Reproductive Health

AFJ Action Campaign is tracking the votes of every senator up for reelection in 2020 on Trump’s worst of the worst judges. Each senator who voted to confirm these judges owns the decisions—these decisions are harming people every day. See how your senator voted for some of the worst of the worst judges here.

In Planned Parenthood v Hodges, Sixth Circuit judges Joan Larsen, Amul Thapar, John Bush, and John Nalbandian cast deciding votes to allow Ohio to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.

In Memphis Center for Reproductive Health v Slatery, Sixth Circuit Judge Amul Thapar cast the deciding vote to allow a Tennessee law to go into effect that bans doctors from performing abortions based on a woman’s reason for obtaining one. As the dissent noted, in addition to unlawfully restricting abortion this law also subjects doctors to prosecution based on their knowledge of their patient’s motives—a subjective and legally unworkable standard that discourages physicians from “engaging in even brief discussions” about their patients’ medical care.

In Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin v. Azar, D.C. district court judge Trevor McFadden ruled against Planned Parenthood in a case challenging the Trump administration’s changes to the federal Title X funding that would limit the care that reproductive health clinics can provide to women. decision to teen pregnancy funding to abstinence programs. The new policy shifted funds to “the research informed benefits of delaying sex” and “cooperation with community-based and faith-based organizations.”

In EMW Women’s Surgical Center v. Friedlander, Sixth Circuit Judges Joan Larsen and Chad Readler upheld Kentucky abortion restrictions requiring clinics to maintain written agreements with nearby hospitals and ambulance services. This law effectively prevents abortion clinics from existing in rural areas without nearby hospitals. The Judges intentionally disregarded the plurality opinion of the Supreme Court in June Medical Services v. Russo, which struck down a similar law in Louisiana after finding that the burdens it imposed on abortion access outweighed the law’s benefits; instead, they argued that any “rational” abortion regulation is constitutional unless it imposes a “substantial obstacle” upon women’s rights. The Judges stated this approach was correct because it was “the one that would strike down the fewest laws regulating abortion.”

In June Medical Services v. Gee, Fifth Circuit judges Don Willett, Kurt Engelhardt, James Ho, and Andrew Oldham voted to allow an extreme Louisiana anti-abortion law to take effect, even though it was nearly identical to a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2015. The Supreme Court reversed the Fifth Circuit decision.

In California v. Azar, Ninth Circuit judges Eric Miller and Kenneth Lee cast key votes that keep in effect the Trump Administration’s domestic gag rule, which prohibits healthcare providers at federally-funded health clinics from discussing abortion with their patients.

In Adams & Boyle, P.C. v. Slatery, Sixth Circuit judge Amul Thapar would have allowed the Republican Governor of Tennessee to ban abortions as part of the states’ purported efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. The majority agreed with the health clinic bringing the lawsuit that denying abortion services for the duration of the state’s shutdown, which could last many months, violated the constitutional rights of people who needed the procedure.

In In re: Abbott, Fifth Circuit judge Kyle Duncan voted to allow a ban on abortions to take effect in Texas during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite a district court finding that it would cause “irreparable harm.” Under the prohibition, violations would result in 180 days of jail or a $1000 fine.

In In re: Rutledge, Eighth Circuit judge Ralph Erickson voted to reverse a district court ruling that blocked a ban on abortions in Arkansas during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the prohibition, Arkansas had sent a notice to the sole abortion clinic in the state that any violation would result in a fine or imprisonment. As the district court judge noted, the ban would “inflict serious physical, emotional, and psychological injuries” on the individuals seeking abortion in the state.

In United States v. Flute, Eighth Circuit judge David Stras cast the deciding vote that a woman could be charged with manslaughter for using drugs while she was pregnant, which contributed to the death of her newborn child.

In Doe v. Parson, Eighth Circuit judges David Stras and Steven Grasz ruled that a Missouri law requiring physicians to give patients a pro-life booklet and perform an ultrasound before an abortion does not violate the First Amendment.

In Hopkins v. Jegley, Eighth Circuit judge L. Steven Grasz lifted an injunction against four Arkansas laws restricting abortion and allowed them to take effect.

In Whole Woman’s Health v. Smith, Fifth Circuit judge James Ho wrote a concurring opinion that criticized abortion and accused a Republican judge of religious bias. He referred to abortion as a “moral tragedy,” stated that the case demonstrated “how far we’ve strayed” from the “original understanding” of the Constitution, and complained that the lower court judge had ordered the release of the documents to “retaliate against people of faith.”

Although not in the majority, in Planned Parenthood v. Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, Seventh Circuit judge Amy Coney Barrett voted to rehear a case that enjoined an Indiana abortion law that was found unconstitutional by a panel on the Seventh Circuit.

In EMW Women’s Surgical Center v. Friedlander, Sixth Circuit judge John Bush would have upheld a Kentucky law that banned the D&E abortion procedure, which is used in 95% of second-trimester abortions. D&E is a safe, medically-proven procedure and the ban was merely another attempt to erode access to abortion in a state with a long history of hostility towards reproductive health services.

In Pre-Term Cleveland v. Attorney General, Sixth Circuit judge John Bush voted to uphold a block on an Ohio pandemic-related abortion ban, however, he argued that it may well be constitutional. In his partial dissent, Bush wrote that he was “not convinced… that the Director’s Order places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion.” The district court later ruled the blanket ban was in fact unconstitutional.

In Mayor and City of Baltimore v. Azar, Fourth Circuit Judges Julius Richardson. Marvin Quattlebaum, and Allison Rushing, dissenting, would have upheld the Trump Administration gag rule, which prohibits doctors and others at federally funded health clinics from discussing abortion with their patients or referring them for an abortion if they wish.


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