when pigs fly … expect the unbelievable

Archive for January 2016

This week the Economist discussed the issue of unmarried parents.  While in Islamic states these children are turned into orphans when their mothers are executed for fornication (the most drastic example), there are problems elsewhere, including in highly developed, rich countries.  America and England take the position that the couples must marry or they will be treated as unrelated individuals.  France and some Scandinavian countries allow couples to enter into a contract which incorporates some aspects of marriage (like tax breaks and asset sharing).  Australia and New Zealand give couples who live together without the benefit of marriage many rights and duties of marriage after they have lived together for a certain number of years.

If no children are involved, that’s one thing.  But if children are involved — the Economist believes that there should be a default position:  the cohabiting parents would be treated like a married couple for the purposes of inheritance, post breakup maintenance, and asset sharing.

The fact is that many cohabiting couples misunderstand their legal rights.  The continue to believe in the common-law marriage myth.  While Colorado and Alabama, among other states, still recognize common-law marriage, Mississippi does not.

Will gay marriage make a difference?  We must wait and see.


On Friday, November 13, 2015, the United States Supreme Court agreed to accept a case which would require them to review HB2, a Texas law that regulates abortion providers.  The bill would require physicians who perform abortions in Texas hold admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinics and that abortion clinics meet the building standards for “ambulatory surgical clinics.” (Denniston, 2015)

After the Texas legislature passed, and former Governor Rick Perry (GOP) signed the bill into law in 2013, the Court granted a stay which blocked some aspects of HB2 from taking effect.  As a result, 19 abortion clinics are operating in Texas today, down from 44. The Guttmacher Institute, which is a nonprofit which supports abortion rights but whose data is widely cited by both sides of the debate because of its quality research, projects that if HB2 is fully implemented in Texas, the number of clinics would drop from 19 to 10, and those would be concentrated in the metropolitan areas of Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, leaving a large area of rural Texas unserved.

The Court took this case (Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole) after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed U. S. District Judge Lee Yeakel.  Yeakel had held that the admitting privilege and surgical center requirements of HB2 violated US Supreme Court precedent by imposing restrictions that burdened abortion rights without medical justification, by placing the abortion procedure out of reach of some women and requiring others to travel substantial distances to obtain the procedure.

The 5th Circuit, in reversing Yeakel, determined that courts must defer to the legislature as long as it has a rational basis for the statute.  The 5th Circuit found that the Texas legislature’s asserted rationale for the statute was to protect women’s health was a rational basis for the statute, even though it ran counter to views advanced by the medical profession.  (In amicus curiae, the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, among other medical professional bodies, argued that the Texas restrictions serve no medical purpose.) (Bravin, 2015)

In its opinion, the 5th Circuit also encouraged courts to defer to legislative judgments regarding burdens imposed on women seeking abortions.  This dicta runs contrary to language in the other case the 5th Circuit recently decided on the same issue, the Mississippi case:  Currier v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.  In Currier, a different 5th Circuit panel stayed a 2012 Mississippi law (also concerning admitting privileges for doctors performing abortions) because it reasoned that “…Mississippi may not shift its obligation with respect to the established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state.” The 2012 Mississippi law would result in the closure of Mississippi’s only licensed abortion clinic.  Currier argued that Mississippi residents could go elsewhere, but the 5th Circuit disagreed with the argument.  (In Whole Woman’s Health, the 5th Circuit indicated that requiring women to leave the state for abortion services is not necessarily unconstitutional.) (Bravin, 2015)

Both legislatures cite medically legitimate health and safety concerns. The Mississippi legislature was “…concerned by highly publicized reports of deaths and injuries involving facilities across the country that raised serious doubts as to the safety of women undergoing abortion procedures.” (Carmon, 2015)  (Numerous responsible studies referenced in amicus curiae in both cases indicate that abortion is an extremely safe procedure and that women are 14 times more likely to die from childbirth than to die from abortion.)

While parties in Currier, the Mississippi case, filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court on February 18, 2015, and the petition has been distributed for conference consideration on nine (9) occasions since (Johnston, 2015), it appears that the Court will hold this case pending the decision in Whole Woman’s Health.

More on this issue later…




…I go to my site administration page and remember things like this:

A couple of years ago I blogged about both Iris Carpenter and Sarah Osborne.  And Iris’ great grand-daughter, Alison T-P, emailed me to thank me for posting about her ancestor’s life — a very meaningful life, indeed.  And Sarah’s 5th great grand-daughter, Linda Bowden, thanked me for posting about her ancestor — another pivotal life in women’s history in America.

Reminding myself of those two responses makes me feel GOOD!

Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has set aside some serious funding in order to provide English language education for Muslim women living in the UK.  His government has determined that 22% of Muslim women in the UK speak little or no English, which he feels contributes to their isolation in his country.  Segregation, the prime minister says, is allowing “appalling practices” such as female genital mutilation and forced marriage to exist, and increasing vulnerability to recruitment by so-called Islamic State – also known as Daesh. He is also announcing a review of the role of Britain’s religious councils, including Sharia courts, in an effort to confront men who exert “damaging control over their wives, sisters and daughters”.

While not all Muslim women in the UK agree with the PM’s position, perhaps that is because these women exist in a relationship which undermines their personhood.  At ay rate, I stand with the PM.  Education can’t hurt!

Bernie Sanders, the 74 year old Independent Senator from Vermont, is leading Hillary in both Iowa and New Hampshire by about 20 points, according to USA TODAY and Rock the Vote.    The lead is more marked with potential millennial women voters.  Why?  Pollsters reported that some comments included that he was “more trustworthy”, that he seemed to be driven by sound policy decisions, and that he’s a feminist.  No doubt about that!  Sanders is a feminist.  He wants equal pay for women.  He fights against attacks on reproductive rights and has worked diligently to keep Planned Parenthood funding.  He advocates 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.  He wants a $15 minimum wage (over 2/3 of minimum wage workers in the US are women and the low minimum wage continues to penalize women in retirement because it affects their Social Security benefits).  He wants to develop a high-quality childcare and Pre-K plan, making them available to all American families.  And he believes healthcare is a right, desiring to create a Medicare for All system.  He says:  “If the US joined every major country on earth and enacted a universal healthcare program, women would benefit the most.”  He’s right; women, on average, have higher healthcare expense than mem.  As noted by the Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent in the Hobby Lobby case, women of childbearing age spend 68% more in out of pocket health costs than men.

I’m thinking all that sounds pretty good.

Today is Charlotte E. Ray’s birthday.  She was born on this date in 1950 and became the first African American female lawyer in the United States.  She graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1872 and was the first woman (of any color, race or creed) to be admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia in 1872.  She argued her first case in 1875 before this court (Gadley v. Gadley — or possibly Godling v. Godling), a domestic case where she represented an abused woman in a divorce action.

Charlotte opened her own law office and advertised her firm in a newspaper that was owned and operated by Frederick Douglass.  Her private practice was short lived;  she had no sustainable business because of prejudice against women and African Americans.   She ultimately moved to Brooklyn NY and became a teacher.

And just how did she get into Howard?  She applied as C. E. Ray.

January 2016
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