[News] Where state abortion bans stand amid legal challenges



CNN
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In more than a dozen states, legal fights are underway over abortion bans and other laws that greatly limit the procedure after the US Supreme Court ended a constitutional right to an abortion on June 24. On July 26, the Supreme Court entered its judgment in the case, taking the procedural step that will start the process for some states to implement their so-called trigger bans on the procedure.

Abortion rights proponents have taken legal action, challenging several states’ abortion restrictions and have seen some success in temporarily blocking bans in at least five states: Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan and Utah.

Here’s where some states’ abortion bans stand as courts consider legal challenges:

Arizona’s Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich is asking a state court to lift a 1973 court injunction against an abortion ban enacted in 1901.

In a filing on July 13 with the Arizona superior court in Pima County, Brnovich pointed to the US Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which ended federal constitutional protections for abortion rights.

“It is beyond dispute that Dobbs represents a change in the very law that was the sole and express basis for the Second Amended Final Judgment,” Brnovich wrote, referring to the 1973 injunction.

The fight over the pre-Roe abortion ban comes after Arizona federal Judge Douglas L. Rayes blocked a “personhood” provision in an existing abortion ban in the state, forbidding the state from using it to impose penalties for abortions that would otherwise be legal under existing Arizona law.

“A preliminary injunction will not leave Arizona hamstrung. If Arizona wants to extend legal protections to the unborn—including, it seems, before medically recognized conception—nothing in this order precludes it from doing so clearly and explicitly, by amending the definition of ‘person’ in those discrete statutes where Arizona wants the change to operate, and by clearly and explicitly stating whether those applications exempt otherwise lawful abortion care,” Rayes wrote in his decision, which also noted that the provision could conflict with a state law set to take effect in September that bans most abortions after 15 weeks.

The injunction was granted following a motion filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.

Abortion rights advocates had worried that the state would use the language to prosecute providers or patients. “The personhood law classifies fetuses, embryos, and fertilized eggs as ‘people’ starting at the point of conception. The vague provision placed both providers and pregnant people at risk of arbitrary prosecution,” the ACLU of Arizona said in a news release.

In Florida, a law banning abortions after 15 weeks took effect on July 1. A state judge on June 30 said he would issue a temporary statewide injunction and signed a written order on July 5. But the state also filed an appeal, a move that automatically stayed the judge’s order that temporarily blocked the ban. With the appeal, the law remains in effect while litigation continues. The plaintiffs in the case, Florida abortion providers, said they plan to file a motion seeking to reinstate the injunction.

Abortion providers and advocates in Georgia are challenging a state law that bans abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy, after a federal appellate court allowed the law to take effect.

In a lawsuit filed on July 26 in state court, the groups argue that HB 481 violates the Georgia Constitution’s rights to liberty, privacy and equal protection. They also argue that HB 481 is void and unenforceable because it violated federal constitutional precedent when it was enacted in 2019 and cannot be revived.

The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on July 20 that the law could take effect immediately, by staying a lower district court’s order that had blocked the law.

The federal district court in 2020 had blocked state officials from enforcing the law, which bans abortion when early cardiac activity is detected.

The Idaho Supreme Court is holding a hearing on August 3 to consider arguments on two abortion challenges.

In April, the Idaho Supreme Court temporarily blocked the state’s six-week abortion ban that allows private citizens to enforce the law in the state with civil action. Abortion providers filed suit a week earlier saying the law violates several provisions of the state constitution.

Providers in Idaho have also challenged the state’s so-called trigger law that is set to go into effect on July 19 at the earliest. The law would make providing abortions a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, with exceptions for cases of rape or incest or to prevent the death of the pregnant person. The state Supreme Court is set to hear the case during the same August 3 hearing.

Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb on August 5 signed a bill that would ban most abortions – making it the first state to pass a restrictive law against the procedure since Roe v. Wade was overturned this summer – after it passed the state’s House and Senate.

The Indiana House and Senate passed the GOP-sponsored bill earlier that day, and the new law takes effect on September 15.

It provides exceptions for when the life of the mother is at risk and for fatal fetal anomalies, up to 20 weeks post-fertilization. It also allows exceptions for some abortions if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.

Current Indiana law allows abortions up to 20 weeks after fertilization (or 22 weeks after the mother’s last menstrual period).

A Kentucky state court of appeals on August 1 reinstated the state’s so-called trigger law banning abortion as well as a separate law banning the procedure after roughly six weeks of pregnancy, siding with Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron and allowing the laws to temporarily be enforced while the case proceeds in the courts.

Previously, the appeals court, as well as the state Supreme Court, declined to reverse a temporary restraining order issued against the two laws by the Jefferson Circuit Court.

A state court on July 22 continued a block on the state’s trigger law and a law restricting abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy. The court on June 30 had granted a temporary restraining order, halting enforcement of the two laws and allowing abortion services to continue.

Louisiana’s abortion ban is again in effect after a ruling from a state appellate court allowed the law to be enforced.

Baton Rouge District Judge Donald Johnson had stopped the state’s trigger law from going into effect on July 21 while the case is considered. But on July 29, an appellate court granted the state’s appeal for the injunction to be suspended. Johnson signed the order, allowing the ban to be enforced.

The trigger laws went into effect on Monday, August 1, and abortion care has been halted in the state, according to Jenny Ma, a senior staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights. The organization has since filed a request with the state Supreme Court to reinstate the temporary order that has blocked the law’s enforcement.

In Michigan, the state’s pre-Roe ban – a 1931 abortion ban, which was invalidated by the decision in Roe v. Wade but remained on the state’s books – was put on hold by a state court in May, before the US Supreme Court decision was handed down. Nearly a month later, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who’s supportive of abortion rights, filed a lawsuit asking the state Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional under the Michigan Constitution.

A Michigan judge on August 1 granted Whitmer’s request to temporarily block enforcement of the state’s pre-Roe abortion ban. The judge’s ruling came hours after an appellate court said in a separate case that county officials were free to bring such prosecutions, concluding that a lower court’s ruling blocking enforcement of the pre-Roe ban only applied to state officials.

Mississippi’s trigger law went into effect on July 7, after a Mississippi judge declined to temporarily block the ban. The trigger ban prohibits abortions in the state with exceptions only in cases of rape or if the pregnant person’s life is endangered. The state’s last abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenged the trigger law, was forced to close its doors.

After filing an appeal to try and resume services and the state Supreme Court declining to hear the appeal on an emergency basis, the Mississippi Center for Justice, on the clinic’s behalf, withdrew its lawsuit on July 19. Diane Derzis, the clinic’s owner, sold the building “in light of the dim prospects for a speedy and meaningful ruling that would allow the clinic to reopen,” Rob McDuff, one of the attorneys for Jackson, said in a statement.

Derzis previously told CNN that they were planning to move to a new clinic in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

A state court judge in North Dakota on July 27 blocked the state from enforcing its trigger abortion ban, issuing a temporary restraining order the day before the ban had been set to take effect.

Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick found that state officials had not followed the procedures outlined in the law for implementing the prohibition.

The judge found that, under the law, the process for implementing the trigger law could not begin until the US Supreme Court issued its judgment in the abortion case that ended constitutional protections for abortion. That procedural step by the US Supreme Court did not happen until July 26, several weeks after the justices released their opinion in the case.

Under the process laid out in the North Dakota trigger law, the prohibition can be enforced 30 days after the state attorney general certifies the judgment. North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley had sought to issue the certification kicking off the 30-day clock on June 28, a few days after the US Supreme Court issued its opinion in the abortion rights case.

The temporary restraining order blocks the ban from taking effect “until the attorney general follows the provisions outline in the triggering language or until future order of the Court.”

Wrigley told CNN Thursday that he issued a new certification of the Supreme Court judgment after the temporary restraining order came down, starting the clock for the ban to go into effect on August 26.

“We are subject to the (state) court’s ruling, and I certified it within an hour” of it being issued, he told CNN.

Meetra Mehdizadeh – a staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of the sole clinic in the state – said in a statement after the temporary restraining order was issued that “we’re relieved that a North Dakota state court has blocked its devastating trigger ban for now.”

“If allowed to go into effect, this near-total abortion ban would close the state’s sole abortion clinic, leaving North Dakotans with no clinic within the state to turn for essential health care,” she said. “We will do everything in our power to fight this ban and keep abortion accessible in North Dakota for as long as possible.”

The Ohio Supreme Court denied state abortion providers’ request for an emergency hold on the state’s prohibition on abortions performed after fetal cardiac activity is detected, typically around six weeks into a pregnancy. The court’s ruling means the abortion ban can continue to be enforced as the case plays out.

Provider groups have challenged Oklahoma’s 1910 pre-Roe abortion ban along with an abortion law enacted this year that goes into effect in August. Before the US Supreme Court overturned Roe, abortion providers had already brought separate challenges to different abortion laws in the state.

A South Carolina judge ruled on July 26 to allow the state’s six-week abortion ban to be enforced for the time being, according to Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which filed a lawsuit in an effort to block the so-called heartbeat law.

Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning did not grant a preliminary injunction sought by Planned Parenthood and recommended the lawsuit move onto the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic, as well as two individual providers, filed their lawsuit on July 13, alleging that the six-week prohibition on the procedure violates several clauses of South Carolina’s Constitution. It also targets the design of the ban’s narrow exceptions for life of the mother, rape or incest. For instance, the lawsuit alleges that the rape exception runs afoul of the state constitution’s privacy protections because the exemption requires the provider report the abortion-seeker’s information to law enforcement.

The six-week ban, passed by lawmakers in 2021, had been blocked by a federal court previously, however that hold was lifted after the US Supreme Court issued its ruling last month ending federal abortion rights protections, allowing for the ban’s revival.

Texas’ nearly century-old abortion ban is allowed to be civilly enforced while the state waits for its trigger ban to kick in. A state court had issued a temporary restraining order against the pre-Roe law on June 28, which allowed abortions up to around six weeks into pregnancy to resume. But on July 1, Texas’ Supreme Court partially granted Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request to stay the lower court’s order.

A Utah judge has continued an injunction blocking the state’s trigger law from taking effect, siding with Planned Parenthood in allowing the procedure to continue while the case plays out in the courts. Judge Andrew Stone in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court previously granted a two-week injunction in the case, preventing the trigger law from being enforced.

A state court judge on July 18 indicated that she had decided to block a West Virginia abortion ban dating to the 1800s, according to news releases from both sides of the case.

The decision was announced from the bench, both sides confirmed. A copy of the order was not immediately available, a court clerk told CNN.

“Today’s decision is a sigh of relief, and means we can once again serve the people who reach out to us for abortion services,” Katie Quiñonez, executive director of Women’s Health Center of West Virginia and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said in a statement.

Quiñonez, the clinic and other individual providers had asked for the preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed in June, alleging the legislature implicitly repealed the law with the abortion regulations the lawmakers passed recently. The lawsuit, filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court, also claimed the ban violated the state constitution.

West Virginia’s Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the court’s decision to block the law was “a dark day for West Virginia.”

On July 19, Morrisey filed a motion for a stay of injunction with the state Supreme Court of Appeals, saying: “We believe it’s critical to file for an immediate stay in light of this flawed decision and seek this emergency measure to prevent immediate loss of precious life.”

Democratic state officials in Wisconsin have asked a state court to block Wisconsin’s pre-Roe abortion ban, which was allowed to take effect after the high court overturned the federal holding. The 1849 law criminalizes abortion in the state, including in cases of rape and incest.

The lawsuit asks a state court to “clarify that Wisconsin’s 19th century abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest has not gone back into effect,” and to deem it unenforceable.

A state court judge on July 27 issued a temporary restraining order, blocking a Wyoming abortion ban the day the prohibition was set to go into effect.

In the order, Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens pointed to “ambiguity” in the law about when providers can perform abortions needed in their “appropriate medical judgment.” The judge also pointed to the lack of “guidance” for when providers can perform abortions in cases of incest or sexual assault, raising questions about whether a patient’s word alone is sufficient or if a provider must wait until charges are filed. She also said that parts of the law appear to conflict with the Wyoming constitution.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by two physicians, an abortion access fund, a clinic, and two individual women of reproductive age. The challengers claim that the ban violates Wyoming’s Constitution, alleging that it tramples on its protections for due process, equality, privacy and other rights.

The law – which includes exemptions for incest, sexual assault or “serious risk of death or of substantial and irreversible physical impairment” – was a trigger law set in motion by the US Supreme Court opinion last month ending constitutional protections for abortion. Under the law, the ban could be implemented five days after certification from the governor, which happened on Friday.

“This action was not unexpected, but because of it I cannot comment on ongoing litigation,” Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, said in a statement to CNN after a Wednesday court hearing where the judge ruled that she was temporarily halting enforcement of the law. “The Attorney General is poised to defend the state’s position.”

Julie Burkhart – founder and president of Wellspring Health Access, the clinic challenging the law – said Wednesday that the judge’s move, while “only a temporary victory, ensures that abortion care remains legal in Wyoming for the time being.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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