Several victories over anti-choice legislation have occurred within the last week and half. While states like Virginia are continuing to pass anti-choice laws, federal judges continue to smack them down showing that while politicians at the state level insist on forcing their views on their constituents the federal government will continue to acknowledge the rights of women over their reproductive health.
A plethora of states have passed budgets that defund Planned Parenthood and in many of them Planned Parenthood sought to retain their funding through the federal court system. They have been overwhelmingly successful. Most recently federal judges have blocked efforts on both North Carolina and Kansas to defund the organization. During the proceedings lawyers for the state requested if the injunction were put in place that the state be allowed to make payments to Planned Parenthood on a monthly basis instead of the usual quarterly payments. They also requested that Planned Parenthood be forced to pay a bond should the state eventually win against the pending lawsuit. Federal Judge Thomas Marten refused both of these requests and awarded Planned Parenthood the injunction as requested.
In North Carolina, a similar injunction was granted. North Carolina officials passed a budget that cut Planned Parenthood’s funding and though Gov. Perdue vetoed the budget, the states legislature overrode her veto and the budget passed as was, so Planned Parenthood sued there too. Their argument was not that they had a constitutional right to the money, as was the argument in Kansas; they argued that they have a first amendment right to not be penalized for supporting women’s reproductive rights, more specifically the right to have an abortion. Judge James Beaty Jr. agreed and awarded Planned Parenthood and injunction against the defunding there too. In his ruling Judge Beaty noted that North Carolina already had a contract in place with Planned Parenthood before the funding was banned and used this as part of his reasoning to restore the funding. He also pointed out that it is unnecessary to “impose a contractual ban on abortion funding because none of the money at issue is used for that purpose.”
In Texas, a law was set to go into effect that requires women to not only receive a vaginal sonogram before they have an abortion; they must also see it and have it described to them in detail regardless of whether they want to see or hear it. Federal Judge Sam Sparks also upheld women’s rights by awarding an injunction blocking the law saying that it forces doctors to “advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree, regardless of any medical necessity and irrespective of whether the pregnant women wish to listen.” Judge Sparks also pointed out the exception to the requirements for women who were willing to sign a waiver saying the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, saying the requirement would require women to disclose “extremely personal, medically irrelevant facts… memorialized in records that are, at best, semi-private.” He also noted that it “is difficult to avoid the troubling conclusion that the Texas Legislature either wants to permanently brand women who choose to get abortions, or views these certifications as potential evidence to be used against physicians and women.” Though he struck down the part of the law that required women to see and hear a description of the sonogram, he left the part requiring a sonogram prior to the abortion intact. In Texas, the lawyers for the state have already indicated they intend to appeal the decision. If the trend of federal judges supporting women’s access to reproductive health care continues, the appeal will be unsuccessful.