Tag Archives: checks and balances

Hero of the Week Award: July 12, Judge William Conley

12 Jul
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

This week it is a pleasure to celebrate another judge standing up to the unconstitutional overreach of institutionalized misogyny.

Frustrated by the continued existence of women’s rights to make their own health and reproductive choices, Republican-controlled legislatures around the country are trying their best to create de facto abortion-free zones of their states. Invasive ultrasounds and needless waiting periods aren’t enough. The latest trick is creating cumbersome requirements for doctors at clinics that provide abortions as part of their services.

Wisconsin is the latest, with a new law — signed by charm-free Gov. Scott Walker — that requires hospital admitting privileges, something no other clinics require. Planned Parenthood challenged the law, and U.S. District Judge William Conley sided with them.  Let us remind our selves that Planned Parenthood provides greatly needed health care for women that could not other wise afford simple things like pap smears that test for cancer.

Noting that “there is a troubling lack of justification for the hospital admitting privileges requirement,” Conley placed a stay on the law until he can hold further hearings. Citing Roe v Wade, the judge added “Moreover, the record to date strongly supports a finding that no medical purpose is served by this requirement.”

Judge Conley will no doubt be accused by the so-called  family values crowd of “judicial activism” for actually doing his job. Insisting that access to care must be equitable is the right thing to do. Thank you, Judge Conley, for standing up against the War on Women in Wisconsin–not an easy battle when going up against the racist, homophobic, classist, neo-fascist, Scott Walker.  Mr. Walker, have you no decency?

Will the Real Jan Brewer Please Stand Up?

29 May
Inspiration strikes?

Inspiration strikes?

In many ways it would probably be far easier to believe that Hell has frozen over, or that Dick Cheney has a heart (not just a heart facsimile), or that poverty has finally been eradicated than to believe Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s recent broken clock moment. In a stunning display, she demanded legislative support for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Yes, you read that correctly.  The Governor who signed a bill to allow concealed weapons in Arizona the day before the shootings in Tucson, the Governor who believes women should have no rights to govern their own bodies, has now vetoed five bills and will continue to veto any bill that comes before her until Arizona expands Medicaid and passes a state budget. Medicaid expansion is one of the lynchpins of the Affordable Care Act and would help millions of Americans.

Governor Brewer stated:

I warned that I would not sign additional measures into law until we see resolution of the two most pressing issues facing us: adoption of a fiscal 2014 state budget and plan for Medicaid.  It is disappointing I must demonstrate the moratorium was not an idle threat.

Of course, this has not made our Jan popular at her own Tea Party.  The ever charm-free Senate President Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) told NBC News that he would do everything in his power everything ” to keep a vote on Medicaid from even coming to the floor.”  Lovely! I guess Biggs (ironically named) has a very small heart for any population that is underserved and dependent on Medicaid.

I’m not sure what has gotten into Brewer’s Tea, or perhaps she has stopped drinking Bachmann and DeMint’s homemade brew.  While I am still not a fan of Brewer, I feel I have to acknowledge good behavior. We have three branches of government for a reason. It’s good to see an executive applying some checks and balances to an out-of-control legislature and demanding proper care for the citizens of her state.

Checks and Balances In Action: Two Reassuring Court Decisions

2 May

Oh, right, THAT'S how it works!

One of the pillars of the United States model of government is that of checks and balances. Each of the three branches of government has discrete, clear powers that complement and control the powers of the other branches. (Well…ideally, anyway.) Given the many attacks on individual rights pursued by far-right legislatures citizen groups — especially directed at women and other minorities — the role of the courts to restrict that over-reach is critical to a functioning democracy.

This week we have good news in two different cases, both related to the War on Women. Courts in Oklahoma and Texas — the bright red Southwest — have blocked two right-wing actions that were clearly unconstitutional or in violation of Federal law.

In Oklahoma, the issue was the so-called “personhood” movement that would give every fertilized egg all the rights of a person under state law. Even though this effort has so far failed everywhere it’s been tried (even in Mississippi), anti-choice forces still pursue it as a favorite tactic to restrict women’s choices. These misogynists were attempting to put a personhood amendment to the Oklahoma constitution before voters. On Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously shot down initiative, declaring the effort to be a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution. Referring to a twenty-year-old Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the justices rejected this absurd effort in very clear language:

The mandate of Casey is as binding on this Court today as it was twenty years ago. Initiative Petition No. 395 conflicts with Casey and is void on its face and it is hereby ordered stricken.

Also on Monday, a Federal judge in Texas blocked implementation of a recently signed rule that targeted funding for Planned Parenthood. The Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner implemented the rule which said that the Texas Women’s Health Program (which uses Federal Medicaid money), would not fund services at Planned Parenthood or any other “affiliates of abortion providers.” So, even though the services being funded are NOT abortions and are critical health services for low-income women (over 130,000 in Texas!), the Texas government wants to block service to punish one provider. Lovely. U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel was just as clear and succinct as his colleagues in Oklahoma:

Medicaid law is very clear; a state may not restrict patients’ choice of providers of services like mammograms and other cancer screenings, if those providers are qualified to deliver care covered by Medicaid.

Getting typically whiny, Texas officials are now threatening to cancel the entire health program rather than follow Federal law and support the health of the citizens they were elected to serve.

It should just be a few days before the Insupportable Rage Machine (TM) on the right starts screaming “activist judges!” The Oklahoma justices may even face an orchestrated attack like the one mounted against the Iowa Supreme Court for simply doing their jobs. We should thank all these officers of the court for doing what they were elected and appointed to do: uphold the law. Now let’s hope the Fecal Five can avoid making the wrong decision about the Affordable Care Act…

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