Four days after the Supreme Court tossed a set of Texas abortion restrictions that wiped out half the state’s clinics, Planned Parenthood announced a campaign to repeal similar laws across the country, arguing the legal defense of rules not “medically necessary” has evaporated. Opponents of abortion, meanwhile, are bracing to fight back.
“We’ve reached a tipping point,” said Helene Krasnoff, senior director of public policy litigation and law at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “These laws are unjust, dangerous and they're unconstitutional.”
She named eight states with regulations Planned Parenthood intends to soon fight: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. “With more to come,” Krasnoff added. She didn’t break down specific laws the organization will first target.
The high court’s decision struck down part of a 2013 Texas law the state’s attorney general said was designed to protect women’s health. House Bill 2, as it’s known, required abortion clinics to meet ambulatory surgical center standards and doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
After the measure passed, the number of abortion clinics in Texas shrank from 44 to 19 — a consequence, advocates said, of the high cost of adding and maintaining surgical standards. Some hospital leaders opposed to abortion, meanwhile, denied privileges to doctors who terminated pregnancies, rendering them unable to practice under the rules.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, owner of Whole Woman’s Health, the group of abortion clinics at the center of the case, said the law did nothing to protect women’s health but quashed access to a legal medical procedure.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed in her concurrence Monday: “Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements.”
Over the past five years, state lawmakers have passed at least 300 abortion restrictions, shuttering clinics across the country.
The measures passed quickly in Republican-dominated statehouses: Indiana, for example, adopted a law in March that requires women to learn about perinatal hospice services before they may terminate a pregnancy. Louisiana tripled the state’s mandatory waiting period in May from 24 hours to 72. Arizona that month blocked Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds.
Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, an advocacy group that helps states shape abortion restrictions, said she wasn’t surprised to hear about Planned Parenthood’s re-energized goal to beat back regulations — and she expects only measures identical to those blocked by the Supreme Court will be vulnerable to appeal.
“They’ve decided the Supreme Court decision is going to give them the leeway to strike down a lot of laws, but I don't see that happening,” she said, adding that it doesn't mean a blank check “to get rid of everything.”
Once state legislatures reconvene next year, she said, abortion opponents will focus on pushing legislation that safeguards the fetus. The NRLC seeks to ban a method called dilation and evacuation, commonly used to terminate pregnancies after 12 weeks, which they say involves “dismemberment.” At least three states have introduced bills to end the procedure.
Some states have already backed away from abortion regulations that mirrored the restrictions in HB2.
Before Monday’s court decision, 10 states also required doctors who terminated pregnancies to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Six fought the measures in court.
Hours after the ruling, Alabama’s attorney general declared he would no longer attempt to appeal a 2014 decision that deemed the state’s admitting-privilege law unconstitutional, saying Alabama could not make a “good faith argument” in light of the justices’ decision.
The next day, the Supreme Court declined to review court cases challenging Wisconsin's and Mississippi's rules, upholding lower court rulings that bar admitting-privilege laws.
On Thursday, a federal judge blocked an Indiana law that outlaws abortions because of a fetal genetic abnormality.
It’s unclear how, exactly, Planned Parenthood will go to battle over the restrictions in the first eight states on its list. They all require women seeking abortions to wait at least 24 hours and receive state-mandated counseling.
Detractors of the rules say they create an unfair burden on women, who must arrange for two days of travel, which sometimes includes hotel stays and child care. Supporters say they’re critical to informed consent.