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Women's Healthcare Providers Challenge VA Abortion Laws

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Friday, June 22, 2018   

RICHMOND, Va. – Using the U.S. Supreme Court's 2016 landmark court ruling in support of abortion rights, a group of women's healthcare providers filed suit this week, arguing that the Commonwealth has failed to remove restrictive abortion laws they see as unconstitutional.

Reproductive rights advocates are using the court's decision to challenge some decades-old state laws that restrict how abortions can be provided in Virginia. Jenny Ma, a staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, says state lawmakers have had plenty of time to update their policies.

"Since that decision, the Legislature has had two opportunities in order to remedy these unconstitutional laws and strike them, and they have not,” says Ma. “And herefore, the plaintiffs in this case in support by the center as well as Planned Parenthood of America decided to bring this case."

Leaders in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates have said they'll go as far as hiring outside counsel to defend the laws, if Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring – who is an abortion-rights advocate – refuses to defend the state's position.

It's been two years since the ruling in Whole Woman's Health versus Hellerstedt. In the Texas case, the Supreme Court struck down a state law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and forcing clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.

Ma believes it should've sent a strong signal to Virginia lawmakers to act.

"They declared that an abortion restriction is unconstitutional when the burdens it imposes on abortion access outweigh the benefits they confer,” says Ma. “And each of the laws that we're challenging in this lawsuit fail to meet that standard."

This week's Virginia suit challenges several laws – including the way clinics are regulated like hospitals, a physician-only law that bars other medical professionals from performing abortions, and a law that requires women to have an ultrasound, which the plaintiffs say causes delays in care.


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