The Supreme Court wisely rejected a cynical attempt to deny millions of women in Texas access to abortion, said the Center for Inquiry, praising the decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt as a win for objective science and women’s equality.
A 2013 Texas law placed onerous and unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers, which would have forced the closing of all but a handful of the state’s clinics, cutting off abortion access to millions of women, particularly minorities and those of low income. The plaintiffs in this case argued that these restrictions impose an undue burden on women’s right to end a pregnancy. The Supreme Court today ruled against the state, preserving constitutionally protected abortion access for the women of Texas.
CFI filed an amicus brief with the Court in January, which was cosigned by dozens of prominent scientists and public intellectuals including Steven Pinker, Carol Tavris, Eugenie Scott, Jill Tarter, Lawrence Krauss, and Richard Dawkins. The brief argued the evidence presented by the state of Texas was based on manufactured, unscientific information, coordinated by known anti-abortion ideologue Vincent Rue, a hyper-partisan with no medical qualifications and who has been cited for ghostwriting manufactured, pseudoscientific testimony for alleged expert witnesses in federal court.
Congressman Joe Kennedy III (MA-04) and Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, this week introduced legislation to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The “Do No Harm Act” would clarify that no one can seek religious exemption from laws guaranteeing fundamental civil and legal rights. It comes in response to continued efforts across the country to cite religious belief as grounds to undermine Civil Rights Act protections, limit access to healthcare, and refuse service to minority populations.
Specifically, the Do No Harm Act would limit the use of RFRA in cases involving discrimination, child labor and abuse, wages and collective bargaining, access to health care, public accommodations, and social services provided through government contract.
We at the Center for Inquiry released a statement backing the introduction of this amendment:
“Freedom of religion is a fundamental right that protects all Americans, but this freedom does not include the right to restrict or control the behavior of others,” said Nicholas Little, Vice-President and General Counsel for the Center for Inquiry. “At its inception, CFI was one of very few voices cautioning that RFRA would permit religiously motivated discrimination, whether against religious minorities, the non-religious, women, or LGBTQ Americans. Sadly, we were right. But this fix would help ensure that the law could no longer be used as a weapon to impose one person’s religious beliefs on other unwilling parties.”
“We thank Reps. Scott and Kennedy for taking a bold and important step today to protect the religious freedom and equal rights of all Americans,” said Michael De Dora CFI’s director of public policy. “Members of Congress should put aside their partisan differences and approve this fair-minded amendment. We look forward to working with our partners on Capitol Hill, including religious, non-religious, church-state, and civil rights groups, to move this important measure forward.”
You can read our full release here and other organizational statements of support here.
CFI’s legal director Nick Little recently sat down for a 20-minute debate on Public Square regarding the Supreme Court case on Texas abortion access, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The full video has now been posted:
Nick Little, legal director of the Center for Inquiry, writes on the organization’s blog Free Thinking regarding what’s at stake in the Supreme Court case Zubik v. Burwell:
What this case involves is a claim by a series of religious nonprofits, personified in yesterday’s protests by the Little Sisters of the Poor (what, you want to take away a nun’s rights? For shame!), who deeply oppose any provision of contraception to their employees. Under the Affordable Care Act, all employers over a certain size must provide insurance to their employees, and that insurance must include all FDA approved methods of contraception, without copay. Recognizing the religious opposition to this, the government put in a pair of opt outs – religious groups such as churches could avoid this provision entirely; religious non-profits, such as the plaintiffs here, on the other hand, could sign a form, and mail it to the government, who would, in turn, require the insurance provider to provide this service to the employees.
Nicole Knight Shine of Reproductive Health Reality Check reports:
In a St. Louis high-rise hotel last April, health-care workers filed into a conference room to learn about the myth of undoing apill-induced abortion, also called abortion pill reversal. The workshop, hosted by the anti-choice giant Heartbeat International, promised nurses in attendance that they could earn continuing education credits from a state some 1,700 miles away: California.
Missing from the conference materials was any disclosure saying that the medical establishment, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), rejects the so-called science behind abortion pill reversal. Instead, Heartbeat International displayed the medical imprimatur of the Golden State: “Provider approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider Number CEP 16061 for 1.25 contact hours for each workshop.”
How has Heartbeat International, along with other anti-choice organizations, co-opted a narrow area of health-care law in one of the country’s most progressive states? The answer exposes regulatory holes in the post-graduate education of California nurses.
The Associated Press reports on a disturbing legal development out of California, where a judge has ruled in favor of a Catholic hospital in a reproductive health care case:
Ordering a Catholic hospital in California to perform a tubal ligation sterilization procedure on a woman would violate its religious freedom, a San Francisco judge ruled Thursday.
“Religious-based hospitals have an enshrined place in American history and its communities, and the religious beliefs reflected in their operation are not to be interfered with by courts at this moment in history,” Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith said while finalizing his previous tentative ruling.
The decision came after Rebecca Chamorro, 33, filed a lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction that would require Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California, to perform the procedure after she delivered her third baby.
The judge also noted that Chamorro could get the birth control procedure elsewhere, and the hospital was not engaging in sex discrimination by denying it because its policy against sterilization on religious grounds also applies to men.
Steven Pinker, Eugenie Scott, Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, and more than 40 other eminent scientists and public intellectuals are backing the Center for Inquiry in a brief to the Supreme Court criticizing the state of Texas’s onerous restrictions on abortion providers. CFI’s brief argues that the alleged expert, scientific testimony used to justify the restrictions is flawed pseudoscience and the Court cannot constitutionally rely on it.
Nineteen groups are challenging a decision by drugstore giant Walgreens to allow a Catholic hospital to run its clinics in Oregon and Washington state, arguing the move will create a health care system “limited by religious doctrine.”
The blog Eclecta reports on a lawsuit that highlights several disturbing cases of Catholic hospitals putting ideology above patient safety:
When you show up at an emergency room in need of urgent medical care, you have a reasonable expectation that you’ll be given the treatment you need — that the staff will do everything they can to save your life and protect your health. In fact, ERs are required by law not to turn anyone away for any reason.
Unless you’re a Catholic-affiliated health system. At least, that’s what one Catholic hospital system would like you to think, even though they’re dead wrong.
The City of Philadelphia has reached a settlement with a Catholic pediatrician who was fired after she refused to prescribe birth control options like Depo-Provera and the morning-after pill to the young women in her care, and part of that settlement includes the implementation of a policy that precludes the city from forcing healthcare workers to provide care that goes against their religious beliefs.