Legal Wrap: Privacy Rights and Voting Rights Under Attack In The Courts


After the tragic death of a woman who passed away following a late abortion, anti-choice activist Jill Stanek excitedly published the woman’s name and her picture, without her family’s permission or consent. Bridgette Dunlap explains how beyond being cruel and unethical, Stanek’s actions were likely illegal.

Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Shelby Co. v Holder, a case that directly challenges key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court looks poised to strike at least some, if not all, of the parts of the civil rights legislation that requires jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting practices to get any changes in their elections laws pre-cleared by the federal government. As I explain here, there is plenty for us to be worried about with the decision in Chief Justice John Roberts’ hands.

During oral arguments in Shelby Co., Justice Antonin Scalia was as offensive as we’ve come to expect, going so far as to call the Voting Rights Act “racial entitlement” legislation. Predictably this garnered a lot of press for Scalia and predictably the press managed to get it wrong when comparing Scalia to his colleagues Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The challenge of those defending the need for the Voting Rights Act though is, how does someone prove racism no longer exists?

When not busy attacking voting rights, conservatives continued to fight against health care reform, both at the state level in places like Minnesota where, with the help of some Democrats, anti-choice lawmakers pushed through an amendment to the law establishing the state’s health insurance exchange that would ban any coverage for abortions.

Meanwhile, the Center for Reproductive Rights recently intervened in a separate and unrelated lawsuit in state court claims Minnesota taxpayers are illegally funding abortions under Medicaid. When even a normally reliably progressive state like Minnesota has multiple attacks on choice happening at once it’s a pretty good indication of how hostile and aggressive state action against choice has become.

Some good news: the Obama administration took a necessary and important step in eradicating gender pay discrimination.

There was action in the courts over the contraception mandate too and as has been the case since the challenge started, the results have been a mixed bag. A district court denied a preliminary injunction in one of the for-profit cases, Gilardi v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, while another district court granted a preliminary injunction in another one, Sioux Chief MFG Co. v. Sebelius.

Notre Dame filed an appeal in its legal challenge to the contraception mandate and, as Bridgette Dunlap argues, the costs associated with the litigation extend well beyond attorneys fees.

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Follow Jessica Mason Pieklo on twitter: @hegemommy