This Pro-Choice Lawsuit Is Unlike Any Other: A GIFsplanation

A new lawsuit challenging North Carolina's ridiculous abortion restrictions is rooted in reproductive justice, not just the concerns of white women.

[PHOTO: Woman holding 'Keep Abortion Legal' sign]
Reproductive justice was coined in 1994 by women of color who didn’t see themselves reflected in the mainstream white-led reproductive rights movement. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in North Carolina last Thursday and it’s a big deal.

I’m excited. Let me explain why.

But Imani, you may be thinking, you always say lawsuits are a big deal and all you ever do is talk about lawsuits and it makes me sleepy.

Look, I get it. I do. I’m a sucker for a good lawsuit.

But lawsuits are important! Lawsuits determine what legal rights you have!

And if you’re tired of the same old abortion rights lawsuits that center the concerns of white women (or that don’t explicitly speak to the concerns of BIPOC), then get ready because boy howdy do I have the lawsuit for you.

A group of clinics, along with the SisterSong Reproductive Justice Collective, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging five abortion restrictions in North Carolina.

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The restrictions themselves are of the type found in a lot of states.

  1. They ban telemedicine abortions, which, in a pandemic, is pretty crappy.
  2. They force you to wait three days so the state can make sure you really really REALLY mean it when you say you want to get an abortion.
  3. They force providers to read mandated scripts under the guise of “informed consent” even if the provider doesn’t want to—hello, First Amendment violation!
  4. They say only licensed physicians can perform abortions even though advanced practice clinicians are just as capable.
  5. This one really sticks my craw: They make clinics follow ambulatory surgical center requirements, also called ASC requirements. ASC requirements force clinics to renovate their facilities so they operate basically as hospitals, even if the only thing the clinics do abortion-wise is hand out abortion pills.

GIF of toddler with pigtails rolling her eyes

These pointless renovations can cost millions and can shut down clinics that can’t afford to renovate.

That means a clinic in North Carolina can’t dispense a pill unless, for example, its hallways are big enough to accommodate a stretcher—even though you don’t need a dang stretcher to take a pill.


No, you can’t. Because it doesn’t.

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But here’s why I’m jazzed about this lawsuit: The claims are grounded in reproductive justice (as opposed to reproductive rights). That’s HUGE.

This is only the second lawsuit to do that. The first challenged Georgia’s six-week ban. (That ban is currently blocked.)

But why reproductive justice and not reproductive rights? What’s the difference? Why is this a big deal?

Because reproductive rights focuses way too much on well-to-do-white women and their legal right to abortion.

Reproductive justice, however, is far more inclusive.

The term was coined in 1994 by women of color who didn’t see themselves reflected in the mainstream white-led reproductive rights movement.

Reproductive justice also has the power to change the framework of the entire abortion debate.

Reproductive rights is about the legal right to abortion.

Reproductive justice is about giving people the option of whether to have a child and when to have a child (and that includes abortion as an option).


[GIF: Meryl Streep megaphone]

Reproductive justice forces anti-choicers away from “interest in potential fetal life” and forces them to tell pregnant people, “You don’t get to decide whether to have kids and when. WE tell you when to have kids. And when you have ’em, figure out how to keep ’em alive. IT’S NOT OUR PROBLEM.”

And that sounds a lot worse than anti-choicers’ nonsense lie about how “we just want to save the babies and protect women!”

Wouldn’t you agree?

It’s like, “Tell me to my face that I can’t have kids when I want to!”

So that’s why I love reproductive justice and this lawsuit.

[GIF: Little girl joyfully dances behind a news anchor]

And one final critical point:

This lawsuit was filed in state court. Not federal court. State court.

This is a big deal!

This is how abortion rights lawyers are going to get around the fact that the federal judiciary is stacked with Trump judges who hate abortion.

Jess from New Girl saying: Big deal alert

After all, it was the KANSAS STATE supreme court that found a constitutional right to abortion in the Kansas constitution. (For more on that, listen to this episode of Boom! Lawyered.)

So there you have it! Exciting stuff in the abortion rights law world.

This post was adapted from a Twitter thread.