July 1, 2016 — Following the Supreme Court's decision overturning abortion restrictions in Texas, Planned Parenthood on Thursday announced it would launch a campaign to repeal antiabortion-rights laws in eight states, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports (Paquette, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 6/30).
At issue in the Texas case, Women Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, were two provisions of the state's omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2). One required abortion clinics in the state to meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and the other required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
In a 5-3 decision, the court held that both contested provisions violated the U.S. Constitution by imposing an undue burden on a woman seeking abortion care. Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, stated, "We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access [to abortion care] that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking [abortion care], each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the federal Constitution" (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/27).
Planned Parenthood to focus on repealing medically unnecessary regulations
Helene Krasnoff, senior director of public policy litigation and law at Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), said the organization will soon launch a campaign to repeal antiabortion-rights laws in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 6/30).
Specifically, Planned Parenthood intends to roll back admitting privileges requirements and ambulatory surgical center requirements, as well as laws banning abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, medication abortion restrictions and mandatory ultrasounds. According to the Los Angeles Times/Sacramento Bee, all eight of the states also impose mandatory delays before abortion care and require women to receive state-mandated counseling prior to the procedure.
Rachel Sussman, director of state policy for PPFA, said Planned Parenthood first will challenge restrictions in Florida, Missouri and Virginia this summer. Specifically, the organization work to repeal a Florida law imposing admitting privileges requirements, and is already challenging a law that cuts off funding for abortion providers. Planned Parenthood also will challenge admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center building requirements in Missouri and work with Virginia lawmakers currently trying to repeal similar restrictions (Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times/Sacramento Bee, 6/30).
According to "Wonkblog," Planned Parenthood is targeting the states' antiabortion-rights laws on the grounds that state officials can no longer defend medically unnecessary regulations following the Supreme Court's decision. For example, abortion-rights supporters note that mandatory delay requirements and mandated counseling impose an undue burden on a woman seeking abortion care because of the additional travel costs required to make two visits to a clinic ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 6/30).
PPAF Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said, "We have spent years building the infrastructure to fight these laws ... Getting ready for the day when we could put that plan into action." She added, "That day is now" (Los Angeles Times/Sacramento Bee, 6/30).
Ariz. Planned Parenthood seeks repeal of admitting privileges law
In related news, Planned Parenthood Arizona (PPA) is urging Arizona lawmakers to repeal an admitting privileges law following the Supreme Court's Whole Woman's Health decision, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.
Under the Arizona law, which has been in place for years, abortion providers must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they provide care (Galvan/Costa-Lima, AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/28). In March 2015, Ariz. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed a law (SB 1318) that requires physicians to provide documentation to the state Department of Health Services showing that they have hospital admitting privileges, among other provisions (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/31/15).
PPA's Jodi Liggett said the organization is working with state lawmakers to repeal the original admitting privileges requirement. However, she also noted the possibility of the repeal effort being met with resistance from antiabortion-rights state lawmakers. She noted that if the state Legislature does not act on the matter, PPA plans to pursue legal action.
Liggett added that attorneys intend to review all of Arizona's recently enacted antiabortion-rights laws in light of the Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman's Health (AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/28).
States, courts back away from other abortion restrictions
Overall, "Wonkblog" reports that state lawmakers have approved about 300 abortion restrictions in the past five years, which have resulted in clinic closures throughout the United States. In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, several ongoing legal challenges to admitting privileges requirements in other states have ended.
For example, the Supreme Court on Tuesday opted not to consider blocked admitting privileges requirements in Mississippi and Wisconsin, while the Alabama attorney general's office announced it would not appeal a decision striking down a similar requirement.