Justices Consider Medical Details in Abortion Ban Hearing
The Supreme Court heard two cases yesterday regarding the federal ban on certain abortion procedures used in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. The two cases, Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood and Gonzales v. Carhart, challenge the so-called Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, which would criminalize doctors for performing a procedure that is medically known as dilation and extraction. The ban was passed by Congress in 2003 without an exception for the health of a pregnant woman. Reproductive rights advocates are also concerned that the law is too vague and could be applied more broadly to other abortion procedures.
Yesterday’s hearings included several questions by justices as to whether the procedure in question is ever medically necessary for the health of a pregnant woman. Congressional hearings found that women never need dilation and extraction for the sake of their health, but lower courts have ruled that this finding was false, NPR reports. In fact, during a previous hearing at a lower court, even a doctor in support of the ban testified "he had used and would use the procedure in some circumstances," according to NPR. Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the majority opinion that struck down a similar Nebraska state ban in 2000, noted that women with serious health problems should not have to face a judge in order to have a procedure that is deemed medically necessary by her physician; "I don’t see how it’s going to work without some people suffering serious illness as a result of mistakes by the judge," Justice Breyer told the court.
Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a swing voter on abortion cases who will likely be in a position to control the outcome of the case, questioned both sides, asking about the medical situations that might necessitate a dilation and extraction abortion, the New York Times reports. Justice Kennedy pointed out that the dilation and extraction procedure might actually be safer in some circumstances.
President Bush’s two court appointees were watched closely yesterday, as both of them are against abortion rights. According to several reports, including Reuters and the New York Times, Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to support the government’s position on the ban by bolstering the arguments in support of the ban. Justice Samuel Alito, on the other hand, did not ask any questions of either side.
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. . . .