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.
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .
10/30/2014 UPS Switches Pregnant Worker Policy Ahead of Supreme Court Case - The United Parcel Service (UPS) is changing its policy on light duty assignments for pregnant workers, even though the company will stand by its refusal to extend accommodations to a former employee in an upcoming Supreme Court case.
UPS announced on Monday in a memo to employees, and in a brief filed with the US Supreme Court, that the company will begin offering temporary, light-duty positions to pregnant workers on January 1, 2015. . . .
10/30/2014 North Dakota Medical Students Speak Out Against Measure 1 - Medical students at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences are asking North Dakotans to vote no on Measure 1, a personhood measure on the state ballot this fall.
The students issued published a letter in the Grand Forks Herald stating that they opposed Measure 1 in part because they are against "the government's taking control of the personal health care decisions of its citizens." Nearly 60 UND School of Medicine students signed the letter, citing concerns over the "very broad and ambiguous language" used in the proposed amendment, which has no regard for serious and life-threatening medical situations such as ectopic pregnancies.
Measure 1 would change the North Dakota state constitution to create an "inalienable right to life" for humans "at any stage of development" - including the moment of fertilization and conception. . . .