Reproductive Rights

Report Examines How State

Abortion Bans Will Harm 

Women and Families

Economic Security and State and Local Economies At Risk

    Washington, D.C. — 8/29/2022 - The Center for American Progress released a report on Aug. 26 examining the economic consequences of state abortion bans. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the existing research that highlights the connection between abortion legalization under Roe v. Wade and women’s advancement, along with an analysis of the challenges women—especially women of color—will face in the 27 states that have at least one abortion ban on the books and are already difficult places for women and families to thrive. The social infrastructure of these states is not equipped to deal with the fallout of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Many of these states already have some of the worst economic and health outcomes for women and families across the country. For example, of these states: 

  • None guarantee paid family and medical leave. 
  • Eighteen have gender wage gaps above the national average. 
  • Twenty-two have poverty rates for women above the national average. 
  • Seventeen have poverty rates for children above the national average. 
  • Nineteen have not extended Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum. 
  • Only four legally require insurers to cover an extended supply of contraceptives. 

    The report also highlights how abortion bans will cost local and state economies by leading to reduced labor force participation, increasing time off and turnover among women, and causing some employers to relocate to other states with abortion protections. 

    To combat the detrimental impact of these abortion bans, the authors argue that legislative and administrative action will be critical. They recommend that state and federal officials must use every legislative and administrative tool to expand abortion access.  They also recommend that at the same time, federal and state policymakers must fight to strengthen workplace protections and social safety nets—while acknowledging that these supports, as critical as they are to women’s overall economic security, do not eliminate the need for abortion care or erase the deep harms abortion bans impose on women. 

    “The Supreme Court’s decision to deny women the constitutional right to abortion will negatively affect women and families’ economic security, particularly for those living in the 27 states that have at least one abortion ban on the books,” said Lauren Hoffman, associate director of Women’s Economic Security at CAP. “The federal and state governments must take legislative and administrative action to mitigate these harms and preserve access to abortion care.” 

    “State leaders banning abortion are not interested in improving economic and health policies that support women and the children these women already have—revealing, at best, a willful ignorance of the real-life effects of abortion bans and, at worst, a deliberate attack on gender equality and women’s progress.” said Osub Ahmed, associate director of Women’s Health and Rights at CAP. 

    “Without robust federal and state action to strengthen the nation’s social safety net and advance policies to help working families, women, and other people who can become pregnant, facing unintended parenthood in those states are likely to fall even further through the cracks—with downstream effects on their children, communities, and local and state economies,” said Bela Salas-Betsch, research assistant for the Women’s Initiative. 

    Read the report: “State Abortion Bans Will Harm Women and Families’ Economic Security Across the US” by Lauren Hoffman, Osub Ahmed, and Bela Salas-Betsch.

Mass Surveillance

Groups Urge U.S. Supreme Court 

to Hear Challenge to NSA's 

Mass Surveillance

     WASHINGTON, D.C. — (ACLU) - 8/26/2022 - The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 25 to review a challenge to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance of Americans’ private emails, internet messages, and web communications with people overseas, also known as its “Upstream” surveillance program. In its petition, Wikimedia asks the Court to reject the government’s sweeping claims of “state secrets” and allow the case to proceed, arguing that the wealth of public disclosures about Upstream surveillance means the program can and should be subject to constitutional review in the courts. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, and the law firm Cooley LLP represent the Wikimedia Foundation in the litigation.

    “When people’s privacy is at risk, free knowledge is at risk,” said James Buatti, senior legal manager at the Wikimedia Foundation. “The NSA’s mass surveillance is a threat to the fundamental rights to privacy and free expression for the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who rely on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects for reliable information.” 

    Upstream surveillance is conducted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which permits the government to intercept Americans’ international communications without a warrant so long as it is targeting individuals located outside the U.S. for foreign intelligence purposes. Section 702 will expire in 2023 unless it is reauthorized by Congress.

    In the course of this surveillance, the NSA copies and combs through vast amounts of internet traffic, including private data showing what millions of people around the world are reading or writing online — whether they are accessing knowledge on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, browsing the web, or communicating with family and friends. This government surveillance has had a measurable chilling effect on Wikipedia users, with research documenting a drop in traffic to Wikipedia articles on privacy-sensitive topics following public revelations about the NSA’s mass surveillance in 2013.

    “It is past time for the Supreme Court to rein in the government’s sweeping use of secrecy to evade accountability in the courts. Upstream surveillance is no secret, and the government’s own public disclosures are the proof,” said Patrick Toomey, deputy director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “Every day, the NSA is siphoning Americans’ communications off the internet backbone and into its surveillance systems, violating privacy and chilling free expression. The courts can and should decide whether this warrantless digital dragnet complies with the Constitution.”

    In September 2021, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that even though the Wikimedia Foundation provided public evidence that its communications with Wikipedia users around the world are subject to Upstream surveillance, the government’s assertion of the “state secrets privilege” required dismissal of the entire case. The privilege allows the government to withhold information in legal proceedings if disclosure of that information would threaten national security. The government claimed it might have sensitive information that would — at least in theory — establish a defense to the lawsuit. Over the dissent of Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, a majority of the court held that this possibility was enough to end the litigation.

     Wikimedia’s petition argues that the Fourth Circuit was wrong to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis of the state secrets privilege and that the court should have, instead, excluded any secret evidence, but allowed the case to proceed.

    “For years, the NSA has vacuumed up Americans’ international communications under Upstream surveillance, and to date, not a single challenge to that surveillance has been allowed to go forward,” said Alex Abdo, litigation director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. “The Supreme Court should make clear that NSA surveillance is not beyond the reach of our public courts.”

    The Wikimedia Foundation, which filed the case alongside eight other plaintiffs, sued the NSA in 2015 to protect the rights of Wikipedia readers, editors, and internet users globally. The Supreme Court may consider the petition as early as October 2022.

    Wikimedia v. NSA is a part of the ACLU's Joan and Irwin Jacobs Supreme Court Docket. Lawyers representing the Wikimedia Foundation in the litigation include Patrick Toomey, Ashley Gorski, and Sarah Taitz for the American Civil Liberties Union, Alex Abdo and Jameel Jaffer for the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, and Ben Kleine, Aarti Reddy, and Maximilian Sladek de la Cal from the law firm Cooley LLP.

Living Wages

Michigan Workers Win 

Minimum-Wage Increase, 

Paid Sick Leave

 
By Brett Peveto, Producer

    MICHIGAN (PNS) - 8/20-2022 - Workers in Michigan won major victories recently as a minimum-wage increase and employer paid sick time program were reinstated by court order.

    In 2018, petitioners succeeded in placing a minimum-wage increase along with an earned-sick-time provision on the November ballot. In turn, the Michigan Legislature passed the measures in September to avoid a vote on the referendums, then in a lame-duck session in December the Legislature amended the bills, delaying the wage increase and denying the full hourly rate to tipped workers. The sick-time provision also was changed.

    Last month, a Michigan Court of Claims judge ruled amending the original bills was a violation of the state constitution, and the $12 minimum wage will now be instituted in February.

    Alicia Renee Farris, chief operations officer of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, helped organize the ballot initiative and is calling it a victory for Michigan workers.

    "This is really a victory for 685,000 Michiganders that do not make $12 an hour," Farris asserted. "We see that as very important particularly for low-wage restaurant workers."

    The minimum wage for tipped employees is set to gradually increase to $12 per hour by 2024.

    After Judge Douglas Shapiro declared the adopt-and-amend legislative maneuver unconstitutional, the State of Michigan asked for a stay pending appeal. Shapiro denied the request but did delay implementation until Feb. 19.

    Mark Brewer, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the delay is due to the scale of the coming changes.

    "This is a massive change. The paid sick time affects every employer in the state," Brewer pointed out. "Minimum wage obviously affects many employers and hundreds of thousands of employees, so the court said, 'Look, you can have a few months to make a transition here to fully implement these laws.' "

    Litigation over the matter has not ended with the Court of Claims ruling, since the state of Michigan will next take its case to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Brewer noted the appeals court has agreed to speed things up.

    "We did get some good news in just the last 24 hours," Brewer emphasized. "The court of appeals has agreed to expedite our appeal, and so we're hopeful to have oral argument in the court of appeals this fall, which would mean a decision early next year."

    Upon implementation, the minimum wage will be indexed to inflation with adjustments made annually so long as the state unemployment rate remains below 8.5%.

    Disclosure: Restaurant Opportunities Center United contributes to our fund for reporting on Civil Rights, Human Rights/Racial Justice, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

References:  

Ballot initiative Ballotpedia 2018
Ruling State of Mich. Court of Claims 07/19/2022

Credit: Story published courtesy of Public News Service.

Task Force Report

Election Threats Task Force Briefs 

Election Officials and Workers

   WASHINGTON, D.C.-  (DOJ) - 8/13/2022 - Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. convened a virtual discussion today with a bipartisan group of approximately 750 election officials and workers to provide an update on the work of the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force.

    Assistant Attorney General Polite thanked the election community for continuing to prioritize this national public safety issue, for engaging directly with the task force over the past year, and stressed the importance that those lines of communication stay open ahead of election season. He also reminded the election community of the individual points of contact they have in every FBI field office in the country.

    Following Assistant Attorney General Polite’s remarks, the task force shared intelligence, data, and analysis stemming from their first year of work. This included:

  • The task force has reviewed over 1,000 contacts reported as hostile or harassing by the election community.
  • Approximately 11% of those contacts met the threshold for a federal criminal investigation. The remaining reported contacts did not provide a predication for a federal criminal investigation. While many of the contacts were often hostile, harassing, and abusive towards election officials, they did not include a threat of unlawful violence.
  • In investigations where the source of a reported contact was identified, in 50% of the matters the source contacted the victim on multiple occasions. These investigations accordingly encompassed multiple contacts. The number of individual investigations is less than 5% of the total number of reported contacts.
  • The task force has charged four federal cases and joined another case that was charged prior to the establishment of the task force. There have also been multiple state prosecutions to date. The task force anticipates additional prosecutions in the near future.
  • Election officials in states with close elections and postelection contests were more likely to receive threats. 58% of the total of potentially criminal threats were in states that underwent 2020 post-election lawsuits, recounts, and audits, such as Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

    The task force also briefed the election community on available funds for enhanced security for election offices, and the availability of additional resources from both academic and non-governmental organizations.

    Joining Assistant Attorney General Polite in the briefing was Principal Deputy Chief John Keller of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, FBI Assistant Director Luis Quesada, and FBI Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section Chief Joseph Rothrock.

Original press release date: Aug. 1, 2022

Education Politics

Students Reminded of Rights 

Under New Classroom 

Censorship Law in Georgia

    ATLANTA, Ga. - (SPLC) - 8/7/2022 - The ACLU of Georgia (ACLU-GA) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) are offering support to educators, students and parents in Georgia as the school year begins under a new classroom censorship law (H.B. 1084) signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in April. The law critically limits discussions on race in Georgia public schools.

    Both organizations encourage everyone involved in Georgia public schools to share experiences related to H.B. 1084. Educators who believe the law is being used to discipline or retaliate against them or students in a way that interferes with their First Amendment rights, are asked to contact the SPLC at TeachTruth@splcenter.org. Students are also encouraged to contact the SPLC if they suspect the classroom censorship law is blocking classroom discussions, materials, or lessons from occurring. The SPLC, ACLU-GA, and ACLU Speech, Technology and Privacy Project are working together, and may be able to help.

    “Understanding constitutional protections including the right to free speech in public or private, the right to clear, understandable laws, and the right to employment protections, will help educators and Georgia public school parents and students navigate the school year under a censorship law recently passed by the Georgia legislature,” said Brock Boone, senior staff attorney for the SPLC. “If an educator or student believes that truthful and accurate teaching in their class is being withheld or censored under HB 1084, we want to hear from them.”

    The ACLU of Georgia and the SPLC are committed to proactively supporting public education that is truthful, diverse and inclusive. These organizations are also committed to supporting educators, students and parents who are negatively affected by the law.

    “Teachers, educators, and school staff play a vital role in educating the future generations of this country,” said Nneka Ewulonu, ACLU of Georgia staff attorney. “While these new classroom censorship laws are vague, public school teachers still have constitutional rights and a professional duty to teach the truth.”

Civil Rights

Arizona Prison Officials Withhold

Selected Issues of The Nation from

Incarcerated Subscribers

    PHOENIX - (ACLU) - 8/6/2022 - The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Arizona sent a letter in late July to the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry (ADCRR) challenging its decision to withhold selected issues of The Nation magazine from incarcerated subscribers at least five times in the past 18 months on the basis that the issues promoted racial superiority or contained sexual content, in violation of the First Amendment.

    “The ban on these issues of The Nation is yet another example of prisons routinely restricting materials that incarcerated people can access, by way of unconstitutional, arbitrary rules,” said Corene Kendrick, deputy director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “ADCRR’s actions violate not only the First Amendment rights of incarcerated people, but also the First Amendment rights of the publisher and writers in the magazine. The Nation, or any other publication, may not be banned simply because it describes acts of current or historic racism — reporting on racism is not promoting racism.”

    The ACLU examined the withheld issues of The Nation and found no content promoting acts of violence, racism, degradation, or the superiority of one race over another. One prohibited issue had a cover story entitled “Black Immigrants Matter.” Another issue that was banned, because it supposedly contained sexual content, had a photo of a fully-dressed 93-year-old drag queen in the magazine and a cartoon of two fully-dressed people kissing each other. The ADCRR regulation banning sexual content recently was held to be unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in another censorship case against the department.

    “True to its Orwellian name, ADCRR’s Office of Publication Review (OPR) has given vague explanations lacking any specific citation of allegedly offending material to justify withholding our magazine from incarcerated subscribers,” explains D.D. Guttenplan, editor of The Nation. “But as Malcolm X says in his Autobiography, reading in prison ‘changed forever the course of my life’ — as it has for countless other incarcerated people. So when the notices kept coming, we decided to do something about it.”

    “This is not the first time the ACLU has called ADCRR to account for its arbitrary censorship policies,” said Emerson Sykes, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “In 2019, the ACLU successfully called on Arizona prison officials to allow Chokehold, Paul Butler’s acclaimed nonfiction book on racial disparities in the criminal justice system. In 2021, the ACLU filed an amicus brief in support of a Black Muslim man who sued ADCRR for denying him access to religious texts, and to popular rap and R&B music such as Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd. In January 2022, the Ninth Circuit ruled against ADCRR in the prisoner’s favor.”

    In its letter, the ACLU asks ADCRR to review each facility’s policy and practice to ensure respect for the First Amendment rights of incarcerated Arizonans, as well as the constitutional rights of publishers. Specifically, the ACLU is asking ADCRR to provide uncensored issues of The Nation to the intended recipients, to notify mailroom staff that they cannot invoke the unconstitutional and vague “sexual content” regulation, and to refrain in the future from banning materials reporting acts of current or historic racism.

    The full ACLU letter and the banned issues are at:

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