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This Week in Civil Liberties (12/06/2013)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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December 6, 2013

What lobbying group forces Catholic hospitals to abide by directives that potentially put religion above patient health?

Freedom of the press is protected by what amendment in the U.S.?

What government agency asked a court to allow evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment to be used in trial?

What company announced this week its vision of using drones to make home deliveries?

The ACLU and the Center for Popular Democracy filed a FOIA lawsuit asking which government agency to disclose information about its involvement blocking the use of eminent domain to help homeowners affected by foreclosure?

Pregnant Woman Suffers. You Won’t Believe Who’s to Blame.

Tamesha was only 18 weeks pregnant when her water broke prematurely. She rushed to Mercy Health—the only hospital within half an hour of where she lived. The hospital did not tell her then that she had little chance of a successful pregnancy, that she was at risk if she tried to continue the pregnancy, and that the safest course of care in her case was to end it. Bleeding, in pain, and suffering a significant infection, the hospital simply sent her home not once, but twice.

How could something like this happen? Because Mercy Health is Catholic-sponsored, it is required to adhere to the “Ethical and Religious Directives,” a set of rules created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to govern the provision of medical care at Catholic-run hospitals. At hospitals like Mercy Health, the Directives are put above medical standards of care.

An Attack on the Press, on Both Sides of the Pond

The First Amendment may be on shaky ground here in the United States, but at least most folks, on both the left and right, agree that freedom of the press is a good thing – or, at least, a necessary evil.

Not so much across the pond. This week, the British Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee demanded that Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian newspaper, explain why he’s not a traitor. The Guardian was the first outlet to publish stories based on the Snowden documents, exposing the mass surveillance activities of both the U.S. and U.K. signals intelligence agencies.

DOJ asks court to give police the benefit of the doubt on murky surveillance law

This week, the Department of Justice filed a petition to the Third Circuit arguing that, while it doesn’t challenge the court’s ruling that the police violated the Fourth Amendment rights of electrician Harry Katzin when they placed a GPS tracker on his van without a warrant, the officers who placed the tracker on Katzin’s car did so in good faith, believing that what they were doing was legal. The DOJ therefore wants the Third Circuit to allow the evidence against Katzin to be used in trial. The court’s opinion on this question is critically important, especially given how rapidly surveillance technologies develop as opposed to how slowly the law changes around digital privacy.

Amazon and Drones

Amazon attracted a lot of attention this weekend when, on “60 Minutes,” CEO Jeff Bezos announced a futuristic vision for the company: using drones to make deliveries within 30 minutes to homes in metropolitan areas.

Communities of Color Face Unexpected Foe in Foreclosure Prevention

This week, the ACLU and the Center for Popular Democracy filed a FOIA lawsuit, asking a federal judge to order the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to turn over information on why the FHFA came out so strongly against Richmond, Calif., and Irvington, New Jersey, and the other suffering communities that are interested in using their eminent domain power to keep homeowners affected by the foreclosure crisis in their homes. If the FHFA really is putting the interests of Wall Street above those of hard-hit communities, we’re going to have a hard time getting the housing market back on track.

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