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Women’s Health Clinics Appeal Mixed Ruling On Virginia Abortion Restrictions

Abortion providers who sued to throw out a handful of abortion restrictions in Virginia are now asking a federal appeal’s court to overturn a ruling that upheld some of the laws.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson delivered a mixed ruling in September on abortion restrictions that some providers say impede abortion access in Virginia.

Hudson struck down a law that required all second trimester abortions to be performed at a licensed outpatient hospital and a requirement that clinics providing first trimester abortions meet the same building code standards as hospitals. The state’s two-trip mandatory delay law still stands, by his ruling, as well as a requirement that only a licensed physician can perform an abortion. This prohibits nurse practitioners and physician assistants from performing the procedure.

“The Court recognizes that the waiting period following the ultrasound adds a logistical complexity to an existing myriad of hardships faced by those with limited resources and support networks,” Hudson wrote. “However...the Court is not persuaded by a preponderance of the evidence that amounts to a substantial obstacle preventing women's access to abortion in Virginia.”

The lawsuit was filed in June 2018 in U.S. District Court in Richmond on behalf of Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, Whole Woman’s Health and other abortion providers.

“I think Judge Hudson didn’t grasp the burden that women in Virginia face,” said Amy Hagstron Miller, CEO of Whole Woman's Health. “And how difficult it is for people to obtain abortion services which are supposed to be protected by the constitution.”

Hudson’s ruling came after a two-week-long trial in May. Attorneys for the state argued that the laws have improved the health and safety of abortion clinics.

Hudson wrote “In addition to a woman's personal liberty interest, the state has profound interests in protecting potential life and protecting the health and safety of women. The state, therefore, may take measures to further these interests so long as it does not create a substantial obstacle that unduly burdens a woman's right to choose.”