Monday, April 1, 2013

Lawyers prepare for battle over N.D., Ark. abortion laws

Rival legal teams, well-financed and highly motivated, are girding for court battles over the coming months on laws enacted in Arkansas and North Dakota that would impose the nation’s toughest bans on abortion.

For all their differences, attorneys for the two states and the abortion-rights supporters opposing them agree on this: The laws represent an unprecedented frontal assault on the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a nationwide right to abortion.

The Arkansas law, approved March 6 when legislators overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, would ban most abortions from the 12th week of pregnancy onward. On March 26, North Dakota went further, with Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signing a measure that would ban abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat can first be detected and before some women even know they're pregnant.

Abortion-rights advocates plan to challenge both measures, contending they are unconstitutional violations of the Roe ruling that legalized abortion until a fetus could viably survive outside the womb. A fetus is generally considered viable at 22 to 24 weeks.

"I think they're going to be blocked immediately by the courts -- they are so far outside the clear bounds of what the Supreme Court has said for 40 years," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Abortion laws
The center will be leading the North Dakota legal challenge and working in Arkansas alongside the American Civil Liberties Union's state and national offices. Both Northup and ACLU lawyers say they have ample resources to wage the battles, and they expect victories that would require their attorneys' fees to be paid by two states.

Dalrymple, in signing the ban, acknowledged that its chances of surviving a court challenge were questionable, but said it was worth the eventual price tag -- at this point unknown -- in order to test the boundaries of Roe.

North Dakota's attorney general, Wayne Stenehjem, initially said lawyers from his office would defend any lawsuits but is now considering hiring outside help.

The two-year budget for his office, which has some 30 attorneys, is about $60 million. Stenehjem said the cost of litigation is unknown but his office expects to have an estimated dollar amount that could be presented to lawmakers this week.

"We're looking at a sufficient amount to adequately defend these enactments," Stenehjem said.

He expects lawsuits to be filed in federal court "but that's not up to us," he said.

Under federal law, he said, "Whoever loses generally has to pay attorneys' fees for the other side."

North Dakota lawmakers have shunned critics' repeated attempts to set aside money for the inevitable lawsuits.

Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, thrice tried to amend bills to set aside $1 million for the sure-to-come litigation but each of her amendments failed.

Most Democrats and a handful of Republicans have been vocal in saying it's irresponsible for lawmakers to pass such controversial measures without setting aside money to fight court battles.

"North Dakota taxpayers at least deserve to know the cost of litigating these bans," said Democratic Sen. Mac Schneider, the Senate's minority leader and a Grand Forks attorney.

The North Dakota Legislature's move to enact the most stringent abortion laws in the nation likely could backfire, with the state on the hook for both sides' litigation costs, Schneider said.

"The possibility of paying attorney fees for the other side of this should concern everyone in North Dakota," Schneider said.

A lead sponsor of the Arkansas ban, Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert, said threats of lawsuits "should not prevent someone from doing what is right."

He contended that the ban had a chance of reaching the U.S. Supreme Court through the appeals process and suggested that the victory predictions made by abortion-rights lawyers amounted to "posturing" aimed at deterring other states from enacting similar bans.

In both Arkansas and North Dakota, the states' lawyers will be getting pro bono assistance from lawyers with Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group.

Mathew Staver, the group's chairman, said supporters of the bans were resolved to fight the legal battles to the end, and issued a caution to the rival side.

"They ought to hold off on their celebrations," he said. "The cases have a long way to go through the court system."

The North Dakota ban is scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, along with two other measures that have angered abortion-rights backers. One would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, the other would make North Dakota the first state to ban abortions based on genetic defects such as Down syndrome.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is reviewing its options regarding the latter two bills, but definitely plans to challenge the 6-week ban before Aug. 1. Northup said her team is pondering whether to file suit in state court or U.S. district court.

In Arkansas, where the 12-week ban would take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, abortion-rights lawyers plan to file their challenge in federal court within the next few weeks.

Bettina Brownstein, who will be representing the ACLU of Arkansas in the case, said the U.S. district court with jurisdiction over Little Rock had issued rulings in past abortion-related cases that gave her confidence of victory this time.

"Eventually it could go to U.S. Supreme Court on appeal, but that would take a while, and they may not want to hear it," she said. "It's a question of how much money the state wants to spend."

Northup chided officials in both Arkansas and North Dakota for their willingness to spend taxpayers' money on difficult and divisive legal cases.

"It's important that the citizens of those states realize that every dollar spent to defend blatantly unconstitutional laws is taxpayers' dollars wasted," she said.

Attorneys' fees for the upcoming cases are impossible to estimate at this stage, but Northup said her organization received $1.3 million in fees from Alaska after that state lost a recent case regarding an abortion-related law.

The last few years have been intensely busy for the Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU and other abortion-rights legal groups as Republican-controlled legislatures have enacted scores of laws seeking to restrict access to abortion. At least two dozen such measures are currently the target of lawsuits, said Northup, who vowed that her organization "will not let unconstitutional laws go unchallenged."

Some of the recent laws place new requirements on abortion clinics, others require abortion providers to perform certain procedures or offer state-mandated counseling before an abortion can take place.

At least 10 states have passed bills banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that stage. One of those laws, in Idaho, was struck down by a U.S. district judge on March 6, while the laws in Georgia and Arizona have been temporarily blocked by judges pending further court proceedings.

Abortion-rights advocates, while eager to defeat the new bans in North Dakota and Arkansas, worry about the impact of the broader surge of restrictions.

"I don't believe these bans are going to take effect, but the danger is that they make the other laws look reasonable," said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project. "The ultimate goal is to take this decision away from a woman and her doctor and give it to the politicians."

One of the most frequent targets of the anti-abortion laws is the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which -- in addition to providing a range of other health services -- is the nation's leading provider of abortions.

Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, said she found it frustrating that women "continue to be a political punching bag." But she saw an upside to the wave of anti-abortion legislation: more members and more donations for her organization.

"These attacks have served to energize our supporters," she said. "We've gained 2 million members in the past two years."

There's new energy on the other side as well.

The tough North Dakota laws have been welcomed by the protesters who gather weekly in Fargo outside the state's lone abortion clinic.

Among those on hand for the latest protest at the Red River Women's Clinic was Scott Carew, 50, who had brought two anti-abortion posters nailed to pieces of wood.

"Certainly, we're proud of the governor standing up for life," Carew said. "We're going to keep standing up for life until we can't stand up anymore."

By Associated Press

Source: The Bismarck Tribune


  1. Hеy juѕt ωanted to give you a quicκ hеads up.
    The wοrds in уour article ѕeem to be running off the screen in Firefοx.

    I'm not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I'd
    post to let уοu knοω.
    Thе design and ѕtуle look great
    though! Hopе yοu gеt the іssuе resolved
    soon. Kudos

    Hеre is my site Search engine optimization Dallas

  2. Wіth hаνin ѕо much сοntеnt anԁ аrtiсleѕ
    do you еver run іnto any pгoblems of
    plagorism oг сopyгight infrіngement?
    My site hаs a lot of unique content I've either authored myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you know any methods to help stop content from being ripped off? I'd reаllу аppreсіate it.

    Also νisіt my blog ρoѕt:
    dallas seo consultant

  3. With havin sо much cοntent аnd articlеs do yοu
    evег гun into any problems оf ρlаgorіsm
    oг copyright infrіngement? Mу site has a
    lot of uniquе content I've either authored myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you know any methods to help stop content from being ripped off? I'd really appreciаte it.

    Visit mу site :: dallas seo consultant

  4. The holiday happens to coincide with the end-of-the-season for many of the
    Island's young summer employees and brings on a last chance for partying hearty on Mackinac Island. People will say just about anything to get you out to their property to see a horse, in the hopes of selling you something else they might have. Trainers Barbara Jacobs and Leslie Farne are two of the most knowledgeable horsewomen in the business, and the horses receive better care than many people I know.

    Feel free to visit my page ... home depot sheds for sale

  5. Pretty sеction of content. I just stumbled upon your sіte and in accession capital
    to assert that Ι acquіre aсtuallу enjoyеd аccount
    your blog posts. Anу way I'll be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly.

    Also visit my homepage; cube crytal laser

  6. Heуа i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I in finԁing It truly useful & it helped me out much.
    I am hoping tο give something back and aid others like you aided me.

    Alѕo viѕit my blog - memorial crystal gift

  7. I am a frequent viewer of Juicystar07's (A beauty guru on YouTube) videos and today, she posted a video that included a haul from Beauty From The Earth Cosmetics. She mentioned that she gets free products. How does she get them? Is it because she makes reviews (she says that it is optional for her to review them, they send them to her anyways)? What can I do to get free products?. . Thanks!.

    My page - Luxury

  8. Just want to say your article is as amazing. The clarity on your publish is
    simply great and i can suppose you are a professional on
    this subject. Fine with your permission allow
    me to grab your feed to stay updated with forthcoming post.

    Thank you a million and please carry on the gratifying work.

    Also visit my blog; mn attorney

  9. Hi to all, how is all, I think evеry onе is getting morе from thіs wеb page, and your views are nice in ѕuρpoгt of
    neω visitoгs.

    My site - Email Console

  10. Hi there, i read youг blog осcasionally
    and i οwn a similar оne аnd i was just wondeгіng if уou get a lot of
    spam commentѕ? If so how do уοu stop it,
    any plugin or anything уou can advise? І get so much
    lаtelу it's driving me mad so any support is very much appreciated.

    Have a look at my web-site: Personal Loans


I thank for the comment!