Tag Archives: reproductive freedom

Oklahoma Supreme Court throws out anti-abortion law

The Oklahoma Supreme Court this week threw out a law requiring abortion clinics to have doctors with admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, saying efforts to portray the measure as protecting women’s health are a “guise.”

The law would require a doctor with admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles be present for any abortion. The court found it violates both the U.S. and Oklahoma Constitutions. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year struck down a similar provision in Texas.

“Under the guise of the protection of women’s health,” Oklahoma Justice Joseph Watt wrote, “(the law) creates an undue burden on a woman’s access to abortion, violating protected rights under our federal Constitution,” referring specifically to the Texas case.

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed the measure, Senate Bill 1848, into law in 2014, but courts had blocked it from taking effect. This week’s ruling overturns a lower court’s decision in February that upheld the law.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law on behalf of Dr. Larry Burns, a Norman physician who, at the time the lawsuit was filed in October 2014, performed nearly half of Oklahoma’s abortions.

Burns has said he applied for admitting privileges at hospitals in the Oklahoma City area but was turned down.

Also, at the time, the only other clinic in the state that performed abortions was in Tulsa. However the Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center opened in south Oklahoma City in September and Planned Parenthood opened in the northwest Oklahoma City suburb of Warr Acres in November.

“Today’s decision is a victory for Oklahoma women and another rebuke to politicians pushing underhanded laws that attack a woman’s constitutionally guaranteed right to safe, legal abortion,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but previously has said that bill was passed to protect the health and safety of Oklahoma women.

The court also found that the law violates the Oklahoma Constitution’s ban on measures containing more than one subject, a practice known as logrolling. The law included “12 separate and unrelated subsections,” the court said.

“The sections in SB 1848 are so unrelated and misleading that a legislator voting on this matter could have been left with an unpalatable all-or-nothing choice,” according to the ruling.

The court’s ruling came the same day that the Oklahoma Board of Health approved new requirements for hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and public schools to post signs inside public restrooms directing pregnant women where to receive services as part of an effort to reduce abortions in the state.

The provision mandating the signs was tucked into a measure the Legislature passed this year that requires the state to develop informational material “for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society.”

Businesses and other organizations estimate they will have to pay $2.3 million to put up the signs because the Legislature approved no funding for them.

The Legislature and the governor must ratify the board’s rules for the signs before they are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, board attorney Donald Maisch said.

In Ohio, Republican Gov. John Kasich this week signed a 20-week abortion ban while vetoing stricter provisions in a separate measure that would have barred the procedure at the first detectable fetal heartbeat. The so-called heartbeat bill would have prohibited most abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

In Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to block additional parts of a contentious Florida abortion law. The lawsuit contends that the law violates constitutional rights by requiring groups to register with the state and pay a fee if they advise or help women seek abortions. The lawsuit also challenges a provision requiring groups to tell women about alternatives to abortion.

As more clinics close, young docs turn to abortion training

Even as scores of abortion clinics have shut down, the number of doctors trained to provide the procedure has surged — but only in some parts of the country.

Two little-known training programs say they have expanded rapidly in recent years, fueled by robust private funding and demand. Launched nearly a quarter century ago amid protest and violence, the programs now train more than 1,000 doctors and medical students annually in reproductive services, from contraception to all types of abortion, according to interviews with Reuters.

But their impact is limited. Most of the doctors end up working near where they train, not in several Southern and Midwestern states that have imposed waiting periods, mandated counseling and enacted other controls.

“I don’t think we have a provider shortage anymore,” said Sarah W. Prager, a University of Washington Medical School professor. “What we have is a distribution problem. We have a lot of providers in some of our city centers, but in rural areas there are very few people willing or able to provide care.”

Texas is emblematic of areas of scarcity. More than half the clinics in the state have closed since 2013 when a law went into effect that required clinics to meet surgery center standards and abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges.

In its first abortion case in nearly a decade, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether the Texas law violates the right to abortion. The case focused attention on a decline in clinics in the United States. According to a survey by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization that supports abortion rights, the number of clinics dropped nearly 40 percent after peaking in 1982.


Medical Students for Choice was started in 1993 by a student at the University of California, San Francisco. The nonprofit now has 185 chapters and a $1.4 million annual budget funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Rockefeller Family Fund and others.

Last year, it sent 137 medical students and residents for abortion training, more than twice as many as in 2010. Its two-day and three-day Abortion Training Institute has received 321 applications so far this year, surpassing the 228 who applied in all of 2015.

The Kenneth J. Ryan Residency Training Program was started in 1999 by Uta Landy, who ran one of the first abortion clinics after the procedure was legalized.

While obstetric-gynecology residencies are required to offer abortion training, not all do. The Ryan program has helped set up and expand family planning and abortion training at 85 teaching hospitals – including 31 since 2010 – which train about 1,000 residents a year.

The program declined to discuss its budget or funding. It is a part of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco, which does not disclose contributions at the program level.

Tax disclosures show the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, which supports abortion rights, donates to many of the universities that host Ryan program training. But it does not disclose the purpose of those donations, and representatives did not respond to phone queries.


At a hearing before the Supreme Court in March, lawyers for clinic operators argued that the new standards in Texas caused or contributed to the shutdown of 22 clinics. The Texas state solicitor general argued that Whole Women’s Health, the lead plaintiff in the case, failed to show that the law was the only reason the clinics shut down.

A study funded by abortion rights groups recently reported that waits in Texas grew as long as 23 days, and some women have traveled more than 250 miles to get an abortion.

Some doctors also travel to bring abortion services to areas where they are scarce. Bhavik Kumar went to New York for Ryan residency training because it was not offered at his Texas medical school. He returned to Texas and travels more than 2,000 miles a month providing abortions at clinics in San Antonio and Fort Worth.

“Rights are being taken away from not just patients but us as well,” Kumar said. “A lot of us are angry. We’re trying to get back what the opposition has taken.”

Randall K. O’Bannon, director of education and research for the anti-abortion National Right to Life organization, said the training programs are recruiting medical students with rhetoric he views as dishonest.

Lois V. Backus, executive director of Medical Students for Choice, said the students who go the extra mile to seek training are heroes who “deserve the gratitude and admiration of all of us for their willingness to meet all the needs of their patients.”

Landy, the Ryan program founder, said laws limiting abortion are stoking interest in training.

“The more controversy there is,” she said, “the more motivation, commitment and passion grows and responds.”

Most of the new providers are women, who comprise 80 percent of ob-gyn residents. Some, like Jennifer Conti, are vocal about the need for women to have access to a full range of reproductive care. Growing up in a traditional Mexican-American family, Conti opposed abortion as “this hypothetical thing that bad people did.” But her views changed in her teens when an acquaintance got pregnant.

Now, as an ob-gyn, she teaches and provides reproductive care, including abortion, at Stanford University School of Medicine, and she writes for Slate and other outlets.

“There is a new generation of activist doctors,” said Lori Carpentier, who runs Planned Parenthood clinics in Michigan. “They choose to do terminations of pregnancies because it is a deeply held and passionate belief that women should have access to care.”

Protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the court takes up a major abortion case in Washington, in this file photo taken March 2. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Files
Protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the court takes up a major abortion case in Washington, in this file photo taken March 2. — PHOTO: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Files

A look at fatal attacks in anti-abortion violence in the US

At least 11 people have been killed in attacks against abortion providers in the U.S. since 1993, according to the National Abortion Federation. Here are some details of those attacks:

  • March 10, 1993: Dr. David Gunn is shot to death outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida, becoming the first U.S. doctor killed during an anti-abortion demonstration. Michael Griffin is convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
  • July 29, 1994: Dr. John Bayard Britton and a volunteer bodyguard are slain outside another clinic in Pensacola. Barrett’s wife, June, is wounded. Paul Hill, 40, a former minister and anti-abortion activist, confesses and cites Griffin as an inspiration. Hill is convicted of murder and executed in 2003.
  • Dec. 30, 1994: John Salvi opens fire with a rifle inside two Boston-area abortion clinics, killing two receptionists and wounding five others. Sentenced to life without parole, he kills himself in prison in 1996.
  • Jan. 29, 1998: A bomb explodes just outside a clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, killing an off-duty police officer and wounding several others. Five years later, suspect Eric Robert Rudolph is captured in North Carolina. He admits to bombing the Birmingham clinic, another clinic and a gay bar outside Atlanta, and Centennial Olympic Park, a gathering spot for the 1996 Summer Games, an attack that killed one bystander and injured more than 100. Rudolph is serving multiple life sentences at the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, near Colorado Springs.
  • Oct. 23, 1998: Dr. Barnett Slepian is fatally shot in his home in a suburb of Buffalo, New York. Militant abortion opponent James Kopp is convicted of the murder in 2003 and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He is also convicted of violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and sentenced to life in prison.
  • May 31, 2009: Prominent late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller is shot and killed in a church in Wichita, Kansas, where he was serving as an usher; Tiller had been shot leaving his clinic 16 years earlier but survived. Scott Roeder confesses and is found guilty of murder and other counts. He is sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 50 years, but has that sentence vacated after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. A new jury will decide how long he must serve before he is eligible for parole.
  • Nov. 27, 2015: A gunman kills a police officer and two people accompanying friends to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Nine others are wounded. Robert Lewis Dear, who has acknowledged being the shooter, tells investigators he drew inspiration from Hill, the killer in the 1994 Pensacola attack.


Sources: National Abortion Federation; AP research

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ACLU sues over federal funds to Catholic bishops

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued for records related to the federal government’s award of funds to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has routinely denied survivors of human trafficking access to critical health care because of its religious beliefs.

The suit, filed under the Freedom of Information Act, seeks documents related to a $2 million federal grant awarded to the USCCB.

The ACLU said the group received taxpayer money despite a court ruling that the government had violated the Constitution by giving USCCB a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract to provide services to human trafficking survivors despite restricting their access to reproductive health services.

“We are shocked and deeply concerned to see history repeating itself with millions of taxpayer dollars funneled into the hands of a religious group that has a long history of refusing critical health care services to the most vulnerable people in their care,” ACLU senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri stated. “The court has ruled that the federal government cannot give federal funds to those who impose their religious beliefs on others by withholding critical healthcare to those who have been through unspeakable horrors. The public has a right to know what’s going on.”

Case against the Catholic Bishops

In 2009, the ACLU filed a lawsuit alleging the federal government violated the Constitution by permitting USCCB to impose its religiously-based restrictions on the types of services trafficked individuals can receive with taxpayer funds.

In 2012, a federal court ruled in favor of the ACLU.

During the course of the case, the federal government ended its relationship with USCCB. So, in 2013, an appeals court held that the case was moot.

Then the government awarded the Catholic bishops $2 million in September 2015.

More than 14,000 individuals are trafficked into the United States each year. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals are made to labor against their will through force, fraud, or coercion.

The ACLU said many women who are trafficked are raped by traffickers or their acquaintances. Some women who have been trafficked become pregnant after being raped. Denying reproductive health services and referrals for these services, further victimizes trafficked individuals.

The ACLU said obstructing access to reproductive health care for trafficking survivors is not the only situation in which the federal government allows USCCB to harm vulnerable populations.

USCCB also receives millions of taxpayer dollars to care for refugee and undocumented immigrant minors and has restricted their access to reproductive health services, including contraception and abortion, despite the high rates of sexual assault that these teens suffer.

In addition, USCCB prohibits Catholic hospitals from offering — or even discussing — certain reproductive health care services, even when those services are necessary to protect a woman’ s health or life. These hospitals also receive federal funding and are subject to government oversight.  Nearly one in nine hospital beds in the country is in a Catholic facility.


Supreme Court won’t revive North Carolina’s anti-abortion rule

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from North Carolina to revive a requirement that abortion providers show and describe an ultrasound to a pregnant woman before she has an abortion.

The justices left in place an appeals court decision that said the 2011 North Carolina law was “ideological in intent” and violated doctors’ free-speech rights. The measure was championed by conservative Republicans in the state legislature, who overrode a veto from the then-Democratic governor to approve the law.

The North Carolina law would have required abortion providers to display and describe the ultrasound even if the woman refused to look and listen — a mandate that the court found particularly troublesome. The law did not include any exception for cases of rape, incest or severe fetal anomalies.

“North Carolinians should take comfort in knowing that this intrusive and unconstitutional law, which placed the ideological agenda of politicians above a doctor’s ability to provide a patient with the specific care she needs, will never go into effect,” said Sarah Preston of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, one of several groups that opposed the law in court. “We’re very glad the courts have recognized that politicians have no business interfering in personal medical decisions that should be left to a woman and her doctor.”

North Carolina is among 23 states, mostly in the South and the Midwest, which passed laws dealing with the administration of ultrasounds by abortion providers, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research institute that supports abortion-rights.

The court took no action in a separate abortion case from Mississippi. The state is appealing a lower court ruling that effectively allowed Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic to remain open and blocked a state law that would have required the clinic’s doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

A second appeals court ruling involving a Texas law imposing restrictions on abortion providers also is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court soon. In Texas, the appeals court upheld the admitting privileges requirement and other provisions that could force 11 clinics to close by July 1, lawyers for the clinics said in court papers.

The North Carolina case is Walker-McGill v. Stuart, 14-1172.

House of Representatives passes anti-abortion bill

The U.S. House of Representatives today (Jan. 28) passed a right-wing anti-choice bill — the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act — to deny tax credits to small businesses and middle class families if their health plans include abortion coverage.

The measure also would impose a tax increase on women who need abortion care and make permanent abortion bans that prevent millions of women — such as those enrolled in Medicaid, federal employees and residents of the District of Columbia — from having health insurance coverage that includes abortion care.

The American Civil Liberties Union swiftly responded to the vote from the GOP-controlled House. “In an effort to impose one narrow ideology on the lives of American women, these lawmakers hope to rewrite tax law to penalize a single, legal medical procedure: abortion,” said Dena Sher, ACLU legislative counsel. “Congress needs to lift restrictions on abortion coverage, not enact extreme and dangerous bans that interfere with a person’s private medical decisions.”

NARAL also responded. “Conservative politicians continue to focus almost single-mindedly on finding new ways to dictate the private, medical decisions of women and their families,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “By introducing a bill that  breaks new ground in intertwining our tax code with reproductive decisions and meddling in the private insurance marketplace, extreme members of the GOP have put their cards on the table – they are willing to violate their own principles in order to make attacking women’s reproductive rights their first and foremost priority. The War On Women cost conservatives in 2012 and it will cost them again in the midterm elections and beyond.”

The House vote was 227-188 and seen as another attack on the 4-year-old Affordable Care Act, as well as codification of the Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

Heidi Williamson, a senior policy analyst with the Women’s Health and Rights program at the Center for American Progress, had this statement: “Congress denies federal insurance coverage of abortion each year, but this bill goes even further by making the Hyde Amendment permanent law and restricting private insurance coverage for abortion, even for women who purchase private insurance with their own money. Rather than banning legal medical procedures, lawmakers should take up a real women’s agenda that promotes access to higher education, family planning, and equal pay.”

The White House has said the measure would be vetoed if it reached the president. 

Editor’s note: This story is developing.


Michigan to require extra health insurance policy for abortions

Michigan will join more conservative states in requiring residents who want health insurance coverage for abortions to buy an extra policy, after Republican legislators passed the law on Dec. 11 over the objections of Democrats who pleaded for them to take the issue to voters instead.

The citizens’ initiative approved 62-47 by the House and 27-11 in the Senate – almost entirely along party lines – will become law in March without the signature of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who vetoed similar legislation a year ago. The anti-abortion group Right to Life collected more than 300,000 signatures to put the legislation before lawmakers, who also had the option of letting it go to a statewide vote next November.

The law prohibits insurance companies from offering abortion coverage as part of both public and private health plans, except when a woman’s life is at risk. Employers and individuals who want abortion coverage must buy supplemental policies, known as riders.

Michigan is the ninth state to restrict private plans from covering the procedure. Seven of the states – Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma – allow patients to purchase riders, just as Michigan will. Utah doesn’t allow even supplemental coverage of elective abortions but lets general plans cover the procedure when the woman’s life in endangered, her health is severely compromised or in cases of rape, incest or fetal impairment.

Several states, including Wisconsin, have approved broad abortion limits in recent months, but Michigan is a swing state that has generally stayed away from the tougher restrictions.

Michigan’s law won approval after emotional debate on the chamber floors, which included Democratic female legislators telling personal stories in opposition to what they called “rape insurance” legislation that is among the most misogynistic they have seen.

Trying to hold back tears, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing disclosed that she was raped more than 20 years ago.

“Thank God it didn’t result in a pregnancy because I can’t imagine going through what I went through and then having to consider what to do about an unwanted pregnancy from an attacker,” she said. “If this were law then and I had become pregnant, I would not be able to have coverage because of this. How extreme, how extreme does this measure need to be?”

Opponents said 4 percent of Michigan’s population shouldn’t be able to dictate health care for women, a reference to the number of people who signed the petition to bring the issue to lawmakers. But Right to Life said abortion isn’t health care and applauded legislators for standing firm.

Republican Rep. Margaret O’Brien of Portage said in an interview after session that she rejects the “notion that women only have one way of thinking” about abortion. She noted that federal law says abortion riders sold through the new government health insurance exchange can’t cost less than $1 a month, so comprehensive abortion coverage should be available.

“I respect the seriousness of the emotions. I went through an unplanned pregnancy. I’ve counseled people who’ve been raped that has resulted in pregnancies. … But I’ve also seen women who’ve embraced those babies through rape and seen that that child shouldn’t be punished for the horrendous act that happened to them.”

Of the roughly 23,000 reported abortions in Michigan last year – the second-fewest in 30 years – health insurance covered 739, or 3.3 percent, according to state statistics.

Low-income women on Medicaid already must pay out of pocket for abortions except when their life is at risk or in cases of rape or incest. Other women may not have insurance that covers abortions or they don’t want their employer or family to find out they’re having the procedure.

A thrust behind the law is keeping taxpayer-subsidized plans on Michigan’s insurance marketplace from covering abortions, an option for states under the federal health care law. With Michigan’s move, 24 states now restrict abortion coverage in plans offered through their insurance exchanges. But the state says none of the 73 plans being offered to individuals covers what the industry calls elective abortions. Three of the 68 small employer plans do.

The initiative’s biggest practical effect will be on plans sold outside the exchange, and the governor cited concerns about government overreach and no exceptions for rape, incest or the woman’s health as reasons for his earlier veto.

All 26 Republicans and one Democrat in the Senate voted for the initiative Wednesday, with 11 Democrats opposed. In the House, all 59 Republicans, two Democrats and one independent supported it, and 47 Democrats voted against it.

Expenses mount as Kansas defends anti-abortion laws

Kansas has paid more than $913,000 to two private law firms that are helping the state defend anti-abortion laws enacted since conservative Republican Gov. Sam Brownback took office, and such expenses appear likely to grow.

The attorney general’s office disclosed the figures in response to requests from The Associated Press. More than $126,000 in legal fees stem from two lawsuits filed this summer against restrictions enacted just this year.

Kansas has enacted sweeping limits on abortion and providers since Brownback took office in January 2011, though it hasn’t attempted to ban abortions in the earliest weeks of pregnancies, as Arkansas and North Dakota have. The newest Kansas restrictions, challenged in separate state and federal lawsuits this summer, block tax breaks for abortion providers and even govern what appears on their websites.

A state-court lawsuit is still pending against health and safety regulations approved in 2011 specifically for abortion clinics, but the state prevailed in a federal lawsuit against 2011 restrictions on private health insurance coverage for elective abortions. All of those cases have been handled by the firm of Thompson Ramsdell & Qualseth, of Lawrence.

A federal lawsuit against a 2011 law preventing the state from distributing federal family planning dollars to Planned Parenthood to provide non-abortion services is before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. That case has been handled by Foulston Siefkin, the state’s largest law firm, with offices in Wichita, Topeka and Overland Park.

Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said Monday that the spending shows the Republican-dominated Legislature is more interested in “political posturing” on abortion than good financial stewardship. His organization provides abortions at a clinic in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park and is involved in two federal lawsuits.

“It’s a travesty that Kansans are spending $913,000 on things that don’t benefit the state in anyway,” Brownlie said.

But abortion opponents contend abortion providers are to blame for the expenses because they’ve turned to the courts after losing support for their positions among voters.

“It’s a free country, and there’s a right to sue on anything,” Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-abortion group at the Statehouse. “But, then, to try to blame us for the money involved in defending the lawsuits is ridiculous.”

The state has paid the Foulston firm more than $386,000 for its work on the lawsuit over the family planning funds for Planned Parenthood.

The Thompson firm has been paid more than $527,000, including more than $252,000 for defending the 2011 clinic regulations. The state paid the firm almost $149,000 for work on the successful defense of the health insurance law.

Brownback, a strong abortion opponent, called on state lawmakers to create a “culture of life” upon taking office. The Legislature already had strong anti-abortion majorities, but it efforts to restrict abortion were stymied by previous governors who’d supported abortion rights.

Some restrictions aren’t being enforced because of the lawsuits. But Culp and other abortion opponents have said the laws were written to survive court scrutiny – unlike in other states such as North Dakota, where lawmakers passed a law banning abortions as early as the sixth week of pregnancy.

A federal judge blocked the North Dakota law, and legislators there set aside $400,000 to defend anti-abortion measures.

Federal judge delays nation’s most restrictive abortion ban

A federal judge has temporarily blocked a new North Dakota law that bans abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected – as early as six weeks into pregnancy, calling the law “clearly invalid and unconstitutional.”

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland in Bismarck granted a temporary injunction that blocks the Aug. 1 enactment of the law that abortion rights advocates call the most restrictive in the nation.

“There is no question that (the North Dakota law) is in direct contradiction to a litany of United States Supreme Court cases addressing restraints on abortion,” Hovland wrote. ” (It) is clearly an invalid and unconstitutional law based on the United States Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade from 1973 … and the progeny of cases that have followed.”

“We have our job to do,” Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem told The Associated Press. “We need to convince (Hovland) why the Legislature wanted to enact the law.”

Stenehjem said the state will ask the court for a trial and already has hired an attorney to help argue the case.

New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the state’s lone abortion clinic, Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, filed the lawsuit in June after the law was passed this year by the North Dakota Legislature. It would outlaw the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy and before some women even know they are pregnant.

Abortion-rights advocates say the measures are an attempt to close North Dakota’s lone abortion clinic. Supporters of the so-called fetal heartbeat measure, including Gov. Jack Dalrymple, have said it’s a challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until a fetus is considered viable, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

Janet Crepps, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the law banning abortions at six weeks “poses a very immediate threat to virtually all women seeking an abortion in North Dakota.”

Red River director Tammi Kromenaker and Crepps said the six-week abortion ban would stop about 90 percent of abortions at the clinic.

“This ruling means that women won’t have to rush in and make a decision,” Kromenaker said of the injunction. “Now they have more time to talk to their loved one, their pastor – whoever the need to talk to – while weighing their decision to have an abortion.”

Jeff Zent, a spokesman for Dalrymple, said the governor would not comment on the federal judge’s ruling.

“It’s our standing policy not to comment on litigation,” he said.

The clinic’s lawsuit also is challenging another new measure that would make North Dakota the only state to prohibit women from having an abortion because a fetus has a genetic defect, such as Down syndrome.

Kromenaker said the clinic wants that law overturned but didn’t seek an immediate injunction to block it because abortions are not performed there for that reason.

The clinic is not challenging another new North Dakota law that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain by then. Texas Gov. Rick Perry last week signed into law a 20-week ban and other abortion restrictions for that state.

Kromenaker said the 20-week ban, which she believes is unconstitutional, does not apply to North Dakota because no abortions are performed at the clinic after 16 weeks.

Another measure would require a doctor who performs abortions to be a physician with hospital admitting privileges. A lawsuit challenging that law has been combined with another one challenging a 2011 North Dakota law that outlaws one of two drugs used in nonsurgical abortions. A state judge ruled last week that the 2011 law violates the state and U.S. constitutions. A judge hasn’t yet issued a ruling on the new law requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges.

Perry signs anti-abortion bill into law

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on July 18 signed into law an anti-abortion bill expected to force the closure of most women’s health clinics that provide abortions in the state.

The measure also prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Perry, at the bill-signing, said, “This is an important day for those who support life and for those who support the health of Texas women. In signing House Bill 2, we celebrate and further cement the foundation on which the culture of life in Texas is built.”

Thousands of protesters had demonstrated at the state Capitol against the legislation. Perry called a special session of the Legislature after the bill was defeated last month following a dramatic filibuster by State Sen. Wendy Davis.

Leading medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Texas Hospital Association, oppose the measure as an unwarranted intrusion into the doctor patient relationship and unnecessary for patient safety. The measure says that doctors who perform abortions must have hospital admitting privileges at a facility within 30 miles and that clinics must be equipped as ambulatory surgical centers even though abortion is not a surgery.

A legal challenge is likely.

In a statement released on July 18, Jennifer Dalven of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project said, “The Texas measure is part of an orchestrated, nationwide plan to outlaw abortion clinic by clinic, state by state. As what happened in Texas shows, women aren’t stupid. We won’t sit quietly by while politicians take away our right to make our own, personal and private medical decisions just to score political points.”

Terri Burke with the ACLU of Texas added, “The passage of this legislation is a clear example of an extreme minority imposing its will on the majority, all in an attempt to win more supporters in political primaries. As polls of Texas voters have repeatedly shown, the majority of Texans don’t want legislators passing more restrictions on a woman’s right to have safe and legal abortions. Even after tens of thousands have stood up in the state Capitol and in cities across the state to tell them loud and clear that politicians should not be interfering in a woman’s personal and private decision-making, some politicians are still not getting message.”