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.”
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.”
Almost 800 babies and children were buried in a mass grave in Ireland near a home for unmarried mothers run by nuns, according to new research Wednesday which throws more light on the Irish Catholic Church’s troubled past.
Death records suggest 796 children, from newborns to eight-year-olds, were deposited in a grave near a Catholic-run home for unmarried mothers during the 35 years it operated from 1925 to 1961.
Historian Catherine Corless, who made the discovery, says her study of death records for the St Mary’s home in Tuam in County Galway suggests that a former septic tank near the home was a mass grave.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is fighting fierce conservative opposition to allow abortion for women and girls who are raped, carrying non-viable fetuses or facing life-threatening pregnancy complications.
Last month, a 17-year-old girl turned up at a Santiago public hospital near death from bleeding. A doctor at the hospital called police to report her: she had had a back-alley abortion, which is illegal in Chile. Police searched the girl’s home and reported finding blood-stained underwear. Prosecutors say that she is facing 3.5 to five years in prison. In recent years, cases like hers, or that of Belen, an 11-year-old raped by her stepfather, have rocked Chile’s traditional and overwhelmingly Roman Catholic society.
Others like journalist Monica Perez have to go forward with a pregnancy knowing full well the baby would not live.
House Republicans on Thursday used a procedural motion to block a vote on whether to add an exception for incest to an abortion coverage ban in its criminal justice appropriations bill.
The bill prohibits using federal funds to cover abortion for pregnant women in federal prisons, except if the woman’s life is in danger or if she was raped. Incest is usually mentioned as an exception to other federal abortion funding bans such as the Hyde Amendment, but the criminal justice appropriations bill does not contain such an exception.
Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis received a hostile greeting in Los Angeles Thursday morning, when life-sized posters depicting her as “Abortion Barbie” began popping up throughout the city ahead of her fundraiser there.
In a May 11 Facebook message, Assistant State Attorney of Florida Kenneth Lewis wrote: “Happy Mother’s Day to all the crack hoes out there. It’ never too late to turn it around, tie your tubes, clean up your life and make difference to someone out there that deserves a better mother.”