Lazy Caturday Reads: The Supreme Court’s War on Women

Hilda Belcher, 1881-1963

By Hilda Belcher, 1881-1963

Happy Caturday!!

Last night the Supreme Court released their decision in the mifepristone case. They stayed–for now–Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s order to ban the abortion pill nationwide. The New York Times reports: Supreme Court Ensures, for Now, Broad Access to Abortion Pill.

The order halted steps that had sought to curb the availability of mifepristone as an appeal moves forward: a ruling from a federal judge in Texas to suspend the drug from the market entirely and another from an appeals court to impose significant barriers on the pill, including blocking access by mail.

The unsigned, one-paragraph order, which came hours before restrictions were set to take effect, marked the second time in a year that the Supreme Court had considered a major effort to sharply curtail access to abortion.

The case could ultimately have profound implications, even for states where abortion is legal, as well as for the F.D.A.’s regulatory authority over other drugs.

If the ruling by the judge in Texas, which revoked the F.D.A.’s approval of the pill after more than two decades, were to stand, it could pave the way for all sorts of challenges to the agency’s approval of other medications and enable medical providers anywhere to contest government policy that might affect a patient.

Judges Alito and Thomas dissented. Only Altio wrote a dissenting opinion. From The Washington Post: Supreme Court preserves access to key abortion drug as appeal proceeds.

In the only noted dissents, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would not have granted the Biden administration’s request for a stay of the decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

Thomas did not explain his reasoning. Alito said the administration and the public would not have been harmed by agreeing with the lower court, which wanted to reimpose restrictions loosened by the FDA in recent years.

“It would simply restore the circumstances that existed (and that the Government defended) from 2000 to 2016 under three Presidential administrations,” Alito wrote. He disputed that the court’s intervention at this time would have sent a signal: “Contrary to the impression that may be held by many, that disposition would not express any view on the merits of the question whether the FDA acted lawfully in any of its actions regarding mifepristone.”

Alice Kent Stoddard

By Alice Kent Stoddard

There could have been other dissents; we only know that at least 5 justices voted for the stay. On what happens next:

The 5th Circuit next month will review the merits of the case brought by antiabortion groups against the FDA’s regulation of mifepristone — a review that will be conducted by a separate, and likely different, three-judge panel than the one that made the initial ruling. That merits decision will almost surely be appealed to the Supreme Court no matter the outcome. But until then, the justices’ Friday order says the status quo will remain in place: Mifepristone will be available under existing FDA regulations nationwide.

Joyce Vance wrote a lengthy and detailed discussion of the issues in this case; it’s well worth reading the entire piece at Vance’s Substack page, Civil Discourse: Not Quite Midnight at the Supreme Court. Here is a brief excerpt.

I figured that I’d set my alarm for midnight to see how the Court would rule on the government’s request to stay the Fifth Circuit’s order. That order, you’ll recall, did not side with Texas federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s decision to overrule the FDA’s approval of Mifepristone, a drug proven safe and effective for abortions and miscarriage treatment for over 20 years. But it would have permitted the remainder of the restrictions on Mifepristone that Kacsmaryk ordered to remain in place while the litigation proceeded. That includes requiring the drug be obtained in person and not through the mail, necessitating multiple doctor’s office visits and in-office consumption of the medication, and restricting use to prior to the seventh week of pregnancy—while the litigation proceeded.

When the Supreme Court ruled, they stayed all of it. They preserved the status quo, so Mifepristone will remain available up to 10 weeks, and can be obtained via the mail and used at home while the courts are reviewing the case. But that’s a temporary reprieve.

The stay will last while the case is on appeal to the Fifth Circuit. Presumably the party that loses in that court will appeal to the Supreme Court. They are not required to hear an appeal in a civil case like this. If the Court were to refuse to hear it (“certiorari denied”), then the stay would end and the Fifth Circuit’s order would go into effect. If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal (“cert granted”), the stay will continue until the Court enters final judgment. Because the case involves important issues, it’s very likely the Court will take the case.

Best Friends, Maxime Dastugue

Best Friends, by Maxime Dastugue

Vance spends a several paragraphs discussion Altio’s dissent. Not surprisingly, she is quite critical of Alito’s reasoning. Here’s part of it:

Alito rehashed the debate over the use of what has become known as the Court’s “shadow docket”—a docket used for resolving emergency requests. Interestingly, he seemed to take Justice Barrett to task, associating her views with those of progressive justices like Elena Kagan who have objected to the Court’s use of the docket to make decisions without explaining its reasoning (this makes it understandably difficult for lower courts to understand and apply the Court’s logic). Alito notes that Barrett in a 2021 concurrence with a denial of injunctive relief wrote that the Court should not act “on a short fuse without benefit of full briefing and oral argument” in a case that is “first to address the questions presented.” He says that while he agreed with those rulings, if the justices believed that then, they should believe it now. He does not, however, explain why, if he did not believe it back then, it’s okay for him to believe it now. Apparently what’s good for the goose is unnecessary for the gander.

Injunctions present complicated questions, and courts typically, but not always, try to preserve the status quo and protect parties from being harmed or prejudiced while litigation is pending. For instance, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, one of the cases Justice Alito offered up, Justice Kagan was objecting to the Court’s refusal to keep Texas’s heartbeat law from going into effect while litigation was underway. And that is what the Court ended up doing in this case—preventing any change in the approval status or regulations surrounding Mifepristone’s use while the case is pending. So Justice Alito’s arguments have a tinge of sour grapes, not legal principle.

There’s much more criticism of Alito at the link. Next, Vance addresses the latest news about Judge Kacsmaryk’s bias and dishonesty.

Meanwhile, additional evidence of Judge Kacsmaryk’s anti-abortion bias (there was already plenty) and an improper effort to conceal it has surfaced. In anticipation of his judicial confirmation process in 2019, he requested that his name be removed, pre-publication, from a law journal article he had authored, replacing it with some colleagues from the religious conservative legal group he was working for. The article was critical of legal protections for abortion and transgender people. All federal judicial nominees have to complete a document called a Senate Judicial Questionnaire. The completed application packet is submitted under oath before a nomination can advance. Among other things, it requires nominees to list everything they have published. Kacsmaryk failed to disclose the article and also failed to disclose interviews he gave on Christian talk radio that included his views on abortion and other issues, information the questionnaire calls for.

Again, read more at the Substack link.

Kacsmaryk also has a serious financial conflict of interest. CNN reports: Details about multimillion-dollar stock holding concealed in abortion pill judge’s financial disclosures.

The federal judge who issued a nationwide ruling blocking the approval of a common abortion medication redacted key information on his legally mandated financial disclosures, in what legal experts described as an unusual move that conceals the bulk of his personal fortune.


Woman with Cat, by Theodorus Gerardus Iherminez

In his 2020 and 2021 annual disclosures, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk wrote that he held between $5 million and $25 million in “common stock” of a company – a significant majority of the judge’s personal wealth. The name of the company he held stock in is redacted, despite the fact that federal law only allows redactions of information that could “endanger” a judge or their family member.

CNN obtained a previous financial disclosure for Kacsmaryk – which is not available online – from 2017, when he was a judicial nominee.

On that unredacted form, Kacsmaryk reported owning about $2.9 million in stock in the Florida-based supermarket company Publix. It’s not clear whether that’s the same holding as the redacted stock, although Publix’s share price had significantly increased by 2020 and 2021 and the company is no longer listed on his more recent disclosures.

Redactions are approved by a judicial committee. The redacted holding accounted for at least 85% of Kacsmaryk’s total reported wealth in 2021, and potentially more.

“The whole point of a disclosure is to explain where you have conflicts,” said Michael Lissner, the executive director of the Free Law Project, a nonprofit that has published judicial disclosures. “If you have stock and you’re not saying what it’s in and it’s this much of your personal wealth, that’s a conflict you have. The public deserves to know.” [….]

The redaction is the latest example of Kacsmaryk not being fully transparent as a judge and judicial nominee, even as he has become one of the most controversial judges in the country.

That’s in addition to his not be fully forthcoming in his Senate confirmation hearing, as Joyce Vance described above.

Two more articles on the Supreme Court from Slate:

Christina Cauterucci at Slate: Birth Control Is Next.  If you look closely, attempts to restrict contraception are already in the works.

At first glance, what’s happening right now in Iowa looks like a rosy vision for the future of reproductive rights.

The Republican-controlled state Senate recently passed a bill that would increase access to certain types of contraception by allowing pharmacists to dispense it to patients without a prescription. Their GOP counterparts in the state House have included a similar provision in a larger health care bill. And Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has indicated that the legislation is one of her top priorities this session.

Girl on Divan with Cat (Eta with the Cat) - Róbert Berény 1919 Hungarian 1887-1953

Girl on Divan with Cat (Eta with the Cat) – Róbert Berény 1919 Hungarian 1887-1953

But look elsewhere in Iowa, and you’ll get a different view. Earlier this month, the state attorney general’s office announced that it would suspend payments for emergency contraception for survivors of sexual assault. The medication had been funded through a program for crime victims, but the Republican attorney general is considering a permanent end to its provision. She is “carefully evaluating whether this is an appropriate use of public funds,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

In other words, counter to a refrain that has taken hold on the left since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, conservatives are not coming for birth control next. They’re coming for birth control now.

Some corners of the right are already in full-blown attack mode. Pulse Life Advocates, one of the Iowa-based anti-abortion groups that is advocating against the over-the-counter contraception bill, states on its website that “contraception kills babies.”

It’s relatively uncommon for an anti-abortion group to state its animus toward birth control so plainly. For years, the major players on the anti-abortion right have claimed to support contraception. They seem to understand that more than 90 percent of Americans are in favor of legal birth control and that most people opposed to abortion likely see contraception as an effective means of reducing demand for it….

Cauterucci writes that it would be foolish to believe Republicans’ reassurances about keeping birth control legal.

Conservatives have tried hard to maintain a veneer of rationality on the issue of contraception. But almost a year into the emboldened post-Dobbs anti-abortion movement, the cracks in that facade are starting to show.

Currently, the right to contraception in the U.S. rests on Griswold v. Connecticut, a landmark 1965 Supreme Court decision that is based, as Roe was, on the right to privacy. In a concurring opinion in Dobbs, Clarence Thomas wrotethat the court “should reconsider” several precedents that concern the right to privacy—including the legality of gay intimacy, the right to gay marriage, and Griswold. And a growing number of Republicans are willing to state that Griswold was wrongly decided, including Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn and former Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters.

But the Supreme Court won’t even have to overturn Griswold for conservatives to curtail access to birth control. Across the country, they are executing a game plan that rests on three strategies: Conflate contraception with abortion, claim that birth control is dangerous to women’s health, and let right-wing judges do their thing.

Read more details at Slate.

Mimi Matthews

By Mimi Matthews

This article really shocked me. Mary Anne Franks at Slate: Chief Justice John Roberts’ Mockery of Stalking Victims Points to a Deeper Problem.

Stalking is so closely correlated with lethal violence that experts refer to it as “slow motion homicide”: More than half of all female homicide victims in the U.S. were stalked before they were killed. Despite the terrifying and dangerous consequences, many victims of stalking do not report the abuse to law enforcement for fear they will not be taken seriously.

The reasonableness of that fear was vividly illustrated by the Supreme Court oral arguments in Counterman v. Colorado on Wednesday morning, as members of the highest court of the land joked about messages sent by a stalker to his victim, bemoaned the increasing “hypersensitivity” of society, and brushed aside consideration of the actual harm of stalking to focus on the potential harm of stalking laws.

For nearly two years, Billy Raymond Counterman sent thousands of unsolicited and unwanted Facebook direct messages to C.W., a local musician, ultimately driving her to abandon her career and leave the state. Counterman, who had previously served time in federal prison for making violent threats against his ex-wife and her family, argues that his conduct towards C.W. was free speech protected by the First Amendment. Counterman maintains, supported by amicus briefs from influential civil libertarian organizations such as the ACLU, the EFF, and FIRE, that stalking cannot be criminally prohibited except when the government can prove that the stalker subjectively intended to terrify his victim. The state of Colorado, supported by amicus briefs from First Amendment scholars, stalking experts, and domestic violence victim advocatesargues that it is enough to prove that the stalking would be terrifying to a reasonable person in light of the totality of the circumstances. If the court rules in Counterman’s favor, delusional stalking—no matter how objectively terrifying or threatening—will be transformed into an inviolable constitutional right.

And the ACLU is on the side of the stalkers! The justices got a kick out of the threatening messages sent by the stalker.

During oral argument, Chief Justice John Roberts quoted a handful of the thousands of unsolicited messages Counterman sent to C.W. “Staying in cyber life is going to kill you,’” Roberts read aloud. After a pause, he joked, “I can’t promise haven’t said that,” prompting laughter from other justices and the audience. Picking out another message, which he described as an “image of liquor bottles” captioned as “a guy’s version of edible arrangements,” Roberts challenged Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to “say this in a threatening way,” leading to more laughter from the court. And the laughs didn’t stop there: Counterman’s attorney, John Elwood, shared with the court that his mother would routinely tell him to “drop dead” as a child, but “you know, I was never in fear because of that.”

Suzy Scarborough

By Suzy Scarborough

There were more chuckles when Justice Neil Gorsuch returned to Elwood’s anecdote during his questioning of Weiser, but Gorsuch shifted to a more serious tone to express his concern about the reasonable person standard. “We live in a world in which people are sensitive, and maybe increasingly sensitive,” he began. “As a professor, you might have issued a trigger warning from time to time when you had to discuss a bit of history that’s difficult or a case that’s difficult,” Gorsuch continued, a reference to Weiser’s prior experience teaching on a law school faculty. “What do we do in a world in which reasonable people may deem things harmful, hurtful, threatening? And we’re going to hold people liable willy-nilly for that?”

Justice Clarence Thomas echoed the concern, asking whether the reasonable person standard is appropriate given that people are “more hypersensitive about different things now.” [….]

The justices’ message was clear: Stalking is not the problem; sensitivity is. To them, stalking is quite literally a state of mind: If the stalker didn’t mean for his conduct to be frightening, then it isn’t. All the target has to do is understand that; she just needs to lighten up, take a joke, accept the compliment, grasp the lesson. Just because someone has made objectively terrifying statements is no reason to overreact and get law enforcement involved; victims should wait for the stalker to do something really frightening before they jump to conclusions.

That is just plain terrifying! Women’s lives are already in danger in this country; The Supreme Court is making this state of affairs even worse.

More stories to check out, links only:

Heather Cox Richardson on the history of Earth Day, which is today, at Letters from an American.

The New York Times: Airman Shared Sensitive Intelligence More Widely and for Longer Than Previously Known.

The Washington Post: FBI leak investigators home in on members of private Discord server.

The Guardian: A California journalist documents the far-right takeover of her town: ‘We’re a test case.’

Anthony L. Fisher at The Daily Beast: America’s Tragedy Is Its Culture of Fear—Armed With Millions of Guns.

Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: The Sickening Déjà Vu of Watching Trump Manhandle DeSantis.

The Washington Post: Twitter removes labels from state-controlled media, helping propaganda.

The Washington Post: SpaceX didn’t want to blow up its launchpad. It may have done just that.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!

16 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads: The Supreme Court’s War on Women”

  1. bostonboomer says:

  2. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      Kevin McCarthy is worried about the debt ceiling that he is holding hostage to cuts in Medicaid, food stamps, etc.

  3. dakinikat says:

    They need to quit referring to these folks as conservatives. They’re theocrats.

    • dakinikat says:

  4. darthvelma says:

    On the stalking case…There has not been a moment in my lifetime that the ACLU has actually been on the side of women.

    I also find it interesting that there’s not even one reference in that article to any of the female Justices and what they might have said or how they reacted watching their male counterparts mock the legitimate concerns women have that a stalker might escalate and kill them.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Good points!

    • quixote says:

      Only women are too “sensitive.” Anybody else remember the FBI swinging into action over one tweet from a 14 year-old?

      “Hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st [2014] I’m gonna do something really big bye.”

      It was a joke she said. Nobody cared. Nobody said ‘haha, we shouldn’t be so sensitive.’ Now we’ve been thoroughly trained out of making any jokes at airports.

    • NW Luna says:

      That stood out to me right away. The male judges have no understanding of what women go through.

      I once went to a lawyer about the stalking & threatening messages I received from an ex which included references to using a gun. The lawyer said dismissively “Oh, they all say that,” as if the prevalence of men threatening harm to women meant it was inconsequential.

      • bostonboomer says:

        They not only don’t understand, but they obviously don’t care. They must follow the news and I’m sure they have seen the havoc they caused. They simply don’t care.

        I’m so sorry that happened to you, Luna.

  5. quixote says:

    Am I the only one thinking the theocratic Supremes could be trying to figure out how to cool it with abortion drugs so that Repubs don’t lose every election from here on out?

    The problem being how to do that while still looking all very christofascist.

  6. NW Luna says:

    Alito said “the public would not have been harmed” about reversing regulations about mifepristone. Gives a different impression than if he’d said “women would not have been harmed.” That’s the problem with using “people” instead of the more specific and accurate “women” when talking about women’s rights. It camouflages the reality that it’s women and not men (the other half of ‘people’) who are oppressed because of their sex class.

    • quixote says:

      It also camouflages the fact that Alito can’t see women as members of “the public” since harm to them is “nobody was harmed.”

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. In regards to that stalking article:

    What the fuck? And I mean…what the fuckity FUCK?