The Supreme Court ruled Monday morning that the government cannot compel closely held corporations with religious owners to provide contraception coverage for its employees.
Two family-owned companies, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, had argued that the insurance requirement in President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health care law violated a 1993 religious-freedom law.
The health care law already excludes churches and other religious entities from the contraception mandate.
The Hobby Lobby arts-and-crafts retailer is operated by evangelical Christians, and cabinet manufacturer Conestoga Wood Specialties is owned by Mennonites.
The Obama administration argued that for-profit companies – even closely held ones – do not exercise religious rights as individuals and therefore are not covered by the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
But the court, in a 5-4 vote and majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, upheld an appeals court ruling on the case, finding that the government had failed to show that its mandate is the “least restrictive means of advancing its interest in guaranteeing cost-free access to birth control.”
When most women become pregnant, understandably they believe the choice of how they give birth will remain theirs; whether to deliver vaginally or through cesarean surgery or where to give birth, at home or at a hospital. Decades ago, those decisions were well within the domain of pregnant patients whose reproductive liberty and autonomy interests gained constitutional recognition in the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.
After all, whose body is it anyway? But what may have seemed clear-cut decades ago, is now put to the test by doctors and lower courts.
Decades ago, refusing to undergo cesarean surgery was not a crime. That’s another matter now in the wake of recent “fetal protection” enactments that make it a crime for a pregnant woman to engage in any conduct that might threaten harm to a fetus. Some doctors believe this applies to how a woman gives birth.
Melissa Rowland refused to undergo the cesarean surgery recommended by her doctor. She was later charged with murder after one of her fetuses was stillborn. Rowland accepted a plea deal, which made her criminally liable for child endangerment.
Earlier this month, a 911 dispatcher in Ohio was recorded telling a 20-year-old woman who had just been raped to “quit crying.” After she provided a description of her assailant, the caller went on to say, “They’re not going to be able to find him with the information that you’ve given.” This incident had its viral moment, sparking outrage at the dispatcher’s lack of empathy. But it also speaks to the larger issue of how we are counting rapes in the United States. Sixty-nine percent of police departments surveyed in 2012 said that dispatchers like this one, often with little training, are authorized to do the initial coding of sexual assault crimes.
That’s important, because miscoding of such crimes is masking the high incidence of rape in the United States. We don’t have an overestimation of rape; we have a gross underestimation. A thorough analysis of federal data published earlier this year by Corey Rayburn Yung, associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Law, concludes that between 1995 and 2012, police departments across the country systematically undercounted and underreported sexual assaults.
Yung used murder rates—the statistic with the most reliable measure of accuracy and one that is historically highly correlated with the incidence of rape—as a baseline for his analysis. After nearly two years of work, he estimates conservatively that between 796,213 and 1,145,309 sexual assault cases never made it into national FBI counts during the studied period.
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Massachusetts buffer zone law violates the First Amendment; the justices were unanimous in the ruling. In case you weren’t up to speed on the case, here are the basics: Fourteen years ago, the high court upheld a Colorado law that created an 8-foot “bubble zone” around patients entering or exiting clinics. But Massachusetts’ buffer zone law prohibited demonstrators from standing within 35 feet of the facility, a length the justices seemed dubious of from the start. Walking that length — the size of a school bus — takes approximately seven seconds.
A lot can happen in those seven seconds. A lot can happen when protesters are allowed to enter clinics, physically confront patients or block doors. Massachusetts passed its law in response to aggressive and dangerous conduct from protesters stationed directly outside clinics, including an incident in 1994 where a gunman opened fire at two abortion clinics, killing two people and injuring five others. In its defense of the measure, the state argued before the justices that the buffer law is not a prohibition on speech, but a practical measure to keep access to these facilities “open and clear of all but essential foot traffic, in light of more than two decades of compromised facility access and public safety.”
Wagatwe Wanjuki was sexually assaulted by another student while attending Tufts University. But instead of punishing her attacker, the school asked her to leave.
Wanjuki first came forward about her assault in 2009. In 2008, she says, she was repeatedly assaulted by a fellow student she was in a relationship with. When she tried to report him to the administration, Tufts responded by telling her that their legal counsel said they didn’t have to take action.
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey will seek to triple Marissa Alexander’s original prison sentence from twenty to sixty years, effectively a life sentence for the 33-year-old woman, when her case is retried this July, The Florida Times-Union reports.
Alexander was convicted on three charges of aggravated assault in 2012 for firing warning shots in the direction of Rico Gray, her estranged husband, and his two children. No one was hurt. Alexander’s attorneys argued that she had the right to self-defense after Gray physically assaulted and threatned to kill her the day of the shooting. In a deposition, Gray confessed to a history of abusing women, including Alexander.