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.
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. . . .