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Planned Parenthood Launches Legal Attack Against Abortion Laws in Multiple States


Planned Parenthood (Shutterstock)On Wednesday, three different affiliates of Planned Parenthood each filed lawsuits in an attempt to challenge different state abortion laws. Federal complaints were filed in North Carolina and Missouri, and a third lawsuit was filed in Alaska’s state court. In a press release, the Center for reproductive Rights, which is helping coordinate the effort, referred to the recent successful challenges of various abortion laws since a June Supreme Court victory as “just the beginning” in light of the new lawsuits.

The specific laws that Planned Parenthood is attempting to strike down are:

  • North Carolina statutes which ban abortions after the twentieth week of a pregnancy, measured from the woman’s last period. The exception to the last is if there is a medical emergency where the abortion will “avert her death or for which a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function,” with mental illnesses excluded. There is also a 72 hour waiting period for all abortions which has the same exceptions as those performed after 20 weeks, but the lawsuit does not appear to challenge that provision.
  • Missouri laws requiring that abortion providers be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers and that the doctors themselves have “various forms of” admitting privileges at a local hospital. The implementation of these laws led enough providers closing that there is now just one abortion clinic in the state.
  • Alaska’s restrictions, passed in 1970’s, which bar outpatient abortions after the first trimester of pregnancy.

“Because of laws like the ones we are challenging today, far too many women across our country the constitutional right to have an abortion is more theoretical than real,” said Jennifer Dalven, Director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, in a statement.   “With the cases we are filing today, we are sending a clear message that we won’t stop working until every woman can get the care she needs no matter who she is, where she lives, or how much money she makes.”

Mary Kogut, who heads Planned Parenthood’s southwest Missouri chapter,, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Missouri laws “have created a situation where for 1.2 million women in Missouri who could be impacted with a pregnancy, where they might make a decision about an abortion, there is only one facility for them to go to.” The Columbia, Missouri Planned Parenthood location, which is one of the plaintiffs, has been unable to provide abortions since December 2015, when the University of Missouri revoked the admitting privileges of Dr. Colleen McNicholas.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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David Bixenspan is a writer, editor, and podcaster based in New York.