Roundups Law and Policy

Legal Roundup: On Roe Anniversary Legal Attacks on Reproductive Rights Increase

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The anniversary of Roe v. Wade is a reminder that the battle for women's rights is far from over.

This week marks the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, yet as Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin have shown, anti-choice measures have gone beyond denying women access to abortion care and have become the basis for arresting women, incarcerating women, and forcing on them medical interventions including surgery. To drive the point home, the same week Paltrow and Flavin’s study published the Alabama Supreme Court declared fetuses children for purposes of the state’s criminal endangerment statute, upholding the criminal convictions of two pregnant women. Imani Gandy offers this detailed look at the decision here while Soraya Chemaly provides this reminder that pre-Roe women’s bodies, legally speaking, remained under the control of arcane and inhumane laws that treated them like little more than production facilities and property of the men who impregnated them.

Meanwhile, in the contraception wars, the Obama administration announced it will appeal a district court ruling granting Christian publisher Tyndale House a reprieve from complying with the birth control benefit of the Affordable Care Act. The for-profit publisher and its owner argue there is no way to distinguish between the owner’s individual religious beliefs and how the company carries out its business. But as Howard Friedman notes, this is an argument that may bring some surprise risk to for-profit business owners by creating a precedent for “piercing the corporate veil,” which usually prevents individuals from being personally, legally liable for torts and crimes committed by corporations they own or control.

Apparently some colleges and universities are not just challenging the birth control benefit in court, but also cutting back on faculty hours as they try to reduce the number of full-time employees as a means to minimize their obligations under the Affordable Care Act.

Rolling back faculty access is just one way schools are coming up short for students. Another, as Lara Kaufmann of the National Women’s Law Center reports, is by failing to meet their obligations under Title IX and stop discriminating against pregnant students.

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In Kansas, the legal battle over a 2011 law banning private insurance companies from providing abortion care generally appears to be over. The ACLU had challenged the law but after a district court ruled the organization could not, as a matter of law, prove the state passed the law with the intent of making access to abortion more difficult, dismissed its challenged. The matter was set to go to trial in March.

In Colorado the state supreme court ruled anti-choice activists cannot display graphic, doctored images in front of a church in an unusual case that highlights just how far some protesters are willing to go to spread their lies.

Finally, there’s a new look at the role dark money is playing in state judicial races and the news is not good, especially for advocates of reproductive health and social justice. In states like Iowa and Florida judges faced millions of dollars in outside political spending after rendering decisions that supported gay rights and health care reform and unless new reforms are put in place to curb this kind of spending, those numbers will only increase.

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