Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Last Call For Cincinnati's Shame

And Ohio's ridiculous abortion law leaves the Queen City one step closer to being the largest American metropolitan area with no abortion access whatsoever.

A women’s clinic in Cincinnati, Ohio has lost its bid for a reprieve from new, restrictive anti-choice laws in the state and may be forced to close. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, this leaves the city one step closer to being the largest in the U.S. without any local abortion provider. 
The state moved to revoke Women’s Med Center of Sharonville’s license to practice in the state based on its inability to comply with Republican-sponsored laws aimed at gutting women’s health options in Ohio. State health officials appointed by Gov. John Kasich (R) say that they are acting to protect women’s safety, but Kellie Copeland of the Ohio chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) told the Enquirer that the state’s motivations are ideological. 
“Governor Kasich and his political appointees at the Ohio Department of Health are abusing their regulatory authority by moving to close an abortion clinic without any medical justification,” charged Copeland. 
At issue are so-called transfer agreements with local hospitals. Clinics that provide abortions are required to partner with a local hospital. While most abortions are simple outpatient procedures, sometimes there are complications and a patient must be transferred to a hospital.
Republican lawmakers made it illegal for women’s clinics to partner with hospitals that receive state money. Private hospitals, on the other hand, are reluctant to partner with women’s clinics, creating a Catch-22 in which clinics must meet requirements that they are unable to fulfill. This is one of the many ways in which state-level Republicans are attempting to make abortion illegal in the U.S. by default. 
Women’s Med has been operating under a variance request as it searches for a partner hospital. On Friday, Health Department Director Theodore Wymyslo — a Kasich appointee — denied the clinic’s request to renew the variance.

There are a grand total of two abortion clinics in Cincinnati.  One is about to close.  The other, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Mt. Auburn, is about to run out of time on its own transfer agreement on October 1.  If that happens and this clinic closes as well, by the end of the year, you will not be able to get an abortion in Cincinnati, period.  

Or at least, a safe and legal one.  I'm betting you'll be able to get an unsafe and illegal one still.

Working It Out

The latest case to come before the US Supreme Court may be the end of public employee unions, and thus organized labor, in America.  The case is Harris v. Quinn, and it just may be the case that makes "right-to-work" the new normal for all 50 states.  Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog:

In the end, it may not happen, but the demise of public employee unionism was at least on the table for lively discussion in a Supreme Court argument Tuesday morning. The case of Harris v. Quinn would only spell doom for government workers’ collective action, it appeared, if Justice Antonin Scalia could be persuaded to join in doing it in; there just might be enough other votes.

This seemed an unlikely case to even raise that issue, but raise it, it surely did. The case only involves home-care workers who provide medical services for patients one on one, and the prospect that their activities might pose a threat to labor peace appeared remote indeed. Several members of the Court, though, were insistent that this case raises very large issues about labor relations in the public sector — an issue that is stirring up a good deal of agitation around the country, especially in state and local government.

Aside from what was said explicitly from the bench, the atmospherics of Tuesday’s argument suggested strongly that this case has very large potential. The mood of the Court’s more liberal members was one of obvious trepidation, and that of its more conservative members — except for Justice Scalia — was of apparent eagerness to reach anew the core constitutionality of compulsory union support among public workers.

In other words, the only thing keeping public employee unions alive in this country is Justice Scalia, who might consider a court mandate busting practically every union in the country governmental overreach.

It's not looking good.  Nina Totenberg:

"What I don't understand," said Justice Samuel Alito, "is why the union's participation in this is essential. ... Why do they need to have the union intervene here?" All of the benefits negotiated by the union could have been granted unilaterally by the state.

Alito suggested that former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, now in prison on corruption charges, recognized the union in exchange for a large campaign contribution. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli replied that in fact the union recognition program was enacted by large bipartisan majorities in the state Legislature

"In an era when government is getting bigger and bigger," said Justice Anthony Kennedy, "suppose the young person thinks that the state is squandering his heritage on unnecessary or excessive payments or benefits." Can the union "take money" from an employee who disagrees with the union on such "a fundamental question"?

In other words, Justice Kennedy is strongly implying that if a union doesn't have unanimous support among all members, they are unconstitutionally violating First Amendment rights.  It's ridiculous, but there you have it.  And that's a slippery slope, too.  What's to stop them from then saying if a law doesn't have the support of all the people it affects, it's unconstitutional?  If I don't agree with a law, does that mean my First Amendment rights are being trampled?

Who knows?

Bob-bing For Prison Time

The hammer, the anvil, the bellows and the entire blacksmith's shop has fallen on former GOP Virginia Gov. Bob "Invasive Ultrasound" McDonnell, as he and his wife were indicted on federal charges on Tuesday.

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife were indicted Tuesday on corruption charges after a monthslong federal investigation into thousands of dollars in gifts the Republican received from a businessman and political donor. 
A bond hearing and arraignment is set for both defendants Friday in U.S. District Court in Richmond. 
"Today's charges represent the Justice Department's continued commitment to rooting out public corruption at all levels of government," Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman said in a news release. "Ensuring that elected officials uphold the public's trust is one of our most critical responsibilities." 
McDonnell left office earlier this month after four years in the governor's office. Virginia law limits governors to a single term. 
A federal investigation overshadowed the final months in office for the once-rising star of the Republican Party, with authorities looking into gifts he and his family received from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplements maker Star Scientific. 
In July, McDonnell apologized and said he had returned more than $120,000 in loans and other gifts from Williams. He insisted that he had done nothing illegal on behalf of Star Scientific but said he'd do "things differently today than choices I made a couple of years ago." 
On Tuesday, McDonnell repeated that apology but insisted he had done nothing wrong. 
"I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility," McDonnell said. "However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship."

I'll go ahead and save you the trouble of a GOP response:  "This is a politically motivated prosecution by Obama's corrupt and Orwellian 'Department of Justice' against yet another political enemy, with the goal of distracting America from the failure of Obamacare and from the Democrat party's role in the four deaths of brave Americans in Benghazi."

Feel free to use that, Republican operatives.  America really does need a good belly laugh at you clowns.

Oh, and you know who should be really sweating right now?  Chris Christie.

TPM has a recap of the most interesting bits from the indictment here, including the knowledge that the McDonnells were deep in debt, and the suggestion that McDonnell was considering letting Star Scientific use state employees as guinea pigs for human testing of their products:

In August 2011, following an email from Bob McDonnell to Virginia's secretary of health, Maureen McDonnell met at the Executive Mansion with Williams and one of the secretary's senior policy advisors. At that meeting, according to the indictment, Williams discussed the idea of having Virginia government employees use Anatabloc, Star Scientific's anti-inflammatory dietary supplement, "as a control group for research studies." 
This wasn't the only time this kind of idea came up. In October 2011, according to the indictment, Maureen McDonnell accompanied Williams and a research scientist who consulted for Star Scientific to a company event in Grand Blanc, Mich. They took Williams' private plane, and during the flights there and back, they discussed the potential health benefits of Anatabloc, the company's anti-inflammatory dietary supplement, and the need for clinical studies. The scientist later emailed Maureen McDonnell a summary of their discussions. In it, he suggested it might be useful "to perform a study of Virginia government employees… to determine the prevalences [sic] of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions."

Because Republicans care.


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