These 5 Cases Could Finish Off Abortion Rights for Good After ‘Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health’

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These 5 Cases Could Finish Off Abortion Rights for Good After ‘Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health’

Caroline Reilly

The legal fights in Texas and Mississippi aren’t the only major abortion cases in the pipeline right now. We're tracking them all.

For court watchers and abortion rights enthusiasts, it has been a long couple of weeks. First, the Supreme Court allowed a six-week abortion ban with bounty hunter-style enforcement to take effect in Texas. Then the Supreme Court announced a hearing date for the much anticipated Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which will decide the fate of Mississippi’s 15-week ban and Roe v. Wade itself. To say it has been a whirlwind is an understatement.

But the legal fights in Texas and Mississippi aren’t the only major abortion cases in the pipeline right now. There are a number of potentially critical lawsuits making their way through the lower courts—and one at the Supreme Court—and we’re here to track them all.

Here are five cases we’ve got our eye on right now.

Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center

You may know Daniel Cameron as the man who declined to recommend homicide charges for the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor. But, as Susan Rinkunas reported for Rewire News Group, Kentucky’s Republican attorney general is also the reason why the Supreme Court will hear an abortion-related case this month—the first abortion-related case in this new term under its 6-3 conservative supermajority. The Sixth Circuit initially blocked the law; Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who is pro-choice, then decided to drop the case altogether. But that didn’t stop Cameron from intervening, hoping to bring the case all the way up to the Supreme Court.

The case is about a law banning the most common abortion procedure used after 15 weeks of pregnancy, known as dilation and evacuation (D&E). “If the Supreme Court sides with Attorney General Cameron, then he will get to pursue his goal, which is to overturn the underlying decision striking down the abortion ban,” the ACLU’s Alexa Kolbi-Molinas told Rewire News Group.

Roe has collapsed and Texas is in chaos.

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If Cameron is able to intervene and the law gets upheld, it could effectively ban abortion after 15 weeks in a state that has just two clinics and multiple restrictions, including a 24-hour waiting period and bans on insurance coverage of the procedure. Both clinics are in downtown Louisville, which means access is limited for people in other areas of the state.The plaintiff in the case is EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the state’s only independent abortion clinic and the only one that provides care after 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Current status: Oral arguments will be heard today

Reproductive Health Services v. Parsons

In 2019, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed one of the country’s most restrictive abortion bills into law. It is structured like a Russian nesting doll: It includes bans within bans, so that as soon as one is struck down, another is ready to go.

HB 126 includes gestational bans at eight, 14, 18, and 20 weeks, as well as “reason bans,” which prohibit performing an abortion if the reason given for the abortion is based on sex, race, or fetal diagnosis. The law also makes it harder for patients to obtain abortion care out of state because it requires them to comply with Missouri’s informed consent standard, and it forces young people to notify their parents of their abortion decision. And it includes a trigger provision that would immediately ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

The gestational and reason bans were struck down as unconstitutional in the district court and the Eighth Circuit, but the other provisions remain in effect, further limiting access in the state.

Current status: The Eighth Circuit, which already struck down the reason and gestational bans, decided to rehear the case on its own, without an appeal from the parties—which is incredibly unusual. Why? Because they felt like it? Who even knows anymore. For more on how that September 21 hearing went, Rewire News Group’s senior editor for law and policy, Imani Gandy, live-tweeted the whole thing.

SisterSong v. Kemp

This case is about Georgia’s six-week ban, which, like Texas’ six-week ban and every other six-week ban, is a pre-viability abortion ban and is therefore—say it with us—unconstitutional. In 2019, the Center for Reproductive Rights sued Georgia on behalf of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective as well as a number of other providers and advocates in the state.

In July 2020, the district court granted a permanent injunction striking down the law. The state then appealed that decision up to the 11th Circuit. If you had asked us two months ago what was going to happen, we’d have said a six-week ban will never survive. But with Texas’ six-week ban getting the stamp of approval from the Supreme Court, (then getting blocked by the district court then getting reinstated by the Fifth Circuit—it’s been a long few weeks) the floodgates have opened for lower courts to let similar laws go into effect. And last month the 11th Circuit issued a stay on SisterSong v. Kemp until after the Supreme Court rules in the Mississippi case, by which point those floodgates will likely be wide open.

Current status: After the 11th Circuit heard the case on September 24, it decided to wait to make a decision until after the Supreme Court issues its Jackson Women’s Health decision next year.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic v. Wilson

In February, South Carolina lawmakers passed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country: a six-week ban that, like Texas SB 8, doesn’t allow for an exception in the case of rape or incest. In March, a federal district court granted a preliminary injunction against the law just as an emergency order blocking the law was set to expire.

Current status: The case is on the docket at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which, we’d feel a lot less itchy about if the Supreme Court hadn’t given abortion access the kiss of death by approving Texas’ six-week ban in September.

Isaacson v. Brnovich

In April, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona signed SB 1457, a law that includes a reason ban prohibiting abortions in cases of fetal diagnosis or anomaly, and a “personhood amendment” that classifies fetuses, embyos, and fertilized eggs as people under Arizona law.

In August, the ACLU of Arizona announced it would join the Center for Reproductive Rights to represent two Arizona physicians, the Arizona Medical Association, National Council of Jewish Women Arizona, and the Arizona National Organization of Women in challenging the law.

Current status: The district court held a hearing on September 22. On September 28 a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the reason ban but allowed the personhood amendment to go into effect. The Arizona attorney general has filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit.