Trial opens in challenge to four Virginia abortion laws, including physicians-only requirement

By Dave Andrusko

One week after he reversed himself and said a trial was needed after all, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson heard Monday from a man who served as the medical director of a Planned Parenthood chapter in Oregon who testified that abortion is “one of the safest medical procedures that exist” and that therefore Virginia’s law requiring physicians to perform abortions is unnecessary.

The plaintiffs, which include the Falls Church Healthcare Center, the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, and “Dr. Jane Doe,” also challenged three other Virginia abortion laws.

Reporting for the Richmond Times-Dispatch Frank Green wrote that Judge Hudson, who is hearing the case without a jury,

said he expects to hear 10 days of testimony and that attorneys will return June 6 for closing arguments, with each side getting two hours.

“I understand this case is important, but I want to wrap this up as scheduled,” Hudson said.

Green’s account was matter-of-fact and devoid of detail, unlike the Associated Press’ account. For example, we learn from Denise Lavoie that Dr. Mark Nichols was closely cross-examined by Courtney Paulk, a lawyer for the state. During that span, Lavoie reported,

Nichols acknowledged that he formed his opinion about Virginia’s abortion laws without ever observing an abortion in Virginia or ever talking to any abortion providers in the state. He also acknowledged that although there is a low rate of complications during abortions, some more serious complications would require a woman to be hospitalized.

Paulk also questioned Nichols in an attempt to show that Virginia is not an outlier when it comes to its physician-only law. Only 16 states allow nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to perform medication abortions, and only five allow non-physicians to perform suction aspiration abortions.

As NRL News Today reported previously, the Abortion Lobby is also challenging requirements that (1) second trimester abortions must be performed in a hospital; (2) medical facilities providing more than four first trimester abortions per month must undergo strict licensing requirements; and (3) women undergo an ultrasound and counseling 24 hours before an abortion.

In his first go round, Judge Hudson concluded Virginia’s physician-only requirement was “unduly burdensome” and therefore unconstitutional. But on May 14, Judge Hudson wrote, “On further review, the Court is of the opinion that summary judgment was improvidently awarded.”

He added, “Rather, on further consideration, whether the ‘Physicians-Only Law’ presents an undue burden to Virginia women who seek an abortion is a material fact that is genuinely in dispute.”

“Pro-abortion groups want this case to succeed because they realize that fewer and fewer young doctors are willing to become abortionists,” said ” said Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life. “Advances in prenatal care, like ultrasounds and prenatal surgery, have shown clearly to medical students and doctors that when treating a pregnant woman there are two patients, mother and baby!”

Gans Turner concluded

“This case is also dangerous to other pro-life laws. It is a challenge to almost every pro-life law in Virginia because if the state is not allowed to pass a law that so clearly is designed for a women’s safety, then every other law regarding the practice of abortion could be challenged and overturned. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the rights of the states to pass protective laws and Virginia’s laws fall clearly under these rulings.”

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