For anti-abortion activists, route to Roe challenge runs through Arkansas and Eighth Circuit | Arkansas Blog

Friday, September 8, 2017

For anti-abortion activists, route to Roe challenge runs through Arkansas and Eighth Circuit

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 2:58 PM

click to enlarge FIGHTING: Supporters of Planned Parenthood in Little Rock. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • FIGHTING: Supporters of Planned Parenthood in Little Rock.

VICE reports on the proliferation of anti-abortion legislation in Arkansas and how it could have broader significance in the legal trench war over reproductive rights.

Conservative legislators everywhere are eager to restrict abortion access, of course. What makes Arkansas especially dangerous to pro-choice advocates is that falls within the jurisdiction of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in the state's favor in July regarding a law requiring abortion providers to have a contract with a physician who has hospital admitting privileges.

Then, in August, the court overturned a lower court decision forbidding Arkansas from ending Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state. Other Arkansas laws that would severely curtail abortion access will likely land before the 8th Circuit in the coming months.

In each case, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ruled against the state, but the Eighth Circuit reversed Baker's rulings in the first two cases. It may do so in the third as well.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year in Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt to overturn a Texas law restricting abortion access was a victory for pro-choice advocates and indicated the Supreme Court is unlikely to revisit Roe v. Wade itself anytime soon. But the ultimate goal of anti-abortion activists remains a challenge to Roe, and the 8th Circuit may be the best route to do that. VICE writes:
Gillian Metzger, the Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law and vice dean at Columbia Law School, thinks the Eighth Circuit "has really pushed the envelope" on constitutional retraction of reproductive rights in America. But whether these specific cases make it to the Supreme Court, she said, comes down—as always—to how willing justices are to engage with the abortion issue again. "The bigger question is does the Court have an appetite for this after 2016? And my guess is it might wait a little bit to see how the Whole Women's Health decision plays out," she said.

In the meantime, President Trump will have the opportunity to fill three vacancies on the Eighth Circuit. If all are confirmed, according to longtime legal writer Rox Laird, only one of the Eighth Circuit's 11 judges will have been appointed by a Democratic president, making it "the most ideologically lopsided of all the U.S. Court of Appeals."

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