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Monday, June 27, 2016

Big day for the Supremes

by digby

A couple of important cases came down, the most far-reaching being the Whole Women's Health vs Hellerstedt decision which held that the state of Texas did indeed place an undue burden on women by making doctors and clinics go through  inane hoops transparently designed to make it impossible for them to offer abortion services to their patients. It will be a slow walk back in many states that have passed these ridiculous laws but it's a start. The ruling puts teeth into the concept of "undue burden" for the first time in a quarter century. Ian Millhiser at Think Progress wrote:
Whole Woman’s Health leaves the right to an abortion on much stronger footing than it stood on before this decision was handed down. It’s difficult to exaggerate just how awesomely anti-abortion advocates erred in urging Texas to pass HB 2 in the first place. This law was supposed to provide those advocates with a vehicle to drain what life remains in Roe v. Wade. Instead, reproductive freedom is stronger today than it has been at any point in nearly a decade.
Say hallalujah! 
“SCOTUS’s decision is a victory for women in Texas and across America. Safe abortion should be a right—not just on paper, but in reality,” Clinton wrote. “This fight isn’t over: The next president has to protect women’s health. Women won’t be ‘punished’ for exercising their basic rights.” 
President Obama released a statement saying he was pleased with the court’s decision and that his administration remains committed to protecting women’s health. 
“As the brief filed by the Solicitor General makes clear and as the Court affirmed today, these restrictions harm women’s health and place an unconstitutional obstacle in the path of a woman’s reproductive freedom,” Obama said.
If we can keep the Republicans out of the White House long enough to ensure that there's a liberal majority on the court going forward, we might see some progress.

And there was another case decided today that seems pretty important considering current political trends:
At-issue in Voisine v. United States is a technical question of whether two men with convictions for “reckless” domestic assault fall under a federal law prohibiting people convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” from possessing a firearm. The law prohibiting domestic abusers from possessing firearms wasn’t the question under discussion — instead, the question was how far that law reached over certain states’ differing domestic assault laws.

Justice Thomas, however, was very concerned in arguments about the broader law that domestic abusers at large can’t have guns — breaking 10 years of silence on the Court to complain at arguments in February.

“Give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right,” he asked, later suggesting that the particular domestic abusers in this case shouldn’t lose their ability to carry guns because they’ve never actually “use[d] a weapon against a family member.”
His dissent in the case upholding the law is a real doozy. It seems he really can't stand the idea of domestic abusers losing their "right" to have deadly weapons. Even in the face of this:
Most mass shootings (defined as a shooting with four or more casualties), however, take place outside the headlines. They're private disputes, between family members and partners, often with a clear track record of violence and assault escalating to a deadly incident.

More than half of mass shootings involve a family member or intimate partner, according five years of data compiled by The Huffington Post. Of those, 81 percent of the victims are women and children. Victims of domestic violence are 12 times more likely to be murdered when a gun is involved. According to the government attorney on Voisine vs. United States, “individuals who have previously…­­ battered their spouses, pose up to a six­fold greater risk of killing, by a gun, their family member.”

The common thread linking many of America's deadliest crimes is domestic violence, hence the federal law. Yet even when abusers are convicted of misdemeanor crimes for domestic violence -- which don't cover non-married partners who don't live together or extended family members -- and then fall under the Federal statue, implementation is difficult: If an abuser already has a gun, police have to know it -- which is made difficult by the fact that not every state has a gun registry or gun sale database. And, without universal background checks, it's very possible for those with domestic violence restraining orders to get guns even when legally prohibited.

America has a lot of problems with guns. Lack of access for domestic abusers is not one of them.
The Supreme Court took a common sense approach to guns today. It's a very rare person who "needs" a gun. Maybe if you're out in the Alaskan wilds and you need to protect yourself from bears, you do, but other than that, you can do without quite easily. So, if you are convicted of a misdemeanor for threatening or inflicting violence on a family member you don't get to have a gun to shoot them with the next time things get out of hand. That seems like common sense to me.

Maybe some day we can come at it from the other angle and make it impossible for anyone to use semi-automatic weapons and really cut down on the mass shooting fatalities. But for now, this is a step in the right direction.

By the way, many people opposed to this are all for taking away a convicted felon's right to vote, no problem, even though one person's vote never killed anyone. Priorities ...