Amicus Work

The Center submits amicus briefs and third-party interventions in cases with the potential to shape legal precedent on reproductive rights, constitutional law, and international law.

Summary

The Center both serves as legal counsel and signs on to “friend of the court” amicus briefs when our voice, original research and analysis, or legal expertise can inform and influence how key issues at stake are understood and decided. In international, regional and domestic bodies and courts—including the U.S. Supreme Court—we join forces with a diverse mix of legal, academic, social justice, civil rights, and human rights allies to use the power of law to advance reproductive rights as human rights.

Below are some of the many amicus briefs the Center has written, or joined, in cases impacting abortion access, maternal health, contraceptive coverage, assisted reproduction, and discrimination against people based on their gender, sexuality, or reproductive health decisions.

Africa

Click here to see the Center’s amicus briefs and submissions for Africa cases.

Asia

Click here to see the Center’s amicus briefs and submissions for Asia cases.

Europe

Click here to see the Center’s amicus briefs and submissions for Europe cases.

United States

Below is the Center’s amicus work for cases in the U.S.

(For the amicus briefs filed in support of the Center’s 2021 Supreme Court case, click here.)

U.S. Supreme Court

Cochran v. Gresham [2021]

Issue: States seek to impose work requirements as a condition for receiving Medicaid benefits
Center position: Oppose work requirements  

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) granted states’ requests to impose work requirements as a condition for receiving Medicaid benefits. The Supreme Court agreed to review lower court rulings that HHS acted unlawfully by failing to consider the extent to which people would lose health coverage, and resulting harms. The Center joined an amicus brief led by National Women’s Law Center that outlines how Medicaid benefits improve the health and economic well-being of women and people of color, and that imposing work requirements would lead to loss of benefits for reasons that include job discrimination and caretaking duties.  In particular, loss of those benefits would inflict harm on maternal and reproductive health. (This case was removed from the calendar after the change in administration.)

Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania [2020]

Issue: Pennsylvania’s challenge to federal religious and moral exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate for employer-sponsored health plans
Center position: Supported Pennsylvania’s argument against the religious and moral exemptions

Together with Americans United for Separation of Church and State and other civil rights and religious organizations, the Center co-counseled and joined an amicus brief arguing that the exemptions, if permitted to stand, would violate the Establishment Clause by preferencing religion and imposing substantial harms and costs on women’s access to healthcare. For these reasons, the brief further argued the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not permit, let alone require, the exemptions.

California v. Texas [2020]

Issue: Texas’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Center position:  Supported California’s argument to uphold the ACA

Texas argued that the elimination of the ACA’s tax penalty for those who do not have health insurance rendered the ACA’s individual mandate provision unconstitutional and called for the ACA to be entirely struck down. The Center joined the National Women’s Law Center and 80 other organizations in an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the law because a central purpose of the ACA was to eliminate discriminatory insurance practices undermining the health and economic security of women and their families, and Congress did not intend to repeal the ACA when it removed the tax penalty.

Bostock v. Clayton [2019]

Issue: LGBTQ employment protections for sexual orientation and gender identity under Title VII
Center position: Supported protections for LGBTQ employees under Title VII

This case asserted that the landmark civil rights legislation Title VII, which prohibits sex discrimination in employment, protects LGBTQ employees. The Center joined an amicus brief, filed by the National Women’s Law Center, which argued that decades of precedent recognize sex stereotyping as a form of discrimination barred by Title VII, and any decision to the contrary threatens to harm all employees who fail to conform to sex stereotypes, not only LGBTQ applicants and employees.

NIFLA v. Becerra [2018]

Issue: Crisis Pregnancy Center’s first amendment challenge to state law requiring public disclosure of factual information
Center position: Supported California’s notice and disclosure law

The Center argued why the law requiring crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to post a notice that public assistance for family planning, prenatal care, and abortion may be available, or disclosing that they are not medically licensed, was constitutionally valid. The Center co-counseled an amicus brief with the National Women’s Law Center, representing 51 reproductive rights, civil rights, and social justice organizations. The brief presented stories of people who have been misled and harmed by CPCs and argued that the neutral, factual disclosures that California’s law required are important to counteract the deceptive and misleading tactics that some crisis pregnancy centers employ in the state and throughout the country.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission [2017]

Issue: Discrimination against LGBTQ people, in violation of state public accommodations law, due to religious objections to same sex marriage
Center position: Supported upholding public accommodations law over religious objections

This case involved a bakery that refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple, in violation of Colorado’s public accommodations law, due to the owner’s religious objection to same-sex marriage. The Center joined an amicus brief, filed by the National Women’s Law Center, which argued that public accommodation laws are fundamental to the full participation of women in the marketplace, and a decision in favor of the bakery would undermine laws prohibiting discrimination against other protected classes.

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.  [2014]

Issue: For-profit corporations claiming religious objection to providing health insurance plans that cover contraception as the ACA generally requires
Center position: Supported government’s position that religious objections do not exempt for-profit employers from covering contraception under federal law 

As co-counsel with pro bono partner Morrison & Foerster LLP, the Center filed an amicus brief on behalf of foreign and comparative law experts, explaining that other nations and international law bodies weighing the rights of conscientious objectors against the rights of patients who seek access to health care have guaranteed patients’ access to the reproductive health services within a framework that respects religious belief.

Federal Courts

City and County of San Francisco v. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services [2019]

Issue: Legality of the Trump administration’s modification of the “Public Charge” rule to penalize immigrants applying for legal permanent resident status if they have accessed, or are predicted to access, certain public benefits
Center position: Supported challenge to modified Rule

The Center filed an amicus brief arguing that implementation of the modified rule would harm maternal and children’s health, contravene core constitutional principles, and violate human rights standards.

The Center both serves as legal counsel and signs on to “friend of the court” amicus briefs when our voice, original research and analysis, or legal expertise can inform and influence how judges understand and analyze key issues at stake in the case.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic v. Baker  [2019]

Issue: South Carolina issued an executive order terminating Medicaid agreements with Planned Parenthood
Center position: Supported Planned Parenthood’s challenge to executive order

As co-counsel with National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and in collaboration with Latina Institute and In Our Own Voice, the Center filed an amicus brief demonstrating harms to women of color and their communities who already face barriers to accessing quality health care, and that exercising the right to choose a provider is an act of agency essential to their health and autonomy.

California v. Azar [2018]

Issue: California’s challenge to federal religious and moral exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate for employer-sponsored health plans
Center position: Supported California’s argument against religious and moral exemptions

The Center as co-counsel with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, on behalf of civil rights and equal justice groups, filed an amicus brief arguing the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection requires consideration of how the rules will compound existing structural barriers that women of color and low-income women already face.

Azar v. Garza [2018]

Issue: Federal government’s policy of denying minors access to abortion when in custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)
Center position: Supported challenge to the policy

As co-counsel with National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the Center filed an amicus brief that applies a human rights and reproductive justice lens, demonstrating that ORR’s actions violate unaccompanied immigrant minors’ fundamental rights by effectively denying access to abortion altogether.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. v. Indiana State Department of Health  [2017]

Issue: Indiana law requiring an ultrasound be performed at least 18 hours before an abortion
Center position: Supported Planned Parenthood’s challenge to the law

The Center filed an amicus brief arguing that Whole Woman’s Health and Casey set out a single legal standard that applies to all abortion restrictions, and that this standard requires courts to consider both how women’s lived experiences and existing restrictions contribute to their difficulty accessing abortion, as well as how regulations impact abortion clinics’ operations in the real world.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Family Planning and Preventative Health Services, Inc. v. Smith [2017]

Issue: Texas regulation that terminated Medicaid agreements with Planned Parenthood
Center position: Supported Planned Parenthood in challenge to the regulation

As co-counsel with pro bono partner Fish & Richardson P.C., the Center filed an amicus brief on behalf of Black Mamas Matter Alliance and five other local and national organizations. The brief outlined the detrimental impacts to maternal health – particularly for Black women – of denying Medicaid recipients care at Planned Parenthood, tracing Texas’s prior efforts to dismantle the reproductive health safety net resources and the correlation between those efforts and the state’s rising maternal morality and other poor maternal health outcomes.

West Alabama Women’s Center v. Williamson [2016]

Issue: Challenge to Alabama law banning the standard abortion procedure used after approximately 15 weeks of pregnancy
Center position: Supported clinic in opposing the ban

The Center filed an amicus brief arguing that Whole Woman’s Health set out a single legal standard that applies to all abortion restrictions, contrary to claims by advocates of the law that a different standard of legal review applies when a state claims its law is intended to protect fetal life.

State Courts

Rinat Dray v. Staten Island University Hospital et al. [2020]

Issue: Forced cesarean section without consent
Center position: Supported plaintiff’s claims against a New York hospital for violating laws that prohibit sex and other forms of discrimination during pregnancy

The Center joined an amicus brief, filed by If/When/How on behalf of legal and human rights organizations, that discusses federal and state constitutional jurisprudence, as well as human rights law, that condemn pregnancy violations as sex discrimination and a form of gender-based violence.

LeFever v. Matthews  [2020]

Issue: Recognition of legal parentage for LGBTQ mother who used assisted reproduction for family formation
Center position: Supported mother’s claim for legal parentage

This case involved an LGBTQ mother who did not have genetic relationship with the twins she gave birth to through co-maternity – a form of assisted reproduction. The Center joined an amicus brief filed by the ACLU, together with the Center for Genetics and Society and Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research, that argues every parent-child relationship is protected under the Constitution irrespective of factors like gender or sexual orientation or the use of assisted reproductive technology, and that by denying her status as a natural parent the state violated her fundamental right to procreate and form a family, and denied her equal treatment under the law.

The State of Ohio v. Brooke Skylar Richardson [2018]

Issue: Pregnancy prosecution and physician-patient privilege
Center position: Supported patient’s criminal defense against her prosecution for aggravated murder

In this case, a woman who experienced a still birth was criminally prosecuted by the state of Ohio for aggravated murder after her doctor reported details of her doctor-patient conversations to the police. The Center signed onto an amicus brief filed by National Advocates for Pregnant Women, to bring attention to the significant harms to public health that will result from the state’s decision to effectively create an exception for pregnant women from the protections of the physician-patient privilege.

Patel v. Indiana [2015]

Issue: Pregnancy prosecution
Center position: Supported defendant charged with feticide

This case involved a woman charged with feticide under Indiana law for allegedly seeking to terminate her pregnancy and failing to obtain medical assistance following an unexpected emergency delivery. The Center joined Amnesty International in signing an amicus brief, filed by CUNY’s International Women’s Human Rights Clinic, arguing that human rights standards do not support applying the crime of feticide to a woman for harm of her own fetus, and that criminalization risks women’s lives and health and has a disparate impact on women of color.

Walker v. Jesson [2013]

Issue:  Public insurance coverage for abortion
Center position: Under the Minnesota Constitution, the state’s public insurance program must cover all therapeutic abortions

Since 1995, the Minnesota Supreme Court has recognized that the state’s public health insurance must cover therapeutic abortions, including any circumstance in which continuing a pregnancy would pose risks to physical or mental health. In 2013, anti-abortion activists brought a lawsuit seeking to end all public funding. The Center, and Gender Justice, were co-counsel for amicus curiae Pro-Choice Resources–a reproductive justice organization serving low-income people seeking abortion care. The brief explained the scope of Minnesota and other state constitutional rights to financial support for abortion access as recognized by the various state supreme courts.