dedc6a3c1a52427a2cf3dcbcb25d2368Within hours of each other, two federal appeals courts handed down separate decisions that affirmed sharp new limits on abortion and birth control. One on Oct. 31 forced abortion clinics across Texas to close. The other, on Nov. 1, compared contraception to “a grave moral wrong” and sided with businesses that refused to provide it in health care coverage.

“These are the kinds of decisions we are going to have to live with,” a blunt Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, warned his caucus later as it weighed whether to make historic changes to Senate rules. Those changes would break a Republican filibuster of President Obama’s nominees and end the minority party’s ability to block a president’s choices to executive branch posts and federal courts except the Supreme Court….

The question of the composition of the federal judiciary has become even more pressing for liberals, given the battery of abortion rights cases now making their way through the courts. From Texas to South Dakota to Wisconsin, federal courts across the country – many of them with vacancies that the president will now be able to fill – are seeing their dockets grow with challenges to restrictive new anti-abortion laws.

Very quickly and unexpectedly, abortion and contraceptive rights became the decisive factor in the filibuster fight.

New York Times, November 29

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