Supreme Court to Hear Abortion Rights Case
By Charlotte Alter

This the most important abortion case the court has taken since 1992

The Supreme Court announced Friday it would hear a major abortion rights case next year, the most significant abortion case heard by the court since 1992. The justices will review a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics to the point where many are forced to close, and could determine the extent to which states can regulate what is technically a legal medical procedure.

The Court will rule on a 2015 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that allowed Texas to impose regulations on abortion clinics that major medical associations have deemed medically unnecessary. The Texas law, known as HB2, was passed in 2013 and would require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and force clinics to undergo extensive structural and equipment updates in order to qualify as “ambulatory surgical centers.” The law has been the subject of intense litigation, and the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the law earlier this year, but the Supreme Court stepped in with a temporary block in June that kept the law from fully going into effect.

The regulations, if upheld, would force over 75% of Texas’s abortion clinics to close, leaving fewer than 10 abortion clinics in a state with over 5.4 million women of reproductive age, according to the brief presented by the clinics challenging the law. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Whole Whole (sic) Women’s Health in its challenge to the Texas law, a woman living in El Paso will have to drive 500 miles to San Antonio (7 and a half hours each way) in order to get an abortion.

“This is a historic moment,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, calling the case “the most significant case on abortion access since 1992.”

This case will likely force the court to define the term “undue burden,” which was left largely up to public discretion by the Supreme Court in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. In that case, the court ruled that states could regulate abortion as long as those regulations did not constitute an undue burden, which they said included “unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion.” Prominent medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have opposed the restrictions.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Kim Davis Is Not a Patriot

The gathering of Davis’ supporters and their anti-American signs are no different from the “Death to America” rallies we see in some foreign countries (Additional info about presidential contenders Cruz, Huckabee, Jindal, Paul and Walker has been published here.) By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 9/7/15 The martyr business in America is booming. It’s a growth industry, like yoga pants, prisons and celebrity nip-slip sites. Caterers, cake-makers, pizza shops, hobby stores and others are publicly throwing themselves on the righteous sword of spiritual indignation—but only when there are media cameras nearby to … Continue reading

The GOP’s Birthright Citizenship Flip-Flop

Republicans are divided on birthright citizenship, one of their party’s greatest achievements. By Tom Donnelly 8/23/15 Birthright citizenship has split the GOP presidential field. Following Donald Trump’s call for an end to birthright citizenship for the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, fellow Republican presidential hopefuls Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson and even longtime immigration reform advocate Lindsey Graham have said they support ending the practice. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have been the most vocally opposed. This didn’t used to be such a difficult issue for Republicans. … Continue reading

Where the presidency is headed

The Detroit News By Lee Hamilton 7/27/15 Before the ins and outs of the 2016 presidential contest become a preoccupation for many of us, it seems a good time to step back and look at the office of the presidency for which so many candidates are vying. The presidency inherited by whoever wins next November will be substantially changed from the position his or her predecessors occupied a few decades ago. The president is now the chief — and sometimes the sole — actor in American government. He far outweighs … Continue reading

Commentary: Reagan’s gift of Supreme Court Justice Kennedy

Commentary: Reagan’s gift of Kennedy
By Michael Leppert

Ronald Reagan was posthumously vital to a landmark week in America.  It has been commonplace for some time for some Republicans to refer to themselves as “Reagan Republicans.”  Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has now established the standard for that descriptive.

It’s weeks like these that should inspire Americans to study exactly how the U.S. Supreme Court has been assembled.  The politics of it are fascinating and have taken nearly 30 years and five presidents to implement.  I will admit that even as someone who has worked in politics for 20 years, only in recent time have I been able to even name the nine members of the high court.  After the rulings on the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality this week, I am pretty sure that shortcoming of mine has ended forever.

The court is currently made up of five members appointed by Republican presidents and four by Democrats.  That would imply that conservative members of the public should be happy with this court.  Obviously that is not the case.  In Thursday’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act, Chief Justice John Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan appointee, joined the four Democrat appointees in the landmark decision.  The next day, Kennedy joined the Democrats again on the marriage equality decision, writing the majority opinion which will be quoted and cited repeatedly for the foreseeable future.  It really is that good.

In the partisan climate of today, it seems awkward to some, and maddening to others, to have a Republican appointee to the court side with the Democratic appointees so often and so prominently.  But the nation’s path through the nomination process in 1987 and 1988 to replace retiring Justice Lewis Powell is a vital episode in history that calls for a review this week.  Justice Kennedy was President Reagan’s third nomination to fill that vacancy, and while he was confirmed by the Senate 97-0, it marked the end of a dramatic stretch of D.C. politics that is worthy of a book or two.  Actually, I think there are more than a couple of books on it.

So who remembers Robert Bork?  Oddly, I do.  I also vividly remember the process and fight that Judge Bork went through in his attempt at being confirmed following his nomination to the high court.  It was three weeks of high drama highlighted by a controversial floor speech by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy blasting Bork’s qualifications.  But in today’s context, it is ironic that the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which leads the confirmation process, was none other than our eventual and current vice president, Joe Biden.

Bork came from the Nixon administration and played a vital role in the infamous Saturday Night Massacre, the illegal firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.  When Nixon ordered his attorney general, Elliot Richardson, to fire him, he resigned instead.  The order then fell to Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus, an Indiana native, who also refused to carry out the order and resigned as well.  Next up was Bork, who did fire Cox, leading to Nixon’s private promise to nominate him to the court.  Nixon resigned before he could deliver on that promise.  But 14 years later, Reagan nominated him, even though politically he shouldn’t have.  To say Bork had baggage would be an understatement, and the Senate defeated the nomination as Democrats had promised, on a 58-42 vote.

Reagan followed this up with his nomination of Douglas Ginsburg (no relation to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg), but his nomination was withdrawn nine days later after controversy stirred over his public admission to marijuana use.

After all of that came the nomination of Anthony Kennedy.  There was some concern in Washington that the Senate was not going to confirm any nomination made by Reagan in his last year in office.  But Kennedy won the support of conservatives and liberals as being fair and balanced.  He has gained a reputation of looking at international law for guidance on certain issues such as human rights and has been given the label of a “swing vote” on the panel, a nickname he hates.  Until this week, my favorite quote of his came from a 2010 Associated Press interview when he said that “an activist court is a court that makes a decision you don’t like.”  How fitting that quote seems this week.

The point is that the process of becoming nominated and confirmed as a Supreme Court justice is rigorous and appropriate.  Politicos of all types, who had hoped for different outcomes this week, have been suggesting that this “activist” court, Kennedy in particular, should be held to some different process.  There are presidential candidates talking about impeachment and disbanding the court.  Now all of those suggestions are just silly.  Our process is not broken and the results this week were not wrong.

President Reagan needed to fill the vacancy before he left office and in this case, the third time was the charm.  In reading and relearning some of the positions Reagan held all of those years ago, I expect that our former president would be far from disappointed in his last appointee’s recent landmark opinions.  Of course, that suggestion might agitate conservatives a little as well.  In any case, thank you Mr. President, you picked a good one this time.

The ACA decision was a big one.  But I can’t remember any court decision in my life that has caused a celebration like the marriage equality one.  It was a decision that took a long, long time to be made starting with the assembly of a court that seems to have a clearer vision of America today than our current Congress does.

During our celebrations in the days that follow, please don’t forget how this group of nine people were assembled.  In the case of Reagan and Kennedy, we should be particularly appreciative.  Only a nominee that was historically special could have answered the call to serve that was made to him in late 1987.

Sometimes in politics the most important things that ever happen are not obvious.  The date of the marriage equality decision will appear on high school history exams.  Justice Kennedy’s path to the court should be a part of the same lesson.

(Michael Leppert is a public and governmental affairs consultant in Indianapolis and writes his thoughts about politics, government and anything else that strikes him at

Supreme Court rules 5-4 that independent panels can draw election district lines

(New content recently added: Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina. Also, Mike Pence as well as voting record on RFRA and RFRA “Fix.” – Admin.) Justices rule 5-4 that independent panels can draw election district lines The Washington Post By Robert Barnes 5/29/15 A divided Supreme Court on Monday said voters concerned that partisan gerrymandering is creating unfair elections are entitled to take reapportionment away from state legislatures. The court ruled 5 to 4 that the Constitution does not give legislatures exclusive control over congressional redistricting and said voters may vest … Continue reading

Commentary: The Supreme Court and an end to the bleeding By John Krull 6/26/15 INDIANAPOLIS – Many conservatives now would like to firebomb the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court issued two historic decisions, back to back, that enraged the most partisan and ideological members of the American right. The first came Thursday morning with a 6-3 decision upholding the Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare. This was the second time Republicans had tried an end-around the political process by using the courts. It failed. Worse, the ruling made it clear that the court wasn’t likely … Continue reading

For Republicans, 2 Crucial Court Cases

The New York Times By Albert R. Hunt | Bloomberg View 6/7/15  WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court could make June the cruelest month for Republicans. The court will hand down two decisions fraught with political implications. One will decide whether same-sex marriage is protected by the Constitution, and the other whether to throw out a central piece of the Affordable Care Act, the federal subsidies for about eight million Americans. Conservative opponents of gay marriage and Obamacare want the high court to sidetrack both. Republican Party leaders, and some of … Continue reading

‘Ugly’ potential fallout from Supreme Court health care case

Ruling may gut ‘Obamacare,’ but Republicans would feel the heat if millions lose subsidies By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press 5/25/15 WASHINGTON (AP) — A Supreme Court ruling due in a few weeks could wipe out health insurance for millions of people covered by President Barack Obama’s health care law. But it’s Republicans — not White House officials — who have been talking about damage control. A likely reason: Twenty-six of the 34 states that would be most affected by the ruling have Republican governors, and 22 of the 24 … Continue reading

Six quick facts about today’s massive Supreme Court case that could derail Obamacare

The Washington Post
By Jason Millman

Obamacare is back at the Supreme Court this morning, facing a challenge that represents the biggest legal threat to the health-care law since the justices three years ago upheld the requirement for individuals to have health insurance. The justices will hear arguments today over the financial assistance available to help people purchase health insurance. Here are some key facts to get up to speed about the case, King v. Burwell
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