Federal Prosecutors Fight to Have Abortion Clinic Protections Upheld
The Assistant US Attorney General argued before the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals to have the verdict of a lower court overruled in order to protect the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE). The FACE Act prohibits not only violence against abortion providers, clinic staff, patients, and volunteers, but also threats of violence. Last year, US District Court Judge Kenneth Hoyt ruled that the federal FACE Act was unconstitutional because it went beyond Congress's constitutional duty to regulate interstate commerce. Six Circuit Courts of Appeals have already ruled the FACE Act is constitutional. In doing so, Judge Hoyt dismissed charges against Frank Bird, who allegedly crashed a van through the doors of the Houston Planned Parenthood Clinic in March of 2003.
Judge Hoyt based his ruling 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." Birdís public defender, Brent Newton, maintained that this case is not about abortion rights, but rather about state rights, reports Kaisernetwork.org.
Assistant US Attorney General Peter Keisler argued that such violence does indeed affect an interstate marketóthat of providing abortions and resources for womenís reproductive health, according to the Associated Press. A third-party brief filed by Legal Momentum, formerly the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, concurred, stating that a local attack in one state can intimidate abortion providers all across the country, dissuading them from offering abortions, or leading them to allocate more funds to the security of their clinic, the Associated Press reports.
Keisler also cited several prior court rulings which set a precedent for Congress to regulate local activities if they have a larger national effect. One of the cases actually involved a prior attack by Bird, when he had been convicted of throwing a bottle at the windshield of a doctor who worked at another clinic. For that crime, the Associated Press reports that Bird served a year in a federal prison and paid $820.67 in restitution.
The court did not indicate when it would issue a ruling.
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. . . .