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Domestic Bills to Protect Contraception and Marriage Rights

Two bills protecting an individual’s right to contraception and marriage were introduced this week in the House of Representatives: the Right to Contraception Act (HR 8373) and the Respect for Marriage Act (HR 8404). Both bills were proposed following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

HR 8373 protects an individual’s ability to practice contraception and acquire contraceptives, and protects the ability of health care providers to provide contraceptives and related reproductive health information. HR 8373 also provides a private cause of action for individuals harmed by a limitation that impermissibly restricts access to contraceptive-related care, as well as for health care providers, who can sue for damages by their own name and on behalf of their staff or patients who may be harmed by violations thereof.

The Respect for Marriage Act was also discussed this week and provides that if a marriage was valid in the state where it was solemnized, that marriage would be recognized under federal law. Designed to protect same-sex and interracial marriages from non-recognition in all states, HR 8404 would also repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (“DOMA”), which defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman. woman. While DOMA was ruled unconstitutional in USA v Windsorthe concurring opinion of Judge Thomas in Dobbs raises fears that
Windsor could be reconsidered if DOMA is not formally repealed.

The Respect for Marriage Act passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, July 19 and the Right to Contraception Act passed on Thursday, July 21, and both will now go to the Senate.

Georgia ‘Heartbeat’ bill injunction overturned by Eleventh Circuit following Dobbs

In 2019, Georgia passed HB 481, titled The Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act (“LIFE”), which prohibited the abortion of any fetus with a detectable heartbeat absent strictly construed exceptions, including in case of rape or incest when an official police report has been filed alleging the offense of rape or incest, and if a physician determines, based on reasonable medical judgment, that a medical emergency exists or that the pregnancy is medically futile. LIFE has also amended the definition of “natural persons” to include unborn children. A federal district judge banned the law in Georgia, and state officials appealed the decision to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. While the Eleventh Circuit has suspended its review of this injunction pending Dobbs, he has now rescinded the injunction and returned the case to the district court with instructions to enter judgment in favor of Georgia state officials. Concretely, this allows Georgian state officials to start implementing LIFE.

Dobbs argued that the Federal Constitution does not guarantee a substantive right to abortion following due process, thereby undermining the basis for the district court’s injunction. As a result, the Eleventh Circuit found that plaintiffs’ arguments challenging LIFE on these grounds were no longer substantiated. The plaintiffs had also argued that LIFE’s definition of “natural persons” was unconstitutionally vague and would produce a chilling effect on health care providers when providing medical care to their pregnant patients on the basis of possible criminal sanctions. for the provision of routine obstetric and gynecological care. But the Eleventh Circuit also rejected those arguments, finding that a person of “reasonable intelligence” could discern the “fundamental meaning” of the Georgian provision, which is to “broaden the definition of person to include unborn humans.” who are carried in the womb of their mother at any stage of development.” As a result, LIFE’s constitutional challenges failed on both grounds, and LIFE should take effect immediately.

Deceptive practices of VPN providers targeted by congressional Democrats following the Dobbs Decision

In a July 13 letter to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), California Representative Anna Eshoo and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden raised concerns that people using a private network virtual network (“VPN”) may not be as secure as they think against hackers, businesses, government agencies and others, given the opacity of the VPN industry and the high prevalence of VPN providers engaging in practices advertising and misleading data collection. Specifically, lawmakers have asked the FTC to regulate VPN providers, whose current advertising practices make it difficult for individuals to know which VPN providers they can trust. Rep. Eshoo and Senator Wyden cited studies suggesting that VPN providers overstate the protections they provide and store user data despite the fact that they don’t, and found that twelve out of sixteen VPN providers VPNs examined in the study actively misrepresent their products. These deceptive practices give women using a VPN to seek abortions or other reproductive health services a false sense of security. The FTC publicly stated on its blog on July 11 that it would “vigorously” enforce the law whenever it uncovers illegal behavior exploiting a user’s location, health, or other sensitive data.

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