News Tag: Women's Rights

Health Care Denied: Physicians & Patients Speak Out About Catholic Hospitals

May 05, 2016

New ACLU Report Says Catholic Hospitals are a Threat to Women's Health and Lives
 
Health Care Denied
 
New reports from the ACLU and MergerWatch reveal that one in six hospital beds in the U.S. is in a facility that complies with Catholic directives that prohibit a range of reproductive health care services, even when a woman’s life or health is in jeopardy. In some states, more than 40 percent of all hospital beds are in a Catholic-run facility, leaving entire regions without any option for certain reproductive health care services.  
 
The ACLU’s report shares firsthand accounts from patients who have been denied appropriate care at Catholic hospitals, from health care providers forbidden from providing critical care because of the Directives, and from physicians at secular hospitals who have treated very sick women after they were turned away from a Catholic facility.  
 
The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which are promulgated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, set forth standards for the provision of care at Catholic health care facilities.  The Directives prohibit a range of reproductive health services, including contraception, sterilization, many infertility treatments, and abortion, even when a woman’s life or health is jeopardized by a pregnancy. Because of these rules, many Catholic hospitals across this country are withholding emergency care from patients who are in the midst of a miscarriage or experiencing other pregnancy complications.  Catholic hospitals also routinely prohibit doctors from performing tubal ligations (commonly known as “getting your tubes tied”) at the time of delivery, when the procedure is safest, leaving patients to undergo an additional surgery elsewhere after recovering from childbirth.  Catholic hospitals deny these essential health services despite receiving billions in taxpayer dollars.  Transgender and gender-non-conforming patients suffer the same and other, similar harms when seeking reproductive health care.
 
Learn more and access the report by clicking here.
 

ACLU of MS Wraps Up 2016 Legislative Summary

May 04, 2016

By Erik R. Fleming, Director of Advocacy and Policy

 

 

The challenging 2016 Mississippi Legislative session has come to a close. Of utmost concern is the enactment of HB 1523 - the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” - which supposedly provides protections to anyone that holds certain religious beliefs or moral convictions against same-sex marriages, children of same sex couples, and single parents. In truth, this act allows people to use religion to discriminate against citizens of this state. By codifying certain beliefs and offering legal immunity, it abuses the concept of religious freedom and appears to be a direct violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The ACLU of Mississippi will continue to challenge this law until it is repealed.

Women’s reproductive rights suffered setbacks as well.  HB 519 - the “Mississippi Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act” - sets the stage for abortions to halt altogether in the state. Under this act, a doctor can be criminally charged and an injunction can be placed on the facility where the procedure took place. Since Mississippi has only one abortion clinic operating, a single charge could shut that clinic down indefinitely. In addition to HB 519, SB 2238 prohibits the state Division of Medicaid from reimbursing Planned Parenthood for family planning services.

SB 2237 cloaks matters related to execution in secrecy and prevents governmental transparency.  The ACLU of Mississippi fought hard to defeat the bill. We forced the removal of language which would have allowed the use of firing squads as an alternative to lethal injections.

In partnership with the Mississippi Municipal League and the Mississippi Immigrants’ Rights Alliance, we stopped SB 2306. This bill would have prohibited Mississippi municipalities from declaring themselves “Sanctuary Cities,” adversely impacting undocumented immigrants.

Our partnership with the Mississippi Center of Public Policy led to the creation of a task force via HB 1410. The task force will potentially lead to reforms in our state’s Civil Asset Forfeiture laws and policies.

Our previous task force work with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office led to the passage of HB 809, which will allow existing voters to update their information online. This is an important first step toward online voter registration, which we will advocate for passage next legislative session.

As we continue to assess the total impact of the 2016 Session, we are making preparations for the 2017 session. We will continue to build positive relationships with legislators, as well as engage our members and the community at-large, in order to enhance our commitment toward criminal justice reform, guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression, and extending equality for all Mississippians.

 

ACLU of MS Statement on Passage of HB 1523 – Religious Liberty Accommodations Bill

March 30, 2016

The ACLU of Mississippi is deeply disturbed that the Mississippi State Senate passed House Bill 1523 by a vote of 31-17. This bill allows freedom of religion to cover prejudice and to justify discrimination.

Freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans, but that freedom does not give any of us the right to harm or mistreat others. 

The ACLU of MS believes that all people are free to follow and practice their faith – or no faith at all – without government influence or interference, and that the government remains completely neutral regarding matters of religion and belief.  When we seek to codify discriminatory legislation, we tarnish the treasure of religious freedom and the highest ideals of our democracy.

Legislators have gone out of their way to stigmatize and marginalize same sex couples by pushing this legislation.  The Mississippi State Legislature should look for ways to bring Mississippians together, not divide us along religious lines.  The ACLU of Mississippi urges the state legislature to kill this divisive bill in conference. 

2016 ACLU of MS Legislative Agenda

January 05, 2016

By Erik R. Fleming, Legislative Strategist 

 

The 2016 Mississippi Legislative Session promises to be intriguing.  There will be a host of new faces roaming the Capitol in both houses and a number of issues will dominate the session, primarily education funding, changing of the State Flag and the allocation of the $1.5 billion BP settlement. However, the ACLU of Mississippi will push a set of legislation that we believe will be topics of substantive debate as well.

MISSISSIPPI CIVIL RIGHTS ACT

This legislation protects all Mississippians from discrimination and is the major focus of our “We Are ALL Mississippi” Campaign, which will affect a culture change in our state. With the support of a coalition of organizations, the Campaign holds our state accountable and stands on our bedrock values: respect, equality, and acting with decency towards our fellow man. We are asking the state legislature to protect everyone and prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, immigrant status, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation. WE ARE ALL MISSISSIPPI!

DEBTORS’ PRISONS

Imprisoning citizens because of debt is unconstitutional in the United States. However, we have seen a resurgence of “debtors’ prisons” that has put thousands in jail for being too poor to pay fines for traffic tickets or other minor misdemeanors, under the cover of contempt of court. A clear definition of an indigent defendant has never been established in Mississippi, therefore, adequate representation has been arbitrary and incarceration as a result of an inability to pay  fines, fees and court costs has been almost certain. The ACLU of Mississippi is introducing legislation that clearly defines indigency, establishes a substantial right for poor people to be represented by counsel in court, and limits the courts’ ability to incarcerate citizens for failure to pay fines in a timely manner. No one should be forced to face jail time because of their inability to pay fines.

SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER TRAINING

We will resubmit legislation to amend Section § 37-7-321, of the Mississippi Code of 1972 that requires all School Resource Officers (SROs) complete a uniform statewide training program prior to being permitted to serve in a school. That curricula should include, at a minimum, training on child and adolescent development; cultural competence; violence de-escalation; identifying a student’s social, emotional and mental needs; alternatives to use of force; and due process protections for students. Currently, school districts that qualify for MSCOPS grants for SROs send their officers to a comprehensive training program. This legislation will provide a safety net for all school districts, in that they would have competent officers to compensate for the 20% attrition rate of potential SROs that do not complete the MSCOPS training.

WRITTEN CONSENT TO SEARCH VEHICLES

Police search thousands of cars each year at Mississippi traffic stops, usually looking for guns or drugs, through a simple request for a driver to consent. Drivers often don’t know that they can say no, or may feel coerced and isolated by the side of the road. However, law enforcement does not need permission to search a car if there is evidence of reasonable suspicion of a crime.  The ACLU of Mississippi is introducing legislation to ensure that drivers understand their constitutional right to say no to a request to search by requiring written consent with a simple disclosure. This will cover instances when an officer doesn’t have a warrant, is not making an arrest, or does not have probable cause. Written consent improves policing as well as protects public safety and civil liberties. 

POLICIES FOR BODY CAMERAS USED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT

Body cameras have the potential to serve as a check against the abuse of power by police officers. They are a win-win, helping to protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time guarding against false accusations of abuse. The challenge body cameras present is the potential for invasion of privacy, while also balancing the strong benefit in promoting police accountability. We will introduce legislation that ensures that body cameras will serve to protect the public, without becoming another system for routine surveillance. While our legislation will not mandate that all Mississippi law enforcement officers be equipped with body cameras, it will, for the sake of public confidence in the integrity of valued privacy protections, make sure that those that are equipped will do so within a framework of strong policies.

The ACLU of Mississippi looks forward to working with the 174 members of the Mississippi State Legislature to obtain the successful passage of these measures, while at the same time remaining vigilant to defeat any legislation that goes against our core principles of reformation, justice, equality, and freedom.

 

 

Why Are We Still Asking if a Dying Woman Should Be Able to Get an Abortion to Save Her Life?

May 08, 2015

By Jennifer Dalven, Reproductive Freedom Project

A recent analysis of abortion attitudes by The New York Times came to the right conclusion: The divide on how Americans feel about abortion is much smaller than partisan politics would have us believe.

But there's a bigger idea that the piece in the Times — and the poll it relies on — missed: All too often, we're still asking the wrong questions when it comes to gauging public opinion on abortion. We're too focused on questions at the margins — death versus abortion, rape, and incest or abortion under all circumstances or no circumstances. These questions do little to illuminate the reality of most women's lives and the range of feelings people have about abortions that happen in the real world.

Much of the piece centers on how Americans feel about two questions. The first is whether a woman who needs an abortion to save her life should be able to get one. Why are we still asking this? Is whether a woman should be forced to die rather than have an abortion really still up for debate when it comes to public opinion? I don't think so.

The other question examined at length concerns a woman who wants an abortion because of the sex of the baby. To set the record straight, that's a largely imagined scenario, designed in part by abortion opponents to communicate the stigmatizing idea that a woman who has decided to have an abortion is doing so for a frivolous reason.  Not to mention that it's racist, relying on ugly stereotypes about women of color. Asking this question doesn't get at any kind of truth on abortion attitudes.

I'm thrilled that the analysis in the Times' got the real answer. But it's still not asking the right questions.

Women have abortions for complex reasons — to better take care of the children they already have, to pursue an education or career and improve their life circumstances, or simply because they know they are not in a position to be the best parent they can be.

For many years, it's been clear that when you ask people about how abortion impacts real women's lives — instead of party-line questions about abortion under all circumstances or no circumstances — you get surprising answers and high levels of agreement.

Vox recently took this wholly different approach. Instead of asking the standard questions, the poll asked questions like:

"Which comes closer to your view: The law says a woman has a right to an abortion. As long as this is the law, women should have access to safe and affordable abortion care. Or even though there is a right to abortion, we should work to reduce abortions by making it harder for women to access care."

And:

"Think about a woman who has decided to have an abortion. How would you want that experience to be for her?"

And even:

"If a close family member or friend told you she decided to have an abortion, would you give her a lot of support?"

When you ask these types of questions, a much deeper, more nuanced, and more accurate picture of attitudes on abortion appears. In that picture, it's clear that Americans are in overwhelming agreement that a woman who has decided to get an abortion should be able to get one without additional hurdles. They're in overwhelming agreement that we shouldn't be passing laws that make a woman who has decided to get an abortion feel ashamed about her decision.

And Americans agree that lawmakers who are determined to restrict access to abortion are moving our country in the wrong direction.

Buried in the Times piece, even with it's strange focus on scenarios that have little connection to most abortions, is one clear truth: "Focusing on the exact details of abortion decisions may reveal more about when Americans agree on this difficult issue than when they disagree."

View this blog on ACLU.org.

2015 Legislative Tracking: Equality for all Mississippians

May 01, 2015

Oppose


HB714 - Creates a rebuttable presumption that a child being placed in the custody of a homosexual parent is not in the best interest of the child.

Status: Died in Committee

We strongly oppose HB714. In addition to being discriminatory, this will lead parents in contentious custody disputes to allege that their spouse or ex-spouse is gay to gain the upper hand, and require courts to be part of witch hunt trials to determine the truth in such assertions. What does this mean for same sex couples who have a custody dispute? Would custody be taken away from both parents and given to someone else?


HB493HB1218HB177 - Anti-Sharia bills prohibiting the application of foreign law.

Status: HB493 & HB1218 Died in Committee; HB177 Signed by Governor into law.

The ACLU of MS opposes HB493, HB1218, and HB177. State laws that single out religious groups for discrimination and ban all recognition of established international law are unconstitutional.


SB 2272HB1306 - Requires any infant born to a mother who tests positive for illegal drugs or controlled substance w/o prescription to be placed in foster care.

Status: SB2272 & HB1306 Died in Committee

We oppose SB2272 and HB 1306. By focusing on punishing women rather than promoting healthy pregnancies, these bills would unconstitutionally single out women struggling with alcohol or drug dependency and deter from seeking necessary pre-natal care. Further, HB1306 imposes a harsh penalty, requiring such mothers to be charged with felonious child abuse.


SB2072 - A parental rights amendment.

Status: Died in Committee

SB2072 is a thinly-veiled assault on public education, which would allow parents to challenge any educational or child welfare policy that doesn’t coincide with their own personal, political, or religious beliefs. It could tie officials’ hands in enforcing child abuse and other child welfare laws. It would result in an administrative nightmare. It is also unnecessary, as parents already have the right to opt their children out of certain curricula.


SB2706 - Revises enforcement and penalties under the Mississippi Employment Protection Act. Allows people to report undocumented workers by filling out a complaint form.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU remains opposed to legislation which penalizes employers for hiring undocumented immigrants. We believe that such legislation would exacerbate existing patterns of racial and ethnic discrimination in employment, by creating greater risks for employers hiring applicants whom they believe to be immigrants.


HB1309 - Personhood bill.

Status: Died in Committee

HB1309 has wide-ranging consequences for a women's health. This bill would undermine the ability of women and family to make important personal and private decisions. It could be used to ban some methods of birth control. It endangers women's health and lives by interfering with doctor’s ability to treat miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. Further, it could have far-reaching, unforeseen consequences, including reinterpretation of every state law that uses the word "person" (i.e. inheritance or who can file a lawsuit).


HB609 - Anti-Bullying bill.

Status: Died in Committee

We oppose HB609 because the bill fails to identify and protect categories of students most susceptible to bullying and harassment at schools. Mississippi must develop a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that enumerates groups that are susceptible to bullying. Research has shown that students in states with non-enumerated bullying laws are no more protected from bullying than students who live in states without any anti-bullying and harassment laws.


HB594 - Includes sex between same sex partners as behavior constituting adultery.

Status: Died in Committee

We oppose HB594 because the bill is intended to create a barrier to equitable treatment for same sex partners. This bill is uneccessary, Mississippi does not need a separate statute to define adultery to include sexual activity with someone of the same sex. The current statute already defines adultery as sex with a person other than your spouse, which is inclusive of all extramarital relations regardless of gender and or sexual orientation.


HB383 - Requires recipients of public benefits to be drug tested annually.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU opposes any effort to mandate any type of drug testing of public benefit applicants and recipients as an intrusion upon an individual’s right to privacy and an unreasonable search by the government. In addition to constitutional issues, drug testing is a misguided policy, based on the false premise that individuals affected by poverty are more likely to be drug users than other members of our society. By targeting recipients of public benefits, these proposals disproportionately impact communities of color.


SB2010 - Parents whose child support payments are in arrears shall have their gaming winnings applied to their outstanding child support balance.

Status: Died in Committee

We oppose this bill because it provides no privacy protections for men and women who owe child support. The bill would allow casinos and other gaming licenses to access the information of people who owe child support obligations by granting them access to real-time electronic database shared with the Department of Human Services. This means the data will be shared with any number of the gaming licenses employees.


SB2138 - Increases the minimum waiting period before a woman can have an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS strongly opposes this legislation because the mandatory 72-hour waiting period is intended to shame, judge, and make a woman change her mind. Requiring a 72-hour waiting period before abortion is about political interference, not informed consent. Health care decisions are best made by a woman and her doctor, not politicians.


SB2767 - Makes it illegal to perform an abortion of a child based on the child's race or gender.

Status: Died in Committee

SB2767 is essentially an anti-abortion bill disguised in anti-discrimination language. Doctors, not politicians, should decide whether an abortion may or not be performed on a patient, based on a woman’s unique circumstances and health. The ACLU is committed to protecting each woman’s ability to make personal, private health care decisions without government interference.


HB299 - Early Voting, requires absentee voters to attest that they will be absent from their precinct both on Election Day and every day that early voting is allowed.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports legislation that expands the opportunity to vote by absentee ballot without having to provide a reason or excuse. However, we oppose this bill, as it requires that voters attest that they will be absent from their precincts on Election Day and every day that early voting is permitted. There are too many Mississippi voters who do not have access to in-person absentee voting sites because of disabilities, lack of transportation, or work schedules that conflict with in-person absentee voting hours. Additionally, voters should not have to provide a statutorily-permitted reason or excuse to vote by absentee ballot, as disclosure of confidential or sensitive information raises privacy concerns. No-excuse absentee voting should be available to all qualified voters through the mail and by in-person methods.


HB941 - Would allow election managers and commissioners to receive fewer than eight hours of annual training.

Status: Died in Committee

We oppose HB941 because the bill would allow election commissioners and poll workers to receive even less Election Day training than they currently receive. Fair, open, and accessible elections are a cornerstone of the democratic process and we cannot afford for anyone's voting rights to be trampled due to our failure to adequately prepare the men and women who assist us on Election Day.


HB196 - Tuition Equity bill, which possibly runs afoul of Federal law.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS is concerned that HB196 runs afoul of federal law which prohibits residency with the state as a basis to receive in state tuition.


HB1154 - Would allow hospitals who are owed a debt to go directly to the IRS or state tax commission to collect on a debt.

Status: Died in Committee.

We oppose HB1154 because it would constitute an illegal “taking” of personal property, in violation of the 4th Amendment. Before a person can be deprived of a property right, they must be given due process. Further, this bill is unnecessary, as hospitals already have legal mechanisms to collect debts without violating a constitutional right.

 

Support

HB10 - Discourages wage discrimination.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports HB10 because, by working to end discrimination in the workplace, we ensure that all workers — regardless of sex, race, national origin, age or disability—are able to bring home every dollar they rightfully earn.


HB750HB573SB2466SB2474 - Amends bullying laws to enumerate categories of victims, and mandates the creation of anti-bullying policies for school district.

Status: HB750, HB573, SB2466 & SB2474 Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports these bills, as research has shown that students in states with non-enumerated bullying laws are no more protected from bullying than students who live in states without any anti-bullying and harassment laws. According to the Mississippi Department of Health Vital Statistics in 2013, 635 youth ages 10-24 have committed suicide since 2000 – an average of 49 deaths per year. The most often-cited cause of this is bullying. HB750 strengthens Mississippi’s existing anti-bullying law by clearly identifying common characteristics that all-too-often become the target of bullying in schools, including disability, appearance, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression.


HB534 - Adds “sexual orientation” as a basis for hate crimes charges.

Status: Died in Committee

We support this legislation because it recognizes sexual orientation alongside other protected categories. This bill would punish people for violent acts when victims are targeted because of bigoted beliefs. LGBTQ Mississippians need and deserve the protection of the law. HB534 shows them that they are not alone in their fight to live free of harassment, intimidation, and abuse.


SB2295 - Requires the State Superintendent of Education to report on the number of students arrested as a result of any unlawful activity which occurred on educational property or during a school-related activity.

Status: Died in Committee.

We support legislation which seeks to find more complete and long lasting solutions to handling school disciplinary problems. However, we believe that any such legislation must include adequate standards concerning the disclosure and retention of data collected.


HB652 - Tuition Equity Bill.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports HB652. The prospect attending college in pursuit of a career is part of the American dream. Unfortunately, many Mississippi graduates who wish to attend college face a major hurdle—unaffordable out-of-state tuition rates—simply because of their parents' immigration status. HB652 would enable all students who attended for at least 2 years and graduated from Mississippi High Schools, to pay in-state tuition rates and make their dream of college a reality.


HB9 - Salary increase for state employees.

Status: Died in Committee

We support HB9 because Mississippi teachers and many state employees are some of the lowest paid in the nation. It's time to invest in people who work day in and out to keep the state of Mississippi functioning at its best potential.


SB2601 - This bill allows voters to register to vote online via a secure electronic application.

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU supports legislation which grants more access to the polls; electronic voter registration is one convenient alternative to our current system of registration. However, this bill includes language which limits access to all Mississippians. There are too many MS voters who do not have access to in-person absentee voting sites because of disabilities, lack of transportation, or work schedules that conflict with in-person absentee voting hours. Additionally, voters should not have to provide statutory permitted reason or excuse to vote by absentee ballot because disclosure of confidential or sensitive information raises privacy concerns. No-excuse absentee voting should be available to all qualified voters through the mail and by in-person methods.


SB2017HB836 - Requires state agencies to enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Status: SB2017 Died in Committee; HB836 Passed House and Senate as amended. Returns to House for approval.

We support this bill because there are too few opportunities for people with disabilities to be able to get real employment that pays real wages. Therefore, requiring that the state agencies responsible for administering services to people with disabilities also prioritize finding opportunities for their employment is both advantageous and for the good of all Mississippians.


HB 1200 - Requires equal pay for women and men 

Status: Died in Committee

The ACLU of MS supports HB1200 because by working to end discrimination in the workplace, we ensure that all workers — regardless of sex, race, national origin, age or disability—are able to bring home every dollar they rightfully earn.

VICTORY! Federal Jury Holds Catholic School Accountable for Sex Discrimination

December 23, 2014

By Brian Hauss, Legal Fellow, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project

Emily Herx never imagined that she could lose her job for trying to get pregnant. But after working for more than seven years as a literature and language arts teacher at a Catholic school in Indiana, she was shocked to learn that her teaching contract would not be renewed: All because the in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment she was undergoing in an attempt to have a second child made her a "grave, immoral sinner" in the eyes of her religious employers.

Emily filed a federal lawsuit against the school and the local diocese for sex discrimination, pointing out that they had never fired a man for his involvement in infertility treatment. Her former employers responded by arguing that they should be exempted from federal anti-discrimination laws because their decision to fire Emily was motivated by sincerely held religious beliefs. Fortunately, the court held that religious schools do not have blanket permission to discriminate against lay teachers and allowed a jury to hear Emily's case.

Read the ACLU's friend-of-the-court brief here.

After a four-day trial, the jury found that the school and diocese discriminated against Emily on the basis of sex and awarded her $1.9 million in damages. This resounding victory for women's equality should send a message to employers everywhere that they cannot use religion to justify discrimination. And we owe it all to Emily's decision to stand up for her rights.

As Emily herself wrote in a blog post for the ACLU:

The emotional strain of infertility treatments, the loss of a job I loved so dearly, and my involvement in this case have all taken a toll on my family, my friends, and me. While I am grateful for the outpouring of support I have received from individuals across this nation, this has been a challenging and traumatic road. However, it is important to me to right the wrong that has been done when the Diocese and school discriminated against me.

My husband and I teach our son that doing what is right is important, even when it is hard. I am heartened that one day my son will be able to look at his mom with pride for standing up for what is right and just, even when it was a struggle to do so.

We all have a right to our beliefs, but the fundamental right to exercise religion is not an excuse to discriminate against others. That is why the ACLU works tirelessly to end the use of religion to discriminate.

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New Alabama Law Puts Teens Who Need Abortions on Trial. That's Dangerous and Cruel.

October 02, 2014

By Jennifer Dalven, Reproductive Freedom Project

Picture this: You are 17 years old, in your senior year of high school, and you've just learned you're pregnant. You'd like to be able to turn to your parents for support but you know you can't. After all, they kicked your older sister out of the house when she got pregnant. But you have discussed your options with your aunt and a trusted counselor and decided to have an abortion.

You call a women's health center to make an appointment and are told that unless you get your parent's consent, you will have to go to court and essentially be put on trial in order to get the care you need.

That's right. Instead of a doctor, you get a trial.

Thanks to a new Alabama law, a teen who can't get a parent's consent has to undergo a gauntlet of questioning to get the abortion she needs. Because of this law, a prosecutor and a representative for the fetus, both of whom are charged with protecting the "state's interest in fetal life," (a.k.a. making sure the teen doesn't get an abortion), will cross-examine her.

That isn't even the half of it. In their quest to ensure that the teen can't get an abortion, the new law allows the prosecutor and fetus's representative to tell other people in the young woman's life -- including her teachers, pastor, employer, relatives, and friends – that she is pregnant. And to haul them in to court to testify against her.

No, I am not kidding.

Now, we all want our daughters to come to us if they get pregnant, and thankfully most do. But we all know that, unfortunately, some just can't. Some teens don't come from good families, and some teens don't come from safe homes. Putting these teens on trial is not the answer. The cruel irony of this law is that it means teens from troubled families, those who need our help and support the most, will struggle the most to get it.

I have been working for almost two decades to ensure that teens like these are able to get the medical care they need. In all that time, I don't think I have ever seen a law aimed at young people as misguided and mean spirited as this one. That's why I am proud to say that this week the ACLU went to court to challenge it. We did it because not only is it wrongheaded and dangerous, the new law is also flat-out unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court has made clear that if a state decides to require teens to get a parent's consent to get an abortion, it must also have a confidential and expeditious alternative for those teens who can't turn to a parent. In passing this law – which allows the prosecutor and a representative for the fetus to tell anyone they want about the minor's pregnancy – Alabama politicians snubbed their nose at this long-standing constitutional requirement and thoroughly eliminated any expectation of privacy.

And worse than that, they have put young women in harm's way, creating a situation that might force them to take matters into their own hands. Given what we have seen the last few years, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. In state after state, from Texas to Ohio to Wisconsin and so many others , we have seen extremist politicians who are willing put women's health in jeopardy all to score political points. This is one more example of that.

We all want teens to be safe, but this law is cruel, dangerous, and unnecessary. To protect the young women of Alabama, we can't let it stand.

Learn more about abortion rights and other civil liberty issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

ACLU and Planned Parenthood Release Infographic on TRAP Laws

August 08, 2014

Supreme Court Allows Employers to Discriminate Against Employees by Denying Contraception Coverage

June 30, 2014

Employers Allowed to Use Religious Beliefs to Refuse to Comply With Law Requiring Contraception Coverage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of closely held corporations that sought an exemption to a federal law requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception. The owners of the plaintiff companies – Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based craft supply store chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania furniture company – cited religious objections to contraception as a reason not to comply with the law.

The American Civil Liberties Union, religious organizations, other civil rights and women’s health groups, business leaders, and members of Congress filed friend-of-the-court briefs arguing that the companies’ owners cannot impose their personal religious beliefs on employees to withhold coverage for health services with which they disagree.

"This is a deeply troubling decision. For the first time, the highest court in the country has said that business owners can use their religious beliefs to deny their employees a benefit that they are guaranteed by law," said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU. "Religious freedom is a fundamental right, but that freedom does not include the right to impose beliefs on others. In its ruling today, the Court simply got it wrong."

More information about these cases can be found at:
aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/challenges-federal-contraceptive-coverage-rule

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