North Dakota voters soundly rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment yesterday that would have granted "the right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief" even if such actions are otherwise illegal. Sixty-four percent of voters rejected the measure and only thirty-six percent voted in favor of it. Measure 3, or the so-called Religious Liberties Restoration State Constitution Amendment, was criticized for being too broad and for potentially permitting North Dakotans to even beat their wives or children if their religions allow it. The Measure would have also potentially given pharmacists and doctors the right to deny women birth control or other reproductive health services due to religious objections.
Chairman of North Dakotans Against Measure 3, Tom Fiebiger, a civil rights lawyer based in Fargo, praised the amendment's defeat, saying, "We are grateful North Dakotans did the right thing and rejected this unnecessary and potentially dangerous Measure."
Measure 3 stated that "Government may not burden a person's or religious organization's religious liberty. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A burden includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities."
Media Resources: the Hill 6/13/12; Valley News Live 6/12/12; Huffington Post 6/12/12; The Bismarck Tribune 6/12/12; INForum 6/12/12; Feminist Majority Foundation emails 6/4/12, 5/30/12
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .