Supreme Court to Hear Abortion Rights Case

Time.com
By Charlotte Alter
11/13/15

This the most important abortion case the court has taken since 1992

The Supreme Court announced Friday it would hear a major abortion rights case next year, the most significant abortion case heard by the court since 1992. The justices will review a Texas law that regulates abortion clinics to the point where many are forced to close, and could determine the extent to which states can regulate what is technically a legal medical procedure.

The Court will rule on a 2015 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that allowed Texas to impose regulations on abortion clinics that major medical associations have deemed medically unnecessary. The Texas law, known as HB2, was passed in 2013 and would require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and force clinics to undergo extensive structural and equipment updates in order to qualify as “ambulatory surgical centers.” The law has been the subject of intense litigation, and the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the law earlier this year, but the Supreme Court stepped in with a temporary block in June that kept the law from fully going into effect.

The regulations, if upheld, would force over 75% of Texas’s abortion clinics to close, leaving fewer than 10 abortion clinics in a state with over 5.4 million women of reproductive age, according to the brief presented by the clinics challenging the law. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing Whole Whole (sic) Women’s Health in its challenge to the Texas law, a woman living in El Paso will have to drive 500 miles to San Antonio (7 and a half hours each way) in order to get an abortion.

“This is a historic moment,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, calling the case “the most significant case on abortion access since 1992.”

This case will likely force the court to define the term “undue burden,” which was left largely up to public discretion by the Supreme Court in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. In that case, the court ruled that states could regulate abortion as long as those regulations did not constitute an undue burden, which they said included “unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion.” Prominent medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have opposed the restrictions.

Planned Parenthood’s Leader Pushes Back Against G.O.P. Critics

The New York Times By Michael D. Shear 9/29/15 WASHINGTON — The embattled president of Planned Parenthood on Tuesday forcefully disputed what she called “outrageous accusations” by Republicans that her organization profits from the sale of fetal tissue, telling Congress that … Continue reading

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to Congress: No violations of fetal tissue laws

HHS to Congress: No violations of fetal tissue laws

Politico.com
By Jennifer Haberkorn
8/16/15

The Obama administration says there are no known violations of the country’s fetal tissue laws among government researchers or the companies that supply the tissue.

“Currently, we know of no violation of these laws in connection with the research done at our agencies,” Jim Esquea, assistant secretary for legislation at HHS, wrote in a letter to Sens. Joni Ernst and Roy Blunt, obtained by POLITICO. “Furthermore … we have confirmed that HHS researchers working with fetal tissue obtained the tissue from non-profit organizations that provided assurances to us that they are in compliance with all applicable legal requirements.

Very little federal research is done with fetal tissue, but it has come under scrutiny since an anti-abortion group earlier this summer began releasing undercover videos alleging that Planned Parenthood was trafficking in fetal tissue and organs. Planned Parenthood has denied that, saying it facilitates legal tissue donation at a few of its locations.

HHS has gotten re-affirmations from government researchers and government-funded researchers that their tissue procurement is done in accordance with the tissue laws. And it got assurances from the companies that provide that fetal tissue to researchers at NIH and FDA that they are obtaining the fetal tissue and organs in compliance with federal laws, the letter says.

HHS also said that research with fetal tissue conducted by NIH accounts for less than 0.1 percent of its total research budget. It didn’t provide whole numbers.

The letter was sent to Congress late Friday evening.