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Women denied abortion care sue states over abortion bans

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a similar lawsuit earlier this year in Texas on behalf of 13 women.
Women denied abortion care sue states over abortion bans
Posted at 4:59 PM, Sep 14, 2023

The Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group, filed legal complaints in three Republican-led states on behalf of eight women who were denied what they said was medically necessary abortion care.

The lawsuits were filed in Tennessee, Idaho and Oklahoma. Doctors, also listed as plaintiffs, argue their states' laws put them at risk of legal liability.

The lawsuits come after the group filed a similar lawsuit earlier this year in Texas on behalf of 13 women.

In that lawsuit, a Texas judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, but the state appealed the ruling, putting the case on hold. Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights said since they filed the lawsuit, they've gotten numerous calls from women with similar stories.

"It is clear that in filing that lawsuit in Texas, it hit the tip of a very large iceberg," Northup said.

Nichole Blackmon, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Tennessee, said Tennessee's law forced her to give birth to a stillborn child in 2022.

"That law forced me to carry a baby for months that was never going to live and easily could have killed me," Blackmon said. "I should have been able to get an abortion in Tennessee and protect my own health."

During a press conference, Blackmon said she was told at 15 weeks pregnant that her baby possibly wouldn't survive. Then at 24 weeks, she was told her baby's organs weren't forming as normal. She had to choose between waiting it out or leaving the state to get an abortion.

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"We did the math and figured even with financial help, the trip would cost thousands of dollars," Blackmon said. "Forced to continue a doomed pregnancy I was left with."

News of her pregnancy came a few short months after her 14-year-old son was killed in a drive-by shooting when they lived in Alabama.

"What we went through was torture that no one else should ever have to face," Blackmon said.

Tennessee's abortion ban is one of the strictest in the nation. Earlier this year, prompted by protests, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed an exception into law that gives doctors the ability to use their "reasonable medical" judgment on whether to provide an abortion to save a pregnant patient's life.

However, health care officials said the exception added was not enough. Doctors in other states with similar exceptions agree.

"Unfortunately, the way these laws were written without any medical input in almost all cases, you know, it's not medical terminology it does not include which conditions are considered severe enough and which are not, so the onus is on the physicians," Dr. Emily Corrigan, a physician involved in the Idaho lawsuit, said.

In a statement, the president of Tennessee Right to Life said: "While we have great sympathies for the Plaintiffs and the experiences they have suffered, we are fully confident in the constitutionality of the Human Life Protection Act and are confident in (Tennessee Attorney) General (Jonathan) Skrmetti's ability to defend this lawsuit on behalf of women and unborn children across this State."

As with the Texas lawsuit, the center is not challenging the states' abortion bans, but rather seeking clarification on who can get an abortion legally.

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