Groups challenge abortion restrictions in 3 states

The Wisconsin Gazette

Abortion rights groups filed three lawsuits challenging medically unnecessary abortion restrictions in Alaska, Missouri and North Carolina.

This follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down two Texas laws that devastated access to abortion in the state. Since the ruling, abortion restrictions in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Oklahoma and Wisconsin were blocked.

The lawsuits involve the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU and challenge the following:

  • Medically unnecessary Alaska restrictions, passed more than 40 years ago, that ban abortion in outpatient health centers after the first trimester of pregnancy, forcing many women to travel out of state for procedures.
  • A ban on abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy in North Carolina which was recently amended to further restrict the already narrow health exception to extremely limited health emergencies.
  • Medically unnecessary restrictions in Missouri that have closed all but one health center that provides abortion in the state.

“Today’s filing is a major step in the fight to ensure all women can get safe and legal abortions in their own communities, when they need them,” stated Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “We are a nation of laws, and the center is prepared to use the full force of the law to ensure women’s fundamental rights are protected and respected.  We are proud to stand with our partners in challenging these unconstitutional measures and vow to continue the fight for women’s health, equality, and dignity.”

At Planned Parenthood Federation of America, chief medical officer Raegan McDonald-Mosley said, “These restrictions have a disproportionate impact on those who already face far too many barriers to health care as people of color, people who live in rural areas, or people with low incomes. These laws are dangerous, unjust, and unconstitutional — and they will come down.”

Added Jennifer Dalven of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project: “With the cases we are filing today, we are sending a clear message that we won’t stop working until every woman can get the care she needs no matter who she is, where she lives, or how much money she makes.”

In the Alaska case,  Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands is represented by Janet Crepps of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Brigitte Amiri of the ACLU, Carrie Flaxman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Tara Rich and Eric Glatt of the ACLU of Alaska, and Susan Orlansky of Reeves, Amodio, LLC.

In the North Carolina case, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic is represented by Maithreyi Ratakonda and Carrie Flaxman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Beverly Gray, M.D. and Elizabeth Deans, M.D. are represented by Andrew Beck of the ACLU; Amy Bryant M.D., M.S.C.R., is represented by Genevieve Scott and Julie Rikelman of the Center for Reproductive Rights; Irena Como and Christopher Brook of the ACLU of North Carolina is representing all plaintiffs.

In the Missouri case, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region are represented by Melissa Cohen and Jennifer Sandman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Arthur Benson of Arthur Benson & Associates.

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that women have a constitutional right to decide whether to end or continue a pregnancy and states cannot ban abortion prior to viability.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court refused to review North Dakota’s ban on abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy and Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy that had been struck down by lower courts.

The Supreme Court’s Whole Woman’s Health decision also affirmed that states cannot pass sham restrictions on abortion.