Abortion foes pushed their luck too far

It has been no secret that supporters of abortion rights have been on the defensive for the last two decades as opponents passed one legislative action after another in Republican controlled states that limited the availability of abortion services to women. These took the form of long waiting periods, requiring multiple visits to clinics, forcing younger women to notify their parents and the fathers, forcing doctors to issue scary warnings to women about the dangers of abortions and forcing women to listen to them, and so on. The goal seemed to be that if they could not ban abortions entirely, they could make it so hard to get that the right was almost nullified.
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US Supreme Court strikes down Texas abortion restrictions

In an important decision today, the US Supreme Court by a 5-3 vote in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down the 2013 law in Texas that had placed onerous restrictions on clinics that provide abortions and thus threatened to shut down nearly all of them in the state. That law, if upheld, would have set the stage for similar laws in other states, effectively largely nullifying the right to abortion except for rich people who could afford to travel to the very few clinics in the US (or abroad) to get safe, legal abortions.
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What happened with justice Kennedy between Fisher I and Fisher II?

Opponents of affirmative action, like opponents of abortion, have been steadily chipping away at it hoping to make it so marginal as to be effectively dead or to even land a final blow that eliminates it altogether. In the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (that I discussed earlier here) they thought that the latter moment had come, at least when it came to affirmative action in public university admissions because all the signals were that the court would rule against the UT’s policy of using race as a a limited factor in their consideration of prospective students.
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Supreme Court upholds University of Texas Affirmative Action program

The US Supreme Court issued an opinion today that rejected the claim by Abigail Fisher that she had been denied admission to the University of Texas because she was white, thus ending an eight-year long saga in which her case twice went to the high court. The ruling was 4-3 with justice Elena Kagan recusing herself because of her prior involvement with the case while she was Solicitor General. Justice Anthony Kennedy joined with justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer in the majority opinion.
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The Supreme Court comes sharply back into focus

Barack Obama came into office promising to end the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and close the Guantanamo torture camp and none of those things have happened. In fact we are now involved in new wars in Syria and Libya, not to mention Yemen. But there is at least the theoretical possibility that after a president is voted out of office after four or eight years, any bad policies they instituted can be reversed by their successor, though in practice such reversals are not so easy since Congress is also involved.
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The sincerity of religious beliefs and doctrines

Over the weekend I attended a very interesting talk on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by Nicholas Little who is the Legal Director for the Center for Inquiry. He reminded us that RFRA was originally meant to provide legal protection for minority religious practices but is now being used by majority religions to gain privileges and discriminate against others and has become the main vehicle for people to argue against the Affordable Care Act. He said that while courts are required to give deference to the religious beliefs of people because of RFRA, the closely related Religious Land Use And Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and the Free Exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment, this poses a problem with people who try to use that to get special privileges.
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Why can’t we all get along?

As one music group and business after another announce that they will be avoiding North Carolina after that state adopted its new law, ostensibly aimed at restricting the bathrooms transsexuals can use to only the ones that correspond to the gender assigned to them on their birth certificates but in fact allows wider discrimination against the LGBT community and others, Stephen Colbert wonders why we can’t get along the way that Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee did after the bitter civil War.
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Adding a cross to Los Angeles county seal is unconstitutional

Back in 2014, I wrote about an interesting legal case out of Los Angeles where a new county seal was being proposed that would put a cross on the roof of an image of a church on the existing county seal. The case was interesting because of the role that history played in it and I discussed the legal aspects of it in that earlier post and will not repeat them here.
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