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Abortion

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The Georgia Supreme Court has reinstated the state’s ban on abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy. The high court on Wednesday put a lower court ruling overturning the ban on hold while it considers an appeal. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney had ruled on November 15 that the state’s abortion ban was invalid, because when it was signed into law in 2019, U.S. Supreme Court precedent under Roe. v. Wade and another ruling had allowed abortion well past six weeks. The decision immediately prohibited enforcement of the abortion ban statewide. Doctors had resumed providing abortions past six weeks.

Election wins for abortion rights and Democrats could translate into abortion protections in some states. But more restrictions could still be coming elsewhere. This year's overturning of Roe v. Wade pushed abortion decisions to the states. While the majority of voters oppose total bans, the issue is playing out differently in different states. In Minnesota and Michigan, where this month's elections put Democrats in control, protections are a priority. But in Florida, where Republicans strengthened their grip on power, a tighter ban could be under consideration — though there's a question of how far it should go.

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Indiana lawmakers have returned to the Statehouse, fresh off Republican election victories this month that maintained their party's dominance of the Legislature and facing a possible list of expensive proposals from GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb. Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray and House Speaker Todd Huston were reelected Tuesday to lead those chambers, and newly elected legislators were sworn into office as lawmakers met for their mostly ceremonial organization day session. The 2023 session that begins in early January will focus on drafting a new state budget. Besides the constant push for increased K-12 school funding, a Holcomb-appointed commission has recommended a $240 million annual boost for county public health departments.

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Lawyers for an Indianapolis doctor who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio told a judge Friday that Indiana’s attorney general should not be allowed to access patient medical records for an investigation into undisclosed complaints. Dr. Caitlin Bernard, her medical partner, and their patients sued Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita to try to stop him from accessing the records. The doctors claim Rokita’s conduct “violates numerous Indiana statutes,” including one state requirement that his office first determine consumer complaints have “merit” before he can investigate physicians. The state says it's allowed to access the records to investigate three consumer complaints that Rokita’s office say allege some wrongdoing.

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The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman is among those urging action in response to a report that a former anti-abortion leader knew in advance the outcome of a 2014 Supreme Court case involving health care coverage of contraception. The report Saturday in The New York Times follows the stunning leak earlier this year of a draft opinion in the case in which the high court ended constitutional protections for abortion. That decision was written by Justice Samuel Alito, who is also the author of the majority opinion in the 2014 case at the center of the new report. In a statement, Alito denies that he disclosed the outcome of the contraception case.

Increasing numbers of physicians and families nationwide say a post-Roe fear has come to pass: Pregnant women with dangerous medical conditions are showing up in hospitals and doctors’ offices and being denied the abortions that could help treat them. Some get sicker as they face potentially-deadly delays and seek abortions in states with less restrictive laws. Some are denied care in multiple places. Doctors say they must balance medical judgment with possible punishments, including prison time. Even strict laws allow abortion to save a mother’s life, but a weighty question lingers: How close to death does she have to be? Specific data is hard to pinpoint; many employers discourage discussion of the topic. But many doctors and researchers agree it's a widespread problem.

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Abortion opponents who helped challenge Roe v. Wade filed a lawsuit Friday that takes aim at medication abortions. The challenge filed Tuesday in Texas asks a federal judge to undo decades-old approval of the preferred method of ending pregnancy in the U.S. Even before the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to an abortion earlier this year, the use of abortion pills had been increasing in the U.S. and demand is expected to grow as more states seek abortion limits. The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance for Defending Freedom, which helped defend a strict Mississippi abortion law that led to Roe v. Wade being overturned.  The Food and Drug Administration said it does not comment on pending litigation.

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Georgia officials have asked a court to immediately block a judge’s ruling striking down the state’s abortion ban. The ruling allowed the procedure to again be performed beyond about six weeks of pregnancy. The state attorney general’s office said in court documents Friday that the decision by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney had no basis in law or common sense. It asked the high court for an order immediately putting McBurney’s decision on hold while the justices take more time to consider an appeal.

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Abortion providers in Georgia resumed performing the procedure beyond six weeks of pregnancy after a judge threw out the state’s abortion ban. But some said they are moving cautiously this week amid an ongoing legal fight that could just as quickly restore the restrictions. Phone calls to the carafem clinic in Atlanta surged starting Tuesday, when the judge’s ruling came out. Chief Operations Officer Melissa Grant said the clinic resumed providing abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy on Wednesday, but staff has cautioned patients that the situation is tenuous. The Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta plans to resume abortions up to 22 weeks of pregnancy starting on Friday.

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Abortion bans in several states allow exemptions for life-threatening health emergencies, but they say mental health crises don't count. Some abortion foes say the laws target women who fake mental illness to get doctors to agree to end their pregnancies. But critics say it's an example of how mental illness is often disregarded, as if the brain were somehow distinct from the rest of the body. They note that life-threatening mental health crises happen more often in pregnancy than some realize. A U.S. government report released in September shows mental health conditions recently became the leading underlying cause of pregnancy-related deaths.

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North Dakota attorney general Drew Wrigley says doctors who perform abortions should be able to disclose the patient’s personal health information as part of their defense to avoid prosecution. North Dakota’s abortion ban, which is currently on hold because of a lawsuit, makes the procedure illegal except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is in danger. Doctors would have to prove those exceptions in court in order to be cleared of a Class C felony. The attorney general said he couldn’t find any cases that address the scenario and it would not violate the privacy rule.

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The office of Georgia's attorney general says it will appeal a ruling that overturns a ban on most abortions starting around six weeks of pregnancy. The ruling Tuesday by a judge in Fulton County applies statewide. The ruling says the ban violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent at the time it became law in 2019. The ban had been in effect since July. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia represented doctors and advocacy groups that had asked the judge to throw out the law. The group says it expects abortions past six weeks to resume Wednesday at some clinics.

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A group of anti-abortion doctors in Mississippi say the validity of the state’s law banning most abortions remains uncertain. The doctors argue in a lawsuit filed Monday that another legal victory is required to clarify the ban and protect them from possible punishment by medical institutions. The Mississippi Justice Institute filed the lawsuit on behalf of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists against the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure and its executive director, Dr. Kenneth Cleveland. The lawsuit argues that while the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the state Supreme Court must overturn its 1998 opinion holding that abortion is a right protected by the Mississippi Constitution.