Roundups Law and Policy

Legal Wrap: The Gosnell Trial, and More on Coordinated Right-Wing Manipulations

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Whether it's the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell or the birth control benefit, the radical right wing has shown it has no problems manipulating the law to push its agenda.

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

The trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell is a sad reminder of what happens when desperate women cannot access affordable, safe abortion care: They become victims at the hands of opportunists who prey on the vulnerable. At Rewire, we re-published this piece by Dr. Lynnette Leighton, who first reacted to the story when reports surfaced. Meanwhile, Amanda Marcotte offers a fresh perspective on the case. One conclusion that surfaces right away is that as the assaults on reproductive choice have increased, so have the dangers to people needing abortions. But that won’t stop anti-abortion activists from twisting and manipulating the story to push for even more draconian measures.

Much of the right-wing argument against the contraception benefit in the Affordable Care Act relies on nonsensical readings of the First Amendment and arguments that individual religious rights magically transfer to a for-profit corporation. Imani Gandy explains why those arguments just don’t add up.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is fighting back against efforts by the Roman Catholic Archdioecese of New York to subpoena documents from the White House related to discussions and considerations within the administration at the time the contraception benefit and its religious exemption were first created.

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The contraception benefit may not be before the Supreme Court yet, but there’s no doubt it will be eventually. That’s because the challenge to the mandate is part of a specific, constructed effort by the legal arm of the radical right to keep fighting health-care reform and put as many socially divisive issues before the Supreme Court as possible. Just how organized are these efforts? Adam Chandler at Scotusblog reviewed amicus brief filings with the Supreme Court and found that the top 16 organizations filing briefs requesting that the high court hear a case are conservative organizations like the Cato Institute, the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, and the Chamber of Commerce. Progressive organizations, on the other hand, were virtually non-existent in the list of organizations petitioning the court. That must change, and fast.

Anti-choice activists are constantly on the hunt for ways to bring their messaging into public schools Those ways include handing out hundreds of small rubber replicas of fetuses to high school students and then suing once school officials tried to stop the activity. As Think Progress reports, it turns out the First Amendment does not allow activists an unqualified freedom to disrupt a school environment with political speech.

If the state trends on abortions restrictions for 2013 continue at the current pace, not only will this turn out to be a busy year for anti-choice lawmakers, it will be a busy year for the state and federal courts who hear legal challenges to those laws as well. Case in point: Alabama may have enacted an unnecessary targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) law designed to close clinics in the state, but women’s health and rights groups plan to put up a legal challenge to the bill.

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