As court fights have become increasingly critical in shaping the nation's abortion laws, here's a look at 10 of the most important cases pending right now in state and federal court.
1. Wisconsin. The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have challenged a law requiring every physician who performs an abortion at a clinic to have staff privileges at a local hospital, arguing that the measure would force two of the state’s four abortion clinics to close.In Wisconsin. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against the law, which Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed on July 5; the judge will hold a hearing on the case this week.
2. North Dakota. The state's Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) garnered national attention in late March when he signed into law a bill restricting abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detectable, which can be as early as six weeks. But he has also signed off on bills prohibiting abortion based on sex selection and genetic abnormalities, barring non-surgical abortions and requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors. The Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging all of these bills, some in state court and some in federal court. The fetal heartbeat bill takes effect on Aug. 1, so there is a chance the federal judge overseeing that challenge would issue a preliminary injunction that would prevent it from taking effect in the state.
3. Virginia. NOVA Women’s Healthcare, the state's busiest abortion clinic, just closed because its operators said it could not afford to comply with new regulations requiring costly upgrades in order to meet strict, hospital-like standards. A separate clinic, the Falls Church Healthcare Center, filed an administrative appeal petition in the Arlington Circuit Court in June challenging the new rules imposed by the Virginia State Board of Health. The Commonwealth has responded, so the case is going forward.
4. Arkansas. The ACLU, the Arkansas ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights are challenging a law barring abortions starting 12 weeks after fertilization, which was adopted after the Arkansas legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of the law. In May the judge overseeing the case temporarily blocked the law, which was set to take effect in July.
5. Kansas. The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged a sweeping anti-abortion bill. Last month the center got a preliminary injunction blocking two provisions of the measure, ones requiring providers to endorse specific literature on abortion provided to patients and redefining what constitutes a medical emergency for a woman seeking an abortion.
6. Arizona. The ACLU, the NAACP and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum filed suit in May against an Arizona law that bans abortion on the basis of gender and race selection, arguing that it is based on stereotypes about Asian Americans and African Americans.
7. Alabama. The ACLU, the ACLU of Alabama, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Southeast are challenging a law requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The judge in that case issued a temporary restraining order late last month against the measure, just as a federal judge had blocked a 2012 Mississippi law challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights that requires any physician performing abortions in the state be a board certified or eligible obstetrician-gynecologist with admitting privileges at an area hospital.
8. Texas. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said Saturday that her group was “evaluating litigation options” regarding the just-passed Texas abortion bill, which would not only bar abortions starting 20 weeks after fertilization but would impose an admitting privileges requirement and other operating requirements for abortion rules. Gov. Rick Perry (R) has pledged to sign the bill, but has not done so yet.
9. Oklahoma. The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged both a law restricting non-surgical abortions and one requiring an ultrasound before a woman has an abortion. In both cases, the state supreme court has permanently blocked them. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider both cases, though it sent back a few questions to the Oklahoma Supreme Court regarding the suit involving medication abortions.
10. North Carolina. The Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have challenged a 2011 measure requiring abortion providers to show an ultrasound image to a pregnant woman, describe the features of the fetus and offer her a chance to listen to its heartbeat. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in the case in October 2011, and the case is still pending. Both the House and Senate in North Carolina have both recently passed more sweeping anti-abortion bills, and the governor has said he would sign the House version of that legislation. If signed, that bill could spark its own legal challenge.