Legal Wrap: In Battle Over Medication Abortion, Who Is Protecting the Rights of Women in Wisconsin?


In Wisconsin, lawyers challenging the state’s restrictions on medication abortion thought they had a deal worked out with the state on how to interpret the new law so as to avoid criminal prosecutions for their doctors. However a federal judge has rejected the proposed settlement in an unusual move that has sent the parties scrambling to figure out what to do next. Early reports indicate lawyers will re-file their challenge to Wisconsin’s regulations in state court and hope to have the settlement approved that way and eventually dismiss the federal court case. The legal maneuvering and insistence on settlement is raising some real questions about whether or not the women in Wisconsin are best served with this strategy or not.

Texas lawmakers, emboldened by a court win that has allowed them to exclude Planned Parenthood from the state’s Women’s Health Program have proposed a bill that would similarly exclude the provider and any “affiliates” from providing sex education in public schools. While the idea raises the same constitutional concerns as the Planned Parenthood funding ban, a sympathetic federal court has made it clear it’s not too worried about women’s or provider’s rights.

Even as the initial lawsuits to the birth control benefit started to trickle in, legal observers like myself predicted the fight was bound for the Supreme Court. As the number of legal challenges inches towards fifty, and as more and more federal district and appellate courts weigh in on the mandate, the contours of the legal issue that will reach the high court are clearer as this recent decision from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals illustrates.

Meanwhile, as many reproductive health advocates suspected, the proposed accommodation to the benefit for religiously affiliated nonprofits did nothing to stem the litigation surrounding it. In fact, more challenges have followed, including one in Colorado. But for each lawsuit that is filed it seems another is dismissed, like this one in Illinois. However another in Minnesota will move forward.

Finally, it should come as no surprise that fetal personhood is on the march again, this time taking different forms in both Iowa and North Dakota and proponents continue to search for the sweet spot in the states that will get the measure passed and help fast track a challenge to the heart of Roe v. Wade.

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Follow Jessica Mason Pieklo on twitter: @hegemommy