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Hundreds of people in Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, have rallied against restrictive anti-abortion laws in Texas.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that the protest on Saturday was organized by a coalition of local advocacy groups.

They included the ACLU of North Carolina, El Pueblo Inc., Muslim Women For, NARAL Pro-Choice NC, National Association of Social Workers North Carolina, NC Now, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, PSL Carolinas, SisterSong and Triangle Abortion Access Coalition.

The Texas law, which was passed in May and went into effect in September, prohibits abortions after a fetal “heartbeat” is detected — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the law. The court will hear oral arguments for another major abortion case in December.


A gay substitute teacher was wrongfully fired by a Roman Catholic school in North Carolina after he announced in 2014 on social media that he was going to marry his longtime partner, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn ruled Friday that Charlotte Catholic High School and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Charlotte violated Lonnie Billard’s federal protections against against sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Cogburn granted summary judgment to Billard and said a trial must still be held to determine appropriate relief for him.

“After all this time, I have a sense of relief and a sense of vindication. I wish I could have remained teaching all this time,” Billard said in a statement released Friday by the ACLU, which represented him in court. “Today’s decision validates that I did nothing wrong by being a gay man.”

Billard taught English and drama full time at the school for more than a decade, earning its Teacher of the Year award in 2012. He then transitioned to a role as a regular substitute teacher, typically working more than a dozen weeks per year, according to his 2017 lawsuit.

He posted about his upcoming wedding in October 2014 and was informed by an assistant principal several weeks later that he no longer had a job with the school, according to the ruling.

The defendants said that they fired Billard not because he was gay, but rather because “he engaged in ‘advocacy’ that went against the Catholic Church’s beliefs” when he publicly announced he was marrying another man, the ruling said.

But Cogburn ruled that the school’s action didn’t fit into exemptions to labor law that give religious institutions leeway to require certain employees to adhere to religious teachings, nor was the school’s action protected by constitutional rights to religious freedom.


Pennsylvania locks up far too many first-time and low-level youth offenders, with Black youth in particular disproportionately yanked from their homes and prosecuted as adults, according to a governmental task force that made recommendations on Tuesday to reform juvenile justice in the state.

“Serious racial disparities pervade Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system,” the bipartisan Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force said in its report, adding that changes are urgently needed to make the state’s juvenile justice system more fair and more effective.

Young offenders told the task force of being stuck for years in a system they couldn’t seem to escape, lodged in facilities far from home that weren’t clean or safe and did not offer effective treatment or education. One girl said she’d “learned to live in an institution but not as a person in the world.”

A substantial percentage of young people who commit a minor crime, and are considered at low risk of reoffending, are nevertheless removed from home and placed in a residential facility, the group found in its 16-month review. The practice is widespread despite research showing that out-of-home placement is “generally not effective at reducing recidivism for most youth — and can instead be counterproductive,” the report said.

Policymakers found widespread geographic and racial disparities in how youth offenders are treated, with Black youths more likely than white youths to be removed from home and prosecuted in adult court. Black youths represent 38% of cases in juvenile court, but 62% of the youths detained before adjudication and 47% sent to a residential facility, the report said. The use of detention varied widely from county to county.


A vast swath of West Texas has been without an abortion clinic for more than six years. Planned Parenthood plans to change that with a health center it opened recently in Lubbock.  It’s a vivid example of how abortion-rights groups are striving to preserve nationwide access to the procedure even as a reconfigured Supreme Court — with the addition of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett — may be open to new restrictions.

Planned Parenthood has made recent moves to serve more women in Missouri and Kentucky, and other groups are preparing to help women in other Republican-controlled states access abortion if bans are imposed. “Abortion access in these states now faces its gravest ever threat,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s president. She said the new health center in Lubbock “is an example of our commitment to our patients to meet them where they are.”

The clinic opened on Oct. 23 in a one-story building that had been a medical office and was renovated after Planned Parenthood purchased it. To avoid protests and boycotts that have beset some previous expansion efforts, Planned Parenthood kept details, including the clinic’s location, secret until the opening was announced.

Planned Parenthood says the health center will start providing abortions — via surgery and medication — sometime next year. Meanwhile, it is offering other services, including cancer screenings, birth control and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Planned Parenthood closed its previous clinic in Lubbock, a city of 255,000 people, in 2013 after the Texas Legislature slashed funding for family planning services and imposed tough restrictions on abortion clinics.

That law led to the closure of more than half the state’s 41 abortion clinics before the Supreme Court struck down key provisions in 2016. There were no clinics left providing abortion in a region of more than 1 million people stretching from Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle south to Lubbock and the oil patch cities of Odessa and Midland. Women in Lubbock faced a 310-mile (500-kilometer) drive to the nearest abortion clinic in Fort Worth. Anti-abortion activists have been mobilizing to prevent the return of abortion services to Lubbock — and are not giving up even with the new clinic's opening.

“Lubbock must not surrender to the abortion industry,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz, a West Texas native who attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock and is now communications director for Texas Right to Life. Her organization has backed a petition drive trying to persuade the City Council to pass an ordinance declaring Lubbock a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” Abortion opponents hope that designation would lead to either enforcement efforts or lawsuits seeking to block abortion services.


An Irish truck driver appeared in an English court Wednesday, accused of the manslaughter of 39 people who were found dead in a container in southeastern England in an apparent people-smuggling tragedy.

Ronan Hughes, 40, appeared by at Southend Magistrates Court, east of London, by video link from a police station, after being extradited from Ireland.

The Vietnamese nationals were found Oct. 23 in an industrial park in the English town of Grays inside a refrigerated container that had arrived by ferry from Belgium.

The victims came from impoverished villages in Vietnam and are believed to have paid people smugglers to take them on risky journeys to better lives abroad.

The truck’s driver, Maurice Robinson, 25, admitted 39 counts of manslaughter in April. He had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration.

Hughes wasn't asked to enter a plea and was ordered detained until a plea hearing at London's Central Criminal Court on July 22.


The Trump administration Friday moved forward with a rule that rolls back health care protections for transgender people, even as the Supreme Court barred sex discrimination against LGBT individuals on the job.

The rule from the Department of Health and Human Services was published in the Federal Register, the official record of the executive branch, with an effective date of Aug. 18. That will set off a barrage of lawsuits from gay rights and women's groups. It also signals to religious and social conservatives in President Donald Trump's political base that the administration remains committed to their causes as the president pursues his reelection.

The Trump administration rule would overturn Obama-era sex discrimination protections for transgender people in health care.

Strikingly similar to the underlying issues in the job discrimination case before the Supreme Court, the Trump health care rule rests on the idea that sex is determined by biology. The Obama version relied on a broader understanding shaped by a person's inner sense of being male, female, neither, or a combination.

Writing for the majority in this week's 6-3 decision, Justice Neil Gorsuch said, "An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex.


The Supreme Court will consider allowing the Trump administration to enforce rules that allow more employers to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives to women.

The justices agreed Friday to yet another case stemming from President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, this time about cost-free birth control. The court probably will hear arguments in April.

The high court will review an appeals court ruling that blocked the Trump administration rules because it did not follow proper procedures. The new policy on contraception, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, would allow more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women by claiming religious objections.

The policy also would allow some employers, though not publicly traded companies, to raise moral objections to covering contraceptives.

Employers also would be able to cover some birth control methods, and not others. Some employers have objected to covering modern, long-acting implantable contraceptives, such as IUDs, which are more expensive and considered highly effective in preventing pregnancies.

The share of female employees paying their own money for birth control pills has plunged to under 4 percent, from 21 percent, since contraception became a covered preventive health benefit under the Obama-era health law, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Even though the Trump rules remain blocked, a ruling by a federal judge in Texas in June already allows most people who object to covering contraception to avoid doing so.

The issue in all the cases is the method originally adopted by the Obama administration to allow religiously affiliated organizations to opt out of paying for contraception while making sure that women under their plans would not be left with the bill.

Some groups complained that the opt-out process violated their religious beliefs and wanted to be relieved of even signaling their religious objection.

The Trump administration issued new rules in 2018. New Jersey and Pennsylvania challenged them in federal court, and the appeals court in Philadelphia decided the rules should be blocked nationwide. The states said the administration rules would result in fewer women receiving cost-free birth control through employer health plans and said states would have to spend more money in their programs that provide contraceptives to women who want them.

The justices said they will hear the administration’s appeal together with one filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns. The Little Sisters have argued that the Trump rules would protect them from having to provide some birth control, although Obama administration lawyers had argued that they probably were exempt from the rules.

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