Roundup: Should Abortion Rights Groups Be Reassured on Sotomayor?

Emily Douglas

Obama, Sotomayor agree on "unenumerated rights;" British health department fights releasing details of late-term abortions publicly.

Obama, Sotomayor Agree on "Unenumerated Rights"
Abortion rights supporters should be reassured by White House
spokesperson Robert Gibbs’s comments on Sonia Sotomayor’s position on
"unenumerated rights" in the Constitution, the Washington Post reports.

Facing concerns about the issue from supporters rather than detractors,
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama did not ask
Sotomayor specifically about abortion rights during their interview.
But Gibbs indicated that the White House is nonetheless sure she agrees
with the constitutional underpinnings of Roe v. Wade, which 36 years ago provided abortion rights nationwide.

"In their discussions, they talked about the theory of constitutional
interpretation, generally, including her views on unenumerated rights
in the Constitution and the theory of settled law," Gibbs said. "He
left very comfortable with her interpretation of the Constitution being
similar to that of his."

questioning Sotomayor during her Senate confirmation hearings shed any
more light on her stance on abortion rights?  Not necessarily, the Post
argues.  "The abortion issue is likely to arise in Sotomayor’s confirmation
hearings in July, in part because of her background as a Catholic. But
she is unlikely to offer any more clarity than have previous nominees.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., for instance, ducked the question
during his 2005 hearings by saying that Roe is ‘settled as a precedent of the court.’"

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Doug Laube of Physicians for Reproductive Rights told the AP:

"We’re hoping and counting on her respect for past legal
precedent as an encouraging sign, but we don’t have any direct
we’re concerned, and I think most people who are on our side … are
concerned, but we’re happy to take a wait-and-see attitude."

British Health Department Fights Making Public Details of Late-Term Abortions

An anti-choice group in Britain is fighting to have details of late-term abortions made public, and the Department of Health continues to argue that "such information should not be published," BBC News reports

The ProLife Alliance has argued for five years that information on the conditions involved should be published.

Last July, the Information Commissioner ruled in favour of the group.

But the Department of Health appealed, and so the case was referred to the Information Tribunal.

A spokeswoman from Marie Stopes International stated, "It could potentially make some of the most vulnerable individuals –
such as girls of 11 or 12 years of age, or women who have undergone a
late gestation abortion on the grounds of fetal disability – liable to
being publicly identified, which could have a hugely detrimental impact
on their mental health."

Other News to Note
May 29: All Africa: How Michelle Obama Can Help Africa

May 29: Des Moines Register: Basu: Press Sotomayor on abortion ‘gag rule’

May 29: The Sun News: Abortion issue can’t be simplified

May 29: WaPo: The Right’s Court Complex

May 29: California Catholic Daily: Join Survivors at the 12th annual ProLife Training Camp

May 28: Kansas City Star: Helping the pro-choice movement?

May 29: Washington Times: Pro-life Catholic leader roots for Sotomayor

May 28: North County Times: OCEANSIDE: Local students make videos about teen pregnancy

May 29: Washington Times: Catholic lawyers debate Obama abortion policy

May 28: Mercury News: Fisher: Still looking for common ground

May 28: Telegraph & Argus (UK): Number of teen pregnancies falls

May 28: Atlanticville GMN: Agency essential in curbing rise of teen pregnancy

May 28: BBC News: Late abortion tribunal challenge

May 28: USA Today: No ‘common ground’ in sight — even among anti-abortion Catholics

May 28: Citizen Link:  Life Advocates Step in to Help as Abortion Numbers Rise

May 28: LifeSiteNews: Hamilton "Culture of Life" Committee Breaks Ground in High School Pro-Life Education

May 28: Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette: Health care, contraceptive initiative under way

May 28: LifeNews: Vatican Newspaper Gives Obama 2012 Campaign Msg With Pro-Life Compromise

May 28: Christian Post: Most Americans Believe Abortion is ‘Almost Always a Bad Thing’

May 28: Reuters: U.S. student, 20, emerges as anti-abortion crusader

May 26: University of Louisville: UofL starts international adoption clinic

May 26: Guardian: Daily Mail pays out over adoption story

May 26: Ottawa Citizen: Erring on the side of life

May 25: Tuscaloosa News: Road to adoption leads to China

May 25: Indian Express: Safe sex translates into fewer kids for adoption

May 28: Globe and Mail: Opening adoption records in Ontario prompts few requests for secrecy

May 23: AHN: Ontario Becoming Fifth Province To Open Adoption Records

May 22: KOB (New Mexico): Owner of adoption agency says Toribio had options

May 22: AP: Utah Supreme Court to hear adoption case

May 22: Arizona Republic: Phoenix woman solves 20-year adoption puzzle

May 22: Dallas Morning News: No denying a mother’s love in adoption decision

May 21: New Orleans Independent Examiner: How gay adoption affects your rights

News Law and Policy

Pastors Fight Illinois’ Ban on ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’

Imani Gandy

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban so-called gay conversion therapy. Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans.

A group of pastors filed a lawsuit last week arguing an Illinois law that bans mental health providers from engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy unconstitutionally infringes on rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

The Illinois legislature passed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which went into effect on January 1. The measure bans mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts or so-called conversion therapy with a minor.

The pastors in their lawsuit argue the enactment of the law means they are “deprived of the right to further minister to those who seek their help.”

While the pastors do not qualify as mental health providers since they are neither licensed counselors nor social workers, the pastors allege that they may be liable for consumer fraud under Section 25 of the law, which states that “no person or entity” may advertise or otherwise offer “conversion therapy” services “in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness.”

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The pastors’ lawsuit seeks an order from a federal court in Illinois exempting pastoral counseling from the law. The pastors believe that “the law should not apply to pastoral counseling which informs counselees that homosexuality conduct is a sin and disorder from God’s plan for humanity,” according to a press release issued by the pastors’ attorneys.

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban gay “conversion therapy.” Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans. None have been struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court this year declined to take up a case challenging New Jersey’s “gay conversion therapy” ban on First Amendment grounds.

The pastors say the Illinois law is different. The complaint alleges that the Illinois statute is broader than those like it in other states because the prohibitions in the law is not limited to licensed counselors, but also apply to “any person or entity in the conduct of any trade or commerce,” which they claim affects clergy.

The pastors allege that the law is not limited to counseling minors but “prohibits offering such counseling services to any person, regardless of age.”

Aside from demanding protection for their own rights, the group of pastors asked the court for an order “protecting the rights of counselees in their congregations and others to receive pastoral counseling and teaching on the matters of homosexuality.”

“We are most concerned about young people who are seeking the right to choose their own identity,” the pastors’ attorney, John W. Mauck, said in a statement.

“This is an essential human right. However, this law undermines the dignity and integrity of those who choose a different path for their lives than politicians and activists prefer,” he continued.

“Gay conversion therapy” bans have gained traction after Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager, committed suicide following her experience with so-called conversion therapy.

Before taking her own life, Alcorn posted on Reddit that her parents had refused her request to transition to a woman.

“The[y] would only let me see biased Christian therapists, who instead of listening to my feelings would try to change me into a straight male who loved God, and I would cry after every session because I felt like it was hopeless and there was no way I would ever become a girl,” she wrote of her experience with conversion therapy.

The American Psychological Association, along with a coalition of health advocacy groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, have condemned “gay conversion therapy” as potentially harmful to young people “because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.”

The White House in 2015 took a stance against so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

Attorneys for the State of Illinois have not yet responded to the pastors’ lawsuit.

News Law and Policy

Wisconsin GOP’s Voter Restriction Law Suffers Another Legal Blow

Imani Gandy

In blocking many of Wisconsin's elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote.

A federal appeals court yesterday refused to stay a lower court order blocking several Wisconsin voting restrictions, allowing election officials to move forward with early voting in the state next month.

Attorneys on behalf of the state of Wisconsin filed the request for a stay with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court judge last month issued an injunction that blocked parts of Wisconsin’s sweepings elections laws.

The lower court ruled that the justification for the laws did not justify the burden on voting rights that they impose. And this week a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit declined to stay that ruling, without explaining.

The ruling comes days after elections officials in Madison and Milwaukee announced their intention to kick off early voting in late September, a month earlier than would have been allowed had the lower court not struck down the restrictions on early voting, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

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The Republican-backed elections law created state-imposed limitations on the time and location for in-person absentee voting, a provision requiring absentee ballots be sent by mail instead of fax or email, the requirement that dorm lists—a certified list provided by the university of the students living in college housing, which student voters may use as proof of residence—must include citizenship information, a ban on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs to establish proof of residency, and a 28-day durational residency requirement.

In blocking many of Wisconsin’s elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote. Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the GOP-controlled Wisconsin legislature had implemented a system under which people who don’t have birth certificates or who have problems with gathering documentation needed to obtain the proper identification would still be able to vote.

The lower court noted that the Walker administration’s system did not provide a viable long-term solution for those voters who could not obtain their birth certificates because they were destroyed in fires or misplaced by bureaucrats.

The court later stayed that portion of the ruling, stating that the system created by Walker’s administration—which provides people with temporary voting credentials while they await a decision about whether they qualify for an ID—was sufficient to allow people to vote during the upcoming November election and therefore does not need to be immediately reformed.

The ruling comes on the heels of a ruling in another voting rights case in Wisconsin, Frank v. Walker, about the state’s voter ID law. In that case, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit stayed a ruling that would have permitted anyone eligible to vote in Wisconsin to an accommodation that would permit that voter to cast a ballot after signing an affidavit stating that they could not easily obtain an ID.


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