Remarkable Number of Reproductive Rights Victories This Week

by on • 6:06 PM

A remarkable number of legal victories for reproductive health came down this week. In review, this week:

The Supreme Court issued a historic 5-3 ruling declaring Texas’ HB 2 law unconstitutional as an undue burden for women seeking abortion. The law required clinics offering abortion services to comply with ambulatory surgical center standards, as well as mandated that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

A federal judge blocked an Indiana law from going into effect that would have banned women from seeking abortions due to fetal genetic abnormalities or the race, gender, or ancestry of the fetus.

The Supreme Court declined to hear Mississippi’s appeal that sought to enforce a state law that required  admitting privileges for abortion providers, which upheld the lower court’s preliminary injunction of the law.

A fetal assault law in Tennessee that prosecuted women who abuse drugs while pregnant ended on July 1. Many argued it prevented women from seeking help and that treatment centers that could assist these women were unavailable.

Alabama’s attorney general dropped the state’s appeal of a lower court ruling that found the state’s admitting privilege requirement for abortion providers and ambulatory surgical center mandate for abortion clinics unconstitutional.

Lawmakers in Arizona intend to introduce legislation to repeal the state’s hospital admitting privilege requirement for abortion providers.

The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a Washington state regulation that required pharmacies fill all lawful prescriptions, with the caveat that individuals with religious objections could refer the patient to another pharmacist within the same store. A lawsuit claiming the regulation was a violation of religious freedom was rejected by the lower court.

A federal judge temporarily blocked a Florida law that would have cut state funding from Planned Parenthood and required an annual inspection of half of clinic patients’ medical records.

The Supreme Court declined to hear Wisconsin’s appeal of a lower court decision that struck down a law requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion providers.

On Friday, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the seven abortion restrictions passed this year by the state of Louisiana, arguing that each is unconstitutional on its own, and that together they amass an incredible burden on women seeking an abortion.  These seven laws are in addition to Louisiana’s admitting privilege requirement for abortion providers, a law that was blocked from going into effect by the Supreme Court in March 2016.

Surprise! Justice Scalia Strikes Down Arizona Law Requiring Proof Of Citizenship To Register To Vote | ThinkProgress

In an opinion by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, a 7-2 Supreme Court held this morning that an Arizona law requiring voting officials to reject voter registration forms that are “not accompanied by concrete evidence of citizenship” conflicts with a federal law requiring states to use a uniform voter registration form for federal elections. Scalia once justified an anti-immigrant opinion with a reference to laws excluding “freed blacks” from southern states, and he called the Voting Rights Act a “perpetuation of racial entitlement. So his authorship of this opinion is both unexpected and a sign of the weakness of Arizona’s legal position in defending this law.
The Court’s opinion in this case, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, also establishes an important doctrinal rule regarding the power of Congress to push back against state election laws. The Constitution permits duly enacted federal laws to trump state law, a process known as “preemption.” Normally, however, courts should apply a presumption against preemption and assume that Congress did not intend to invalidate state law if the matter is uncertain. Scalia’s opinion holds that this presumption does not apply with respect to federal laws regulating federal elections, a holding which suggests Congress’ power to sweep away state election laws is quite sweeping.
As the Court points out, this broad view of the federal role in governing elections is consistent with the Constitution’s text, which provides that “[t]he times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations.” So a future Congress more supportive of voting rights has the power to sweep away voter ID laws and other methods of voter suppression that have recently popped up mostly in conservative states. By contrast, a future Congress more keen to voter suppression may have significant authority to impose its will on the nation, although this power would be checked by constitutional safeguards against many forms of voter suppression.
Scalia’s opinion is not, however, a total victory over Arizona’s attempt to make voter registration more difficult. Rather, the final section of his opinion suggests that Arizona could renew a request to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to incorporate the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement into the voter registration form, and that they could challenge any denial of this request in court. For the meantime, however, Arizona’s requirement is invalid.