While a federal judge considers a request by attorneys for the State of Arkansas to dismiss a legal challenge to its 12-week abortion ban, another group has asked the judge to let it intervene and help defend the law.
Attorneys for the anti-abortion counseling group Concepts of Truth filed papers with the court arguing they should become a party to help defend against the lawsuit, because, like the state, it has an interest in protecting women. According to those papers, Concepts of Truth provides support for women who have had or are considering abortion and tries to counsel them out of that decision. Therefore, it argues, Act 301 furthers its mission of “helping” pregnant women, and the company should help defend it.
But it’s not just this altruistic mission to “help” women that justifies bringing Concepts of Truth into the lawsuit as a party, its attorneys argue. As it turns out, cutting off most abortion access after 12 weeks is good for business, and that profit interest should also justify letting it join in the litigation. “Concepts’ private and parochial interests in the increased clientele that would result from Act 301 are also significant,” the papers state.
Under the federal rules of court, third parties can join or intervene in ongoing litigation if they have a sufficient legal interest. What constitutes a sufficient legal interest is detailed in the rules and case law, but generally requires a clearly identifiable legal interest and a sufficient stake in the outcome of the particular case that keeping them out of the lawsuit would result in injustice.
In the case of lawsuits challenging abortion regulations, other courts have found that third parties have that sufficient legal interest when “their primary mission” is counseling pregnant women, especially women contemplating abortion, and that mission would be impeded by striking a particular abortion restriction. This line of legal reasoning has developed thanks in large part to the explosion of crisis pregnancy centers and their attempts in places like South Dakota to defend restrictions like mandatory counseling and waiting periods that led to a boom in business. As a result, the federal courts are now willing, almost as a matter of course, to let almost any third-party business that profits as a result of abortion restrictions to help defend these laws.
Anti-abortion groups seeking to intervene in lawsuits challenging abortion restrictions is nothing new. But when we add up the numbers of increasingly draconian laws passed prompting a new wave of legal challenges with the number of anti-abortion businesses springing up to profit from the business of forced birth, what we are left with is a mountain of human and capital resources pushing the legal fight against abortion access with no sign of slowing anytime soon.