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Supreme Court to Take Up Cases Involving Life, Death, Conscience


Ian McWilliams CC

John Burger - published on 10/05/15

Texas abortion case, HHS mandate and death penalty likely to be heard

The judicial year just beginning may see important decisions regarding life, death, and conscience. And with decisions coming down at the end of the year in June, it will be interesting to see how they impact the presidential campaign in 2016.

The Supreme Court may take up a Texas law that requires abortion clinics to meet the standards for “ambulatory surgical centers,” including regulations concerning buildings and equipment. It requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

An appeals court largely upheld the contested provisions, but the Supreme Court in June, by a 5-to-4 vote, stepped in to block the ruling while it considered whether to hear the case, Whole Woman’s Health Center v. Cole, said The New York Times:

That suggests three things: that the court is likely to hear the case, that its decision will be closely divided and that the ruling will land in June, thrusting a volatile and divisive issue into the middle of the presidential race.

The Times and other media outlets pointed out that the Texas law threatens to reduce the number of abortion clinics in the state to about 10, down from more than 40:

The question in the Texas case is whether two parts of a 2013 state law imposed an “undue burden” on the constitutional right to abortion.

But Ovide Lamontagne, general counsel of Americans United for Life, wrote that the legislation brings abortion clinics “in line with the state’s health safety standards for medical facilities performing outpatient surgeries.”

Both in the lawsuit and following the decision, big abortion took the extreme position that its abortion clinics should be exempt from common-sense health and safety standards.

CBS News said that another case the Court could take up is the battle over Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate. The Little Sisters of the Poor and other faith-based organizations are fighting the mandate’s requirement that employers’ health plans include coverage for contraceptives. The government has tried to provide “accommodations” for objecting groups, but many of those organizations, particularly Catholic ones, point out that the arrangements would still make them complicit in the sin of facilitating contraceptive use.

The groups wants a religious exemption.

Other likely cases to go before the nine justices this term include:

  • Whether labor unions that represent government workers can collect fees from employees who choose not to join the union. Unions argue they should be able to collect fees since all workers benefit from collective bargaining between the unions and governments, the Christian Science Monitor says.
  • Juvenile life without parole: A Louisiana inmate in prison since 1963 wants the justices to rule that their 2012 decision outlawing mandatory life sentences with no chance of release for young killers also should apply to past cases.
  • Judicially imposed death sentence: A death penalty case from Florida questions whether judges, rather than juries, can impose a death sentence, especially when the jury is not unanimous in recommending death.

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