drwex (drwex) wrote,

The Year of the Uterus (at SCOTUS)

I wish I had come up with that phrase, but credit has to go to FindLaw blog, which is taking note of how SCOTUS has decided to cannonball itself into reproductive rights waters. I am far from the only person who is nearly terrified of what is to come.

Tomorrow, SCOTUS will hear arguments over the Texas abortion-restriction law. This is the one Wendy Davis tried to block by her epic 13-hour filibuster that then got hurried into law shortly thereafter. (In case there's anyone reading my LJ for the first time, I think Wendy Davis is a superhero and ought to get a medal of some kind.) This case is notable for, among other things, bringing the AMA before the Court as amicus. The AMA has stayed out of previous abortion debates (as far as I could tell) but they've joined with other medical associations to argue that Texas's law is not only not (as the state claims) protecting womens' health but is actually dangerous.

This case is particularly dangerous, in my opinion, because it skirts a lot of the body of existing caselaw - this may be why SCOTUS agreed to take it up. Other attempts to restrict abortion have focused on the woman involved. Waiting periods and so on have been judged by courts based on the burden they impose. This law focuses on the clinics themselves (as do similar laws in other states) and if SCOTUS allows this to go through we could see some really bad repercussions for clinics that just happen to have heinous effects on the women who use those clinics. I can't wait to see the contortions by which the side that argues for the law tries to explain how an identified health threat is not burdensome.

Some commenters have argued that the fact the 5th Circuit upheld the law is a bad sign. I tend to side with those who believe that SCOTUS doesn't take cases just to uphold them. So I'm betting there are four solid votes on the Court now to overturn the law; the question is whether a fifth can be found. I do expect this to be a 5-4 decision, however it comes down.

SCOTUS also put off a fight over Planned Parenthood documents by refusing cert to New Hampshire Right to Life, which wanted help getting documents out of the US Health and Human Services bureau via an FOIA request. (This sounds like a move from the game Illuminati: NHRTL, with the help of FOIA, attacks HHS, but SCOTUS moves to assist the defense.) What makes this notable is not the denial - the vast majority of cert petitions get denied - but that Justices Thomas and Scalia chose to voice their opinion that the Court was wrong to deny cert. That's quite unusual and likely means we'll see a similar case get cert in the future.

And of course we should all know by now that the Court decided it did want to hear arguments consolidated from seven different challenges to the contraception mandate of the ACA. In essence, the Court seems to want to weigh in on whether it's unduly burdensome for some religious organizations to have to fill out some paperwork. I'm kind of baffled by this one, to be honest. ACA opponents seem to have settled on a "throw enough shit at the wall and see if any of it sticks" strategy. There's a larger conversation about "religious exemptions" in general and how the Court and the right in general are buying themselves a pickle of trouble they are likely to regret. But in the meantime we have to put up with this clown circus and hope that some kind of sanity reigns. I'm not all that hopeful.
Tags: politics
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