A federal judge in Richmond, Virginia has ruled against state medical regulations requiring first-trimester abortions be performed only by physicians.
“After a careful review of the experts' opinions from both sides, a consensus appears to have evolved that first trimester abortions, which typically require only medication, do not require the onsite presence of a licensed physician and is consequently unduly burdensome,” wrote U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson on May 6.
Nearly a dozen lawsuits filed in states across the U.S. are seeking to allow medical professionals other than doctors - such as nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants - to perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood affiliates and abortion rights lobbying groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have filed 11 lawsuits across the United States since 2016, beginning after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down health and safety regulations on abortion providers in Texas.
The judge has yet to set a date for when the Virginia ruling will take effect. Pro-life advocates decried the decision, saying the ruling demostrated a disregard for the safety of women who choose to have abortions.
“Laws requiring that ‘physicians only’ perform abortions exist in 40 states. The court decision today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia is directly contrary to controlling U.S. Supreme Court precedent,” said Olivia Gans Turner, president of Virginia’s National Right to Life state affiliate.
“In their unceasing quest to promote no-limits destruction of unborn children regardless of stage of development or ability to feel pain, abortion advocates are more extreme even than the Roe v. Wade decision they claim to defend.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion rights group, is challenging similar laws in Mississippi, Arizona, Kansas, Montana and Louisiana, the Washington Post reports.
A trial is set for May 20 on Virginia state requirements that all second-trimester abortions be performed in a hospital; that patients wait 24 hours after getting an ultrasound to undergo an abortion; as well as licensing standards for clinics, the Post reports.
The Maine chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood in Sept. 2017 filed a lawsuit in federal court, taking issue with a state law that only permits doctors to perform abortions. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has also introduced legislation that would allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse-midwives to perform abortions.
Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel at Americans United for Life, told CNA in 2017 that requiring only doctors to perform abortions “establishes a high standard of safety for patient care.” Allowing non-doctors to perform abortions would “further isolate abortions from other gynecological care,” he told CNA.
According to Forsythe, the number of doctors who perform abortions has continued to shrink.
“Doctors don’t want to get into the business,” he said. “The abortion industry and population controllers have been desperately looking to increase the number of abortionists.”
Suzanne Lafreniere, director of public policy for Diocese of Portland in Maine, described the lawsuit as “a desperate attempt to increase abortions in the state of Maine.”
She said that the number of surgical abortions has been declining in Maine, and that the abortion lobby is doing “everything it can to increase its business, to be perfectly honest.”
Yesterday, the Maine House of Representatives passed a bill that would require Maine’s Medicaid program and private insurance companies to pay for elective abortions. The bill now moves to the state Senate. Fifteen other states already spend public money on abortion— Maine’s Medicaid already covers abortions in cases of rape or risk to the mother’s life.
Last month, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a ruling allowing a nurse practitioner and a nurse midwife to continue to perform abortions in the early stages of pregnancy, until the court makes a final decision on whether a state law excluding nurses from performing abortions is constitutional.