Legal Wrap: SCOTUS Stays Out of Texas Abortion Fight, But May Jump Into Contraception Cases


Legal Wrap is a roundup of the latest legal reproductive rights and justice news.

It was a disappointing, though not entirely surprising, announcement last week. On Tuesday, the Roberts Court, in a 5-4 decision, declined to reinstate a lower court order halting the admitting privileges portion of Texas’ anti-abortion omnibus bill. The refusal means the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ order allowing the law to go into effect while an appeal challenging its constitutionality moves forward will stand. So, for now at least, clinics will close if they cannot comply with the requirement that doctors performing abortions at their facilities have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Meanwhile, arguments in the appeal of the lower court ruling that held the admitting privileges requirement unconstitutional is scheduled for January 2014.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court could decide this week whether it will hear legal challenges to the contraception mandate this term.

In addition to petitioning the Supreme Court to take up the legal challenge to the state’s 20-week abortion ban, attorneys for the State of Arizona want the Roberts Court to reinstate a law that effectively strips Planned Parenthood health centers from Medicaid funding.

Portland, Maine, passed a new buffer zone ordinance, which is set to take effect immediately. In January, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of a Massachusetts buffer zone law, which means we’ll hear lots more in the coming months on the balance between the rights of patients and clinic workers to be left alone versus the protest rights of anti-choice activists.

Voters in Albuquerque voted down a 20-week abortion ban that would have banned the procedure in the city, though as Teddy Wilson explains, had it passed it would have had a significant impact on later abortion access in the entire region. Notably, it was the tireless and behind-the-scenes work of local reproductive rights and justice advocates that defeated the measure.

A custody dispute in New York highlights the many ways “fetal rights” are used to police pregnant people, including trying to restrict their constitutional right to travel. During what should have been a routine legal proceeding, a lower court ruled that a pregnant woman’s decision to move from California to New York while pregnant amounted to kidnapping. Thankfully an appeals court overruled that decision and held that moving out of state is not considered “absconding with a child.”

Well, they finally did it. Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rules after Republicans blocked outright all of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Immediately after changing the rules, the Senate advanced the nomination of Patricia Millett, one of three active nominees to the court awaiting a confirmation vote.

Finally, it took months of pressure and additional investigation, but law enforcement officials announced additional indictments in the Stuebenville rape case and coverup.

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