Roundups Law and Policy

Legal Wrap: Dark Money in Politics Is Bad for Reproductive Rights

Jessica Mason Pieklo

What's the link between big money donors like the Koch brothers and the wave of anti-choice restrictions?

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

Adele Stan reports on the deep ties between the Koch brothers and anti-choice advocacy groups. In her must-read piece, Stan meticulously chronicles the funding links between the two, shining light on groups that thrive in the shadows of “dark money” politics. And it’s not just national politics affected by these ties; increasingly our state courts are at risk too, as big money donors join forces with social conservatives to try and influence state judicial races.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled last week that a woman who donated an egg to her lesbian partner has parental rights to the child.

Michigan Right to Life has joined the ever-growing list of businesses trying to sink the contraception mandate.

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The Liberty Institute, a conservative Christian legal advocacy organization, is threatening to sue the West Virginia University School of Medicine after a doctor there allegedly received a letter of reprimand for his anti-choice activism.

In Kansas, a judge has refused to dismiss the stalking case against anti-choice activist Pastor Mark Holick, who had argued his “wanted” posters featuring a Wichita clinic operator were protected free speech.

In Iowa, a judge blocked a new Iowa Board of Medicine rule banning telemedicine abortions.

Apparently the Roberts Court is satisfied with the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s clarification that the state’s recent attempts to ban medication abortion violate the constitution. Following a ruling from the state supreme court, the Roberts Court turned away the case, which means the state supreme court’s decision permanently blocking the ban will stand.

Attorneys for Indiana were in federal court defending that state’s targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law, arguing the regulations were necessary for patient safety.

Meanwhile, a New Jersey couple has filed suit challenging the state’s ban on reparative therapy, arguing that if their son wants the controversial therapy—which tries to change the sexual orientation of a person—he should be able to access it.

Civil rights groups opposed to an Arizona law banning abortions based on the race or sex of the fetus will appeal an earlier ruling that dismissed their lawsuit, challenging the ban for a lack of standing.

With Congress considering a 20-week abortion ban, one Los Angeles Times columnist suggests Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas may save the day and vote to strike the ban, should it come before the Roberts Court.

Pennsylvania recently made headlines by banning the touching of a pregnant person’s stomach without permission. But as Bridgette Dunlap explains, that was already illegal.

The State of Texas will file its response this week to the request that the Supreme Court take up the fight over HB 2. Here’s an explanation of what could happen next.

Good news! Marriage equality took two big steps forward in both Illinois and Hawaii last week. Illinois became the fifteenth state to pass marriage equality while a similar bill passed out of the Hawaii House of Representatives. The latter bill is now headed back to the Hawaii Senate, where it is expected to pass when the legislature reconvenes after the Veterans Day holiday.

News Law and Policy

Wisconsin GOP’s Voter Restriction Law Suffers Another Legal Blow

Imani Gandy

In blocking many of Wisconsin's elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote.

A federal appeals court yesterday refused to stay a lower court order blocking several Wisconsin voting restrictions, allowing election officials to move forward with early voting in the state next month.

Attorneys on behalf of the state of Wisconsin filed the request for a stay with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court judge last month issued an injunction that blocked parts of Wisconsin’s sweepings elections laws.

The lower court ruled that the justification for the laws did not justify the burden on voting rights that they impose. And this week a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit declined to stay that ruling, without explaining.

The ruling comes days after elections officials in Madison and Milwaukee announced their intention to kick off early voting in late September, a month earlier than would have been allowed had the lower court not struck down the restrictions on early voting, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

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The Republican-backed elections law created state-imposed limitations on the time and location for in-person absentee voting, a provision requiring absentee ballots be sent by mail instead of fax or email, the requirement that dorm lists—a certified list provided by the university of the students living in college housing, which student voters may use as proof of residence—must include citizenship information, a ban on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs to establish proof of residency, and a 28-day durational residency requirement.

In blocking many of Wisconsin’s elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote. Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the GOP-controlled Wisconsin legislature had implemented a system under which people who don’t have birth certificates or who have problems with gathering documentation needed to obtain the proper identification would still be able to vote.

The lower court noted that the Walker administration’s system did not provide a viable long-term solution for those voters who could not obtain their birth certificates because they were destroyed in fires or misplaced by bureaucrats.

The court later stayed that portion of the ruling, stating that the system created by Walker’s administration—which provides people with temporary voting credentials while they await a decision about whether they qualify for an ID—was sufficient to allow people to vote during the upcoming November election and therefore does not need to be immediately reformed.

The ruling comes on the heels of a ruling in another voting rights case in Wisconsin, Frank v. Walker, about the state’s voter ID law. In that case, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit stayed a ruling that would have permitted anyone eligible to vote in Wisconsin to an accommodation that would permit that voter to cast a ballot after signing an affidavit stating that they could not easily obtain an ID.

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.

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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.

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