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Dec. 19: Constitutionality of federal health care reform, Victims of sexual assault



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In this Sunday Edition, KSL's Bruce Lindsay discusses the constitutionality of the federal health care reform with Deputy Utah Attorney General John Swallow and executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project, Judi Hilman. Also, Alana Kindness of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Heather Stringfellow from the Rape Recovery Center discuss the challenges faced by victims of sexual assault.

Segment 1: Constitutionality of federal health care reform

Nine months ago, President Obama signed into law the Affordable Health Care Act, commonly referred to as the health care reform bill. The legislation was controversial from the beginning and barely made it through Congress. Within hours of the president's signature, attorneys general from around the country, including Utah's, joined in a lawsuit to challenge the act. A federal judge in Florida heard oral arguments in that case last week and will likely issue his ruling next month.


We believe it is blatantly unconstitutional, and on that grounds Utah and 19 other states filed suit in Florida and one other state Virginia has filed suit in Virginia.

–Deputy Utah Attorney General John Swallow


To date, three federal judges have ruled on other challenges to the law, two determined the act is constitutional and one judge declared it unconstitutional. The controversy is almost certain to be decided by the Supreme Court. Joining us to discuss the future of health care reform and what it means to you, are Deputy Utah Attorney General John Swallow and executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project, Judi Hilman.

The challenges to the law focus on the commerce clause of the Constitution.


Time will tell obviously, but when this law was written, constitutional legal scholars were consulted and the way they designed the enforcement of the mandate is in line with legal precedent.

–Utah Health Policy Project director Judi Hilman


"Congress is empowered through the Constitution to do certain things, one of those is to regulate commerce between the states," explains Swallow. "So the question becomes is this type of a law mandating that individuals purchase a good or a service or forcing them into the marketplace within the confines for the commerce clause and its regulating interstate commerce. We think clearly it's not. Never before has any appellate court said that the commerce clause extends the power to Congress to force people into a marketplace, to force them to buy a product. Yet this bill does exactly that. We believe it is blatantly unconstitutional and on that grounds Utah and 19 other states filed suit in Florida and one other state Virginia has filed suit in Virginia."

Supporters of the Affordable Health Care Act believe it is constitutional.

"If you look at the scoreboard so far, 14 of these cases have been dismissed. In two cases the judges have ruled that the law is constitutional. And those cases were organized around the personal responsibility to purchase insurance. And then in one they ruled against the constitutionality of the mandate," says Hilman. "As I count it, that's 16 to 1. We do know that this whole thing is going to the Supreme Court for sure, and there we expect it will be close but do expect that they will rule in favor of both the individual mandate and also the Medicaid expansion of this as well. Time will tell obviously, but when this law was written constitutional legal scholars were consulted and the way they designed the enforcement of the mandate is in line with legal precedent."

Segment 2: Victims of sexual violence

Just over a week ago, a jury found Brian David Mitchell guilty of kidnapping and abusing Elizabeth Smart. The verdict, and even the trial, represents a victory for victims of sexual assault. Alana Kindness of the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Heather Stringfellow from the Rape Recovery Center discuss the challenges victims face.


There's a common thread that runs through victims' stories of being shameful about what happened and not willing to throw the window open, so to speak, and let the sun shine in and have the world see what their experience was like.

–Heather Stringfellow


Advocates are hopeful Elizabeth Smart's story will inspire the community to openly discuss sexual violence.

"There's a common thread that runs through victims' stories of being shameful about what happened and not willing to throw the window open, so to speak, and let the sun shine in and have the world see what their experience was like," Stringfellow explains. "She did that and I think that was very encouraging for people who are out there as they are thinking about what they should do. So many people never tell anyone and never come forward and never report. And so I think it is very hopeful and that she is a great example for us all just to talk about sexual violence and to standup strong and say, 'We won't let that happen to anyone else.'"

One of the reasons victims stay silent is they fear criticism when they come forward.

"Most victims have witnessed the way other victims have been treated when they've come forward," describes Kindness. "In the news many of our high-profile cases we see when a case goes to trial, how the victim is questioned about their behavior prior to the assault, about what they were wearing prior to the assault, and it ends up being a situation where it looks like the victim is somehow responsible for what's happened versus the perpetrator being responsible for what's happened. And so justifiably victims have a fear of coming forward and talking about what's happened to them for fear that their own actions will be questioned, that they might be blamed, and also the fear of losing family support if they are not believed. There's lots of fear around reporting."

Both advocates say it is important for society to open up and discuss sexual assault.

Segment 3: Coming up on Sunday Edition

Next week on Sunday Edition, KSL reporters will share their favorite stories of the year.

We invite you to join us for a special Sunday Edition on a Friday, on New Year's Eve, following the 10 p.m. news. We will be counting down your picks for the top 10 Utah stories of the year.

Viewer Feedback:

Having been a secondary victim of sexual assault and knowing that it is most often someone that is known to us, I feel the KEY is taking a defensive/offensive position with our children. There is no way to have prevention without having safety so it will take a combined effort to actually combat this social dilemma. It is unfortunate that we do not discuss the fact that this has been a crime committed through the centuries. That rape has been used as political manipulations, as a status building tool for the rapist, and as a form of oppression since mankind began its historical re-tellings. Without facing the fact that rape is assuredly going to continue, we cannot address the healing process effectively, we cannot provide the proper tools. We will see a constant re-triggering of victims if we pretend that we will conquer this particular form of violence. I honestly believe that we can fix the issue of rape individually, not globally. However, I believe that education can lessen the committal of these types of crimes and that hope is never a bad thing.

-Anonymous

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