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  • February 9, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Chris Edelson, Assistant Professor of Government, American University School of Public Affairs. Edelson is also author of Emergency Presidential Power: From the Drafting of the Constitution to the War on Terror from the University of Wisconsin Press.

    The misstep Republicans took last month on legislation seeking to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy has exposed larger problems related to the party’s position on abortion.  The bill foundered when some House Republicans raised concerns about a provision that would create a “rape exception” to permit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but only for victims of rape who report the crime.  Republican House member Rep. Carlos Curbelo said he is “pro-life but . . . had concerns about the bill.”  Rep. Curbelo added that he believed the rape reporting requirement caused “a level of discomfort, especially with the females in our conference.”  Republican leaders in the House agreed with Curbelo and canceled a vote on the legislation, apparently based at least in part on concerns that Republican women in the House would vote as a bloc against the bill because of the wording of the rape reporting provision.

    This unexpected development highlights problems in terms of both logic and politics for Republicans when it comes to abortion and, more broadly, when it comes to women.  The Republican Party has taken a position that strongly suggests abortion is never justified, using language reminiscent of anti-abortion arguments that flatly describe abortion as murder.  The 2012 Republican Party platform declared that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.” That language does not seem to leave room for any exceptions – whether they might be for the health of the pregnant woman or for rape.  Logically, it makes sense for the party to take this stance.  If Republicans believe abortion involves the taking of an innocent life – and elected Republicans frequently make clear that they believe precisely this – then it would not make sense for them to support abortion under any circumstances (other than if the pregnant woman’s life is at risk).

    The problem is that polling shows most Americans reject this position and believe women who are pregnant as the result of rape should be able to get an abortion.  Relatedly, in 2012 when Republican senatorial candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock tried to explain why they believed abortion was only permissible in cases of “legitimate rape” (Akin) or that perhaps it is never permissible because pregnancy resulting from rape is “something God intended” (Mourdock), they ended up costing their party otherwise very winnable Senate seats.

    Republicans, of course, remember 2012 very well and have no interest in reminding the rest of the country of the cringe-inducing debate over how best to define rape.  Sen. Lindsey Graham recently suggested that the party needs to “find a way out of this definitional problem with rape” (although, as Joan Walsh observes, Sen. Graham risks stepping in the same trap as Todd Akin simply by alluding to a “definitional” question regarding rape.)  The revival of the rape definition discussion (most recently prompting philosophical musings by a Utah lawmaker about the ability of unconscious wives to have consensual sex) raises a larger problem for Republicans: It seems they just don’t trust women

  • November 21, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    At Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Thomas B. McAffee explains how religious freedom arguments about marriage equality miss the mark.

    Katie McDonough of Salon discusses how, in light of the growing number of states introducing abortion restrictions, women have begun sharing their abortion stories.

    Peter Beinart looks at President Barack Obama’s immigration announcement in The Atlantic, asserting that the executive order helps fulfill his promise to progressives.

    In the Huffington Post, Fred Wertheimer argues that Citizens United will go down in history as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions. 

  • August 1, 2014

    by Ellery Weil

    The New York Times Editorial Board discusses a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board general counsel which found McDonald’s jointly responsible for the treatment of its workers at all of its franchises and argues that this should spur an increase in wages for fast food workers.

    Writing for SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston reports that challengers of the provision of the Affordable Care Act which provides subsides to those who obtain health insurance via the federal exchange are rushing their case to the Supreme Court, after two federal appellate courts delivered opposite rulings on the issue last month..

    At Politico, Laura W. Murphy compares attempts to reform the National Security Agency in the wake of revelations about the scope of its spying to successful efforts to limit the disparities in drug sentencing born from the War on Drugs.

    Benjamin Wittes writes at Lawfare about the CIA inspector general’s report regarding alleged hacking of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) staff files and records by the CIA.

  • May 14, 2014
    At The New York Times, Charlie Savage discusses why the Obama administration is being accused of ignoring “statements it made to the Supreme Court about warrantless surveillance.”
     
    Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted a stay of the execution for Robert 
    James Cambell due to his intellectual disability. Mark Berman at The Washington Post reports on what “would have been the eighth execution in Texas and the 21st execution in the country so far this year.”
     
    The Court of Justice of the European Union issued a ruling yesterday that experts say “could force Google and other search engines to delete references to old debts, long-ago arrests and other unflattering episodes.” The Associated Press addresses the implications of the court’s decision.
     
    Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is calling for the impeachment of Arkansas Judge Christopher Piazza who struck down the gay marriage ban that Gov. Huckabee signed into law 17 years ago. Mario Trujillo at The Hill has the story.
     
    Writing for The Daily Beast, Daniel I. Weiner discusses “the worst campaign finance ruling” since Citizens United
  • May 8, 2014

    Critics of the Roberts Court assert that its recent trend of opinions have favored increasing restrictions on minorities. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Thomas B. Edsall explains why an examination of the high court’s decisions in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, Shelby County v. Holder and Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, reveals a “Supreme injustice.”
     
    As the Supreme Court prepares to address the recess appointment dispute in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, Victor Williams at The Huffington Post reminds Justice Scalia of “his former, much broader view of originalism in the context of presidential appointment authority.”
     
    The Supreme Court’s decision in Riley v. California and American Broadcasting Co. v. Aereo, Inc. “may significantly alter the way we capture, store, and consume information (Aereo) and the extent to which we can expect privacy with regard to, or control, that information (Riley).” Writing for the Brennan Center for Justice, Victoria Bassetti addresses whether the justices are “tech literate enough to get these cases right.”
     
    Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to amend the USA Freedom Act which “would require the National Security Agency to get case-by-case approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before collecting the telephone or business records of a U.S. resident.” Kevin Drum at Mother Jones has the story.
     
    Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is facing criticism for her decision to bypass the state Supreme Court’s stay in the execution of Clayton Lockett. Jamelle Bouie at Slate  argues that “Lockett’s execution was a horrifying display—a cruel and unusual death that wouldn’t have happened without Mary Fallin.”