Friday, November 9, 2018

What the Election Results Mean for Abortion in America

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.

November 9, 2018 in Abortion, Congress, Contraception, In the Courts, Politics, President/Executive Branch, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Abortion May Be Mobilizing More Democratic Voters Than Republicans Now

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

Alaskan Survivors of Sexual Assault Urge Murkowski to Vote ‘No’ on Kavanaugh

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

Louisiana's 'admitting privileges' abortion law upheld

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."

 

September 28, 2018 in Abortion, In the Courts, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 24, 2018

How safe are abortion rights in New York if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed?

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.

September 24, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Congress, In the Courts, Politics, President/Executive Branch, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Is the Anti-Abortion Movement Just Applied Anti-Feminism?

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

Kavanaugh 'abortion-inducing drug' comment draws scrutiny

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.

"The argument for the lawyers of Priests for Life was that they objected to all birth control," Beth Lynk, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "In Kavanaugh's testimony his description of their objection characterized all types of birth control as 'abortion inducing drugs.'"
 
"In reaching for a term to describe all types of birth control, the word he chose was 'abortion inducing drugs,"' she said.
 
"Saying 'abortion-inducing drugs' to describe contraception is straight out of the anti-choice, anti-science phrase book used to restrict women's access to essential health care," the Center for Reproductive Rights said on Twitter Thursday.
 
Kavanaugh used similar language to answer on Thursday to describe the Priests for Life position in his 2015 dissent.
 
"By regulation, that insurance must cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, including certain methods of birth control that, some believe, operate as abortifacients and result in the destruction of embryos," he wrote.
 

September 11, 2018 in Abortion, Congress, Contraception, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 6, 2018

'Reversing Roe' Trailer Explores the Politicization of the Abortion Debate

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:

 

September 6, 2018 in Abortion, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

336 Law Professors Write Letter Opposing Kavanaugh's Nomination

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. 

September 5, 2018 in Congress, Current Affairs, In the Media, Law School, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Kavanaugh comments on abortion to be parsed in confirmation hearings

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."

September 4, 2018 in Abortion, Congress, In the Courts, In the Media, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

August 3, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, In the Courts, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Roe isn't just about women's rights. It's about everyone's personal liberty

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.

 

July 10, 2018 in Abortion, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Battle lines drawn over abortion ahead of Trump's supreme court pick

The Guardian (Jul. 8, 2018): Battle lines drawn over abortion ahead of Trump's supreme court pick, by Ed Pilkington:

Battle lines have been drawn over the future of abortion in America on the eve of President Donald Trump’s nomination of a second justice to the U.S. Supreme Court that could put Roe v. Wade in jeopardy.

Trump has said he will announce his nominee for the seat in a characteristic display of political braggadocio on primetime TV at 9pm ET on Monday night (July 9). On Sunday there was no indication that he had yet made his decision, as speculation continued to swirl around the shortlist for the appointment.

Both sides in the increasingly acrimonious dispute took to the Sunday political talk shows at the start of what promises to be an epic tussle over the ninth seat on the nation’s highest court. The position will be left vacant by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, who had acted as the swing vote on many critical issues including abortion.

In the course of the 2016 election, Trump made changing the face of the Supreme Court a key campaign pledge that was instrumental in firing up his base of right-wing conservative voters. In the presidential debates he vowed to appoint only Justices committed to “automatically” overturning Roe.

Now, key players in the appointment are reining back on the suggestion that the newly-composed court will target the pro-choice ruling and re-criminalise the practice. Leonard Leo, the vice president of the conservative Federalist Society who selected Trump’s longlist of 25 candidates for the Supreme Court, told ABC’s This Week that warnings about Roe v Wade were a “scare tactic." Leo said that it was impossible to predict the positions of any of the leading candidates for the seat on abortion. “Nobody really knows,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this for 36 years going all the way back to the nomination of Sandra O’Connor, and after that you only have a single individual on the court who has expressly said he would overturn Roe.”

Trump is known to have interviewed at least seven candidates for the post, all drawn from the Federalist Society longlist. Of those, the shortlist is understood to have boiled down to four judges from various US Courts of Appeals– Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh, and Raymond Kethledge.

Of those individuals, Barrett is considered to have the most hard-line record opposing abortion rights, but that could cause problems among more moderate Republicans in the Senate, notably Susan Collins of Maine, who is already the target of ads being put out by pro-choice groups.

The New York Times on Sunday reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was strongly urging Trump to opt for either Hardiman or Kethledge on grounds that the other two might be impossible to get confirmed. While Barrett is problematic on the abortion issue, Kavanaugh is unpopular among some Republican senators because of his track record as staff secretary under President George W. Bush.

Democrats and pro-choice groups stepped up their rhetoric on Sunday over the danger of Trump’s second pick. Richard Blumenthal, Democratic senator from Connecticut, told ABC’s This Week that it posed a fundamental threat to abortion rights. “This next nomination will be the swing vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and equally important to eviscerate the protections of millions of Americans who suffer from existing conditions and other healthcare rights along with workers’ rights, gay rights, voting rights.”

July 8, 2018 in Abortion, Congress, In the Courts, President/Executive Branch, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Steps the Next Supreme Court Might Take to Roll Back Abortion Rights

New York Magazine (Jun. 27, 2018): Steps the Next Supreme Court Might Take to Roll Back Abortion Rights, by Ed Kilgore: 

With the announcement of Justice Kennedy's imminent retirement comes the prospect of a much more conservative Supreme Court, particularly in relation to reproductive rights. Justice Kennedy stood in the majority of the 2016 Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt decision, which reaffirmed basic abortion access rights. Trump has promised to pursue the reversal of Roe v. Wade, though, and has stated his intentions to nominate a similarly-minded next justice. 

Many states have recently enacted stricter abortion access requirements--like Louisiana's legislation banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy or Iowa's fetal heartbeat ban. "Such laws are aimed at setting up a challenge to Roe if the Supreme Court lurches to the right — which is now an imminent possibility."

While it's unlikely that, even under a more conservative court, Roe would be immediately overturned, a shift to the right on the Supreme Court will likely lead to affirmation of new, state-level abortion restrictions. For example, rather than overturn Roe, which is backed by additional, subsequent precedent in 1992's Casey and 2016's Hellerstedt, the court might instead find an opportunity to reverse Hellerstedt, as the more recent decision. Such a move might reinvigorate efforts to enact Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, likely forcing abortion providers out of business with burdensome requirements and eliminating much abortion access, especially in already-conservative states.

Either way, if Trump nominates an anti-Roe Supreme Court candidate this year, and the Senate approves them, we can expect many more legal battles on the availability of abortion. "With one SCOTUS appointment and one decision, that could all change, and we could enter a period of abortion-policy activism unlike anything America has seen in decades."

June 28, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Media, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Public Opinion, Reproductive Health & Safety, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Supreme Court Backs Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centers in Free Speech Case

New York Times (Jun. 26, 2018): Supreme Court Backs Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centers in Free Speech Case, by Adam Liptak: 

Justice Thomas wrote for the five-justice, conservative majority who decided Tuesday that California's "crisis pregnancy centers" cannot be forced to provide information on abortion services in the state. 

The case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, No. 16-1140, centered on a California law that requires pregnancy centers whose aim is to dissuade pregnant people from abortions to provide information on the availability of abortions in California.

The state requires the centers to post notices that free or low-cost abortion, contraception and prenatal care are available to low-income women through public programs, and to provide the phone number for more information.

The centers argued that the law violated their right to free speech by forcing them to convey messages at odds with their beliefs. The law’s defenders said the notices combat incomplete or misleading information provided by the clinics.

The state legislature enacted the law after finding that hundreds of the pregnancy centers used "intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling" to confuse or intimidate women from making informed decisions about their health care. The law also required that unlicensed clinics disclose that they are unlicensed. 

Justice Thomas wrote that the requirements for the notices regarding abortion availability were too burdensome and infringed on the clinics' rights under the First Amendment. The ruling reverses a unanimous decision from a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which had upheld the law.

Justice Breyer penned a dissent, joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, citing the contradiction between the majority's decision here and a Court decision in 1992 that upheld a Pennsylvania law that required abortion-performing doctors to inform their patients about other options, like adoption. 

June 27, 2018 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Courts, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Pro-Choice Movement, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Young Immigrant Women Have the Right to Access Abortion. Monday’s Supreme Court Decision Doesn’t Change That.

Jun. 4, 2018 (American Civil Liberties Union: Speak Freely): Young Immigrant Women Have the Right to Access Abortion. Monday’s Supreme Court Decision Doesn’t Change That, by Brigitte Amiri:

The Supreme Court on Monday steered around a long-pending abortion dispute between the Trump administration and ACLU lawyers over young immigrant women in custody, telling lower courts on Monday to start over in deciding the issue. In a short opinion, the justices wiped away rulings by several judges who last fall had cleared the way for a 17-year-old to see a doctor and obtain an abortion.

There has been a lot of confusion about Monday’s decision in the Jane Doe case, Azar v. Garza, but ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Brigitte Amiri provides two big takeaways "to clear things up."

First, Amiri writes that the ruling was limited to the case of one young woman, who already had her abortion. There is still a court order in place that prohibits the government from obstructing or interfering with unaccompanied minors’ access to abortion, and today’s decision does not change that. Second, the Supreme Court rejected what Amiri calls the "government’s baseless request to find" that Amiri and her colleagues acted unethically.

The Supreme Court ruling vacates Jane Doe’s individual victory in the court of appeals that paved the way for her to obtain an abortion. Because Jane Doe has already obtained an abortion, the Court ruled that her individual claim related to abortion access is now moot. The ruling does not say anything about the merits of the constitutional question presented in the underlying case, namely whether the government can violate decades of Supreme Court precedent by banning abortion for unaccompanied minors.

The ACLU is still seeking a ruling that the government's policy is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court’s ruling that Jane Doe's individual case is moot does not affect the rest of the case in any way, nor does it diminish a district court order that blocks  the government’s policy of obstructing unaccompanied pregnant minors' access to abortion.

On March 30th, the district court allowed the case to proceed as a class action and issued a preliminary injunction blocking the government’s no-abortion policy. The government has appealed that decision and asked the court of appeals to allow the policy to go back into effect while the appeal is pending. The court of appeals denied that request on the evening of June 4th, 2018 (following the Supreme Court's ruling), reaffirming that unaccompanied minors must have access to abortion. The briefing on appeal will happen during the summer, and oral argument will take place in September. 

The Court also rejected the government’s request to impose discipline on Amiri and her colleagues for representing their client to the best of their abilities. The government’s ethics claims have always been baseless, Amiri writes, and they are merely an attempt to intimidate Amiri and her colleagues. 

June 5, 2018 in Abortion, In the Courts, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Iowa Lawmakers Pass Strictest Abortion Law in the U.S.

The Hill (May 2, 2018): Iowa lawmakers pass strictest abortion law in the US, by Julia Manchester:

On Wednesday, May 2, 2018, Iowa legislators passed "the heartbeat bill." The legislation bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Essentially, the heartbeat distinction would ban abortions by the sixth week of pregnancy. 

Opposition to the bill claims that it would ban abortions before some women even know they're pregnant. 

The passage of the bill comes as the Trump administration has taken a hard-line stance on abortion, spurring a slew of abortion laws across the nation.

Nineteen states adopted a total of 63 restrictions to the procedure in 2017, which is the highest number of state laws on the issue since 2013, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The bill now goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds's (R) desk, but, if signed, is expected to be challenged as a violation of Supreme Court precedent including Roe v. Wade. 

May 3, 2018 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, Politics, Pregnancy & Childbirth, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Supreme court agrees to hear antiabortion challenge to California disclosure law for pregnancy centers

Los Angeles Times (Nov. 13, 2017): Supreme court agrees to hear antiabortion challenge to California disclosure law for pregnancy centers, by David G. Savage:

The Supreme Court has granted certiorari to hear NIFLA vs. Becerra, in which an anti-abortion group challenges a California law that requires crisis pregnancy centers to notify patients that the state offers contraception and abortion services. 

The case centers on the Reproductive FACT Act, which requires pregnancy centers to disclose whether they have a medical license and whether medical professionals are available. The law also requires centers to post a notice in the waiting room that reads: "California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, including all FDA-approved methods of contraception, pre-natal care and abortion."

California lawmakers passed the disclosure law two years ago after concluding as many as 200 pregnancy centers in the state sometimes used “intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices that often confuse, misinform and even intimidate women” about their options for medical care.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) represents 110 pregnancy centers in California that all claim the disclosure provision violates their free speech as "compelled speech." Such a disclosure, they claim, conflicts with their faith-based goal of encouraging childbirth and preventing abortion. 

The Californian pregnancy centers initially lost their case under three federal district judges. On appeal, the 9th Circuit Court upheld the lower court's decision. Last month, however, a judge in Riverside County ruled that the law violated the free-speech provisions of California's own state Constitution. 

California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra stands by the disclosure provision and its intent to provide women accurate information about their health care options.

It takes five justices for a majority opinion, and many expect the Court's decision to turn on the vote of Justice Kennedy. 

November 14, 2017 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Current Affairs, In the Courts, In the Media, Politics, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Trump DOJ seeks possible disciplinary action against lawyers in abortion case of unaccompanied minor

ABC News (Nov. 3, 2017): Trump DOJ seeks possible disciplinary action against lawyers in abortion case of unaccompanied minor by, Geneva Sands

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court today asking for possible disciplinary action against the attorneys that represented an undocumented minor who had an abortion over objections from the Trump administration.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of 17-year-old Jane Doe. Doe learned she was pregnant after being placed in a detention facility for children under the purview of the Department of Health and Human Services. She says she knew immediately that an abortion was the right option for her.

Doe, represented by the ACLU, had been fighting the federal government to be granted a medical visit to a clinic to receive her abortion. The government had instead taken her against her wishes to a pro-life clinic that tried to persuade her not to abort and showed her sonograms against her will. 

Doe was finally able to get her abortion on October 25. 

The Trump administration has now accused the ACLU of misleading the government on the timing of Doe's abortion. They claim that after informing Justice Department attorneys that the teen's procedure would occur on October 26th, Doe's attorneys actually scheduled it for early on October 25, thereby avoiding Supreme Court review. 

Government attorneys allege that the ACLU, while advocating for their client, violated their duties to the court and to the Bar. The administration believes the judgment under review that enabled Doe to receive the abortion should be vacated and additionally seeks potential disciplinary action against Doe's attorneys.

In response, the ACLU says the government failed to file a timely review with the Supreme Court and that Doe's attorneys acted both in the best interest of their client and "in full compliance with the court orders and federal and Texas law."

 According to Jane herself:

"I’m a 17-year-old girl that came to this country to make a better life for myself. My journey wasn’t easy, but I came here with hope in my heart to build a life I can be proud of. I dream about studying, becoming a nurse, and one day working with the elderly," she wrote. "This is my life, my decision. I want a better future. I want justice," she concluded.

November 4, 2017 in Abortion, Current Affairs, In the Courts, In the Media, President/Executive Branch, Supreme Court, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Trump administration narrows Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate

Washington Post (Oct. 6, 2017): Trump administration narrows Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, by Juliet Eilperin, Amy Goldstein and William Wan:

In the next move on Trump's path to dismantle as many Obama-administration initiatives as possible, the Trump administration issued a rule today that many predict will leave hundreds of thousand of women without free access to contraceptives. 

The Health and Human Services Department now allows a much wider group of employers and insurers to exempt themselves from covering birth control on religious or moral grounds. Although the administration estimates that "99.9%" of women will still receive free birth control through their insurance, the only basis of that estimate is the finite number of lawsuits that have been filed since Obama introduced the contraceptive mandate provision in 2012. Officials do not know, however, how many employers denied contraceptive coverage on "religious" or "moral" grounds before the ACA, and so an accurate number of women who may lose coverage cannot yet be estimated. 

In 2014, the Supreme Court heard the Hobby Lobby case in which the Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby chain craft store objected to providing certain forms of birth control. The court ruled it illegal to impose the provision on "closely held corporations," the definition of which is sure to widen under Trump's provision. 

Senior Justice Department officials said the guidance was merely meant to offer interpretation and clarification of existing law. But the interpretation seemed to be particularly favorable to religious entities, possibly at the expense of women, LGBT people and others.

The guidance, for example, said the ACA contraceptive mandate “substantially burdens” employers’ free practice of religion by requiring them to provide insurance coverage for contraceptive drugs in violation of their religious of beliefs or face significant fines.

 

This new rule will almost certainly prompt fresh litigation against the Trump administration, likely on the grounds of sex discrimination--as the mandate disproportionately affects women--and religious discrimination based on the argument that these exceptions enable employers to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. 

October 7, 2017 in Contraception, Current Affairs, Politics, President/Executive Branch, Religion, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)