Texas Placed “Undue Burdens” on Women’s Right to Choose

Following are excerpts from the Syllabus of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling today in WHOLE WOMAN’S HEALTH v HELLERSTEDT. Some paragraph breaks have been added for readability:

In 2013, the Texas Legislature enacted House Bill 2 (H. B. 2), which contains the two provisions challenged here. The “admitting- privileges requirement” provides that a “physician performing or inducing an abortion . . . must, on the date [of service], have active admitting privileges at a hospital . . . located not further than 30 miles from the” abortion facility. The “surgical-center requirement” re- quires an “abortion facility” to me et the “minimum standards . . . for ambulatory surgical centers” under Texas law.

. . .

(b) The record contains adequate legal and factual support for the District Court’s conclusion that the admitting-privileges requirement imposes an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose. The requirement’s purpose is to help ensure that women have easy access to a hospital should complications arise during an abortion procedure, but the District Court, relying on evidence showing extremely low rates of serious complications before H. B. 2’s passage, found no significant health-related problem for the new law to cure.

The State’s record evidence, in contrast, does not show how the new law advanced the State’s legitimate interest in protecting women’s health when compared to the prior law, wh ich required providers to have a “working arrangement” with doctors who had admitting privileges.

At the same time, the record evidence indicates that the requirement places a “substantial obstacle” in a woman’s path to abortion. The dramatic drop in the number of c linics means fewer doctors, longer waiting times, and increased crowding. It also means a significant increase in the distance women of reproductive age live from an abor- tion clinic. Increased driving distances do not always constitute an “undue burden,” but they are an additional burden, which, when taken together with others caused by the closings, and when viewed in light of the virtual absence of any health benefit, help support the District Court’s “undue burden” conclusion.

(c) The surgical-center requirement also provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an “undue burden” on their constitutional right to do so. Before this requirement was enacted, Texas law required abortion facilities to meet a host of health and safety requirements that were policed by inspections and enforced through administrative, civil, and criminal penalties.

Record evidence shows that the new provision imposes a number of additional requirements that are generally unnecessary in the abortion clinic context; that it provides no benefit when complications arise in the context of a medical abortion, which would generally occur after a patient has left the facility; that abortions taking place in abortion facilities are safer than common procedures that occur in outside clinics not subject to Texas’ surgical-center requirements; and that Texas has waived no part of the requirement for any abortion clinics as it has done for nearly two-thirds of other covered facilities.

This evidence, along with the absence of any contrary evidence, supports the District Court’s conclusions, including its ultimate legal conclusion that requirement is not necessary. At the same time, the record provides adequate evidentiary support for the District Court’s conclusion that the requirement places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion. The court found that it “strained credulity” to think that the seven or eight abortion facilities would be able to meet the demand.

The Fifth Circuit discounted expert witness Dr. Grossman’s testimony that the surgical-center requirement would cause the number of abortions performed by each remaining clinic to increase by a factor of about 5. But an expert may testify in the “form of an opinion” as long as that opinion rests upon “sufficient facts or data” and “reliable principles and methods.” Fed. Rule Evid. 702. Here, Dr. Grossman’s opinion rested upon his participation, together with other university researchers, in research tracking the number of facilities providing abortion services, using information from, among other things, the state health services department and other public sources. The District Court acted wi thin its legal authority in finding his testimony admissible.

Common sense also suggests that a physical facility that satisfies a certain physical demand will generally be unable to meet five times that demand without expanding physically or otherwise incurring significant costs. And Texas presented no evidence at trial suggesting that expansion was possible. Finally, the District Court’s finding that a currently licensed abortion facility would have to incur considerable costs to meet the surgical-center requirements supports the conclusion that more surgical centers will not soon fill the gap left by closed facilities.

Also see Justice Ginsburg’s concurring opinion:

” . . . it is beyond rational belief that H. B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.'”

Austin, Texas Immigrants Demand Moratorium on Deportations as Supreme Court Fails to End Partisan Attack on DAPA

(AUSTIN, Texas) — In response to the Supreme Court decision in Texas vs US, the case of 26 Republican governors suing to block the deferred action programs announced in November 2014, immigrant communities in Austin are calling on local leaders here to go as far as possible to end deportations in Austin and Travis County. They join immigrant communities around the U.S. in calling for President Obama and DHS to take further action to stop deportations and for his potential successors to take up their call.

With the news of the ruling, the ICE out of Austin campaign reaffirmed its call for the separation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Austin Police Department. APD does not have official policies preventing officers from asking people about their immigration status and for several years Travis County had one of the highest rates of deportations in all of the United States.

Local politicians can take action to separate themselves from this disappointing Supreme Court ruling and the administration’s shameful lack of action on deportations. Many politicians have shown support to the immigrant community be saying they support DAPA/DACA yet have not acted locally. “What good is it now that local politicians have shown support for DAPA/DACA knowing that their local support would not affect the final decision?” says Carmen Zuvieta from the ICE out Campaign. “If they want to show actual support they need to do everything in their power to stop the deportations here locally. We need our politicians to take a practical step forward to end deportations locally and not just support in a politically convenient way”

With local police collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continuing, the Travis County Sheriff’s department continuing to participate in Priority Enforcement program, as well as the spectre of a possible Trump Presidency, national groups are saying it would be reckless for President Obama to pass the current immigration system onto the next President whoever that will be without taking major steps to halt deportations and address abuse.

“Today, Austin and Travis County residents are more angry than fearful. We are tired of waiting to have justice in this country, we are tired of being used as political pawns. We are joining the national call on the President and his potential successor to stop the deportations. He needs to take real action towards immigration before he leaves office or his legacy will be forever be as Deporter-in-Chief,,” said Alejandro Caceres, manager of the ICE out of Austin campaign.

As part of the #Not1More campaign, ICE out of Austin has launched a petition to the President available at https://action.mijente.net/petitions/no-dapa-no-deportations.

Marisa Franco, #Not1More campaign director, reacted, “The way to keep communities from living in fear is to put a freeze on deportations. It doesn’t take a new program for the President to direct his agents to investigate civil rights violations as vigorously as it currently hunts our loved ones. With the courts also taken over by the party politics that have ruled the immigration issue for more than a decade, President Obama has a responsibility to pursue alternatives to make his policies more humane.”

“It is never enough to divide our community into those who deserve relief and those who don’t,” explains Tania Unzueta, Legal and Policy Director for #Not1More. “Under President Obama we have witnessed the creation of a parallel mass incarceration system strictly for immigrants. The relief offered by expanding deferred action is desperately needed and entirely constitutional. But even with DAPA, only a fraction of us would be protected. With it now blocked, many more of us still face the threat of the deportation machine that it is incumbent on President Obama to begin to dismantle.”

Source: http://grassrootsleadership.org/releases/2016/06/austin-immigrants-demand-moratorium-deportations-supreme-court-fails-end-partisan

Hunger Strike Spreads to Texas Detention Center

Systemic Abuse by GEO Group and ICE Exposed in Multi-State Effort by Detainees in Private Facilities

(Tacoma, WA, Conroe, TX) – After a massive hunger strike inside the Tacoma Detention Center reached its 11th day, detainees found their effort spreading to other facilities inspired by their demands. Last night at midnight, immigrants held at the Joe Corley Detention Center in Conroe, TX initiated their own fast in protest of their treatment at the facility run by the same company, the GEO Group, and as part of the nation-wide call for an end to deportations.

Immigrant rights activist Maru Mora Villalpando sees momentum building for reforms but expressed concern over the reaction of ICE and the GEO Group: “The hunger strikers are civil rights leaders taking a brave stand against inhumane treatment. At the Northwest Detention Center, GEO Group and ICE have retaliated by putting leaders in solitary confinement and threatening to force-feed others. With the strike spreading to Texas, it’s time for ICE and GEO Group to recognize the detainees’ demands instead of engaging in retaliation.”

Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership in Austin, Texas added, “Immigrants in detention should not have to go to such extreme lengths to blow the whistle on mistreatment within ICE’s vast and largely privatized immigration detention system. GEO Group, the for-profit prison corporation that operates both these detention centers, has a well-documented track record around Texas of canceled contracts and scandal-ridden facilities, including at several prisons for immigrants in Texas.”

In the recent White House budget proposal to Congress, the administration sought funding for a quota of more than 30,000 individuals to be held in detention on a daily basis, upholding what has been an unprecedented practice of subjecting immigration enforcement to an arbitrary line item. Detainees say that the treatment they receive is a result of the profit-seeking element that has inserted itself into the detention system. An attorney who confirmed the strike this morning after visiting the Conroe, TX facility, communicated the hunger strikers demands to be:

Stop the deportations
Just treatment for detainees
End overcrowding in the cells
End double judgement for old cases
Food with nutrition in it
Better medical care
Lower calling prices
Lower rates at commissary

and said the detainees wanted it known that they were inspired by the on-going Washington State efforts.

Read two letter from the hunger strikers here: Letter 1, Letter 2.

An eight-page handwritten letter from the Washington State hunger strikers explaining their demands is available upon request. The letter states, in part, “[W]e join ourselves to that effort and demand that the Federal Executive (Mr. President Barack Obama) use his presidential authority and order a total stop to the unjust deportations that are separating families, destroying homes, and bringing uncertainty, insecurity and unhappy futures to our children, our loved ones.”

(Trusted Source: GrassRoots Leadership, TX)

Stop Robert Garza’s execution by association in Texas

by Joan Braune and Amanda Lusky
Re-posted from WagingNonviolence by permission of authors

Robert Garza is scheduled to die on September 19. The state of Texas has not attempted to prove that he killed anyone. When a young Latino male in the Rio Grande Valley — the long-impoverished, southernmost tip of the state — is accused of gang involvement, the question of who actually pulled the trigger does not give pause to Texas’ well-oiled killing machine.

Garza was convicted of involvement in the shooting of four immigrant women in a car in Donna, Texas, 11 years ago. The killings were carried out by members of the gang to which Garza belonged, allegedly to protect the gang from criminal charges from a witness to a previous crime. He was convicted under a controversial law in the state known as the Law of Parties, which does not require the prosecution to prove that the defendant killed anyone, or even intended to kill, but only that she or he had a certain level of involvement in a felony that led to a murder. Under this law, for example, someone who drives a culprit to a convenience store and waits outside, intending to drive the get-away car after an armed robbery, can be charged with murder if the other person kills someone inside the store.

In 2007, Kenneth Foster, Jr., was facing execution in Texas under the Law of Parties, and his case had been subject to much media attention and protest. Just hours before his execution, Foster’s sentence was commuted by Governor Rick Perry — who is not known for skepticism about capital punishment — from death to life imprisonment. Following the commutation of Foster’s sentence, a bill was proposed in the state legislature to remove the application of the death penalty to Law of Parties cases; the bill failed to pass, however, and it is still possible to receive a death sentence under the Law of Parties.

Garza contends that he did not participate in shooting the women whose murder has landed him on death row, and that he was not even at the scene of the crime. However, he does not eschew all blame for the deaths of the four women that day in 2002; he admits that he knew the crime was going to occur and that he did not act to prevent the killings. But after 11 years of incarceration, he speaks of repentance, of having become a devoted Christian. He now deeply regrets his involvement in gang activity and wants to speak out against gang violence. (Garza’s mother, Sylvia Garza, has also become an active advocate of an end to gang violence.) This is a long journey from Garza’s troubled youth. He left school after eighth grade, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and he spent time in the juvenile corrections system while still a teenager.

Supporters of Garza have created a Facebook event with further information for those who wish to contact the governor and the Board of Pardons and Paroles to stop the execution. Letters to decision-makers can also be found here and here.

Very little public discussion has drawn the connection between the Law of Parties and Garza’s fast-approaching execution date. In fact, a local television news interview earlier this summer focused instead on a prosecutor’s claim that Garza was involved in the infamous “Edinburg massacre,” which occurred months after the crime for which Garza was convicted. Garza was not tried for involvement in the Edinburg killings, but the report focused on that crime instead and on the mother of two of the Edinburg shooting victims, who wants to be present at Garza’s execution.

Like the “stand your ground” laws that have garnered much press of late in relation to the George Zimmerman trial, the Law of Parties is not neutral with regard to race, class and other power differentials because of how it treats members of so-called gangs.

A gang, like a corporation, is a group of people organized in a particular way. Unlike a gang, however, corporations have recognition as legal persons, and members and shareholders in a corporation are largely protected from criminal liability when the corporation engages in illegal activity. The members of a gang, however — often younger and generally darker-skinned than corporate CEOs — tend to be held criminally liable for each other’s actions under legislation such as the Law of Parties. Although one might object that gangs have an explicitly violent aim while corporations do not, that is much too simple. It is well known, for example, that some gangs in U.S. history have played roles in social justice movements; “CRIPS,” for example, stands for Citizens Revolution in Progress. The Latin Kings gang in New York has been reconfiguring itself into a nonviolent organization against police brutality and for basic liberties, as detailed in the documentary Black and Gold. Although Robert Garza’s own gang, the Tri-City Bombers, has been involved in multiple murders and can hardly be considered an nonviolent advocacy organization, the difference in treatment between the Bombers and, say, Union Carbide is puzzling.

There are a myriad of reasons that people oppose the death penalty across the board, from holistic commitments to nonviolence to concerns about racial and economic disparities and the false convictions of innocent people. But Robert Garza’s case is not simply a case about the death penalty. It forces us to ask whether we are willing, as a society, to inflict execution upon people whom we acknowledge did not intentionally or directly participate in the killing of anyone.

The British common law tradition, out of which our legal system largely emerged, linked murder to “malice aforethought” — premeditated evil, with full intent to kill. The Law of Parties, in a rush to place harsher sentences on people involved in gang-type criminal activities, cuts away at this tradition and privileges punishment over basic justice. Blaming gang members for the entire collective’s actions does not necessarily stop the gang; loyalty and the sacrifice of a few might strengthen them all.

Garza’s case represents a missed opportunity that we still have time to rectify. We should be improving community support and education so young people have some place besides gangs to turn to. Rather than trying to put more people in prison and on death row, we can strive to run out of prisoners instead. Achieving this goal will only happen if we critically re-evaluate our current conceptions of justice. Garza’s life could represent a starting point for dialogue about these difficult topics. Silencing Garza by executing him not only stops his story from becoming a powerful message of hope — it makes our own silence deafening.


Joan Braune is assistant professor of philosophy at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisc. Amanda Lusky is an M.A. in philosophy. She is currently finishing a Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky on pragmatism and innovative democracy.

A Humble Plea from Wendy Darling: Come to the Texas Capitol

People call me Wendy Darling. I am a special needs fat person, and I am a non-violent activist. I am also a woman from Texas. I was born here, in a small town. Into a family and community that will never really be able to understand me. Our lives are so different, we don’t enjoy the same activities or music or…much of anything. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my family, or that I can’t have compassion for my fellow man. It’s just difficult to be around each other sometimes because of our lack of understanding of each others’ ways. I wish we were able to forgive each other for our differences sometimes and just agree to disagree without making each other feel like pariahs for having an opposing viewpoint. I’m willing to admit my own failure in this area.

These days, no matter what your political views, or lack thereof, everybody complains about how corrupt the government is in some way or another. I hear the Constitution, and the rules argued back and forth by all sides on every issue. Well, what I viewed with over 100,000 other people via the live-stream of the Texas Senate special session this past Tuesday – Wednesday morning was a group of underdogs, who came prepared, and banded together to represent the people who elected them. I do not represent the Democratic party, but I watched them doing their JOBS, and the people who came to offer their support cheering them on. These Texas Senators played hard, but they played by the rules, and they WON fair and square.

From their opposing side, I saw a man take advantage of a woman’s absence due to the funeral of her father to sneak in and try to steal the floor away, and throw out the rulebooks completely. I saw men with friends in high places try to cheat the system.

I don’t care what you believe regarding this bill. We live in the United States of America, where we have a bunch of annoying, boring rules set in place to which our elected officials must follow while representing their constituents to the best of their ability. We have to trust them to do what they say they’ll do.

Well those Democratic Texas State Senators followed rules, and they had the blessing of the people.

Don’t believe what Rick Perry says. He is a slick snake, and a liar that doesn’t care WHAT happens to Texas women or babies. Perry and his camp use fear tactic words like “unruly mob” and “terrorists” to describe aunts, mothers, sisters, friends, brothers, husbands, grandmothers, wives, sons and daughters. He doesn’t care if this bill passes or not. What he cares about is doing whatever it takes to keep his wallet full. He is a laughingstock, and he an embarrassment. He makes Texas look stupid and ignorant to the rest of the ENTIRE WORLD. They laugh at us for continuing to elect such a moron. That saddens me because I LOVE TEXAS.

I want Texas to be the place I can be proud to call mine. The place they taught us about in elementary school. The Texas written about in the lyrics of our state song. Texas, our Texas. The state with that unforgettable shape. The Lone Star on the flag that is the only state flag allowed to fly at the same height as the United States flag. The state that has beaches, and prairies and mountains and coastal plains. My favorite land in the U.S.A. Where my spirit knows it is home.

I choose my battles carefully. I have to because as a disabled woman, I fight a daily internal fight against multiple illnesses that rob me of my energy and ability to live pain-free. I can’t sit idlely by while these gladiators go back into the lion’s den. I must go and offer my presence, and possibly my voice to honor their loyalty to the task put before them. If they have to go back and do battle against this same bill, I want to be one of the people there to give them the courage to push forward. I want to witness what will surely be a great struggle for truth, justice, and the American way.

I started writing this several hours ago, and now I get to my point. There are people fighting all over this land and the world for their rights against governments that have completely turned on them. Now, I have seen with my eyes, time after time, the government in my own backyard acting directly against the people. DIRECTLY AGAINST WOMEN.

I am sending out a humble plea.

Join us at the Texas State Capitol on July 1st to hold witness this special session. Come out from every corner of Texas and stand up and be counted. If you are an ally of freedom anywhere on this country, drop what you are doing and get here. We need you. We need your presence. We need your strength.

As you stand with us on behalf of Texas women, you stand symbolically against whatever injustices are happening in your own neighborhood and around the world. The people united can never be divided.

If positive change can happen in Texas, it can happen anywhere.

In the event I am arrested on July 1st, or something else happens to me, I would like for my family and friends and the rest of the world to know.