Tag Archives: roe v wade

Looming abortion ruling could be ‘dangerous’

As a U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion rights is highly anticipated, few are as uniquely positioned to assess its impact as reproductive rights attorney Kathryn Kolbert, who argued the last major abortion case before the high court.

In that 1992 challenge, the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion survived, but the Supreme Court allowed for such state regulations as waiting periods.

The decision was written by Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter, who have retired, and Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Kennedy is seen as pivotal in the current case which picks up, in a sense, where the earlier case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, left off.

This time, the court is deciding if Texas has created an undue burden for women by imposing stiff regulations on abortion clinics and doctors. Critics say the rules are a backdoor means to restrict access to abortion, known as TRAP laws.

More than half of Texas’ clinics have closed, leaving fewer than 20, advocates say, to serve the state of 27 million people.

Hardest hit have been rural, poor women for whom distance and cost have put abortions out of reach, they say.

Supporters of the laws claim they protect women’s health. The regulations require clinics to upgrade to hospital standards and doctors performing abortions to have formal agreements to admit patients to local hospitals.

Kolbert, who heads the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at New York’s Barnard College, talked with the Thomson Reuters Foundation about the Supreme Court and abortion rights.

She co-founded the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, which is representing Whole Women’s Health, the chain of clinics challenging the Texas regulations.

THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION: It seems the issues being addressed in the Texas case come out of the Casey case, that the regulations are an undue burden.

KOLBERT: The main issue in the case is how the undue burden standard will be interpreted going forward.

The whole question comes down to Justice Kennedy and how he sees that standard, and he frankly is much more in the middle.

Does he come back to what he articulated in Casey, or is he pushed a little bit to the right with the influence of the other justices? For me, the biggest concern is Justice O’Connor, who he clearly listened to, is no longer on the court.

TRF: What do you think in essence underlies the abortion issue?

KOLBERT: It’s an issue that ties together the coalitions on the right, the fundamentalists, the Catholics, the people who basically are business conservatives.

It’s about power. It’s about equality. There’s a lot of pushback in America still about giving women the ability to go beyond what they are, their life as a wife and mother, which is the culturally dominant view.

TRF: TRAP laws are often hard to explain because they seem so benign.

KOLBERT: That’s a strategy. Those who are writing these restrictions are looking for things that sound reasonable but in practice are incredibly problematic for women, particularly those who have less political power. So young women and poor women are the first that are going to be affected negatively.

If you look at every restriction that’s been introduced since 1973, they are all under the guise of reasonableness.

TRF: Texas is the case being tested. Is it safe to say there are similar situations in other states?

KOLBERT: All over the country, yes. Frankly, if this is upheld the same statute will be enacted in 25 states within three years. That’s what makes it so dangerous.

TRF: What are the possibilities of what the Supreme Court could do?

KOLBERT: Remember the court has got only eight justices right now, so the option is really one of three.

We win five to three, which means that we have (Justice Elena) Kagan, (Justice Stephen) Breyer, (Justice Sonia) Sotomayor, (Justice Ruth) Ginsberg and Kennedy…. Kennedy wrote Casey, so that’s a reasonable assumption.

The second possibility is that the court would not make a decision right now and would send the case back for taking of additional evidence … which is what I think of as looking for an out.

They could remand the case for a determination of whether or not there are a sufficient number of clinics within the state to handle the excess capacity of women needing abortions that would happen when you close so many clinics.

So we could win, there could be an ‘out’ or we could lose. If the court divided four-four…, then the lower court decision would be upheld.

That would be interpreted as a major win for the anti-abortion groups, and we would see laws like this in every state in the country.

TRF: If you had to put your money on any of those three options, which one do you see more likely?

KOLBERT: I certainly hope that we can keep Justice Kennedy. If not, then I think they’ll send it back for more evidence.

TRF: What’s it like to argue a case before the Supreme Court?

KOLBERT: It’s pretty awesome, it’s scary. For me though it was all about the women we were representing. It’s the doctors and the clinics, the providers who do the hard work, who meet with women facing unintended pregnancies every single day.

It was being able to be a spokesperson for them and to explain their plight and explain what they’re going through that was the most gratifying part of the job.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Ros Russell; with credit to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Ignoring budget woes, Oklahoma makes abortion a felony

Oklahoma lawmakers have moved to effectively ban abortion in their state by making it a felony for doctors to perform the procedure, an effort the bill’s sponsor said is aimed at ultimately overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The bill, which abortion rights group Center for Reproductive Rights says is the first of its kind in the nation, also would restrict any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine in Oklahoma.

It passed 33–12 on May 19 with no discussion or debate; a handful of Republicans joined with Democrats in voting against the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, an anti-abortion Republican, has until May 26 to sign the bill into law or veto it. Spokesman Michael McNutt said she also could also allow the bill to become law “without approval” after the five-day period has elapsed. He also said she will withhold comment until her staff has time to review it.

Dahm made it clear that he hopes his bill could lead to overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Since I believe life begins at conception, it should be protected, and I believe it’s a core function of state government to defend that life from the beginning of conception,” Dahm said.

But abortion rights supporters — and the state’s medical association — have said the bill is unconstitutional. Sen. Ervin Yen, an Oklahoma City Republican and the only physician in the Senate, described the measure as “insane” and voted against it.

“Oklahoma politicians have made it their mission year after year to restrict women’s access to vital health care services, yet this total ban on abortion is a new low,” Amanda Allen, an attorney for the New-York based center said in a statement. “The Center for Reproductive Rights is closely watching this bill and we strongly urge Gov. Fallin to reject this cruel and unconstitutional ban.”

The Senate came as the Oklahoma Legislature nears a May 27 deadline for adjournment and is still grappling with a $1.3 billion budget hole that could lead to deep cuts to public schools, health care and the state’s overcrowded prison system.

“Republicans don’t have an answer for their failed education policies, failing health care policies and failing fiscal policies, so what do you do in that situation?” said Senate Democratic leader Sen. John Sparks. “You come up with an emotional distraction. That’s what this bill is.”

Nearly every year, Oklahoma lawmakers have passed bills imposing new restrictions on abortions, but many of those laws have never taken effect. In all, eight of the state’s separate anti-abortion measures have been challenged in court as unconstitutional in the last five years.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case over an overturned Oklahoma law that would have required women to view an ultrasound of her fetus before an abortion is performed. That same year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a law that would have effectively banned all drug-induced abortions in the state.

In 2014, the state Legislature approved a law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, but a challenge is pending before the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Also on May 19, the Oklahoma House approved a bill that requires the state Department of Health to develop informational material “for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society,” but lawmakers didn’t approve any funding for it. The measure, which now goes to the Senate, requires the health department to produce information about alternatives to abortion and the developmental stages of a fetus, but the bill’s sponsor says it cannot be implemented without any funding.

Trust Women, a Wichita, Kansas-based abortion rights foundation that’s building an abortion clinic in Oklahoma City, says it’s “dismayed” by the passage of the procedure-performing bill, but is undeterred in its plans to open the center.

“Trust Women stands firm on our decision to open a clinic in the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. without a provider,” founder and CEO Julie Burkhart said in a statement. “Women need the services we will offer.”

Trump protesters follow his California appearances

Hundreds of rowdy anti-Trump protesters broke through barricades and threw eggs at police Friday outside a hotel where the GOP frontrunner addressed the state’s Republican convention. Several Trump supporters said they were roughed up but no serious injuries were reported.

The protest just outside San Francisco occurred a day after anti-Trump protesters took to the streets in Southern California, blocking traffic and damaging five police cars in Costa Mesa following a speech by the leader in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Demonstrators at both locations waved Mexican flags, an action meant to counter Trump’s hard stance on immigration and disparaging remarks about Mexico.

Because of the protest, Trump was rerouted to a back entrance. In a surreal scene, news helicopters showed the billionaire businessman and his security detail walking between two concrete freeway barriers before hopping down onto a grass verge and walking across a service road.

“That was not the easiest entrance I ever made,” Trump quipped when he started speaking to the convention delegates. “It felt like I was crossing the border.”

Outside, crowds of anti-Trump protesters broke through steel barricades and pelted riot police with eggs as the officers stood shoulder-to-shoulder to keep the demonstrators from entering the hotel.

A man wearing a red hat bearing the Trump campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” was punched in the head from behind while being jostled by a group of shouting protesters. Another Trump supporter said he was punched and spit upon by demonstrators who also threw his phone to the ground.

“It went gangbusters. They attacked me,” said Chris Conway, a mortgage broker from San Mateo.

Burlingame is right outside San Francisco, a liberal bastion that became the focal point of the immigration debate last year when an immigrant in the country illegally, and who had been deported multiple times, shot and killed a woman walking with her father.

Immigration has been one of Trump’s main issues and he often has highlighted the San Francisco killing while touting his plan to build a wall along the entire Mexican border.

California’s primary is June 7, a date once seen as too late to influence the selection process. Now it is seen as the election that either gets Trump over the threshold needed for the nomination or leaves him just short.

He’ll likely make many visits to California in coming weeks. That and his hard stand on immigration in a state where millions of immigrants live and that’s run by Democrats who generally support more benefits, services and job opportunities for those in the country illegally raise the prospects of more raucous demonstrations.

In Orange County, once a Republican stronghold but now home to a surging Hispanic population, a vocal but peaceful demonstration before a rally and Trump speech turned violent afterward. At least 17 people were arrested, five police cars were damaged and an officer was hit in the head by a rock but not seriously hurt, authorities said.

One anti-Trump protester bloodied the face of a supporter in a scuffle.

Dozens of cars — including those of Trump supporters trying to leave — were stuck in the street as several hundred demonstrators blocked the road, waved Mexican flags and posed for selfies in front of lines of riot police.

There were no major injuries and police did not use any force.

Trump protesters have followed the candidate since he began his California trip Thursday with a rally at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, where he filled the Pacific Amphitheatre to its capacity of about 18,000. Many hundreds more were turned away.

Despite the show of support inside the fairgrounds, at least 17 people were arrested after a crowd of Trump protesters turned violent.

Trump protesters, mostly young Latinos according to the Los Angeles Times threw rocks and swarmed cars. A man wearing a Trump T-shirt One man was injured in the face.

Protesters punctured the tires of a police SUV, tried to flip over another and scrawled anti-Trump graffiti across several cars and venue’s marquee, according to the San Diego Tribune. One man was recorded jumping on top of a police cruiser as others smashed out the back window.

Delegate-rich state

It’s possible that California, home to the largest trove of delegates, could provide the margin to anoint nominees in both major parties.

California’s GOP platform  defies expectation in a state known as a Democratic fortress. There have been pushes toward moderation, but the group tends toward conservative leanings and favors calls for a strong national defense, free markets, tax cuts and shrinking the size of government. It’s also socially conservative: the state party’s platform defines marriage as between one man and one woman, and wants Roe v. Wade reversed.

Trump opposes abortion but has spoken favorably about Planned Parenthood. He has warned against cutting into Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, often targets for conservatives who want to slow government spending. When Trump earlier this month said transgender people should be able to use whichever bathroom they choose, Cruz’s campaign released a statement saying Trump was “no different from politically correct leftist elites.” The California platform endorses free markets; Trump has long criticized U.S. trade policy and advocated steep tariffs on Chinese goods.

How Trump fares this weekend could be an indicator of his fortunes on June 7. The event marks an unofficial kick-off for the California race, which will award 172 delegates — a rich trove in the race for the 1,237 required to clinch the GOP presidential nomination. Currently, Trump has 994 delegates, Cruz has 566 and Kasich has 153, according to the AP’s delegate count.

The contest in the nation’s most populous state — Los Angeles County alone has more people than Michigan — is vastly complicated, playing out in what amounts to 54 separate races on a single day — one in every congressional district and one statewide.

The winner in each district collects three delegates; then, the candidate who gets the largest number of votes statewide claims a bonus of 10 more, plus the state party chairman and Republican National Committee members for a total bonus of 13.

An independent Field Poll released earlier this month found Trump with a 7-point edge over Cruz, 39 percent to 32 percent, with Kasich trailing at 18 percent and the rest undecided.

“Donald Trump is not going to agree with every member of this audience on every issue but he remains the rock star of this presidential race,” said Thad Kousser, who teaches political science at the University of California, San Diego.

But inside the California GOP, Cruz has something of a home field advantage. He’s been organizing in the state since last summer, and is supported by four former state party chairmen, along with a host of elected officials and activists.

With Cruz’s organizational roots in the state, a challenge for Trump will be breaking into the party establishment to line up as many supporters as possible in congressional districts he needs to win in June.

Kasich, the holder of one primary victory, his home state of Ohio, is looking to make inroads in California districts that could be favorable to his more moderate credentials and bolster his bid to stay in the race.


Activists predict abortion to be hot topic in 2016 campaigns

With a deeper-than-ever split between Republicans and Democrats over abortion, activists on both sides of the debate foresee a 2016 presidential campaign in which the nominees tackle the volatile topic more aggressively than in past elections.

Friction over the issue also is likely to surface in key Senate races. And the opposing camps will be further energized by Republican-led congressional investigations of Planned Parenthood and by Supreme Court consideration of tough anti-abortion laws in Texas.

“It’s an amazing convergence of events,” said Charmaine Yoest, CEO of the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life. “We haven’t seen a moment like this for 40 years.”

In the presidential race, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is a longtime defender of abortion rights and has voiced strong support for Planned Parenthood — a major provider of abortions, health screenings and contraceptives — it is assailed by anti-abortion activists and Republican officeholders.

In contrast, nearly all of the GOP candidates favor overturning the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Some of the top contenders – including Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – disapprove of abortions even in cases of rape and incest.

“We may very well have the most extreme Republican presidential nominee since Roe – a nominee who’s not in favor of abortion in any possible way,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List. The organization, which supports female candidates who back abortion rights, says it is en route to breaking its fundraising records. A similar claim is made by some anti-abortion political action groups.

What’s changed for this election? One factor is the increased polarization of the two major parties. Only a handful of anti-abortion Democrats and abortion-rights Republicans remain in Congress, and recent votes attempting to ban late-term abortions and halt federal funding to Planned Parenthood closely followed party lines.

Another difference: Republicans in the presidential field and in Congress seem more willing than in past campaigns to take the offensive on abortion-related issues. Past nominees George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney opposed abortion but were not as outspoken as some of the current GOP candidates.

“Abortion will bubble over into the general election,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which supports female candidates opposed to abortion. “If you don’t know how to handle this issue, you will be eviscerated.”

As the campaign unfolds, other factors will help keep the abortion debate in the spotlight.

The Supreme Court will be hearing arguments, probably in March, regarding a Texas law enacted in 2013 that would force numerous abortion clinics to close. One contested provision requires abortion facilities to be constructed like surgical centers; another says doctors performing abortions at clinics must have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The Texas dispute will have echoes in other states as social conservatives lobby for more laws restricting abortion. Americans United for Life plans a multistate push for a package of bills called the Infants’ Protection Project; one measure would ban abortions performed because of fetal abnormalities such as Down syndrome while another would ban abortions after five months of pregnancy.

Also unfolding during the campaign will be a new investigation launched by House Republicans to examine the practices of Planned Parenthood and other major abortion providers. The panel’s chair, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, says its work will likely continue past Election Day.

The investigation — denounced by Democrats as a partisan witch hunt — is among several congressional and state probes resulting from the release of undercover videos made by anti-abortion activists. They claim the videos show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue in violation of federal law; Planned Parenthood denies any wrongdoing and says the programs in question at a handful of its clinics entailed legal donations of fetal tissue.

Cruz is among many Republicans who have already passed judgment on Planned Parenthood, calling it “an ongoing criminal enterprise.” He welcomed the endorsement of anti-abortion activist Troy Newman, who helped orchestrate the undercover video operation.

Donald Trump, who leads the GOP presidential polls, has been harder to pin down on the issue. He describes himself as “pro-life” and open to defunding Planned Parenthood, while acknowledging that he held different views in the past.

Planned Parenthood’s leaders say a majority of U.S. voters oppose efforts to cut off its federal funding, most of which subsidizes non-abortion health services for patients on Medicaid. Planned Parenthood’s political action fund hopes to spend a record amount – more than $15 million – on election-related advocacy.

The fund’s executive vice president, Dawn Laguens, contends that some GOP presidential hopefuls, including Cruz and Rubio, may have hurt their general election prospects by making strong bids for anti-abortion votes in the primaries.

“They’ve gone so far out on the limb that they won’t be able to crawl back,” she said.

National polls over the years show the American public deeply divided on abortion. An Associated Press-GfK poll released Dec. 22 found 58 percent of U.S. adults saying abortion should be legal in most or all cases, and 39 percent saying it should be illegal in most or all cases. Forty-five percent viewed Planned Parenthood favorably; 30 percent unfavorably.

Abortion and Planned Parenthood are likely to surface as divisive issues in several of the races that will decide control of the Senate.

New Hampshire features an intriguing race between two women. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, a supporter of abortion rights, hopes to unseat GOP incumbent Kelly Ayotte, who is endorsed by anti-abortion groups and favors halting Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.

Other key Senate races likely to feature sharp divisions over abortion include those in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin and the crucial presidential battleground of Ohio, where GOP incumbent Rob Portman is expected to be challenged by former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.

3 dead in gunman’s rampage at Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic

Three of the 12 people shot during an hours-long shooting spree at a Planned Parenthood clinic yesterday are dead.

Colorado Springs Police spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley has confirmed that a police officer and two civilians were killed during the standoff between police and the gunman, whom AP identified as Robert Lewis Dear. An AP source, who requested anonymity, said the gunman was from North Carolina.

Dear’s nine other victims are expected to recover.

Although police have not yet determined whether the shooter was targeting Planned Parenthood, the incident comes in the wake of four arson attacks on PP clinics since Sept. 4.

Arsonists have set fire — or attempted to — at abortion clinics in Pullman, Washington; Thousand Oaks, California; Aurora, Illinois and New Orleans. Pro-choice advocates have complained that national media has overlooked the arson attacks.

NARAL Pro-Choice America circulated a petition last month calling on the FBI to investigate the arsons as acts of domestic terrorism. More than 40,00 people have signed it.

“These attacks on clinics are part of a long history of ideologically-driven violence,” NARAL wrote on the petition. “They’re perpetrated by an extreme minority that’s committed to ruling through fear and intimidation. Let’s call this what it is — domestic terrorism. We can’t wait until one more patient, doctor or nurse is hurt or killed before we say enough is enough. It’s time for an investigation to get to the bottom of this.”

The latest round in a history of deadly violence perpetrated by pro-life activists began after an anti-abortion group videotaped a PP employee talking about providing tissue from aborted fetuses to science. The heavily edited and misleading tape suggested that the organization was selling baby parts to researchers at a profit.

But PP only recouped shipping charges for aborted tissue that women ending their pregnancies asked to have donated to science.

Congress, along with several states, investigated PP clinics and found no wrongdoing. Still, PP decided to stop charging for transporting the tissue in the hope of quelling the anger unleashed among evangelical Christians and other anti-choice activists.

Meanwhile, Congress also held hearings on the issue, which Republicans see as advantageous to them in next year’s elections. Of the GOP presidential candidates, only one — Ted Cruz — has mentioned the attack. In a tweet, he offered condolences for those who lost loved ones.

In a statement to Media Matters, NARAL President Ilyse Hogue suggested all the anti-choice rhetoric played out in the media over the discredited incident was fueling the violence.

She wrote: “Instead of treating these (attacks on clinics) as the real and present danger to innocent civilians that they are, Congress is inviting anti-abortion extremists to testify at hearings, the Department of Justice has yet to announce a full investigation, and the news media remains silent. Where is the outrage?”

At least eight murders of doctors and workers at abortion clinics have occurred in the United States since 1990. Since 1977, there have been 41 bombings and 173 arsons at clinics.

In recent years, the Republican Party has made it a top legislative priority to whittle away at abortion rights in the U.S., with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision making it legal for a woman to determine whether to have a baby.

Wisconsin, where Republicans are in control of every facet of state government, including the Supreme Court, is at the vanguard of those efforts. Gov. Scott Walker recently appointed Rebecca Bradley, a strong opponent to choice, to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, even though her career as a judge began less than four years ago, when he first appointed her to the bench.

Wisconsin has adopted among the most stringent anti-choice laws in the nation.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The law, which does not benefit women’s health due to the extreme rarity of complications and the nearby availability of other hospitals to handle any such cases if they arose, was found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court panel.

The Wisconsin case centers on a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion.

Only about 3 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin involve ending pregnancies. The organization provides a variety of sexual health services for poor women, including PAP smears, STD and breast screenings, contraceptive services and prenatal care.

Response from Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards to the Colorado shootings

It is heartbreaking. Our thoughts are with the families of the three people whose lives were lost in yesterday’s attack at the Planned Parenthood health center in Colorado Springs. We wish those who were injured a quick and complete recovery.

And, we are deeply grateful to the law enforcement officers who responded with courage to protect Planned Parenthood staff, patients, and community members.

I want every Planned Parenthood patient to know: your safety is our top priority. Planned Parenthood health centers have extensive security measures in place, work closely with law enforcement agencies, and have a very strong safety record.

Planned Parenthood health centers opened their doors again today, in Colorado and across the country. As always, patients were welcomed by extraordinary doctors, nurses, and staff. We willnever, ever back away from providing safe, reliable care to the millions of patients who are counting on us to be there.

These doors stay open, no matter what.

It’s still too soon to know what exactly motivated this attack. We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to stand up for Planned Parenthood patients, staff, and the communities they serve — and it means so much to know that you stand with us, ready for whatever comes next.

Like you, I am full of sadness for the people who were harmed in Colorado. I am also full of admiration for what every member of Planned Parenthood’s staff do every day — to ensure that people can get the health care they need, and to work toward a day when we no longer see this kind of violence.

At this moment, our hearts are broken, but our commitment is unchanged. Care, no matter what.

Thank you for standing with Planned Parenthood.

Cecile Richards, President
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Appeals court: Wisconsin abortion law is unconstitutional

In a ruling that Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin called “an important victory for Wisconsin women,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit yesterday rejected a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is unconstitutional.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel’s 2–1 decision doesn’t put the question to rest. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed earlier this month to hear a challenge to a similar Texas law in a case that could settle the issue nationally.

The Wisconsin case centers on a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 Republican-backed law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion.

The law’s supporters counter it ensures continuity of care if a woman developed complications from an abortion and needed to be hospitalized. But the lawsuit said the statute would force AMS’s clinic in Milwaukee to close because its doctors couldn’t get admitting privileges. That in turn would lead to longer waits at Planned Parenthood clinics. Therefore, the lawsuit maintained, the law amounts to an illegal restriction on abortions.

U.S. District Judge William Conley sided with the abortion providers in March, saying the law served no legitimate health interest. The Wisconsin Department of Justice later appealed to the 7th Circuit.

Writing for the 7th Circuit majority, Judge Richard Posner called the contention that the law would protect women’s health “nonexistent.” He said the law would put more women in danger by increasing the waiting times for abortions, which could push some procedures into the second trimester.

“What makes no sense is to abridge the constitutional right to abortion on the basis of spurious contentions regarding women’s health — and the abridgement challenged in this case would actually endanger women’s health,” he wrote.

Posner added that the law was obviously designed to close down abortion clinics, had nothing to do with women’s health and was a “clear flouting of Roe vs. Wade.”

He also said that a woman who experiences complications from an abortion will go to the nearest hospital, which will treat her regardless of whether her abortion doctor has admitting privileges there.

The medical community agrees that requiring admitting privileges does not increase patient safety, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said in a statement to the press. Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States (and) admitting privileges do not hasten a patient’s care and are not required for any other medical procedure in Wisconsin, the group added.

The Wisconsin Medical Society joined the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association in a friend of the court brief explaining why admitting privileges do not enhance patient safety. The Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health all oppose Wisconsin’s admitting privileges statute.

“At Planned Parenthood, our top priority is patient safety. As the court affirmed, this law does nothing to enhance the health and safety of patients,” said Teri Huyck, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. “The intention of this law was to put obstacles in the path of women seeking safe, legal abortion care in Wisconsin.”

In his ruling, Posner noted that the law required providers to obtain privileges within two days of Gov. Scott Walker signing it, even though the process typically takes months. If Conley hadn’t imposed a preliminary injunction, AMS’ Milwaukee clinic as well as Planned Parenthood’s Appleton facility would have had to close immediately because providers at both facilities lacked privileges without

“The legislature’s intention to impose the two-day deadline … is difficult to explain save as a method of preventing abortions that women have a constitutional right to obtain,” Posner wrote.

Judge David Manion was the lone dissenter, saying the law protects women’s health and doesn’t amount to an undue constitutional burden.

Eleven states have imposed similar admitting privilege requirements on abortion providers; courts have blocked the requirements in six states, including Wisconsin, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice, run by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, defended the law.

Supreme Court will hear first abortion case since 2007

The Supreme Court is giving an election-year hearing to a dispute over state regulation of abortion clinics in the court’s first abortion case in eight years.

The justices will hear arguments, probably in March, over a Texas law that would leave only about 10 abortion clinics open across the state. A decision should come by late June, four months before the presidential election.

The issue split the court 5-4 the last time the justices decided an abortion case in 2007, and Justice Anthony Kennedy is expected to hold the controlling vote on a divided court.

The case tests whether tough new standards for clinics and the doctors who work in them are reasonable measures intended to protect women’s health or a pretext designed to make abortions hard, if not impossible, to obtain.

Texas clinics challenged the 2013 law as a violation of a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

The high court previously blocked parts of the Texas law. The court took no action on a separate appeal from Mississippi, where a state law would close the only abortion clinic, in Jackson.

States have enacted a wave of measures in recent years that have placed restrictions on when in a pregnancy abortions may be performed, imposed limits on abortions using drugs instead of surgery and raised standards for clinics and the doctors who work in them.

The new case concerns the last category. In Texas, the fight is over two provisions of the law that then-Gov. Rick Perry signed in 2013. One requires abortion facilities to be constructed like surgical centers. The other allows doctors to perform abortions at clinics only if they have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Twenty-two states have surgical center requirements for abortion clinics, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports legal access to abortion. Eleven states impose admitting privileges requirements on doctors who perform abortions in clinics, the institute said.

The measures go beyond what is necessary to ensure patients’ safety because the risks from abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy, when the overwhelming majority of abortions are performed, are minimal, the institute said.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said Texas is one of several states that have enacted “sham laws” to restrict access to abortion.” This law does not advance women’s health and in fact undermines it,” Northup said.

There is no dispute that the law has had a significant impact on Texas clinics. The state had 41 abortion clinics before the clinic law. More than half of those closed when the admitting privileges requirement was allowed to take effect. Nineteen clinics remain.

Northup said the effect of the law has been to increase wait times for women in the Dallas area from an average of five days to 20 days.

The focus of the dispute at the Supreme Court is whether the law imposes what the court has called an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. If allowed to take full effect, the law would leave no abortion clinics west of San Antonio and only one operating on a limited basis in the Rio Grande Valley.

The state has argued that women in west Texas already cross into New Mexico to obtain abortions at a clinic in suburban El Paso.

In its decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in 1992, the court ruled that states generally can regulate abortion unless doing so places an undue burden on women. Casey was a huge victory for abortion-rights advocates because it ended up reaffirming the constitutional right to an abortion that the court established in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

In 2007, a divided court upheld a federal law that bans an abortion procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion and opened the door to new limits on abortion.

Kennedy was one of three authors of the Casey opinion and he wrote the majority opinion in 2007.

Public opinion polls have consistently shown an edge for abortion rights. Fifty-one percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in most or all cases and 45 percent think it should be illegal in most or all cases, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll in January and February.

The case is Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, 15-274.

Jeb Bush’s remarks about women’s health draw backlash

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush vowed Tuesday to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood if elected to the White House, but drew immediate fire from Democrats for adding, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.”

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton replied on Twitter, “(at)JebBush: You are absolutely, unequivocally wrong.”

And Planned Parenthood issued a statement saying Bush “told the rest of America what Florida women have known for years, which is that he doesn’t believe women’s health is worth much.”

Bush leapt at the chance Tuesday to prove his anti-abortion bona fides before a group of largely conservative Christian voters at a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The former Florida governor was asked during an onstage interview, “Shouldn’t we … say not one more red cent for Planned Parenthood?”

His response — “The next president should veto Planned Parenthood” — drew a loud ovation at the packed Bridgestone Arena.

But his comments about money for women’s health left Bush and his campaign cleaning up his remarks just hours later. He issued a statement saying he “misspoke” when speaking about women’s health funding and was referring only to the “hard-to-fathom $500 million in federal funding” for Planned Parenthood.

“There are countless community health centers, rural clinics and other women’s health organizations that need to be fully funded,” Bush said. “They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don’t have the access they need.”

An earlier statement sent to reporters lacked Bush’s assertion that he had misspoken. The campaign said the first version was a draft.

But the latter statement, too, wasn’t quite right. Planned Parenthood says of its $1.3 billion in revenue last year, $528 million came from taxpayers, but not all of it was federal money — some came from state funds that help finance Medicaid.

Bush’s campaign also included a statement from Rhonda Medows, the secretary of Florida’s Health Care Administration agency during his tenure as governor.

“I watched his dedication to women’s health issues and services first hand,” Medows said. “He was intent on improving the quality of care offered to women under our state health programs, and he enhanced access to vital services to women through new access points.”

And Bush shot back at Clinton on Twitter, too, writing, “what’s absolutely, unequivocally wrong is giving taxpayer $ to an org whose practices show no regard for lives of unborn.”

At an organizing event later in Denver, Clinton added, “Now he’s got no problem giving away billions of dollars to super-powerful and wealthy corporations, but I guess women’s health just isn’t a priority for him.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’s challenging Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, slammed Bush in a fundraising email Tuesday and said, “We need to be spending a lot more money on women’s health care.”

The question of Planned Parenthood’s funding leapt into the 2016 presidential contest this week amid an ongoing row into the release of graphic videos, secretly recorded by anti-abortion activists, that show officials of the group describing how they sometimes provide fetal tissue to medical researchers.

Planned Parenthood provides health services, family planning and abortions in clinics nationwide and is a longtime target of conservatives. While federal money is barred from paying for abortions, except for cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in peril, Republicans would like to cut off tax dollars for the group entirely.

The Senate on Monday voted 53–46 to advance a GOP-backed bill terminating Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, seven short of the 60 votes needed to keep the measure moving toward passage.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who spoke in a pre-recorded interview to the conference, said the “erroneous” 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion must be overturned. “Until that decision is reversed there will be abortion in America,” he said.

Abortion opponents say the recordings caught Planned Parenthood illegally selling the organs for profit, while Planned Parenthood officials — while apologizing for their workers’ businesslike words — say they’ve abided by laws that let them recoup the procedures’ costs.

“What those videos revealed more than anything else is that abortion in America has become a money-making industry,” Rubio said.

Court decisions highlight political challenges facing GOP

Twice in two days last week, the Supreme Court struck at the heart of the Republican Party platform.

Yet the response to the ruling to give same-sex couples the right to marry was mild in comparison with the outrage that followed the high court’s decision the day before to uphold President Barack Obama’s health care law. The marriage ruling instead drew tepid responses from several Republicans who, in many cases, would like that issue to fade away.

The sharp contrast highlights the political challenges for a Republican Party searching for a winning playbook in 2016.

The GOP’s presidential class is ready to bet big their opposition to Obama’s health care law will resonate with voters. But facing a seismic shift in public opinion on gay marriage, several of the party’s most ambitious appear ready to turn the page on a social issue the GOP used for a generation to motivate its most passionate voters to turn out at the polls.

Perhaps no Republican presidential candidate better illustrated the contrast than former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was ready with a fiery statement and a video, “This is not the end of the fight,” to decry the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the Affordable Care Act.

In a fundraising email, Bush warned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton would offer “more of the same.” ‘’That is why I need you to make a one time-emergency contribution of $50, $25 or $10 to my campaign to ensure that NEVER happens.”

A day later, after the marriage ruling, Bush made no such fundraising pitch, offering only a one-paragraph statement. States should be allowed to make the decision, he said, adding, “I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments.”

Polls show what’s motivating the temperance of some in the GOP: Americans are now more likely than not to support same-sex marriage, with some surveys showing as many as 6 in 10 in favor. The shift over 10 years has been dramatic. Polling by the Pew Research Center found support for same-sex marriage growing from 36 percent in 2005 to 57 percent in a poll conducted in May.

While most Republicans remain opposed to same-sex marriage, 59 percent of those between age 18 and 34 supported marriage rights for gay couples in Pew’s most recent poll.

To be sure, several Republicans running for president condemned the court’s same-sex marriage decision and pledged to continue to fight. “Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who entered the race this week.

“It doesn’t settle anything,” National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown said in an interview before the ruling, comparing the gay marriage decision to the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade. “It’s just like Roe. Do you think Roe settled the abortion debate?”

The anti-gay marriage organization has given each Republican presidential contender two weeks to return a signed pledge that, among other things locks candidates into supporting a constitutional amendment “that protects marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

Some members of the GOP field signaled their openness to that idea. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called the marriage ruling “a grave mistake” and said “the only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage.”

Still, several GOP candidates — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Bush among them — have said they would not support such an amendment. Rubio was also among those who tried to stake a middle ground.

“While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law,” Rubio said, echoing a statement by Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to enter the 2016 contest in the coming weeks. Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said, “The governor has always believed in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, but our nation’s highest court has spoken and we must respect its decision.”

Unlike the marriage issue, Republican opposition to health care needs no qualifiers. The first paid advertisement in response to the court’s health care ruling came within an hour from Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit advocacy group founded by billionaire energy executives Charles and David Koch.

“We’ve been fighting this law for six years, and we’re going to make sure it stays right on the front burner,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity. “We’ve always known repeal would be a long-term effort. We’ve never counted on the courts to do it for us. This law is fatally flawed and unpopular, so it makes perfect sense for candidates to keep talking about how it’s harming people.”

Associated Press News Survey Specialist Emily Swanson contributed to this report.