NEWS: These state supreme courts are weighing abortion bans

by | Jun 8, 2023 | Repro Health Watch

These State Supreme Courts Are Weighing Abortion Bans

The Washington Post, June 5, 2023

In January, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down restrictions on abortion early in pregnancy, finding the law violated the right to privacy in the state constitution. But the state’s highest court likely isn’t done ruling on abortion. Nearly five months later, Republican lawmakers passed a similar measure banning abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected at roughly six weeks. On the Senate floor, one key GOP leader said the bill was written in a way to skirt the justices’ objections – but a judge has already paused the new law, setting up another showdown before the state Supreme Court. The dynamic in South Carolina is a snapshot of the ongoing legal battles over abortion restrictions playing out across the country, a key strategy of abortion rights groups as they attempt to upend bans in the post-Roe era. And it underscores the importance of state Supreme Court races, which are gaining more attention in the year after the nation’s highest court overturned Roe v. Wade. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the state court’s decisions so far, as well as critical places where rulings are pending. These legal challenges tend to revolve around claims that abortion bans flout provisions in a state’s constitution, such as bodily autonomy and the freedom for residents to make their own health-care decisions.The rulings: South Carolina is one of just a few state Supreme Courts with a ruling since last year’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. Here are some of the others: In Oklahoma: Last week, the state Supreme Court struck down two abortion bans. The 6-3 decision affirmed the right to terminate a pregnancy in life-threatening situations; abortion remains largely prohibited due to a 1910 ban that’s still in effect. In Idaho: In January, the state Supreme Court upheld multiple bans on abortion and ruled the state constitution doesn’t contain a fundamental right to the procedure. In North Dakota: In March, the state’s justices decided a ban on most abortions would remain blocked, for now, while a lawsuit over its constitutionality winds its way through the courts.

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How GOP Efforts to Restrict Trans Rights Take a Page From the Antiabortion Playbook

Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2023

Bans on treatment. New laws threatening doctors with malpractice suits and criminal charges. Praise from lawmakers who say their legislation is meant to protect minors, even as the new policies infringe on the rights of adults. As state legislatures wind down and the 2024 election cycle kicks off, the similarities between the fights for abortion access and transgender rights have come into stark focus. Republican lawmakers have introduced a record number of bills at the state level and in Congress that would restrict the rights of transgender people and the healthcare they receive. While the scope and magnitude of the legislation is unprecedented, the strategies being used are not. “You can look at the antiabortion playbook and see parallels here every step of the way,” said Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project. “What we’re seeing is a lot of the effort from the right that had gone into systematically eliminating access to abortion … being shifted into attacks on trans people.” For decades, restricting access to abortion was a top priority for Republicans, a wedge issue that helped motivate the party’s base voters. That changed last year, when the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a nationwide right to abortion. In the aftermath of that case, abortion has become a liability for Republican candidates caught between antiabortion groups pushing further bans and voters who have rejected such policies in recent elections. Now, a new issue has dominated state legislatures: GOP state lawmakers have introduced more than 500 bills affecting the queer community and more than 70 of them have been signed into law, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ civil rights organization. The wave of bills prompted the group to declare a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people. A key target of lawmakers has been gender-affirming care, which refers to a range of treatments – including social transition, counseling, hormone therapy, reversible puberty blockers for minors and surgery, generally for adults – that support a person’s gender identity when it doesn’t align with the sex they were assigned at birth.

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Maryland Board Approves Funds for Abortion Pill Stockpile

AP News, June 7, 2023

A Maryland board approved an emergency procurement of more than $1 million on Wednesday to pay for a stockpile of a widely used abortion pill due to uncertainty surrounding legal challenges against the drug’s use. The Board of Public Works approved the funds to pay for 35,000 doses that would last several years, if necessary. The stockpile, acquired in April, includes 30,000 doses of mifepristone and 5,000 doses of misoprostol. The powerful spending panel is comprised of Gov. Wes Moore, Comptroller Brooke Lierman and Treasurer Dereck Davis. Moore, a Democrat, noted before the vote that the drug has been available for decades and has fallen under “a very unique and distinct attack.” The governor said he wanted to be clear “that reproductive freedom is non-negotiable: that my administration will continue to defend and protect women’s reproductive freedom and access to essential health care here in the state of Maryland. Full stop.” Lierman, a Democrat, described the stockpiling as “a really important opportunity for Maryland to double down on expressing its support for women and our reproductive choices.” By moving quickly when the federal court system created uncertainty around the future use and availability of mifepristone, the emergency stockpile will preserve this medication as an important option for individuals seeking safe reproductive health care here in the state of Maryland,” Lierman said. Moore announced in April that the state would stockpile the drug through a memorandum of understanding with the University of Maryland Medical System in response to the legal challenges. Later that month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to leave access to mifepristone unchanged at least into next year as appeals play out. A court case that began in Texas sought to roll back Food and Drug Administration approval of the drug. Lower courts had said that women seeking the drug should face more restrictions on getting it while the case continues, but the Supreme Court disagreed. The controversy arose less than a year after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade and allowed more than a dozen states to effectively ban abortion.

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Amazon and Google Fund Anti-Abortion Lawmakers Through Complex Shell Game

The Guardian, June 3, 2023

As North Carolina’s 12-week abortion ban is due to come into effect on 1 July, an analysis from the non-profit Center for Political Accountability (CPA) shows several major corporations donated large sums to a Republican political organization which in turn funded groups working to elect anti-abortion state legislators. The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) received donations of tens of thousands of dollars each from corporations including Comcast, Intuit, Wells Fargo, Amazon, Bank of America and Google last year, the CPA’s analysis of IRS filings shows. The contributions were made in the months after Politico published a leaked supreme court decision indicating that the court would end the right to nationwide abortion access. Google contributed $45,000 to the RSLC after the leak of the draft decision, according to the CPA’s review of the tax filings. Others contributed even more in the months after the leak, including Amazon ($50,000), Intuit ($100,000) and Comcast ($147,000). Google, Amazon, Comcast, Wells Fargo and Bank of America did not respond to requests for comment. An Intuit spokesperson pointed out that the company also donates to Democratic political organizations, and that “our financial support does not indicate a full endorsement of every position taken by an individual policymaker or organization. “Intuit is non-partisan and works with policymakers and leaders from both sides of the aisle to advocate for our customers,” an Intuit spokesperson said in a statement. “We believe engagement with policymakers is essential to a robust democracy and political giving is just one of the many ways Intuit engages on behalf of its customers, employees, and the communities it serves.” A Bank of America spokesperson pointed to the company’s policy that donations to so-called 527 organizations such as the RSLC come with the caveat that they only be used for operational and administrative purposes, not to support any candidates or ballot initiatives. The CPA, meanwhile, argues that since the RSLC’s operations are explicitly designed to support candidates and ballot initiatives, such a policy is a distinction without a difference.

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Abortion Providers Sue Kansas Over Longstanding Waiting Period, New Medication Rule

ABC News, June 6, 2023

Abortion providers sued Kansas on Tuesday over a law enacted this year and existing restrictions, including a decades-old requirement that patients wait 24 hours after first seeing a provider to terminate their pregnancies. Besides the waiting period, the lawsuit challenges a law set to take effect July 1 that will require providers to tell patients that a medication abortion can be stopped using a regimen that major medical groups have called unproven and potentially dangerous. The lawsuit, filed in state district court in Johnson County in the Kansas City area, argues that Kansas has created a “Biased Counseling Scheme” designed to discourage patients from getting abortions and to stigmatize patients who terminate their pregnancies. The lawsuit contends that the requirements have become “increasingly absurd and invasive” over time and spread medical misinformation. Kansas voters in August 2022 decisively affirmed abortion rights, refusing to overturn a state Supreme Court decision three years earlier that declared access to abortion a matter of bodily autonomy and a fundamental right under the state constitution. The providers hope the state courts will invalidate the entire state law that spells out what they must tell patients – in writing – and when, with a single, specific style of type mandated for the forms. “We thought about the fact that the voters were very clear in the fact that they want providers able to speak directly and honestly to their patients,” said Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, one of the providers filing the lawsuit. Wales added that the newest restriction caused the providers to look at the state’s requirements more broadly: “This addition would really harm patients potentially, so we felt compelled to do something.” The medication abortion-reversal regimen, touted for more than a decade by abortion opponents, uses doses of a hormone, progesterone, commonly used in attempts to prevent miscarriages. Supporters of the new law – and Kansas’ entire Right to Know Act – argue that they are making sure that patients have the information they need to make informed decisions about ending their pregnancies.

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Note: The information contained in this publication reflects media coverage of women’s health issues and does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Partnership for Women & Families.