Roundup: Getting To Know Kagan

Robin Marty

Everyone claims she's an enigma in a dowdy suit, but after this weekend, maybe we know the Supreme Court nominee a little better.

We’ve learned she plays softball.  We’ve learned fashion isn’t her highest priority.  And we’ve learned over and over again that she is *gasp!* unmarried and has no children.  Now, we are learning a bit more useful information about Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan. 

One thing that may be more reassuring to pro-choice advocates are some newly released documents detailing policy issues that Kagan weighed in on during her time in the Clinton administration.  According to CBS news:

When Congress passed the partial-birth abortion ban without a narrow exception to protect a woman’s health, for example, she helped defend President Clinton’s veto. In the files are letters from Clinton to various religious leaders, explaining why he vetoed the ban.

And when Congress was poised to pass a law making it a crime to take minors across state lines for abortions without parental consent, she worked to find political solutions to oppose it — such as getting statistics on how many grandmothers cared for teenagers and could technically be sent to jail under the law.

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However, her personal positions may still be somewhat murky.  As explains,

[D]ivining Kagan’s personal views from the documents is difficult because her own position is not always clear. Even when it is, current White House aides pushing for her confirmation say the stances she took may simple demonstrate her advocacy for Clinton’s positions rather than any views of her own.

“The documents reflect Kagan’s efforts to advance President Clinton’s well-established policy agenda, and they should not be interpreted as an outline of her personal positions on specific policy issues,” White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said.

LaBolt pointed to comments by a Bush administration policy official, Tevi Troy, who said such internal memos tend to “synthesize the views of the various administration players” rather than offering “full-throated defenses of [an aide’s] personal beliefs.”

As a justice, how much should her own personal opinion matter, as opposed to simply interpreting the constitution?  When it comes to conservative judges, it seems that personal beliefs rule, but with progressive candidates all personality should be pushed under and never used to reflect on rulings. And in that line, Kagan’s image appears to be intact.  The keywords are moderate, temperate, and pragmatic. 

From the Associated Press:

Newly released documents from her days as an aide to former President Bill Clinton portray Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a person of strong opinions and sometimes overtly liberal views, but above all a pragmatist who pursued middle-ground solutions on issues ranging from abortion to taking on Big Tobacco.

There’s little in the papers that suggests Kagan, President Barack Obama’s choice to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, would stray far from Stevens’ perch on the left of the political spectrum.

In 46,500 pages of notes and memos from her time as a domestic policy adviser to Clinton, Kagan argues in favor of a veto of a late-term abortion ban, for strong gun control measures, against a federal law prohibiting assisted suicide and endorses a legal argument for affirmative action.

But she tempers much of her advice with strong notes of political and legal practicality, often opting for a middle course likely to produce results without unduly angering opponents.

In another A.P. article, the same reporter reiterates:

On the late-term abortion bill, “I support an exception that takes effect only when a woman faces real, serious health consequences,” Kagan handwrote on the draft of a letter Clinton was penning to a Catholic bishop dismayed by the veto.

That position angered both abortion rights proponents and foes. But it was typical of a pragmatic streak in Kagan, President Barack Obama’s choice to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, that’s evident throughout the newly released records.

But although the news media can repeat “moderate and pragmatic” until they are blue in the face, that will never call off the foaming attack dogs of the conservative movement.  Via CNN:

“As we suspected, President Obama nominated a far left liberal who supports both abortion and ‘gay marriage,'” said Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America. “Elena Kagan has also demonstrated her disdain for the unborn, the most vulnerable in our society.”

Mini Roundup: A National Post columnist claims erroneously that United States abortion laws are in essence as liberal as Canada’s, Catholics continue to claim Sister Margaret McBride excommunicated herself, and both mother and baby in Arizona should have died, and Radiance Foundation puts up a new billboard.

June 4, 2010

Anti-Abortion Measures on the Upswing – TIME

Fort Wayne Abortion Law Challenged – Courthouse News Service

McCollum pressuring Crist to sign abortion-ultrasound bill – Orlando Sentinel

Abortion Initiative Can Appear on August Ballot – Courthouse News Service

Kagan documents reveal sensible approach on abortion – CNN

DOJ: UW May Be Improperly Paying for Abortion Training – WTAQ

South Carolina Republicans Back Down From Abortion Restrictions to Pass Budget – Ms. Magazine

Kagan on abortion, assisted suicide in files – The Associated Press

Parental Notification Initiative to Appear on the Alaska Ballot – Ms. Magazine

Kagan pushed liberal policies with pragmatism – The Associated Press

In Europe, all quiet on the abortion front – Globe and Mail

Kan. abortion doctor’s killer’s petition dismissed – Washington Post

Kagan Docs Show Support For Affirmative Action – CBS News

Billboards Expose Racism in Abortion and Adoption – The New American

Church’s stance on abortion is clear – Arizona Republic

Male-female birth ratio improves in China – Sify

Tiny pill combats climate change – Toowoomba Chronicle

Study Shows Alarming Teen Views on Pregnancy, Contraception – U.S. News & World Report

For Women, the Ultimate in Preventive Health Care: Birth Control – Huffington Post

Namibian health ministry accused of forcibly sterilising women with HIV – Times LIVE

Circumcision may prevent sex-related penis injuries – Reuters

Most People With HIV Begin Care Too Late – U.S. News & World Report

After 25 Million Deaths, Search Continues for HIV Vaccine – USAID

June 5, 2010

Parnell Denali KidCare Veto Protested – KTVA CBS 11 News Alaska

McCollum pushes proposed abortion bill –

KidCare spent $384K on ‘abortion related services’ in ’09 – Anchorage Daily News

GOP gov. hopefuls would sign abortion overturn – Aiken Standard

Maternal health care plan endangered by PM’s beliefs – Vancouver Sun

Kagan voice of caution, WH files show – The Free Lance-Star

Illegal Abortions In Brazil Put Women’s Lives At Risk: Catholic Church Cheers – Blue Wave News

Is the shine coming off Stephen Harper’s summit spotlight? – Toronto Star

Pro-lifers protest birth control – OneNewsNow

The pill kills the truth – RenewAmerica

Fifty years of the pill – The Guardian

Women prefer pill as the No. 1 contraceptive –

Delivering a better future for women and girls – East African

CDC estimates HIV will infect 1 in 16 US black men –

June 6, 2010

Court decision, Parnell veto put abortion on the ballot this fall – KTUU

Protect the mother and child, you protect the country – The Hindu

Planned Parenthood officials: No ‘blueprint’ for abortion care – Dubuque Telegraph Herald

Florida abortion bill with sonogram requirement nears decision by governor – Palm Beach Post

Christian law group may defend Allen Co. from suit – CNBC

Harper missing women’s health summit – Toronto Star

HIV vaccine — keeping hope alive – The Zimbabwe Standard

Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival: Celebrating Progress, Continuing the Fight – Huffington Post

June 7, 2010

Pregnant Teens Still Face Stigma, Isolation, Even Death – Jakarta Globe

Harper scores foreign policy victories in lead-up to summits – Globe and Mail

Women Undergoing IVF, Get Abortions on Second Thoughts – TopNews United Kingdom

Alaska Gov. Parnell vetoes bill to extend health care program over abortion –

Vasectomy and Oral Pills: Take Them or Not? – TopNews United Kingdom

HIV babies’ lives at risk in drug giant’s plans to close factory, claim NGOs – The Guardian

Women Deliver 2010: Lot more needs to be done – Arab News

Hospital brings back midwife births – Ottawa Citizen

News Health Systems

What Happens When a Catholic-Run Clinic Comes to Your Local Walgreens?

Amy Littlefield

“It causes us great concern when we think about vulnerable populations ... [who] may need to use these clinics for things like getting their contraception prescribed and who would never think that when they went into a Walgreens they would be restricted by Catholic doctrine,” Lorie Chaiten, director of the women’s and reproductive rights project of the ACLU of Illinois, told Rewire.

One of the largest Catholic health systems is set to begin running health clinics inside 27 Walgreens stores in Missouri and Illinois next week. The deal between Walgreens and SSM Health has raised concerns from public interest groups worried that care may be compromised by religious doctrine.

Catholic health systems generally follow directives issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that restrict access to an array of services, including abortion care, contraception, tubal ligations, vasectomies, and fertility treatments.

“We are concerned that the clinics will likewise be required to follow the [directives], thereby severely curtailing access to important reproductive health services, information, and referrals,” MergerWatch, the National Health Law Program, and the American Civil Liberties Unions of Illinois and Missouri wrote in a letter to Walgreens on Wednesday. They also sent a letter to SSM Health.

In a statement emailed to Rewire, Walgreens said its relationship with SSM Health “will not have any impact on any of our current clinic or pharmacy policies and procedures.”

SSM Health emailed a statement saying it “will continue to offer the same services that are currently available at Walgreens Healthcare Clinics today.” If a patient needs services “that are beyond the scope of what is appropriate for a retail clinic setting, they will be referred to a primary care physician or other provider of their choice,” the statement read.

A spokesperson for SSM Health demurred when Rewire asked if that would include referrals for abortion care.

“I’ve got to check this part out, my apologies, this is one that hadn’t occurred to me,” said Jason Merrill, the spokesperson.

Merrill later reiterated SSM Health’s statement that it would continue to offer the same services.

Catholic health systems have in recent years expanded control over U.S. hospitals, with one in six acute-care hospital beds now in a Catholic-owned or -affiliated facility. Patients in such hospitals have been turned away while miscarrying, denied tubal ligations, and refused abortion care despite conditions like brain cancer.

Catholic health systems have also expanded into the broader landscape of outpatient services, raising new questions about how religion could influence other forms of care.

“The whole health system is transforming itself with more and more health care being delivered outside the hospital,” Lois Uttley, director of MergerWatch, told Rewire. “So we are looking carefully to make sure that the religious restrictions that have been such a problem for reproductive health care at Catholic hospitals are not now transferred to these drug store clinics or to urgent care centers or free-standing emergency rooms.”

Walgreens last year announced a similar arrangement with the Catholic health system Providence Health & Services to bring up to 25 retail clinics to Oregon and Washington. After expressing concerns about the deal, the ACLU of Washington said it received assurances from both Walgreens and Providence that services at those clinics would not be affected by religious doctrine.

Meanwhile, the major urgent care provider CityMD recently announced a partnership with CHI Franciscan Health–which is affiliated with Catholic Health Initiatives–to open urgent care centers in Washington state.

“We’re seeing [Catholic health systems] going into the urgent care business and into the primary care business and in accountable care organizations, where they are having an influence on the services that are available to the public and to consumers,” Susan Berke Fogel, director of reproductive health at the National Health Law Program, told Rewire.

GoHealth Urgent Care, which describes itself as “one of the fastest growing urgent care companies in the U.S.,” announced an agreement this year with Dignity Health to bring urgent care centers to California’s Bay Area. Dignity Health used to be called Catholic Healthcare West, but changed its name in 2012.

“This is another pattern that we’ve seen of Catholic health plans and health providers changing their names to things that don’t sound so Catholic,” Lois Uttley said.


In the letters sent Wednesday, the National Health Law Program and other groups requested meetings with Walgreens and SSM Health to discuss concerns about the potential influence of religion on the clinics.

“It causes us great concern when we think about vulnerable populations, we think about low-income people… people who… may need to use these clinics for things like getting their contraception prescribed and who would never think that when they went into a Walgreens they would be restricted by Catholic doctrine,” Lorie Chaiten, director of the Reproductive Rights Project of the ACLU of Illinois, told Rewire.

The new clinics in Walgreens will reportedly be called “SSM Health Express Clinics at Walgreens.” According to SSM Health’s website, its initials “[pay] tribute” to the Sisters of St. Mary.

“We are fairly forthcoming with the fact that we are a mission-based health care organization,” Merrill told Rewire. “That’s something we embrace. I don’t think it’s anything we would hide.”

News Law and Policy

California Lawmakers Take Action Against Rampant Wage Theft

Nicole Knight

A survey of people who work for low wages found that wage theft robbed workers of $26.2 million each week in Los Angeles, making the locale the "wage theft capital of the country."

Los Angeles has earned the distinction as the country’s wage theft capital, but a new California law is tackling the rampant problem of wage theft with new enforcement tools.

The law, SB 1342, signed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), gives city and county authorities subpoena powers when investigating wage violations. Until now, the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement was the primary agency charged with investigating wage theft cases.

State Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) authored the legislation to “ensure that our low-wage workers, who already face many challenges, receive the pay that they have earned,” Mendoza wrote in an Orange County Breeze op-ed.

Wage theft is the illegal practice of failing to pay overtime and minimum wages, denying lunch breaks, or forcing employees to work off the clock. A survey of people who work for low wages by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found that wage theft robbed workers of $26.2 million each week in Los Angeles, making the locale the “wage theft capital of the country.”

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Some 654,914 workers in L.A. County are subjected to at least one pay-based violation in any given week, researchers noted.

Most people who work low-wage jobs in L.A. were born outside the United States, and the majority are Latino (73.4 percent), Asian (17.9 percent), or Black (6.3 percent), researchers found.

Wage theft is not only illegal, it contributes to food insecurity and housing instability in low-income families, Mendoza noted.

“This bill protects hard-working Californians by clarifying the ability of cities and counties to investigate non-compliance with local wage laws,” Mendoza said.

A legislative analysis of SB 1342 cited research noting that minimum wage violations are rampant in industries such as garment manufacturing, domestic service, building services, and department stores, where wages are low.

The measure comes as states and cities are increasing minimum wages as lawmakers in Congress have refused to consider raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Brown in April signed a law lifting the statewide minimum pay rate to $15 per hour by 2022. More than a dozen cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, have proposed or enacted $15 minimum wage rates, according to the National Employment Law Project.


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