The governor of North Dakota signed a controversial bill on April 16 that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The United States Supreme Court determined in Roe v. Wade that had a woman had the right to a legal abortion until as late as 24 weeks, the age of viability, while the North Dakota bill used the age at which a baby can feel pain.
Other recent laws the North Dakota governor has signed include a law that bans abortions when a baby’s heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks. The state also banned abortions based on genetic defects or genetic selection. In addition, doctors who perform abortions must be admitted to hospitals. The new laws mean that North Dakota places more restrictions on abortion than any other state. Next up for North Dakota is a bill that would ban abortion in the state and define the start of life at conception. Voters will probably vote on the measure in November 2014.
The state currently has one abortion clinic, and pro-choice supporters insist that the goal of the new laws is to shut down the clinic. They claim the laws are unconstitutional and promise to challenge them.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and The Center for Reproductive Rights joined together to fight the new abortion restrictions in North Dakota and in Arkansas. One representative essentially argued that abortion restrictions earlier than 12 weeks could endanger a woman’s health.1
Many people thought that the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade settled the abortion issue once and for all. However, pro-life activists have raised their voices in an outcry against what they believe are lax abortion laws. The recent trial of Kermit Gosnell, who is accused of murdering babies after botched abortions, has only strengthened their position as they insist that abortions are deadly to mothers and babies alike.2 They add that a lack of regulation and financial and political pressures have resulted in reduced oversight of clinics for women in poverty who have little, if any, recourse to pay for birth injuries in the aftermath of a failed abortion.
Laws in North Dakota and Arkansas could eventually mean a trip back to the land’s highest court as abortion foes might contend that new scientific research affects the issue. Earlier fetus viability, improved ultrasounds, and technological advances in determining birth defects could all play a significant role if the court decides to readdress the issue.
As the Supreme Court considered the case for gay marriage at the end of March, most experts agree that the while national laws might not change in 2013, it’s just a matter of time until the court legalizes gay marriage. In the meantime, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and woman, is expected to be overturned on the grounds that the states need to make marriage-related decisions.
At issue are federal benefits for gays and lesbians. Gay marriage is now legal in 10 states and Washington, D.C. and continues to battle forward in the rest of the nation. While one argument against gay marriage addressed procreation, that objection was quickly overruled due to infertile couples or those who are too old to conceive. One justice expressed concerns that the newness of same-sex marriage means the courts is not ready to hear that matter yet. A second justice added that supporters of gay marriage demonstrated inconsistency when they say that children of same-sex couples are doing well but want legal recognition to help their self-esteem.1
The case in question surrounds the relationship of a lesbian couple after one of the parties died. Her partner needed to pay inheritance taxes of more than $360,000 because they were not legally married. Married couples do not pay inheritance taxes.2 The woman is fighting for the right to receive the inheritance granted to her without paying excessive taxation.
Most Americans believe that the implications nationally for the rights of homosexual couples will specifically impact about 25 percent of the country. However, according to a study quoted in Psychology today, slightly less than four percent of adults in the nation self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This translates to about nine million people across the nation.3
Although this figure might be somewhat lower than what was previously suggested, studies further show that most Americans personally know someone who self-identifies as LGBT. 3 This brings the issue closer to home for even some conservatives as they wrestle with long-held traditions and convictions in the face of a family member or friend who might be denied spending their life with a loved one. One poll conducted by CBS and the New York Times in 2012 indicated that 38 percent of Americans were in favor of same-sex marriages while an additional 24 percent supported civil unions. Although one-third of the nation did not want to offer them any recognition, the numbers for those supporting gay marriage continue to increase.3
However, the so-called “slippery slope” of the redefinition of traditional marriage might make some justices nervous. They may hesitate to challenge such a long-standing history in the nation and very well could wash their hands of the decision by giving every state the right to make their own choice on the matter.
In Missouri v. McNeeley in Case No. 11-1425, the accused man was stopped by a police officer for speeding and weaving across lands of traffic. He refused to take a breath test, so the police arrested him and transported him to local hospital to have his blood drawn without a search warrant. The blood test registered over the legal limit, but he requested that the results be suppressed because his Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the blood draw.
The officer claimed that an emergency existed as the alcohol was dissipating from his system. However, the trial court agreed that an emergency did not exist and suppressed the evidence. The case advanced to the State Supreme Court, and they also affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the suspect’s rights had been violated.
On April 17, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower courts and affirmed that the police do not automatically have the right to ask for a warrant for blood tests in all DUI cases. The urgency of drawing blood only applies in certain situations, such as if the driver is injured and can’t provide consent.
In a case that has implications for citizens across the nation, the U.S Supreme Court has upheld the Fourth Amendment rights of suspected drunk drivers. As a result of this ruling, law enforcement personnel across the nation will need to be careful when drawing blood from individuals who are stopped for DUI. Without extenuating circumstances, such as an injury, the evidence will be suppressed, and the case might be dismissed.
In addition, private individuals need to be aware of their rights when they are stopped for impaired driving. However, in many states, failure to submit to a breath test if a law enforcement officer requests one can result in separate charges and the suspension of a person’s driver’s license even if they are not impaired. 2 3 The case also carries implications for criminal defense attorneys who will need to brush up on the legal implications for clients who face drunk driving charged. Prosecuting attorneys will want to be sure that law enforcement personnel followed proper procedures during a DUI arrest.
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