Fight to Stop Restrictions on Women’s Reproductive Rights

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James, along with a coalition of 19 additional attorneys general from around the nation, filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit that seeks to protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion care without the burdensome restrictions imposed by Arkansas laws. The brief — filed in support of the plaintiffs in Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Leslie Rutledge, now before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals — supports the last surgical abortion clinic in Arkansas as it challenges four state laws that would restrict the ability for women in Arkansas to access abortions by banning abortions after 18 weeks and otherwise restricting women’s access to reproductive care.

“Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for 47 years and despite attempts by politicians across the country to undermine this national precedent and assert control over women’s bodies, we will not go backwards,” said Attorney General James. “We will continue to be relentless in our defense of a woman’s right to choose, relentless in safeguarding women’s freedoms, and relentless in protecting the ability for women to control their own bodies. Our coalition won’t allow Arkansas, nor any other state, to make it harder for women to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion. And we will continue to use every legal tool available to prioritize the health, safety, wellness, and rights of women.”

In March of last year, the governor of Arkansas signed into law several bills intended to restrict a woman’s access to abortion services throughout the state. The laws would criminalize abortions performed after 18 weeks and impose additional undue burdens on a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. The Little Rock Family Planning Services clinic argues that these laws would make abortion care unavailable and health care services less safe for women.

In July, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas granted a preliminary injunction and temporarily blocked the laws restricting abortion care from taking effect. The State of Arkansas appealed the decision to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals shortly thereafter.

In the brief filed today, Attorney General James and the coalition of attorneys general argue that the Arkansas laws violate a woman’s constitutional right to choose under Roe v. Wade. The coalition further argues that limiting or eliminating women’s access to safe and legal abortion leads to worse health and socioeconomic outcomes for women. The brief describes the different ways that states can promote women’s health without impeding women’s rights upheld by the U.S. Constitution.

Today’s brief is just the latest action in a long list of measures Attorney General James has taken to protect women’s reproductive freedom. Last month, Attorney General James filed an amicus brief defending the right to maintain full and equal access to birth control guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act for tens of thousands of women nationwide.

Also, in December, Attorney General James led a multistate amicus brief in support of a challenge by petitioners in the case June Medical Services v. Gee — now pending in the U.S. Supreme Court — challenging a Louisiana law that requires abortion providers to maintain admitting privileges at a local hospital.

In October 2019, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Jackson Women’s Health Organization against the State of Mississippi, challenging a law that would prohibit abortions after as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

In September 2019, Attorney General James led a multistate amicus brief in support of a challenge filed by Kentucky clinics and physicians challenging a Kentucky law that would ban physicians from providing second-trimester abortion services using the most common and safest procedure available for women after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

In August 2019, Attorney General James filed a multistate amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance against the State of Indiana after the state denied the clinics application for a license to open an abortion clinic that would provide medical abortions in South Bend.

In March 2019, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 21 states in a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s regulations that threaten essential services provided under federal Title X funding. The rule — also known as the “gag rule” — places an unlawful and unethical restriction on health care providers’ ability to fully inform patients of the reproductive health services available to them by disallowing referrals for abortions and restricting counseling related to abortions. Another provision would require those who perform abortions to physically segregate their services — an expensive and potentially impossible requirement.

Finally, Attorney General James is litigating the appeal in People ex rel. James v. Griepp, to ensure that women who enter the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens are not harassed, obstructed, or threatened by protestors.

Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

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