Tuesday, December 3, 2013
ABC News: Judges in Chicago Question Wisconsin Abortion Law, by Michael Tarm:
An appellate court on Tuesday questioned a lawyer for the state of Wisconsin about why lawmakers singled out abortion clinics in requiring their doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, as judges heard arguments about the hotly debated law.
The sometimes-contentious, hourlong hearing before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was meant to help a three-judge panel decide whether to lift a temporary block on the law imposed by a lower court. . . .
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Bloomberg Businessweek: The Vanishing Abortion Clinic, by Esmé E. Deprez:
Amy Hagstrom Miller fired 34 people in November. “It’s hard to look people in the eye and say they don’t have a job anymore, not because of anything they or we did incorrectly or because we weren’t caring for women in a fabulous way,” she says. “It’s illogical.” Miller, founder and chief executive officer of Whole Woman’s Health, based in Austin, had to stop or sharply curtail abortions at four of her six Texas clinics because a new state law requires doctors performing the procedure to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. To get an abortion, the mostly poor women who relied on Miller’s establishment in McAllen, on the state’s border with Mexico, will now have to drive 150 miles to Corpus Christi or to the local flea market, where illegal, do-it-yourself drugs start at $15 a pill. . . .
Sunday, November 24, 2013
West Virginia Gazette-Mail: Poll: Plurality of W.Va. voters oppose more abortion regulations, by Lori Kersey:
A new poll commissioned by an abortion rights agency suggests that West Virginians do not support more regulations that some say are meant to close abortion clinics.
Planned Parenthood sponsored the poll, which found that 49 percent of voters in West Virginia oppose adding more restrictions to the state's abortion clinics. Twenty-eight percent of people support more restrictions and 23 percent are not sure, according to the poll. . . .
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Reuters: Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin, Texas, resumes abortion services, by Lisa Maria Garza:
A Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin, Texas, resumed abortion services on Friday under strict new state rules, the organization said, but 11 other abortion clinics in the state are still not performing the procedure.
Planned Parenthood said its Austin doctor had received admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a requirement under the new law. The clinic had closed on October 31 when the law was enacted after a federal appeals court overturned a lower-court ruling that said the law was an undue burden on women seeking abortions. . . .
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Arizona Asks Supreme Court to Reinstate Its Law Denying Medicaid Funding To Medical Providers That Offer Abortion
AZcentral.com: Arizona again asks Supreme Court to look at abortion law, by Alia Beard Rau:
For the second time in as many months, an Arizona official has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate a controversial state abortion law.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne on Wednesday asked the nation’s highest court to rule on a law that strips Medicaid funding from doctors and clinics that perform abortions.
House Bill 2800, which the Legislature passed and Gov. Jan Brewer signed in 2012, would have halted Medicaid reimbursements for contraceptives, cancer screenings, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and annual women’s exams at more than 80 Arizona hospitals and clinics that also perform abortions. . . .
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
SCOTUSblog: Texas abortion law left in effect, by Lyle Dennison:
Splitting five to four, the Supreme Court late Tuesday afternoon refused to block a Texas abortion law that critics say is forcing the closing of one-third of all clinics in the state. The Court had been studying the issue for the past week. The majority said that the challengers had not met the requirement for setting aside a federal appeals court’s order permitting the law to take effect on October 31.
The majority specifically included Justices Antonin Scalia, who wrote separately in a concurring opinion joined by Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Clarence Thomas. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy presumably voted with those three, because it would have taken five votes to act definitively on the plea by doctors and clinics when there were four Justices who wanted to block the law. . . .
Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the four dissenters, including Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. . . .
The order and opinions are available here.
ACLU press release: Supreme Court Refuses to Block Texas Abortion Law:
Health Care Providers Vow to Continue Fight to Protect Women
The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to halt a Texas law that has forced more than a dozen of the state’s women’s health centers to stop providing abortion care, leaving large parts of the state without an abortion provider and preventing women from obtaining abortions.
“We are not giving up on Texas women,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “If the constitutional right to abortion means anything, it must mean that laws like this one that prevent women from obtaining an abortion must be invalidated. This is a very disappointing decision, but we will continue to do everything we can to protect the health and rights of Texas women.”
The case will now continue in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the full merits of the case in January 2014. . . .
New York Magazine: Why the Abortion Pill Didn't Change Everything, by Ann Friedman:
In 1993, Time magazine declared mifepristone — the abortion pill that’s often called RU-486 — “The Pill that Changes Everything.” In 1999, The New York Times Magazine called it a “little white bombshell” with “enormous political consequences.” On a political level, activists hoped that it would allow women to sidestep clinic protests and make abortion less controversial. Advocates hoped — and anti-abortion groups feared — that the abortion pill would be prescribed by regular doctors, family practitioners and OB/GYNs, allowing women to have an abortion in the privacy of their home, far from the picket lines. It would move abortion toward the mainstream realm of routine health care. And on a medical level, women were curious about the method: taking a pill seemed to promise a more convenient, less invasive experience.
By 2013, though, it’s become clear that the pill hasn’t revolutionized the way most women get abortions; it’s become just another front in the legislative and legal battles over reproductive rights, one more method pro-choice activists must fight to defend. . . .
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
USA Today: Steady stream of abortion cases headed toward high court, by Richard Wolf:
A steady stream of abortion cases are heading toward the Supreme Court, making it only a matter of time before the justices are likely to consider a new wave of state restrictions. . . .
"It's a pivotal moment," says Caitlin Borgmann, a City University of New York law professor who writes a blog on reproductive rights. "The restrictions are now getting to a point where they're actually shutting down clinics." . . .
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The National Law Journal: The Abortion Docket, by Marcia Coyle:
In the past two years, anti-abortion groups have seeded state laws with abortion restrictions. Challengers to court rulings for and against those laws now are knocking on the doors of the U.S. Supreme Court. . . .
The New York Times: Justices Leave in Place Ruling Against Abortion Ultrasound Requirement, by Adam Liptak:
The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a state court’s decision striking down an Oklahoma law that required women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound image placed in front of them and to listen to a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure. . . .
H/t: Priscilla Smith
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Al Jazeera America: Texas abortion ban forces sick woman out of state, by Carolyn Jones:
As access dwindles because of anti-abortion laws, low-income women must rely on volunteer aid for travel
. . . as a recent wave of anti-abortion legislation has swept the nation and forced abortion clinics to close, paying for an abortion isn’t the only problem. Physical access is a real and growing barrier. The Huffington Post reported this summer that more than 50 abortion clinics have closed in the last three years. In Texas last week, another 15 clinics shut their doors overnight after a law went into effect requiring doctors to have local hospital admitting privileges . . . .
Monday, November 4, 2013
SCOTUS Blog: Court Won't Rule on RU-486 Abortions, by Lyle Dennison:
The Supreme Court took off of its docket, and thus will not decide, a plea by the state of Oklahoma to revive a law that restricts doctors’ use of drugs rather than surgery to perform an abortion with the medication RU-486 and others. In a one-sentence order, the Court dismissed as “improvidently granted” the case of Cline, et al., v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice (docket 12-1094). . . .
Center for Reproductive Rights press release: Texas Health Care Providers Take Fight Against Unconstitutional Law to U.S. Supreme Court:
Following a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that allowed the immediate enforcement of a state law blocking women from getting services from one-third of abortion providers in the state, reproductive health care providers have taken their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today the women’s health care providers who jointly filed suit on behalf of their patients have filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate an injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on October 28 blocking a Texas provision requiring doctors who provide abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital—a requirement that leading medical associations oppose and only results in women losing access to safe medical care. . . .
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Slate: Dear President Obama, This Is Why Judges Matter, by Emily Bazelon & Dahlia Lithwick:
Two Bush appointees deliver body blows to reproductive rights—and demonstrate the power of the bench.
It’s been a day of body blows for reproductive rights. On Thursday night, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit reversed a lower court’s decision to temporarily block a provision of the omnibus Texas abortion law that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. . . . On Friday, morning, it was the turn of another extremely conservative woman chosen for the bench by Bush, Janice Rogers Brown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. . . .
Bloomberg.com editorial: Don’t Let Texas Restrict Abortion Again:
You can’t fault Texas for inconsistency. It first criminalized abortion in 1854, and Roe v. Wadearose from a lawsuit in Dallas County. That 1973 Supreme Court ruling, which protects a woman’s right to have an abortion, is still the law of the land.
It’s a point worth keeping mind in view of last week’s legal roller coaster in Texas. . . .
Saturday, November 2, 2013
MSNBC: 'I'm showing my son mercy', by Irin Carmon:
. . . Oklahomans brag that theirs has become the reddest state. Republicans hold super majorities in both chambers and every single seat in the U.S. Congress. Republican Mary Fallin is governor. Every single Oklahoma county rejected Barack Obama–twice. The changed political landscape allowed Oklahoma to become a staging ground for the anti-choice movement’s strategy to undermine Roe v. Wade, one seemingly narrow restriction at a time.
“We are the guinea pigs,” said Ryan Kiesel, a former state lawmaker who is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. . . .
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Fifth Circuit's Excessive Deference to the State Renders the "Fundamental" Right to Abortion Meaningless
The difference between the trial court's opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott -- permanently enjoining Texas's hospital admitting privileges requirement for abortion providers -- and that of the Fifth Circuit -- staying the trial court's injunction pending an expedited appeal -- boils down to burdens of proof. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel required the state to show evidence that its admitting privileges requirement actually furthers women's health. After a trial, he concluded the evidence showed that the requirement did absolutely nothing to protect women's health, and it would cause clinics across Texas to shut down. He held that the law therefore lacked a rational basis, did not further a valid purpose, and had the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking abortions. He was not alone in that view: four other courts have recently temporarily blocked admitting privileges requirements based on similar reasoning. Judge Yeakel's approach is correct: when a law burdens fundamental constitutional rights, the state should be required to produce evidence that the law in fact furthers some valid governmental purpose. (More on that issue here.)
The Fifth Circuit panel, on the other hand, deferred to the state on every question of fact in determining that Judge Yeakel's opinion was likely to be overturned on appeal. In reviewing the state's justification for the law, the panel applied the weakest possible form of rational basis review, a la FCC v. Beach Communications, requiring only that there be some "conceivable" justification for the law. In applying the undue burden standard, the court found that there was no smoking gun purpose to burden women apparent on the face of the law (which it said was required for a facial challenge). And as to effects, the court minimized the evidence of so many clinics shutting down and the burdens (or even absolute obstacles) this would impose on some women. The court relied in part on the facial nature of the challenge for its effects ruling, essentially thumbing its nose at the Supreme Court's "large fraction" test in Casey and suggesting that it was bound instead by the Fifth Circuit's preference for applying the Salerno standard in abortion cases. That test places plaintiffs in the exceedingly difficult position of proving that there is no set of circumstances under which the statute would be constitutional. (More on the problems with this approach to facial challenges here.)
In granting the emergency stay, the court compared the relative harms that each side would suffer if the stay were or were not granted. Now what, you may wonder, is the "irreparable harm" that the state of Texas will suffer if the status quo is maintained while this appeal is pending? The panel found that "the State necessarily suffers the irreparable harm of denying the public interest in the enforcement of its laws." This, compared with the immediate elimination of abortion services in 24 counties in Texas. Even for the Fifth Circuit, the callousness of this opinion is shocking.
The Fifth Circuit's opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott is available here.
Fifth Circuit Grants Texas Emergency Stay of Trial Court's Injunction: Onerous Admitting Privileges Law Will Go Into Effect, Eliminating Abortion Services At Many Clinics
CNN: Federal court reinstates key part of Texas abortion law, by Dana Ford:
A federal appeals court Thursday reinstated a key part of a new Texas abortion law, considered to be among the most restrictive in the country.
The decision came three days after a federal judge struck down the provision, which requires doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic at which they're providing abortion services. . . .
ACLU press release: Appeals Court Allows Unconstitutional Texas Abortion Restrictions to Take Effect While Legal Challenge Proceeds:
Providers Pledge to Continue to Fight for their Patients
AUSTIN - A federal appeals court ruled today that part of a Texas anti-abortion law that was struck down Monday by a district court will be allowed to take effect while legal challenges proceed. The provisions will cause at least one-third of the state's licensed health centers that currently provide abortion to stop offering the service immediately.
The law was initially challenged by more than a dozen women's health care providers represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm of George Brothers Kincaid & Horton. The district court ruled Monday that a provision that requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital is not rationally related to ensuring patient safety, and that the requirement would place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking abortion. Following the state's emergency request, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the provisions can take effect while the case moves forward.
"We will continue to fight to preserve access to abortion services in Texas," said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "This law is unconscionable. As the district court found, it does not further patient safety, and it will shut down many clinics across the state."
"The result of this ruling is not academic," said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. "Women in many parts of the state will lose access to care they count on because clinics will close. If the State of Texas cares about women's health and safety, as it claims, it should take steps to reduce the need for abortion rather than closing clinics in already underserved parts of the state."
For more information on this case, please visit: www.aclu.org/reproductive-freedom/planned-parenthood-v-abbott
Monday, October 28, 2013
Center for Reproductive Rights: Court Decision Protects Abortion Access for Most Women in Texas, But Upholds Restrictions on Medication Abortion:
Ruling blocks provision that would have made safe, legal abortion non-existent for one in three Texas women
After a three day trial, a federal court today permanently struck down one provision of a recently enacted, deeply unpopular law—a measure that would have made safe and legal abortion services for one-third of women in Texas virtually impossible to access.
While U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel blocked implementation of a requirement that all abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, today’s ruling has allowed another harmful measure to take effect on October 29—one that severely restricts the use of medication abortion, a safe and effective method to end an early pregnancy. . . .
ACLU Blog of Rights: Court to Texas: Abortion Law Serves No Valid Purpose, by Brigitte Amiri:
In a crucial victory for Texas women and families, a federal district court held unconstitutional a law requiring physicians who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The Texas court based its decision on evidence showing that the law would not protect women in any way, and would have a devastating effect on women in the state. Indeed, the court expressly found that the law has “no rational relationship to improved patient care” and serves no “valid purpose.” That is why leading medical experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Texas Hospital Association, all opposed the law.
The importance of today’s ruling cannot be overstated. . . .