Supreme Court Hears Argument in Clinic Violence Case
The Supreme Court heard arguments today in NOW v Scheidler, a landmark case brought to curtail violence against women’s reproductive health care centers. In 1986 while serving as president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Eleanor Smeal (currently president of the Feminist Majority Foundation) initiated this case along with two clinics from the National Women’s Health Organization. The jury, district court, and Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals all found that the attacks on clinics orchestrated by Joseph Scheidler and his cohorts constituted extortion and racketeering.
The Supreme Court arguments addressed two issues. First, whether a private party such as NOW can obtain an injunction under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and second, whether the violence perpetrated by Scheidler and his followers qualified as extortion under federal law.
Fay Clayton, arguing for NOW and the clinics, stressed the violence that Scheidler and his accomplices used in their campaign and likened it to a mafia figure terrorizing a business owner. For the RICO argument, she emphasized the fact that without the right to bring an injunction, private plaintiffs would be unable to stop racketeering that affected their business or property.
According to Eleanor Smeal, “What is really at issue is whether women patients and businesses providing them reproductive health care will have the full measure of protection under the law or will be treated as second class citizens, as women themselves all too often are.”
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. . . .