Legal Wrap: More States Pass Early Abortion Bans as Federal Courts Continue to Block Them

A decision from Arkansas reinforces fetal viability as a constitutional bright line for abortion restrictions, even as more early abortion bans pass in the states.

A decision from Arkansas reinforces fetal viability as a constitutional bright line for abortion restrictions, even as more early abortion bans pass in the states. Attorney via Shutterstock

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

Late last week, a federal court permanently struck down Arkansas’ restrictive 12-week abortion ban in an opinion that affirms, yet again, fetal viability as a constitutional bright line in judging abortion restrictions. Although the decision to strike the ban is certainly good news, the opinion left intact other restrictions in the law, including the legislature’s definition of fetal viability as beginning with a heartbeat, which could be trouble later.

Someone should tell lawmakers in Mississippi; they recently amended a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation to move the cutoff two weeks earlier, to 18 weeks.

Meanwhile, attorneys representing the only abortion clinic in North Dakota have reached a settlement with the state in a lawsuit over its 2013 hospital admitting privileges requirement.

In Oklahoma, lawmakers advanced hospital admitting privileges bills nearly identical to the one passed in Texas, which is responsible for creating the human rights catastrophe in the Rio Grande Valley there; that crisis demonstrates how meaningless the “undue burden” standard for judging the constitutionality of abortion restrictions has become.

A former medical assistant at Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia clinic has been sentenced to five to ten years in prison for her role in Gosnell’s “house of horrors.”

This piece on Project ROSE and programs designed to “save” sex workers by arresting them is a must-read.

Senate Republicans have threatened to filibuster President Obama’s nomination for surgeon general because the nominee has the audacity to claim gun violence is a public health threat.

Speaking of filibusters, it turns out the federal courts vacancy crisis has actually gotten worse since Democrats in the Senate pushed forward with filibuster reform.

The lawsuits challenging the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act just keep coming.

On a related note, Katherine Cross offers a detailed look at the common links between the anti-contraception and anti-LGBTQ agendas.

Advocates for survivors of domestic violence are pressing the Obama administration for an extension of the March 31 deadline to sign up for subsidies to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and to make it easier for them to get tax credits to purchase insurance under the law.

As sex-selective abortion bans are finding their way back into state legislatures, Eesha Pandit explains how the conversation around these bans highlights some critical faultlines in the reproductive rights movement.

Hopefully civil rights advocates are successful and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstates the legal challenge to the race- and sex-selection abortion ban enacted in Arizona.

A state court ruled that the Kansas medical board wrongly revoked the medical license of Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus, but that doesn’t mean the state’s politicized campaign to target medical providers like Neuhaus is coming to an end any time soon; representatives from the state have already announced plans to appeal the court’s decision.

Last but not least, former Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline has asked the Roberts Court to overturn a decision by the Kansas Supreme Court to suspend his law license as a result of several serious ethical breaches related to cases Kline pushed against Kansas abortion providers, including Dr. Neuhaus’ colleague, the late Dr. George Tiller.