Blog of Rights

The (Not-So-Secret) War on Moms : How the Supreme Court Took Protections Away from Pregnant Workers

The (Not-So-Secret) War on Moms : How the Supreme Court Took Protections Away from Pregnant Workers

By Ariela Migdal, ACLU Women's Rights Project at 11:03am
This week, the Supreme Court ruled, by the all-too-familiar 5-4 margin, that a provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) giving workers time off to care for their own serious health conditions — including pregnancy and childbirth — can't be enforced by state employees in damages lawsuits against their public employers. The decision in Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland effectively stripped many public employees — the majority of whom are women — of the right to job protection when they need to take time off while pregnant. The ACLU had joined an amicus brief arguing that the law was written in a gender-neutral way to provide women workers with the time they needed to go through childbirth and pregnancy-related complications, while ensuring that employers wouldn't discriminate based on the assumption that only women will need to take health-related leave from their jobs. While no opinion garnered five votes, a majority of the Court agreed that the law was not justified as a remedy for a pattern of unconstitutional discrimination against women or pregnant workers.

Not Again: Two More Pharmacies Refuse to Sell Emergency Contraception to Men

By Chara Fisher Jackson, ACLU of Georgia & Olivia Turner, ACLU of Alabama & Brigitte Amiri, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project at 3:30pm

It feels like we are banging our head against a wall. In recent years, pharmacies in several states have refused to sell emergency contraception ("EC") to men. We've recently learned of two additional incidents — both at Walgreens…

LSAT to Nursing Moms: Need Time to Pump?  Tough Titties!

LSAT to Nursing Moms: Need Time to Pump? Tough Titties!

By Galen Sherwin, ACLU Women's Rights Project at 2:04pm

Women should not be forced to choose between breastfeeding their babies and pursuing a legal education — right?

Wrong — at least according to the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), the organization that administers the LSAT.


Rhode Island Stands Up For Pregnant Women in Prison: Says No to Shackling

By Amy Fettig, ACLU National Prison Project & Becca Cadoff, Reproductive Freedom Project & Steven Brown, ACLU of Rhode Island at 12:18pm

Following the lead of a dozen other states, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has signed into law a bill that sharply restricts the harmful practice of shackling pregnant prisoners. As we have learned from the stories of women across the country,…

"So, an ACLU Attorney, a Sheriff, and a Pro-Lifer Walk Into a Bar..."

By Hannah Brass, ACLU of Idaho at 10:46am

I am the Public Policy Director/Counsel for the ACLU of Idaho — that means I have the privilege of lobbying the Idaho Legislature on all things ACLU. If you don’t know much about Idaho and its politics, let me just tell you:…

Glee Rocks Sex Ed

By Becca Cadoff, Reproductive Freedom Project & Dahlia Ward, ACLU at 6:07pm

Full disclosure: We're total Gleeks. We love the show and were so excited for this week's episode, Sexy, where Gwyneth Paltrow returns as a substitute sex ed teacher, Holly Holliday. And we were not disappointed! Glee dove into sex education in…

Incarcerating Pregnant Women Who Are Struggling With Addiction Makes for Bad Law and Even Worse Public Policy

By Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project at 2:28pm
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(A version of this blog post was originally posted on Huffington Post.)

For Ina Cochran, it all began more than four years ago,…

Meeting the Health Care Needs of Pregnant Inmates

By Diana Kasdan, Reproductive Freedom Project at 1:09pm

(Originally posted on Feministing.)

Today, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health published a nationwide survey — "Incarcerated Women and Abortion Provision: A Survey of Correctional Health Providers," by Carolyn B. Sufrin, Mitchell D. Creinin, and Judy C. Chang. For the first time, we have a comprehensive understanding of whether incarcerated women can obtain abortion care in U.S. correctional facilities. The authors surveyed health professionals who provide clinical care in prisons; only 68 percent of respondents indicated that women in their facilities can obtain "elective" abortions. To state the disturbingly obvious flip-side of that statistic: more than 30 percent of respondents indicated that women within their facilities could not access abortion care.

A few weeks ago, an investigative piece in the Texas Observer reported, "For pregnant women in immigration detention facilities, it is virtually impossible to obtain an abortion." Interviews with sexual assault counselors, researchers, and advocates reveal that pregnant detainees — including those who are pregnant as a result of having been raped while crossing the border — face immense, often complete, barriers when they seek abortion information and services. According to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson quoted in that story, of nearly 1,000 pregnant detainees in 2008 "no detainee has had a pregnancy terminated while in ICE custody," though as the article also makes clear, we know that at least some of these women would have requested information about terminating their pregnancies.

What exactly is going on? First, let's put to rest any lingering doubts: The Supreme Court did notrecently decide that pregnant women lose their right to have an abortion when they are in prison, and the Bush administration did not push through a midnight regulation banning reproductive health care for incarcerated women. To the contrary, as I explain in a Viewpoint (PDF) piece published along with the Sufrin study, the law is clear -- women do not lose their right to abortion because of imprisonment, and correctional authorities must ensure that women in their custody have adequate access to abortion care. Likewise, pregnant women who plan to carry to term have a constitutional right to medical care throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum recovery. Unfortunately, too often authorities disregard the unique health needs of pregnant women and assume that they have discretion to permit or deny care as they see fit. As Sufrin's survey confirms, when it comes to abortion, this can lead to a hodgepodge of policies, practices, and perceptions among correctional authorities and staff.

Blog Series on Reproductive Rights in Prison

By Rachel Hart, Reproductive Freedom Project at 2:57pm
RH Reality Check ran a great series last week on reproductive rights in prison, an issue which the ACLU has done quite a bit of work. The blog postings ranged from sexual abuse in prison to mothering as a reproductive right. I've pasted some excerpts…

By Rachel Hart, Reproductive Freedom Project at 5:32pm

Imagine this: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decides to put together a Web site to help parents talk to their children about a number of issues, including sex. HHS needs help finding content to populate the site with reliable information…