An abortion rights protester stands with a group of anti-abortion protesters behind her.

Center for Reproductive Justice Is Taking Three States To Court Over Vague and Dangerous Abortion Bans

As abortion rights dwindle, the CRJ takes action.

Four women in Idaho, three women in Tennessee, and one woman in Oklahoma have filed suits against their respective states for complications and confusion arising from total abortion bans. These suits come on the heels of a similar case filed in Texas several months ago, where five women experienced traumatic pregnancy complications upon being denied abortion access.

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Abortion providers have joined the women filing lawsuits in Tennessee and Idaho, while Jaci Statton is the sole plaintiff in her case against the state of Oklahoma. The Tennessee and Idaho suits allege that the states’ abortion bans use language that is confusing and vague, which makes doctors too hesitant to provide abortions (at the risk of being fined or losing their medical licenses). As a result, the women in those cases could not find providers to help them before their pregnancies became life-threatening.

The Oklahoma case focuses on the fact that Statton was denied abortion access even though her pregnancy posed a significant threat to her life, which is an exception under the state’s ban.

Idaho’s ban has a 6-week limit, meaning that pregnancies may only be terminated before the 6-week mark. The parameters of the ban are so tight (yet vague) that Idaho physicians involved in the upcoming case were unsure if they could refer patients to out-of-state providers without being penalized.

The Tennessee ban has a narrow exception, which states that doctors may provide abortions based on their “reasonable medical judgment,” but there are no articulated guidelines for when that judgment might be sufficient to not break the law. The lack of transparency in the law has caused doctors in the state to refuse abortions to patients out of fear that their “reasonable judgment” is found to be insufficient.

So far, 14 states have issued abortion bans in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned in 2022. Bans vary in strictness, but the fact remains that banning abortion has caused irreparable harm. As the 2023 legislative session proceeds, states are gearing up to either protect abortion access or restrict it further. With no federal action on the horizon, the damage caused by abortion bans is only increasing.

(featured image: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)


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