Abortion. The state of Texas will find out if it can enforce two new regulations that could effect the availability of abortion among its population. Texas would like to require that clinics use only doctors with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, as well as require abortion facilities to match the standards of an outpatient surgical center.
The Supreme Court must decide if these measures will protect the health of women — as state lawmakers assert — or hinder reproductive care “by drastically reducing access to safe and legal abortion” in large parts of Texas, as abortion-rights advocates contend. It seems to me that these measures are simply trying to call into question the accountability (and the quality of services) of those doctors and clinics that wish to perform abortions.
But, of course, we can expect to hear arguments that the measures violate the Constitutional "right" of a woman to end the life of her baby, and that "right" supersedes safety measures -- never mind the "rights" of the unborn child.
Affirmative Action. Once again, the State of Texas is in the spotlight regarding a controversial decision. In December, the Court heard Fisher vs. University of Texas for a second time to decide whether the school’s admission policy is constitutional. At the center of this court case is the question, Does the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment permit the consideration of race in undergraduate admissions decisions? Abigail N. Fisher, a Caucasian female, applied for undergraduate admission to the University of Texas in 2008. Fisher was not in the top ten percent of her class (which guarantees admission by the University's application process), so she competed for admission with other non-top ten percent in-state applicants. The University of Texas denied Fisher's application. Fisher then filed suit against the university, citing the aforementioned Equal Protection Clause.
Fisher has appealed the District Court decision, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit; both of which found in favor of the university. The Supreme Court found in favor of Ms. Fisher, holding that the lower courts did not conduct a sufficient strict scrutiny examination in this case. So, now it appears as if the Supreme Court could finally decide if the Constitution and civil rights laws forbid schools and colleges from admitting students based on their race.
Union Fees. The High Court will hear a free-speech challenge to pro-union laws in more than 20 states that require all public employees pay a “fair share fee” to their union, even if they are opposed to the union and refuse to join. This case will clearly show us if the Constitution still has any teeth in it.
Voting Districts. This case has clear and strong implications for the future reliability of our election process. Currently, voters elect representatives to Congress, state legislatures and city councils in districts that are drawn to represent equal numbers of people. Texas is challenging the fact that these "equal numbers" are not comprised of eligible voters. At the present time, the system counts all people, including children, immigrants and prisoners. Texas's appeal relies on the “one person, one vote” rule established in the 1960s. If the justices agree in the case of Evenwel vs. Abbott, the ruling could have a major effect in states such as California, Florida, New York and Illinois because they have large populations of immigrants. I think it is evident how easily this system could be abused and corrupted.
Contraceptives. This year, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear its fourth case on The Affordable Care Act, and the second involving a religious-freedom challenge to a regulation that requires employers to include no-cost coverage for contraceptives in their health insurance policies. At this time, churches are exempt from this requirement. Under a separate accommodation, religious nonprofits, such as Catholic charities or the University of Notre Dame, need not provide nor pay for the coverage, but they must notify the government of their religious objection. But in a series of lawsuits, Catholic bishops and Protestant colleges contend that opening themselves up to government scrutiny of their religious objections could open the door to challenges that would force them to provide the contraceptives and make them complicit in what they consider sin. In essence, they feel they should be afforded the same exemption as churches, or the accommodation needs to be strengthened in their favor.
Immigration. In The United States vs Texas, the Supreme Court has perhaps its most contentious case in this Presidential election year. The outgoing Administration is pulling out all the stops in its effort to shield immigrants from deportation. Under the President's latest immigration action, as many as 5 million immigrants who have lived in the country illegally for at least five years, and have a child who is a citizen or legal resident, could come forward, qualify, and be offered work permits. But a judge in Texas and the 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans, blocked that action as un-Constitutional because it was done without seeking approval from Congress.
UPDATE: Under the President's unilateral directive, the Department of Homeland Security published (on New Year's Eve) a 181-page rule which focused primarily on giving work-permits to foreign college-grads. This not only puts foreigners in direct competition with American college graduates, who are already struggling to find jobs and pay off college tuition debt, but it calls into question new security concerns as it covers categories of immigration utilized by migrants from the Middle East and nearby regions.
Undoubtedly, it will be extremely important that the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case of The United States vs Texas. Until then, it looks as if the President is more than willing to test his power to change immigration policy without seeking approval from Congress. If the justices turn down the appeal, Obama’s action(s) will likely remain on hold until he leaves office. I'm sure that is exactly what he has planned.
So as you can see, the very foundation of who and what this country will become is at stake in this coming year. There is a lot on the line ... the freedoms for our unborn children, our rights to equal education and job opportunities, the entitlement to fair and honest elections, the right to be allowed to practice our faith as we see fit, and whether the checks and balances of our government will be upheld -- not to mention the very security of our homeland.
And I do not know how we survive any of it without faith in the protection from our Lord. Man, himself, is on a collision course with his own pride and self-centeredness. It is up to those of us who know we have been called to a higher purpose to seek ways to impart the Kingdom of God into each of these circumstances, as well as the unexpected situations we will encounter. The world is not greater than the power and authority we have in Jesus Christ. The forecast for the future may look dismal... but we know we can change that, don't we? Nothing is impossible with our God. Let's live our lives as if we truly believe that!
Psalm 37:37 "Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace."