Supreme Court Ruling Could Imperil Women's Health Clinics
Arlington, VA – The Supreme Court today issued an 8-0 decision in two related cases (Scheidler, et al, v National Organization for Women (NOW), et al and Operation Rescue v NOW, et al), lifting a nationwide injunction protecting virtually all women's health clinics in the nation. Two clinics of the National Women’s Health Organization (NWHO) joined NOW in taking this class action case, which represented virtually all women’s health clinics as well as all women who could potentially be patients of these clinics.
This case, as the lower federal courts have determined, was about illegal violence against women’s health care centers, not peaceful protests or demonstrations. After a lengthy trial, a federal district court found a nationwide pattern of illegal activity and violence aimed at women’s health clinics and abortion providers. In its decision today, the Supreme Court ignored this pattern of violence, instead deciding the case on narrow, technical grounds.
“I initiated this case almost 20 years ago as the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) to stop the reign of terror perpetrated by anti-abortion extremists at clinics across the country. I believe that this lawsuit and its resulting nationwide injunction significantly contributed to reducing the level of violence at clinics. I only hope that the loss of the injunction does not embolden anti-abortion extremists to escalate domestic terrorism towards women’s reproductive health clinics,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
“Anti-abortion extremists, however, should not look at this as a great legal victory. State, local, and federal laws are now in place, such as the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, that have helped to dramatically reduce the level of violence against clinics. Law enforcement officials have made it clear that violence will not be tolerated at our nation’s clinics and that domestic terrorists will be arrested and prosecuted,” Smeal continued.
“We did all we could over the years to reduce violence at clinics. We used every legal tool available. Pursuing this case did reduce violence at clinics, and we cannot allow anti-abortion extremists to take this decision as a signal to once again increase violent activity aimed at clinics and clinic staff,” said Susan Hill, president of the National Women’s Health Organization, the owner of the two named clinics in the lawsuit.
“Unfortunately, we know that following the loss in 1993 of the Bray v. Alexandria Supreme Court decision, violence against abortion providers did escalate. Women’s health clinics and pro-choice advocacy groups must now be more vigilant than ever to prevent increased anti-abortion clinic violence,” said Katherine Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
“This decision comes at an inauspicious time, as legislators across the country are cutting access to abortion services, and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case involving a federal abortion procedure ban, further embattling women’s health clinics,” Smeal continued.
The Feminist Majority Foundation runs the oldest and largest clinic defense program in the nation, defending the nation’s some 587 independent clinics.
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. . . .