Legal Wrap: Abortion Fights Heat Up in Red States


Legal Wrap is a weekly round-up of key legal reproductive rights and justice news.

Summer may be drawing to a close, but in red states across the country the fight over abortion rights and access rages on. In Indiana, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union sued to block an Indiana law, which could close a Lafayette clinic on the grounds of “a host of unnecessary new restrictions.” The law illustrates how anti-choice activists are targeting individual clinics to end abortion and is the natural evolution of their “defund Planned Parenthood” strategy. That strategy, though, has largely failed, with the latest defeat coming from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed a lower court ruling that an Arizona law prohibiting Medicaid funds to any health organization or affiliate that performs abortions is unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, a federal court heard arguments in the legal challenge over a 2011 North Carolina mandatory ultrasound law. A decision in the case is not expected for weeks, but with at least one federal appeals court upholding the constitutionality of the procedure, it’s a case to watch for possible future Supreme Court action.

In Kansas, anti-abortion extremist Angel Dillard faced federal charges under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act for sending a letter to Dr. Mila Means that warned, should Means re-open Dr. George Tiller’s clinic she could expect to be stalked and likely car-bombed by anti-abortion terrorists. A federal judge dismissed the charges against Dillard, holding the federal government did not prove the letter constituted a “true threat” against Means. It’s a distressing case, and I attempt to explain how it got to be so here.

States are amassing excessive legal costs defending laws their own attorneys general have opined are unconstitutional. At what point do the attorneys for those states have an ethical obligation to the court and the public to stop defending them?

There’s a real cottage industry that’s sprung up to litigate challenges to the contraception benefit in the Affordable Care Act. The latest is a suit filed by Priests for Life, which is suing to block the birth control coverage compromise, arguing the final accommodation by the Obama administration still violates religious freedom.

It’s truly a rarity for pro- and anti-choice constituencies to agree on anything, but Sheila Bapat explains that there is at least one area where the two have come together: repealing welfare family cap laws.

Finally, here’s the latest evidence that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one amazing woman, including her thoughts on the activist nature of the Roberts Court and whether or not she’ll start horseback riding again.

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Follow Jessica Mason Pieklo on twitter: @hegemommy