Will SCOTUS Uphold Domestic Abusers’ Right to Own Guns?

Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash

It has now been a year since the Supreme Court issued its first major gun decision in over a decade. In New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Court ruled that the constitutionality of gun control laws can no longer be determined solely by state interests. Instead, laws must have a historical analogy to the firearm regulations in place at the time of the Constitution’s framing. Under this new standard, firearms continue to evolve over time but their regulations cannot. 

Since Bruen, more than 450 lawsuits have been filed to challenge local, state, and federal gun laws. In May, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that prohibiting individuals under the age of 21 from purchasing firearms is unconstitutional. Three weeks later, a federal appeals court decided that those convicted of nonviolent felonies cannot legally be prevented from owning a firearm. 

But among the many lawsuits filed, few are as troubling as United States v. Rahimi. On February 2, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled it unconstitutional to prohibit people with domestic violence restraining orders to own firearms. In this decision, the court struck down a federal law under 18 U.S. Code Section 922, which barred anyone “subject to a court order” concerning violence to a domestic partner or child from bearing arms. 

According to the panel, which was composed of three Republican-appointed judges, 18 U.S.C. § 922 is not consistent with the “nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” Since the plain text of the Second Amendment does not restrict individuals subject to court orders from purchasing firearms, the court found the gun control law to be unconstitutional. 

The Rahimi decision poses grave threats to victims of domestic violence. In the U.S., two-thirds of women killed by an intimate partner are killed with a firearm. Weak gun control laws also increase the number of violent crimes committed against women, and states with the loosest restrictions experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence. 

Recognizing the link between gun violence and domestic violence, the Biden Administration has urged the Supreme Court to reassess the 5th Circuit’s ruling. “Whether analyzed through the lens of Supreme Court precedent, or of the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment, [18 U.S.C. § 922] is constitutional,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Accordingly, the Department will seek further review of the Fifth Circuit’s contrary decision.”

On June 22, the Supreme Court met behind closed doors to decide whether they will accept the Justice Department’s request to review the Rahimi case during its next term. While the Court typically rejects follow-on cases after major opinions such as Bruen, supporters of gun control and anti-domestic violence groups have placed pressure on the justices. 

In a press release issued by the Battered Women’s Justice Project, twelve domestic violence victims advocacy groups and gun control organizations denounced the 5th Circuit’s decision. The groups jointly filed an amicus brief to overturn Rahimi, stating that “federal provisions disarming dangerous domestic abusers subject to a protection order are proven lifesaving laws.”

The Feminist Majority Foundation stands with victims of intimate partner violence and urges the Supreme Court to uphold sensible gun laws. While overturning Rahimi would be just the first step in pushing for tighter gun laws, it will send a critical message that the lives of domestic violence victims are more important than constitutional precedent. 

Google Made Millions from Advertising Fake Abortion Clinics

Photo from JASIATIC CLC

As a growing number of U.S. states enact bans on abortion, pregnant individuals are overwhelmingly turning to online resources for medical care. From telehealth providers to abortion travel services, virtual healthcare is now vital for abortion-seekers across the country. But despite the increased use of online services, the internet can also be a hotbed of abortion misinformation. 

According to a new report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a non-profit that tracks online misinformation, Google has earned $10.2 million from advertisements misdirecting users to fake abortion clinics. These clinics, also known as “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs), are facilities that portray themselves as legitimate reproductive health clinics, but actually exist to convince women not to have abortions. 

Using the analytics tool Semrush, CCDH researchers identified a total of 188 fake clinic websites that advertise their services on Google Search. Of these clinics, 84 percent target internet users searching for abortion-related keywords and phrases. 

Imran Ahmed, co-founder of CCDH, reprimands Google for misdirecting hundreds of thousands of Americans seeking abortion care. “Google is a willing participant and supporter of the fake clinic industry,” says Ahmed. “It is the lynchpin of a multi-million dollar fake clinic industry that works around the clock to deprive Americans of medical assistance by deceptive means.”

The Escalating Threat of CPCs

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines CPCs as nonmedical facilities that “aim to dissuade people from accessing certain types of reproductive health care, including abortion care and even contraceptive options.” While some clinics employ registered nurses and social workers, the centers themselves are unregulated by state health departments. 

Without substantive regulations, CPCs have no legal obligation to present accurate medical information to pregnant individuals and are not required to maintain client confidentiality. Various undercover clients have stated that CPC counselors told them that abortions elevate mental illness and infertility risks. CPCs have also told patients that women who get abortions are more likely to commit suicide. None of this is true. 

In fact, a study found that being denied abortion care results in worse financial, health, and family outcomes for women. Without abortions, women are four times more likely to live below the federal poverty line. The study further reports that 95 percent of women who had an abortion expressed that the procedure was the best decision for them. 

But with the help of Google Search, CPCs use digital marketing tactics to quickly spread misinformation about abortion. The CCDH study estimates that 71 percent of fake clinics advance false claims that abortions are linked to harms such as cancer through advertisements. Google Search has also become the top source of referrals to CPCs. With Americans making nearly 102 million Google searches related to abortion each year, Google is complicit in spreading abortion misinformation. 

CPCs are Connected to the Increase of Violence against Abortion Facilities

When the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the federal right to abortion, anti-abortion groups began targeting clinics in states protective of abortion. While many extremist groups use physical violence to intimidate abortion providers, CPCs are equally important to the violent anti-abortion movement. 

According to the Feminist Majority Foundation’s (FMF) most recent National Clinic Violence Survey, abortion clinics located near a CPC are more likely to experience high levels of violence and harassment. The survey reports that 41 percent of such abortion clinics experience at least one case of severe violence. CPCs not only confuse patients but are connected to increased violence against actual reproductive healthcare providers. 

Today, CPCs outnumber abortion clinics three to one, with 2,546 operating nationwide. As more reproductive health clinics stop offering abortion care, CPCs will create unsafe environments for both abortion seekers and doctors. 

Google’s Role in Helping CPCs

The FMF stands with women and all pregnant individuals. Through our National Clinic Access Project, we aim to reduce anti-abortion violence and misinformation. CPC advertisements facilitated by Google threaten the life-saving work of abortion clinics.

In line with CCDH recommendations, FMF urges Google to demand full transparency from fake clinics running advertisements. Currently, one-third of CPCs do not state on their websites that they do not provide abortion care. Fake clinics must include disclaimers about their services, and Google should prohibit advertisement grants for deceptive CPC websites. 

Above all, Google should prioritize real abortion clinics in search results. When pregnant individuals seek healthcare, they need real services that offer the full range of reproductive care options. Highlighting licensed medical facilities in abortion-related searches would ensure that Google users are connected to organizations that truly care about their autonomy. Abortion seekers deserve no less than the truth.

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