Legal Wrap: Buffer Zones at SCOTUS, and a Clinic Bomb Scare


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

Last week was a pretty depressing one at the Supreme Court as the Roberts Court debated abortion clinic buffer zones and whether or not domestic violence offenders should have their guns taken away. In both cases, the underlying question seemed to be: Just how much violence against women is constitutionally permissible?

While the Supreme Court seemed skeptical of buffer zones, lawmakers in Madison, Wisconsin, moved forward with a planned ordinance to protect patients and providers there from anti-choice harassment, as did lawmakers in New Hampshire.

Proving just how necessary abortion clinic buffer zones remain, Andrea Grimes reports from Texas, where Whole Woman’s Health clinics in Austin and San Antonio had bomb scares last week.

A group of students from the University of Notre Dame is taking on the administration and intervening in the school’s attempts to block access to comprehensive health insurance for all its students and staff in the name of the “religious liberty” of school administrators.

A New York judge seems similarly confused on the whole “freedom of religion” thing and was censured for asking his staffers to participate in religious activities while on the job.

In Pennsylvania, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that frames “revenge porn” as a form of intimate partner harassment.

Marlise Munoz’s husband has sued the Texas hospital that refuses to take her off life support, despite the fact that she expressly stated she did not want such treatment.

Missouri lawmakers have introduced a parental notification bill that would require both parents or legal guardians to be notified in every case in which a minor seeks abortion care.

For the first time since President Obama took office, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has a full bench.

But even with this recent spate of confirmations, the Senate could reduce judicial vacancies by about one-third if it simply acted on nominations and wasn’t subjected to Senate Republicans’ obstruction of nominees, the People for the American Way estimates.

That said, if Congress can get its act together on the budget, there’s a chance the federal judiciary may “stop the bleeding” this year.

One area where Congress has made progress is on election reform, with a proposed bipartisan “fix” to the Voting Rights Act since the Roberts Court gutted the landmark civil rights law last summer. While it’s a step in the right direction, the proposal has some serious flaws, most notably the provision that would exempt intentionally discriminatory voter identification laws from coverage.

Naturally, Congress has also moved on restricting abortion rights. Adele Stan has the latest on the House Judiciary Committee’s sweeping anti-choice bill and why reproductive rights activists should be concerned, even though the bill has little chance of being approved by the Senate.

Just in time for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Center for Reproductive Rights has released a report, accompanied by interactive maps, showing the “state of the states” in terms of reproductive rights and access. This amazing resource breaks down the legal challenges to abortion rights, painting a comprehensive, if not bleak, picture of the real disparities in reproductive health care in this country.

With so many legal challenges to abortion rights making their way through the federal courts, I take a look at whether Roe can survive the Roberts Court here.

The Affordable Care Act prohibits sex discrimination in health care, but according to the National Women’s Law Center, at least four of the nation’s largest health insurance companies are still trying to force women to pay more just because of their sex.

It’s not all bad news, though. A federal appeals court reinstated a portion of a truth-in-advertising law that requires crisis pregnancy centers in New York City to disclose whether they have licensed medical practitioners on staff.

Finally, in North Carolina, a federal court permanently blocked that state’s forced ultrasound law, ruling it violated abortion providers’ free speech rights.

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