A coalition of abortion providers and abortion advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday in Virginia, arguing that a host of abortion restrictions are unconstitutional by citing the Supreme Court’s rejection of some licensing requirements in the Texas Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case. The laws that the groups are targeting in Virginia include one requiring that second trimester abortions be performed in a hospital and another allowing only licensed physicians to perform abortions.
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the suit along with Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, and local abortion clinics in the state.
Their lawsuit claims that “the Commonwealth of Virginia has spent over four decades enacting layer upon layer of unnecessary and onerous abortion statutes and regulations. These interlocking restrictions subject abortion providers and their patients to a vast array of requirements that fail to provide benefits sufficient to outweigh their burdens.”
The brief also cites laws requiring ultrasounds before abortions and 24-hour wait periods.
They point to the increase in abortion restrictions and the decrease of abortion providers, noting that “between 2009 and 2016, the number of medical facilities providing abortion care declined by more than half.”
The groups claim that “the challenged laws have contributed to a lack of providers, higher access costs, and burdensome travel—all of which create substantial obstacles to obtaining care” and “contribute to a climate of secrecy and stigma against abortion in Virginia, which deters clinicians from offering abortion care and penalizes those who continue to provide it.”
The Virginia lawsuit follows a lawsuit by abortion groups against the state of Texas, targeting a similar set of laws employing the principal from Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that “laws passed under the pretext of protecting women’s health, or any other interest, are unconstitutional when the burdens they impose on abortion access outweigh the benefits, if any, they confer.”
Abortion groups are emboldened by their legal victory in that 2016 Supreme Court case and are attempting to apply that principal to a broader and broader swath of abortion restrictions.
“The vibrant, proactive coalition in Virginia has been working hard since that time to have Virginia’s law comply with the standard in Whole Woman’s Health,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights commented of the recent lawsuit. “Women do not need to wait any longer in Virginia to have their laws comply with the constitutional standard.”
Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president of Whole Woman’s Health Alliance who was the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case is also part of the Virginia lawsuit as her group now has a clinic in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“The Whole Woman’s Health Supreme Court victory was game-changing — affirming that abortion laws must be based on medical evidence,” she said Wednesday. “We’re using this new standard to challenge dozens of other restrictions, some dating back decades, that are based on ideology, not health or science.”
Jeanne Mancini, president of the pro-life group March for Life commented to Townhall Thursday on this latest push by abortion groups.
“Lowering the bar on health and safety standards is never in the best interest of women’s health, regardless of where you stand on the issue of abortion," she said. "Nearly 8 in 10 Americans agree, and believe abortion clinics should be held to the same standards as outpatient surgery centers. Abortion is not healthcare, and it is sad to see abortion advocates prioritize abortion access over women’s health.”