News Law and Policy

Lawsuit Filed to Block Arkansas 12-Week Abortion Ban

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in federal court to block Arkansas' 12-week abortion ban.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Arkansas, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit Tuesday asking a federal court to block an Arkansas law that would ban almost all abortion care starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two physicians who provide abortion care at a Little Rock clinic, and argues that the Arkansas law violates the U.S. Constitution by banning pre-viability abortions.

SB 134 was enacted in March after a protracted legislative battle. Gov. Mike Beebe (D) originally vetoed the measure, but two days following that veto both houses in the state legislature voted to override his veto. The law is set to take effect on July 18, 2013, and this legal challenge seeks to block the law before then.

“This law is one of the most dangerous assaults on women’s health that we’ve seen in decades,” Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement.

Appreciate our work?

Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:

VOTE NOW

At the time the Arkansas legislature overrode Gov. Beebe’s veto and enacted SB 134, it was the most severe abortion ban in the country. But then, a mere one week later, North Dakota passed a ban that applies so early in a pregnancy that many women may not even know they’re pregnant.

“The Arkansas law is one of the worst, but around the country politicians are trying to eliminate access to abortion care and to interfere with a woman’s ability to make the best decision for herself and her family,” Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “Now is the time for all of us who care about women’s health in this country to tell our elected officials that we won’t stand for this political intrusion into our personal and private decisions.”

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, summed up what the Arkansas suit represents. “The promise of the U.S. Constitution is that the rights it encompasses are guaranteed equally to all Americans, regardless of where they live or who sits in power at their statehouses and legislatures,” said Northrup in a statement. “Politicians hostile to women’s constitutional rights in Arkansas have cast that promise aside. They have consigned the women of their state to a second class of citizens whose rights are lesser than those who live in states that protect reproductive freedom.”

The lawsuit is one move in what is shaping up to be a long year of legal battles thanks to the increasingly restrictive anti-abortion laws coming out of the 2013 legislative session. On Monday, a federal court again blocked Mississippi’s attempts to close the state’s only clinic, and legal challenges to medication abortion bans are pending in both North Dakota and Wisconsin.

A hearing on the lawsuit has not yet been scheduled, but attorneys representing the plaintiffs made it clear they were prepared for the fight ahead. “No politician has the authority to vote the fundamental rights of his or her fellow citizens away,” Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “We fully expect the court to immediately strike down this legislative assault on the U.S. Constitution and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent.”

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.”

Appreciate our work?

Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:

VOTE NOW

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

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

Appreciate our work?

Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:

VOTE NOW

Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

credo_rewire_vote_3

Vote for Rewire and Help Us Earn Money

Rewire is in the running for a CREDO Mobile grant. More votes for Rewire means more CREDO grant money to support our work. Please take a few seconds to help us out!

VOTE!

Thank you for supporting our work!