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Planned Parenthood is in the midst of a whirlwind week in court


Planned Parenthood is in the midst of a whirlwind week in court. On Friday, the group received news that a federal judge in Indiana would block a controversial state law that cuts off its funding. The following Monday, the group announced it would file suit against a similar restriction in Kansas.
That same day, in South Dakota, Planned Parenthood was also in court, arguing that a 72-hour waiting period was unconstitutional.

Planned Parenthood’s caseload stands to grow soon, too. The group said it is seriously considering filing a lawsuit soon in North Carolina challenging a provision in the state’s budget that defunds the group.

“What’s different this year … is the fact that we are either named or contemplated in so many pieces of legislation,” said Roger Evans, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of public policy litigation. “We will probably be litigating in about six states by the time we’re done, and that is completely unprecedented from ever before.”

Stories with headlines like “Roe v. Wade: Is It Still Law Of The Land?” and “Roe v. Wade On Hold” called into question whether abortion-rights defenders had shirked their responsibilities.

“If nobody will sue over those laws … then quietly, and with no real national debate, Roe v. Wade has already been effectively overturned,” MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow said on a recent show.

In reality, though, Planned Parenthood has launched an increasingly aggressive campaign to push back against both abortion restrictions and the federal funding of abortion providers for other services, like birth control and preventive care.

“We try to bring litigation whenever something is enacted that targets us or impedes access to the services that we provide,” Evans said. “If a state enacts a ban on abortion at 22 weeks and we don’t provide abortion any later than that, whatever we think of the legislation, we’re not in a place to litigate.”

Caitlin Borgmann, a professor at City College in New York who runs the Reproductive Rights Prof Blog, describes the abortion-rights movement’s challenges as “strategic.”

The cases they have brought are thought safer and less likely to bump up against abortion precedents, an area currently viewed with apprehension by the abortion-rights community, uncertain of whether a Supreme Court challenge could engender further restrictions.

“There may be more optimism there because they aren’t strictly within the framework on abortion challenges,” she said. “There are all sorts of different challenges that aren’t dependent on a particular interpretation of a constitutional standard of abortion.”

Moreover, the laws that Planned Parenthood has decided to challenge tend to affect a greater number of people, widening the scope of a potential victory.

In Kansas, where Planned Parenthood filed suit Monday, the group estimates they serve just more than 5,000 patients using federal Title X funds. If barred from the program, the group’s Title X clinics would lose about a third to half of their budgets and likely charge higher co-pays to program participants.

Kansas is also one of the states that passed a late-term abortion ban this year. But since 2009, when Wichita-based abortion provider George Tiller was murdered, the state has not had any late-term abortion providers. No clinic in the state will perform abortions beyond 16 weeks

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