The 10 most important legal fights on abortion in the U.S.

Source: Wash Post

Author: Juliet Elperin

As court fights have become increasingly critical in shaping the nation’s abortion laws, here’s a look at 10 of the most important cases pending right now in state and federal court.

1. Wisconsin. The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have challenged a law requiring every physician who performs an abortion at a clinic to have staff privileges at a local hospital, arguing that the measure would force two of the state’s four abortion clinics to close.In Wisconsin. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against the law, which Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed on July 5; the judge will hold a hearing on the case this week.

2. North Dakota. The state’s Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) garnered national attention in late March when he signed into law a bill restricting abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detectable, which can be as early as six weeks. But he has also signed off on bills prohibiting abortion based on sex selection and genetic abnormalities, barring non-surgical abortions and requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors. The Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging all of these bills, some in state court and some in federal court. The fetal heartbeat bill takes effect on Aug. 1, so there is a chance the federal judge overseeing that challenge would issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent it from taking effect in the state.

3. Virginia. NOVA Women’s Healthcare, the state’s busiest abortion clinicjust closed because its operators said it could not afford to comply with new regulationsrequiring costly upgrades in order to meet strict, hospital-like standards. A separate clinic, the Falls Church Healthcare Center, filed an administrative appeal petition in the Arlington Circuit Court in June challenging the new rules imposed by the Virginia State Board of Health. The Commonwealth has responded, so the case is going forward.

4. Arkansas. The ACLU, the Arkansas ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights are challenging a law barring abortions starting 12 weeks after fertilization, which was adopted after the Arkansas legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of the law. In May the judge overseeing the case temporarily blocked the law, which was set to take effect in July.

5. Kansas. The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged a sweeping anti-abortion bill. Last month the center got a preliminary injunction blocking two provisions of the measure, ones requiring providers to endorse specific literature on abortion provided to patients and redefining what constitutes a medical emergency for a woman seeking an abortion.

6. Arizona. The ACLU, the NAACP and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum filed suit in May against an Arizona law that bans abortion on the basis of gender and race selection, arguing that it is based on stereotypes about Asian Americans and African Americans.

7. Alabama. The ACLU, the ACLU of Alabama, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Southeast are challenging a law requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The judge in that case issued a temporary restraining order late last month against the measure, just as a federal judge had blocked a 2012 Mississippi law challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights that requires any physician performing abortions in the state be a board certified or eligible obstetrician-gynecologist with admitting privileges at an area hospital.

8. TexasPlanned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said Saturday that her group was “evaluating litigation options” regarding the just-passed Texas abortion bill, which would not only bar abortions starting 20 weeks after fertilization but would impose an admitting privileges requirement and other operating requirements for abortion rules. Gov. Rick Perry (R) has pledged to sign the bill, but has not done so yet.

9. Oklahoma. The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged both a law restricting non-surgical abortions and one requiring an ultrasound before a woman has an abortion. In both cases, the state supreme court has permanently blocked them. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider both cases, though it sent back a few questions to the Oklahoma Supreme Court regarding the suit involving medication abortions.

10. North Carolina. The Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have challenged a 2011 measure requiring abortion providers to show an ultrasound image to a pregnant woman, describe the features of the fetus and offer her a chance to listen to its heartbeat. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in the case in October 2011, and the case is still pending. Both the House and Senate in North Carolina have both recently passed more sweeping anti-abortion bills, and the governor has said he would sign the House version of that legislation. If signed, that bill could spark its own legal challenge.

Emphasis Mine


Governor Rick Perry’s Bizarre, Fringe Mass Prayer Rally

Gov. Rick Perry’s call for a day-long event of prayer and fasting Aug. 6 at a sports stadium in Houston is a dramatic escalation of government meddling in religion

Rob Boston, via Alternet

“American politicians love to invoke religion, and a generic form of an alleged “one-size-fits-all” piety is so common that scholars have even give it a fancy name:ceremonial deism.

Ceremonial deism is what explains “In God We Trust” on our money, “under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance and the tendency of presidents and governors to attend interfaith prayer services whenever there’s a natural disaster.

Despite its short-comings – ceremonial deism doesn’t offer much to non-believers, for example, and many devoutly religious people find it sterile and bland – the practice at least recognizes that religious beliefs come in many forms. Thus, God is appealed to but not Jesus. Prayers are “non-sectarian.”

What’s planned for Texas in August is not ceremonial deism. It’s something else entirely. And it’s a big problem.

Gov. Rick Perry’s call for a day-long event of prayer and fasting Aug. 6 at a sports stadium in Houston is a dramatic escalation of government meddling in religion. Called “The Response,” the event is being coordinated by the American Family Association (AFA), an extreme Religious Right group, as well as other far-right religious groups and figures with controversial theological and political ideas. The rally is exclusively Christian in nature; in fact, it reflects a certain type of Christianity – the fringes of fundamentalism.

What brought this about? Perry’s theological allies claim that America is being punished by God for its wicked ways. They see a national day of repentance as the solution.

On The Response’s website, Perry writes, “Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.”

Of course, this could be just a sheer political ploy. Perry has been openly flirting with a presidential run, and this event could be little more than an effort to curry favor with the Religious Right in advance of that.

Regardless, word is spreading quickly among the religio-political right. Potential attendees to The Response are told to bring a Bible and encouraged to fast – although there will be a few food vendors on site for those who can’t or won’t. The groups behind this effort tend to come from the fringes of Christianity that are obsessed with things like prophecy, direct messages from God, faith healing and so on. These charismatic Christians emphasize a highly charged form of worship that stresses emotional outbursts and a theology of judgment. They seem to be convinced that God has it in for America, mainly because we permit legal abortion, tolerate gays and have a secular government.

Many churches in America preach this theology, and Americans are free to attend these houses of worship and hear it whenever they like. But government endorsement of this sectarian message goes too far – and that’s why more and more people are speaking out over Perry’s prayer confab.

Mainline Christian, non-Christian and secularist groups have protested the Perry event – and rightly so. Perry and his supporters don’t try to downplay the proselytizing nature of the event; in fact, they brag about it. They say non-Christians are welcome to attend to hear a message about redemption through Christ.

Perry defended the event, tellingThe New York Times, “It is Christian-centered, yes, but I have invited and welcome people of all faiths to attend.” He also brushed off charges that the AFA is extreme, calling it “a group that promotes faith and strong families, and this event is about bringing Americans together in prayer.”

Eric Bearse, a spokesman for the event who formerly worked as Perry’s communications director, told American Family Radio, which is run by the AFA, that the event would be evangelistic in tone.

“A lot of people want to criticize what we’re doing, as if we’re somehow being exclusive of other faiths,” Bearse said. “But anyone who comes to this solemn assembly, regardless of their faith tradition or background, will feel the love, grace, and warmth of Jesus Christ in that assembly hall, in that arena. And that’s what we want to convey, that there’s acceptance and that there’s love and that there’s hope if people will seek out the living Christ.”

Allan E. Parker Jr., one of the event’s organizers, writes on its website, “This is an explicitly Christian event because we are going to be praying to the one true God through His son, Jesus Christ.It would be idolatry of the worst sort for Christians to gather and invite false gods like Allah and Buddha and their false prophets to be with us at that time.Because we have religious liberty in this country, they are free to have events and pray to Buddha and Allah on their own.But this is time of prayer to the One True God through His son, Jesus Christ, who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.”

So, if you’re Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist or even a liberal Christian you are welcome to attend this government-promoted Christian fundamentalist prayer rally – just be prepared to endure hardcore proselytizing designed to persuade you to change your views and leave your “false god” at home.

Perry and his backers ignore one thing: It is absolutely not the job of government to sponsor evangelistic rallies or encourage people to attend them. This type of proselytizing is only appropriate through private, not government-run, channels.

Perry’s partners in this gambit are also problematic. They are best known for angry and divisive rhetoric that often has more to do with politics than salvation. One of the organizers of the event is the International House of Prayer, a controversial congregation based in Grandview, Mo. The church’s founder, Mike Bickle, has been criticized for stressing the need to convert Jews to charismatic forms of Christianity and for a portrayal of Jesus that emphasizes militancy and violence.

Bickle also believes he has been to Heaven – twice. He and his followers are known for embracing a type of “theology of retribution.” They worship an angry deity who punishes his wayward subjects with extreme weather, economic downfalls and terrorism. They approach this god in a spirit of fear and trembling, not love and joy.

And in private venues this is their right. Plenty of churches preach this theology. People attend voluntarily, which is their business only. It’s only when the government elevates this narrow version of Christianity above all other forms of faith and non-faith that we have a church-state problem.

It would also be naïve to overlook the politics of this event. Its most prominent sponsor, the AFA, is well known for slinging extreme anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric. The group, founded by the Rev. Donald Wilmon, got its start in the late 1970s as the National Federation for Decency, determined to clean up salacious TV. (How’s that working out for you, Don?)

Over the years, as cable grew and television became even more risqué, Wildmon branched out. These days, his son Tim oversees a sprawling Religious Right empire (annual budget: $21.4 million) in Tupelo, Miss., hitting on all of the theocrats’ favorite themes: gays are immoral, the public school system is damned, feminists want to destroy families, evolution is a lie, etc.

A rising AFA star is a cranky blogger named Bryan Fischer. In October of 2009, I sat in a crowded hotel ballroom in Washington, D.C., listening to Fischer tell a rapt audience at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit that Adolf Hitler invented church-state separation.

That rant was tame compared to some of Fischer’s other views. Since then, Fischer has gone on to assert that a killer whale that killed a trainer at Sea World should be stoned to death (because the Bible says so), opined that Native Americans deserved to lose control of the continent because they were Pagans and sexual deviants, called gay sex a form of “domestic terrorism,” advocated for the reintroduction of blasphemy laws in America, insisted that grizzly bear attacks on humans are a sign that “the land is under a curse” and helpfully pointed out that Muslims have no right to build mosques in this country because the First Amendment protects only Christians.

Most Americans do not accept these extreme views. It’s bad enough that Perry is using his government office to promote a prayer rally. It’s even worse that the one he is promoting excludes the majority of Americans. But worst of all is that he is partnering with the radical fringe of the Religious Right to bring it about.

Yet Perry is not only moving forward, he has invited the nation’s other 49 governors to endorse the fundamentalist event! (As of this writing, Govs. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana have said they will attend.)

Here’s the good news: Opponents are speaking out. The Texas Freedom Network, the Houston Clergy Council, the Secular Coalition for America and others have criticized the governor’s role in the rally. Kim Kamen, a Texas-based executive with the American Jewish Committee, cut to the heart of the matter when she toldThe Times, “There are many houses of worship here in Texas, not just Christian churches. As the leader of our state, we hope that he will bear that in mind.”

In mid June, more than 20 members of the clergy from the Houston area issued a joint letter blasting the Perry rally.

“We believe in a healthy boundary between church and state,” it read. “Out of respect for the state, we believe that it should represent all citizens equally and without preference for religious or philosophical tradition. Out of respect for religious communities, we believe that they should foster faithful ways of living without favoring one political party over another. Keeping the church and state separate allows each to thrive and upholds our proud national tradition of empowering citizens to worship freely and vote conscientiously.We are concerned that our governor has crossed the line by organizing a religious event rather than focusing on the people’s business in Austin.”

In addition, the Human Right Campaign, a gay rights organization, slammed Perry for “aligning with groups that, on a daily basis, seek to demonize” gays and lesbians.

There has been talk about a counter event. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, released a video on YouTube knocking Perry’s prayer idea and calling for moderate and progressive religious and secular leaders to publicly oppose it.

Here’s hoping the momentum continues. Perry’s “fundamentalist-Christians-only” rally isn’t just a violation of separation of church and state, it’s also un-American. The government’s first duty is to treat all of its citizens equally, regardless of race, creed, gender and so on. A governor’s sponsorship of a rally that is truly welcoming to only certain types of Christians flies in the face of that standard.

And to all those fundamentalists out there who think someone’s trying to censor them – don’t even go there. No one is saying you can’t sponsor a rally. You can, using your own money and your own resources. It might even surprise you to learn that there are people well suited and especially trained to run these types of evangelistic events. And get this: The title before their name isn’t “governor,” it’s “pastor.””

Rob Boston is the assistant director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which publishes Church and State magazine.

Emphasis Mine


Framing Innocence

We must vigilantly defend our own and other’s civil liberties, and we must always take the dialog away from those who find human sexuality inherently wrong, or, as they might say, evil.

It was an overflow crowd in a meeting room at The First Church in Oberlin (1834) –  the location on Sept 13 for the launch of  the book “Framing Innocence” A Mothers Photographs, A Prosecutor’s Zeal, and a Small Town Response, by Lynn Powell: the story of the prosecution of Cynthia Stewart for child pornography.  On 6 July 1999, Ms. Stewart – an amateur photographer, school bus driver, and mother of two- dropped off 11 rolls of film at a drug store near her home in Oberlin, Ohio.  The rolls of film contained pictures of her eight year old  daughter, Nora, including two of her in the shower.  She picked up ten of the rolls a week later (adding to the nearly 35,000 pictures she had already taken), but the store and its lab refused to return that last roll. A month later the police arrived, and she was eventually arrested for child pornography.   She faced as many as 16 years in prison, the loss of her children, and the destruction of her life.  The case attracted much local, regional, and national attention.  Life must have looked grim for Cynthia at that time, but her life partner David, many friends and others in the community came together for her cause, created a legal defense fund, and recruited legal help including the ACLU of Ohio, which filed an amicus brief.  Offers of help came in from across the nation, and in the end, justice was served: the charges were dropped.

A warm reception was held afterwards at the Black River Cafe – no tea served, if you know what I mean, and I think you do…

We must vigilantly defend our own and other’s civil liberties, and we must always take the dialog away from those who find human sexuality inherently wrong, or, as they might say, evil.

The book is published by The New Press, and is an enlightening, entertaining, and inspiring experience.

ISBN 978-1-59558-551-6

Four years ago, I was also in a packed crowd in a church – The Civic – in Cleveland Hts.  The occasion that Nov 4 was a big political rally, and the pastor observed how painful it was to have that many people in his church and not take a collection!  After an out of town speaker captivated the audience, Sherrod Brown – about to be elected to the Senate – looked back as he strolled to the podium and said “He’s going somewhere!”  Indeed: two years later to the day, Barrack Obama was elected President of the United States.  Both his victory and Cynthia’s were achieved the same way: by many people coming together to work for a result in which they deeply believed.

Action! ACLU Conference July 30-31 Columbus

Reporting from ACTION! – a Conference for Civil Libertarians.
Friday 30 July 2010.
Reception, welcome addresses from Chris Link and Susan Becker: grapes, gripes, recognition, reunion, conversation, and canopies.
Saturday 31 July 2010.
Opening Plenary by Ethan Nadelmann: Drug policy reform.
“Absent harm to others, it is no one else’s concern what I put in my body.”

He is a very dynamic, wake us up in the AM speaker,  who is dedicated to his cause: End the Failed War on Drugs.
Session: “Let’s talk about Choice ” – Louise Melling.
A woman has a right to have a child on her own terms: if women have control over having children, they may participate more fully in all other aspects of life.
She is attractive, charming, energetic, and informative – good session, which motivated me to stay on message for Choice.
Session: Mecca Meets Main Street: The changing face of religious liberty -Richard Saphire, Zeinab, and Jennifer Nimer.
Discussion of the religion clauses of the first amendment: Establishment, and Free expression, in the context of the growing number of Islamics in the USA, and how we can accommodate their particular needs.
Credible, well organized and informative speakers.
N.B.: The absence of Separation of Church and State – which has been so insipid in the past three Republican administrations – has impacted us in: AIDS treatment; GLBT rights; Reproductive Choice; stem cell, and all scientific, research; gender parity; respect for all belief (or not) systems; international standing; and perhaps was complicit in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Amy Goodman – Luncheon Keynote Speaker.  Update on WikiLeaks – a secure platform for whistle blowers – reporting the truth on violence in Iraq, and on the suppression of reporting of the demonstrations at the 2008 GOP Convention.
Covering Power rather than Covering For Power.

Another dynamic and motivating speaker.
Session: Technology and Privacy –  Craig Jaquith, Katherine Hunt Federle, and Jackie Ford.
Current issues on modern technology and old legal issues.  Issues of who owns what, and privacy expectations: well organized, well delivered, entertaining, and informative.
Sessions: Citizens United – Scott Greenwood, Daniel P. Tokaji, and Terri Enns.
A high point of the conference, featuring two gifted young lawyers, covering one of the key  decisions of the current Supreme Court.
Scott Greenwood – who has consistently been named among the best lawyers in America for 15 years – argued in favor of the decision, and Daniel Tokaji – an associate professor of Law at OSU – is a noted civil rights and election lawyer who argued against the decision.
The Case was the Federal Elections Commission vs. Citizens United, on a ‘documentary’ which was a ‘hit job’ on Hillary Clinton.  Scott said it was a victory for Free Speech, and did not authorize donations for corporations.  He observed that corporations wield influence through lobbying and bundled donations, and that in the twenty first century, radio, TV, and print are not the only media.  (The Obama campaign depended on the Internet.)  Post Citizens, there are many different proposals.
Stated that this was not a victory for Free Speech, but was an out lier.  Can rich and poor compete as equals?  Is money speech? Is equality a  Constitutional value?  He observed that the wealth gap has created a donor class, and that politics – like business – does not function well when unregulated.
A knowledgeable, well informed member of the audience asked about the issue of ‘Corporate Person hood’. Both men replied enthusiastically. Daniel stating that speech rights are the larger issue, and Scott that this is an 800 lb gorilla in the room.  An issue is: did this expand the power of non-people?
There is not a fixed amount of free speech; money for candidates is to effect policy, not merely the outcome of the election; and the question of corporate honesty is at hand.
N.B.: If only public money could be used for elections, this would not be an issue.
Another Viewpoint:
A worthwhile, valuable, expansive experience.
Charles Pervo 1 August 2010 CE.