Jewish groups applaud Supreme Court abortion ruling tossing restrictive Texas law

Several national Jewish organizations applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Monday striking down a Texas law that restricted access to abortion.

In a 5-3 ruling, the Supreme Court said the HB2 law, which mandates that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, was unconstitutional. The law would have required nearly half the state’s abortion clinics to shut down.

Texas officials said the law was intended to protect women’s health.

“The court’s decision appropriately recognizes the real-life impact of HB2 on access to abortion,” said Deborah Lauter, the Anti-Defamation League’s senior vice president of policy and programs, in a news release. “This ruling is a victory for reproductive justice and gender equality in America.”

ADL was among the 48 organizations that joined with the National Women’s Law Center on a friend-of-the-court brief in the case of Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt that highlighted the negative impact of the restrictions on women, particularly those of color, with low incomes and in low-wage jobs. Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Jewish Women International and Women of Reform Judaism also signed on to the brief.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, also praised the ruling, saying in a statement that it strikes down “unnecessarily burdensome and medically inaccurate provisions that aimed to restrict access to abortion.”

“This historic decision ensures that women in Texas and across the United States face fewer barriers to receiving legal healthcare services,” Pesner continued. “Jewish tradition teaches the importance of a woman’s ability to make her own healthcare decisions. That principle is as true today as it was in Medieval times when Jewish physician and philosopher Maimonides wrote that ‘Women are commanded to care for the health and well-being of their bodies above all else.’”

In another statement, Nancy Kaufman of the National Council of Jewish Women called the ruling a “huge victory for every woman who seeks to make her own decisions about her health, family, and future. It goes a long way toward restoring the promise of Roe v. Wade — that abortion is a right protected by the US constitution.”

Jewish Women International CEO Lori Weinstein said in a statement that the ruling “affirmed what women and advocates have long known: That sham laws like HB2 are ‘a substantial obstacle’ for women seeking abortion, and that this type of ‘undue burden on abortion access’ is absolutely unconstitutional.”

‘Suspicious’ fire that killed Jewish lawyer in Dallas may have been revenge

The “suspicious” fire that killed a longtime civil rights lawyer from a prominent Jewish family in Dallas reportedly may have been revenge by a client or former client.

Ira Edwin Tobolowsky, 68, was found dead in his garage on Friday morning in a blaze that fire officials are calling “suspicious in nature,” according to The Dallas Morning News.

Tobolowsky’s body had been doused with some kind of fuel and set alight, the Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA reported Monday, citing unnamed sources. The case has been turned over to Dallas Fire-Rescue’s arson investigators. Investigators reportedly believe a client or former client may have taken revenge. Tobolowsky’s law partner, Faith Burk, told WFAA that he had recently been involved in contentious litigation.

Tobolowsky comes from a family active in the Dallas Jewish community. Among his well-known family members are his cousin, state District Judge Emily Tobolowsky; actor Stephen Tobolowsky, who has appeared in films such as “Groundhog Day” and on television; and University of North Texas professor Peggy Tobolowsky, a lifetime trustee of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Tobolowsky was a father of three; his son’s wedding reportedly is scheduled to take place in two weeks.

Other family members were home at the time of the blaze. Paint and other accelerants were stored in the garage leading to the explosive fire, according to Fox4.

Following the determination that the fire was suspicious, the Sheriff’s Department increased security for a District Court judge, Eric Moye, due to fears that there may be a connection between a civil lawsuit in his court and Tobolowsky’s death, according to reports.


Texas Gov. Abbott rejects administration’s request to lift state sanctions on Iran

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday informed the Obama administration that the state of Texas will reject the administration’s request to lift its sanctions against Iran. 

“Because the Iran deal is fundamentally flawed and does not permanently dismantle Iran’s nuclear capability, Texas will maintain its sanctions against Iran,” Abbott wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama on Monday. “Further, because your administration has recklessly and unilaterally removed critical sanctions, I have called on the Texas Legislature to strengthen the Iran sanctions that Texas already has in place.”

The letter was a response to a letter sent by the administration on April 8, 2015, requesting that Texas “review” its economic sanctions against Iran. 

“Entering into an agreement with a country that consistently calls for ‘death to America’ and repeatedly articulates anti-Semitic policies is short-sighted and ignores geopolitical realities,” Governor Abbott writes in the letter. “As a strong supporter of Israel, I am committed to doing everything in my power to oppose this misguided deal with Iran. Accordingly, not only will we not withdraw our sanctions, but we will strengthen them to ensure Texas taxpayer dollars are not used to aid and abet Iran.”

Speaking to reporters in New York on Monday, Abbott said he will seek to expand his state’s divestment policy on all state agencies and prohibit local government entities in the State of Texas from investing in Iran or entities conducting business with Iran during the legislative session this summer. 

The Texas Governor also said that he will issue a bipartisan call to governors of all 49 states to join him in rejecting the sanctions relief as part of the international accord. 

While refusing to officially endorse Donald Trump for president, Abbott said the election of Hillary Clinton would be “catastrophic” for the U.S. and Israel.

“I can tell you this: had Ted Cruz been elected as president, he would have been the most pro-Israel president in the history of the United States,” Abbott said. “Ted Cruz, obviously, didn’t win the nomination. So you have to make a choice. You choose either Donald Trump or you choose Hillary Clinton. Not participating is not a choice. Candidly, I don’t know Donald Trump and I don’t know what his positions are. I do, however, know Hillary Clinton’s positions and what she will do, and Hillary will be catastrophic to the United States of America.”

“I am perplexed about the Jewish community in this regard, ” he continued. “After seeing eight years of the Obama administration, and the damage caused by the Obama administration to Israel and the U.S.-Israel alliance, I don’t understand how anyone who cares about Israel can support a Democrat.” 

Abbott emphasized that the future of the Iran deal will be determined by the outcome of the presidential election in the fall. “If Hillary is elected president, she will perpetuate Barack Obama’s deal with Iran,” he said. “I believe that if the Republican is elected president, that deal will not exist in its current form and a new and better deal is going to be struck that is going to be safer and better for Israel and safer and better for the United States.”

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