Update: On the night of January 21, Congressional leadership decided to pull the vote on a 20-week abortion ban scheduled for today. They instead plan to vote on H.R. 7, "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion," which threatens women’s health and access to abortion by denying access to health insurance coverage that includes coverage of abortion beyond the most narrow of circumstances.
Yesterday, we closed our office in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and observed the legacy of this great civil rights leader. It was an opportunity for us to reflect on the immense gains our country made because of the Civil Rights movement and be inspired by the words, courage and actions of leaders like Dr. King. However it was also an opportunity for us to think about the goals of the Civil Rights movement and, when it comes to racial justice and equality, where America is today.
The bill titles for Maine's upcoming legislative session were published this week, and we’re now getting a sense for what our reproductive rights fights are going to look like for the next few months. As far as we can tell, we’ve got two bills related to reproductive rights and one bill related to religious freedom that might have implications for reproductive rights. One bill is proactive – i.e., expanding and protecting reproductive rights. We'll be on the defensive on the other two bills that threaten to restrict reproductive rights.
If you’re feeling the winter blues and want to get out for some excitement, the next several weeks are chock full of unique civil liberties events. You can always find a complete listing of what’s happening on our events page, but given that we’ve got five listings coming up in the span of just three weeks, here’s a quick rundown of each. We hope to see you at one or more of these!
I'm used to writing about how judges rule in free speech cases, but I believe this is the first time I've had occasion to write about how a judge applies the First Amendment in his own courtroom. The First Amendment gives the press (and the public) the right to publish what government officials say and do. This allows us to hold government officials accountable when they do something that we don't like, and this "self-government" principle is one of the strongest justifications we have for our freedom of speech.
In comparison to 2013, 2014 brought us a reduction in the amount of anti-abortion bills that went before state legislatures. It’s early yet, but it looks like 2015 will see a re-opening of the floodgates for legislation that restricts abortion. Anti-abortion advocates in at least nine states have prefiled bills that would unnecessarily regulate and restrict abortion.
The Portland Press Herald recently ran two pieces discussing data recently released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which shows that Maine has the lowest rate of criminal justice involvement of any state in the country. The first, originally published in the Washington Post, compares Maine to states like Texas, California and Georgia and discusses the general trend towards declining prison populations.