Monday, September 06, 2021

Supreme Court DECLINES to block Texas law which outlaws abortion after six weeks in 5-4 decision

The Supreme Court formally refused Wednesday to block a Texas law banning almost all abortions, less than a day after the nation's most restrictive reproductive rights legislation took effect in the southern state.

The law, known as the 'Texas Heartbeat Act', bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which usually takes place at six weeks - before many women even know they are pregnant.

It makes no exceptions for rape or incest. The only exemption is if there is a danger to the woman's health.

While similar laws have passed in a dozen Republican-led conservative states, all had been stymied in the courts.

The justices on a 5-4 vote denied an emergency request by abortion and women's health providers for an injunction barring enforcement of the ban while litigation continues in their lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

The law is the most dramatic restriction on abortion rights in the United States since the high court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country in 1973.

'In reaching this conclusion, we stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants' lawsuit. In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas's law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts,' the court said in the unsigned order.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan dissented.

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the court's order 'stunning,' saying her colleagues had 'opted to bury their head in the sand' over a 'flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights.'

Texas lawmakers wrote the law to evade federal court review by allowing private citizens to bring civil lawsuits in state court against anyone involved in an abortion, other than the patient.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan dissented. The other justices - all appointed by Republican presidents - allowed the law to stand.

President Biden condemned new restrictions on abortion in Texas, which were signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott (r) in May. They came into force on Wednesday morning

Other abortion laws are enforced by state and local officials, with criminal sanctions possible.

After a federal appeals court refused to allow a prompt review of the law before it took effect, the measure's opponents sought Supreme Court review.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Joe Biden condemned the new Texas law that went into effect on Wednesday.

The law bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected - sparking some women to scramble for 11th hour terminations before midnight.

The legislation, signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is typically in the first six weeks and before most women even know they're pregnant.

The law also allows private citizens, rather than government officials, to enforce the law by suing anyone involved in the procedure from an abortion clinic to someone driving a woman to a procedure appointment.

Biden promised to fight for women's constitutional rights enshrined under Roe v Wade.

'The Texas law will significantly impair women's access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes,' the president said.

He added: 'And, outrageously, it deputizes private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion, which might even include family members, health care workers, front desk staff at a health care clinic, or strangers with no connection to the individual.'

The law forced many women throughout the state to flock abortion clinics to get the procedure done, with some only finding out they were pregnant in the past week.

Such was the case for a 21-year-old woman who spoke with Jezebel about her experience scrambling to get an appointment so she wouldn't have to travel out of state or continue with her pregnancy.

The woman, referred to only as Jen out of fear she would be targeted by anti-abortion activists, said she learned last week that she was eight weeks pregnant.

Jen, a sex worker and employee at a Texas donut shop, told the news outlet that she wouldn't be able to afford to schedule the procedure outside of Texas and, even if she could, would take an even bigger blow to her income from taking off work to do it.

Within the last week, she recalled being turned away from nearly every abortion clinic in her area as they were all fully booked.

Jen finally scheduled an appointment at the Houston Women's Clinic and had her procedure done a few hours before Wednesday's deadline.

She told the news outlet, 'I know Texas is very conservative, and I figured there might be a lot of judgment and it might be a little hard, but I never seriously considered it that I wouldn't be able to get an abortion at all.'

When she got the clinic, she described the waiting room being at maximum capacity. 'They were going full throttle trying to get to everyone,' she said.

'Honestly, I would not have been able to go out of state - even the cost of the actual abortion dented my pocket a lot,' she said. 'The first appointment was $100 and the second one was $500 . . I'm just so happy I was able to do it the day before the ban and it's so sad that women here are going to have so much trouble now.'

Biden vowed that his administration would protect women's abortion rights, but he made no mention of the challenge at the Supreme Court, amid fears by activists that a more conservative bench was poised to uphold further restrictions on abortions.

Abortion providers who asked the Supreme Court to step in said the law would rule out 85 percent of abortions in Texas and force many clinics to close.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, criticized the court's inaction.

'In refusing to intervene last night, the Supreme Court tipped the scales of justice in favor of one of the most draconian state abortion bans in history,' she said.

'[The law] strips away abortion access for most Texans.

'The Supreme Court has put the health and safety of Texans — especially people with lower incomes and people of color — in jeopardy.'

Planned Parenthood is among the abortion providers that have stopped scheduling abortions beyond six weeks from conception.

At least 12 other states have enacted bans on abortion early in pregnancy, but all have been blocked from going into effect.

What makes the Texas law different is its unusual enforcement scheme. Rather than have officials responsible for enforcing the law, private citizens are authorized to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions. Among other situations, that would include anyone who drives a woman to a clinic to get an abortion.

Under the law, anyone who successfully sues another person would be entitled to at least $10,000.

Abortion opponents who wrote the law also made it difficult to challenge the law in court, in part because it's hard to know whom to sue.

Texas has long had some of the nation's toughest abortion restrictions, including a sweeping law passed in 2013 that the Supreme Court eventually struck down but not before more than half of the state's 40-plus abortion clinics closed.

Lawmakers also are moving forward in an ongoing special session in Texas with proposed new restrictions on medication abortion. This is a method using pills that accounts for roughly 40% of abortions in the U.S.

The Texas challenge seeks to prevent judges, county clerks and other state entities from enforcing the law.

A federal judge rejected a bid to dismiss the case, prompting an immediate appeal to the Louisiana-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which halted further proceedings.


UK: White NHS staff are told to study their ‘privilege’ and that they should feel ‘uncomfortable’ by website that trains workers for senior roles

New 'anti-racism' guidance has been shared 'for white people' working within the national health service in a blog post on an official NHS website.

The NHS Leadership Academy, which prepares staff to take steps into more senior roles within the organisation, shared guidance for employees including recommendations to read up on 'white privilege' and ready themselves for political discussions at work.

In five new tips published by Aishnine Benjamin, the head of equality, diversity and inclusion at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, white members of staff are told they should not be defensive and that 'ignorance isn't an excuse.'

Employees were also advised to listen to the lived experience of staff who come from an ethnic minority background, and to 'work on your empathy'.

In a final word of ambiguous advice, staff are reminded to 'be uncomfortable'.

But some MPs have slammed the advice as typical 'woke nonsense', and warned public funds should not be spent on concepts that 'encourage division and resentment.'

Sir John Hayes, 63, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, says he will be writing to Health Secretary Sajid Javid to request he 'investigate' the advice, the Telegraph reports.

The 1,100 word blog post initially sees white staff singled out for the advice, before expanding to include 'general reads' and research on race in the United Kingdom.

Aishnine Benjamin advises the health service's employees to not 'be defensive' and says 'ignorance isn't an excuse' as she warns black and Asian people will have personal stories of racism.

She goes further to say: 'Work on your empathy. Visualise yourself in the other person's shoes.

'Discrimination is dehumanisation and the only way to see a person as human is to empathise with them.'

Other suggestions penned by Ms Benjamin ask staff to consider attending a Black history 'walk or tour' and using 'your power and privilege for the benefit of humanity.'

But not everyone has reacted positively to the tips, with former minister Sir John Hayes MP slamming the guide as 'woke nonsense.'

Mr Hayes, who chairs the Common Sense Group of over 50 Tory MPs, had particularly strong criticism for a concept that 'encourages division and resentment'.

He told the Telegraph: 'Of course it is true that the people who are prejudiced and discriminatory are wrong, but the idea of attributing that to one group, defining people as either the oppressors or the oppressed, is deeply insulting to non-white people and just as insulting to white people.

The five 'anti-racism' tips for senior white members of NHS staff
In a blog post, Aishnine Benjamin, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion lead at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, recommended five new anti-racism tips 'for white people' in the NHS.

They are:

'Don’t be defensive. This isn’t personal and it’s not really about you. Everybody is at a disadvantage when our formal institutions perpetuate inequalities.

'Don’t say "I’m not political" to excuse yourself from this conversation. Right now, ignorance isn’t an excuse. You can’t unsee what you have seen.

'You don’t have to be vocal but do "listen". Listening means being open to hearing what black and minority ethnic people are saying. Be open to their lived experiences (if they choose to talk about them). You would be hard pushed to find a black or Asian person that doesn’t have a personal story of racism.

'Work on your empathy. Visualise yourself in the other person’s shoes. Discrimination is dehumanisation and the only way to see a person as human is to empathise with them.

'Be uncomfortable.'

'Try telling a lonely, elderly white person who has struggled during the pandemic that they’re privileged.'

Earlier this year, a landmark report urged the UK to look 'beyond race' and warned complaints about 'White Privilege' are counterproductive as it insisted where people live is more important for their life chances.

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities said racism is a 'real force' in Britain and must be tackled, while hailing the country's 'model' progress over recent decades.

But it said that 'geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism'.

The report - which was criticised as an 'insult', 'whitewash' and 'disgraceful sham' by Labour MPs - said in terms of overall numbers white boys from low income families were the most disadvantaged.

It also hit out at the 'casual' use of the term 'institutional racism', saying there was little evidence to support the claims.

As well as condemning barbs about 'White Privilege', the report said the term 'racism' was often 'misapplied' to 'account for every observed disparity' - suggesting that firms should 'move away from' unconscious bias training.

Andrea Sutcliffe, the Nursing and Midwifery Council chief executive and registrar, said: 'At the NMC we value the diversity of health and care professionals and the public we serve.

'We’re committed to standing against racism or any other form of discrimination and want to support better conversations and understanding of these issues for everyone.

'That’s what this personal blog seeks to do, particularly in sharing a wealth of helpful resources.'


'The largest Confederate monument in the South is coming down'

The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled Thursday that the state can take down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that has towered over the state's capital for more than a century but became widely seen as a symbol of racial injustice.

The court's ruling shot down two lawsuits filed by Virginia residents who attempted to block removal of the 21-foot bronze equestrian sculpture on Monument Avenue in Richmond that shows Lee in military attire atop a 40-foot pedestal.

It's removal will mark the 64th to be toppled since the George Floyd protests began in May 2020.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced his decision to remove the statue in June 2020, 10 days after George Floyd's killing by a Minneapolis police officer sparked protests over police brutality and racism in cities across the country, including Richmond.

At least 63 other monuments or plaques dedicated to Confederate leaders in cities across the country have been similarly removed since those protests began, including a statue of General Lee from a park in Charlottesville on July 10.

A similar statue of Lee was removed from the US Capitol building in Washington in December.

Richmond's nationally recognized statue became the epicenter of a protest movement in Virginia after Floyd's death, and its base is now covered with graffiti.

Separate lawsuits were filed by a group of residents who own property near the statue and a descendant of signatories to the 1890 deed that transferred the statue, pedestal and land they sit on to the state.

Descendant William Gregory argued that the state agreed to 'faithfully guard' and 'affectionately protect' the statue.

And five property owners argued that the governor is bound by a 1889 joint resolution of the Virginia General Assembly that accepted the statue and agreed to maintain it as a monument to Lee.

During a hearing before the Supreme Court on June 8, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the Virginia Constitution does not grant the governor the authority to remove the statue.

The court found that 'restrictive covenants' in the 1887 and 1890 deeds that transferred the statue to the state no longer apply.

'Those restrictive covenants are unenforceable as contrary to public policy and for being unreasonable because their effect is to compel government speech, by forcing the Commonwealth to express, in perpetuity, a message with which it now disagrees,' the justices wrote.

Attorney General Mark Herring's office cheered the decision and said a small group of private citizens cannot force the state to maintain a monument that no longer reflects its values.

'Today is an historic day in Virginia. Today, we turn the page to a new chapter in our Commonwealth's history - one of growth, openness, healing, and hope,' Herring said in a statement Thursday.

Patrick McSweeney and Joseph Blackburn Jr., attorneys for the plaintiffs, could not immediately be reached for comment on whether they plan to appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Northam said his office would have comment soon.

It wasn't immediately clear how soon work could proceed on the removal, a job that will require special heavy equipment. The state has been working on detailed plans that include the extrication of a time capsule thought to be tucked inside the base.

Earlier this summer, Northam's office said it intended to leave in place the statue's enormous pedestal, as efforts are underway to rethink the design of Monument Avenue. Some racial justice advocates see the pedestal as a symbol of the protest movement that erupted after Floyd's killing and don´t want it moved.

The Lee statue was the first of five Confederate monuments to be erected on Richmond's Monument Avenue, at a time when the Civil War and Reconstruction were long over, but Jim Crow racial segregation laws were on the rise.

When the statue arrived in 1890 from France, where it was created, thousands of Virginians used wagons to help pull it in pieces for more than a mile to the place where it now stands. White residents celebrated the statue of the Civil War hero and native Virginian, but many Black residents have long seen it as a monument that glorifies slavery.

The city of Richmond, which was the capital of the Confederacy for most of the Civil War, has removed more than a dozen other pieces of Confederate statuary on city land since Floyd's death, which prompted the removal of Confederate monuments in cities across the country.


New lawsuit filed against Biden administration

A few years ago, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine recounted a harrowing—and tragic—story.

A patient suffering from hours of abdominal pain was rushed to the hospital. The patient, identified as a male in medical records, had recently stopped taking medication for high blood pressure. With that being the case, the nurse classified the patient as a non-emergency.

But it was an emergency, because the patient wasn’t actually male. The patient was female, but identified as transgender. That’s why the patient was listed as male in the medical records.

The patient was pregnant—and in labor.

Unfortunately, the baby didn't survive. And the mother was devastated.

This was a tragedy. And tragedies like this could become more common because of an anti-science policy from the Biden administration.

Here’s the legalese.

Under this administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reinterpreted non-discrimination on the basis of sex in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) to include gender identity.

And here’s why it matters.

This radical reinterpretation requires that doctors act against their medical judgment, religious beliefs, and conscience in performing controversial and often dangerous “gender transition” procedures on all patients … including children.

But that’s not all.

The mandate coerces physicians to use pronouns that affirm a patient’s gender of choice. And it compels them to enter inaccurate information about the patient’s sex into medical charts and records—creating the very scenario described above that ended in the tragic loss of life.

Even that’s not everything the mandate does.

Doctors who inform their patients about the potential risks of “gender transition” procedures could be penalized for creating a hostile environment. This means physicians can't talk about the potential physical dangers or the regret that many of those who “transition” feel.

Thankfully, some doctors refuse to let this dangerous mandate go unchallenged.

Last week, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit challenging the mandate on behalf of the American College of Pediatricians, the Catholic Medical Association, and an OB-GYN specializing in adolescents.

The government must promote the dignity of all people. And it must uphold everyone’s constitutional freedoms. Doctors, and those they serve, deserve no less.

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