Reproductive Rights Groups File Lawsuit to Eliminate 40-Year-Old Restrictions on Access to Safe, Legal Abortion

Restrictions Force Women to Travel Out of State for Safe, Legal Abortion

Affiliate: ACLU of Alaska
November 30, 2016 3:30 pm

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Anchorage, Alaska – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), and Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands (PPGNHI) filed a lawsuit against the state of Alaska, challenging the constitutionality of outdated Alaskan laws that prevent physicians from performing abortion in an outpatient facility. Planned Parenthood currently provides first trimester surgical and medication abortions at out-patient health centers in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Soldotna. The challenged restrictions were adopted 40 years ago and prevent Planned Parenthood from providing abortions after the first trimester, requiring Alaska women to travel outside the state for a safe, legal procedure.

“People in Alaska deserve the right to have access to the safest, highest quality health care, no matter what—these archaic laws only harm women by creating unnecessary hurdles to safe and legal abortion,” said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of PPGNHI. “These antiquated laws have a disproportionate impact on patients those who already face far too many barriers, including people of color, women in rural areas, or people with low incomes. This cannot be what it means to be a woman in modern America.”

While many abortions in Alaska occur during the first trimester, in some cases, financial hurdles, lack of a nearby provider, and clinic closures can make it impossible for a woman to get an abortion as soon as she would like.

These outdated restrictions on second-trimester abortions across an entire state only put women’s health in jeopardy.

“To force a woman to leave Alaska to access healthcare is a blatant example of government overreach that turns personal, private decisions into political ones,” said Joshua A. Decker, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska. “Alaskan women seeking abortion after the first trimester face the terrifying reality that access to high quality healthcare is limited by where she lives and how much money she makes.”

The majority of Americans support access to health care at Planned Parenthood and want abortion to stay legal and safe.

This lawsuit is part of a coordinated effort of three cases filed by the ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood today in Alaska, Missouri, and North Carolina to challenge restrictions on abortion that are designed to block women who have decided to have an abortion from actually getting one and that fail to meet the legal standards reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

The North Carolina suit challenges its ban on abortion after 20 weeks and the Missouri suit challenges its law that requires clinics who provide abortions to be outfitted as mini hospitals.

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The American Civil Liberties Union is our nation’s guardian of liberty. For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has been at the forefront of virtually every major battle for civil liberties and equal justice in this country. Principled and nonpartisan, the ACLU works in the courts, legislatures, and communities to preserve and expand the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States. The ACLU of Alaska, founded in 1971, is one of the 53 state ACLU affiliates that strive to make the Bill of Rights real for everyone and to uphold the promise of the Constitution—because freedom can’t protect itself.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands is the region’s leading sexual and reproductive health care provider and advocate. We believe everyone has the right to choose when or whether to have a child, and that every child should be wanted and loved. The organization operates 28 health centers in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, and Western Washington and provides medical services and sexuality education for thousands of women, men, and teenagers each year. Planned Parenthood is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and relies heavily on charitable donations to ensure our patients’ ability to determine their own destinies and receive the health care they need.

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