Forty Years of Restrictions on the Health-Care Rights of Low-Income Women

By Kate Vlach

September 30 marks the fortieth anniversary of the passage of the Hyde Amendment, a provision that has drawn a line between rich and poor when it comes to the constitutionally protected right to abortion.[1] Named after its main proponent, Rep. Henry Hyde, the Hyde Amendment bans federal Medicaid dollars from paying for abortion services in almost all cases.[2] The law’s practical effect means that women with financial resources have the right to choose when and whether to become parents, while women in poverty are left with a right in name only. If a low-income woman cannot afford the cost of an abortion procedure, she is denied a meaningful choice about whether to carry a pregnancy to term.

Medicaid is a publicly funded insurance program designed to meet the health needs of those who cannot afford medical care.[3] Yet, in Harris v. McRae, the Supreme Court held that Congress could exclude medically necessary abortion services from the Medicaid program under the Hyde Amendment.[4]According to the Court, this categorical denial of health services did not violate the Constitution because the freedom to choose does not come with “a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail [one]self of the full range of protected choices.”[5]  It reasoned that “although government may not place obstacles in the path of a woman’s exercise of her freedom of choice, it need not remove those not of its own creation. Indigency falls in the latter category.”[6]

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Advancing Justice Through Social Professionalism

by Mina Dixon Davis

Yelp, the cheery one-stop shop for restaurant and other crowd-sourced reviews, was in 2014 the “most popular and trusted website for legal reviews.”[1] But for prospective litigants in the lowest income bracket, affordable representation might as well be off the menu.[2]

Efforts to increase access to justice have been incremental, according to Richard Zorza, Founder and Coordinator Emeritus of the Self Represented Litigation Network.[6] Zorza joined other stakeholders at the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics 2016 Symposium: Remaining Ethical Lawyers in a Changing Profession[7] to discuss how trends like online rating tools and commercialization bear on access to justice concerns.

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What Go Set a Watchman Can Teach Us

by Claire Chevrier

Trayvon Martin was killed by a man with multiple gun-related arrests who now makes his living painting Confederate flags.[1]  Mike Brown was shot by a police officer for allegedly stealing a box of cigarillos.[2]  Eric Garner was killed in front of all of us for selling loose cigarettes.[3]  Sandra Bland died in jail after a routine traffic stop.[4] Corey Jones was killed by a plain-clothed, rookie police officer who shot him while he was pulled over with car trouble.[5]  And Barack Obama is our president, perhaps creating a false collective “one Black friend,” thereby allowing implicit biases to bubble up where they were previously suppressed.

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The Community Eligibility Provision: A Fresh Solution to Hunger in Poverty-Stricken Schools

by Jacob Woodward

The Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, was established in 2010 under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.[1]  CEP is a new program designed to reduce the number of hungry students in high-poverty schools. Starting in the 2011-2012 school year, the CEP began to be phased into certain schools.[2]  2014-2015 was the first school year of national availability for the initiative and garnered the participation of over 14,000 high-poverty schools.[3]  That represents about half of the schools that are eligible to participate in the CEP, and one out of ten schools in the nation.[4]  Over 2,200 school districts – one in seven – have adopted the provision, resulting in more than six million children having access to two healthy meals a day.[5]

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Fighting Modern Day Debtors’ Prisons in the American Justice System

by Johanna Schmidt

Long lasting principles in the American criminal justice system require that it be sensitive to the needs and treatment of people who are indigent.[1]  This sensitivity encompasses all aspects of trials, including access to counsel on direct appeal,[2] transcripts, and court records.[3]

Most importantly, the Supreme Court has continually affirmed that people who are indigent must be fined differently from their wealthy peers. In Tate v. Short, the Court held that “the Constitution prohibits the State from imposing a fine as a sentence and then automatically converting it into a jail term solely because the defendant is indigent and cannot forthwith pay the fine in full.”[4]  Continue reading

Could a Supreme Court Case Light the Spark that Dissolves Unions?

by Beatrice Igne-Bianchi

Friedrichs v. California Teachers’ Association[1], a public labor union case, is pending before the Supreme Court this term, with oral arguments scheduled for January 11. Many are apprehensive it will harm — and potentially dissolve — the strong tradition of public employee unions in the United States.[2]  Named plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs is a teacher in Orange County and she, along with the Christian Educators Association[3] and nine fellow public school teachers, filed a lawsuit arguing against paying agency, or fair share, fees to the Association of which she is not a member.[4]

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Combating Food Deserts: Targeting Food Insecurity through Community Development Initiatives

by Maxamillia Moroni

Residents of Ward Three in Washington, D.C., which covers the upper Northwest quadrant of the District, have the highest average household incomes and the lowest rates of obesity in the city. Ward Three is also home to eleven of the District’s full-service grocery stores, amounting to one store for every 7,343 people. Conversely, residents of Wards Seven and Eight, which span the Southeast quadrant of the city, have the lowest average household incomes and the highest rates of obesity. In these Wards, there is one grocery store for every 20,415 residents.[1]  High poverty rates and limited access to healthy, wholesome foods are indicative of the food insecurity facing residents of many major metropolitan areas. While food insecurity is a mere symptom of larger, systemic issues facing our populations, targeted solutions that address food deserts can provide the foundation for broader community development.

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Stigma Not Science: The Prosecution and Punishment of Drug Use During Pregnancy

by Rebecca Besaw, Staff Editor, GJPLP

Combining claims of fetal personhood and the war on drugs, prosecutors and judges have come together to deny pregnant women full protection under the law. Through severe and direct punishment for drug use during pregnancy, these state actors continue the tradition of the war on drugs by targeting low-income people and people of color for prosecution.[1] 
According to National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a non-profit organization that specializes in this issue, at least 45 states have attempted to prosecute pregnant women based on a theory of harm to the fetus.[2]

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Continued Segregation in an Unlikely Place

by Holly Wonneberger, Staff Editor, GJPLP

When the general public thinks of the state of Connecticut, they likely think of fall foliage, large colonial brick houses, and Ivy League campuses.

These images do not reflect a whole reality.

Most people know that Brown v. Board of Education determined that separate but equal is not equal, and schools across the country were required to integrate.[1] A lesser-known state-level case, Sheff v. ONeill was decided over four decades after Brown, and sought to demand the same changes. Sheff ordered Hartford-area schools to integrate because the existence of extreme racial and ethnic isolation in the public school system deprives school children of substantially equal educational opportunity; and required the state to take further remedial action.[2] The Connecticut Supreme Court concluded the school districting scheme, as codified in districting and attendance statutes, was unconstitutional under the Connecticut Constitution.[3]

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Rapid Re-Housing in the District of Columbia

by Meha Patel

In recent years, the District of Columbia government has focused homelessness alleviation efforts on its rapid re-housing program. The program provides homeless individuals and families with short-term rental assistance. Individuals pay thirty to forty percent of their income towards their monthly rent, while the rapid-rehousing subsidy pays the remainder. These subsidies aim to provide homeless individuals adequate housing as soon as possible, rather than waiting to provide housing until these individuals have reached certain behavioral benchmarks, for example employment, sobriety, or compliance with mental health counseling. The program adequately understands the difficulty homeless individuals have in achieving stability in other areas of their lives when they are burdened with homelessness, and how housing can be a first step towards this stability and independence.

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