Supreme Court

Mark Levin: 'God Save Us From What Obama Must Do' To The Supreme Court

Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin joined the chorus of conservative activists urging Senate Republicans to block any nominee President Obama puts forward to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, telling Stephen Bannon of “Breitbart News Daily” over the weekend that people criticizing this strategy of obstructionism just don’t “care about the nation” the way conservatives do.

“It is a terrible day when a nation loses a man like this, and God save us from what Obama must do,” Levin said. “And we must insist that the Republican Senate must stand up and give him no quarter, they must stand up and block anyone or anything Obama tries to do.”

“I don’t think we should ram through an Obama appointee in a Republican Senate, for God’s sakes,” he said. “I mean, I’m sitting here thinking about it, you’re going to hear people say, ‘Well, this is unprecedented if we do this, and the Republicans…’ These aren’t people who really care about the nation the way I do or you do or our audiences do. No, they like the direction of the country, they just don’t think we’re going fast enough or hard enough radical left.”

Levin also issued a warning to Senate Republicans who might consider voting on an Obama nominee, calling them a “Fifth Column” and warning that the Supreme Court fight is “a litmus test for the survival of the Republican Party.”

“If a Republican majority in the United States Senate confirms a nominee by the most radical president certainly in modern history, if ever, who has stated his goal of fundamentally transforming America,” he said, “if a Republican majority confirms one of his nominees, at least in my mind, it’s over.”

Alex Jones: Obama Killed Scalia And 'All Hell Is About To Break Loose'

Still insisting that President Obama was behind Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones charged yesterday that more and more conservatives will soon be assassinated by the government.

The Infowars broadcaster claimed that he had a “sixth sense” that “something big” was about to happen hours before the media reported on Scalia’s death. He added that he had “sweat running down me” because he knew following Scalia’s death that “all hell is about to break loose.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other conservative leaders, he warned, may also soon wind up dead: “Maybe they’ll find the governor with a pillow over his face, maybe that’s the new thing. All of these conservatives that are fighting back that are real conservatives, they are all being found with pillows over their faces.”

“Man, the psy-op is deep on this one,” Jones said, comparing Scalia’s death to his belief that 9/11 was an inside job.

While Jones lamented that “Scalia walked into the perfect bear trap,” the InfoWars news crew also claimed that Obama wanted to “take out” Scalia in order to push through gun control and introduce socialism to the country.

“This is it. This is the final assault,” Jones said. “This is the beginning of the final war.”

Jay Sekulow: 'Advice And Consent' Means Telling Obama 'Don't Put Up A Nominee'

Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the conservative legal group American Center for Law and Justice, offered a creative interpretation of the Senate’s constitutional duty to provide “advice and consent” on presidential nominations today, saying that the “advice” the Senate should be offering President Obama is not to appoint anybody to the Supreme Court.

Jay Sekulow appeared with Pat Robertson, ACLJ’s founder, on “The 700 Club” this morning to discuss the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the resulting fight over his replacement on the court.

Robertson, sounding somewhat bewildered, noted that one potential Obama nominee for the vacancy, Judge Sri Srinivasan, “is an Indian, he actually was born in India,” concluding that “they shouldn’t rush somebody on” the court until the next president takes office.

Sekulow agreed that Senate Republicans should “just say no” to any Obama nominee.

“The Republicans need to say no,” he insisted. “It’s that simple. Just say no. That’s the way the rules are structured. The Senate has a role in this, the Constitution says ‘advice and consent.’ The advice here is, ‘Don’t put up a nominee when you’re only going to be the president, you’re a lame duck and you’re only going to be the president for 11 months.’”

As well as his questionable claim that Obama is a “lame duck” president months before an election has been held for his replacement, Sekulow falsely claimed that there “hasn’t been a confirmation when there’s been an appointment during an election year since 1880.”

Conservative Groups Circle The Wagons On SCOTUS Obstruction

When the news broke of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Saturday, Republicans in the Senate almost immediately vowed to block the nomination of any person President Obama puts forward to fill the empty Supreme Court seat.

Conservative groups quickly followed suit, putting forward various rationales for keeping a Supreme Court seat open for more than a year in the hopes that a Republican is elected president in November.

Some of these activists made variations on the false claim that the Senate never confirms judicial nominees during election years. Others warned of dire consequences for America if the president is allowed a Supreme Court pick. One activist going so far as to claim that Scalia’s seat should be kept vacant in perpetuity until a Republican is elected president.

Conservative legal activist Ed Whelan said it would be “grossly irresponsible” to let Obama pick the next justice:

Senate Republicans would be grossly irresponsible to allow President Obama, in the last months of his presidency, to cement a liberal majority that will wreak havoc on the Constitution. Let the people decide in November who will select the next justice.

Whelan also told “Breitbart News Daily” that “we are at risk of really losing the Supreme Court and losing the Constitution.”

The American Center for Law and Justice ’s Jay Sekulow said that President Obama was perfectly free to nominate a conservative to replace Scalia:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley are both committed to letting the American people decide at the ballot box this November, letting our 45th President appoint Justice Scalia’s replacement. While President Obama remains free to appoint a conservative committed to upholding the Constitution as his replacement, he has given us no reason to believe he would.

So the American people should get to decide.

This is a prime opportunity for all branches of government to show that we still have a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network (formerly the Judicial Confirmation Network), said President Obama is the “last person” who should be nominating the next Supreme Court justice:

… This president, who has shown such contempt for the Constitution and the laws, is the last person who should be appointing his successor. The American people on both sides of the aisle are disgusted with the status quo in Washington and another nomination by this President would just bring about more of the same. The people’s voice should be heard in November to determine who will appoint the next Supreme Court Justice.”

Mat Staver, head of the conservative legal group Liberty Counsel (which represented Kentucky clerk Kim Davis and is now representing an anti-Planned Parenthood activist) declared that the “future of the Supreme Court and America” depends on the Senate blocking any Obama nominee:

“With the passing of Justice Scalia, the future of the High Court and the future of America is hanging in the balance. The Senate must not confirm any nominee to the Supreme Court from President Obama. The Senate must hold off any confirmation until the next President is seated. Unfortunately the presidential debates have been more theater and less substance about the real issues surrounding the Supreme Court. The election of the next President has now taken on even greater importance. The future of the Supreme Court and America now depends on the Senate blocking any nominee by President Obama and the people electing the right person to occupy the White House,” said Staver.

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins echoed the call to hold Scalia's seat open:

"The Supreme Court has now become the centerpiece in this presidential election. There has not been an election-year nomination in generations and the Senate must not break that trend now. With the election only 269 days away, the people should decide what president should fill this seat," concluded Perkins.

As did the American Family Association’s Buddy Smith:

We cannot allow President Obama to replace him with a judicial activist. Activist judges have mangled the Constitution almost beyond recognition, and we cannot allow Justice Scalia to be replaced by a justice who will continue to shred the Constitution rather than protect it and uphold it.

While the Constitution gives the president the right to nominate Supreme Court justices, it also gives the Senate the right to reject them. The Constitution does not even require an unacceptable nominee be given a vote on the floor.

Americans United for Life’s Charmaine Yoest said, “His loss is tragic, and we hope that when it comes time for the Senate to vote on his replacement, that a worthy successor who can pick up his banner can be found after the election.”

Alan Sears, head of Alliance Defending Freedom, hedged his bets, saying that “it is unlikely that a new justice will be installed prior to the election of our next president.

Janet Porter of Faith 2 Action declared, “The best way to honor Justice Scalia’s legacy is to make sure there is no Obama nominee confirmed by the U.S. Senate.”

Troy Newman, head of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and a member of Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, warned that if Obama were to nominate the next justice, America would become a “totalitarian government”:

"With the passing of the esteemed Justice Scalia, America stands at a crossroads. Will she choose the path of fascism or freedom? We are just one Obama appointee away from a totalitarian government. Two years ago, the GOP promised the American people that, if elected, they would thwart Obama's radical leftist agenda. This is the GOP's moment. Will it shine as a light for liberty in this dark moment or will that light be extinguished by political appeasement?" asked Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.

John Zmirak, editor of James Robison’s website The Stream, went even further, saying that if the next president is a Democrat, a Republican Senate should still refuse to confirm any of their judicial nominees:

But they should go further. As long as Republicans control the Senate, there is no excuse for any pro-choice, anti-gun rights, anti-marriage justices to be confirmed to our highest court. If, God forbid, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton is elected, they should face a Republican Senate — or even a GOP minority — that will obstruct their every judicial appointment, even if it means leaving key seats on national benches empty, for years at a time. As justices retire or die, the court will simply grow smaller. Big deal. America will muddle through. This is the kind of implacable determination that defeated the solidly conservative Justice Bork and got us the muddled Anthony Kennedy — and Casey v. Planned Parenthood and Obergefell. It is time for that worm to turn.

Conservatives must drop the facade of high-minded bipartisanship, which only ever cuts to the left. The courts have staggering power to change our lives, and damage our country. They can kill our nation’s unborn babies, seize our guns and punish our churches. If GOP senators aren’t willing to fight long, hard and relentlessly to stop that from happening, we should find other senators who can, back them in the next primary election, and cripple the re-election of squishy moderate turncoats. A presidential candidate who appreciates all this will get my vote. And I think he’ll earn yours.

Ann Coulter: Liberals Using Supreme Court To Further 'Total Marxist Takeover Of The Country'

In a Sunday interview with Breitbart News, Ann Coulter reflected on Justice Scalia’s legacy on the Supreme Court, which she lamented has become a vehicle for the nefarious liberal agenda despite the best efforts of Scalia and others conservative justices.

“Liberals can’t get their ideas through, they can’t get people to join them in their ideas for a total Marxist takeover of the country, abortion on demand, gay marriage was not doing very well in the democratic process,” she said.

But since liberals don’t believe in democracy, she explained, “they just go up to the Supreme Court and say, ‘Could you please hallucinate a right to gay marriage in the Constitution?’”

Rafael Cruz: America Will Be Gone In 30 Years If Obama Gets SCOTUS Appointee

In an interview today with Pat Robertson, Rafael Cruz went on a long rant about gun reform, gay marriage and the Supreme Court, warning that America won’t survive more than 30 years if President Obama is allowed to nominate the next Supreme Court justice.

Cruz, the father of Texas senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz, told Robertson that President Obama may join the ranks of dictators like Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong who had “taken away the weapons of the people and then used them against the people.”

“President Obama is trying to use every time he can to disarm America,” he said.

However, Cruz said that he is hopeful about the future of America because of the Supreme Court’s “decision against traditional marriage,” telling Robertson that “the Devil overplayed his hand” with the ruling and has motivated conservative Christians to get involved in politics. “We must return to the Judeo-Christian, the biblical, the constitutional foundations that this country was built upon,” he said, “otherwise this country will be destroyed.”

The elder Cruz then went on to say that Justice Antonin Scalia’s death could usher in America’s destruction: “This could tilt the balance of the court and could be something that would affect America for the next 30 years. We don’t have 30 years.”

He went on to falsely claim that “no nominee for the Supreme Court has been confirmed in the last year of the election” in over 80 years. (In fact, the last time that happened was in 1988 when Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed.) “The balance of the court cannot be tilted in a lame duck year, it’s just not done.” 

Operation Rescue: 'We Are Just One Obama Appointee Away From A Totalitarian Government'

The radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue has joined the many conservative groups urging the Senate to hold the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat open for more than a year in order to prevent President Obama from naming his replacement.

In a press release yesterday, Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman — a leader of Sen. Ted Cruz’s “pro-life” coalition — declared that with the Supreme Court battle, America must choose “fascism of freedom” because the country is “just one Obama appointee away from totalitarian government.”

The group also raised suspicions about the justice’s death, saying that “disturbing conflicting reports have surfaced” regarding the circumstances of his death.

Scalia's death has posed an opportunity for Pres. Barack Obama to appoint a replacement for Scalia in this critical election year that would dramatically reshape the Court in a way that would continue protect abortion while threatening precious American freedoms.

Operation Rescue is urging the Senate to allow the next president to make that appointment.

"With the passing of the esteemed Justice Scalia, America stands at a crossroads. Will she choose the path of fascism or freedom? We are just one Obama appointee away from a totalitarian government. Two years ago, the GOP promised the American people that, if elected, they would thwart Obama's radical leftist agenda. This is the GOP's moment. Will it shine as a light for liberty in this dark moment or will that light be extinguished by political appeasement?" asked Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.

Now, disturbing conflicting reports have surfaced concerning Justice Scalia's sudden and unexpected death with no autopsy planned.

Operation Rescue calls for a full inquiry into Scalia's death and respectfully requests that an autopsy be performed in order to put to rest unanswered questions regarding his passing.

Conservative Legal Activist Admits GOP SCOTUS Obstruction Is All About Politics

Within hours of the news breaking of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Saturday, Republican politicians and conservative activists circled the wagons and vowed to block the confirmation of any person President Obama nominates to replace him.

Some have tried to come up with bogus new “rules” about not confirming justices in a presidential election year. Some have tried to claim, as Sen. Marco Rubio did in Saturday’s Republican presidential debate, that more than 10 months before the next election Obama is already a “lame duck” president. Sen. Rand Paul went as far as to say that Obama has a “conflict of interest” in nominating judges who might consider the legality of things the executive branch does.

But some have been less coy about the purely political calculation behind the attempt to block an Obama nominee, including the Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino, who announced in a Newsmax interview yesterday that it would be “political malpractice” for Senate Republicans to allow President Obama to put another justice on the Supreme Court.

In a statement shortly after Scalia’s death was announced, Severino declared that Obama is “the last person” who should be nominating Scalia’s successor because he has “shown such contempt for the Constitution and the laws.”

Severino’s group was founded during the George W. Bush administration as the Judicial Confirmation Network, with the stated mission of ensuring “that the confirmation process for all judicial nominees is fair and that every nominee sent to the full Senate receives an up or down vote.” After President Obama was elected, the group conveniently changed its name and its mission.

Edit Memo: Filling the Supreme Court Vacancy Caused by the Death of Justice Scalia: What Should the Senate Do?

To: Interested Parties
From: Elliot Mincberg, Senior Fellow, People For the American Way
Date: February 16, 2016
Re: Filling the Supreme Court Vacancy Caused by the Death of Justice Scalia: What Should the Senate Do?

Despite being elected twice by the American people, the second time by a large margin, the President is regularly attacked by Congress, with both houses controlled by the opposition party. Although the President remains popular in his own party and with his base, he is considered a polarizing figure among presidential candidates already seeking to succeed him and in Congress. As the New York Times puts it less than a year before the election, “From large budget deficits to tensions in the Persian Gulf, the President’s positions are under severe attack.”  In the Senate, he has had serious problems in obtaining confirmation for his federal judicial nominees.  And now, with less than a year to go before the election, the President vows to “move promptly” to submit a nomination to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. What does the Senate do?

This is precisely the situation that was before the Senate less than a year before the 1988 presidential election, down to the quote from the New York Times on November 7, 1987. And when President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Anthony Kennedy to fill a Supreme Court vacancy on November 11, 1987, the Democratic-controlled Senate did not “delay, delay, delay”, in Donald Trump’s words at the last Republican debate. Instead, it confirmed Justice Kennedy in less than three months, on February 3, 1988, by a unanimous vote.

This example shows what is so wrong about current Republican claims that the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia should not be filled until sometime in 2017, after the next election. The crucial importance of the Supreme Court, the overall historical record, and the language of our Constitution all lead to the same conclusion—the current Court vacancy should be filled as soon as possible this year.

The Importance of a Fully Functional Supreme Court

Throughout our nation’s history, and never more than today, the controversies resolved by the Supreme Court have been and are crucial to all aspects of Americans’ lives. The constitutionality of slavery and  of segregated  schools for racial minorities, whether a President can unilaterally seize steel mills and other private property during  war,  the meaning of Congressional laws banning race and other discrimination, a woman’s right to choose, the authority of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, whether states can provide vouchers to pay for religious private schools, the constitutionality of laws to regulate campaign finance and help keep big money out of politics, whether there is an individual  right to possess guns under the Constitution, whether states can prohibit marriage by LGBT couples --- all these and many more critical issues have been ruled on by the Supreme Court. Particularly in recent years, many of these significant issues have been decided by narrow 5-4 majorities, so that having a full complement of nine justices is very important.

Take the current 2015-16 Court term, for example. Cases before the Court include such controversial questions as the constitutionality of state efforts to severely restrict abortion providers and to allow unions to effectively organize. The Court is also set to resolve crucial questions on voting rights, contraception, religious liberty, affirmative action, immigration policy, and more. On most of these, the Court is likely to be closely divided. A Supreme Court that is short one justice could very well be unable to issue a majority ruling in most or all of these cases. Although a tie vote would affirm by default the specific lower court rulings under review,  the result would be that many of these important issues would be left in limbo. Filling the current vacancy is crucial to ensure that the Supreme Court can perform its significant role in our democracy.

The Lessons of History

Because of the importance of a fully functioning Supreme Court, the President and the Senate have historically kept the length of vacancies on the Court to a minimum. Republicans now assert that the current Court vacancy should not be filled until after the next President and the next Senate take office in 2017, which means that the vacancy would last for more than a year. But for more than the last century, there has never been a Supreme Court vacancy that has been left open for over a year. In fact, there has never been a vacancy of longer than four months while the Court has been in session. In fact, the Republicans’ proposed obstruction would perpetuate a vacancy in not one but two consecutive terms of the Supreme Court -- another unprecedented action.

The Kennedy confirmation in 1988 was far from the only time that Supreme Court nominations have been confirmed, and even submitted to the Senate, during Presidential election years. In fact, two of our most renowned Justices, Louis Brandeis and Benjamin Cardozo, were nominated in January and February of presidential election years. Both were confirmed long before the election –Cardozo in February and Brandeis, despite significant controversy, in June. In fact, after a careful historical review, SCOTUSblog reported on Feb. 13 that the “historical record does not reveal any instances since at least 1900 of the president failing to nominate and/or the Senate failing to confirm a nominee in a presidential election year because of the impending election.” (emphasis added)

This conclusion is consistent with what happened in 1968, when Chief Justice Earl Warren resigned. President Johnson nominated Justice Fortas for the position and, even as late as the summer of 1968, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination and sent it to the full Senate. Although the nomination was then filibustered, the historical record is clear that this was because of specific concerns about Fortas’ finances and objections to the Warren Court, not the impending election. In fact, Warren’s resignation did not take effect until his successor was confirmed, which happened in 1969, so that no vacancy on the Court actually occurred.

Republican Claims vs. the Language of the Constitution

Nevertheless, within hours of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Saturday, Republican Senate Majority Leader and every Republican presidential candidate announced that they oppose even considering a nominee for the Court vacancy this year, no matter who President Obama selects. McConnell flatly asserted that the vacancy “should not be filled” until after the election.  Sen. Ted Cruz falsely claimed in the Republican debate that there had never been a Court vacancy filled during an election year. Republican Senate Judiciary chair Charles Grassley asserted that it is “standard practice” not to consider a Court nominee in an election year, clearly contradicting the history under both Republican and Democratic presidents and Senates, including the votes by him and Senator McConnell to confirm Justice Kennedy in an election year.

The extreme Republican obstructionist position would strike at the heart of our Constitution. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution makes clear that the President “shall nominate, and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint” people to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court.  Despite their professed regard for the Constitution and for strict construction of its original text,  Republicans are effectively seeking to add an exception  to Article II for  when there is a year left in the term of a Democratic president.  No such exception exists, as Justice Scalia himself, our nation’s strongest advocate of the originalist view of the Constitution, would be the first to recognize.  The current Republican obstructionism violates their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and flatly contradicts their alleged adherence to a strict and literal interpretation of it.

Ted Cruz: Supreme Court Might 'Strike Down The Second Amendment' If Democrats Win In 2016

In an interview last week with conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, Sen. Ted Cruz discussed the importance of the next president’s Supreme Court nominees, claiming that the U.S. is “one justice away from the Supreme Court striking down the Second Amendment.”

Cruz criticized the current “lawless” and “out-of-control activist court” that is “just one justice away from a five-justice, radical, left-wing majority the likes of which this country has never seen.”

The Texas Republican then warned viewers of a doomsday scenario if a Democratic president nominates new justices to the bench:

We are one justice away from the Supreme Court striking down the Second Amendment, ruling that no individual American has any right whatsoever to keep and bear arms, we are one justice away from that. We are one justice away from the Supreme Court striking down Ten Commandments monuments all over the United States, just like the one we have in front of the Texas State Capitol that I was proud to stand with Greg Abbott, defend before the Supreme Court and win 5-4 upholding it.

We are one justice away from the Supreme Court striking down school choice programs all over the country. We are one justice away from the Supreme Court striking down every restriction on abortion and mandating unlimited abortion-on-demand up until the moment of delivery, partial-birth abortion with taxpayer funding and no parental notification whatsoever. We are one justice away from that. We are one justice away from the Supreme Court tearing down veterans’ memorials all over this country if they have any acknowledgment of God and we’re not far away from bringing the chisels out to remove the crosses and Stars of David from the tombstones of our fallen soldiers.

Cruz said that while past Republican presidents failed to nominate “proven conservative” justices, he plans to only nominate firm right-wing judges.

“Every justice I put on the court will be a principled conservative jurist,” he said.

Anti-Choice Groups Are Trying To Claim The Term 'Back Alley' To Oppose Legal Abortion

Next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a challenge to a restrictive Texas abortion law and a key test of the anti-choice movement’s long-term strategy of eliminating abortion access by regulating abortion providers out of existence.

Central to the case is the claim that laws like the one in Texas, which could close three quarters of the state’s abortion clinics if it’s fully enacted, impose tough regulations on abortion providers in order to protect the health of the women who take advantage of their services.

Now, in an effort to claim that they are the ones who are really concerned about women’s health, anti-choice groups are appropriating the term “back-alley abortion,” using the phrase that has long described dangerous illegal procedures in the years before Roe to claim that it is in fact legal abortion that forces women into the “back alley.”

In an article for the Federalist yesterday, Americans United for Life (AUL) attorney Mailee Smith wrote that the Texas case has “prompted a discussion about what is more important: ‘access’ to the current back alley of abortion now offered by an industry that puts profits over people, or commonsense health and safety standards the Court has historically supported.”

It’s a line that AUL has been repeating in the past few years, encouraged in part by the case of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion provider who was convicted of several gruesome crimes after the lax enforcement of regulations allowed him to stay in business.

Speaking at a Heritage Foundation event in 2013 after Gosnell’s conviction, AUL’s president, Chairmaine Yoest, declared, “Gosnell is sadly not an aberration. Ladies and gentlemen, we already have the back alley of abortion in this country and the back alley of abortion in this country is legal abortion.” A 2012 law review article by AUL attorney Clarke Forsythe in favor of clinic regulations was titled “A Road Map Through The Supreme Court’s Back Alley.” A 2013 AUL guide to regulating abortion clinics declared, “abortion clinics across the nation have become the true ‘back alleys’ of abortion mythology.”

Other groups have caught on to the messaging too. Speaking of Gosnell’s conviction in 2013, the Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser claimed that “the result of the current law is that we’re living back-alley abortions right now.” 

In a set of talking points posted on its website in 2014, the National Right to Life Committee recommended countering pro-choice arguments about the risk of back-alley abortions by saying, “The only thing that legalizing abortion did was to give abortionists the ability to hang their shingle on the front door and stop using the back alley!”

Few would disagree that Gosnell — who was convicted of killing a patient and three infants who were born alive at his squalid clinic — was offering the functional equivalent of back-alley abortions. But the anti-choice movement is instead attempting to exploit the Gosnell case to claim that legal abortion is back-alley abortion, and to use it to justify unnecessary regulations meant to cut shut down safe providers.

Abortion rights opponents often attempt to downplay the real danger of illegal abortions women faced before the liberalization of abortion laws and Roe. Although women with money and connections could often obtain a safe hospital abortion (whether or not it was technically legal) in the years leading up to Roe, the burden of unsafe abortion fell disproportionately on poor women and women of color.

Guttmacher reports that although rates of death from unsafe abortion fell as medical care improved on all levels, 200 women died from unsafe abortion in 1965, making up 17 percent of all pregancy-related deaths that year. Even as states began to liberalize their abortion laws, many women without access to safe procedures still obtained illegal abortions.

As a number of commentators pointed out when Gosnell’s crimes came to light, forcing safe clinics to close would only force more women to predatory providers like Gosnell.

From the beginning, anti-choice activists have acknowledged that clinic regulations like those in Texas are meant not to protect women but to challenge legal abortion. In a 2007 memo arguing against “personhood” laws that attempt to ban all abortions in one fell swoop, influential anti-abortion attorney James Bopp listed clinic regulations like Texas’ as one way to “improve the legal situation” of the anti-abortion movement without fully taking on the constitutional right to abortion. In its annual package of model legislation for state legislators, AUL touts clinic-regulation measures as part of the effort to “unravel” Roe and facilitate its “demise.”

Texas’ law, which AUL says it helped write, requires abortion clinics to remodel if they don’t meet the stringent standards of ambulatory surgical clinics, which in general perform more complicated and riskier procedures than abortion. It also mandates that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital, an unnecessary requirement that it is sometimes difficult or impossible for abortion providers to meet. (This is in part because anti-abortion activists pressure hospitals not to offer such admitting privileges, again showing that their goal is closing clinics, not improving safety standards.)

The law behind the Whole Women's Health case isn’t meant to eliminate “back-alley” abortions, as its backers are now claiming. It’s meant to cut off access for the women who can least afford it and to chip away at the legal framework of Roe, which would, ironically, mostly likely lead to more true back-alley abortions. 

Cruz Pro-Life Coalition Leader: US Can't 'Survive Another 40 Years Of Roe v. Wade'

As we noted this morning, Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign has launched a new “Pro-Lifers for Cruz” coalition, led by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins along with 10 co-chairs, including radical anti-abortion activist Troy Newman. Another co-chair of the new coalition is anti-abortion filmmaker Jason Jones, who joined a call for coalition members today, where he warned that electing Cruz is essential because America can’t “survive another 40 years of Roe v. Wade.”

“You know, the right to life is the founding principle not only of this country but of our civilization,” Jones said on the call, “and we are fighting to preserve our nation for our posterity. We are fighting in a real way for our posterity. And I don’t believe our country can survive another 40 years of Roe v. Wade because Roe v. Wade undermines the idea that we are endowed by God with inalienable rights. We’ll see our religious freedom leave, we’re seeing that. We’ll see our economic freedom leave, we’re seeing that. We’ll see our political freedom leave, we’re seeing that with the most recent case with David Daleiden. So let’s fight to defend the pre-born child from the bounds of abortion, let’s fight for our republic, and let’s call everyone in Iowa and let’s expand this pro-life caucus.”

The loss of “political freedom” that he was referring to was the recent indictments brought against David Daleiden, who was accused of breaking laws in Texas when he and his Center for Medical Progress infiltrated Planned Parenthood, a project concocted with the help of Newman.

Supreme Court Goes Back to Work in January and Shows Again Why Election Day is Judgment Day

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

After a Holiday break, the Supreme Court returned to a full schedule of arguments and other activity in January. The crucial oral argument before the Court this month in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, as well as several cases that the Court agreed to review later this year, again show that on a variety of important issues, the Court has enormous influence but is closely divided. With the president elected in November likely to select as many as four new Supreme Court justices beginning as early as next year, the person we elect as president will be critical. That’s why Election Day 2016 will be Judgment Day for the Court and our rights and liberties.

Friedrichs is the latest battle in what the New York Times has called the “war on workers” and unions being waged by Justice Alito and other conservatives on the Court. A primary target of that war has been a decision almost 40 years ago inAbood v. Detroit Board of Education. In that case the Court determined that although workers cannot be forced to join a union or contribute to its political activities, since that would violate their First Amendment rights, they can be required to help pay for the costs of collective bargaining and related activities from which they benefit even if they are not union members. That solution to what would otherwise be a “free rider” problem is crucial to the ability of unions to effectively represent the interests of workers.  Even though a unanimous Supreme Court recognized the principle of Abood as recently as 2009, subsequent 5-4 decisions written by Justice Alito have criticized that ruling and effectively invited attempts to overturn it. That is exactly what the plaintiffs in Friedrichs, a small group of California teachers, are attempting to do, claiming they should not have to join or pay “fair share” costs to the state teachers union and that Abood should be overturned.

The justices’ comments at the oral argument made clear that the conservative 5-4 majority remains hostile to unions and Abood, and may well be prepared to overrule it this year. (As usual, Justice Thomas did not speak at the argument, but his negative views in this area have been made clear in past opinions). Particularly troubling were some comments by Justice Kennedy, who is often the “swing” vote on the Court, but in this case maintained that “free riders” are really “compelled riders” who, he claimed, are forced to support unions on “issues on which they strongly disagree.” Regardless of the merits of that claim, on which many have disagreed, it strongly suggests that there may now be five votes to overturnAbood, with disastrous consequences for unions and workers.

It is impossible, of course, to predict the precise outcome of a Supreme Court case based on the oral argument, and the Court could issue a decision that does not completely overrule Abood. The Court could send the case back to a lower court for specific fact-finding on issues like the impact of eliminating “free rider” payments on unions, as was suggested at one point in the argument, or could limit its holding to the specific case in California. Particularly if the Court chooses one of those alternatives, the question of who will replace older justices like Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Scalia when they retire will be critical. That is why the election in November of our next president, who will nominate such replacements, is crucial for the Court and workers’ rights. Even an outright overruling of Abood could be softened or revisited, but only if a progressive president is elected and selects more progressives Justices for the Court.

During January, the Court also agreed to review several important cases on other subjects this year. The case that has generated the most controversy is United States v. Texas, where lower courts have put on hold the president’s executive orders on immigration that would defer deportation enforcement against millions of undocumented immigrants who have children who are citizens or legal permanent residents and would be able to apply for jobs and stay in the U.S. for three years.  Twenty-six states led by Texas filed the challenge, and the huge partisan divide on the question almost guarantees that it will be an election issue this fall. The most extreme Justices on the Court (Scalia, Alito and Thomas) have voted against virtually every significant Obama initiative that has come before the Court, and the Court’s decision to add a question for the parties to address - whether the Obama order is consistent with the Constitution’s language that the president should “take care” that federal laws be “faithfully executed” -- suggests deep skepticism by some of the justices. The decision itself could have a huge impact not only on this specific issue, but also on the ability of a future progressive president to take other executive action in the face of a recalcitrant Congress. However this case is decided, there is also little question that these issues will return to the Court in 2017 or later, and the views of the president who will appoint future justices will be crucial to the results. 

The Court also decided in January to review several other important cases this year. In one, the Court has been asked to decide whether a state constitution can more strictly separate church and state than the increasingly conservative Supreme Court has and can prohibit any direct state financial aid to religious institutions. Thirty-five states have such constitutional provisions, and the Court is very divided on such religion issues, which are very likely to come up in the future as well. And in another big business vs. consumers case, the Court will consider what must be proven to prosecute someone for illegally using inside company information for stock or other trading. This issue has divided lower courts, one of which has adopted a narrow interpretation that has dealt a significant setback to the efforts of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to crack down on insider trading in the $3 trillion hedge fund industry. The Court is likely to be divided on this issue as well.

The Court’s decisions in both these cases later this year will be important in and of themselves. But they are also very unlikely to be the last word on the significant big business, consumer, and religion issues they raise. The fact that these and other crucial issues will be decided by this divided Court in the future, and the fact that four justices on the current Court will be over 80 in the next president’s first term, is what makes the identity of the president who will appoint future justices so important. Statements this month by both Democratic and Republican candidates show that, even as they also discuss other issues, they clearly recognize the importance of the election for the future direction of the Court. In short, Election Day 2016 truly is Judgment Day for the Supreme Court and for all of our rights and liberties.

PFAW

Louie Gohmert: 'It's Time To Start Impeaching Judges' For Marriage Equality Ruling

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said last week that “it’s time to start impeaching” Supreme Court justices in response to the Obergefell marriage equality ruling, which he called an “illegal decision” that amounted to the court declaring itself to be God.

In an interview with Florida talk radio host Joyce Kaufman on Friday, Gohmert falsely claimed that church-state separation decisions in the 1950s and 1960s mandated that “you can’t talk about God in schools and public places.” But, he said, the Supreme Court did something even worse with Obergefell.

“The Supreme Court said, ‘You know, we told you you couldn’t use ‘God,’ now here’s the new line: We’re God,’” he said. “‘We are your God. Forget what God, Moses, Jesus ever said, we are your God now, the five of us in the majority, you do as we tell you.’”

Gohmert went on to repeat his call for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan to be impeached for participating in the decision after having performed legal same-sex marriages.

“We have two of them who had done same-sex marriages before they participated, they were disqualified, but they illegally participated, it’s an illegal decision, and it’s time to start impeaching judges and remove them from the Supreme Court,” he said.

Kaufman, for her part, seemed to say that Ginsburg and Kagan should have been disqualified for “being gay.”

Supreme Court Rejects Attempt At Restrictive Six-Week Abortion Ban

There has long been a debate raging within the anti-abortion movement between those who have mapped out a careful strategy to slowly chip away at Roe v. Wade through incremental restrictions on abortion and those who want to launch legal broadsides against abortion rights in the hopes that one will take Roe down once and for all.

The incrementalists will have their big day in court on March 2, when the Supreme Court hears arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a challenge to a set of laws in Texas that seeks to cut off access to legal abortion even as the procedure remains legal. Whole Woman’s Health is the culmination of a decades-long strategy by groups like Americans United for Life to choke off abortion access by creating unnecessary regulations on clinics. These groups are also hoping to get the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe in the form of laws banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, just before when the court has said that abortion bans are legal.

But those who want to find a silver bullet to end abortion rights completely just had a day in court too … and it didn’t go well for them.

The Supreme Court today declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down North Dakota’s “fetal heartbeat” law, which would have banned abortion at about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know that they are pregnant. The law was clearly unconstitutional — one prominent anti-choice lawyer has called such efforts “futile” — but North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said that it was an “attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.”

The boundaries of Roe v. Wade, it turns out, however much they may be weakened by incremental restrictions, still prevent banning almost all abortions.

Yet today’s rejection is unlikely to halt the efforts of “heartbeat bill” crusaders, the most prominent of whom is Religious Right activist Janet Porter, who is currently running for the legislature in her home state of Ohio in an effort to push such a bill through.

PFAW

Supreme Court Rejects Attempt At Restrictive Six-Week Abortion Ban

There has long been a debate raging within the anti-abortion movement between those who have mapped out a careful strategy to slowly chip away at Roe v. Wade through incremental restrictions on abortion and those who want to launch legal broadsides against abortion rights in the hopes that one will take Roe down once and for all.

The incrementalists will have their big day in court on March 2, when the Supreme Court hears arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a challenge to a set of laws in Texas that seeks to cut off access to legal abortion even as the procedure remains legal. Whole Woman’s Health is the culmination of a decades-long strategy by groups like Americans United for Life to choke off abortion access by creating unnecessary regulations on clinics. These groups are also hoping to get the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe in the form of laws banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, just before when the court has said that abortion bans are legal.

But those who want to find a silver bullet to end abortion rights completely just had a day in court too … and it didn’t go well for them.

The Supreme Court today declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down North Dakota’s “fetal heartbeat” law, which would have banned abortion at about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know that they are pregnant. The law was clearly unconstitutional — one prominent anti-choice lawyer has called such efforts “futile” — but North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said that it was an “attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.”

The boundaries of Roe v. Wade, it turns out, however much they may be weakened by incremental restrictions, still prevent banning almost all abortions.

Yet today’s rejection is unlikely to halt the efforts of “heartbeat bill” crusaders, the most prominent of whom is Religious Right activist Janet Porter, who is currently running for the legislature in her home state of Ohio in an effort to push such a bill through.

Divided Supreme Court Issues Good Decision in Important Class Action Case

On Wednesday of this week, in an important case on class actions previewed last September by PFAWF, the Supreme Court handed down a good ruling for consumers concerning class actions. This was an unusual development for the Roberts-Alito Court, which has generally gone along with big business efforts to limit class actions as an important remedy. This time, although Roberts and Alito (and Scalia) dissented, six justices led by Justice Ginsburg rejected a corporation’s effort to hurt consumers.

Class actions are a crucial type of lawsuit that allows consumers and others with relatively small individual claims to band together and seek large amounts of damages to help hold corporations accountable for wrongdoing. In this case, Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, the corporation had violated federal law by sending unwanted telephone solicitations to some 100,000 people. Jose Gomez got one of those solicitations and filed a lawsuit, asking  for the maximum statutory remedy for himself of $1500 but also seeking to bring a class action on behalf of the tens of thousands of other people who received the unwanted solicitations. The corporation tried to end the suit by offering to pay Mr. Gomez  his $1500 and then arguing that its offer ended the lawsuit and the basis for the class action.  If allowed, that would give corporations an easy and inexpensive way to prevent most class action lawsuits.

The Supreme Court rejected the corporation’s ploy in a 6-3 vote. As Justice Ginsburg explained, if a plaintiff like Mr. Gomez rejects an offer, even if it is for the maximum amount that could be recovered individually, the case remains alive and able to be pursued  as a class action.  Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Alito and Scalia, dissented and argued, as they usually do, that the corporation should prevail , since it was willing to give Mr. Gomez “everything he asks for.” As Justice Ginsburg explained in response, that “would place the defendant in the driver’s seat”, improperly allowing corporations to spend minimal amounts to pay off individual plaintiffs and forestall class actions.

This decision will not remedy the damage that the Roberts-Alito Court has previously done, and could well do in the future, to limit class actions and harm consumers. And the Court left open the question of whether a corporation can stop a class action by formally placing the full amount of an individual’s claim in an account and getting a lower court to rule for the individual and dismiss the class action claim. This loophole should be closed by the Court, as the New York Times explained, to “protect what remains of the class action from the unrelenting efforts of business to undermine it.” At least in this case, however, even Roberts and Alito could not muster the votes needed to further harm consumers and help big business.

PFAW Foundation

Conservative Pundit: Impeach Kennedy Over Marriage Equality Ruling

On Tuesday, Sandy Rios of the American Family Association denounced the nomination of Wilhelmina Wright for a seat on the federal district court in Minnesota, urging Senate Republicans to not only oppose Wright but also to block every single one of President Obama’s remaining judicial nominees.

The Senate confirmed Wright’s nomination yesterday, angering Rios, who invited right-wing activist Phillip Jauregui of the Judicial Action Group on to her radio show this morning to talk about the importance of judicial nominations.

Rios told Jauregui that the Senate must stop even holding a vote for President Obama’s judicial nominees because “when you put judges on the court who do not respect the Constitution or are not really loyal to American values as expressed in the Constitution, there is no justice.”

The two moved on to discuss the Supreme Court’s decision to take up a case on the legality of Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which Rios found “tremendously concerning because that court is out of control itself and is not delivering justice, they’re delivering their own personal opinions.”

She cited the Obergefell decision, which struck down state bans on same-sex marriage, as one such ruling, saying she was “just devastated” upon hearing about the “absolutely irrational” decision. “It made no sense whatsoever and I don’t trust them anymore,” she said.

Jauregui, criticizing Justice Kennedy’s “horrendous” opinion in Obergefell, said that the justice is “horrible and he’s honestly a judge that ought to be impeached”

Later, Jauregui claimed that members of Congress would never block the president’s executive actions, giving him a reason to issue further ones of questionable legality. “This is not far from an imperial dictator we’re talking about,” he said.

Rios urged congressional Republicans to “find their spine” and stop spending time hating on Ted Cruz.

Dolores Huerta, PFAW Respond to SCOTUS Decision to Hear DACA+, DAPA

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision to review the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA+) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), People For the American Way board member and civil rights legend Dolores Huerta stated:

“The Supreme Court made the right decision today to give millions of immigrant children and families, who are suffering greatly because of the threat of deportation, their day in court. By following the law and upholding DACA+ and DAPA, the Court can protect millions of immigrant children and parents from the threat of deportation. These actions fall well within President Obama’s Constitutional powers, and the Republican governors promoting this lawsuit are trying to use the courts to push a political agenda. The United States should not be in the business of separating families or deporting parents from their children. That’s shameful, and I hope the Supreme Court will do the right thing by upholding DACA+ and DAPA.”

People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan added:

“This case is a powerful reminder of the importance of the Supreme Court—and that the future of the Court is at stake in 2016. In this case, the Justices have a choice between following the Constitution or pushing an extreme ideological agenda. Over the last ten years, we’ve seen too many cases in which they’ve put politics above the law. Upholding the president’s actions should be an easy call, but thanks to the far-right bloc on this court this program may well come down to the views of a single justice. When voters go to the polls in 2016, they should remember that they’re not just selecting a president to serve for four years; they’re choosing the next justice who could shape the court for a generation. The future of immigrant families and so many others could be determined by whether Americans choose to pull the Court back from the extremism of the last decade or allow the GOP and its right-wing allies to capture the Court for the foreseeable future.”

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PFAW Hosts Briefing & Rallies at the Supreme Court for Workers’ Rights Case

Just hours after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments this morning in a case that will likely have a profound impact on the rights of working people, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, People For the American Way hosted a member telebriefing to help unpack what’s at stake in the case.

On the call, PFAW Senior Fellow and constitutional law scholar Jamie Raskin explained that at issue in Friedrichs are “agency fees” that allow the costs of collective bargaining and other union benefits to be shared by all public sector employees rather than by union members alone. Attacking this practice amounts to “a broad-based assault on public sector unions,” Raskin said.

PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker situated the case within the context of the Roberts-Alito Court’s pro-corporate record, where the high court has consistently privileged the interests of corporations over the rights of individual people, such as in the Citizens United decision.

“Workers have a right to stand up for themselves” and to “represent their own interests,” Baker added.

Before the telebriefing, PFAW staff and supporters were at the Supreme Court demonstrating in support of the rights of working people as the justices heard arguments in the case.


You can listen to the full telebriefing below, and read affiliate PFAW Foundation’s new report on “Corporations, Unions, and Constitutional Democracy” here.

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PFAW
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