In Texas Decision, the US Supreme Court Delivers Sweeping Win for Abortion Rights

Back in January, 2016 looked to be a watershed year for reproductive rights 2014 and a potentially harrowing one for advocates of abortion and access to contraception. The main reason: two blockbuster Supreme Court cases.


Now, as the Supreme Court ends its 2015201316 term, it's clear that the prognosticators were both right and wrong. This has been one of the most important years for reproductive rights in memory 2014 but contrary to what many expected, it is the side defending abortion rights and contraception access that has won.


Monday's 5-3 ruling in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, striking down strict regulations on Texas abortion clinics and requirements that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals, is the court's most significant abortion ruling in more than 20 years and is likely to reverberate well beyond the state's borders. The decision means that so-called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP, laws in 23 states besides Texas, and admitting privileges laws in 11 states are "presumptively unconstitutional," said Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.


Northrup called the ruling "a complete and total victory" that "renews the promise of Roe v. Wade for the next generation." Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican who strongly opposes abortion, called the ruling "a devastating blow" to efforts to protect women's health and safety.


In his majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer rejected arguments that Texas law H.B. 2 was needed to safeguard women, concluding that the state had "no significant health-related [abortion] problem for the new law to cure." More significantly, Breyer reiterated the principle that states may not unduly burden the ability of women to exercise their constitutional rights under Roe. "[N]either of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes," Breyer wrote.


Stephanie Toti, the attorney who led the challenge to the Texas law, called the ruling "sweeping" and "decisive" for how it clarifies and strengthens the two-decade-old undue burden standard (which ProPublica wrote about here). Breyer's reasoning "applies to all abortion restrictions across the board," she said, and will be used to challenge other types of abortion laws that have recently gained momentum.


In the past year, for example, state lawmakers have introduced a barrage of bills that would bar a common second-trimester abortion procedure, ban abortion after 20 weeks or for specific reasons (such as fetal anomaly or sex selection), increase waiting periods and raise new barriers for teenagers seeking to terminate a pregnancy, and target the funding of Planned Parenthood and other groups that perform or refer patients for abortion.


Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, which has been under attack since last summer over videos purporting to show an illicit trade in fetal body parts for research, said the Hellerstedt victory will energize abortion-rights group that have been on the defensive for the last six years. "We now will take this fight state by state to challenge and repeal other laws across the country," she vowed.


One thing that remains unclear, however, is how many of the 20 or so Texas abortion clinics that shut down since H.B. 2 was passed in 2013 will be able to reopen. "The rebuilding of that infrastructure is going to take some time," Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, said on a media call. "We've had to let our leases go in the facilities. We've had to sell our buildings. We've had to sell the equipment. Our staff has been laid off. Our physicians have gotten new jobs."


The other important reproductive rights case of the Supreme Court term, Zubik v. Burwell, a religious challenge to the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, ended in a tie in May that ultimately has favored the repro-rights side. Instead of the expansive religious-liberty ruling many SCOTUS-watchers had predicted, the justices sent the case back to the lower courts to try to hammer out a compromise that would allow women to receive birth control as envisioned by the ACA without impinging on the rights of religiously affiliated institutions.


Zubik would probably have turned out differently but for the death of Antonin Scalia in February, which turned what had been a 520134 conservative majority into an evenly divided court. That split has affected a number of controversial cases, although not, it seems, Hellerstedt 2014 Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been seen as the swing vote, sided with the court's four liberals without comment.


Scalia's death set up an epic political battle over the direction of the Supreme Court for the next generation and made the court a key issue in the 2016 presidential race2014points hammered home today by groups on both sides of Texas case. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, called the Hellerstedt ruling "tragic," adding: "The stakes for the 2016 election could not be higher. 2026 Only with a pro-life Congress and White House can we begin to address the havoc wrought by the Supreme Court on America's unborn children and their mothers."


Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, doesn't agree with Dannenfelser on much, but on this point they concurred: When it comes to reproductive rights, Hogue said, the match-up between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump promises to be "the most important election of our lifetime."


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Rules for creating RBI monetary policy committee notified
The government on Monday notified the rules for setting up of the Reserve Bank of India's monetary policy committee (MPC), giving effect to amendments to the RBI Act in this regard.
"Government has decided to bring the provisions of amended RBI Act regarding constitution of MPC into force on 27th June, 2016 so that the statutory basis of MPC is made effective," a finance ministry statement here said.
The RBI's benchmark interest rates, which are currently decided by the governor, will now be determined by a six-member MPC.
As per the amendments to the RBI Act through the Finance Bill passed in the Lok Sabha, the committee will have six members, with three appointed by the RBI and three government appointees nominated by an external selection committee. The RBI governor will have the casting vote in case of a tie.
From the RBI, the committee will consist of the governor, the deputy governor in charge of monetary policy and one official nominated by the central bank.
"The other three members of MPC will be appointed by the central government, on the recommendations of a search-cum-selection committee, which will be headed by the Cabinet Secretary," the statement said.
"These three members of MPC will be experts in the field of economics or banking or finance or monetary policy, will be appointed for a period of 4 years and shall not be eligible for re-appointment.
The meetings of the MPC shall be held at least 4 times a year and it shall publicise its decisions after each such meeting," it added.
According to the ministry, apart the rules for constituting the monetary policy committee, "factors constituting failure to meet inflation target under the MPC Framework have also been notified on 27th June, 2016".
The inflation target will be decided in consultation with RBI and notified in the official gazette. The interest rates would be set up with the aim of achieving the inflation target, to be determined by the government.
Under the current system, the RBI governor has the veto over the existing advisory committee, composed of RBI members and outside appointees, that decides on policy rates.
The governor consults a Technical Advisory Committee, but does not necessarily go by the majority opinion while deciding on the monetary policy.
Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das had said last week that the government will take up the selection of the three names from its side once the rules were notified.
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.



Political divisions will keep Indian reform process uneven, slow: Moody's
Global credit rating agency Moody's Investors Service on Monday said political divisions in India will keep the reform process uneven while terming the recent FDI norms relaxation as credit positive.
In a statement, Moody's said despite some progress in improving the operating environment and easing investment procedures, reforms have stalled in two key areas - passing a unified goods and services tax and the Land Acquistion Act.
"We expect the political division will keep the reform process uneven and slow-moving," it said.
Moody's said the government's June 20 announcement of reforms to rules on foreign direct investment (FDI), expanding the range of industries under automatic approval, raising sector caps and relaxing local sourcing requirements was "credit positive because it demonstrates a continuation of reform momentum and paves the way for private investment and a boost in productivity".
"Additionally, higher FDI inflows will help support India's external financing needs at a time when portfolio flows have moderated," it said.
Net FDI inflows have increased over the past two years, reaching record highs in the fiscal year that ended 31 March 2016 of $36.0 billion from $24.2 billion on average during the preceding three fiscal years, Moody's said.
Currently, higher FDI inflows more than cover the current account deficit, which was 1.1% of GDP in fiscal 2016, down from 4.8% in fiscal 2013, the credit rating agency said.
"FDI inflows provide a stable source of financing and mitigate the downside risks to the current account from potential weakness in services exports and remittances. Additionally, higher FDI will reduce other external financing needs, a positive at a time when the portfolio flows into India and other emerging markets have been volatile," Moody's said.
The rating agency expects FDI inflows to remain robust given the development of industrial corridors, which will form a network of industrial bases between India's big metropolitan cities and investment and manufacturing zones under the "Make in India" and "Smart Cities" initiatives.
According to Moody's, stronger FDI alone will not deliver markedly higher growth and productivity in India. FDI currently accounts for less than 10 per cent of total fixed asset investment and will not substitute for muted domestic private investment.
Growth in total investment remained soft at 3.9% in fiscal 2016 and continued high corporate leverage, eroding corporate profits and impaired credit supply will thwart investment activity for at least several quarters, Moody's said.
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.




P L Despande pawar

4 months ago

I agree. It is therefore necessary for the Government to take the opposite sides/states into confidence and give up -----MUKTA BHARAT approach.

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