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Tag: constitutional rights

The Coming Fight Over Out-Of-State Abortions

Now may be a good time to max out your investments in airlines, car rental agencies, and intercity bus companies. Travel has picked up as the pandemic has ebbed, but the Supreme Court could give it an extra boost by revoking the constitutional right to abortion.

If that happens, a lot of American women are going to find that "shop local" is a useless slogan when it comes to this type of commerce. The pro-choice Center for Reproductive Rights has predicted that with Roe gone, "abortion would remain legal in twenty-one states and likely would be prohibited in twenty-four states."

Vast swathes of the continent would become abortion-free zones — free of legal abortions, anyway. But Americans have been traveling to get what they want since the Pilgrims arrived, and women with unwanted pregnancies are no exception.

In the days before Roe, when the procedure was illegal in most of America, places like New York and Washington state had lots of visitors who didn't come for recreation. Some 40 percent of all abortions were performed on patients outside their home state.

Already, liberal states are a destination for desperate abortion-seekers. Illinois, surrounded by states that have greatly restricted access, saw nearly 10,000 women come from out of state to get abortions in 2020, the Chicago Tribune reports. Planned Parenthood says that number may quadruple if Roe falls. We are on the verge of a wave of abortion refugees.

But anti-abortion advocates are not likely to accept this outcome as inevitable. A bill was introduced recently in the Missouri legislature to bar its residents from getting abortions out of state.

Republican Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman told Politico: "If you believe as I do that every person deserves dignity and respect and protection whether they're born or unborn, then of course you want to protect your citizens, no matter where they are." Though her measure didn't pass, it will undoubtedly inspire other states to enact their own bans.

That would be a radical step, but "radical" is a term of endearment in the anti-abortion movement. It would be a terrible idea, though, and one at odds with our entire system of federalism.

One of our fundamental freedoms, long recognized by the Supreme Court, is the right to travel within the United States and be treated as an equal citizen from sea to shining sea. A state government can no more burden the freedom of its residents who venture out of state than it can burden the freedom of migrants from out of state.

In 1969, the court struck down a California law imposing a residency requirement for public assistance. It said the rule violated the right to travel and amounted to "an unconstitutional discrimination which violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment."

For a state to assert its power over citizens beyond its borders would be an act of extreme presumption. Decades ago, when Nevada was the only state with legal casinos, everyone could go there and gamble without fear of bluenoses back home.

The same limits apply today. Utah can ban recreational cannabis, but its residents may drive to Colorado to get high. California may forbid the open carry of guns, but it can't stop Angelenos visiting Arizona from packing in public view.

As University of Pennsylvania law professor Seth Kreimer has written, one basic principle of American federalism is "that each citizen may take advantage of the liberties offered by any state." This arrangement also contributes to our national civic peace by accommodating a diversity of policies.

Anti-abortion advocates may argue that their cause is different because it involves life and death. Not so. A New Yorker who kills a fellow New Yorker in Atlanta and is acquitted under Georgia's "stand your ground" law cannot be convicted under New York's less lenient statutes.

Conservatives, who champion state sovereignty, should recognize that only one state can be sovereign within its borders. Otherwise, every state could extend its policies into the other 49 states.

The right should also beware of handing a new weapon to progressives. If a state can punish conduct that takes place in another state, Connecticut, which bans "assault weapons," could imprison a resident who uses one for target shooting in Maine. The possibilities for liberal mischief are endless.

If and when the enemies of Roe win their greatest victory, they will be tempted to seize every possible method of exploiting this success. But even the long reach of the law needs limits.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Texas Abortion Law Threatens Unintended Consequences  For The Right

By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As abortion providers backed by President Joe Biden's administration prepare for Monday's U.S. Supreme Court arguments in their challenge to a near-total ban on the procedure in Texas, they have found an unlikely ally: a right-leaning gun rights group.

A "friend of the court" brief filed in the case by the Firearms Policy Coalition against Republican-governed Texas illustrates how the law's unique structure - enforcement by private individuals, not the state - has alarmed advocates for all kinds of constitutionally protected rights.

Some conservatives are warning that similar laws could be crafted by liberals targeting issues important to the right.

A law written like the one in Texas to impede courts from ruling on constitutionality before it takes effect could be used, for example, to take aim at constitutionally protected activities including gun rights, religious practice or free speech. Abortion is protected under the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which recognized a woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, and subsequent decisions.

"You can't short-circuit the ordinary steps of judicial review for serious constitutional questions," said Erik Jaffe, the attorney who filed the Firearms Policy Coalition's brief.

When laws are enacted that restrict constitutional rights, courts have a vital role to play before they take effect, Jaffe added.

"This circumvents that debate. This says, 'Too bad you don't get to have that debate except ... with my foot on your neck,'" Jaffe said.

The Supreme Court will consider whether the Texas law's structure prevents federal courts from intervening to block it and whether the U.S. government is even allowed to sue the state to try to block it.

The measure, one of numerous restrictive Republican-backed state abortion laws passed in recent years, bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, a point when many women do not yet realize they are pregnant. There is an exception for a documented medical emergency but not for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

The case reaches the nine justices as the future of abortion rights hangs in the balance. On December 1, the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, is due to hear another major abortion case in which Mississippi is seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Texas attorney general has signaled he also wants Roe v. Wade overturned.

What is unique about the Texas law is that the state plays no enforcement role. Instead, anyone can sue abortion providers - regardless of whether that person has a personal stake - and potentially win at least $10,000 in damages, a process critics have compared to placing a bounty on abortion providers.

At least three states already are considering legislation mirroring the Texas law's language including one in Illinois targeting gun dealers, said David Noll, a professor at Rutgers Law School in New Jersey who filed a brief opposing Texas.

The Texas citizen-enforcement provision does not mean such laws can always evade judicial review. But to challenge them someone would have to be sued under the law first and then take aim at the enforcement mechanism in the defense. In the meantime, the fact that the law is on the books may chill the conduct at issue. That is the case in Texas, with abortion clinics complying with the ban since the Supreme Court let it go into effect on September 1.

Lawyers opposing the law have found potential analogies on other issues involving Supreme Court precedents. Laws that would enable people to sue gun owners and seek to prohibit unlimited independent spending in political campaigns are examples cited by Biden's administration in its challenge to the abortion law.

In both instances, "those statutes, too, would violate the Constitution as interpreted by this court. But under Texas's theory, they could be enforced without prior judicial review, chilling the protected activity - and the effect of any successful constitutional defense in an enforcement proceeding could be limited to that proceeding alone," the administration wrote in court papers.

Legislators have enacted other laws that let people bring individual claims on contentious issues including transgender rights. But those are more like earlier statutes that empowered people to sue over matters such as environmental or civil rights violations.

In Tennessee, a law barring transgender students from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity includes a provision that lets individuals sue local school districts if they "encounter a member of the opposite sex" in a bathroom.

Some conservative and religious groups that oppose abortion have signaled little concern about the Texas law's structure, feeling that critics have exaggerated potential consequences.

Walter Weber, a lawyer with the American Center for Law and Justice religious rights legal group that filed a brief backing Texas, said there is nothing to stop abortion providers from challenging the law after they are sued.

"Abortion advocates crying wolf can raise a lot of money and give cover to legislative and executive measures to push further support for abortion," Weber said.

If the Texas law is so clearly unconstitutional, Weber asked, "Why are abortionists so terrified?"

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Will Dunham)

DeSantis Signs ‘Jim Crow’ Bill Criminalizing Street Protests

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed into law a bill that civil rights groups warn is designed to crack down on peaceful demonstrations and criminalize dissent by redefining "rioting" in an overbroad way and creating draconian new felonies for protest-related offenses.

While DeSantis and the bill's Republican sponsors in the Florida legislature presented HB1 as a response to the attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters earlier this year, critics say the measure — crafted well before the January 6 attack — is in fact a reaction against the racial justice protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd last May.

"Let's be clear: this is not an anti-riot bill, regardless of what supporters claim," Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statementMonday. "It is a bill that criminalizes peaceful protest, and the impact HB1 will have on Floridians cannot be disputed. Each and every provision harkens back to Jim Crow."

Kubic went on to warn that under the new law—which is part of a wave of similar Republican measures under consideration nationwide—protesters could be arrested and charged with a felony if others at a protest or gathering became violent or disorderly, even if they themselves didn't." According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, HB1 defines rioting as a public disturbance by at least three people with "common intent to mutually assist each other in disorderly and violent conduct."

"The goal of this law is to silence dissent and create fear among Floridians who want to take to the streets to march for justice," said Kubic. "Every single Floridian should be outraged by this blatant attempt to erode our First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. It is outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional. Gov. DeSantis' championing of and signature on this law degrades, debases, and disgraces Florida and our democracy."

As the Orlando Sentinel reported Monday, the new law makes blocking a highway a felony offense and "creates a broad category for misdemeanor arrest during protests, and anyone charged under that provision will be denied bail until their first court appearance."

The law also "grants civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road, which Democrats argued would have protected the white nationalist who ran over and killed counter-protester Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville tumult in 2017," the Sentinel noted.

Democratic state Sen. Shevrin Jones said in a statement Monday that HB1 "undermines every Floridian's constitutional rights, and it is disgusting that the GOP would rather empower vigilantes and silence voices than listen to the majority of Floridians who oppose this dangerous bill."

"The governor's spectacle is a distraction that will only further disenfranchise Black and brown communities," said Jones.

No, The Constitution Doesn’t Protect Coronavirus Deniers

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

In the annals of American jurisprudence, few legal adages have gained wider currency or proven more adaptable to changing times and circumstances than the phrase, "The Constitution is not a suicide pact."

While the exact provenance of the dictum is unclear, the expression is most often attributed to a dissenting opinion written in 1949 by the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Jackson in the case of Terminiello v. Chicago.

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Danziger: Rights And (Mostly) Wrongs

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

When Fear Rules, Constitutional Rights Get Trampled

The defendants before the U.S. Supreme Court sound like a political “Where are they now?” quiz: former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and former Commissioner James W. Ziglar of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

They are involved in a civil suit, the last arguments of which were heard by the high court before Donald Trump’s inauguration. At issue is whether the plaintiffs — 760 foreign men, mostly Muslim — have standing to sue the former government officials for denying them the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection.

The case takes new significance now, as Trump has notoriously promised to institute policies with respect to Muslims that are of questionable constitutional legitimacy.

The plaintiffs in the case were rounded up in 2001 in the days and weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks. They were thrown into two detention centers and held for about eight months. The immigrant men say they were targeted because they were Muslim, dark-skinned and Arab or South Asian. They were kept in solitary confinement and put through sleep and food deprivation. A government investigation later found that some were slammed up against walls, strip-searched unnecessarily and yelled at with slurs for praying.

None of these men — not one — was ever charged with terrorism. Instead, most eventually faced deportation for immigration violations such as having overstayed visas or worked without a green card. These are civil crimes, but hardly the stuff of high national-security drama.

It’s worth remembering the shock and fear that followed those terror attacks on U.S. soil. The nation is forever changed for the lives lost that day.

Yet this embarrassing episode — an example of hysteria that led to a clear miscarriage of justice — is as pertinent as ever. We have every reason to believe that our new commander-in-chief and his intelligence and law-enforcement appointees are liable to repeat this behavior.

We just inaugurated as president a man who dogmatically clung to the lie that Muslims in New Jersey were dancing in the streets after terrorists flew planes into the twin towers and the Pentagon. Trump is not known to back down from his lies and calumnies, yet many of his Cabinet nominees and advisers have tried to distance the administration from talk of creating a database for Muslims, monitoring mosques and banning practicing Muslims from immigrating.

On the other hand, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, waffled in Senate confirmation hearings when asked about a Muslim registry, saying he needed more information. (Here’s some free advice: Check the Constitution.)

The Supreme Court case, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, turns on the question of whether top officials in the George W. Bush administration bear any personal responsibility, or if they have qualified immunity, for violations of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

An inspector general’s report on the detentions mentioned that some in the administration tried to push back against overreach, but the rational voices were silenced. Hooligans took over. Guards at one detention center were fond of twisting hands, wrists and fingers and dragging the men around when they were handcuffed and in leg shackles. Withholding soap and toilet paper was another game.

Family members had trouble finding out information, left to guess how or why their loved ones had disappeared. Many of the men had been caught in the sights of the government thanks to anonymous tips. Gadflies called authorities, believing that their Muslim neighbors were highly suspicious, perhaps because they worked odd hours. In one case, a man landed in a detention center because someone thought he had made “anti-American statements.”

That’s what happens when fear leads. When those in power bend to it. It’s one thing for a private citizen to answer the call of “If you see something, say something” and mistakenly flag an innocent person. It’s quite another when officials working for the government brush off their duty to respect constitutional rights, holding people for months, even after they knew those people were innocent.

Certainly, anyone with memory of those horrifying days following the attacks that killed 3,000 people can understand how mistakes were made. Some reasons for delay in releasing the men were a lack of resources and muddled communications between the FBI and other agencies.

Erring on the side of recklessness comes at a high price. It undermines the constitutional rights America values most. It harms our international image. It hands a recruitment tool to terrorists.

We know this now. Time to apply the lesson.

Mary Sanchez: 816-234-4752, msanchez@kcstar.com, @msanchezcolumn

IMAGE: WikiCommons/Gage Skidmore