Scotland appeals judges dismiss challenge to law allowing women to terminate pregnancies at home
May 24, 2019
Scotland’s Inner House of the Court of Session on Thursday affirmed a lower court’s decision to dismiss a challenge brought against an abortion law that permits women to use abortion pills at home. The suit was brought by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), the largest pro-life group in the UK.
The challenge focused on the 2017 approval of the “Place for Treatment for the Termination of Pregnancy” provisions of Scotland’s Abortion Act. This approval affirmed a woman’s home as a place where the second stage of treatment for an early medical termination of pregnancy (EMT) could be carried out. The woman is required under the bill to have attended a clinic and been prescribed the medications mifepristone and misoprostol for the purposes of termination.
The SPUC argued that the approval was “unlawful” in holding that a pregnant woman’s home could be a “class of place” where an abortion could be conducted under the language of the original 1967 Abortion Act. They also argued that self-administration conducted at home did not constitute treatment “by a registered medical professional” required by the Act.
In affirming Lord ordinary’s dismissal of the claim, the Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian, dismissed these two arguments. She agreed with the Lord Ordinary’s conclusion that the requirement for control over a procedure by a registered medical professional was met by the approval, based on the restrictions the law places on women who wish to conduct treatment at home.
She also added that, “The legislation confers a very broad discretion on Ministers to approve a place or class of place where the termination of pregnancy may take place,” and that the approval of the pregnant woman’s home as such a place fell within this zone of discretion.
Texas House approves religious freedom Bill
May 21, 2019
The Texas House on Monday approvedSB 1978, “relating to the protection of membership in, affiliation with, and support provided to religious organizations.”
The bill was proposed to the Senate three months after the San Antonio city Council voted to ban Chick-fil-A from the airport due to anti-LGBTQ statements and actions. The proposed bill seeks to protect religious freedoms and to ensure that the government does not discriminate in giving contracts, grants, loans etc.
The bill has passed in the House. Jf the Senate approves of amendments/changes that were made to it, the bill will continue to the Governor, and if signed, will be passed into law.
There has been opposition from Democratic members, as well as from LGBTQ identifying representatives. They argue that the bill is disguised as protecting religious liberty when it is a “bill of hatred.”
Japan court rules forced sterilization under Eugenics Protection Law was unconstitutional
May 29, 2019
The Eugenics Protection Law was adopted in 1948 and led to the sterilization of tens of thousands of people with disabilities. The law was eventually revoked in 1996. Last month Japan passed a law to compensate the victims, but the court denied compensation to two victims who had sued.
This case was the first of several similar cases to be decided.
Maine House approves bill allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminal patients
May 30, 2019
Maine’s House of Representatives approved a bill on Tuesday allowing terminally ill patients to request life-ending medications from doctors. The bill passed narrowly, by only 4 votes. This marks the state’s seventh legislative attempt to allow doctor assisted death.
Known as the Maine Death with Dignity Act, the bill would allow physicians to prescribe the drugs necessary to end a patient’s life upon request. The law would require the patient to have a terminal diagnosis and be within six months of death for eligibility.
Additional safeguards within the law would further limit the number of eligible patients. The patient must make three requests of their physician—two oral and one written. The patient must also administer/take the fatal dose themselves without physician assistance. Upon request, there will be a 15-day waiting period, in which two doctors must corroborate the patient’s eligibility.
After death, the bill would require the patient’s death certificate to show the cause of death to be the underlying terminal disease or illness.
Despite narrowly passing, the bill was a bipartisan effort whereby both Conservatives and Democrats voted in favor. The bill now moves to Maine’s Senate for further review.
US House passes Equality Act to protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination
May 20, 2019
The US House of Representatives passed HR 5, “The Equality Act,” Friday to protect LGBTQ individuals from various forms of discrimination.
The bill, first introduced in mid-March, aims to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity or sexual orientation. The bill accomplishes this by amending a number of existing laws to include the new protections. Among the more notable laws to be amended are the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act. Under these two laws it would be illegal to discriminate in most places of public accommodation including public facilities like government buildings or municipal stadiums as well as public schools or public housing programs. The bill also provides specific guidelines on how language added and amended is supposed intended by Congress to be interpreted by the courts.
The Equality act passed 236-173 largely along party lines. This bill comes a little over a month after the House voted to block the Trump administration’s ban on transgender troops serving in the military. The Equality Act now heads to the Senate and if passed there will head to President Donald Trump.
San Francisco becomes first US city to ban facial recognition
May 16, 2019
San Francisco on Tuesday voted to ban the use of facial recognition software by the police or other agencies, becoming the first US city to do so.
The “Stop Secret Surveillance” ordinance, which was passed in an 8-to-1 vote by the Board of Supervisors, will further prevent city agencies from adopting any other type of surveillance tech until the public has been given notice and the board has had an opportunity to vote on it.
The ban hopes to deter potential abuse against minorities and innocent civilians. The legislation states that the technology, as it exists today, is unreliable, and represented an unnecessary infringement on people’s privacy and liberty. Particularly, the facial recognition is error prone when analyzing women or people with darker skin.
Opponents of the measure said it will put people’s safety at risk and hinder efforts to fight crime. Rather than an outright ban, many are calling for regulations of the technology. The authorities used the technology to help identify the suspect in the mass shooting at an Annapolis, Md., newspaper last June.
Later this month, Oakland, California, will weigh whether to institute its own ban. Washington state and Massachusetts are considering similar measures.
The ban on facial recognition does not apply to business, individuals or federal agencies.
UK Supreme Court rules intelligence activities subject to judicial review
May 16, 2019
Prior to the ruling, IPT decisions could only be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.
The IPT was established in 2000 to provide an avenue for redress for anyone who feels that they have been subject to “unlawful action by a public authority using covert investigative techniques.” Although officially independent, the IPT has been criticized for its perceived relationships with the institutions over which it holds jurisdiction.
The UK Supreme Court was deciding a case involving a 2016 ruling in which the IPT decided that government hacking did not violate human rights. The original suit was brought by Privacy International, a UK based non-profit that works to promote privacy rights internationally, in response to the Edward Snowden disclosures about the UK’s digital surveillance program.
Lord Carnwath, writing for the majority, concluded, “Consistent application of the rule of law requires such an issue to be susceptible in appropriate cases to review by ordinary courts.” The Government had argued that IPT rulings were not subject to judicial review, because the Act of Parliament had removed such issues from the Judiciary’s authority. Carnwath ultimately rejected this argument, writing: “It is ultimately for the courts, not the legislature, to determine the limits set by the rule of law to the power to exclude review.”
The court’s ruling does not establish whether the UK’s surveillance program is legal, but allows further suits to be brought before the court.