Reproductive Rights Prof Blog

Editor: Caitlin E. Borgmann
CUNY School of Law

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Student Scholarship: A Different Approach to Regulating Abortion Clinics

Jessica Ettinger (Notre Dame) has posted Seeking Common Ground in the Abortion Regulation Debate on SSRN. Here is the abstract: 

This Note argues that requiring abortion clinics to adhere to the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers is unconstitutional, at least in the context of those clinics that provide only medication abortion, because it unduly burdens a woman’s right to choose whether to obtain an abortion. Although there may be a rational basis to require abortion clinics offering surgical abortion procedures to meet surgical facility standards, no such basis attends the imposition of those requirements on clinics that provide nonsurgical services. Given the number of clinics that continue to close in the face of this new regulatory legislation — which significantly reduces access to abortion services, increases their cost, and makes them logistically more difficult to procure due to increased geographic travel — it is arguable that even requiring surgical abortion clinics to meet ambulatory surgical center standards will result in an undue burden.

At the same time, however, state legislators have a valid interest in ensuring that abortion procedures are conducted in a safe manner. Although abortion clinics currently are subject to regulatory oversight outside the realm of state-specific statutes, the requirements currently in place govern the privacy of patients’ health records, laboratory testing practices, and workplace health and safety, but do not address directly the regulation of surgical procedures.

In light of the constitutional problems embedded in current state efforts to regulate abortion clinic facilities and the shortcomings of federal regulatory efforts, it may be time to entertain a different approach to abortion clinic regulation. Part I presents the legal framework and standards currently governing abortion legislation. Part II utilizes this foundation to evaluate current problems in state regulatory practices, spotlighting two pieces of recent state legislation that seek to impose ambulatory surgical center standards on all abortion clinic facilities within their borders. Lastly, Part III introduces and outlines an alternate means of regulation — accreditation — that offers common ground in the abortion debate by serving everyone’s interest in providing safe, accessible medical services to women.

April 30, 2015 in Scholarship and Research, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Federal Judge Permanently Enjoins Wisconsin Admitting Privileges Law

The Journal Sentinel: Judge rules Wisconsin abortion law unconstitutional, by Daniel Bice & Cary Spivak:

A federal judge on Friday struck down a Wisconsin law requiring doctors performing abortions to get hospital-admitting privileges, concluding that the measure was enacted primarily to provide an obstacle for women seeking abortions.

U.S. District Judge William Conley, who earlier had put the law on hold, ruled that the 2013 law is unconstitutional. He issued a permanent injunction blocking its enforcement. . . .

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The opinion is available here.

March 21, 2015 in In the Courts, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Multiple Abortion Restrictions in Ohio Reduce Access

NPR - blog: Abortion Restrictions Complicate Access For Ohio Women, by Jennifer Ludden:

Ohio may not have gotten the national attention of say, Texas, but a steady stream of abortion restrictions over the past four years has helped close nearly half the state's clinics that perform the procedure.

"We are more fully booked, and I think we have a harder time squeezing patients in if they're earlier in the pregnancy," says Chrisse France, executive director of Preterm. It's one of just two clinics still operating in Cleveland, and its caseload is up 10 percent. . . .

March 4, 2015 in Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mississippi Files Cert Petition in TRAP Law Challenge

ThinkProgress: The Nation’s Most Restrictive Anti-Abortion Law Just Reached The Supreme Court, by Ian Millheiser:

Supreme CourtA Mississippi law that would eliminate access to abortion within that state — a law so restrictive that it was halted by one of the most conservative federal appeals courts in the nation — arrived in the Supreme Court on Wednesday after the state filed a petition asking the justices to hear the case. Should the Court agree to do so, Mississippi could win the right to close down its only abortion clinic. . . .

February 24, 2015 in Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2015 Offers No Reprieve From Efforts to Restrict Abortion

ThinkProgress: The Massive Push To Restrict Abortion In 2015, by Tara Culp-Ressler:

On the heels of a record-breaking number of new abortion restrictions that have been enacted over the past four years, state lawmakers are continuing to push forward with a stringent anti-abortion agenda in 2015.

By last week, states had already introduced more than 100 bills intended to regulate access to abortion, according to researchers at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Lawmakers are working to restrict the procedure in more than half the states in the country . . . .

February 11, 2015 in Abortion Bans, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fourth and Fifth Circuits Confront Abortion Exceptionalism

JURIST (commentary): Fourth and Fifth Circuits Confront Abortion Exceptionalism, by Caitlin Borgmann:

Federal Courts of Appeals have recently addressed two important abortion cases, either of which could end up before US Supreme Court. Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit heardoral arguments on the merits of a Texas law that requires abortion facilities to meet hospital-like building and construction standards. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a decision[PDF] in late December striking down a North Carolina pre-abortion ultrasound law that requires abortion providers to perform a sonogram before an abortion and to display and describe it to the woman. Each case is important for abortion rights in different ways, but a common theme the cases raise is the question of abortion exceptionalism: whether courts should treat abortion as an exceptional case when states purport to regulate it for health and safety reasons (in the Texas case) or when state restrictions encroach on the right against compelled speech (in the North Carolina case) . . . .

January 22, 2015 in In the Courts, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NYT Editorial on Attacks on Abortion Rights

The New York Times editorial: A Perilous Year for Abortion Rights:

The start of 2015 finds no letup in the attacks on a woman’s constitutionally protected right to make her own childbearing decisions. Republican lawmakers and organizations devoted to dismantling reproductive freedom have succeeded in shrinking the already inadequate number of abortion providers, making it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for women — especially young and poor women — to obtain safe and legal abortion services in large swaths Texas and other parts of the country. . . .

January 20, 2015 in In the Media, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Federal Judge Permanently Enjoins Indiana Abortion Law

JURIST: Federal judge enters final ruling on Indiana abortion clinic law, by Steven Wildberger:

Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana[official website] entered a permanent injunction Wednesday barring Indiana law IC 16-18-2 [text], which would redefine what qualifies as an abortion clinic and shut down Planned Parenthood's Lafayette facility. The law was barred for imposing rules on facilities that provided only medical abortions that would not have been imposed on physicians' offices providing the same service, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment [text]. . . .

January 8, 2015 in In the Courts, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Fifth Circuit Hears Arguments on Texas Ambulatory Surgical Center Requirement

The New York Times: Texas Abortion Clinic Rules Tested in Appeals Court, by Erik Eckholm:

Lawyers for abortion clinics squared off with Texas state attorneys in a federal appeals court here on Wednesday, arguing over the constitutionality of stringent abortion clinic rules that would force more than half the remaining abortion providers in Texas to close.

But more is at stake than whether large portions of South and West Texas will be left with no abortion clinics, forcing some women to drive hundreds of miles for an abortion, for safety reasons that doctors and clinic owners call a pretense.

The case argued here — along with others arising from the hundreds ofabortion restrictions adopted by more than half of the states in recent years — poses issues that are likely to end up before the Supreme Court in the next year or two, many legal experts say . . . .

Al Jazeera America: Texas abortion clinics: How far is too far to drive?, by Michael Keller & Marisa Taylor:

Is 150 miles too far to drive in order to get an abortion? In some parts of Texas, that distance could get a lot longer, and it’s up to a federal appeals court to decide whether that places too much of a burden on women seeking to end their pregnancies. . . .

“It’s always been a little bit unclear exactly what constitutes an ‘undue burden,’” said Caitlin Borgmann, a professor at CUNY School of Law with expertise on reproductive rights law. . . .

“If women can’t access abortions, then the right is meaningless,” Borgmann said. “This very much goes to the core of what it means to be a constitutional right to abortion.”

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The Al Jazeera America story includes interactive maps that show what parts of Texas would be left without any available abortion clinics if the ambulatory surgical center requirement is upheld.

January 7, 2015 in In the Courts, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Supreme Court Declines to Review Decision Blocking Arizona Medication Abortion Restriction

The New York Times: Justices Let Abortion Decision Stand, by Adam Liptak:

The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a decision temporarily blocking an Arizona law that limits the availability of medicinal, nonsurgical abortions. As is its custom when it denies review, the court gave no reasons for its action.

The law, enacted in 2012, requires abortion providers to comply with a 2000 protocol from the Food and Drug Administration for mifepristone, anabortion-inducing drug that is sometimes called RU-486. . . .

The 2000 protocol calls for the drug to be given in higher doses than is customary today, and only in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. . . .

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This denial is interesting in part because the Supreme Court had previously agreed to review a similar law from Oklahoma, which had been struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.  The U.S. Supreme Court had then certified questions to the Oklahoma Supreme Court regarding the law's interpretation.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court read the law broadly, in a way that would have prohibited all medication abortions, including to treat ectopic pregnancies.  After receiving the Oklahoma Supreme Court's interpretation, the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2013 dismissed the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted.  It seemed possible that the U.S. Supreme Court would still be interested in reviewing a medication abortion restriction that was interpreted more narrowly as requiring adherence to the FDA-approved protocol.  The Ninth Circuit decision on the preliminary injunction assumed for purposes of the opinion that the Arizona law only reached this far, but still found it to constitute an undue burden.

-CEB

December 15, 2014 in Abortion, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 5, 2014

ThinkProgress Investigates Influence of Americans United for Life on State Legislatures

ThinkProgress: Inside The Highly Sophisticated Group That’s Quietly Making It Much Harder To Get An Abortion, by Erica Hellerstein:

. . . Not unlike the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), AUL functions as de facto legislation mill for like-minded politicians and on-the-ground anti-abortion activist groups — offering model legislation that, according to itswebsite, “enables legislators to easily introduce bills without needing to research and write the bills themselves.” The organization operates in relative obscurity despite its exceptionally far reach. According to an email obtained by ThinkProgress that was sent to AUL supporters, the group is responsible for one third (74) of the 200-plus anti-abortion laws that have passed since 2010. . . .

December 5, 2014 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 1, 2014

LA Times Op-Ed on TRAP Laws

The Los Angeles Times op-ed: 'TRAP laws' are a threat in disguise to abortion rights, by Caitlin Borgmann:

Last month, ballot measures that would have given embryos the legal rights of persons were decisively rejected in Colorado and North Dakota. The defeats were hailed as a victory for defenders of the right to legal abortion. But such measures serve as a distraction from a far bigger threat to abortion rights from onerous rules known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or "TRAP laws." . . .

December 1, 2014 in Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Republican Gains in November Elections Portend More Abortion Restrictions

Politico: The coming wave of anti-abortion laws, by Paige Winfield Cunningham:

New GOP state legislatures will make access to abortion harder than ever.

The big Republican gains in the November elections strengthened and enlarged the anti-abortion forces in the House and the Senate. But it’s the GOP victories in the statehouses and governor’s mansions that are priming the ground for another round of legal restrictions on abortion. . . .

November 29, 2014 in Abortion, Politics, State Legislatures, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fifth Circuit Denies En Banc Review of Decision Blocking Mississippi's Admitting Privileges Law

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger: 5th Circuit refuses to reconsider Mississippi's abortion law, by Jimmie E. Gates:

The full 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has refused to reconsider a ruling blocking Mississippi from enforcing a law requiring doctors who perform abortions in the state to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

In late July, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the law is unconstitutional because it would close Mississippi's only abortion clinic. . . .

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The panel decision was notable for ruling that a state may not rely on the availability of abortion in neighboring states in arguing that its own restrictions do not impose an undue burden.  In this case, the admitting privileges law threatened to shut down Mississippi's last remaining abortion clinic. Professor Jonathan Will and I exchanged views on the panel decision in August.

-CEB

November 20, 2014 in In the Courts, State and Local News, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Oklahoma Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Admitting Privileges Law and Medication Abortion Restrictions

The New York Times: Oklahoma Supreme Court Blocks 2 Abortion Laws, by Timothy Williams:

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked two new laws that critics say may have made it difficult for women to obtain abortions in the state.

The measures, approved by the State Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin, took effect Nov. 1.

But in a unanimous decision released Tuesday, the State Supreme Court voted to prevent enforcement of the rules until lawsuits challenging their constitutionality are settled by a lower court. . . .

November 4, 2014 in In the Courts, State and Local News, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 24, 2014

State Judge Allows Oklahoma's Admitting Privileges Law to Take Effect

RH Reality Check: Oklahoma Court Refuses to Block Admitting Privileges Requirement, by Jessica Mason Pieklo:

Oklahoma can enforce its new anti-abortion admitting privileges requirement beginning November 1, a state district court judge ruled Friday.

SB 1848 mandates all reproductive health care clinics have a physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital on-site when abortion procedures are performed. . . .

October 24, 2014 in In the Courts, State and Local News, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oklahoma Judge Allows Restriction on Medication Abortions to Take Effect

Reuters: Oklahoma judge allows law on abortion pills to take effect, by Heide Brandes:

An Oklahoma judge said on Wednesday he will allow a law governing the use of an abortion-inducing drug to take effect as planned on Nov. 1, over the objections of abortion rights advocates who said the measure is poor public health policy that could put women at risk. . . .

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In case anyone is having a sense of deja vu in reading this story:  a similar Oklahoma law made it up to the U.S. Supreme Court, briefly, before the Court changed its mind and decided not to hear the case. The Oklahoma Supreme Court had invalidated the law, and the state sought U.S. Supreme Court review.  After granting cert, the U.S. Supreme Court certified two questions to the Oklahoma Supreme Court seeking clarification about the scope of the statute.  After the Oklahoma court answered these questions and interpreted the statute broadly, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the writ as improvidently granted. 

-CEB

October 23, 2014 in State and Local News, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 17, 2014

TRAP Laws Impose Costs, Even When Clinics Stay Open

RH Reality Check: The Hidden Costs of Abortion Restrictions, by Carole Joffe (Univ. of Calif.):

“You walk into our surgery center and it’s so cold and scary. There’s no art. The lights are bright, the recovery rooms smell like bleach. All the staff are wearing gowns and head and foot covers and the patients have to wear the same thing … and there’s nothing comforting about it. The warmth is gone.”

As recent events in Texas have made clear, when it comes to abortion care, the worst outcome of the current onslaught of state-imposed targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP laws) is the forced closing of clinics. But even clinics in affected states that manage to stay open suffer costs. . . .

October 17, 2014 in Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Texas Abortion Clinics Can Reopen for Now, But Future Is Uncertain

The New York Times: Texas Abortion Clinics to Reopen Despite a Future in Legal Limbo, by Erik Eckholm:

A day after the Supreme Court blocked a Texas law that had forced abortion clinics to close, some of the shuttered facilities prepared to reopen, pleased at the reprieve but mindful that the legal fight was far from over.

Tuesday’s order increased the chances, legal experts said, of a major face-off in the Supreme Court over a crucial question: What restrictions add up to an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abortion? . . .

While the order did not necessarily reveal how or whether the Supreme Court might ultimately rule, it did indicate that the justices “saw the potentially irrevocable damage if the clinics were forced to close,” said Caitlin E. Borgmann, a professor at the CUNY School of Law in New York.

 . . . The basic issue, Ms. Borgmann said, is how much a state may restrict abortion without banning it altogether.

“How much travel is too much? How much do costs matter? These are questions the Supreme Court has never answered,” Ms. Borgmann said, adding that appeals of the Texas law could give the court an opportunity to clarify the issue. . . .

October 15, 2014 in Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Texas Abortion Restrictions, Allowing Clinics to Remain Open

The New York Times:  Supreme Court Allows Texas Abortion Clinics to Stay Open, by Adam Liptak:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed more than a dozen Texas abortion clinics to reopen, blocking a state law that had imposed strict requirements on abortion providers. Had the law been allowed to stand, it would have caused all but eight of the state’s abortion clinics to close and would have required many women to travel more than 150 miles to the nearest abortion provider.

The Supreme Court’s order — five sentences long and with no explanation of the justices’ reasoning — represents an interim step in a legal fight that is far from over. But abortion rights advocates welcomed what they said was the enormous practical impact of the move. Had the clinics been forced to remain closed while appeals went forward, they said, they might never have reopened. . . .

The Supreme Court, in an unsigned order apparently reflecting the views of six justices, blocked the surgical-center requirement entirely and the admitting-privileges requirement as it applied to clinics in McAllen, Tex., and El Paso.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would have allowed the law to be enforced. . . .

See also: SCOTUSblog:  Court blocks abortion limits in Texas, by Lyle Denniston.

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This is significant, because when the Court last November considered only the admitting privileges portion of this law on an emergency basis, it refused to block the Fifth Circuit's ruling that allowed the law to take effect.  That time, the 4 liberal Justices dissented.

October 15, 2014 in Abortion, Supreme Court, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)