Author Archive for Janice Lim

On This Day: Loving v. Virginia Paves the Way to Our Future

On June 12th, 1967 the United States Supreme Court unanimously declared that the State of Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, a law that prevents mixed race marriage, was unconstitutional. For Richard and Mildred Loving, and so many others, the Court declared that the law violated their right for Due Process and Equal Protection under the 14th Amendment.

To this day, many legal scholars and writers view this landmark decision as a turning point for civil rights in America. But what happened? What made the Court go against years of “tradition”? What happened to Richard and Mildred Loving, and why does this case affect us today?

Loving v. VirginiaThe Facts Behind Loving v. Virginia

In 1958, while asleep in their bed, Mildred and Richard Loving were raided by the police and then charged with violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924. Their marriage certificate was framed on the wall, but ignored by Virginia officials as they considered their marriage to be invalid within Virginia. Since they were violating the law, they pled guilty, and were offered a suspended sentence so long as they leave Virginia for at least 25 years.

Before they brought their case to the Supreme Court, interracial marriage was not viewed favorably. At the time, over 15 states had active laws against interracial marriage. In fact, interracial marriage was considered a felony and you can even sue successfully for an annulment if your spouse is determined to be of mixed-race. Every case that brought forward the question of whether the law can ban interracial marriage always found in favor of upholding the ban. The legal system only focused on whether an interracial marriage law equally applied and controlled whites and non-whites. So if there was an interracial couple, the legal system only wanted to make sure that the white person was also equally punished as the non-white person. If the white person was let off more leniently, then, and only then, would the Court think the law is unconstitutional.

The reality is that most of the nation moved past banning interracial marriage. But just 12 years earlier, in 1954, did public schools even begin to de-segregate their student population. It was such a slow march to equality, and it wasn’t until Richard and Mildred Loving entered the picture did civil rights leaders realize they had a chance to strike down laws that ban interracial marriage.

The Warren Court and Their Place in the Civil Rights Movement

When their case came before Justice Earl Warren and the other Justices of the United States Supreme Court, the Court once again shocked the nation by declaring Virginia’s interracial ban to be unconstitutional. Warren was famously quoted as saying that:

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival… To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes…is to surely deprive all State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law… Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

They added that there was “no legitimate overriding purpose” to the law, except to maintain White Supremacy. As the Court could find no other reason for the law, except to limit the freedom of all citizens (including white citizens) they overturned Virginia’s decision and effectively made all interracial marriage bans unenforceable.

How the Story Ends, for the Lovings and for Us

While Richard and Mildred Loving were a legally married couple and their rights restored to them, Richard died in 1975 when a drunk driver struck his car. Mildred survived the crash, and lived until 2008 when she passed away at the age of 68.

Even though they may not have gotten to spend their golden years together, their stance against interracial marriage bans have helped so many other Americans. Many legal scholars and writers think that Loving v. Virginia is what paved the way for same-sex marriage, determined in the case Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. The opinion of Justice Kennedy invokes the same language, emotion, and determination as the decision in Loving.

Many studies show that interracial marriages are at an all-time high in the U.S. with 1 in 6 married couples considered to be a mixed-race couple. The number of mixed-race children are also rising, giving the way to a future that is not divided by color or ethnicity.

While it is not an officially recognized holiday, Americans across the nation celebrate Loving Day on June 12th to remember how far our nation has come and to be hopeful for a bright future. Every American, even those who are not in a mixed-race relationship and/or not of mixed-race, can be grateful for Richard and Mildred Loving’s courage to stand up against those who tried to infringe and regulate their liberty.

On this day in history, the United States of America made a great step towards liberty and equality for all.

Why the ACLU’s Fight Against Catholic Hospitals Will Fail

Recently, Catholic hospitals have come under fire when former female patients came forward claiming that they were denied important reproductive treatments and procedures. The American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) came forward on their behalf and sued the Catholic health system for refusing to provide the necessary treatments, such as abortions. us supreme court

Yet every suit brought forward by the ACLU was dismissed by the courts. At the moment, no law can force or coerce a medical officer to perform a procedure that goes against their faith and conscience. In this case, the procedures are abortions and sterilization.

Why does the law protect medical personnel like this? Is there anything we can do to make sure female patients get their necessary medical treatment?

Constitution 101: Negative Rights and Positive Rights

To best understand the situation, it will help to have a brief overview of a special aspect of the Constitution. It is important to know that the Constitution is made up of positive rights and negative rights.

A positive right is when the government owes its citizens a right or an action, such as a right to an attorney in a criminal trial. In contrast, a negative right is when the government owes its citizens the duty of not acting, such as not suppressing speech or religion. In this case, doctors have the negative right of freedom from the government forcing them to perform abortions against their conscience and/or religion.

Why are the Courts Dismissing the ACLU’s Claims?

In 2015, the 6th circuit court of appeals dismissed the ACLU’s claims against a hospital. The claim was that the “Religious and Ethical Directive” made a physician deny “appropriate medical care” to a woman suffering from a natural miscarriage. The court dismissed the case for several reasons, but mainly because the court did not think they had jurisdiction over the issue since it concerns “ecclesiastical matters.”

The courts refuse to step in because they believe that the Catholic hospital system should have complete control over their services and operations. But, what if Catholic hospitals refuse to perform heart surgery or dialysis, a necessary treatment for people with diabetes? What if Catholic hospitals refuse to give what is considered to be a necessary treatment?

Medical Abortions are Not Considered to be Necessary Treatment

At the moment, the law thinks a medical abortion is not a necessary treatment for women. Even though medical organizations and groups recommend that a medical abortion should be performed once the patient begins to show signs of infection or excessive blood loss.

But anti-abortion groups still maintain that advances in science have made abortions unnecessary to save a woman’s life. A large part of our nation thinks abortion is not a medical procedure, but a moral evil that violates a sincerely held religious belief. Since our nation cannot decide if abortion can ever be necessary, it is not surprising that our legal system refuses to force physicians to perform it against their conscience.

There is a Lot to Do Before We Try to Make Catholic Hospitals Perform Necessary Abortions.

Right now, the ACLU’s efforts might be in vain. The legal system refuses to hear or decide on any issues they deem to be about religion, and abortion seems to remain a question of morality and not medicine. Until there is a change, it is unlikely that any of the ACLU’s lawsuits and claims on behalf of patients will succeed.

Given the political climate, it seems unlikely our nation will stop using abortion as a political platform. Until then, the ACLU’s efforts will keep bringing Catholic hospitals’ Ethical and Religious Directive into the spotlight and remind us that we have a long way to go.

What Happened to Our Healthcare System?

On October 4, 2016, former President Bill Clinton had some choice words for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. He pointed out that the ACA has failed to help small business owners or individuals who make just over the ACA requirement for discounted insurance.

For example, in 2015, if a single individual made $47,000 a year, then they would not qualify for a subsidy. To qualify for a subsidy, a single individual must make less than $46,680 a year. But if you happen to make $46,680 or more, like $47,000, then does that mean you can afford an individual healthcare plan? No, probably not.

The ACA was supposed to fix the healthcare system and make insurance affordable for everyone, so every person can be covered. Yet, studies show that around 29 million individuals are still uninsured and the price of health insurance is still unaffordable for a large number of the U.S. population.

How did we get here? Where did we go wrong?

The 2008 Recession and How It Got Us Here, Today

In 2000, 83% of employees in the work force worked +35 hours and were considered to be full-time employees and 17% were part-time employees. But after the 2008 recession, full-time employment dropped to 80% and part-time employment went up to 20.1%. While the change in percentage does not seem significant, it was the start of a massive shift in the job market.

But why did this shift occur? After the recession, companies that were still in business had to find ways to cut costs in order to stay open. Under federal law, businesses with a certain number of employees must offer certain benefits, like health insurance. On average, employers cover 83% of the cost of the premium of an individual and 72% of the premium for a family. Employees still need to cover a portion of the health insurance premium, but how can they afford the cost if the price of insurance is rising and personal income remains the same, or drops?

In 2008, the cost of individual insurance rose by 5% and family insurance rose by 4.7%, while personal income dropped by 0.4%. But in 2009, the cost of individual insurance rose by 2.6% and family insurance rose by 5.5%, yet personal income dropped by 5.6%.

Health insurance companies need to make a profit, even though most citizens cannot afford to purchase health insurance. During the recession, the cost of healthcare coverage either remained the same or increased. Whereas earned income during the recession dropped, by 5.6%. A person who earned $47,000 a year in 2007 would have found their income drop to around $44,400 in 2009. But only if they were lucky enough to keep their job, since the unemployment rate in 2007 was 4.6% and in 2009 it rose to 9.3%.

But Where Does This Leave Us?

Recent numbers show that in 2017, insurance premiums under Obamacare will go up 25%. Despite the 2008 Recession, health insurance companies are managing to make record profits.

While the majority of U.S. citizens were losing their jobs, making less money, and/or losing their savings, the U.S. healthcare insurance companies were making record profits. The five largest insurance companies made $12.2 billion in profit in 2009, compared to the $4.4 billion they made in 2008. In 2009, 2.7 million Americans lost their health coverage.

Obamacare was enacted in 2010, with the goal of expanding Medicaid and giving federal subsidies to help middle and lower-class Americans buy private coverage. It began with the belief that, in 2014, around 3.5 million Americans will enroll in Medicaid, but in reality 6.8 million individuals enrolled.

To enroll in Medicaid, an individual has to make less than $16,243 a year, just $4,363 above the federal poverty level of $11,880. So in 2014, 6.8 million Americans hover just above, or below, what is considered to be absolute poverty.

But, in times of wealth or poverty, people will continue to get sick. When healthcare is indispensable, yet unaffordable, then health insurance is just as necessary. When our system is over-burdened and our economy is recovering from a recession, it is not surprising that the Affordable Care Act has yet to meet expectations.

Can a Catholic Hospital Refuse Medical Treatment For Religious Reasons?

What happens when a hospital refuses vital medical treatment due to the hospital’s religious beliefs?

In the United States, Catholic hospitals have come under scrutiny when reports emerged of women denied treatment due to their “ethical and religious directive.” In almost every case, it was a woman who was either pregnant and/or wished to prevent pregnancy.

How can hospitals, especially Catholic hospitals, deny necessary treatment? Regardless of religious affiliation, hospitals are there to treat and serve their community. How can the hospital be allowed to operate if they refuse necessary, life-saving treatment for those in need?

What Does the “Ethical and Religious Directive” Say?

In the United States, Catholic hospitals must follow the “ethical and religious directive” set by the Church. The Directive instructs that hospitals should treat all patients, including (but not limited to): the poor, those without insurance, single parents, the elderly, children, and “the unborn.”

The Directive states that a pregnant woman can undergo treatment or care, even at the risk of the fetus’s life, so long as their illness is “proportionately serious” in comparison to the loss of the fetus. In fact, the Directive uses the term “proportionately serious” when describing the health of a pregnant woman and an unborn fetus.

For these hospitals, the life of the unborn fetus is as important as the life of the pregnant woman in distress. In essence, the fetus is as much a patient as the mother. In fact, the directive also forbids the hospitals from sterilizing women, so they also treat the hypothetical “unborn.”

The doctors at the Catholic hospitals refused to perform an abortion, since the fetus’ heart was beating. Even after the women were bleeding heavily, in excruciating pain, developing an infection, and were told that their is no way for their child to survive.

Can a Hospital Refuse to Give Necessary Treatment?

No, a hospital cannot refuse to give a patient necessary treatment. However, the question is whether the treatment is necessary.

An abortion is not always necessary if the pregnancy would become a miscarriage. However, it is a common medical practice in the United States to perform a medically necessary abortion when a patient begins to show signs of infection and/or severe pain.

Many of the women in the report were experiencing severe pain and showing signs of infection. Instead, the Catholic hospitals turned away each patient and told them to wait in pain, discomfort, and fear until the fetus no longer had a heartbeat. In fact, to fight the pain and infection, they were given some aspirin and sent home.

It is easy to say that these women should have gone to a different hospital or facility; someplace that does not follow the Ethical and Religious Directive. But Catholic hospitals are growing in number, and in some states they account for 40% of available hospital beds. This means that for many of these women, finding a place that is not a Catholic hospital may mean hours of travel to receive treatment.

So Why is This Still Going On?

The state and federal government have not addressed the gap in treatment options that are due to religious directives. The government wants to encourage the creation and running of non-government run hospitals, but they cannot tell these hospitals how to operate.

Currently, hospitals may be required to have emergency services and not turn away impoverished patients. But women’s health and abortion issues are still heavily debated, in the government and around the dinner table. If the government cannot take a stand on abortion, then it would be hard to impose any requirement on hospitals.

But what can we do about women who are falling through the cracks of the system? These women are not seeking an abortion to end a healthy and viable fetus. They are seeking an abortion to help end the agony of a miscarriage after being told that their child will not survive.

Given the current landscape of women’s health, it seems like this issue will not be resolved any time soon. But for the health and safety of 50.8% of the United States population, we can only hope that it will stop being a question of politics and instead a question of public health and well-being.

How the EpiPen Price Hike is Not the Last of Its Kind

In 2015, the head of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Martin Skhreli, became the man that everyone loved to hate. After Turing acquired a patent for Daraprim, an older medication, they increased the price of the drug from $13.50/pill to $750/pill.

In August of 2016, Mylan Pharmaceuticals increased the price of the EpiPen from $56 to over $317. The EpiPen contains vital medication to counteract life-threatening allergic reactions. Soon, the media began to cover stories of parents struggling to afford EpiPens for their children.

After the price hikes, the CEO’s of Turing and Mylan faced heavy criticism. Public outcry demanded the reason for such an outrageous price increase, but the response seemed to be “because we can.” Unsatisfied by the logic, the nation questioned if the laws of the free-market should still apply when it concerns matters of life and death.

Yes, Martin Skhreli was Indicated, But It Was Not Because of the Price Hike

Martin Skhreli, Turing’s CEO, faced charges and was indicted of securities fraud in December 2015. As of September 2016, Skhreli is free on bail until his case heads to court. But his indictment of securities fraud comes from his time as a hedge fund manager and the CEO to a different company. During that time, Skhreli took the money from his company to make up for the money his investors lost in his hedge fund. His criminal charge have nothing to do with the price hike at Turing.

In fact, Skhreli, or any other CEO or company that increases the price of a necessary medication, cannot face criminal charges for the price increase. There is no law that criminalizes a drastic price increase.

It Is Not Illegal to Raise the Price of Drugs, In Fact It’s Good Business

Every discussion about the economy usually relies on the fact that the U.S. economy relies on capitalism. Capitalism can be a difficult concept, but the key point to understand is that a capitalistic economy relies on private ownership and is driven by profit. supreme court generic drugs

Companies like Turing and Mylan that produce life-saving and vital medications can adjust the price to whatever would give them the most profit. If there are no alternatives to the medications supplied by those companies, then they have no competition and can set the drugs at the highest possible price.

This was the case for the price hikes by Turing and Mylan. Where there is a drastic price hike, capitalism says that other companies will create their version to undermine a competitors’ profits.

For Daraprim, the drug created by Turing, other corporations were able to create a generic version which costs only $1 per pill. But for the EpiPen, the price increase applies to the medication sold in the auto-injector and not the actual medication itself. The auto-injector is patented by Mylan.

After Mylan offered a “generic” version at $300 per box instead of $600, the nation was not convinced. To avoid paying such an outrageous price, some users of the EpiPen have resorted to buying the drug in the auto-injector (epinephrine), and injecting it themselves.

But is that the only solution? Do we need to wait until another corporation decides to create a profit?

If We Ask for the Government to Step In, It Will Be a Long Wait

Healthcare seems to be heavily regulated by the U.S. government. But out of all possible aspects of healthcare, the pharmaceutical industry faces the least amount of regulation. In fact, Daraprim and EpiPen are not the only drugs that have increased by over 100%.

In 2002, a drug called “Abilify” entered the market to treat acute psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. It soon proved to be effective in treating other disorders, but the other treatments were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”). So insurance companies refused to cover the cost for “off-label” use.

Currently, the price of ability without insurance can range from $700 to $1,000 for 30 pills. It was only in 2015 that the FDA approved a generic version of Abilify. For 13 years, patients were spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on a medication that was necessary to their daily function.

In short, what has happened with Turing and Mylan is not something new, and it’s also not something that will go away. Drug companies have been doing this for a long time, and the U.S. government makes no attempt to stop them.

If you feel like drug companies need to be regulated, then 3 out of 4 Americans agree with you. The majority of the nation are beginning to feel like pharmaceutical industries need to be regulated and stopped. It is hard not to want regulation when a person needs to decide between financial ruin to survive a treatable illness, or death. It is time for each citizen to tell lawmakers and the pharmaceutical industry that enough is enough.