Washington state anti-abortion group ordered to pay $960,000 for interfering with patient care
In January 2023, a Spokane county court judge ordered ‘Church at Planned Parenthood’ to pay US$ 960,000 in fines to Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho (PPGWNI) in Washington state, USA. The amount included $110,000 in civil damages to the clinic for interfering with patient care and violating state law. The group was also required to pay Planned Parenthood’s attorney fees, which totalled $850,000, according to Legal Voice and Planned Parenthood, as part of a settlement between Planned Parenthood and the church’s insurance company. Litigation related to the civil case has been ongoing since 2020, with multiple law firms involved, a spokesperson for Legal Voice said.
“This is a critical victory for Planned Parenthood at a time of historic attacks on abortion access,” Paul Dillon, vice president of public affairs for the local Planned Parenthood chapter, said in a statement. “We are so thankful for the work of Legal Voice as well as the overwhelming support of the community. We are proud to provide a safe, welcoming environment for our employees and our patients, so they can get the high quality health care they need.”
SOURCE: Seattle Times, by Emma Epperly, 6 February 2023 + PPGWNI Twitter handle
Anti-abortion protests at local pharmacy outlets planning to sell MA pills
Hundreds of protesters said they would target 94 pharmacies across the USA on 4 February for selling abortion pills that they claim are “targeting low-income people and people of colour for profit”.
The protests were co-ordinated by a direct action group that describes itself as comprising non-violent feminists committed to dismantling the “abortion industrial complex”. They are calling for anti-abortion supporters to boycott the national chain stores Walgreens, CVS and RiteAid in order to prevent money flowing to “Big Abortion”. They said the pharmacies will be met with nonviolent resistance at every turn. Over the last few years, these activists have made headlines for their bizarre and grisly antics, some of which have resulted in arrests and jail time.
In October 2020, a Catholic anti-abortion zealot and the group’s director of activism, was among ten people who allegedly blockaded and invaded the Washington Surgi-Clinic, a facility providing abortions. She pretended to be a patient seeking care, according to a federal indictment, and the rest of the group used furniture, chains, ropes and their bodies to block access to the clinic’s doors, while live-streaming the protest on Facebook. The group were federally indicted for violations of the FACE Act, which protects access to abortion clinics, in May 2022. The leader has faced similar charges in other states. She has pleaded not guilty, but the case is ongoing. She faces up to 10 years in prison. And so on…
Abortion rights groups have condemned the group’s actions, though some have dismissed them as ridiculous, funny, a clown show. However, since the fall of Roe, some Republicans and anti-abortion activists have set their sights on eradicating access to abortion pills. At least 18 states have legislation prohibiting the use of telemedicine, instead requiring a patient to be in the physical presence of a clinician to receive a prescription.
On 1 February, Attorneys General in 20 states signed a letter to CVS and Walgreens, warning that red states might take legal action if the pharmacies send the medication by mail. The letter railed against the Biden administration’s Office of Legal Counsel, which recently advised that national postal service employees could not be held criminally liable for delivering mailed abortion medication, regardless of a particular state’s laws.
SOURCE: The Daily Beast, by Decca Muldowney, 4 February 2023
A Texas lawsuit seeking to ban mifepristone nationwide will be heard soon
Abortion rights advocates have called on the Biden administration’s top health officials to take seriously the threats that they fear could block abortion access across the country. Driving their anxiety is a Texas lawsuit brought by conservative groups seeking to revoke the federal government (US FDA)’s approval of mifepristone in 2000. The case was filed in November 2022 in the Amarillo, Texas court whose judge was appointed by Trump.
The suit has been widely ridiculed by legal experts as rooted in baseless and debunked arguments, such as that the medication is not safe and has potentially harmful side effects. Their other argument is that while a state may have legal abortion, there is no right to a specific method of abortion. So they would need to prove mifepristone is unsafe. The fear is that on appeal, the case could climb up the national court system and end up in the anti-abortion dominated US Supreme Court.
The federal Justice Department has conceded in its legal arguments that the Supreme Court’s opinion striking down Roe stands as the reigning federal law. The crux of their opposition in the Texas case is that Congress empowered the US FDA to approve the use of new drugs — not states.
Just in case, a number of clinics have a misoprostol-only protocol in place, ready to be implemented if needed.
SOURCE: Washington Post, by Caroline Kitchener, Perry Stein, 5 February 2023 (not open access)