Without federal protections for abortion rights, anti-abortion lawmakers continue their efforts to restrict and ban abortion in states across the U.S. The Center for Reproductive Rights is fighting in court to block these harmful laws, preserve access to abortion care, and establish new legal protections for reproductive autonomy.
Here are recent developments in three cases brought by the Center and its partners:
1. Kansas: Challenging Medically Unnecessary Restrictions That Make Accessing Abortion Care More Difficult
Even though abortion is protected as a fundamental right under the Kansas constitution, state lawmakers have singled out abortion providers and patients with medically unnecessary and harmful restrictions to make access to time-sensitive abortion care more difficult. On behalf of Kansas abortion providers, on June 6 the Center and its partner filed a lawsuit in state court challenging several restrictions scheduled to take effect as early as July 1.
Among the restrictions being challenged in the lawsuit are:
- A law requiring providers to relay to patients at least five times that a medication abortion can be “reversed”—a false, and potentially dangerous, claim unsupported by scientific evidence.
- A requirement that patients receive inaccurate state-mandated information, including medically unfounded statements that abortion poses a “risk of premature birth in future pregnancies” and “risk of breast cancer.”
- Rules that delay care including requirements that certain state-mandated information be received in printed form, and in specific fonts and colors, 24 hours in advance of an abortion, and that patients must wait 30 minutes after meeting with their abortion provider to obtain care.
“Last year, Kansans voted that they wanted abortion access to remain constitutionally protected in their state,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center. “Now politicians have passed a law that would force providers to tell their patients outright falsehoods, piling on to already coercive requirements that make abortion in Kansas harder to access and demean those seeking abortion care.”
2. Oklahoma: State Supreme Court Affirms Right to Life-Saving Abortion Care
On May 31, 2023, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down two citizen-enforced abortion bans, affirming the court’s March decision that the state constitution protects the right to abortion in life-threatening situations.
The high court confirmed that doctors must be able to use their medical judgement to determine whether to provide an abortion when a patient’s life is at risk. While abortion remains largely unavailable in Oklahoma and the state’s pre-Roe ban remains in effect, the ruling ensures that Oklahoma’s vigilante bans cannot hold doctors back from providing life-saving care.
“Today, the Oklahoma Supreme Court reiterated that the state constitution protects the right to abortion in life-threatening situations,” said Northup. “It’s time Oklahoma lawmakers stop violating their own constitution and putting lives at risk.”
The abortion bans that the Oklahoma high court struck down shared the same enforcement scheme as Texas’s S.B. 8 law, which empowers and incentivizes any private individual—including, for example, an anti-abortion extremist—to bring costly and harassing lawsuits against anyone they think has provided an unlawful abortion or has assisted someone in obtaining one. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to take effect in December 2021—even before it struck down the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022.
3. South Carolina: Court Blocks Another Six-week Abortion Ban
On May 26, a state court in South Carolina temporarily blocked the state’s newly enacted ban on abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy. The ruling, which granted a preliminary injunction against the law, came one day after the lawsuit was filed on behalf of abortion providers.
After the ruling, the state filed an emergency request to stay the injunction with the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Court denied that request on June 6, and instead agreed to take up the case, with arguments scheduled for June 27.
The lawsuit challenging the ban—which argues that the ban is unconstitutional since it violates the South Carolina constitution’s guarantees to privacy, equal protection, and due process—was filed just months after a landmark ruling in January in which the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down a nearly identical six-week abortion ban. In that ruling, the state supreme court ruled that the ban violated South Carolinians’ right to privacy under the state constitution.
“Access to abortion care is increasingly precarious in the South, and it is crucial that we protect it in South Carolina,” said Caroline Sacerdote, staff attorney at the Center.
Read more here about the preliminary injunction ruling.
More case updates:
See the Center’s “Recent Case Highlights” page for more updates.