Supporters of Abortion Rights to Challenge Restrictions in Virginia

May 17, 2019

Abortion rights advocates will be in federal court next week, hoping to get rid of several restrictions imposed by Virginia’s legislature.  As Sandy Hausman reports, they’ll argue the limits don’t meet standards imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Amy Hagstrom-Miller founded a company called Whole Woman’s Health, providing abortion and other medical services to women in six states including Virginia.  Here, a law says only doctors may perform abortion, but Whole Woman's Health and two other plaintiffs argue physicians’ assistants, nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners are also qualified to terminate pregnancies.

“Many advanced practice clinicians provide D and Cs – like miscarriage management – in doctors’ offices, in OB GYN practices, and the procedure is the same as that,” Hagstrom-Miller explains.

They were ready to make their case when a federal district court judge in Richmond ruled in their favor – then changed his mind, saying he wanted to hear more.  The news puzzled plaintiffs.

“ We were surprised.  It’s unusual,” says Hagstrom-Miller.

But the case will go forward Monday – addressing that issue, a 24-hour waiting period, the requirement that women undergo an invasive ultrasound before having an abortion and after 13 weeks must have the procedure  in a hospital.  Critics site a 2016 ruling by the Supreme Court that such restrictions must improve health and safety.

“Any restriction on women’s access to abortion needs to be supported by scientific evidence and medical facts, and these restrictions don’t hold up to that standard,” Hagstrom-Miller argues.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.