After eight days of testimony from both sides scattered over the past three weeks, it will soon be up to U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson to rule on challenges to Virginia abortion laws.
The judge is scheduled to hear what could be hours of closing arguments starting at 11 a.m. Thursday from lawyers representing the plaintiffs and the defendants in a trial that began May 20.
The suit was filed a year ago by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the law firm O’Melveny & Myers, and local counsel for the ACLU of Virginia on behalf of plaintiffs that include the Falls Church Healthcare Center, the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, and “Dr. Jane Doe.”
Laws under challenge include: a physician-only requirement barring nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants from performing abortions during the first trimester; a requirement that second trimester abortions be performed in a hospital or licensed outpatient surgical hospital; and a requirement that women undergo an ultrasound and hear state-mandated information at least 24 hours before an abortion.
Also being challenged is Virginia's licensing scheme for abortion providers that the plaintiffs allege is "onerous" and that has no legitimate medical basis. The law "singles out" facilities where five or more first-trimester abortions are performed per month.
Last month, Hudson tossed out the physician-only requirement on a pretrial motion but then later rescinded his ruling, saying he wanted to hear more evidence during the trial.
In a statement last month, The Center For Reproductive Rights said, "Under these laws, abortion care providers and the patients they serve have been singled out with layers of medically unnecessary and burdensome restrictions, making it increasingly difficult — and sometimes impossible — to access safe, legal, high-quality abortion care."
Gans Turner, with the Virginia Society for Human Life, said in a statement last month that "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 women's safety, then every other law regarding the practice of abortion could be challenged and overturned."