Welcome to New York, Sandy!

As New York hunkers down for Hurricane Sandy, I want to let her know how we treat women up here–even powerful, independent women who don’t cross their legs, redirect their gale force winds off-shore, or otherwise behave like the little ladies so popular with our male Republican candidates these days.

1) We respect a woman’s right to control her reproductive destiny: New York legalized abortion before Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land.

2) While many of the country’s legislators are dreaming up new ways to demean women, we have New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins introducing the Reproductive Health Act, with eighteen co-sponsors. Its purpose: to provide a fundamental right to choose contraception and the right of a female to determine the course of a pregnancy; to authorize abortion prior to viability; and to decriminalize abortion.  [Read more...]

Yes, We Did! The Affordable Care Act (Mostly) Stands

Afteraffordable care act supreme court decision months of nail-biting, speculation, and copious analysis – we finally have it. The Supreme Court of the United States has rendered its decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.

And the left, the feminists, the Obama Administration, and most of all – the country WON!

In a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts crossing the aisle to side with the liberal wing of the court, the Supreme Court decided that the vast majority of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was Constitutional and would move forward.

At the center of the controversy, the so-called “individual mandate,” or requirement that most Americans carry health insurance or face a financial penalty, received the most attention. Initially, CNN, FOX News, and even NPR had reported that the mandate had been declared unconstitutional.  [Read more...]

Arizona’s SB 1070 Immigration Bill Deemed Mostly Unconstitutional Today by Supreme Court

Arizona’s immigration bill SB 1070 has been the subject of much media attention and we’ve reported on the bill here on FFC on several different occasions. The law was challenged and the Ninth Circuit granted an injunction against enforcement of four provisions in the bill. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on the case and the Court’s decision on Arizona SB 1070 was announced today.

The four provisions of the Arizona SB 1070 bill were challenged on the grounds of being preempted by the federal government authority and therefore unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled today that three of those four provisions are explicitly preempted by federal law, and the fourth must be construed narrowly in order to be constitutional.

The three provisions in Arizona SB 1070 deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court are: (1) state law crime of being in the country illegally, (2) ban on working in the state, and (3) warrantless arrest of individuals suspected to have committed a deportable crime. [Read more...]

New Jersey Nurses Refuse to Treat Abortion Patients

A recent lawsuit in New Jersey could greatly affect the way abortion services are performed in hospitals across the country. In late October, twelve nurses filed a suit claiming that the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey violated state and federal law with their announcement that nurses would have to help abortion patients before and after the procedure. This announcement, which came in mid-September, reversed the institution’s previous policy that nurses could refuse to assist these patients based on their moral or religious objections.

New Jersey is far from the only state that allows medical employees to opt out of performing or assisting in abortion procedures. These so-called “conscience” protections were greatly strengthened towards the end of George W. Bush’s presidency; a regulation enacted shortly before he left office would have withheld federal funding from hospitals, clinics, and even state and local governments that did not allow health care employees to refuse to participate in any procedure violated their religious, moral, or personal beliefs. This regulation was widely interpreted as protecting employees that refused to provide birth control pills, perform in-vitro fertilization for single women or lesbians, and refuse to treat gay AIDS patients, among other services. Earlier this year, President Obama rescinded most of the regulation – leaving only the protection for nurses or doctors that do not want to perform abortions or sterilizations. [Read more...]

Judge Blocks Texas Forced Sonogram Bill, Texas Women See Glimmer of Hope

NOTE: This is an update to fabulous Feminists For Choice blogger Maureen’s post. You can read it here.

I’m sure you read the horrific news coming out of Texas over the last few months. Our governor (and GOP presidential candidate) Rick Perry signed a bill requiring women seeking abortions to view a sonogram of their fetus. And that’s not even the bad part – these women would be forced to watch the sonogram with their physician describing the images to them and listen to an audio of the fetus’ heartbeat.

Yeah. Pretty terrible stuff, right? Luckily for Texas women (and children) though, the Texas Independent has reported that U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks has blocked the bill and struck down 2 of its more egregious provisions. In response to a petition from the Center for Reproductive Rights petition, Judge Sparks found that provisions of the bill violated the free speech rights of both patient and physician.  [Read more...]

Judge Throws Out Bloomberg Pregnancy Discrimination Case

A large pregnancy discrimination case with national implications was just decided in Manhattan federal court. And the outcome is not good.

A bit of background: in 2007, 79 women joined a class-action law suit against Bloomberg L.P., the financial services and media company founded by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The suit, originally filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, argued that that the company engaged in a pattern of discrimination, including demotions and pay cuts, against pregnant women who took maternity leave. The lawsuit also alleged that pregnant women and new mothers were excluded from management meetings and subjected to stereotyping about their abilities to do their jobs because of their family and caregiver responsibilities.

[Read more...]

A (Partial) Victory in Indiana

A few days ago, I wrote about how Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana were barred from receiving Medicaid funds for non-abortion services. But now comes good news from the Hoosier State: a U.S. District Judge has ruled in favor of PP, and granted an injunction against the defunding law. Judge Tanya Pratt also put a hold on a fetal-pain provision in the law, which would have required that doctors tell women seeking abortions that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks or less gestation. (Republican Rep. Sue Ellspermann, who wrote the original draft of the fetal-pain language, has admitted that she did not consult any doctors, studies, or scientists while preparing the legislation – though she does say that she has seen video of a fetus “shying away” from a needle.)

As the Indianapolis Star reports, Judge Pratt “ruled that the defunding law violates federal Medicaid rules and “will exact a devastating financial toll on PPIN and hinder its ability to continue serving patients’ general health needs.” ” Neither the defunding measure nor the fetal pain provision can be enforced while Planned Parenthood’s legal challenge is being heard; however, a provision that requires physicians to inform patients that life begins at fertilization was upheld.

There have also been “unintended consequences” as a result of the court case. According to the Fond Du Lac Reporter, doctors at two state hospitals stopped offering patients the choice of terminating their pregnancies several weeks ago, including cases where the fetus had no chance of survival and where the woman’s health was at serious risk.

Hopefully, the injunction means that not only will Planned Parenthood clinics remain open, but that women can get the full range of options and care that they deserve.


Alaska Judge Upholds Parental Notification Law with a Few Adjustments

As many of you probably already know, Alaska joined the Parental Notification Club back in August. Consequently, for young women in Alaska seeking an abortion, this means less access, bigger obstacles, and higher risks. In light of these implications, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest challenged the Parental Notification law in court last Friday on grounds that the law violated minors’ rights and singled out abortion services as the only medical care related to pregnancy that requires parental notification. Unfortunately for Planned Parenthood, Superior Court Judge John Suddock blocked the request. The law is scheduled to take effect today.

Although Judge Suddock’s decision is disappointing in scope, there were several positive revisions in his ruling. For instance, Judge Suddock removed a provision that would have held physicians liable for damage and severely criminalized young women’s reproductive health choices. Other revisions include more efficient methods of notification and significantly less severe punishment deployed against young women who break the law. Prior to these revisions, anyone who violated the law would have faced up to a $1,000 fine and imprisonment of up to five years.

The fact that this policy even made it past the Midterm election and into the courtroom is appalling. It’s a clear indication that women’s reproductive choices are under attack, and the reproductive bodies of young women are particularly vulnerable. I think it’s also important to note that this battle for young women’s reproductive autonomy in Alaska is not happening in a vacuum. It’s part of a larger movement aimed at limiting women’s access and disciplining young people’s reproductive and sexual bodies. Parental Notification laws simply mask the complexity of young women and deny their ability to exercise rational choices.

Kagan Kerfuffle Exposes the Subtle Class Bias of Military Recruiting

John McCain’s editorial on the Kagan nomination got me thinking.  At issue, her move as dean of Harvard Law School denying military recruiters access to the campus Career Services Office.  McCain cites one beleaguered recruiter complaining that without this access, they were “relegated to wandering the halls in hopes that someone will stop and talk to us.”

Funny, recruiters have no problem meeting recruiting targets by wandering the halls (or streets, parks, gas stations, malls, and Wal-Marts) in low-income communities cruising for teenagers to sign on the dotted line.  Of course, there is less competition in this arena than in the post-grad job market of a Harvard law student, whose student body emerges equipped with a world-class education, awesome earning potential, and is still majority white, almost 70%.  McCain bristles at the thought of “white-shoe law firms” recruiting students, but not “one of its great institutions, the U.S. military.”

The damage done to military recruiting efforts by Kagan’s decision is a chimera, but the opportunity to resurrect a tired (and frankly a little pathetic) narrative of God & Country was too hard for Senate conservatives to resist.  When the best and the brightest (read: richest and whitest) don’t roll out the red carpet for military recruiters, it is an insult to the pedigree of military-political careerism and chickenhawks everywhere.  And John McCain won’t stand for it.

Is “IDX” Really That Hard to Write?

Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing was held last week, and the event unfolded fairly predictably. Even though Orrin Hatch has stated that he’ll vote against Kagan, and Jeff Sessions has made noises about a possible filibuster, the general consensus is that she’ll be confirmed. One issue did spark some controversy, however: Kagan’s writings on abortion. As an associate White House counsel during the Clinton Administration, Kagan was one of the staffers involved in the discussions of a potential ban on so-called “partial-birth abortion”

Much has been reported and opined about Kagan’s work on this issue, but whether the subject comes up in mainstream media, conservative publications, or liberal websites, one piece of the story remains consistent: the use of the term “partial-birth abortion.” The casual and pervasive use of this term clearly represents how anti-choice language has gained acceptance in the mainstream, particularly as it is not an actual medical procedure. What the misnomer refers to is intact dilation and extraction (IDX), a rare procedure[1] used only in the later stages of pregnancy, which is generally defined as the beginning of the third trimester. IDX is performed by dilating the woman’s cervix with the aid of medications and removing the fetus through the birth canal. To safely remove the fetus, it is necessary to reduce the size of the head, which is done through the physician making an incision at the base of the skull and inserting a suction catheter to collapse the skull.  [Read more...]