Legal Wrap: The EC Appeal Is Bad Law and Bad Policy


Legal Wrap is a round-up of key legal and reproductive justice news.

The Obama administration threw regard for science and public health out the window when it appealed a federal court ruling directing the Food and Drug Administration to lift point-of-sale and age limitations for emergency contraception. I explained just how bad the administration’s arguments are in this piece. In the meantime, a hearing on whether or not to stay, or pause, enforcement of that order is scheduled for May 7.

While the Obama administration was busy with its appeal, more than a quarter of the state attorneys general were petitioning Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to broaden the religious exemption to the birth control benefit in Obamacare and allow any for-profit business to refuse to cover contraception for its employees.

This fantastic piece by RH Reality Check‘s new senior Washington correspondent, Adele Stan, illustrates who we’re up against in the fight for reproductive justice. Stan reports on the the Catholic Bishops’ hiring of Kim Daniels, an attorney with ties to the nastiest, most radical elements of the right, as their top spokesperson and why Daniels is someone to pay attention to. It’s a must read.

In better news, on Friday the Alaska Supreme Court rejected a push to recognize “fetal rights” in the state by ruling that a 2010 initiative that declared “fetal personhood” was in violation of the Alaska Constitution and Roe v. Wade.

In other federal court news, an anti-abortion protester has sued the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, arguing that the city and its police chief, John Seto, violated his constitutional rights by ticketing him under a city ordinance that prevents individuals from parking cars on city streets for the principle purpose of advertising. The protestor, Paul Dobrowolski, parks his car outside a local Planned Parenthood and displays anti-abortion signs, including one that provides the name, phone number, and address of an area crisis pregnancy center. Dobrowlski was fined $50 for violating the ordinance. The national anti-abortion litigation group the American Freedom Law Center is representing Dobrowlski in his suit.

Meanwhile, abortion providers in the Seattle area have sued to try and block the state from releasing patient reports to an anti-abortion activist looking for detailed information on the region’s clinics. State officials believe they must provide the information in order to comply with the state’s open records laws, but the providers have challenged the level of detail that needs to be disclosed, arguing that patient privacy and safety would be compromised if the information was released.

Late last week a judge in Minnesota dismissed a lawsuit that attempted to undo state protections that guarantee insurance coverage for low-income women for medically necessary abortions.

Finally, two legal settlements illustrate how pregnancy discrimination is pervasive in both academia and the private sector, a problem Annamarya Scaccia details thoughtfully here.

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Follow Jessica Mason Pieklo on twitter: @hegemommy