Legal Wrap: States Ramp Up Anti-Abortion Activity, Again

A flurry of legal activity over state-level abortion restrictions occupied much of the federal court's attention last week.

A flurry of legal activity over state-level abortion restrictions occupied much of the federal court's attention last week. Boot of oppression via Shutterstock

Legal Wrap is a round-up of the latest legal and reproductive justice news.

Last week, there was a flurry of action at the state level over the battle for abortion rights that reached well beyond the borders of Texas and the anti-democratic coup conservative lawmakers have going on there. In Wisconsin, a court blocked the state’s latest abortion restriction, an admitting privileges law that requires all physicians who perform abortions at clinics to also have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Reproductive health advocates are also battling an admitting privileges law in Alabama, as the same model legislation pops up in conservative states across the country. In June, a federal court blocked the law while a legal challenge on the constitutionality continues. And last week the parties agreed to extend that temporary injunction through March 2014.

Meanwhile, in North Dakota a court permanently blocked a state law that so severely restricted the use of drugs in medication abortion it all but regulated medication abortion out of existence in the state.

In Arkansas, attorneys representing two abortion clinics and their physicians have asked a court to block permanently a law that would ban most abortions after 12 weeks. The request came after attorneys for the state asked the same court to let it move forward with enforcing a different provision of the law that requires doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion.

Conservatives are nothing if not persistent. Just look at their response to health-care reform. Despite losing their challenge to the laws constitutionality at the Supreme Court, they’ve continued attacking the constitutionality of the mandate. The good news is so far they’ve also continued to lose.

But where conservatives have lost litigating the constitutionality of the individual mandate they have made inroads challenging the law’s birth control benefit with Hobby Lobbythe latest corporation to avoid having to comply with the law’s requirement to make contraception available to all employees without co-pays.

Unfortunately, not all news out of the states has been good news. Last week I mentioned the horrible decision from the Iowa supreme court upholding the firing of a dental assistant because her boss found her too attractive and perceived her to be a threat to his marriage. The case left plenty to talk about, especially on the role of the pastor in the termination, which I do here.

The State of Indiana is prosecuting another woman for a failed pregnancy, this time charging a woman with felony neglect after a fetus was found in a dumpster. Prosecutors had originally considered charging the woman with feticide, like in the case of Bei Bei Shuai. Either way, the state has made it clear any pregnancy that does not result in a successful live birth will be viewed first and foremost as a probable crime, which is a terrifying reality for women in the state.

In similarly terrifying news, thanks to a Supreme Court decision last month that found juries should have final say on facts triggering mandatory minimum sentences, the sentence of Scott Roeder, the man who murdered Dr. George Tiller in his church, is now in some doubt. Lawyers for the state are reviewing their case and weighing their options, because apparently not even the most ardent anti-abortion activists in the Brownback administration want to be on record as supporting Roeder’s release.