Here is a list of current anti-abortion federal lawsuits that are making their way through the courts, with the possibility of ending up before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2021:
July 6, 2021
1. Hopkins v. Jegley, No. 4:17-CV-00404-KGB, (E.D. Ark. Dec. 22, 2020).
Dr. Hopkins and Little Rock Family Planning Center are represented by the ACLU in this action in opposition of four anti-abortion laws in Arkansas. The laws ban abortion after 14 weeks in pregnancy, require that patient’s partners be notified of the abortion, require the physician to report teenage patient’s abortion to the local police, and require physicians to request a burdensome number of medical records from each patient. On December 22, 2020, the District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the defendants from enforcing the four challenged laws.
Update: On January 5, 2021, the Chief Justice granted another injunction against the enforcement of the four challenged laws. The case has still not been resolved.
2. Memphis Ctr. for Reprod. Health v. Slatery, No. 20-5969, 2020 U.S. App. (6th Cir. Nov. 20, 2020).
The Center for Reproductive Rights represented plaintiffs in an action against a Tennessee law which prohibits obtaining an abortion for various reasons, including disfavoring the fetus’s sex, race, or disability. The District Court preliminarily enjoined the restrictions, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted a motion for preliminary injunction.
3. Jackson Women’s Health Org. v. Dobbs, 945 F.3d 265 (5th Cir. 2019).
This is an action against a Mississippi law banning abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit heard this case on December 13, 2019, and affirmed the lower court’s decision that the ban was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of the U.S. was petitioned to hear the case in March 2020. The justices have announced that they will take on this case in the fall and decide whether all pre-viability bans on elective abortions violate the Constitution.
4. Planned Parenthood of Ind. & Ky., Inc. v. Comm’r of the Ind. State Dep’t of Health, 888 F.3d 300 (7th Cir. 2018).
This case challenges provisions of an Indiana law prohibiting abortions based on race, sex, or disability of the fetus, as well as a mandate that fetal remains be buried or cremated. The District Court enjoined the provisions and this decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
5. Whole Woman’s Health v. Paxton, 978 F.3d 896 (5th Cir. 2020).
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas filed this suit in opposition of a Texas ban on a common second-trimester procedure, dilation and evacuation. The District Court characterized the ban as a Due Process violation and stopped the ban from taking effect. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the decision in October 2020.
6. Cochran v. Gresham, et al., No. 20-37 (U.S. Jul. 16, 2020).
Under the Trump administration, the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) approved Medicaid demonstration projects in Arkansas and New Hampshire that imposed work requirements as a condition for receiving healthcare benefits. Lower courts held that these work requirements were a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act because the HHS requirements are contrary to the purpose of the Medicaid Act, which is
to provide healthcare. The HHS secretary petitioned to SCOTUS claiming that the lower courts erred in their decision. SCOTUS is expected to hear arguments on March 29, 2021.
7. Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C., et al., No. 20-601 (U.S. Nov. 5, 2020).
This case poses a procedural question concerning a highly restrictive abortion law in Kentucky. In 2018, Kentucky passed a law which placed lofty restrictions on dilation and evacuation procedures. The EMW Women’s Surgical Center sued the state over the unconstitutional law and won. The lower court placed a permanent injunction on the enforcement of the law, and the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision. After the state decided not to appeal any further, the attorney general in Kentucky, Daniel Cameron, decided to defend the law himself. Cameron asked the court to let him join the defense and ultimately appeal the Appellate court’s decision. The court denied his request, and a few days later SCOTUS issued its June Medical Services opinion. Cameron petitioned to SCOTUS asking whether the appellate court should have allowed him to intervene, and if so, whether the court should remand the previous judgement for consideration in light of June Medial Services. SCOTUS has agreed to hear this case in fall 2021, but they will only weigh in on whether or not Cameron will be allowed to join the defense.
8. American Medical Association v. Cochran, No. 20-429; Cochran v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, No. 20-454; Oregon v. Cochran, No. 20-539.
These three cases came to the Supreme Court last fall after a federal appeals court upheld the Trump-era gag-rule which barred federally funded family planning clinics from providing abortion referrals. The Biden administration has ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to consider rescinding the gag rule which would result in a dismissal of all three cases. According to SCOTUS Blog, a number of states and anti-abortion medical associations have requested to enter into the lawsuit as defendants in an effort to defend the gag rule.
9. Preterm-Cleveland v. McCloud, No. 18-3329 (6th Cir. April 13, 2021).
This case is about an Ohio law which prohibits a doctor from performing an abortion on a pregnant person if the doctor knows that the pregnant person wants the abortion at least in part because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. The trial court issued a decision invalidating the law on the grounds that the law is unconstitutional. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed the trial court’s decision. The Sixth Circuit’s majority opinion asserts that the right to an abortion is not absolute, and that the restrictive law is constitutional because it is related to a legitimate state interest of protecting the Down syndrome community. The Sixth Circuit’s decision is anticipated to be challenged before the Supreme Court.
10. Reprod. Health Servs. Of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, Inc. v. Parson, No. 19-2882 (8th Cir. June 9, 2021).
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s injunction of an anti-abortion Missouri law including a gestational age provision and a Down Syndrom provision. The gestational age provision would make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion upon a pregnant person at eight weeks gestational age or later, except in cases of a medical emergency. The Down Syndrom prohibits doctors from performing abortions if they
know that the pregnant person is seeking an abortion solely because of a prenatal diagnosis indicating the potential of Down Syndrom. The Court of Appeals found that the law amounted to a “categorically unconstitutional” abortion ban, citing that it would be impossible for an individual to lawfully obtain an abortion after eight weeks.
11. Bryant v. Woodall, No. 19-1685 (4th Cir. June 16, 2021).
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court’s decision to strike down North Carolina’s prohibition against abortions performed after the twentieth week of pregnancy. This case is unique because the State does not defend the constitutionality of the prohibition. Rather, the State asserts that the abortion providers who brought the suit do not have standing because they do not face a credible threat of prosecution since the State has not prosecuted any abortion providers under the law since 1973. The Fourth Circuit found that North Carolina providers face a credible threat of prosecution because the State has enacted legislation to restrict the availability of abortions and impose heightened requirements on abortion providers and people seeking abortions as recently as 2015. The state might appeal to the Supreme Court.
Compiled by Shea Roodberg, Shurberg Legal & Policy Intern and student at University of Baltimore School of Law