William Brennan, the former Supreme Court Justice who ardently fought for civil rights and individual freedoms, died July 24 in an Arlington, Virginia nursing home. In his 34-year career on the high court, he helped the Constitution achieve its purpose of protecting the dignity of all individuals, no matter what their rank or standing. In addition to upholding freedom of speech, Brennan led the Court in denouncing sex discrimination, protecting abortion rights and promoting affirmative action. In 1972, Brennan argued that treating the sexes differently was only permissable when a compelling government interest was at stake. The same year, his opinion striking down a Massachusetts law banning the sale of contraceptives paved the way for Roe vs. Wade. He wrote, "If the right to privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwanted governmental intrusions into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as whether to bear or beget a child." In his 1979 United Steelworkers of America v. Weber opinion, Brennan explained that federal anti-discrimination law does not prohibit employers from adopting affirmative action programs. On his last day as a Supreme Court Justice in 1990, Brennan spoke for the 5-4 majority upholding federal affirmative action in government contracting.
Media Resources: USA Today and The Los Angeles Times - July 25, 1997
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. . . .