NATIONAL NEWS

What to know about the latest court rulings, data and legislation on abortion in the US

Mar 1, 2024, 9:00 AM

A judge in Montana rejected abortion restrictions, the attorney general in Missouri is accusing Planned Parenthood of illegally transporting minors for abortions and new data shows how the way abortions they’re provided continues to shift in a nation where some states have bans and others are protecting access.

More than a year and a half since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled overturned Roe v. Wade and the nationwide right to abortion, the details of what that means are still in flux. With lawsuits still pending and ballot questions on the horizon, that’s the one thing that’s not likely to change quickly.

Here are things to know about developments across the country this week.

MONTANA JUDGE BLOCKS RESTRICTIONS

A Montana judge on Thursday rejected restrictions on abortion that were adopted in 2021, possibly setting up a chance for the Montana Supreme Court to revisit its 1999 ruling that protected a woman’s right to abortion until the fetus is viable.

The 2021 laws were put on hold and never took effect.

They would have banned abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation, banned telehealth prescription of abortion pills, required a 24-hour waiting period after giving consent and required providers to show women an ultrasound or hear a fetal heart tone before providing an abortion.

The state government plans to appeal the ruling, possibly putting it on a path for another showdown at the state’s top court.

A judge last year also put on hold enforcement of more restrictions the state adopted last year, including a ban on dilation and evacuation abortions — the most common procedure after 15 weeks’ gestation.

Abortion rights groups are pushing for a ballot question to amend the state constitution to protect reproductive freedom, including the right to abortion.

REPORT FINDS CHANGES IN HOW ABORTIONS ARE PROVIDED

There have been legal and legislative battles over abortion access in the U.S. for generations, but everything changed when the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that had protected access nationwide.

Since then, bans have taken effect in most Republican-controlled states, including 14 where abortion is banned at all stages of pregnancy, with varying limited exceptions. Most Democrat-controlled states have sought to protect access.

Those changes are reflected in data released this week by #WeCount for the Society of Family Planning. The group finds that the number of abortions per month nationally is similar to what it was before the court’s ruling.

Although the number of monthly abortions has dropped to nearly zero in states with bans, they have risen in states that allow abortion — and a larger portion of them use pills prescribed by telehealth.

STATES PUSH VIDEOS TO DISCOURAGE ABORTION, CLARIFY POLICIES

West Virginia’s state Senate this week approved a measure to require eighth and 10th graders to see a video on fetal development.

The “Baby Olivia” video is being used in classrooms in North Dakota and there’s legislation that aims to require it in Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri.

Though it was approved in West Virginia’s Senate, Republican Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, a pulmonologist, objected, saying the video has “grossly inaccurate information” contradictory to science. The bill now heads to the House of Delegates.

Meanwhile, South Dakota is looking to produce another video to guide medical providers on when to apply the one exception to the state’s abortion ban. Under state law, abortion is allowed only to save the life of the woman.

This week, the state Senate approved the plan, which had already passed the House, this week. It now heads to Republican Gov. Kristi Noem for her signature.

MISSOURI ATTORNEY GENERAL SUES PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Missouri’s attorney general is suing Planned Parenthood, asserting that the organization is illegally transporting minors from Missouri — where most abortions are banned — to obtain them in Kansas.

The claim is based on a conservative group’s hidden-camera video of someone seeking an abortion for a fictitious 13-year-old.

Planned Parenthood denies the claim.

The office of Attorney General Andrew Bailey, a Republican running for election this year, has not said whether criminal charges could be filed, too.

TEXAS OFFICIAL PUNISHED OVER MURDER CHARGE IN ABORTION CASE

The abortion bans across the U.S. seek to criminalize doctors and others who provide abortions and in many cases those who help women seeking abortions — but they stop short of allowing charges against those women themselves.

Still, a 26-year-old who self-managed an abortion in 2022 in Texas was charged there with murder and spent two nights in jail before being released and having the charges dropped.

It was revealed this week that the prosecutor who oversaw the case has been disciplined for his role in it. Starr County District Attorney Gocha Ramirez must pay a $1,250 fine and have his license held in a probated suspension for 12 months under a settlement agreement with the State Bar of Texas.

Ramirez says he made a mistake and agreed to the deal because it will keep his office running.

ALABAMA LAWMAKERS MOVE TO PROTECT IN VITRO FERTILIZATION AFTER COURT DECISION

Alabama lawmakers this week advanced bills to protect fertility clinics after the state’s Supreme Court issued a ruling last month that could be devastating for them.

The court ruled that frozen embryos are the legal equivalent of children. Three large clinics quickly halted offering in vitro fertilization, a devastating outcome for people trying to expand their families.

Abortion rights advocates — including U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on a visit to Alabama this week — have framed the court’s ruling as a consequence of overturning Roe v. Wade and part of a conservative effort to ban abortion by declaring that embryos and fetuses have the rights of people.

National News

Associated Press

Southern New Mexico wildfire leads to evacuation of village of 7,000

RUIDOSO, N.M. (AP) — Residents of a village in southern New Mexico were ordered to flee their homes Monday without taking time to grab any belongings due to a fast-moving wildfire. “GO NOW: Do not attempt to gather belongings or protect your home. Evacuate immediately,” officials with Ruidoso, a village home to 7,000 people, said […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Convicted killer of California college student Kristin Smart ordered to pay $350k in restitution

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — A California judge ruled Monday that a man convicted of killing 19-year-old college student Kristin Smart in 1996 must pay just over $350,000 to her family for costs they incurred after her death. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe ordered Paul Flores to make the payments after a […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Central African Republic faces increased rebel activity and spillover from Sudan war, UN experts say

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Activities of armed groups in the volatile Central African Republic have increased, complicating a security landscape that has seen a spillover of the conflict in neighboring Sudan, U.N. experts warn in a new report. The panel of experts cite confirmed reports of air raids by the Sudanese military around border areas […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

A judge temporarily blocks Iowa law that allows authorities to charge people facing deportation

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked an Iowa law that allowed law enforcement in the state to file criminal charges against people with outstanding deportation orders or who previously had been denied entry to the U.S. U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Locher issued a preliminary injunction because he said […]

11 hours ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

12 hours ago

Associated Press

Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear a challenge to governor’s 400-year school funding veto

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ partial veto that locked in a school funding increase for the next 400 years, the justices announced Monday. The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Litigation Center filed a lawsuit in April arguing the governor exceeded his authority. The group […]

12 hours ago

What to know about the latest court rulings, data and legislation on abortion in the US