the Louisiana law nonetheless."
A majority of the Fifth Circuit is at war with the Supreme Court’s abortion precedents, writes Greenhouse, and was even before the Trump administration filled five vacancies on the appeals court. The Trump-appointed judges "clearly understand their marching orders": one of those judges, James C. Ho, wrote in a published opinion on “the moral tragedy of abortion,” a gratuitous comment that Greenhouse says "served to make him stand out from the crowd."
Meanwhile, Chief Judge Ed Carnes of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit began his opinion striking down an Alabama law that criminalizes the procedure most commonly used to terminate a pregnancy in the second trimester: “Some Supreme Court justices have been of the view that there is constitutional law and then there is the aberration of constitutional law relating to abortion. If so, what we must apply here is the aberration.” In a footnote to his 36-page opinion, Judge Carnes refused to call doctors who perform abortions either “doctors” or “physicians,” noting that “some people” regarded those designations “as inapposite, if not oxymoronic in the abortion context.” He called them “practitioners.” He also described the constitutional right to abortion as something the Supreme Court had decided to “bestow on women.”
Alabama has appealed the decision, Harris v. West Alabama Women’s Center, to the Supreme Court, noting in its brief that eight other states have enacted the same law. The justices will consider in mid-April whether to hear the case.
Greenhouse, in her decades of reporting on the federal judiciary, says that she cannot "remember seeing such expressions of outright contempt for the Supreme Court. In this age of norm-collapse, something has been unleashed here."
In another appeal pending before the Supreme Court, this one from Indiana, the Seventh Circuit struck down a law that makes it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion if the patient wants to terminate her pregnancy because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or “any other disability.”
In an opinion concurring with the majority decision, Judge Daniel Manion accused the Supreme Court of making abortion “a more untouchable right than even the freedom of speech.” While the outcome of this case was “compelled,” he said, “it is at least time to downgrade abortion to the same status as actual constitutional rights.”
Indiana’s appeal, Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, arrived at the Supreme Court in October. The justices have taken it up at their private conference eight times and will consider it again at the conference scheduled this Friday.
Greenhouse is most concerned by the recent Sixth Circuit decision, where that court upheld an Ohio law that bars state public health money from going to any organization that performs abortions, namely Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of H.I.V. testing in Cleveland, Akron and Canton. It performs abortions at three of its 27 clinics in the state.
Writing for the court, Judge Jeffrey Sutton found that Planned Parenthood had no right to invoke the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions because while women have a right to obtain abortions, neither Planned Parenthood nor any other abortion provider has the right to perform them.
Greenhouse concludes that she doesn’t "know whether Planned Parenthood will appeal the Ohio decision, Planned Parenthood v. Hodges."
"It’s received little attention — not surprisingly. As framed by the appeals court, it’s not the kind of issue that sends culture warriors to the barricades. But there’s no chance that the justices will miss its significance. Is it the small-target case they have been waiting for? Could be."
March 30, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Courts, Politics, President/Executive Branch, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Politico (Mar. 12, 2019): Appeals court rules Ohio can defund Planned Parenthood, by Alice Miranda Ollstein:
In an en banc opinion issued Tuesday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Ohio may cut state funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions, overturning a lower court ruling that blocked the state from stripping about $1.5 million of annual support from the network of clinics.
The Sixth Circuit's ruling affects six state public health programs in Ohio, but doesn't touch Medicaid. The Supreme Court in December declined to review a case brought by other Republican-led states seeking to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health organizations that offer abortions.
Four of the eleven Sixth Circuit judges who sided with Ohio in Tuesday's decision were appointed by President Donald Trump. The judges said Ohio’s law barring state health department funding from going to any provider who offers “non-therapeutic abortions” or advocates for abortion rights, “does not violate the Constitution because the affiliates do not have a" substantive "due process right" under the Fourteenth Amendment "to perform abortions."
In her dissent, Judge Helene White and five of her colleagues argued that the state’s law “would result in an undue burden on a woman’s right to obtain non-therapeutic abortions if imposed directly.”
The opinion is available here.
Friday, February 8, 2019
The New York Times (Feb. 7, 2018): Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Restrictions, by Adam Liptak:
The Supreme Court blocked the Louisiana admitting-privileges law that Justice Alito issued a stay for just last week in June Medical Services v. Gee.
The law would have effectively limited the abortion providers in the state of Louisiana to one, by requiring such providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Many hospitals either would not extend such privileges or were not in the required 30-mile radius of the abortion-providing clinics at risk under the law. While initially passed in 2014, the Louisiana law has been entangled in lawsuits ever since. SCOTUS struck down a similar statute in Texas in 2016 in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.
The Supreme Court stayed enforcement of the Louisiana law, but it may ultimately decide to take the case for full review. This would allow the Court to reconsider the clarification provided by Hellerstedt on the "undue burden" standard, initially implemented in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). This standard says that legislation that has either the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the way of a pregnant person seeking to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion creates an undue burden on them, and is therefore unconstitutional. Medically unnecessary laws that offer minimal, if any, health benefits to pregnant persons while increasing their obstacles to seeking an abortion constitute "undue burdens."
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing.
February 8, 2019 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Courts, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Reproductive Health & Safety, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP), Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, December 6, 2018
Greenville News (Dec. 4, 2018): South Carolina's anti-abortion lawmakers say they’ll push for stricter laws in 2019, by Tom Barton & Avery G. Wilks, The State:
Conservative state lawmakers in South Carolina say they will push for a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected when the full General Assembly reconvenes in January. If it becomes law, the proposal effectively would bar most abortions in South Carolina and could set up a showdown in the federal courts.
“It’s a common-sense bill. If a heart stops beating permanently, the person is dead,” said state Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood, who plans to file the fetal heartbeat bill in the South Carolina House. “Common sense should tell us that when a heart is beating, we have a precious human life that should not be terminated.”
The proposed law would ban nearly all abortions after a fetus has a detectable heartbeat — as early as six weeks in a pregnancy. That would be about two weeks after a woman’s first missed period, and well before many women realize they are pregnant, said Vicki Ringer, the public affairs director for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
More than 60 percent of the roughly 5,100 abortions performed in South Carolina in 2017 occurred after six weeks of gestation or post-fertilization, according to the latest data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Iowa passed a fetal heartbeat bill this spring, among the strictest abortion laws in the country. But that law is on hold for now as opponents challenge it in court. North Dakota and Arkansas passed similar laws, only to see them overturned by federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review the lower court rulings, but that could possibly change with Justice Brett Kavanaugh now on the court
Efforts to pass a fetal heartbeat law in South Carolina have thus far failed. Bills introduced in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018 all died without reaching the House or Senate floor.
The proposal faces a tough road to passage again this year, especially in the state Senate, where Republicans hold a majority but Democrats can filibuster controversial bills and block them. Last year, Senate Democrats took turns stalling a vote on an outright abortion ban for days until Republicans gave in and dropped the proposal.
Anti-choice lawmakers in the General Assembly also plan to reintroduce a ban on dilation & extraction, also known as a D&E ban, as well as the sweeping "Personhood Act," which would establish that fetuses have legal rights at the moment of conception, banning almost all abortions.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has promised to sign anti-choice legislation into law.
Friday, November 9, 2018
The Cut (Nov. 8, 2018): What the Election Results Mean for Abortion in America, by Irin Carmon:
"Tuesday’s results were messy and contradictory, just like the current reality of reproductive rights," writes Irin Carmon for The Cut.
With federal courts failing to protect abortion access, it will be up to the states to give and take away. “We made huge gains at the state level, which is going to be crucially important as we face the post-Roe reality,” says NARAL president Ilyse Hogue. Exit polls showed broad support for Roe v. Wade, but Republican voters in states like Indiana and North Dakota were motivated by Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to vote Republican.
First, the bad: the Senate and the federal judiciary "are gone." Republicans took a firm majority in the Senate, which has the sole authority to select federal judges and Supreme Court justices. Should Donald Trump have the chance to make another pick for the Supreme Court justice, writes Carmon, "the impact would be catastrophic."
Plenty of damage has and still can be done by Trump-controlled federal agencies, too. Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Human Services issued rules to limit abortion coverage on insurance plans on the exchange and to grant employers broad ability to opt out of including birth control in their plans.
But the good news is that without Republican control of the House, no major legislation restricting access to contraception or birth control — including defunding Planned Parenthood or a ban on abortion at 20 weeks — is likely to go anywhere.
At the state level, pro-choice Democrats didn’t lose a single governor’s seat and actually picked up seven seats. Former governors in some of the those states — like Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin — were zealous in limiting abortion access, making the replacements especially significant. Blue states also saw a total of 300 state legislature seats flipping Democratic, paving the way for stronger protections for abortion access.
In New York, eight state Senate seats went to Democrats, after a concerted campaign highlighted Republican opponents’ refusal to a Reproductive Health Act that would safeguard abortion liberty in New York in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned. Democrats now control the New York State Senate for the first time in a decade.
Some Republican supermajorities, which can override vetoes, were shrunk to simple majorities. Perhaps most promisingly, pro-choice champions won in red states, like Colin Allred in Texas. In Orange County, California, 31-year-old Katie Hill, who spoke openly about how her miscarriage at 18 had informed her support for reproductive freedom, bested the anti-abortion Steve Knight.
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
FiveThirtyEight (Oct. 31, 2018): Abortion May Be Mobilizing More Democratic Voters Than Republicans Now, by Daniel Cox:
Two new surveys reveal a remarkable shift in how important the issue of abortion is to Democrats and Republicans ahead of the 2018 midterm election this Tuesday, November 6.
A recent PRRI survey found that nearly half (47 percent) of Democrats said abortion is a critically important issue to them personally; 40 percent of Republicans said the same. That represents a dramatic swing since 2015, when 36 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans said abortion was a critical concern. Democrats are almost twice as likely today as in 2011 to rate the issue as critical.
Meanwhile, a recent Pew poll showed that abortion is a far more central voting concern for Democrats today than it has been at any point in the last decade — 61 percent of Democratic voters said abortion is very important to their vote this year. In 2008, only 38 percent of Democratic voters said the same.
Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court appears to have elevated the perceived threat level to the right to abortion. A PRRI poll conducted during Kavanaugh's confirmation process found that nearly two-thirds of Democrats believed that Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Another likely reason for the rising concern among Democrats, Cox reasons, is the years-long campaign to curb abortion access at the state level.
Cox also finds that reproductive health care has taken a more central place in the Democratic agenda as women, particularly young women, have taken on more prominent roles in the party. Many Democratic women, Cox writes, see abortion access as inextricably linked to the financial security and autonomy of women.
However, polls show that when most Democrats make voting decisions, they still weigh the issue against a host of competing concerns, such as other health care issues and the environment. It is not a litmus-test issue for most Republican or Democratic voters. Only 21 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats say they would only ever support a candidate whose views on abortion align with their own, according to a PRRI poll.
Democrats are likely to continue to prioritize abortion so long as its legal status appears to be threatened and access to it is limited. This may mean that fewer Republicans campaign on their explicit opposition to abortion, at least in the short-term. Conservative Christians, who have worked for decades to overturn Roe, have been conspicuously tight-lipped about abortion in recent months, indicating that they are worried about the possible political fallout of discussing their views. The 2018 election will show if that strategy comes too late and the abortion issue has given Democratic voters another reason to head to the polls.
November 6, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Congress, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, State Legislatures, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Rewire.News (Sept. 25, 2018): Alaskan Survivors of Sexual Assault Urge Murkowski to Vote ‘No’ on Kavanaugh, by Katelyn Burns:
Even before last week's hearing for Dr. Blasey Ford's allegations against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, indigenous groups in Alaska have been voicing their opposition to the Judge's confirmation.
Alaskan sexual assault survivors--many of whom are Natives--are calling on Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to vote "no" on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination this week. Activists have also been protesting at Senator Dan Sullivan's office (R-AK), however, unlike Senator Murkowski, he announced his support for Kavanaugh shortly after the nomination in July.
Sexual assault is a pervasive problem in Native American communities. Natives, including Alaskan women, suffer from rape and sexual assault in staggeringly disproportionate numbers with little access to justice.
"According to the 2015 Alaska Victimization Survey, 50 percent of Alaskan women have been victims of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or both." Furthermore, 97 percent of Native Alaskan sexual assault survivors suffered the violence at the hands of non-Native perpetrators. Notably, tribal justice systems cannot prosecute non-Natives for sexual assault.
Survivors are also speaking out in defense of Dr. Ford's delay in coming out publicly with her allegations. “Most of the time we would be blamed for being provocative in some way. So I can understand why someone would wait years to bring up a sexual assault," said one Alaskan Native survivor.
Native communities also oppose Kavanaugh's nomination on his views of Native rights generally and his misunderstanding of tribal history and government systems.
October 2, 2018 in Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Medical News, Politics, Public Opinion, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexual Assault, Supreme Court, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, September 28, 2018
NOLA.com (Sep. 27, 2018): Louisiana's 'admitting privileges' abortion law upheld, by The Associated Press:
A panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a Louisiana law requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals does not violate the constitutional right to abortion.
The 2-1 ruling from the 5th Circuit panel notes Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, but the majority found Louisiana's law does not impose the same "substantial burden" on women as the Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. The ruling reversed a Baton Rouge-based federal judge's ruling in the case and ordered the lawsuit by opponents of the law dismissed.
"Almost all Texas hospitals required that for a doctor to maintain privileges there, he or she had to admit a minimum number of patients annually," Judge Jerry E. Smith wrote in the opinion joined by Judge Edith Brown Clement. "Few Louisiana hospitals made that demand."
The law's immediate effects are unclear as to the three abortion clinics that court records indicate operate in Louisiana -- in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport.
Opponents of the law have argued it would make it very difficult or impossible for many to obtain abortion care in Louisiana, saying the law could result in one or two clinic closures and, eventually, a loss of access to abortion by 70 percent of individuals seeking abortion care in Louisiana.
Judge Smith rejected that argument. His opinion didn't attack the district judge's decision that the law's benefits were minimal. Instead, he wrote that the 2017 ruling, by Judge John deGravelles, exaggerated the burden on women seeking an abortion. He found no evidence that any Louisiana clinics will close because of the law, stating that there is only one doctor at one clinic who currently is unable to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. If he stops performing the procedure, Smith wrote, it would affect "at most, only 30 percent of women, and even then, not substantially."
The dissenting judge, Patrick Higginbotham, took his colleagues to task, saying they retried the case after the district judge had given full consideration to the facts. "At the outset," he wrote, "I fail to see how a statute with no medical benefit that is likely to restrict access to abortion can be considered anything but 'undue."
Monday, September 24, 2018
Albany Times-Union (Sept. 18, 2018): How safe are abortion rights in NY if Kavanaugh is confirmed?, by Bethany Bump:
New York legalized abortion in 1970, becoming the second state in the United States to broadly legalize abortion care and the first state in the nation to legalize it for out-of-state residents.
At the time, the law was seen as liberal, but no longer, according to legal scholars and experts. As confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh proceed in the U.S. Senate and the fate of Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance, New York's abortion laws have received increased attention at the state and local level.
"There has been a dramatic increase by states in the last decade to try to test the boundaries of the nation's abortion law, and it seemed to be in anticipation of changes on the Supreme Court," said Andy Ayers, director of Albany Law School's Government Law Center.
Though a common assumption is that New York is generally safe from federal rollbacks on progressive issues, a policy brief authored by Ayers and published last week by Albany Law School and the Rockefeller Institute of Government highlights exactly why that might not be the case when it comes to abortion rights.
Under New York penal law, abortion is technically a crime. The 1970 law that legalized abortion simply made the procedure a "justifiable" crime under two specific circumstances: when it is performed within 24 weeks of conception or when it is performed to save a woman's life. The law contains no health exception or any other exception (such as when the fetus is nonviable) from the 24-week restriction. However, the Supreme Court later ruled in Roe and in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that denying a health exception or forcing women to carry nonviable fetuses to term constitute unconstitutional restrictions on access to abortion care.
In 1994, the New York Court of Appeals wrote that "the fundamental right of reproductive choice, inherent in the due process liberty right guaranteed by our state constitution, is at least as extensive as the federal constitutional right," and went on to cite both Roe and Casey.
"In lawyer terms, this was 'dicta,' meaning non-binding," said Ayers, who is an adviser to the Rockefeller Institute's Center for Law and Policy Solutions. "But to me, it's very, very hard to imagine that our Court of Appeals would find it permissible to restrict abortion in a way that Roe would not have allowed."
Although legal experts agree it's unconstitutional for New York to deny late-term abortions to women to protect their health or when the fetus is nonviable, those exceptions remain a gray area to some medical professionals.
The law governing abortion in New York exists within the state's penal code, meaning violators could face criminal punishment rather than civil liability. Some doctors in New York have urged some patients to seek a late-term abortion in another state.
The Reproductive Health Act, a bill that was introduced in the state Legislature in 2017 to bring New York's abortion law in line with Roe and Casey, would lessen this effect by moving abortion statutes out of state penal law and into the state's public health law. It would also expand the types of medical professionals allowed to perform abortions to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
As President Donald Trump prepared to announce Brett Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court nominee this summer, and amid pressure on the left from Democratic primary opponent Cynthia Nixon, Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke out against Republican state senators who have refused to pass the bill.
Other states have had better luck amending their abortion laws as the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court faces its most significant shift since the Second World War. Massachusetts recently amended its laws to bolster abortion protections, while at least fifteen states have passed laws in recent years that would prohibit abortion should the Supreme Court overturn Roe.
"If a significant number of other states start prohibiting abortion or making it hard to access," Ayers said, "we may see people come into New York to get abortions again, just like they did in the '70s."
This past Thursday, the New York City Council Committee on Women, chaired by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, held a hearing on the current status of reproductive rights and access to abortion services in New York City. The Committee heard Council Resolution 84, introduced by Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Rosenthal, and Council Member Justin Brannan, which urges the State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, the Reproductive Health Act. Abortion rights advocates testified at the hearing, including Cynthia Soohoo, Co-Director of the Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic at CUNY School of Law. More information about the hearing, including video of the hearing, can be found here.
Friday, September 21, 2018
Daily Intelligencer (Sept. 20, 2018): Is the Anti-Abortion Movement Just Applied Anti-Feminism?, by Ed Kilgore:
Kilgore writes for New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer responding in part to conservative Ross Douthat's New York Times piece claiming that the current allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are harmful to the "pro-life" movement.
Kilgore says that despite the arguments of many anti-abortion activists that their purported moral high ground turns on fetal personhood or the rights of the unborn, "the prevailing sentiment among abortion rights activists is that the anti-abortion movement is just applied misogyny."
Anti-abortion work generally is rooted in a position that elevates the patriarchy and promotes "fear of women's sexuality and autonomy."
Kilgore highlights that Douthat interestingly links anti-abortion work with anti-feminism. Douthat is concerned that confirming Kavanaugh amidst the #metoo movement generally and his allegations of sexual assault specifically might "cement a perception that’s fatal to the pro-life movement’s larger purposes — the perception that you can’t be pro-woman and pro-life."
Even if many Republicans (in particular, Republican women) have identified with the labels pro-woman and pro-life, there is no longer any Republican party-wide commitment to the pro-woman side of the pairing, Kilgore says.
Ross Douthat is right to worry that it’s getting harder every day to disassociate pro-life from anti-woman views. It’s certainly getting harder for me to believe that anti-abortion activists care more about saving embryos than about shackling women.
September 21, 2018 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Congress, Culture, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, Pro-Choice Movement, Public Opinion, Supreme Court, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
CNN (Sept. 7, 2018): Kavanaugh 'abortion-inducing drug' comment draws scrutiny, by Ariane de Vogue & Veronica Stracqualursi:
Brett Kavanaugh's views on birth control drew scrutiny on Thursday as abortion rights advocates charged that the Supreme Court nominee referred to contraceptives as "abortion-inducing drugs."
The controversy came as Kavanaugh discussed Priests for Life v. HHS, a case involving the application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to the Affordable Care Act in which Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion. The government's regulations included a requirement that all employers provide their employees with health insurance that covers all forms of FDA-approved birth control, including birth control pills, IUDs, and hormonal injections. In his dissent, Kavanaugh expressed sympathy for the religious challengers.
Asked about the case by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Kavanaugh said he believed "that was a group that was being forced to provide certain kind of health coverage over their religious objection to their employees. And under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the question was first, was this a substantial burden on the religious exercise? And it seemed to me quite clearly it was."
"It was a technical matter of filling out a form in that case," he continued. "In that case, they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objected to."
Although no senators present at the hearing questioned Kavanaugh's usage of the term "abortion-inducing drugs," abortion rights advocates said Kavanaugh mischaracterized the case and also used a controversial term used by groups opposed to abortion.
Thursday, September 6, 2018
The Hollywood Reporter (Sept. 4, 2018): 'Reversing Roe' Trailer Explores the Politicization of the Abortion Debate, by Rebecca Ford:
The first trailer for Reversing Roe debuted on Tuesday, exploring the lasting effects and debate surrounding the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which ruled that unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional.
The Netflix documentary, which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, is helmed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, and has the backing of former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis and executive producer Eva Longoria.
The trailer for the Netflix film lands on the same day as the Senate hearing on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Roe v. Wade is expected to be a key issue in Kavanaugh’s nomination to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. Democrats have stated that he would play a key role in curtailing abortion rights.
Reversing Roe will premiere on Netflix on Sept. 13. Watch the new trailer below:
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Law professors around the country joined together in penning a letter to Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) urging them to vote "no" on Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination.
The letter highlights the imminent danger to reproductive health should Kavanaugh be confirmed. He would be expected to vote in support of efforts to overturn long established reproductive-rights precedents like Roe. Although Kavanaugh has publicly stated his support for stare decisis, the authors note that justices who support precedent do not always shy away from overturning it.
The overturning of Roe or Casey--both of which upheld the right to choose and based their decisions on the importance of protecting the principle that "matters involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime...are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment"--could also implicate harmful shifts in the subsequently upheld rights to privacy relating to parenting, family planning, and same sex relationships.
In 1965, the lawyers cite, "illegal abortion in the United States accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth." As officially reported numbers, the actual mortality rate due to illegal abortion was likely much higher.
The threat to reproductive health and freedom is particularly acute for women of color, poor women, and rural women, the attorneys point out, citing disparate access to quality medical care based on racial and class lines as well as the heightened maternal mortality rate for black women.
The letter states that women in Maine and Alaska in particular may be heavily affected, as both states are large and have "widely dispersed populations, creating challenges for health care."
In conclusion, the authors write:
A "no" vote is necessary to protect women and families throughout this country. We urge you, as Senators who have long supported the right to choose, to make your legacy the protection of these fundamental constitutional rights for generations to come.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
ABC News (Sept. 3, 2018): Kavanaugh comments on abortion to be parsed in confirmation hearings, by Stephanie Ebbs:
Brett Kavanaugh testifies at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings Tuesday, and nothing will be parsed more closely than his first public comments on abortion.
Senate Democrats are expected to grill Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence and access to contraception.
Abortion rights groups will be listening to how Kavanaugh responds when asked if he agrees with President Trump's comments that Roe v. Wade should be overturned and what Kavanaugh meant when he described Roe as "settled law."
During his 2006 confirmation hearing for the federal bench, Kavanaugh committed to following Roe v. Wade but would not comment on his personal opinion of abortion. "The Supreme Court has held repeatedly, senator, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to give a personal view of that case," Kavanaugh told Sen. Chuck Schumer at the time.
Over the weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he hopes Kavanaugh is open to both sides of any case challenging Roe, including that the decision should be overturned. In an interview, Graham said he would consider Kavanaugh "disqualified" if he promised only to uphold or overturn Roe v. Wade.
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, has said she won't vote for a justice "hostile" to Roe v. Wade. But after meeting with Kavanaugh earlier this month, she said he had called Roe "settled law."
Even if Kavanaugh is not in favor of overruling Roe v. Wade, there is evidence that he would interpret the right to abortion narrowly. Last year, Kavanaugh dissented in a court decision that allowed an undocumented minor in U.S. custody to get an abortion. He argued that the government could force the minor to wait until she was transferred from a government-run immigration center to a sponsor before having the abortion. Kavanuagh argued that the delay did not constitute an "undue burden" because other laws regarding abortion can cause similar delays.
Abortion rights advocacy groups want Kavanaugh, or any other Supreme Court nominee, to affirmatively support the "personal liberty standard" and say as well that the Constitution protects an American's right to decide to use contraception, have an abortion, or marry same-sex partners. But, Kavanaugh is unlikely to make such a statement and has publicly expressed misgivings about such liberty rights.
In his dissent to the Roe v. Wade, Justice William Rehnquist wrote that the framers of the Constitution did not intend for the 14th Amendment to overrule states' ability to write their own laws about abortion because there were state laws regulating it at the time. In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute last year Kavanaugh said that while Rehnquist couldn't convince the other justices he succeeded in "stemming the general tide of free-wheeling judicial creation of unenumerated rights that were not rooted in the nation's history and tradition."
Friday, August 3, 2018
With fate of U.S. abortion rights unclear, Maryland House speaker aims to strengthen state protections
Aug. 2, 2018 (Washington Post): With fate of U.S. abortion rights unclear, Md. House speaker aims to strengthen state protections, by Erin Cox:
Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch plans to lead a statewide effort to enshrine a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion care in the Maryland constitution, joining other states in attempting to preempt any move by the Supreme Court to erode abortion protections.
The Speaker said he will personally introduce and earn support for legislation asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment, likely in the 2020 presidential election. An amendment would ensure that even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, no legislation outlawing abortion could be passed in Maryland.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who is anti-abortion, said that that letting voters decide on the issue “sounds like a great idea.” Ben Jealous, his Democratic opponent running to replace Hogan this November, vowed to campaign in support of the amendment.
Abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates believe a strongly worded dissent Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh issued last fall, in a case involving a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody, indicates he would favor more abortion restrictions and might support overturning the federal protections that began with Roe.
Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill repealing century-old laws that criminalized abortion care. West Virginia and Alabama have initiatives on the ballot this year to clarify that their state constitutions do not protect the right to an abortion.
If Busch succeeds in persuading three-fifths of each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly to approve the constitutional amendment next year, Maryland voters would see it on the 2020 ballot.
Nine states currently have abortion protections in their state constitutions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights: Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and New Mexico.
Busch said the amendment would insert Maryland’s existing abortion statute into the state constitution. That law was approved by the General Assembly in 1991. After antiabortion groups petitioned it to a referendum, it passed with 61.7 percent of the vote.
The law allows individuals to seek abortion care without interference from the state if the fetus is not viable outside the womb. An individual may also terminate a pregnancy at any point if the fetus has a “genetic defect or serious anomaly” or if an abortion is necessary to protect the health of the pregnant person.
Busch said he will introduce the amendment proposal when the legislature convenes in January and is confident he can find the votes from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
July 8, 2018 (Washington Post), Roe isn't just about women's rights. It's about everyone's personal liberty, by Nancy Northup:
In an opinion piece, Nancy Northup writes that if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade "everyone's personal-liberty rights are on the line." She explains:
The constitutional framework of Roe is about far more than abortion. It’s about rearing our children without unwarranted government interference. It’s about choosing whom we want to marry. It’s about deciding with whom we want to create a home. It’s about the right to use contraception. It’s about what the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey explained is the “promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter.”
Roe was the basis for many cases protecting liberty outside of the context of reproductive rights. For instance, the Supreme Court relied on Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey when it held that states can't criminalize intimate sexual conduct between same sex partners in Lawrence v. Texas and guaranteed the right of same sex couples to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Northup argues that it is dangerous to look at Roe as a "stand-alone" case:
This guarantee of individual liberty is bound together through decades of accumulated legal precedent. Within the interconnected framework of our rights, Roe is a load-bearing element. Knock it down, and the structure falls.
The Center for Reproductive Rights' report analyzing Roe's relationship to fundamental liberty rights to marry, use contraceptives and to procreate as well as sexual rights, rights to bodily integrity and medical decision-making can be found here.