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High Court Strikes Down Arizona’s Proof of Citizenship Law, Providing Important Protection for Voters

It’s a good week for residents of Arizona!

Just a few days ago, the Arizona state legislature passed Governor Jan Brewer’s Medicaid expansion proposal, bringing health care coverage to 238,000 low-income Arizonans.

And yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down an opinion that will make it easier for Arizonans to exercise their right to vote.

This morning the Supreme Court decided Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. In this closely-watched case, Arizona residents and civil rights groups challenged a state law that made it harder to vote. The controversial law put the burden on would-be voters to affirmatively prove their U.S. citizenship in order to register.

This law and others like it are serious threats to our right to vote, and they are especially harmful to women voters. Recent studies show that these restrictive voter registration laws disproportionately affect women, who often lack proof of citizenship in their current legal names. Only 66% of voting-age women with access to documents proving citizenship have documents in their current legal names, and only 48% of these women can show birth certificates with their current legal names [PDF]. Women also make up the majority of college students and senior citizens – both populations that are less likely to have qualifying forms of identification. Restrictive voting laws like Arizona’s require these women to jump through hoops in order to register, expending time and money to obtain the necessary documentation. Read more »

Breaking News - Abortion Ban Struck Down!

Good news! The Ninth Circuit has struck down Arizona's law [PDF] that would ban abortions after 20 weeks gestation. The court said what we have been saying all along: this law is unconstitutional. "Because [the law] deprives the women to whom it applies of the ultimate decision to terminate their pregnancies prior to fetal viability, it is unconstitutional under a long line of invariant Supreme Court precedents." (Emphasis my own.) 

This decision overturned a lower court's decision upholding Arizona's law. In doing so, the court rejected Arizona's argument that the law did not actually prohibit abortion because it allowed abortions in cases of medical emergencies. Seeing through this argument, the Court had this pointed response: "Allowing a physician to decide if abortion is medically necessary is not the same as allowing a woman to decide whether to carry her own pregnancy to term." Enough said. 

While we take a moment to sigh relief that a court has stopped this type of unconstitutional legislation pushed by extreme politicians seeking to interfere with women's decisionmaking, the fight isn't over yet. Read more »

3 Bad Opinions: A Frustrating Week for Women’s Rights and Health

Last Wednesday started off a week’s worth of bad court decisions in cases that directly affect women’s reproductive health.

It all started off with the 8th Circuit upholding a South Dakota law that requires doctors to tell a woman seeking an abortion that she would be subjected to “increased risk of suicide ideation or suicide” if she had an abortion. The court seemed unconcerned with the fact that a woman would likely interpret the disclosure as telling her that having an abortion would cause her to be at an increased risk of suicide (a link the scientific studies do not support). Making constrained arguments about relative risk and scientific “uncertainty,” the court rubberstamped a misleading disclosure that will only confuse women in South Dakota seeking abortion care. Decision outcome: it’s ok to mislead women? Check.

Second, a district court in Colorado temporarily stopped the health care law’s contraceptive coverage requirement from taking effect for a for-profit CO company, which specializes in heating and cooling systems, based on the claim that requiring coverage of birth control in a health insurance plan violated the company’s religious freedom. After the judge determined that questions like whether a for profit HVAC company can exercise religion “merit more deliberate investigation,” the court then decided that the government had failed to show it had a compelling interest in providing women access to contraceptive coverage and that there were less restrictive means for doing so. Decision outcome: it’s ok for your boss to make health care decisions for you? Check. Read more »

Breaking News: Ninth Circuit Comes Through for Arizona Women

We just heard that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a preliminary injunction, stopping the extreme pre-viability ban in Arizona from going into effect pending consideration of the case. This is great news for women in Arizona.

Arizona Women Put at Risk Thanks to Judge Ignoring Roe v. Wade

In a devastating setback for women in Arizona, a federal judge yesterday upheld a state law that bans all abortion procedures at 20 weeks from a woman’s last menstrual period (PDF). This law is an unconstitutional attempt to take away from women, their doctors, and their families an extremely personal, medical decision. It harms women in the most desperate situations by ignoring women’s health needs and individual circumstances.

Passing these types of laws has been a recent trend in the states, spurred by those who want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Since 2010, when Nebraska passed the first such law, states have taken them up with alarming speed. There are now 9 states that ban abortion earlier in pregnancy than current law allows. We’ve already seen the devastating consequences for women in Nebraska.

As bad as all of these laws are, the Arizona law is particularly egregious. It bans abortion earlier than the other state laws, with only a severely limited emergency exception.  Read more »

More Good News from Arizona – Bad Minimum Wage Bill Withdrawn!

It looks like Arizona legislators are in the mood to listen to their citizens this week! In more relieving news from the state, the sponsor of the ballot initiative that would have ended the state’s current policy of indexing the minimum wage for inflation has withdrawn the bill, citing polling data indicating that the measure would be defeated by voters. Read more »

Stopping a Rollback of Access to Contraception in Arizona

Good news from Arizona! Legislators there listened to women that their health is not up for debate! Politicians were attempting to make it more difficult for Arizona women to access insurance coverage of birth control by stripping away current protections in the state contraceptive equity law. They wanted to allow any employer with a religious objection – even the CEO of a for-profit corporation – to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to employees. They also wanted to make it easier for those employers to fire a woman if they found out she obtained birth control on her own. Most egregious to the press and public, the bill would have forced women who work for those employers and need contraception for medical reasons to prove it. Read more »

Update: Good and Not So Good News on Proposed State Minimum Wage Cuts

Well, it looks like we can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to Florida’s recent attempt to slash wages for tipped workers. The Florida bill I blogged about earlier this week that would have cut the state’s tipped minimum wage by more than half has died in the state Senate. This is one death I’m happy to celebrate.

Unfortunately, the update from Arizona is not good. Yesterday, the Arizona House passed HCR 2056. The legislature has changed the ballot initiative since it was first introduced, but it has just changed how it would propose to cut the minimum wage. The initiative has been amended to remove the provisions cutting the minimum wage for tipped workers and young workers specifically, but language has been added that would end the current law policy of indexing of the minimum wage for inflation. This means that the state minimum wage, which is now slightly higher than the federal minimum ($7.65 an hour rather than $7.25), will only go up when Congress raises the federal minimum – and that’s not often. In fact, if the federal minimum wage were keeping pace with inflation, it would be more than $10 per hour, rather than the current level of $7.25.  Read more »

State Legislators Propose Cuts to Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers, Younger Workers

Recently we’ve been happy to report on some good news about the minimum wage, including the Department of Labor’s proposed regulations to extend federal minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers (there is still time to submit comments to show your support for these workers), and the Delaware Senate’s passage of legislation to raise the minimum wage in the state to $8.25.

Today, unfortunately, I bring you grim news about two states that are proposing to cut the minimum wage for tipped workers and younger workers. Legislators in Florida and Arizona have proposed new measures that would make their already low tipped minimum cash wages even lower.

In Florida, Senate Bill 2106 would cut the state tipped minimum cash wage from $4.65 to the federal minimum of just $2.13 (which, in addition to being bad policy, may also violate the state constitution). In Arizona, the House Committee on Commerce has approved a ballot initiative, HCR 2056, which would lower the state’s tipped minimum cash wage from $4.65 to $2.53.

The Arizona proposal would also slash the minimum wage for workers under the age of 20 in part time or temporary jobs by up to $3.00, from $7.65 to $4.65. Read more »

2012 Brings a Minimum Wage Increase for Workers in 8 States—Especially Women

Here’s a little bit of good news for the new year: more than one million low-wage workers got a raise on January 1, when the minimum wage increased in the eight states that index their minimum wage for inflation. In each of these states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington), women make up a majority of the workers who will see their paychecks increase this month.  An adjustment for inflation also increased the minimum wage in San Francisco to $10.24 per hour, making it the first large city in the country to require hourly pay above $10.

However, these jurisdictions represent the exception rather than the rule. While another 10 states, the District of Columbia, and some other localities have minimum wages that are set higher than the federal minimum wage, most of their minimum wage rates are fixed and don’t keep pace with inflation. The minimum wage is still below $9.00 an hour in every state but Washington (where it just rose to $9.04/hour). Worst of all, in more than half the states, the minimum wage remains at the federal level, which is just $7.25 an hour.

As the New York Times editorial page highlighted, it’s past time for the federal government to set a higher standard for the states. A woman working full time, year round at the current federal minimum wage will earn just $14,500 annually – that’s more than $3,000 below the federal poverty line for a mother with two children. The value of the federal minimum wage has declined over time; if it had kept pace with inflation since 1968 (when the wage was at its highest mark), it would now be $10.39 per hour. The federal minimum wage for tipped workers is lower still; since 1991, it has been set at just $2.13 an hour, providing an annual base wage of only $4,260 for tipped employees working full time, year round. Read more »