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Nat'l LGBT, racial, health groups file amicus brief with high court on abortion
From a NCLR press release
2016-01-05

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( Washington, D.C., January 5, 2016 )—The National Center for Lesbian Rights ( NCLR ) and a coalition of 13 other LGBT, racial justice, and health equity organizations have filed an amicus brief in Whole Woman's Health v. Cole asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down draconian restrictions on abortion providers enacted by the State of Texas in 2013 which, if upheld, would lead to the closing of most abortion clinics in the state. The brief urges the Court to carefully scrutinize the state's asserted justification for the law, just as the Court has done with other laws that infringe upon fundamental freedoms. The State of Texas has argued that the law protects the health of women seeking abortion, but the evidence at trial showed just the opposite. In fact, medical organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association have warned that the restrictions imposed by the new law are medically unnecessary and endanger women's health.

In addition to NCLR, the organizations filing the brief are Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the Equal Justice Society, the National Black Justice Coalition, the Family Equality Council, the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality, Equality Federation, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, Immigration Equality, the National Health Law Program, Movement Advancement Project, and Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom. The brief was co-authored by NCLR and Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, LLP.

U.S. history is replete with attempts to use pseudo-science and unsupported health-related justifications to exclude individuals and groups from the full protection of essential constitutional liberties, including laws barring interracial marriage, excluding women from certain professions, permitting the forced sterilization of those deemed "inferior," and criminalizing and discriminating against LGBT people. NCLR and its fellow amici urge the Court to remember this history and to fulfill its constitutional obligation to look carefully at the State's asserted justifications for restricting women's fundamental right to reproductive autonomy.

"Courts have always played a vital role in subjecting repressive laws to careful review to preserve core constitutional values. When courts have abdicated that role and simply deferred to unsubstantiated public health and scientific claims, the principles of equal dignity and freedom have been compromised," said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. "We cannot allow that to happen to the millions of women in Texas who stand to lose access to safe and legal abortion care."

Added NCLR Policy Director Julie Gonen: "When fundamental rights are trammeled based on empirically indefensible rationales, people suffer. For decades, governments in this country used pseudo-science to justify oppressive statutes barring interracial and same-sex couples from marriage, restricting women's freedom, and subjecting LGBT people and people with disabilities to forced sterilization and other horrific treatment. In each instance, unsupported public health claims and baseless sociological assertions were invoked to defend the denial of fundamental liberties. We urge the Supreme Court to look with a critical eye on the claims by Texas that these abortion restrictions serve the interest of women's health and see them for what they are —the most recent use of specious scientific claims to undermine individual freedom."

Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld attorney Margot Mendelson concluded: "Many of the Supreme Court's most celebrated rulings have vindicated core constitutional principles by carefully scrutinizing the rationales advanced to justify restrictions on fundamental freedoms. Amici ask the Court to draw upon this judicial tradition by rigorously examining restrictions that will deny the fundamental right to reproductive autonomy to thousands of Texas women."

Read the brief at the link: www.nclrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Amicus-WWH-v-Cole.pdf .

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org .

Lambda Legal Files Brief Urging U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Access to Abortion

Landmark decisions vindicating the rights of LGBT people compel the conclusion that the constitutional right to choose to have an abortion finds protection under the Equal Protection Clause as well as the Due Process Clause.

(New York, NY, January 5, 2016) — Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday in support of the Texas abortion clinics, physicians who perform abortions, and Texas women who need abortion services, who are challenging Texas's unduly burdensome abortion regulations in Whole Woman's Health v. Cole.

"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in this country are all too familiar with the ways in which laws interfering with individual autonomy in decisions about family life, intimacy and procreation stigmatize people and deprive them of equal dignity," said Camilla B. Taylor, Counsel at Lambda Legal. "Over the years, courts have stepped in to protect the rights of LGBT people, not only because our nation has grown to understand that everyone has the fundamental right to make such decisions for him or herself, but because the equal protection guarantee of our Constitution prevents government from subordinating a group of people relative to others. Laws unduly restricting access to abortion deprive women of dignity and the ability to participate equally in society relative to men as a result of persistent inequality in societal gender role expectations with respect to parenting, and therefore violate both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses. Our country's history and precedents with respect to the rights of LGBT people teach us valuable lessons requiring respect for women's access to abortion."

The brief argues that landmark decisions vindicating the rights of LGBT people compel the conclusion that the constitutional right to choose to have an abortion finds protection under the Equal Protection Clause as well as the Due Process Clause. Courts must scrutinize closely the legislative justifications for abortion restrictions that unduly burden women, not only because the Due Process Clause requires it, but because the Equal Protection Clause does, too.

The brief also argues that women who exercise their constitutional right to abortion experience stigma and discrimination, not unlike the stigma and discrimination experienced by lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender people, causing many to feel as though they must conceal that they have had an abortion—keeping them "in the closet" and preventing them from advocating effectively on their own behalf in legislatures. Courts have recognized this dynamic in cases involving lesbian and gay people by scrutinizing closely legislation targeting them. A similar dynamic exists here, and equality principles similarly require courts to scrutinize closely the legislative justifications for abortion regulations to determine whether they serve their stated purposes, and whether those purposes have a basis in fact.

The case involves a challenge to two provisions of HB2, a Texas anti-abortion bill that passed in July 2013: 1) a requirement that a physician performing or inducing an abortion have admitting privileges at a hospital located no more than 30 miles from the location where the abortion is induced; and 2) an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) licensing requirement, which mandates that abortion clinics meet structural and operational standards appropriate for mini hospitals. These provisions do not enhance patient safety or health, and serve only to make it harder for women to end a pregnancy. If allowed to go into effect, these provisions would force the vast majority of Texas abortion clinics to close.

Lambda Legal lawyers on the brief include Camilla B. Taylor, Kyle A. Palazzolo, Susan L. Sommer, Jennifer C. Pizer, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, and Kara Ingelhart, in addition to Lambda Legal fellow Caroline Sacerdote.

Read the brief www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/wwh_tx_20160104_amicus .

National LGBT, Racial Equality, and Health Groups File Amicus Brief in U.S. Supreme Court Challenge to Texas Abortion Restrictions, Urges Court to Scrutinize State's Unfounded Health and Safety Claims

(Washington, D.C., January 5, 2016) — Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and a coalition of 13 other LGBT, racial justice, and health equity organizations have filed an amicus brief in Whole Woman's Health v. Cole asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down draconian restrictions on abortion providers enacted by the State of Texas in 2013. If upheld, the restrictions would lead to the closing of most abortion clinics in the state.

The brief urges the Court to carefully scrutinize the state's asserted justification for the law, as the Court has done with other laws that infringe upon fundamental freedoms. The State of Texas has argued that the law protects the health of women seeking abortion, but the evidence at trial showed just the opposite. Medical organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association have explained that the restrictions imposed by the new law are medically unnecessary and endanger, rather than advance, women's health.

"Spurious medical claims lead only to mischief and certainly cannot justify governments infringing on people's constitutionally-protected liberties," said Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD's Civil Rights Project Director. "We urge the Court to give due scrutiny to the health claims asserted by the State of Texas in supporting this injurious law which, if allowed to stand, will cause great harm to millions of women in the state for no public benefit."

Pseudo-science has been used throughout American history to exclude individuals and groups from the full protection of essential constitutional liberties, including laws barring interracial marriage, excluding women from certain professions, permitting the forced sterilization of those deemed "inferior," and criminalizing and discriminating against LGBT people. GLAD and its fellow amici urge the Court to look to this history and fulfill its constitutional obligation to examine carefully the State's asserted justifications for restricting women's fundamental right to reproductive autonomy.

In addition to GLAD, the organizations filing the brief are the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the Equal Justice Society, the National Black Justice Coalition, the Family Equality Council, the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality, Equality Federation, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, Immigration Equality, the National Health Law Program, Movement Advancement Project, and Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom.

Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.


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