Federal Judge Rules Part of Clinic Defense Law Unconstitutional
A federal judge recently found part of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) unconstitutional. US District Court Judge Kenneth Hoyt dismissed charges against a Houston, Texas man who crashed a van through the doors of the Houston Planned Parenthood Clinic in March, according to the Houston Chronicle. Anti-abortion advocates believe the decision will allow greater access to the clinics. In light of a series of decisions upholding the FACE Act, "this decision is 180 degrees in the opposite direction. This worries me a lot," Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, told the New York Times.
Judge Hoyt ruled that the federal FACE Act went beyond Congress's constitutional duty to regulate interstate commerce, according to the Times. He based his decision on a 2000 US Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Violence Against Women Act that found that Congress had no authority to "regulate non-economic, violent criminal conduct based solely on that conduct's aggregate effect on interstate commerce," the Chronicle reports.
The Department of Justice announced that it would appeal the decision and defend the landmark law in court, according to the New York Times. The FACE Act prohibits not only violence against abortion providers, clinic staff, patients, and volunteers, but also threats of violence. "In light of the adverse decision in NOW v. Scheidler, FACE is needed more than ever to stem anti-abortion violence and threats of violence plaguing our nation's clinics today," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
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. . . .