Tag Archives: pregnancy

Deadly backstreet abortions to rise with Trump restrictions

Thousands of women will die from unsafe abortions and millions will have unwanted pregnancies following President Donald Trump’s decision to ban U.S.-funded groups from discussing abortion, activists said this week.

Trump reinstated the so-called global gag rule, affecting U.S. non-governmental organizations working abroad, to signal his opposition to abortion, which is difficult to access legally in many developing countries due to restrictive laws, stigma and poverty.

“Women will go back to unsafe abortion again,” said Kenyan campaigner Rosemary Olale, who teaches teenage girls in Nairobi slums about reproductive health. “You will increase the deaths.”

The East African nation has one of world’s highest abortion rates and most abortions are unsafe and a leading cause of preventable injury and death among women, government data shows.

Globally, 21.6 million women have unsafe abortions each year, nine out of 10 of which take place in developing countries, according the World Health Organization.

The gag rule, formally known as the Mexico City Policy, prevents charities receiving U.S. funding from performing or telling women about legal options for abortion, even if they use separate money for abortion services, counseling or referrals.

It will hit major reproductive health charities, such as International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International, as the United States is the world’s largest bilateral family planning donor.

Unless it receives alternative funding to support its services, MSI estimates there will be 2.1 million unsafe abortions and 21,700 maternal deaths during Trump’s first term that could have been prevented.

“Abortion is a fundamental right for women and also very necessary public health intervention,” said Maaike van Min, MSI’s London-based strategy director.

MSI has been receiving $30 million per year in U.S. Agency for International Development funding to provide 1.5 million women in more than a dozen countries with family planning services.

It will have to cut these services unless it finds other donors, the charity said.

“Women won’t be able to finish their education (or) pursue the career that they might have, because they don’t have control over their fertility,” said van Min.

“Aid is under pressure everywhere in the world and so finding donors who have the ability to fund this gap is going to be challenging.”

INHUMAN

Women who live in remote areas without government services will suffer most, van Min said, highlighting mothers in Nigeria and Madagascar where MIS has large programs.

“If they don’t now control their fertility, they are at high risk for maternal mortality,” she said. “I remember this lady who had had too many pregnancies and she came up to me … in this village and she was like: ‘Can you make it stop?'”

Other important health services are also likely to be cut, said Evelyne Opondo, Africa director for the Center for Reproductive Rights advocacy group, recalling the large number of facilities that closed down in Kenya after President George W. Bush came to power in 2001 and reinstated the gag rule.

“They refused to adhere to the global gag rule so they lost quite a substantial amount of funding,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.

“They were also forced to drastically reduce other services that they were providing, including for survivors of sexual violence (and) for HIV.”

Abortion rates across sub-Saharan Africa increased during the Bush administration, according to a WHO study.

“It’s really unfortunate that the lives and the health of so many women are subject to the whims of American politics,” Opondo said. “This is really unethical, if not inhuman.”

Reporting by Neha Wadekar; Editing by Katy Migiro and Ros Russell. This report is from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.

Planned Parenthood: Ryan lies about access to health care in Wisconsin

During a CNN town hall meeting last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan told a patient who relies on Planned Parenthood that she would have many other places to go for her health care if he is successful in kicking Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid program.

However, ending funding for preventive care at Planned Parenthood would devastate essential health care access among the country’s and state’s most vulnerable populations — most prominently in Paul Ryan’s own back yard.

If Paul Ryan really wanted women to get the health care they need, he would not propose ending Planned Parenthood’s ability to serve 50,000 people in Wisconsin, leaving most of them without another provider.

As a part of the pubic health network in Wisconsin, no one knows better than Planned Parenthood the lack of access people in our state already face. We have been unable to identify alternative health care providers who are able to absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients in Wisconsin — including in Paul Ryan’s own district.

In 73 percent of the counties PPWI serves, there is not a provider who could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients. In those rare communities where there are other community health care providers, many would be unable to meet our patients’ need if Planned Parenthood could not provide care.

In fact, more than 6,000 people living in Speaker Ryan’s own district rely on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment and birth control. On behalf of these patients, we ask Speaker Ryan where these people go for health care? Community based health centers like Planned Parenthood are critical for especially vulnerable patients without easy access to other providers.

Even with Planned Parenthood’s continued care, there is a tremendous unmet need for health care in Wisconsin and in Speaker Paul Ryan’s own district. In Ryan’s district specifically, STD rates, teen births, poverty, infant mortality and unemployment rates are all higher than the state average. We’ve been hearing from leaders, partners and patients across Wisconsin, including those in the Speaker’s district. What they all know is ensuring continued access to a trusted and affordable community health care provider like Planned Parenthood is something we should all agree is important to help keep our communities safe, healthy and strong.

 

Groups challenge abortion restrictions in 3 states

Abortion rights groups filed three lawsuits challenging medically unnecessary abortion restrictions in Alaska, Missouri and North Carolina.

This follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down two Texas laws that devastated access to abortion in the state. Since the ruling, abortion restrictions in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Oklahoma and Wisconsin were blocked.

The lawsuits involve the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU and challenge the following:

  • Medically unnecessary Alaska restrictions, passed more than 40 years ago, that ban abortion in outpatient health centers after the first trimester of pregnancy, forcing many women to travel out of state for procedures.
  • A ban on abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy in North Carolina which was recently amended to further restrict the already narrow health exception to extremely limited health emergencies.
  • Medically unnecessary restrictions in Missouri that have closed all but one health center that provides abortion in the state.

“Today’s filing is a major step in the fight to ensure all women can get safe and legal abortions in their own communities, when they need them,” stated Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “We are a nation of laws, and the center is prepared to use the full force of the law to ensure women’s fundamental rights are protected and respected.  We are proud to stand with our partners in challenging these unconstitutional measures and vow to continue the fight for women’s health, equality, and dignity.”

At Planned Parenthood Federation of America, chief medical officer Raegan McDonald-Mosley said, “These restrictions have a disproportionate impact on those who already face far too many barriers to health care as people of color, people who live in rural areas, or people with low incomes. These laws are dangerous, unjust, and unconstitutional — and they will come down.”

Added Jennifer Dalven of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project: “With the cases we are filing today, we are sending a clear message that we won’t stop working until every woman can get the care she needs no matter who she is, where she lives, or how much money she makes.”

In the Alaska case,  Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands is represented by Janet Crepps of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Brigitte Amiri of the ACLU, Carrie Flaxman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Tara Rich and Eric Glatt of the ACLU of Alaska, and Susan Orlansky of Reeves, Amodio, LLC.

In the North Carolina case, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic is represented by Maithreyi Ratakonda and Carrie Flaxman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Beverly Gray, M.D. and Elizabeth Deans, M.D. are represented by Andrew Beck of the ACLU; Amy Bryant M.D., M.S.C.R., is represented by Genevieve Scott and Julie Rikelman of the Center for Reproductive Rights; Irena Como and Christopher Brook of the ACLU of North Carolina is representing all plaintiffs.

In the Missouri case, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region are represented by Melissa Cohen and Jennifer Sandman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Arthur Benson of Arthur Benson & Associates.

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that women have a constitutional right to decide whether to end or continue a pregnancy and states cannot ban abortion prior to viability.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court refused to review North Dakota’s ban on abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy and Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy that had been struck down by lower courts.

The Supreme Court’s Whole Woman’s Health decision also affirmed that states cannot pass sham restrictions on abortion.

Bracing for the return of ‘Summer of Mercy’ anti-abortion protests

Twenty-five years after tumultuous mass protests led to nearly 2,700 arrests outside local abortion clinics, Wichita is bracing for a Summer of Mercy.

The Wichita Police Department has spent months putting together a 60-page operational plan that aims at ensuring that everyone is safe.

“I don’t think that we are anticipating an event like 1991,” said Police Capt. Brian White. “However, we have to be prepared for all possibilities and we want to ensure protesters have the ability to exercise their rights to protest, and we also want to make sure that we balance that with the legal right for the businesses to operate.”

The return of the Summer of Mercy, slated for July 16-23, is being organized by Operation Save America, a Dallas-based Christian fundamentalist group led by Rusty Thomas. Group leaders say they hope to complete in 2016 what activists started in 1991.

About 100 to 150 police officers have been assigned to the protests.

“While we have had good lines of communications with protesters, we have to be prepared for the unexpected and that is what we are doing,” White said.

Donna Lippoldt of Operation Save America’s Wichita affiliate did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Pastor Rob Rotola, whose Word of Life Church is hosting the Summer of Mercy, also did not return a call from the Associated Press.

Abortion provider George Tiller and the clinic where he performed abortions had been a target for decades. His clinic was bombed in 1985 and Tiller was shot in both arms in 1992. He was murdred in 2009 at his Wichita church by an abortion opponent. For years afterward, no abortion services were available. Then, in April 2013, the group Trust Women opened the South Wind Women’s Center in Tiller’s former facility.

Director Julie Burkhart said the clinic plans to stay open during this year’s protest, but a decision was made not to do any counter protesting.

“It is a new approach,” Burkhart said. “That our work is here inside and it is out talking to people who would like to have meaningful conversations in the community and not standing out basically wasting energy on folks that will never be able to understand that sometimes some people need or want to access abortion care.”

Instead, abortion rights supporters put together other events, including a rally and reception as part of what they’ve dubbed the #ShowSomeMercy Celebration.

Gwen Moore introduces bill for national protocol in investigating infant deaths

Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore has introduced legislation in the U.S. House to develop standardized national guidelines for protocol in death scene investigations, autopsies and the collection of data following an infant or child death or stillbirth.

The Reducing Unexpected Deaths in Infants and Children Act would increase local and state funding to collect more complete and thorough data after an infant and child death, improve death scene investigations and expand support services for grieving families who have experienced the loss of an infant or child, according to a news release from Moore’s office.

To draft the bill, Moore collaborated local and national organizations, including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, Safe States Alliance, Society of Medicolegal Death Investigators, Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood Program, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin.

She said in a statement, “With thousands of stillbirths and babies dying suddenly and unexpectedly every year in the United States, this stark reality demands our attention, our concern, and most importantly, our swift action.

“As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, I find it shameful that America’s infant mortality rate rivals that of many developing countries. My bill … provides valuable support to states, municipalities and organizations to help understand and combat child and infant death. We have the resources and capacity to prevent these tragedies from occurring. All we need now is the political will. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this critical legislation.”

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said, “We applaud Congresswoman Gwen Moore for continuing to support women and families by introducing The Reducing Unexpected Deaths in Infants and Children Act. This bill will help combat infant mortality by providing resources to improve the health of women before, between, beyond and during pregnancy. As the nation’s leading reproductive health care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood is dedicated to ensuring access to quality, affordable care for women  — essential pieces for preventing infant mortality and building strong, healthy families and communities.”

Georgia woman jailed for using abortion pills now faces new charges

A Georgia woman spent nearly three days in jail without bond before prosecutors decided police had wrongly charged her with murder after being told she had used pills ordered online to terminate her pregnancy.

Kenlissia Jones, 23, has been freed and no longer faces a malice murder charge. But her legal case isn’t over. District Attorney Greg Edwards told reporters that he still plans to pursue a misdemeanor charge against Jones for possessing a dangerous drug.

Abortion rights advocates say the case is troubling because it appears to be part of a creeping trend in which women are being prosecuted for exercising their abortion rights. An Indiana woman last March was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of feticide for using pills to end her pregnancy.

Jones may have escaped a murder prosecution in Georgia, but the police’s decision to charge her is chilling, said Lynn Paltrow, an attorney and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women in New York.

“The initial reaction of the police and prosecution to view her as a murderer is reflective of the current political climate in this country,” Paltrow said.

Even abortion opponents such as Genevieve Wilson, a director of Georgia Right to Life, were stunned by the proposed murder charge.

Georgia has prohibited the prosecution of women for feticide or for performing illegal abortions in cases involving their own pregnancies. Edwards said the arresting officers acted within their authority and used “their best understanding of the law,” but that their understanding was incorrect.

“Georgia law presently does not permit prosecution of Ms. Jones for any alleged acts related to the end of her pregnancy,” the prosecutor said.

Edwards noted that police had charged Jones without consulting his prosecuting attorneys.

Jones was arrested after seeking help at a hospital. A social worker told police that Jones had taken four Cytotec pills she ordered online after breaking up with her boyfriend. The pills induced labor and she delivered the fetus, which did not survive, in a car on the way to the hospital, according to an Albany police report.

Although the Supreme Court has declared that American women have legal rights to abortion, states have put limits on where abortions can be performed, who can perform them and at what stages of pregnancy abortions are allowed. Traditionally, those state laws have targeted doctors and other abortion providers, but not women seeking to end their pregnancies.

Abortion rights advocates worry that this could be changing.

In March, 33-year-old Purvi Patel of Granger, Indiana, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for feticide and neglect of a baby. Prosecutors said Patel ended her seven-month pregnancy using drugs from China instead of seeking a doctor’s help. Paltrow’s group called it the first time an American woman was convicted and sentenced for trying to end her pregnancy.

Cytotec is a brand name for misoprostol, a prescription drug used in combination with mifepristone to induce nonsurgical abortions. Used as recommended, mifepristone kills the fetus, and then misoprostol induces the labor that expels it. The pills are sold with prescriptions in the U.S. but available over the counter and online in many countries.

In many cases, women are using misoprostol alone — partly because it is more easily obtained, because it has long been approved as a drug that prevents and heals ulcers.

Dr. Beverly Winikoff, president of the women’s health research organization Gynuity Health Projects, said misoprostol has been used in more than 2.5 million abortions in the U.S. and in hundreds of millions of abortions overseas in European countries as well as nations such as India and China.

“I would say it’s a very safe drug,” said Winikoff, who said its more common side effects include chills, fever and sometimes cramping. “The reason some people think it’s unsafe is because it can cause abortion, which people who are anti-abortion don’t like.”

The police report does not say how far along Jones was in her pregnancy. WALB-TV reported earlier that authorities estimated Jones was about five-and-a-half months pregnant.

A phone number for Jones was not accepting incoming calls and there was no answer at the address for her listed on the police report.

Republicans push anti-abortion bill through House on Roe v. Wade anniversary

With thousands of abortion protesters swarming the city in their annual March for Life, Republicans muscled broadened abortion restrictions through the House on Jan. 22 after a GOP rebellion forced leaders into a retreat on an earlier version.

By a near party-line 242-179 vote, the House voted to permanently forbid federal funds for most abortion coverage. The bill would also block tax credits for many people and employers who buy abortion coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

A White House veto threat and an uncertain fate in the Senate mean the legislation has no realistic chance of becoming law. But on a day when crowds of anti-abortion demonstrators stretched for blocks outside Capitol windows – and hours after the embarrassing GOP stumble on another abortion measure – the vote let party leaders signal that the Congress they now command is at least trying to end abortion.

The GOP’s passage of one bill and the abrupt derailment of another forbidding most late-term abortions underscored the party’s perilous balancing act of backing abortion restrictions crucial to conservatives while not alienating women and younger voters wary of such restrictions.

Obama, out West to promote his State of the Union economic agenda, embraced the same 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion that the protesters were vilifying.

He said the decision in the Roe v. Wade case “reaffirms a fundamental American value: that government should not intrude in our most private and personal family matters.” He said the House-passed bill would “intrude on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio praised the marchers in a written statement that also seemed to acknowledge discord among Republicans.

“This march is part of a longer one, and our destination is clear: to secure and protect the rights of every unborn child. When there is disagreement, we should pause and listen closely. When there is movement, we should rejoice, and the House’s vote to ban taxpayer funding of abortion is cause for doing so,” he said.

Even so, the GOP sidetracking of the late-term abortion measure sparked grumbling from politically potent allies.

In a sharp statement that singled out Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., and others, National Right to Life President Carol Tobias criticized GOP dissenters on the late-term bill and warned, “Some of these lawmakers may ultimately conclude that they were ill advised to sacrifice the trust of their pro-life constituents so egregiously.”

Ellmers, who has had a strong anti-abortion voting record, was among those who had objected to portions of the late-term abortion bill. Her spokeswoman, Blair Ellis, declined to comment.

Dozens of protesters visited her Capitol Hill office on Jan. 22 to protest her role in scuttling that measure.

On the House floor, a debate that has raged virtually every year for decades was emotional, as usual.

“Abortion is not health care. It’s a brutal procedure that ends lives of unborn children,” said Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa.

“I urge my colleagues to stand with the hundreds of thousands of people out on the Mall right now by voting for this bill,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Democrats said such talk showed that Republicans were willing to subjugate women’s rights to political pandering to the crowds outside.

“Women’s rights should not be theater, it shouldn’t be drama,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.

The debate took a turn for the personal when Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., referred to “hypocrites on the other side of the aisle who have counseled their own girl friends to have abortions. It’s legal.”

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., a doctor who opposes abortion rights, once urged a patient he was dating to seek an abortion. His aides did not return phone and email requests for comment.

Outside, thousands of demonstrators trudged up Capitol Hill to the Supreme Court in protest of the justices’ legalization of abortion exactly 42 years ago. Some wore religious garb while others carried signs with messages ranging from “I am a voice for the voiceless” to “Thank God my mom’s pro-life.”

No. 4 House GOP leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told the crowd that her 7-year-old son, who has Down syndrome, has intensified her commitment to the anti-abortion fight.

The approved bill would permanently block federal money for nearly all abortions – a prohibition in effect for decades but one which Congress must renew yearly. Rape and incest victims and women whose lives were in danger would be exempted.

The bill would also bar individuals and some employers from earning tax credits for insurance plans covering abortion that they pay for privately and obtain through exchanges established under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. It would also block the District of Columbia from using its money to cover abortions for lower-income women.

The vote came hours after GOP leaders indefinitely abandoned a bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, retreating in the face of a revolt by women and other Republican lawmakers that left them short of votes.

GOP leaders had planned a House vote on that bill Thursday. But rebellious Republicans complained that while the measure exempted victims of rape and incest, it did so only if those women had previously reported the assaults to authorities.

Republican leaders flinched at the prospect of forcing passage of anti-abortion legislation opposed by GOP women.

Baldwin sponsors Women’s Health Protection Act

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Reps. Judy Chu, Lois Frankel and Marcia Fudge are reintroducing the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation to safeguard a woman’s right to decide for herself whether to continue or end a pregnancy, regardless of where she lives.

The legislation was introduced on Jan. 21, on the eve of the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision recognizing a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.

“Year after year, anti-choice politicians have passed underhanded laws to shut down clinics and block access to essential reproductive health care,” said Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights. It is critical for Congress to step in to protect the health, dignity, and rights of women across the nation by enacting the Women’s Health Protection Act.”

She continued, “This historic legislation would put an end to this assault on women’s health and personal decisions. The Women’s Health Protection Act will ensure that every woman in America can exercise her constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion care without interference from the devious tactics of politicians bent on substituting their judgment for hers.”

The legislation was first introduced in the 113th Congress in November 2013 and debated before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2014. 

The legislation would prohibit states from imposing restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

Specifically, the measure would prohibit state and federal lawmakers from imposing:

• Targeted restrictions on abortion providers, including clinic shutdown laws that single out women’s reproductive health care providers with regulations that exceed what is necessary to ensure high standards of patient safety and quality of care.

• Bans on abortion prior to viability that violate women’s constitutional rights established by Roe v. Wade.

• Restrictions on women’s access to medication abortion, such as requiring physicians to adhere to an outdated and less safe protocol when providing women with this safe and effective method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest weeks.

• State-mandated medical procedures and protocols, such as compelling women to undergo forced ultrasounds for no medical reason and designed to shame women for their personal decisions.

On Jan. 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, advocates of the legislation planned to hold press conferences and rallies in Madison, as well as Austin and Houston, Texas, San Francisco and New York City.

Kansas to consider fetal heartbeat bill

Kansas legislators may soon consider proposals to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected early in a pregnancy and to require women to wait three days before obtaining abortions.

Chairman Steve Brunk of the Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee expects the panel to have informational hearings on fetal heartbeat legislation after lawmakers open their annual 90-day session on Jan. 12, the Wichita Eagle reported.

The Republican-dominated Legislature has strong anti-abortion majorities in both chambers, but fetal heartbeat legislation previously has split even abortion opponents. Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-abortion group at the Statehouse, has not endorsed the idea, fearing it could result in lawsuits and court rulings that set back attempts to restrict abortion.

Since Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent, took office in January 2011, the state has enacted a wave of new restrictions and regulations for abortion providers. But GOP legislative leaders have blocked debate on fetal heartbeat proposals, and lawmakers haven’t considered a proposal to increase the state’s waiting period for an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours.

“As a general topic, heartbeat legislation is on the table,” said Brunk, a Wichita Republican.

Brunk also said a 72-hour waiting period could be considered after the GOP-controlled Missouri Legislature enacted such a law in September over Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto.

Kansans for Life has not yet set its agenda for the session, said Kathy Ostrowski, its legislative director. In the past, the group has pushed for incremental change.

Abortion rights groups are bracing for debates over more sweeping proposals after lawmakers last year considered technical changes in laws approved in previous years.

Abortion rights groups believe a fetal heartbeat law could ban abortions as early as the third week after conception — before many women know they’re pregnant. A bill introduced in 2013 would have prohibited non-emergency abortions before a doctor searches for a fetal heartbeat and informs a patient that one exists.

Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said the ultimate goal of anti-abortion legislators to eliminate abortion services in Kansas. The state has three clinics that perform abortions, including one operated by Planned Parenthood in Overland Park.

“It’s a tough political environment for women’s health and women’s rights in Kansas,” she said.

A closer look at key cases before the Supreme Court

A look at some of the noteworthy cases the Supreme Court will hear this term, which begins Monday:

-Mistaken traffic stop: A broken brake light led a North Carolina police officer to pull over a car in which cocaine was later found. Turns out, the state requires only one functioning brake light. The court is weighing a case about whether a defendant’s constitutional protection against unreasonable searches was violated because of the officer’s mistaken understanding of the law.

-Prison beards: An Arkansas inmate is challenging a prison policy that prevents him from growing a short beard in accordance with his Muslim religious beliefs. Prison officials say the policy prevents inmates from concealing contraband or quickly changing their appearance in an escape.

-Teeth whitening: The North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners is challenging a Federal Trade Commission order that said the dentist-filled board is trying to kill off competition from day spas and tanning booths that offer teeth-whitening.

-Dishonest juror: Claims that a juror’s comments during trial deliberations over a South Dakota traffic accident raise questions about her impartiality and possibly could result in a new trial.

-Born in Jerusalem: The case of an American born in Jerusalem who wants his passport to list his birthplace as Israel underlies a major dispute between Congress and the president, with Middle Eastern politics as the backdrop. The United States has never recognized any nation’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, believing the city’s status should be resolved in peace negotiations. The administration says a 2002 law passed by Congress allowing Israel to be listed as the birthplace of Jerusalem-born Americans would in essence be seen as a U.S. endorsement of Israeli control of the city.

-Alabama redistricting: Democrats and black lawmakers contend that Republican leaders in Alabama drew a new legislative map that illegally packed black voters into too few voting districts to limit minority political power. Republicans say they complied with the law by keeping the same number of districts in which black voters could elect candidates of their choice.

– Facebook threats: A Pennsylvania man challenges his conviction for making threats on Facebook. He says his online rants about killing his estranged wife, shooting up a school and slitting an FBI agent’s throat were simply rap lyrics, and that he didn’t mean to threaten anyone.

– Pregnancy discrimination: A United Parcel Service employee says the company failed to accommodate her pregnancy when it refused to give her light-duty work. But UPS contends its policies are “pregnancy-neutral,” allowing light-duty assignments only in cases where employees are injured on the job or have certain medical conditions.

-Housing discrimination: For the third time, the court has agreed to hear a challenge from Texas to an important tool the government is increasingly using to fight discrimination in housing. Two earlier cases settled before the justices could weigh in on the legality of determining discrimination from the results of a policy that disproportionately affects minorities, rather than by showing any intent to discriminate.

-Religious discrimination: Retailer Abercrombie and Fitch is defending its denial of a job to a woman wearing a Muslim headscarf by arguing that she did not say during her interview that she wears the hijab for religious reasons.

Cases the justices could decide to hear before the term ends in late June:

-Gay marriage: Both sides want the justices to settle the question of whether same-sex couples have the same right to marry as heterosexuals under the Constitution. A court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage would grant marriage rights to same-sex couples in all 50 states, up from 19 states and the District of Columbia. A decision in favor of state marriage bans would allow states to continue setting the rules on whether to allow same-sex couples to wed.

-Abortion: Several states have passed laws in recent years aimed at limiting abortion by imposing hospital admitting privilege requirements on doctors who perform abortions, forcing abortion clinic facilities to meet tougher standards and preventing doctors from prescribing pills for medical abortions later in a pregnancy and at a lower dose. The court could take one or more cases that are winding through the courts.

-Voting disputes: Identification requirements and limits on early voting are among state voting laws that could make their way to the Supreme Court this term. The court already has jumped preliminarily into a case over early voting in Ohio and seems likely to want a full-blown review. But a decision on hearing that case could come late enough in the term to push back the argument and decision to the following term that begins a year from now.

-Contraception: The next fight over the new health care law’s requirement that contraception be offered to women among a range of preventive services at no extra cost concerns the responsibilities of religious not-for-profit universities, hospitals and other institutions. The Obama administration already allows those organizations to shift responsibility for coverage to their insurers, but the groups say that so-called accommodation still is a burden on their religious consciences. In June, the justices said family-owned corporations with religious objections do not have to pay for contraceptives for women covered under their health plans.

-Health care subsidies: Legal challenges to the health care law continue in several states that would drastically reduce the number of Americans eligible for subsidies to make health insurance affordable. One appeal of a court ruling denying a challenge to the subsidies already is pending at the Supreme Court, although the pace of the other cases suggests the justices are more likely to wait, if they even are willing to undertake another high-stakes fight over the health care law.

-Affirmative action: The court could get another crack at the University of Texas admissions policy that takes race into account among many factors in filling some seats in entering freshmen classes. Lower courts upheld the Texas policy following a Supreme Court decision in 2013 that ordered a new review. The case currently is being appealed to the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.