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This Week in Civil Liberties

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The text, "Week in Review."
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May 27, 2011

TGIF, because it’s been a busy week! We fought an authorization for war without end, advocated for an end to the ridiculous prohibition of abortion care for women in the military who have been raped, testified against a bill that proposes to lock up immigrants forever and fought the good fight for Patriot Act reform. And that was just in Congress.

Elsewhere, the Supreme Court handed down a game-changing win for prisoners’ rights, and a national software company made good for LGBT students. And while some states are trying to restrict your right to vote, we’re fighting to safeguard it.

Finally, we begin this weekend by honoring and thanking the military men and women who risk their lives to protect and uphold our constitutional rights. Happy Memorial Day!

Defending the Rights of the Women Who Defend Us
Given the high rates of sexual assault in the military, it’s reprehensible that the military health systemdenies U.S. servicewomen coverage for abortion care after they’ve been raped. This week, Congress had the opportunity to change that, but House leadership instead refused to allow debate on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have ended this policy. Retired Air Force physician Dr. Katherine Scheirman , retired Army Col. Michael Pheneger , and Army veteran Jessica Kenyon all blogged about why this unconscionable policy must be overturned. We now take the battle to the Senate, where our champion, Sen. Kirsten Gillbrand (D-N.Y.) , has vowed to fight for military women’s rights. We’ll keep you posted, and will be asking you to put the pressure on your senator to stand up for military women’s rights!

House Votes to Authorize Worldwide War
You read that right: Yesterday, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision to authorize worldwide war, which has no expiration date and will allow this president — and any future president — to go to war anywhere in the world, at any time, without further congressional authorization. While this was a loss, we’re confident that the momentum against this provision is on our side. Earlier this week, the Obama administration helped efforts to turn the tide when it issued a threat earlier this week to veto the NDAA if it contained this worldwide war provision. The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to begin its markup of the NDAA on June 13. Watch for updates as we continue working on this important issue.

Four More Years of Unchecked Spying, Surveillance and Secrecy
Last night, Congress passed and the president signed a four-year extension of three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. You may recall that the original expiration was scheduled for December 31, 2009 — and what did Congress do after 18 months of short-term extensions, sporadic hearings and a markup or two? Nothing.

Supreme Court Orders California to Reduce its Prison Population to Alleviate Overcrowding
On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the state of California to reduce its prison population in order to alleviate extreme overcrowding that endangers the health and safety of the state’s prisoners and prison staff. The ACLU’s Inimai Chettiar blogged about how crucial this decision is to addressing our nationwide addiction to overincarceration. And Rachel Myers highlighted how this decision is good for taxpayers and our communities.

Software Company Removes “Booby Trap” from Internet Filtering Program
Earlier this week, we were thrilled to announce that California-based software company Lightspeed Systems agreed to remove a web filter that had been blocking public school students’ access to LGBT information websites (like It Gets Better and Day of Silence). Lightspeed’s web filters are used in more than 2,000 schools in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, covering more than 6 million students, so this is a big deal.

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