Roundups Law and Policy

Legal Wrap: From Trayvon Martin to Texas, Justice and Equality Face Setbacks

Jessica Mason Pieklo

George Zimmerman is acquitted in the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin and state lawmakers go to extraordinary measures to thwart the democratic process and pass the most restrictive abortion laws yet.

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

Overall last week was pretty terrible for justice and equality. Late Saturday evening a jury in the murder prosecution of George Zimmerman—the Florida man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager—found Zimmerman not guilty. The case drew national attention, first because police refused to investigate the shooting, and then later because of the racially charged Zimmerman defense. Since the verdict was rendered, the Department of Justice announced it would look into a possible civil rights investigation given the mountain of evidence that Zimmerman profiled Martin before murdering him. And while such a civil rights investigation would focus on the deprivation of Martin’s rights, the case raises important issues of reproductive justice as well. What about the rights of parents to raise children in a safe environment, free from vigilantes enacting their own version of “justice”?

Texas finally passed its massive omnibus anti-abortion bill, but not without first spending over an hour confiscating tampons from citizens who came to participate in the vote for public safety fears. Concealed firearms, however, were allowed in.

North Carolina passed its own version of a last-minute abortion mega-bill in an equally undemocratic and totally ludicrous fashion.

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Virginia, on the other hand, has decided to take a different route, attempting to use local zoning laws to “zone out” clinics.

The Illinois supreme court put an end to decades of litigation last week, upholding the state’s parental involvement statute.

The Center for Investigative Reporting broke news that some women inmates in California prisons were pressured into tubal ligations. Sheila Bapat, in this must-read piece, details how from coercive prisoner sterilizations to the attacks on reproductive rights at the state level, reproductive justice continues to elude women of color.

In better news, New York is poised to extend labor protections to child models.

The Obama administration issued its final contraceptive coverage rule. Bridgette Dunlap covers the final rule, and why consumers should stay away from any organization that can “self-certify” under the rule, here.

In the bishops’ fight over the contraception benefit, Angela Bonvoglia explains that what’s at stake isn’t money but the church’s intrinsic misogyny.

Lastly, the Iowa supreme court codified rape culture last week, ruling that bosses can fire employees they find too attractive. The ruling upholds a lower court’s decision to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit filed against Fort Dodge dentist James Knight. Knight fired his assistant Melissa Nelson, even while acknowledging she had been a stellar employee for ten years, because he and his wife believed his attraction to Nelson had become a threat to their marriage. That’s right. According to the Iowa supreme court, rather than simply control himself and not flirt or otherwise behave inappropriately to a subordinate, Knight was well within his rights to fire Nelson. And because she was fired as result of Knight’s feelings and not based on her gender, the court reasoned, it wasn’t discrimination. In case you’re wondering, all the justices on the Iowa supreme court are men.

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