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Washington — The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to consider a pair of disputes involving abortion restrictions in Chicago and Pennsylvania, leaving intact laws that create buffer zones outside of abortion clinics.

The first case rejected by the high court involves an ordinance in Chicago that makes it illegal for a person within a 50-feet radius from an abortion clinic to come within eight feet of another person “for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education or counseling.”

The challenge to the Chicago law was brought by four people and two anti-abortion rights groups that engage in sidewalk counseling outside of abortion clinics and argue the ordinance violates the First Amendment.

But a federal district court and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the ordinance to stand, citing a 2000 Supreme Court decision upholding a similar law in Colorado.

Justice Clarence Thomas said he would have granted the request to hear the case.

The second dispute involves an ordinance enacted in the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that makes it unlawful for a person to “knowingly congregate, patrol, picket or demonstrate in a zone extending 20 feet from any portion of an entrance to, exit from, or driveway of a health care facility.”

As in the case out of Chicago, a group of citizens who engage in sidewalk counseling challenged the law and sought to block enforcement on the grounds the buffer zone violated their First Amendment rights.

The federal district court denied their request to block the law, and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to take up the two legal battles over the abortion restrictions follows its 5-4 ruling Monday striking down a Louisiana law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal wing of the bench in invalidating the Louisiana law, citing a 2016 Supreme Court decision striking down a nearly-identical Texas regulation.

The legal battle over the Louisiana abortion restriction was the first involving abortion rights to come before the Supreme Court’s new 5-4 conservative majority, which was cemented with the additions of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both appointed by President Trump, to the high court.

In light of its ruling Monday, the Supreme Court tossed out lower court rulings blocking two Indiana laws from taking effect and sent the cases back to the lower courts for further consideration. One of the measures requires a woman to undergo an ultrasound at least 18 hours before an abortion and the second requires parents of minors to be given notice of a court-authorized abortion.

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/supreme-court-abortion-clinic-buffer-zones/?fbclid=IwAR2mlkrYo390REyI9ttFQgfYz3D3O1Q_cZLMbFbxvcPVTb-vbJpNmCiJ4ac

“We’ve been fighting for this for years,” one pro-abortion rights activist said.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) speaks during a news conference on June 4, 2020 in Richmond, Va.Zach Gibson / Getty Images file

Virginia’s Reproductive Health Protection Act goes into effect Wednesday, overturning many longstanding abortion restrictions in the state.

“No more will legislators in Richmond — most of whom are men — be telling women what they should and should not be doing with their bodies,” Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said in a statement.

For the first time in a generation, Virginia Democrats took control of the General Assembly last year and they have been active in pushing through changes.

The new law repeals regulations that require those seeking an abortion to undergo state-mandated counseling, a mandatory ultrasound and a 24-hour waiting period prior to the procedure.

It also removes the requirement that health centers performing five or more abortions a month be classified as hospitals. In addition, the act allows nurse practitioners to provide abortions within the first trimester of pregnancy, whereas previously, only physicians could provide care.

“We’ve been fighting for this for years,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “The new law rolls back years of egregious, politically motivated, medically unnecessary anti-abortion laws that were simply put in place to shut off a woman’s access to abortion care.”

According to NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, 170 restrictive abortion bills and regulations have been introduced in the state since 2011.

But Kathy Byron, a Republican member of the state’s House of Delegates, said that the legislation is a major setback.

“The law sacrifices the health, safety, and rights of pregnant women, prioritizing the interests of the abortion industry over those of Virginia women,” she said.

“What the pro-abortion majority in our General Assembly advocated for this year was not something that will benefit women looking for information regarding their pregnancy, but rather an action taken to protect the abortionists,” said Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life.

However, Dr. Shanthi Ramesh, an OB-GYN in Virginia, said that the law does not negatively impact a pregnant person’s health, instead it allows medical professionals to do what’s best for the patient.

“The decision about if and when to perform an ultrasound, the counseling before an abortion and what type of abortion someone has are all medical decisions,” she said. “It’s using the expertise of the provider and the patient’s unique needs to make those decisions.”

The new law marks a turning point for access to abortion care in the state, advocates said.

“It makes Virginia the first state in the south to proactively protect a woman’s access to abortion care and reproductive health,” said state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, a Democrat who sponsored the bill. “We want to be proactive in protecting the doctor-patient relationship and a woman’s access to care.”

Jamie Lockhart, executive director at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, agreed and said that rural and low-income communities have felt the brunt of abortion restrictions for too long.

“It’s tragic how Virginia conservative leaders for years put all these obstacles in place, likely knowing that they would impact Virginians who could least afford to go through those obstacles,” she said.

Since health centers, performing five or more abortions a month, are no longer under hospital regulations, Lockhart expects that more centers in rural areas and across the state will begin to provide abortion services.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2017, 93 percent of Virginia counties had no clinics that provided abortions, and 80 percent of women in Virginia lived in those counties.

“I have driven from Richmond to Virginia Beach to make sure someone had a ride from an appointment, because they had to be discharged to someone in order to have that procedure,” said Ayé Johnson, community and volunteer engagement accomplice at the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project.

She said that for most people, traveling more than an hour away to receive care would require additional planning and resources.

Johnson added that the abortion fund anticipates an influx of patients traveling to Virginia from neighboring states as a result of the legislation taking effect.

The law establishes Virginia as a safe haven for abortion care, not just for Virginians, but for those nearby, according to Keene.

“We’ve already taken our first step, and we obviously have a long way to go, but we are in it for the long haul,” she said.

Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/easing-abortion-restrictions-virginia-s-new-democratic-majority-takes-effect-n1232671

The headlines this week that almost 7,000 abortions had been carried out in Ireland last year were both a shock and a relief.

After all haven’t we been reading for decades of how thousands of Irish women had travelled to the UK to get abortions because they were not available in their home country. The difference now is these terminations of pregnancy are taking place on home turf. The vast majority of women do not have to book an airline ticket and go through the horrors of getting an abortion in a foreign country.

It is two years now since we made the historic decision to vote so decisively — more than 66% of us — to allow abortion in Ireland. The system has settled in, as it were, and the report by the Minister for Health on abortion notifications in 2019 shows that under new legislation, which allowed legal terminations of pregnancy, 6,666 abortions were carried out in 2019.

In the run-up to the referendum campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment the then health minister Simon Harris — who leaves the Department of Health with a patchy record in some areas, but success on the issues of the Eighth Amendment, and his handling of the pandemic — stood in the Dáil and read into the record the numbers of Irish women who’d travelled to the UK for abortions in 2016. He named each county and gave the relevant figure for each place — bringing home the fact that it was an issue that affected women in every town and village, women that everyone knew.

“These are not faceless women. They are our friends and neighbours, sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts, wives,” he said.

The publication of this first annual report since those changes in law, means we can now look at a map of Ireland and see that, for instance, 606 women in Cork had abortions last year; 2,493 in Dublin; 48 in Kerry; 213 in Louth; 280 in Galway, and so on.

You can have an abortion now in Ireland if your pregnancy is less than 12 weeks. You do not have to pay for it. If it is less than nine weeks you can take the abortion pill which involves two consultations and a three-day waiting period in between. Later than that in the pregnancy involves getting a surgical abortion.

The vast majority of those abortions, 98%, took place in early pregnancy at less than 12 weeks gestation. We were not told whether they were performed in hospitals or in the community, but logic dictates that at this early stage of pregnancy, most, if not all, came about through use of the abortion pill. In the very few cases where it does not work a woman then needs to undergo a surgical abortion.

For huge swathes of those who voted yes there will have been little joy in seeing the number of abortions that took place. This is not a happy subject. More than most countries we had cultural and religious baggage that meant jumping that hurdle to remove the Eighth Amendment in the referendum was a massive step. People wanted solutions. We made emotional trade-offs, but decided ultimately to be caring and humane. So many of us knew women who’d had to travel for abortions and understood the pain that involved.

So if you look askance at those 6,666 abortions you may need to remind yourself you voted yes at that time for the women in your life that you loved and cared for, and did not want to see them having to undergo undue suffering by travelling to another country at a time when they were especially vulnerable. There are also a significant number of people who are simply pro-choice who voted yes, and for whom the right to an abortion is just an automatic entitlement for women who must be in charge of their own reproductive rights.

During the referendum campaign Irish people listened to these women and their stories, some of them heartbreaking. They told of their experiences of having “to travel”. But they also listened very closely to doctors who spoke in terms of women needing care in their own country.

They are two exceedingly different subjects, yet the common ground between Covid-19 and Ireland’s abortion referendum, are the exceedingly high levels of trust that Irish people had and continue to have, in the medical profession.

It has been interesting to see how the high level of trust in doctors has been so much to the fore during these last few months of the pandemic. It is hardly unusual for people to want medical and scientific advice at such a time, but opinion polling has repeatedly shown very high levels of approval for the advice that has been dispensed and observed. Similarly the manner in which the medical profession stepped up during the abortion referendum, carrying consistent messaging, ultimately ensured its success.

The pandemic also brought to the fore what a horror story it would have been for women if the law had not been changed and no one would have been able to travel for a termination over such a long period of time. According to An Garda Síochána there was a 25% increase in reports of domestic violence during lockdown. There is no doubt but there will be women included in those figures who will have become pregnant against their will, who would not have been able to travel for an abortion either, but could now get one at home.

Following the publication of the report executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, pointed out there remain some serious gaps in the legislation. Statistics published by the UK’s department of health and social care in early June revealed that 375 women and girls travelled from Ireland to access abortion services in England and Wales in 2019.

“We know that women’s health and wellbeing are harmed when they have to travel for abortion, and people voted to end that very harm.” Next year we are due to have a review of our abortion laws and how they operate. Hopefully ahead of that we will have legislation for exclusion zones outside hospitals and other healthcare centres where anti-abortion protesters gather to hassle and intimidate women.

Abortion will never be an easy subject to discuss. But we can hold up our heads that we finally faced it head on two years ago. This week’s figures may not rest easily with many people, but the availability of abortion to Irish citizens is a sign of a mature society.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/07/01/one-of-these-cases-could-be-the-next-big-fight-for-abortion-rights/

In the months leading up to Monday’s Supreme Court decision in June Medical Services v. Russo, which overturned a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges with a nearby hospital, media outlets largely covered Louisiana as they did the near-identical Supreme Court case from Texas four years prior. They framed it as a “potentially catastrophic decision” that would have “massive consequences” for the future of abortion in the United States.
While this was certainly true, the case was important for more reasons than its potential impact on future access nationwide. If the law had been upheld, it would have had an immediate and disastrous impact on low-income Black women across Louisiana, forcing them to seek abortion care in neighboring states, some of which are are actively battling abortion bans.
Treating cases like June Medical Services as a harbinger for what’s to come also erases a glaring and uncomfortable fact: For people seeking abortion care in the American South, the future so many fear is already a reality, and has been for a long time. Just as the U.S.-Mexico borderlands operate as a “Constitution-free zone” where the Constitution technically applies but is subverted and debased, the American South operates in practice as a Roe-free zone. Kamyon Conner, the executive director of the Texas Equal Access (TEA) Fund, an abortion fund that provides assistance to low-income people in the northern region of Texas, told Prism she would never downplay the importance of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that affirmed abortion is a constitutional right.
“But what good is Roe v. Wade to the South if people can’t access the abortion care they need?” Conner asked.

Kamyon Conner, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund.
In the red state/blue state binary that is American politics, the American South is regularly framed as backwards, often because of its strict anti-abortion laws. Conner says she finds that image particularly insulting. The TEA Fund’s executive director said she wants people outside of the region to understand that the South is not a monolith and it is not merely the product of the region’s right-wing lawmakers. The area is home to a vast network of BIPOC leaders rooted in reproductive justice who successfully help people access abortion in states notoriously hostile to access.
Abortion funds: a model for how to move forward
Abortion funds across the South offer a model for how to continue serving communities in need, even though the attacks on abortion access will surely continue after yesterday’s decision. The TEA Fund is one of several BIPOC-led abortion funds in the South, and one of an estimated 24 BIPOC-led abortion funds that are a part of the National Network of Abortion Funds. Broadly, abortion funds remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by working with clinics to help pay for abortions. Many also offer other forms of support, including transportation, lodging, child care, translation, and sometimes even doula services.
As an abortion fund in Texas, the TEA Fund has been through it—not just battling and maneuvering through anti-choice state laws, pivotal Supreme Court cases, and “sanctuary city for the unborn” ordinances that create hyper-local barriers to abortion care, but also working to address systemic inequities through advocacy, organizing, and community building.
“Our work is intersectional very purposefully—because it has to be. We don’t have the luxury to just provide direct services, to just do advocacy, to just provide practical support like rides, shelter, food, and lodging,” Conner said. “Some abortion funds do work around immigration and Indigenous rights. Some are doing environmental work, racial justice work, decriminalization work. They are doing abolitionist work. They are advocating for sex workers and uplifitng the LGBTQIA+ community. This is because all of the people impacted by these systems have abortions too.”
Mars Earle, the director of engagement at the Carolina Abortion Fund, said that a useful way for people to understand the power of abortion funds in this moment is to consider how crucial mutual aid has become during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the federal government floundered in its response to the coronavirus, community coalitions formed across the U.S., using inventive and resourceful ways to get aid to those most in need of masks, food, and other necessities. Abortion funds are mutual aid, Earle said: “they are systems of care and support.”
“In my experience, abortion funds in the South strive to not be transactional. Part of that is because of the layers of barriers and who is impacted, but it’s also just not how the work is approached. This isn’t about paying down debt. It is a practical thing, but it’s not one and done,” Mars said. “This is very much about relationship-building, consciousness-shifting, and emotional support. That is so much of the work that we do and as people become more and more alarmed about potential repercussions in the Louisiana case, I think the community care and mutual aid we strive to provide is something that is powerful to consider.”
In an ideal world, according to advocates who spoke to Prism, abortion funds wouldn’t need to exist. In the meantime, these funds serve as a crucial stopgap to unjust anti-abortion laws intended to strip people of their constitutional rights, agency, and power.
Building collective power in the face of opposition
Abortion bans aren’t just about abortion, wrote Alicia Garza, president of the Black Futures Lab and the co-founder of the Movement for Black Lives, last year after a series of abortion bans pummeled Southern states that have high concentrations of Black and low-income people. They are about power: who has it, who doesn’t, and who wants to keep whom from gaining it. In the face of these dynamics, Garza wrote that southerners struggle “to be powerful against an entrenched network of people in power who don’t necessarily represent or even reflect their own constituents.”
In the piece, Garza pointed to Monica Simpson, the executive director of the groundbreaking reproductive justice organization SisterSong, as an example of a pivotal leader in the South. The goal of the Atlanta, Georgia-based organization is to improve the institutional policies and systems that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities. Simpson’s work is a continuation of a long legacy of “intersectional Southern activism” too often erased and infrequently deferred to. In May of last year when the Alabama Senate passed its abortion ban, Simpson wrote that while Southern history is steeped in injustice, it has borne a “resilience and a resistance that we should look to as a model for how to move forward.”
While legislative and political attacks are not new and certainly not unfamiliar to reproductive justice advocates in the South—even during a pandemic, as the Tennessee legislature just illustrated by passing a covert, middle of the night anti-abortion bill—the fight can be exhausting, said Kwajelyn Jackson, the executive director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Jackson’s clinic has been central to the fight against Georgia’s abortion ban signed last year by Gov. Brian Kemp. The ban was set to go into effect on the first day of this year, but a judge blocked the law while it plays out in court. Oral arguments in the case began June 15.

Kwajelyn Jackson, the executive director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
Unlike other states in the region, Georgia has had a lot of success in holding back anti-abortion legislation, but Jackson said she is deeply concerned by the way the anti-abortion movement is shifting, concentrating its efforts on the courts and in a more recent development, co-opting the language of the Movement for Black Lives as part of its targeted harassment of the Feminist Women’s Health Center, where 50% of patients are Black. But Jackson says she doesn’t want to be anywhere else.
“People not in this region may not understand this, but there are real benefits to working in Georgia and other areas of the South,” Jackson said. “We are coordinated and we are organized because reproductive justice really blossomed here. Black women, queer folks, and young people are working in coalition here and it allows us to work across issues and build collective power.”
‘This is our legacy’
One needs to look no further than Alabama for an example of collective power-building. Exactly one year after Alabama passed its own abortion ban (which, like Georgia’s, is temporarily blocked), the Yellowhammer Fund took an unprecedented step: It purchased the West Alabama Women’s Center, which provides more than half the abortions in the state and serves people across the Southeast. As Becca Andrews reported for Mother Jones, abortion funds like the Yellowhammer Fund have traditionally operated separately from clinics. “Consolidating their mission,” Andrews wrote, could “shore up the precarious network of access in the region and make abortion care available to low-income folks.”

Amanda Reyes, executive director of the Yellowhammer Fund, dellivers school supplies to Alabama children.
Purchasing an abortion clinic in a state that instituted an abortion ban may seem counterintuitive to some, but the Yellowhammer Fund’s executive director, Amanda Reyes, told Prism there is never a good time to open an abortion clinic. According to Reyes, one of the primary reasons the clinic’s former owner sold it to the Yellowhammer Fund is because she knew that no matter what came up through the courts, what the Alabama legislature tried to pass, or what happens in the June Medical Services case, the Yellowhammer Fund “would fight to keep the clinic open and accessible in Alabama.
“We focus on what we can control. We can use our collective resources and networks to make sure people in our community get the care they need. When you prioritize getting care for your community, that’s a radical perspective,” Reyes said. “It’s easy to scapegoat the South for all of these anti-choice laws, but they don’t come from the people. [Abortion funds] are focused on the people in the country who are the most marginalized. No matter what changes, we need to keep focusing on making sure the people in our communities who need abortions can get them without being criminalized.”
This is something that speaks directly to the mission of El Paso, Texas’ West Fund, an abortion fund in West Texas that advocates for abortions without borders. Alexis Andrea, the helpline manager at the West Fund, told Prism that people seeking abortion care in this heavily militarized portion of the state are not only subjected to Texas’ anti-abortion and anti-immigrant laws, but they are also navigating a “medical desert.” There is only one full-time provider in the region, and they don’t work with abortion funds.
“Operating in a border town gives you a completely different perspective when it comes to overcoming barriers, and it really teaches you about resilience and resourcefulness,” Andrea said. “People maybe don’t realize that if we wanted to send patients to other clinics in Texas, it would take over eight hours to get there from where we are. It’s a burden and an unrealistic expectation in a low-income city, so we’ve had to develop other networks and we’ve developed relationships with people in New Mexico, which is only four hours away.”

Members of Indigenous Women Rising.
In the West Fund’s network is Indigenous Women Rising (IWR), an Indigenous-led and centered reproductive justice collective on Tiwa land that funds abortions exclusively for Indigenous people. IWR organizer Nicole Martin told Prism that one of the most important characteristics of abortion funds is how nimble they are and the ways they can adjust to meet the needs of various Indigenous communities. While their abortion fund is based in the Southwest, IWR funds abortions across the country, including the South, stepping in wherever Indigenous people are trying to access care.
“We saw that there really wasn’t any cultural sensitivity for Indigenous people when it comes to abortion and we really wanted to respond to that with our own abortion fund,” Martin said. “It’s the cultural sensitivity and awareness that we can really offer because when it comes to abortion, many people in our communities will not feel comfortable talking to someone who is not familiar with their spirituality or the teachings they were brought up with. Responding to the needs and respecting the beliefs of our callers’ communities are really important to us.”
Before the Supreme Court’s decision, the abortion fund Access Reproductive Care (ARC)-Southeast was gearing up to support the needs of communities across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Georgia. ARC-Southeast’s co-founder and co-director, Oriaku Njoku, assumed that if the Supreme Court upheld the law there would be a domino effect, forcing people to leave Louisiana to access abortion care in neighboring states. But Njoku told Prism that no matter what happened in the June Medical Services case, ARC-Southeast could “not operate in fear.”
While Supreme Court cases are important, Njoku said, they cannot be treated as the end-all, be-all for abortion access. ARC-Southeast was founded by three queer Black women who met working at the same clinic, seeing firsthand the barriers that BIPOC communities experienced trying to access care. The abortion fund’s founders committed to doing everything in their power to help people access abortion, which continues to be the fund’s primary mission.
“No matter the ebbs and flows of the courts, we are steadfast in our commitment,” Njoku said. “Abortion is still legal across the United States, but legality is not the same as accessibility. You can still get an abortion in Georgia and Alabama right now, but is it accessible? That’s why I say that while these cases are important, they can’t be it. Especially not here [in the South].”
Working in a region hostile to abortion access does not mean you “shrink yourself,” said Quita Tinsley, ARC-Southeast’s co-director; it means “you embrace big, bold ideas.” An example of this is the groundswell of opposition ARC-Southeast created with other reproductive justice advocates as part of #PissedOffPeaches, a movement that took a multipronged approach to fighting Georgia’s abortion ban. ARC-Southeast organized against the ban as various industries boycotted the state because of it.
To Tinsley, it made little sense to abandon Georgia residents at a time when the most marginalized among them would face insurmountable barriers to accessing necessary health care, but people across the state are working in unison with reproductive justice advocates to fight back. Tinsley says this is yet another example of the “radical work” being done in the South, work that rarely gets highlighted in reporting that purposefully or inadvertently paints the South as a regressive place, especially as the country awaited the decision in the June Medical Services case.
“I’ve seen more Black women and femme leadership in the south than I’ve seen in other regions of the country. This is a place steeped in resistance, and so of course the way the South is talked about doesn’t resonate with me,” Tinsley said. “You know what comes to mind for me when I think of the south? Harriet Tubman in the woods with a gun leading Black folks to freedom. How are you going to paint this as ‘Trump country’ when this is our legacy?”
Abortion rights demonstrators and anti-abortion demonstrators rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court

Demonstrators rallied outside the Supreme Court on March 4 when the court heard a case against a Louisiana abortion case. (Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)

The Supreme Court struck down an onerous and unnecessary Louisiana restriction on abortion, offering a striking rebuke to the state for passing the same version of a law the high court ruled was unconstitutional four years ago.

In a 5-4 decision in June Medical Services L.L.C. vs. Russo, the court found that the Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals provided no health benefits to women and would drastically curtail access to the procedure, most likely leaving one clinic and one doctor in the state to provide abortions.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing the principal opinion, made it clear in his opening sentence that the Louisiana law was “almost word-for-word identical” to the Texas law that the court struck down in the Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt case four years ago.

As in the Texas case, the tribunal upheld a lower court’s finding that requiring hospital admitting privileges would make it impossible for many women and arduous for most others to obtain a safe, legal abortion in Louisiana — and would not make an already very safe procedure any safer. According to a comprehensive review of published studies, office-based abortion clinics reported a less than 0.5% risk of hospitalization after a first-trimester abortion, the most common type.

However, there was plenty of evidence that getting admitting privileges can be difficult. Hospitals denied doctors privileges for reasons having nothing to do with their skills providing outpatient abortions. The court also found that the vetting for privileges added nothing to the vetting already conducted by the State Board of Medical Examiners.

The Supreme Court has, yet again, made clear that it rejects the pretext that these laws are intended to protect women’s health. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All these laws do — and the court has said this — is make it profoundly difficult to get an extremely safe and legal procedure. And that burden of difficulty falls hardest on those with the least means — poor women and women of color and those who live in rural areas.

You would think one ruling of the Supreme Court in 2016 would be enough to discourage abortion opponents from passing a law identical to the one the court threw out. But of course they were hoping that the court in 2020 with two new conservative justices would see the admitting privileges law differently. In fact, they did. Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh dissented from the majority.

The surprise (somewhat) was conservative Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. siding with the liberal justices even though he did not join their opinion. He made it clear, in his separate opinion, that he never supported the decision in the original Texas case, but that “the Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons.”

Roberts is no champion of abortion rights, but he is a stickler for precedent and he noted that Louisiana’s law could not stand given the Texas decision. And he did recognize the burdens that women face in states with restrictive abortion laws. (Louisiana’s are among the most restrictive.) And that was heartening at a time when abortion rights are still under attack.

Now that the Supreme Court has twice invalidated laws about admitting privileges, maybe abortion opponents will give up on this ruse.

But these rulings are unlikely to stop what Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights, whose lawyers argued the Louisiana case, calls an “avalanche” of anti-abortion laws.

It’s appalling that nearly 50 years since the passage of Roe vs. Wade guaranteed a right to a safe, legal abortion — and after landmark Supreme Court cases in 1992 and 2016 reaffirmed that decision — women are still fighting to preserve their legal right to an abortion. The Women’s Health Protection Act would guarantee a right to abortion and bar the onerous restrictions various states have placed on providers and patients. But that faces an uphill climb in Congress. We expect the courts everywhere to stop these attempts in their tracks — and that is exactly what the Supreme Court did Tuesday.

Source: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-06-29/abortion-decision-supreme-court-louisiana?fbclid=IwAR1-0FHVrBquB4GHQrif5Gt_8JGulV_DrGcMzqHgjjW1tQ6X-gO3UNt-6z0

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional right to abortion Monday, rejecting a state’s attempts to limit access to the procedure for the second time in four years.

Demonstrators hold banners outside of the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the June Medical Services v. Russo case, March 4.

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional right to abortion Monday, rejecting a state’s attempts to limit access to the procedure for the second time in four years.

The decision strikes down a 2014 Louisiana law that required physicians performing abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the deciding opinion, noted that the law at issue was identical to the one the court considered and struck down in Texas in 2016.

Attorneys for the state argued in front of the justices in March that the law made abortions safer because it ensured that if anything went wrong during an abortion procedure, the patient could be rushed to a nearby hospital.

The Center for Reproductive Rights sued and its attorneys countered that the law was unnecessary — hospitals will admit anyone with a medical emergency and medical complications in first trimester abortions are exceedingly rare. They also argued that obtaining admitting privileges is difficult, and that the law is really designed to make doctors unable to perform abortions and to close abortion clinics in the state.

In a rare move, there is no majority opinion in this case. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the more liberal justices on the court to strike down the law, but noted that he thinks the precedent that Monday’s decision is based on was wrongly decided. Still, Roberts wrote, he must treat the Louisiana Law the same way the court treated the Texas law in 2016.

Monday’s case, called June Medical Services v. Russo, is nearly identical to the 2016 case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, over a similar law in Texas which caused half of the state’s clinics to close. In that case, the Supreme Court struck down the law which had already gone into effect. In the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, the 2016 vote was 5–3 with Roberts dissenting.

The 2016 decision reaffirmed the “undue burden standard” — the idea that it is unconstitutional to pass laws creating major barriers to abortion access — a benchmark used by the Supreme Court in every case examining abortion regulations since it was established in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Monday’s Supreme Court ruling re-emphasizes the power of this standard.

In a statement following the release of the decision, Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which argued the case, wrote that her organization was “relieved” but concerned about future cases.

“We’re relieved that the Louisiana law has been blocked today but we’re concerned about tomorrow. With this win, the clinics in Louisiana can stay open to serve the one million women of reproductive age in the state,” the statement reads. “But the Court’s decision could embolden states to pass even more restrictive laws when clarity is needed if abortion rights are to be protected.”

In his opinion striking down the Louisiana law, Breyer wrote that in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the court held that “[u]nnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right’ and are therefore ‘constitutionally invalid.’”

Louisiana’s law, Breyer wrote, “almost word-for-word identical to Texas’ admitting-privileges law,” and that the District Court’s findings in the Louisiana case “mirror those made in Whole Woman’s Health in every relevant respect and require the same result.”

“We consequently hold that the Louisiana statute is unconstitutional,” Breyer wrote.

Breyer was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, while Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh joined the dissent.

In his separate, concurring opinion, Roberts wrote that he joined the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health and still believes today that the Texas case was wrongly decided.

“The question today however is not whether Whole Woman’s Health was right or wrong, but whether to adhere to it in deciding the present case,” he continued, concluding by the end of his opinion that the legal doctrine of stare decisis requires the Supreme Court, “absent special circumstances, to treat cases alike.”

“The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons,” Roberts wrote. “Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

On a phone call with the press Monday afternoon, lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights said that while the decision was “absolutely a victory,” Roberts’ opinion “muddied the waters” and opened the door for more abortion-restricting laws to be passed, and more litigation over abortion to come before the court.

“The opinion is concerning to us, but ultimately the court did uphold the rule of law,” Julie Rikelman, who argued the case before the Supreme Court, said.

One argument that Louisiana made before the court that Texas did not is that third party plaintiffs like abortion clinics should not be able to file lawsuits on behalf of their patients. This is the way most abortion cases are fought in court. While third parties are not typically allowed to sue on behalf of others, groups like the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, and others have often brought cases against anti-abortion regulations on behalf of their clients under a standard called “third-party standing” — in which plaintiffs have a “close relationship” with the damaged parties. The precedent of doctors suing on behalf of their patients goes back to the 1800s.

In response to this claim, Breyer wrote that he believed the state made this point too late. Breyer wrote that the state had already argued this case through several courts for years without arguing that the case was invalid because the clinic should not be able to sue on behalf of its patients.

“And even if the State had merely forfeited its objection by failing to raise it at any point over the last five years, we would not now undo all that has come before on that basis,” Breyer added. “We have long permitted abortion providers to invoke the rights of their actual or potential patients in challenges to abortion-related regulations.”

The court rejected the state’s claims, allowing clinics and other medical institutions to continue to be able to sue on behalf of their patients.

If the court had sided with Louisiana, the decision could have applied to lawsuits unrelated to abortion and uprooted many cases currently being argued across the country.

Justice Thomas wrote the dissenting opinion, writing that the majority of the court “perpetuates its ill-founded abortion jurisprudence by enjoining a perfectly legitimate state law and doing so without jurisdiction.”

However, Thomas focused his dissent on the majority’s holding that clinics should be able to sue on behalf of their patients.

“This suit was brought by abortionists and abortion clinics. Their sole claim before this Court is that Louisiana’s law violates the purported substantive due process right of a woman to abort her unborn child,” Thomas wrote. “But they concede that this right does not belong to them, and they seek to vindicate no private rights of their own.”

Article III of the US Constitution, which deals with the rules of judicial power, is generally interpreted to hold that third parties are not legally allowed to file lawsuits on behalf of other people. However, if those parties are found to have “substantial interest” in the case, an exception can be made. In past Supreme Court decisions, the court has found that this exception applies to cases where the plaintiffs have a “close relationship” with the damaged parties, and that a doctor–patient relationship is a close one.

Thomas argued against this precedent applying to Louisiana’s case, even going so far as to say that the Supreme Court lacks “jurisdiction to decide these cases.”

“When a private plaintiff seeks to vindicate someone else’s legal injury, he has no private right of his own genuinely at stake in the litigation,” Thomas wrote. “Even if the plaintiff has suffered damages as a result of another’s legal injury, he has no standing to challenge a law that does not violate his own private rights.”

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a separate dissent joined by Gorsuch. His dissent concurred with Thomas in part, and a separate dissent written by Kavanaugh also partially agreed with Alito’s dissent.

“The majority bills today’s decision as a facsimile of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, … and it’s true they have something in common,” Alito wrote. “In both, the abortion right recognized in this Court’s decisions is used like a bulldozer to flatten legal rules that stand in the way.”

Alito argued that, outside of the law’s bulldozer attitude, June Medical is “very different” from Whole Woman’s Health.

“The decision in Whole Woman’s Health was not based on the face of the Texas statute, but on an empirical question, namely, the effect of the statute on access to abortion in that State,” Alito wrote. “There is no reason to think that a law requiring admitting privileges will necessarily have the same effect in every state.”

Alito’s opinion stated that the Louisiana law is important, and different from Texas’, as it protects patients from “lax practices” at some of Louisiana’s abortion clinics.

Monday’s decision will not be the last of this year’s rulings on reproductive rights. The court also heard two combined cases via video chat in May about the Trump administration’s rules granting employers and universities the ability to refuse to provide birth control coverage for their employees for religious or moral reasons.

The cases, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Trump v. Pennsylvania, examined challenges to an Obama administration-era rule requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception to their employees, or to apply for an exemption to have that coverage taken over by another entity.

Source: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/emaoconnor/supreme-court-upholds-abortion-rights-strikes-louisiana-law?ref=bfnsplash&fbclid=IwAR0eiDEuUxWjCz5ToNgosAFSIfA5wIRjdJSEwQfT8PW3pRElYXC75zb-8ew

The Women’s Health Protection Act would protect abortion access from bans and burdensome restrictions.

Monday’s Supreme Court ruling is an important win, but we need federal action to restore and protect access to abortion across the country—like the Women’s Health Protection Act, which was introduced in May 2019 and co-sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Many of us had been nervously anticipating this moment. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision on abortion rights, striking down a highly restrictive Louisiana law intended to shut down abortion clinics in the state. This outcome is a big relief, and an important win for the people of Louisiana.

Justice Breyer’s opinion is a rewarding read for anyone who cares about facts and evidence. It refutes false claims by the anti-abortion politicians and activists that had imposed this law, calling them out on the fact that this restriction has no benefits for patient health and only served to shut down clinics in Louisiana.

So let’s celebrate, and offer our thanks and gratitude to the Louisiana abortion providers and their allies who took this case to the Supreme Court and earned this major victory.

At the same time, we should not be under any illusion that the future of abortion rights is secure. Decades of history and evidence, including the more than 1,200 restrictions states have enacted since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, leave no doubt about the lengths to which anti-abortion activists will go to push their coercive agenda. The result: Our experts at the Guttmacher Institute classify 29 states as “hostile” to abortion rights based on the large number of restrictions they have enacted, with almost six out of every ten U.S. women of reproductive age (or 40 million) living in one of these states.

Every day, these policies stand between pregnant people and the abortion care they seek. For instance, the average one-way driving distance to an abortion clinic for a woman of reproductive age in Louisiana is 41 miles. While attempts to shut down the remaining clinics in the state have failed, at least for now, it’s chilling to know that the average distance would increase to 172 miles (or more than four times as far) if patients were forced to travel out-of-state to get to the nearest abortion clinic.

Even in the absence of a pandemic, the thicket of abortion restrictions means many abortion patients struggle to get the care they need. This includes navigating intentionally burdensome requirements that serve no medical purpose, as well as coming up with the money to pay for the procedure. These difficulties—taking time off work, securing childcare, finding the money to pay for all of this—is compounded when restrictions lead to clinic closures and women are forced to travel longer distances, or even have to go to a neighboring state.

That’s why abortion restrictions are a fundamental violation of human rights. And these coercive policies disproportionately harm Black and brown communities that face overlapping oppressive policies and structural racism.

The onslaught of restrictions needs to stop. Abortion is essential, time-sensitive health care. When someone decides to get an abortion they should be able to get affordable, accessible, and compassionate care.

It’s on all of us to make this right a reality for all—and many have already take action. Last year, nine states took major steps to repeal restrictions or to protect and expand access, while governors in another five states vetoed abortion restrictions passed by the state legislature. More states should follow suit, and we have laid out a host of ways they can do so. This includes affirming the right to abortion, providing insurance coverage for abortion care, expanding online and telehealth access, and promoting policies and practices that support individuals who self-manage their abortions.

States stepping up is critical, but not all states will do so, and abortion access should not depend on your ZIP code. That’s why we need federal action to restore and protect access to abortion across the whole country—and Congress has the tools it needs at its fingertips. The Women’s Health Protection Act is a federal bill that would protect abortion access from bans and burdensome restrictions like the Louisiana admitting privileges law.

Congress must also take action to ensure people can afford the care they need by repealing the discriminatory Hyde Amendment and related restrictions. Restoring insurance coverage of abortion for everyone insured through Medicaid and other federal programs is a critical step toward dismantling structural barriers and systemic racism with respect to access to abortion care.

In many ways, 2020 is a clarifying moment, where all of us are called upon to stand against injustice, racism, and sexist oppression. So even as we celebrate that the Supreme Court struck down Louisiana’s terrible law, we must not let down our guard. It will take every one of us to carry forward the fight for reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy for all.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2020/06/30/how-congress-can-immediately-seize-on-mondays-abortion-rights-win/

The Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that restricted abortions in that state, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the liberal justices in the ruling.

The case of June Medical Services v. Russo was over Louisiana’s requirement for doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. A federal court found that the law would leave one abortion provider for the state.

The Supreme Court struck down a similar Texas law in 2016, CNBC reports, leaving some to worry that the court was taking up the issue again with a more conservative majority.

Writing for the liberals on the court, Justice Stephen Breyer ruled the court agreed with a lower court decision “that Louisiana’s law poses a ‘substantial obstacle’ to women seeking an abortion; its determination that the law offers no significant health-related benefits; and its determination that the law consequently imposes an ‘undue burden’ on a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.”

Breyer and the three other liberal justices said Louisiana’s law on abortions violated the constitution.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in a concurring opinion, said, “The Louisiana law burdens women seeking previability abortions to the same extent as the Texas law, according to factual findings that are not clearly erroneous. For that reason, I concur in the judgment of the Court that the Louisiana law is unconstitutional.”

This is the first time the current court, which has a majority of justices with judicial records of ruling against abortion rights, has heard an abortion-related case, NPR reports.

During his 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump said he would nominate judges that would overturn the landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade that guaranteed women’s access to abortion.

Louisiana passed its Unsafe Abortion Protection Act in 2014, but it’s been blocked from being enforced since it was enacted, CNN reports.

A federal district judge struck down the Louisiana law, but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling and said the law could go into effect, according to NPR.

A 5-4 decision from the Supreme Court in February 2019 blocked the law temporarily as the justices considered the case.

The ruling is the third major decision to come out of the Supreme Court in the past two weeks on hot-button social issues. The court ruled last week that employers could not fire someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The court also stopped the Trump Administration from ending the DACA program, which gives legal status to immigrants brought to the United States as children. That ruling has been seen as a blow to the president who promised to end DACA in his 2016 campaign.

Another issue in today’s ruling was whether abortion providers can even sue the state over the law. Louisiana questioned if June Medical Service has what’s called “third party standing,” according to ABC News. That concept would allow doctors to sue on behalf of those who’s rights are impacted, in this case, their patients.

Attorneys for June Medical Services argued that the law regulates doctors, not their patients, so the doctors do have the right to sue over the law, ABC News reports.

Source: https://www.thenewstribune.com/news/nation-world/national/article243757837.html?fbclid=IwAR0E8vQUqJYqxqGsWumgnarzxxhLqnUuoPk_l2VuQBMska4j9xXNxcBYG2Q

The pandemic has been even worse for women’s reproductive health care than the 2008 recession. And this is just the beginning.


One in three women struggled to get their birth control, had to delay a doctor’s visit for sexual or reproductive health care, or had to cancel a visit entirely due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to findings released Wednesday by the Guttmacher Institute.

Researchers at the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks restrictions on reproductive health, surveyed more than 2,000 cisgender women across the United States in late April and early May. Even in those early weeks of the global shutdown, they discovered that the pandemic had already made getting birth control and related health care a struggle for more women than the 2008 recession had.

That finding surprised even Laura Lindberg, the Guttmacher Institute’s principal research scientist.

“We’re just a few short months in the pandemic. I think the fuller effects are still unfolding,” Lindberg said. “Some of the big concerns here are as individuals lose their jobs, with that, in our country, they also often lose their health insurance. Women are more likely to be losing jobs. Women from more marginalized communities are in occupations where it’s not clear those jobs are gonna come back as quickly.”

Experts have warned for months that the pandemic would likely imperil people’s ability to get birth control and reproductive health care. Though government officials urged people to stock up on essential medications, contraception isn’t available over the counter in most states. And as businesses and colleges shutter, people have had to transfer their prescription to a new location or fight to get an appointment with a doctor — even as many doctor’s offices close their doors.

Those are challenges even for people who’ve managed to hold onto their jobs, and their health insurance, in the middle of record-high unemployment. But as people are pushed out of work by the pandemic, the obstacles to care can continue to mount. Without insurance, contraception can also cost hundreds of dollars a year.

Women aren’t only facing the prospect of going without birth control — they may also be delaying or skipping procedures like STI screenings, pap smears, and mammograms. In several states, access to abortion was also briefly choked off, as officials tried to cite the pandemic as a reason to ban abortion, and a previous Guttmacher study found that HPV vaccinations among adolescents have plummeted by 68% between February and early April.

“It’s just layer upon layer,” Lindberg said. “And we focus so much on where people are getting their Lysol wipes or where are people getting their groceries, or how are they doing that, but this matters in a woman’s life also. And it’s something that they need, immediately.”

The Guttmacher Institute didn’t specifically ask how or why women had trouble getting the health care they needed. But they did find stark racial disparities in who is struggling. While 29% of white women reported that the pandemic made it harder to access contraception and reproductive health care, 38% of Black women and 45% of Hispanic women said the same.

Because Americans tend to get their health insurance through their jobs, that racial disparity in access to care is inextricably tied to another disparity, in unemployment. Although the U.S. unemployment rate dipped in May to a still-astronomical 13.3% — from a high of 14.7% in April — unemployment among black workers rose to 16.8%. That’s higher than the rate has been in more than a decade.

More than half of the surveyed women told the Guttmacher Institute that they or someone in their household had either lost their job or seen their work hours cut due to the pandemic. About one in three said that, in April 2020, they were financially worse off than they had been the year before. And these women were more likely to say that they had struggled to access birth control or sexual and reproductive health care.

Even as women struggle to get their birth control, more women are reporting that the pandemic has led them to reconsider if and how they want to have kids. More than a third of the surveyed women said that, because of the pandemic, they had decided to get pregnant later or have fewer children. So a coronavirus baby boom is pretty unlikely, Lindberg said, pointing to the fact that the U.S. birth rate fell after the 2008 recession and never recovered.

“The uncertainty about what the future holds and the disruptions to the way people live their lives make a baby bust much more likely,” she said.

Source: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/y3zgx7/planned-parenthood-is-furious-republicans-want-to-claw-back-their-bailout-money

SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois anti-abortion nonprofit filed a federal lawsuit challenging Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s social gathering restrictions, arguing it should be excluded from caps on attendees to charity, planning and educational events.

Illinois Right to Life’s lawsuit was filed in the Northern District just over one week after the state Republican Party filed a near-identical argument in the same court. The two groups are represented by the Chicago-based firm Liberty Justice Center.

The cases center around the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause — because Pritzker’s executive order contains a carve-out for churches and has not been enforced against systemic racism protestors, it should not apply to the nonprofit, either, they claim.

According to the court document — written by Daniel Suhr, the attorney also representing the Republican Party — religious institutions are permitted to hold socially-distanced services of more than 10 people. Faith-based associations are “encouraged to consult and follow the recommended practices” published by the Illinois Department of Public Health, but “are not required to obey them.”

Illinois Right to Life already canceled several previously-planned events, rescheduled others and received “minimal” attendance at ones they were able to hold, Suhr wrote. The group argued that due to the nature of its advocacy work, remote alternatives are not helpful.

“IRL believes that internet-based alternatives are not sufficient to spread its speech effectively. Abortion is a deeply personal topic; the issues IRL works on are some of the most personal and emotional decisions that women and others face in their lifetimes, and conversations around them often turn emotional,” Suhr wrote in the organization’s court document. “A video conference cannot replace the interpersonal interaction called for around this topic.”

The group is asking a federal judge to rule Pritzker’s social gathering restrictions unconstitutional and bar the government from enforcing the executive order as it applies to Illinois Right to Life. It is also requesting to be reimbursed for attorneys’ fees.

Source: https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20200624/anti-abortion-group-sues-to-hold-large-gatherings