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.
12/11/2013 Human Rights Day Celebrated Around The World - Yesterday marked International Human Rights Day, a day to celebrate human rights advances and to assess the challenges that lie ahead in protecting them.
"The fundamentals for protecting and promoting human rights are largely in place: these include a strong and growing body of international human rights law and standards, as well as institutions to interpret the laws, monitor compliance and apply them to new and emerging human rights issues," said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a statement. . . .
12/11/2013 UConn Under Federal Investigation For Mishandling Sexual Assault Cases - The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) informed the University of Connecticut on Monday that it will investigate the school for allegedly mishandling sexual assault cases and violating Title IX, the federal law that requires all recipients of federal financial assistance for education programs and activities to prohibit sex discrimination and sexual harassment [PDF].
The investigation was sparked after seven women filed a formal complaint in October alleging that UConn had failed to protect them from sexual assault and exposed them to a sexually hostile environment.One woman says her attacker was expelled from campus but later readmitted without her knowledge. . . .
12/11/2013 Massachusetts Democrat Katherine Clark Wins Congressional Seat - Democrat Katherine Clark will become the fifth woman to represent Massachusetts in the US House Tuesday, after easily defeating three opponents in a special election.
"Six years ago, there wasn't a single woman representing Massachusetts in Congress," said Niki Tsongas, the only other woman representing Massachusetts in the House. . . .