New York passes bill banning religious exemptions for vaccinations
June 17, 2019
On Thursday the New York state legislature passed a bill prohibiting citizens of the state from refusing vaccinations on religious grounds. New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law the same day.
The spread of easily-preventable diseases like measles has become a public health crisis in New York City since 2018. Nearly one thousand cases have been reported across the country, with almost half of them in New York City and its surrounding metropolitan area. Measles was declared effectively eliminated in the United States by the year 2000 by the Center for Disease Control but has made a comeback in recent years due to an aggressive “anti-vaccination” movement led by celebrities and conspiracy theorists. The so-called “anti-vax” movement advocates forgoing childhood vaccinations citing pharmaceutical company greed and links to autism or other chronic diseases that have been widely debunked by the medical community.
This law came in response to a number of “anti-vax” parents who attempted to sue the state government to try to continue evading mandatory vaccinations. Their case was recently dismissed by a New York judge.
In a statement, Governor Cuomo said “the science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe.” He added that “while I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health and by signing this measure into law, we will help prevent further transmissions and stop this outbreak right in its tracks.”
The Maine legislature recently passed a similar bill.
US Supreme Court allows Virginia Uranium mining ban to stand
June 17, 2019
On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) does not preempt Virginia Law from prohibiting the mining of Uranium. The Supreme Court, in a 6-to-3 plurality judgment, sidedwith the State of Virginia’s right to regulate the Uranium industry.
“But both courts found missing from the AEA any hint that Congress sought to strip States of their traditional power to regulate mining on private lands within their borders. Given the significance of the question presented, we granted review.”
Justice Gorsuch, writing for the plurality with 3 votes, stated that while AEA has provisions for the mining of Uranium on federal land, it is silent on the mining of Uranium on private lands and only triggers after the Uranium has been mined. Justice Gorsuch reinforces the majority view saying that Congress was clearly aware that Uranium might be capable of being mined on private land, and must have purposely left it to the States to resolve. Gorsuch also dismisses any potential need for Uranium by the federal government citing that 90% of US Uranium needs are filled through importation and if there was a need for this specific mine, the federal government could always purchase the land or seize it by eminent domain at that time.
Justice Ginsburg carried the other 3 votes of the plurality and affirmed in the judgment, but would have affirmed only on the rationality that the state law in question does not conflict with the AEA because it regulates only private mining within the boundaries of a particular state. Justice Ginsburg further notes that Virginia’s law conforms to existing Supreme Court precedent regarding federal preemption.
Chief Justice Roberts writes for the dissent and argues that the only question that should have been addressed is whether a state can regulate an industry through non-preempted means as a way of preventing the development of industries which are preempted. Under this question, Chief Justice Roberts would have denied Virginia’s law.
The case came from the rural community of Pittsylvania County that has historically suffered from the collapse of many of it’s industries. Environmentalists have applauded the holding from the Supreme Court.
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.