States 0-8 in Court Challenges Over Antiabortion Laws

August 20, 2013 — States facing court challenges over abortion restrictions enacted this year have lost in every case that has reached a judge, Bloomberg reports.

To date, judges in eight cases have either temporarily blocked state antiabortion-rights laws from taking effect or struck them down.

The rulings include blocks on measures banning abortion at six and 12 weeks of pregnancy in North Dakota and Arkansas, respectively. In addition, courts struck down 20-week abortion bans in Idaho and Arizona.

Meanwhile, laws are blocked in Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota and Wisconsin that threaten to close abortion clinics by requiring their physicians to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Judges deemed those laws too burdensome for women seeking abortions in states where doctors likely could not obtain the privileges.

Paul Linton -- an attorney for the antiabortion-rights group Thomas More Society -- noted that states' attempts to ban abortion prior to viability are not likely to succeed. Prohibiting abortion before the fetus can survive outside the womb "flies in the face" of Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court rulings, he noted.

Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that even though courts have blocked many of the laws and serve as "incredibly important stopgaps ... nobody should be sanguine to think the courts are the solution to this" because the "impact of these restrictions is real." ACLU has created a website highlighting the more than 300 abortion restrictions that states have introduced this year. Stopping the wave of restrictions will require resistance in state legislatures, Melling said.

Laws Part of Antiabortion-Rights Group's 'Playbook'

According to Bloomberg, state lawmakers often base bills on model legislation included in a guidebook developed by the antiabortion-rights group Americans United for Life. The book, titled Defending Life, is an annual review of abortion-related laws across the states.

AUL general counsel Ovide Lamontagne said the organization believes that "the abortion issue ought to be left to the states, [and] that it was a serious judicial error for the United States Supreme Court to put itself in the position of being the abortion control board for the country." He added that the book is a "resource" for legislators.

Jordan Goldberg -- state advocacy counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights -- said the guidebook contains "a lot of the legislation that's pending" in states. "It's not as if the people in North Dakota woke up one day and said, 'We have a real problem with the admitting privileges,'" Goldberg said, adding, "Some people call [Defending Life] the playbook."

CRR, ACLU and Planned Parenthood Federation of America are spearheading the legal opposition to the abortion restrictions. Meanwhile, Democrats plan to use the restrictions to boost fundraising efforts and voter support in the 2014 elections by branding the effort as part of a larger "War on Women," according to Bloomberg (Harris, Bloomberg, 8/20).