Equality and Liberty

  • January 30, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Kelli Garcia, Senior Counsel, National Women's Law Center

    Between 2011 and 2013, politicians in 30 states enacted 205 abortion restrictions, ranging from outright and unconstitutional abortion bans to laws intended to make it impossible for providers to offer abortion. Last year alone, fifteen states adopted 26 new restrictions that limit or impede access to abortion, making it harder and sometimes impossible for women to exercise their constitutionally protected right to abortion. This wave of anti-abortion activity has dramatically changed the country’s landscape for women seeking an abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2013, more than half the states had at least four abortion restrictions in effect

    These multiple restrictions compound and, for many women, make it impossible to obtain an abortion. In Texas, for example, a woman seeking a medication abortion has to make four separate trips to the provider because of the restrictive laws that exist in that state. She is forced to undergo and view an ultrasound, listen to a description of the fetus' development, wait 24 hours, and then has to make two trips for medication abortion because Texas forces providers to use an outdated protocol rather than following current evidence-based medical practice. And this is if she can actually reach a provider - one out of six women in Texas will have to travel 150 miles or more to reach an abortion provider.

    These laws impose unnecessary monetary costs. These costs are particularly devastating to low-income and poor women who already face significant barriers accessing care. The cost of the abortion itself can be prohibitive, especially when politicians force women to pay out of pocket by prohibiting insurance coverage of abortion. Then, women must arrange for and receive time off work, most likely without pay. They might have to pay for childcare, find a place to stay or make multiple roundtrips to distant clinics, and/or find reliable transportation.  As one provider aptly noted, “[T]he vast majority of women can’t add those travel costs to the cost of an abortion or they can’t take off work.” These restrictions chip away at women’s right to abortion by creating so many barriers that abortion becomes unobtainable.

  • January 20, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Valerie SchneiderAssistant Professor of Law at Howard University School of Law.

    On Wednesday, January 21, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., one of the most important civil rights cases of the 2014-2015 Supreme Court term.  Via this case, the Justices will decide whether disparate impact claims – that is, claims where members of a protected class are disproportionately affected, but where intent to discrimination cannot be proven – are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act.

    Much has been written on the text, legislative history and case law that supports the validity of disparate impact analysis under the Fair Housing Act.  Indeed, as pointed out by many, in the Fair Housing Act’s over 45 year history, every circuit that has examined the issue has either assumed or decided that such claims are cognizable under the FHA.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development also weighed in last year, issuing a rule that clarifies the burden-shifting structure of such claims.  What is less examined, however, is why disparate impact analysis matters, not just as a litigation strategy, but as a behavior-modifier and as a moral imperative.

    Housing segregation was not just sanctioned, but explicitly enforced by public and private actors in our country for over 200 years. During that time, minorities were systematically denied not just access to housing, but access to all of the benefits that flow from housing opportunities:  educational opportunities, economic centers, healthy food, clean air, government services and many other critical threads in the fabric of American life. 

    After over 200 years of enforced segregation, housing discrimination has been prohibited for only 45 years.  Housing discrimination has been outlawed for less than one quarter of this country’s history. To say that prohibiting acts of intentional discrimination alone can reverse the ill-effects of our country’s long relationship with housing segregation is a fallacy.

  • December 16, 2014

    by Nanya Springer

    During his confirmation hearings in 2005, many voiced concerns that then-Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts had consistently opposed attempts to strengthen women’s rights while he was a legal adviser in the Reagan White House.  Roberts responded to those concerns by generally reassuring the Senate Judiciary Committee that he supported equal rights for women, including in the workplace.  When asked about his position on abortion, Roberts responded that he would respect precedent, referencing the stare decisis principles articulated in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

    Now that the Roberts Court has entered its tenth year, the Constitutional Accountability Center has released Roberts at 10: Roberts’s Quiet, But Critical, Votes to Limit Women’s Rights.  The newest installment in CAC’s Roberts at 10 series investigates how Roberts has approached women’s issues during his tenure as Chief Justice.  CAC points out that while there has been some progress on women’s issues in the past ten years, those victories have largely been in cases where there was little or no disagreement on the Court.  In cases that resulted in limiting workplace equality and reproductive freedom, however, the Court has typically been split 5-4 with Roberts joining the Court’s majority.

    The piece is best read in conjunction with previous installments, especially Roberts at 10: A Look at the First Decade of John Roberts’s Tenure as Chief Justice, which explains how Roberts’s position as Chief Justice allows him to influence the scope of Court decisions and the willingness of other justices to join the majority instead of write concurring opinions.

  • December 15, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    The Supreme Court today declined to hear a case out of Arizona seeking to end the blocking of a state law limiting the availability of medicinal, nonsurgical abortions.  Opponents of the law, which had been blocked by a lower court, say it would all but put an end to medication abortions in the state.  This is not the first time this year the justices sided with abortion rights advocates. In October the Supreme Court allowed more than a dozen abortion clinics in Texas to remain open, blocking a state law that would have shut them down.

    In Arizona, the 2012 law requires abortion providers to comply with a 2000 protocol from the Food and Drug Administration for mifepristone, an abortion-inducing drug that is sometimes called RU-486, reports The New York Times.  The Legislature said the law was meant to “protect women from the dangerous and potentially deadly off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs.” Since 2000, doctors have found the drug, in proper doses, is safe and effective, undermining the anti-choice intent behind the state law.  

  • December 15, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In The New York Times, Mark Bittman wonders whether inequality and injustice in the United States is bad enough yet to lead to change.

    On MSNBC's "Weekends with Alex WittEkow Yankah from Cardozo School of Law discusses if the nationwide protests in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have formed into a movement.

    Steven Mazie considers whether Supreme Court justices are too privileged to understand the concerns of average Americans at Big Think.

    NPR’s All Things Considered” looks at a family’s fight to introduce a new law on how investigations occur when police shoot civilians.

    Michael Li writes for the blog of the Brennan Center for Justice on the major questions raised by the racial gerrymandering case before the Supreme Court.

    In The Washington Post, Terry Lenzer asserts that the Justice Department has retreated from civil rights protection.