July 13, 2020

A federal judge on Monday struck down Georgia's six-week abortion ban, calling it unconstitutional.

House Bill 481, passed by the state's General Assembly last spring and signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp (R), would have banned most abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected, which can be as early as six weeks. After a lawsuit was filed, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones in October temporarily blocked the law from going into effect, and he made it permanent on Monday.

"It is in the public interest, and is this court's duty, to ensure constitutional rights are protected," Jones wrote. In response, Kemp said the state will "appeal the court's decision. Georgia values life and we will keep fighting for the rights of the unborn."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia was among the organizations that filed the lawsuit, and its legal director, Sean Young, said in a statement that the ban "violates over 50 years of Supreme Court precedent and fails to trust women to make their own personal decisions. This case has always been about one thing: letting her decide." Under current law, abortions are allowed in Georgia during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2019

The number and rate of abortions fell to their lowest levels since abortion became legal nationwide with 1973's Roe v. Wade ruling, the Guttmacher Institute reported Wednesday. The research group, which supports abortion rights, said it counted 863,000 abortions carried out in the U.S. in 2017, down from 926,000 in 2014 and just over 1 million in 2011. The Guttmacher Institute is the most reliable count of U.S. abortions, because unlike the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it aims to tally all pregnancies terminated in the country.

Abortions fell in all areas of the country, with 57 percent of the drop in the 18 states, plus the District of Columbia, that did not enact any abortion restrictions, the Guttmacher Institute found. The 400 state laws restricting abortion were not a big factor in the decline, but the drop in pregnancies appeared to be significant. The birth rate also declined during the period studied, and a likely factor in both drops, the report said, is the increased accessibility of contraception since the Affordable Care Act required most private health insurance plans to offer no-cost birth control in 2011.

"If your priority is to reduce abortions, one of the best things you can do is make sure that women have access to high-quality, affordable, and effective methods of birth control," Alina Salganicoff, director of women's health policy for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, tells The Associated Press. The Guttmacher Institute report's data did not cover the flurry of expansive new abortion restrictions passed in Republican states since 2017, AP notes, nor the reduced access to contraction stemming from the Trump administration's changes to the federal Title X family planning program. Peter Weber

July 15, 2019

The Trump administration on Monday said taxpayer-funded family planning clinics can no longer refer women for abortions.

The Health and Human Services Department also told clinics that they must maintain separate finances from facilities that provide abortions, The Associated Press reports. Every year, about four million low-income women are able to receive family planning and preventative health services through the Title X program, which provides $260 million worth of grants to independent clinics. Under federal law, taxpayer funds cannot be used to pay for abortions.

Many of these clinics are operated by Planned Parenthood, and President Leana Wen said the organization is hoping to get the regulations overturned in federal court. Several professional groups, including the American Medical Association, are against the new policy, saying it could affect how a woman receives basic medical care. Catherine Garcia

July 3, 2019

A federal judge blocked Ohio's harsh new restriction from taking effect while a legal challenge from the ACLU goes forward, The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday.

The legislation, signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine (R) back in April, prohibits abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat, which is usually around the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy. It includes an exception to save the life of the mother but does not have exceptions for pregnancies conceived through rape or incest. The law would have taken effect on July 11. Similar "heartbeat bills" have already passed in five other states, though two are held up by court challenges.

The ACLU previously pledged to fight Ohio's bill in court, and announced the order from Judge Michael Barrett on Wednesday. Barrett wrote that the abortion providers challenging the bill were "certain to succeed on the merits," under the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. DeWine and other lawmakers pushing strict abortion bills have openly expressed that they hope the legal battle over the restrictions will go all the way to the Supreme Court to possibly challenge Roe. Read more at The Columbus Dispatch. Summer Meza

June 14, 2019

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that undocumented immigrant minors in federal custody cannot be blocked from getting abortions, striking down the Trump administration's efforts to prevent migrant teenagers from visiting abortion clinics while detained.

BuzzFeed News reports that the ruling is part of an ongoing fight between the government and the court. The Trump administration tried to block a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant in federal custody from receiving an abortion back in October, but the court decided she should be allowed to visit a clinic "promptly and without delay."

Now, the court has ruled more broadly, deciding they were "rejecting the government's position that its denial of abortion access can be squared with Supreme Court precedent." Trump administration officials implemented a policy in 2017 that banned the Office of Refugee Resettlement from allowing undocumented, unaccompanied minors to receive abortions. The policy was defanged by a district judge shortly after, and the government has since argued that it was being forced to "facilitate" abortions and encouraging "abortion tourism."

The court on Friday disagreed, saying the various arguments were "misguided" and pointing to the fact that a minor in custody is reliant on the ORR for all health care needs. The judges concluded the policy violated Supreme Court precedent and placed "undue burden" on a person's right to an abortion.

The ACLU cheered the decision, calling the original policy a "blatant abuse of power" and noting the ruling comes amid a push to challenge the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling. Reuters' Lawrence Hurley agreed, predicting the case is "probably headed to the Supreme Court." Read more at BuzzFeed News. Summer Meza

May 18, 2018

On Friday, the Trump administration will unveil a policy that would block federal funds from going to any clinic or program that provides abortion services, including promoting abortion or steering women to a clinic that provides them, The New York Times reports. Federal law already prevents Title X funds from being used to perform abortions. President Ronald Reagan had instituted a similar policy, called a "gag rule" by critics and medical groups, in 1988, but court challenges prevented it from fully taking effect before President Bill Clinton scrapped it in 1994. President Trump's order is similarly expected to face court challenge.

Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America — the main target of the rule — called the proposal an "outrageous" and "dangerous" decision "designed to force doctors and nurses to lie to their patients" and "make it impossible for millions of patients to get birth control or preventive care from reproductive health care providers like Planned Parenthood." Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List organization, thanked Trump for his "decisive leadership" on pro-life issues and said this move will "energize" his conservative supporters this fall. Peter Weber

March 8, 2018

On Thursday, the Mississippi House of Representatives voted 75-34 in favor of a bill that bans women from having abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The state Senate approved the bill Tuesday with a 35-14 vote, and the office of Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said he plans to sign it into law next week, to take effect immediately. "As I have repeatedly said, I want Mississippi to be the safest place in America for an unborn child," Bryant said in a statement. Mississippi already has strict laws regarding abortion, with the procedure banned after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless "the woman's life is endangered, her physical health is severely compromised, or there is a lethal fetal anomaly," the Guttmacher Institute said.

There is only one health center in the state that provides abortions, and under this new bill, doctors who violate the law could lose their medical license and face civil penalties, while women could face criminal charges. The Center for Reproductive Rights said if this "dangerous" bill becomes law, the organization will challenge it in court. "The Center is prepared to answer any attempt to undermine 40 years of Supreme Court precedent with the full force of the law," Senior Vice President Lourdes Rivera said in a statement. Catherine Garcia

July 23, 2016

The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday voted 4-1 to strike down a 2010 state law requiring doctors to notify the parents of girls under the age of 18 if their daughters seek an abortion.

The ruling is a win for Planned Parenthood and Alaskan abortion rights advocates, who made the case that the mandate was a violation of teens' privacy and a danger to girls living in abusive situations. In the majority opinion, Justice Daniel Winfree agreed, writing that the law posed a "discriminatory barrier to those minors seeking to exercise their fundamental privacy right to terminate a pregnancy."

Justice Craig Stowers, the sole dissenter, argued that where a minor is concerned, the state and her parents retain a "legitimate interest" in the situation and, in the parents' case, should be afforded the opportunity to discuss with their child the ramifications of the decision to abort. Parents are required to be notified and give consent where most other significant medical procedures are concerned. Bonnie Kristian

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