Reproductive rights news from the states is not often optimistic, but supporters of a woman’s right to choose have reason to rejoice today. Federal Judge Daniel Hovland struck down a North Dakota law that banned abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat,which can be as early as six weeks of gestation, often before a woman discovers she is pregnant. This law would come completely limit a woman’s ability to access an abortion, depriving her of choice.
This blog post is adapted from an Advocacy Update sent by Women of Reform Judaism on March 27, 2014. For more information about the background of these cases, check out this blog post.
Following oral argument on Tuesday morning in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, eyes are now turning to the end of June when the Supreme Court is likely to issue its ruling. Although much of the deliberating and deciding goes on behind closed doors, oral argument is an important opportunity to gauge what the justices are considering when looking at the case.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties, Corp. v. Sebelius. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism jointly released a statement, noting that:
In a recent conversation about raising families, I recounted the numerous times that I have been asked, often in an accusatory tone, why I have “only” two children. I guess because I am an Orthodox woman, people think this is an area into which they are allowed to pry. It is a question that I find incredibly personal, and deeply offensive – especially when it is followed with an admonishment that I am falling down on my religious duties by not abiding by the Biblical imperative “to be fruitful and multiply.” Yet one has to look no further than the Four Matriarchs – who no doubt did not have access to any modern birth control techniques – to see that the notion of large families (certainly not from one mother) is not always reflected in our history, even before hormone-based pills, patches or IUDs. Indeed, our Scripture describes to us that Sarah struggled with infertility until the age of 90, when she birthed Isaac. Rebecca had a pair of twin boys, Esau and Jacob – and then no more. Leah, the most fecund, had Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun and a daughter, Dinah. And finally, Rachel gave birth to Joseph, and then after a number of years, had Benjamin, whose birth caused her death.
Following the Guttmacher Institute’s report earlier this year indicating that more restrictive anti-choice bills were passed in the states between 2011-2013 (205 laws, to be exact) than the preceding ten years (189 laws), our eyes turned to 2014 with hope that the momentum would slow and such laws would cease to be considered. Unfortunately, 2014 is not boding well for choice in the states – at least so far. Earlier this week, Georgia and Alabama passed very restrictive laws that will significantly limit a woman’s access to abortion services.
The Georgia Senate passed a law banning all insurers – private insurers – from covering abortion services on health care plans, reducing the right to choose to a woman’s ability to pay for an abortion out of pocket. This bill, SB 98, has no exceptions for rape or incest, and a limited exception for life of the mother.
The Alabama House passed a package of four anti-choice laws, the most controversial of which was a ban on abortion after a detectable fetal heartbeat. This law, like the one from Georgia, has no exceptions for rape or incest. A heartbeat is detectable at five or six weeks of gestation, often before many women know they are pregnant. This bill, if passed by the Alabama Senate, would in essence ban abortion in the state.
Since amici briefs were due to the Court on January 28th, the waiting game has begun. The opportunity to influence the justices came with the amici briefs, and will come again with oral argument on March 25th.
As these cases have the potential to change the way we interpret religious liberty and the right to make choices about and access health care, the “waiting game” has given rise to much writing, predicting and debate over these cases.
By Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro
In 1986, I received news that no woman wants to hear: I had ovarian cancer. Fortunately, my doctors had discovered it by chance at its earliest stage. But to beat the disease, I would have to undergo treatment for several months.
At the time, I was Chief of Staff to Senator Chris Dodd – a tough but rewarding job with long days and not much down time. When I told him about my diagnosis, he said: “Rosa, take all the time you need to get better. Your job will be here when you get back.” And so, without having to worry about my job or paycheck, I underwent radiation treatment for two-and-a-half months. I have been cancer-free ever since.
The media-verse is abuzz with discussions on a variety of working families issues in the wake of recent comments by AOL CEO Tim Armstrong about employee benefits.
Armstrong organized a company-wide conference call for his employees to explain why AOL had decided to scale-back employer-matching contributions on its 401(k) program, and he explained that healthcare costs in particular were responsible for the decision. A very specific reference to “distressed babies” has ignited a firestorm of debate on health care insurance coverage, the high costs of neonatal care, employer-employee privacy (most AOL employees were easily able to identify the parents of the babies mentioned), and insensitivity to working parents, among myriad other issues. The mother of one of the aforementioned “distressed babies” penned a response article in Slate, where she explained:
“Yes, we had a preemie in intensive care. This was certainly not our intention. While he’s at it, why not call out the women who got cancer? The parents of kids with asthma? These rank among the nation’s most expensive medical conditions. Would anyone dare to single out these people for simply availing themselves of their health benefits?