Planned Parenthood is suing these 3 states for obstructing abortion access

On Wednesday, Planned Parenthood filed lawsuits challenging laws restricting abortion access in North Carolina, Missouri, and Alaska. The women’s health organization is joined by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Reproductive Rights who told the Associated Press these lawsuits constitute the first major follow-up to Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which struck down laws targeting abortion providers known as TRAP laws.

For example, in the state of Missouri, TRAP laws require abortion clinics to meet the same standards for surgical centers and doctors are required to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. As noted in the Whole Women’s Health ruling and in the lawsuit filed Wednesday, such restrictions are medically unnecessary due to the safety of the abortion procedure and merely serve to stigmatize and shut down clinics offering the service. In the state of Missouri, as a result of these requirements, only one operating abortion clinic remains, and many women in the state bear the undue burden of traveling up to 300 miles to access the clinic in St. Louis.

Planned Parenthood is additionally challenging laws in Alaska that ban abortion after the first trimester and ones in North Carolina that ban abortion at 20-weeks gestation.

Planned Parenthood notes that the second and third trimester abortion ban in Alaska, which has been in place for roughly 40 years, sends around 30 women out of state to have their abortions annually. North Carolina’s law banning abortion after 20 weeks offers a very narrow exception to protect the woman’s health, but in its lawsuit, Planned Parenthood notes how this endangers women by forcing doctors caring for them to delay necessary care until her condition imposes an immediate threat of death.

Sure, women in these states have the option to travel out of state for abortion services, but through lost time and incurred costs, this obviously places an additional undue burden on them, while also undermining Roe v. Wade’s guarantee of abortion until fetal viability and their right to privacy with their doctors.

“A woman must be able to make health decisions at different points in her pregnancy that are best for her circumstances, including whether to end a pregnancy, without interference from politicians,” Irena Como, staff attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina, told the AP.

These challenges to state abortion laws signal the reproductive rights movement’s plan to fight back on the state level against our newly elected anti-choice executive branch and Congress, which recently announced its intent to defund Planned Parenthood.

“We are going to fight back state by state and law by law until every person has the right to pursue the life they want, including the right to decide to end a pregnancy,” Planned Parenthood’s chief medical officer, Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, said in a statement. Given the rise of anti-abortion bills being floated in state legislatures in Texas and Indiana following the election of an anti-choice president, Republican Congress, appointment of an anti-choice Health and Human Services secretary, and the inevitable appointment of anti-choice SCOTUS justices, Planned Parenthood’s state-by-state approach is presently the most pragmatic means to fight back and is critically important to defend women’s rights in conservative states.

With the Affordable Care Act on the brink of repeal, or at the very least being substantially scaled back, and crucial funding for Planned Parenthood’s contraception services to be repealed, Planned Parenthood is already preparing to shield its patients, predominantly young and poor women, from the worst. “We’re working to be prepared. We’re going to provide care to our patients whether they have insurance or not,” McDonald-Mosley added.

Planned Parenthood has long braved political and even physically threatening challenges from abortion opponents, and through it all, has fought for and kept its doors open to women for decades. Its latest legal challenges to protect abortion rights signal the organization’s refusal to give up.