July 24, 2015
"Federal Court Blocks North Dakota Heartbeat Ban, Calls on the Supreme Court To Overturn 'Roe,'" Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: "The decision on Wednesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit permanently blocking North Dakota's so-called heartbeat ban [HB 1456], a law that would ban abortion as early as six weeks post-fertilization, is a win," Mason Pieklo writes. However, she notes that "Wednesday's decision is the second from the Eighth Circuit to ... urge the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and re-empower states to ban abortions outright." Specifically, the 8th Circuit in its latest ruling incorporated state lawmakers' "willing[ness] to manipulate biomedical science" to restrict abortion, concluding "that states need more power to regulate pregnancies -- and even ban abortions pre-viability -- while also critiquing [Planned Parenthood v. Casey's] re-affirmation of fetal viability as a point the Supreme Court must re-evaluate," Mason Pieklo writes. Yet Mason Pieklo points out that "as problematic as Roe and Casey both are in terms of not clearly and firmly articulating a patient's right to terminate pregnancies as they need, they do fundamentally underscore that science, especially obstetrics, should drive any state regulation of pregnancy. In other words, the decisions set a distinctive point obstetrically at which the state's interest should never override the interest of the pregnant patient." Mason Pieklo calls out how the 8th Circuit "use[s] advances in medicine as a grounds for denying pregnant patients medical care" and asks whether the appeals court's "willing[ness] to get in on the attacks on patients and their access to health care" will "prod the [Supreme] Court to jump in, or if, for now at least, Roe and Casey still provide some level of protection for abortion rights that patients and providers can rely on" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 7/22).
"Women's Law Project Files Amicus Brief in Pittsburgh Buffer Zone 3[r]d Circuit Appeal," Tara Murtha, Women's Law Project blog: "After federal courts repeatedly upheld Pittsburgh's 15-foot clinic buffer zone ordinance, opponents of legal abortion are still fighting to knock it down," in a challenge that has "implications for the safety of patients and providers across the country," Murtha writes. She notes that the Pittsburgh ruling was appealed to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has been asked to consider whether the Supreme Court's McCullen v. Coakley ruling "prohibits even very small local buffer zones around women's health clinics with a history of obstructive and confrontational protest." According to Murtha, the Women's Law Project and Thomas Zemaitis, a partner at Pepper Hamilton, on Thursday filed an amicus brief defending the Pittsburgh ordinance, stating that it is "'a narrowly-tailored measure that resembles the kinds of alternative measures suggested in McCullen," and "'has achieved its purpose of creating a safer, less hostile environment for patients ... while "leav(ing) open ample alternative channels of communication" for plaintiffs to convey their message.'" Murtha writes that if buffer zone is upheld, "it could become a model for other jurisdictions with similar problems," but if it is struck down, "women's health providers will be deprived of one of the most effective tools for ensuring that patients can access reproductive health care safely and with dignity" (Murtha, Women's Law Project blog, 7/22).