Louisiana appeals court upholds state regulations on abortion

Louisiana appeals court upholds state regulations on abortion

Louisiana’s 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that abortion physicians must continue to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, reports The Hill.

Pro-abortion litigators had argued that the admitting privileges law imposed an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, because the regulation would force abortion clinics in Louisiana to shut their doors. However, the 5th Circuit Court found “no evidence that any of the clinics will close as a result of the Act.”

Judges on the court concluded that only 30% of Louisiana women at most could expect to wait longer for abortions as a result of the regulation.

The 5th Circuit Court distinguished Louisiana’s admitting privileges law from an analogous Texas regulation which the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. The Supreme Court had used an “undue burden” test to determine that Texas’ law was constitutional.

In contrast, when the 5th Circuit Court applied the same test to Louisiana’s regulation, it found that the regulation “does not impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women.”

Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals did not immediately respond to a request for comment from news agencies.

 

Federal court upholds Missouri abortion restrictions

Federal court upholds Missouri abortion restrictions

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has allowed Missouri to enforce laws which restrict abortion, reports The Hill.

The court overturned a previous ruling which blocked the regulations. As a result, abortion doctors in Missouri must now maintain affiliations with local hospitals, and clinics must obtain ambulatory surgical center licenses.

In 2016, Planned Parenthood disputed the regulations in court, arguing that the restrictions served no purpose and unduly burdened women seeking abortions.

“Look no farther than Missouri to see what kind of harm courts can inflict on women’s rights and freedoms,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president. “[J]udges on the 8th Circuit continue to re-write the books on abortion access. Today’s ruling threatens to eliminate abortion access at all but one health center in the state.”

Pro-life lobbyist Samuel Lee expressed a different view. Missouri’s abortion law does not jeopardize women’s access to healthcare, but in fact “protects the health and safety of women who are seeking abortions in Missouri without imposing an undue burden on them,” Lee explained.

Indeed, U.S. Circuit Judge Bobby Shepherd found that a lower court improperly struck down Missouri’s regulations. That court did not consider the potential benefits of the state’s hospital affiliation requirement, Shepherd wrote in the majority opinion for the 8th Circuit.

Shepherd condemned the lower-court judge for relying on “slight implication and vague conjecture.” The lower court should instead have based its decision on “adequate information and correct application of the relevant standard.”

Shepherd’s ruling provides precedent for further restrictions on abortion. As the 8th Circuit Court’s decision demonstrates, abortion rights litigators may fail to mount a sound legal counterattack to abortion limits.

 

State Officials Halt Abortions at Kansas City Planned Parenthood Clinic

State Officials Halt Abortions at Kansas City Planned Parenthood Clinic

Missouri officials have forced a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Kansas City to stop performing abortions, reports local NPR affiliate KCUR. The clinic attempted to renew its operating license before August 10, but state health officials could not conduct a complete inspection of the facility.

Emily Wales, Planned Parenthood’s general counsel, believes political motivations prompted the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to shutter the clinic. “It’s hard for me to imagine how this isn’t for purposes of delay,” Wales stated.

A partial state inspection of the abortion clinic revealed that the facility failed to meet state guidelines regarding patient care. Planned Parenthood Great Plains spokeswoman Emily Miller protests that the clinic should be able to “go above and beyond” such guidelines. “That’s the best way to serve our patients,” Miller explained.

Missouri health officials, however, retain considerable control over abortion providers in the state. For example, medication abortion providers must contract with back-up ob-gyn doctors who enjoy admitting privileges at a hospital close to the abortion clinic. Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit to block that regulation, but a federal judge dismissed the suit. Planned Parenthood had failed to show that Missouri women faced “a substantial burden” because of the regulation, the judged ruled.

Planned Parenthood’s midtown facility hopes to resume abortion procedures soon, and has hired a new abortion physician. However, the new provider lacks admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, so thanks to Missouri law, the clinic may not be able to perform abortions even if it secures a new license.

9/12/18 Update: Missouri officials now plan to renew the clinic’s license, but will require the facility to comply with additional regulations. 

Late-term abortion at stake in North Dakota Senate race

Late-term abortion at stake in North Dakota Senate race

Republican candidate Kevin Cramer and his Democratic opponent, Heidi Heitkamp, continue to clash over abortion in North Dakota’s U.S. Senate race.

Heitkamp’s support for late-term abortion presents an easy target for Cramer, in a state where 56% of voters favor a late-term abortion ban.

Cramer recently launched a TV ad on the subject, reports The Atlantic. In a 30-second spot titled “Respecting Life,” Cramer’s pregnant daughter criticizes Heitkamp for her opposition to a late-term abortion ban in the Senate earlier this year. The ad features footage of Heitkamp celebrating with Democrat Chuck Schumer on the Senate floor after the bill failed.

“She looked like she was celebrating. Late-term abortion, can you imagine?” Cramer’s daughter asks as she places her hands on her pregnant belly.

Late-term abortion has remained at the center of North Dakota’s Senate race as Republicans have continued to highlight Heitkamp’s vacillating views on the issue. In 2012, during her first Senate contest, the Democrat stated that she opposed late-term abortion “except when necessary to save the life of the mother.” By 2015, however, she had voted to block a second-trimester abortion ban.

When John McCormack, a Weekly Standard reporter, asked Heitkamp about her evolving views, she refused to discuss the topic.

Heitkamp’s weaknesses offer hope for North Dakota Republicans, who helped Donald Trump to a 63% victory in the state in 2016. A victory for Cramer could increase Republicans’ Senate majority in November. Current polls put the contest within the margin of error: Inside Elections, a nonpartisan campaign analytics organization, has reclassified the race from “tossup” to “tilts Republican.”

President Trump plans to visit North Dakota later this week to fund-raise for Cramer. The White House had encouraged Cramer to abandon his House seat to run against Heitkamp–a political gamble which appears increasingly likely to pay off.

Non-profit camp welcomes youth affected by autism

Non-profit camp welcomes youth affected by autism

Like many other summer camps, Oregon’s Camp Odakoda features a swimming hole, a fire pit, and canoes. The camp’s culture, however, is unique.

“Here, no one judges you, not even a tiny bit,” explains Zander Cloud, a 16-year-old camper. “There can be people who you have the same common interests with, and it just makes you feel connected in some way, and more involved than you would sometimes do in school.”

Zander is one of 85 young adults affected by autism spectrum disorder who gathered at Camp Odakoda for a week of fun and fellowship. The camp is the only facility in the Pacific Northwest which caters specifically to youth on the autism spectrum.

Misti and Ian Moxley founded the camp in 2010 to provide more opportunities for their autistic son. “That’s what we were looking for is–where can we take our son where he can find friends that really get him, and he can understand that maybe he’s different, but he’s not less important, that he’s not less of a person, that he just has to find his people,” Misti told KATU news.

Camp Odakoda staff members work to connect campers who have similar interests. Two kids who both enjoy fishing, for example, may share a room.

The camp strives to create a stress-free environment for all youth by maintaining a high counselor-to-camper ratio, and by eliminating surprises from the daily schedule. Camp staff also enforce a no-tolerance policy with regard to teasing.

“They do not tolerate bullies at all here, so you can be whoever you want to be,” explains 14-year-old Alex Witzens. “It’s really important, ’cause I’ve been bullied a lot and it’s nice to go somewhere, for one week you won’t be bullied and you can just let loose, have fun and be yourself.”

Staff member Jonathan Chase understands the challenges faced by young adults such as Alex. Jonathan himself was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 14. “We didn’t have camps like this when I was growing up,” he told KATU. “When I became an adult, I looked back and I thought how different it would’ve been if there was somebody there who understood me, who is standing up for people who are different.”

Now, Jonathan helps teens enjoy the relationships he lacked as a child. Youth at Camp Odakoda look up to Jonathan, who has successfully navigated the transition to adulthood, and lives independently. Zander and Alex plan to follow in his footsteps by becoming camp counselors after graduation: “you get to help people and you can be really friendly,” Zander explains.

Jonathan sums up his message to youth affected by autism. “I’m here as a reminder for the kids and for the adults that where we start isn’t where we finish,” he says. “Autism isn’t a ceiling, it’s just a hurdle.”