James fights to ensure women across the nation retain access to safe, legal abortions

Attorney General Letitia James

AG leads coalition of states fighting to ensure women’s reproductive freedom is not limited

New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of 22 attorneys general fighting to ensure women across the nation are able to maintain access to safe, legal abortions. In an amicus brief filed with the United States Supreme Court — in support of the petitioners in the case June Medical Services v. Gee — the coalition of attorneys general seek to overturn a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upholding a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at a local hospital. 

“While Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for over 45 years, states continue to look for ways to restrict access to safe, legal abortions and place burdensome restrictions on women’s reproductive freedom,” said Attorney General James. “The State of Louisiana already makes it hard for women to exercise their reproductive rights with the limited number of abortion clinics available across the state, but this law just aims to further regulate women’s bodies and deprive them of one of their most important constitutional rights. This law is simply about controlling women’s bodies, controlling their choices, and controlling their freedom, which is why we will continue to fight it every step of the way.”

In 2014, Louisiana passed a law that requires abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at local hospitals. If the law were enforced, Louisiana would be left with, at most, two physicians who could provide abortion services in the state, despite the fact that roughly 10,000 women obtain abortions in Louisiana each year. Louisiana’s admitting-privileges requirement is identical to the Texas statute that was invalidated and found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana granted a permanent injunction against implementation of the Louisiana law, but, in 2018, the Fifth Circuit reversed that decision. June Medical Services and two physicians appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which granted an emergency application to stay the law from taking effect, pending the outcome of the appeal.

The coalition of attorneys general filed the amicus brief because states have an interest in ensuring the availability of safe, medically sound abortion services and in protecting the health and safety of women seeking abortion services, as well as defending the long-recognized, substantive due process right to choose to terminate a pregnancy and the undue-burden standard that governs review of regulations implicating that right. In the brief, the attorneys general argue that Louisiana’s law is an unnecessary and onerous burden that fails to promote women’s health and will end up further limiting the number of abortion providers available to women in Louisiana.

Today’s amicus brief is just the latest in Attorney General James’ long history of fighting for women’s reproductive health freedom. In October 2019, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Jackson Women’s Health Organization against the State of Mississippi, challenging a law that would prohibit abortions after as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

In September 2019, Attorney General James led a multistate amicus brief in support of a challenge filed by Kentucky clinics and physicians challenging a Kentucky law that would ban physicians from providing second-trimester abortion services using the most common and safest procedure available for women after fifteen weeks of pregnancy.

In August 2019, Attorney General James filed another amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance against the State of Indiana after the state denied the clinics application for a license to open an abortion clinic that would provide medical abortions in South Bend.

Attorney General James is also litigating the appeal in People ex rel. James v. Griepp, to ensure that women who enter the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens are not harassed, obstructed, or threatened by protesters.

In March 2019, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 21 states in a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s regulations that threaten essential services provided under federal Title X funding. The rule — also known as the “gag rule” — places an unlawful and unethical restriction on health care providers’ ability to fully inform patients of the reproductive health services available to them by disallowing referrals for abortions and restricting counseling related to abortions. Another provision would require those who perform abortions to physically segregate their services — an expensive and potentially impossible requirement.

Finally, Attorney General James has also challenged the Trump Administration’s efforts to strip access to cost-free birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act. In October 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a preliminary injunction against the Administration’s efforts.

Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

This case was handled by Assistant Solicitor General Ester Murdukhayeva, Deputy Solicitor General Andrea Oser, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood — all of the Division of Appeals and Opinions.

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