This lawsuit seeks to overturn several core components of the longstanding, unconstitutional abortion restrictions on the books in Virginia. These laws needlessly target abortion providers and harm patients seeking abortion services by imposing burdensome and medically unnecessary requirements. The laws restrict who may provide abortion care and how they provide it, and place onerous, unnecessary obstacles in the way of Virginians seeking abortion care.
Health care providers, including Falls Church Healthcare Center, Whole Woman’s Health of Charlottesville, A Capital Women’s Health Clinic, and the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, are working together with allies and supporters statewide to fight on all fronts to ensure every person can access the care they need. The providers filed suit to overturn the layers of interlocking restrictions that single out abortion care and make it increasingly difficult — and sometimes impossible — for Virginians who have decided to end a pregnancy to get the safe, legal, high-quality care they need.
Reproductive rights advocates are using the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt to proactively challenge Virginia’s decades-old restrictions. The Whole Woman’s Health standard reaffirms a woman’s fundamental right to access abortion and declares that medically unnecessary laws that impose burdens on individuals are simply unconstitutional.
The lawsuit challenges these unconstitutional laws in federal district court and is brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The restrictions challenged in the lawsuit include:
- Licensing Scheme: An extensive, onerous licensing scheme that applies only to medical facilities that provide five or more first trimester abortions per month, targeting abortion providers for stringent licensure requirements that have no legitimate medical basis. Second Trimester Hospital Requirement: A medically unnecessary and outdated law requiring any second trimester abortion to be performed in a hospital, despite no scientific evidence that these restrictive building requirements make abortion any safer than when performed in a medical office.
- Physician-Only Law: A law preventing highly qualified advanced practice clinicians such as Licensed Nurse Practitioners and Certified Nurse Midwives from providing abortion care, despite their post-graduate training, extensive clinical experience, and scientific evidence that such clinicians perform the procedure safely and effectively.
- Two-Trip Mandatory Delay Law: A law forcing patients to undergo an ultrasound and listen to information that serves no purpose, plus the offering of materials containing irrelevant, misleading, and false statements 24 hours before an abortion, which collectively require each patient to make two trips to a facility and delay their care.
- Criminalization Laws: In conjunction with the other laws, statutes that treat abortion as a crime instead of a common, safe, and legal medical procedure.
Plaintiff(s): Falls Church Healthcare Center, Whole Woman’s Health of Charlottesville, A Capital Women’s Health Clinic, and the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Planned Parenthood Federation of America and ACLU of Virginia.
We filed our complaint and papers in federal court on June 20, 2018, challenging an onerous clinic licensing scheme, a mandatory delay law requiring patients make a second, medically unnecessary trip to a clinic 24 hours before having an abortion, a law that prohibits qualified advanced practice clinicians from providing abortion care, and criminalization laws that treat abortion as a criminal matter rather than a matter of healthcare. All of the challenged laws and regulations are currently in effect in Virginia. The State has filed a motion to dismiss the case.
The State quickly moved to dismiss the case but, following a hearing, the district court ruled on September 26, 2018 that claims against each of the challenged restrictions could proceed. A summary judgment hearing took place on April 8, 2019 and a trial is set for May 2019.