States brace for court battles after federal abortion ruling
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The Fall of Roe c. Wade shifted the abortion battleground to courthouses across the country on Monday, as one side quickly sought to enforce statewide bans and the other tried to stop or at least to delay these measures.
The Supreme Court of the United States Friday’s decision to end constitutional protection for abortion opened the doors to a wave of litigation from all sides. Temporary delays have been successful in Louisiana and Utah, after state judges issued orders on Monday preventing abortion bans from taking effect in those states, while a federal judge in South Carolina said a law restricting abortions after six weeks of pregnancy would come into effect immediately there.
Much of Monday’s court activity focused on “trigger laws,” passed in 13 states and designed to take effect quickly after last week’s Supreme Court ruling. Additional lawsuits could also target old anti-abortion laws that were left on the books and unenforced under Roe. New abortion restrictions that were suspended pending the Supreme Court’s decision are also coming back into effect.
“We will be back in court tomorrow and the day after and the day after,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which argued the case that led to the High Court decision, said Friday. Court.
Decisions came quickly in Utah and Louisiana. A Utah judge temporarily blocked the state’s near-total abortion ban on Monday, after Planned Parenthood challenged a trigger law that contains narrow exceptions. In Louisiana, a judge in New Orleans, a liberal city in a conservative state, temporarily blocked enforcement of the state’s trigger law abortion ban, after rights activists abortion argued that this was unclear. The decision is in effect pending a hearing on July 8.
At least one of the state’s three abortion clinics said it would resume procedures on Tuesday.
“We’re going to do what we can,” said Kathaleen Pittman, administrator of the Hope Medical Group for Women, in Shreveport. “Everything could end abruptly.”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican and staunch opponent of abortion, pledged to fight the judge’s decision and uphold the law.
“We would like to remind everyone that the laws that are now in place were enacted by the people through state constitutional amendments and the LA Legislature,” Landry tweeted on Monday.
Also on Monday, abortion rights advocates asked a Florida judge to block a new law that prohibits the procedure after 15 weeks with some exceptions and is expected to come into force this week. A decision on this is expected on Thursday.
Abortion rights activists also took to court on Monday to try to push back against restrictions in Texas, Idaho, Kentucky and Mississippi, the state at the center of the Supreme Court ruling, while the The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona filed an emergency petition on Saturday asking to block a 2021 law they fear could be used to end all abortions.
In Friday’s ruling, the Supreme Court left it to the states to decide whether or not to allow abortion.
“This is expected to result in years of legislative and judicial challenges,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University School of Law.
As of Saturday, abortion services had halted in at least 11 states, either because of state laws or because of confusion about them.
In some cases, prosecutions can only buy time. Even if the courts prevent certain restrictions from being imposed, lawmakers in many conservative states could act quickly to remedy the flaws cited.
This is probably the case in Louisiana. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in state court do not deny that the state can now ban abortion. Instead, they argue, Louisiana now has multiple, conflicting trigger mechanisms in law.
They also argue that state law is unclear about whether it prohibits an abortion before a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus. And while the law provides an exception for “medically futile” pregnancies in cases of fetuses with life-threatening abnormalities, the plaintiffs noted that the law gives no definition of the term.
Nationwide, challenges to other triggering laws could be made on the grounds that the conditions for imposing the bans were not met, or that it was improper for a past legislature to bind the current legislature.
Laura Herner, a professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, said other challenges could call into question whether state laws sufficiently and clearly allow exceptions to protect the life or health of ‘a pregnant woman.
Now that the High Court has ruled that the US Constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion, abortion-rights supporters will argue that their state constitution protects such a right.
A judge heard arguments on the issue on Monday in Florida, where lawyers tried to block a new law from taking effect on Friday. The prohibition beyond 15 weeks includes exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman or prevent physical harm or in cases where the fetus has a fatal abnormality. The ACLU of Florida argued that the law violates the Florida Constitution.
James Bopp Jr., general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, said the wave of lawsuits from abortion rights advocates is not surprising. “We know that the abortion industry has virtually unlimited funds, and its allies have virtually unlimited funds, and of course they are big fans of on-demand abortion throughout pregnancy,” said Bopp in an interview.
But he said the Supreme Court ruling should prevent abortion-rights supporters from winning any federal challenge. And he called efforts based on state constitutions “fanciful.”
Still more cases could be filed as states try to determine whether abortion bans in place before Roe’s decision — sometimes called “zombie laws” — apply now that there are no federal protection for abortion.
For example, Wisconsin passed a law in 1849 prohibiting abortions except to save the life of the mother. Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, said he doesn’t believe it is enforceable. Abortion opponents have called on lawmakers to impose a new ban.
In the meantime, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said it immediately suspended all abortions.
In Michigan, Planned Parenthood challenged a 1931 abortion ban ahead of last week’s Supreme Court ruling. In May, a judge ruled that the ban could not be enforced because it violated the state constitution. Abortion rights supporters are now trying to pass a constitutional amendment proposed by the state in November to protect abortion and birth control.
Idaho, Oklahoma and Texas have passed laws that allow people to claim bounties against those who help others get abortions. It’s an open question whether that means people can be prosecuted across state lines, and legal challenges to the issue are likely to arise in cases of surgical abortions and those involving sent drugs. mailed to patients.
California’s Democratic-controlled legislature on Thursday passed a bill to protect state abortion providers and volunteers from civil judgments imposed by other states. In liberal Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, on Friday signed an executive order barring state agencies from assisting other states’ investigations of anyone who has a legal abortion in Massachusetts.
The challenge filed in Arizona, where most providers have stopped offering abortions, said the legal issues were pressing.
Even if abortions resume in weeks or months, the plaintiffs said “patients may be at higher risk for medical complications or may lose access to abortion altogether due to the delay.”
Forliti reported from Minneapolis and Mulvihill from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Associated Press writer Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Fla., and other AP reporters across the United States contributed to this report.