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The Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based nonprofit, is at the center of the key legal battles over abortion and contraception.
CRR filed the lawsuit that forced the Obama administration to drop its effort to restrict access to Plan B One-Step—a brand of what is popularly known as the morning-after pill—this week, making emergency contraception available over-the-counter to everyone. The group is also leading the legal fight against bans on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which a dozen states have passed in the last three years. And next week, the Supreme Court is expected to announce whether or not it will hear Oklahoma’s appeal of court decisions CRR won blocking both a mandatory sonogram law and a ban on medication abortion in that state.
CRR’s president and CEO, Nancy Northup, was in Washington this week to talk to legislators about what’s happening in the states and to promote her group’s proposal for a Bill of Reproductive Rights. Launched last year, the effort calls on federal legislators to pass protections for abortion and other reproductive health care at the federal level. The GOP-led House, however, was moving in the opposite direction this week, with the judiciary committee debating Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-Ariz.) bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks nationwide. Mother Jones spoke to Northup during her visit.
Mother Jones: The DOJ’s latest offer is that the FDA will make Plan B One-Step available over-the-counter for everyone, but the appeals court’s ruling last week said that it needed to make all types of two-pill EC available. So the administration’s response didn’t actually answer the court’s ruling. What’s next?
Northup: We’re going to back to the court saying, “Enough with the gamesmanship.” It’s safe and effective. All these pills are safe and effective for use by all ages and they should all be over the counter. And that the generic option, which is less expensive, should be available. They’re $10-20 cheaper.
Mother Jones: Another issue CRR has been involved in is the 20-week abortion bans in the states. You recently won a lawsuit against Arizona’s in court. But at this point, 12 states have passed this type of law. What’s next on that front?
Northup: There are some states with no providers who offer abortions up to 20 weeks. So we’re not challenging those, because we have no standing to challenge them. That again shows how much of a political and messaging campaign this is by people who want to restrict access. Why are they are passing 20 week bans in states where doctors don’t even provide those services? Everywhere that they have been challenged, they have been, to date, enjoined. In Georgia there’s a preliminary injunction in place. Arizona has an injunction after the 9th Circuit decision. Idaho’s decision came down that it was unconstitutional. What we’re now looking at is fighting the 12-week ban in Arkansas, and we will be filing in North Dakota against the six-week ban. We challenge them where it’s meaningful to challenge them.
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