As we embark on 2024, the landscape of reproductive healthcare in the U.S. offers a patchwork of access: while some states offer varying degrees of protection, too many have enacted bans on abortion care access. This has created a stark reality where geography, unfortunately, determines a person’s right to reproductive autonomy.
Nevertheless, the fight for abortion rights is far from over, and despite the challenges, the past year has witnessed a surge in activism, grassroots organizing, and increased voter engagement.
Below are a few recent key moments – both celebratory and related to the ongoing fight for reproductive rights for all:
Congressional Oversight Letter Request Regarding Planned Parenthood’s Gender Affirming Health Care Services
On November 28, 2023, PPFA received a letter from Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, requesting detailed information about the gender affirming health care services provided by Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Let us be clear: Planned Parenthood is proud to provide a safe and welcoming place to get gender affirming hormone therapy. For more information on Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest’s Gender Affirming Care Services, please visit planned.org/genderaffirmingcare.
Update on Mifepristone Case
On December 13, 2023 the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine et al v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration et al. This case centers around the anti-abortion movement’s effort to end FDA’s approval of mifepristone – a safe, effective medication.
Mifepristone has been FDA-approved for more than 23 years and is one of two medicines most commonly used in medication abortion in the United States. Availability of mifepristone is essential to ensure people have access to abortion.
The Court denied cert on the cross-petition filed by the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (AHM), which asked the Court to reverse the Fifth Circuit’s decision that the plaintiffs cannot challenge the FDA’s 2000 approval of mifepristone. While the Court could still revisit this issue, this is a good indication that the Court will not overrule the Fifth Circuit's decision to leave mifepristone on the market. We will share updated scenarios for the eventual decision in early 2024.
At this time, we do not know the schedule for oral arguments or the decision, but we expect that arguments will take place in the spring with a decision by the end of term (likely June 2024).
DEA Extends Pandemic Controlled Substances Prescribing Flexibilities for All Patients through the End of 2024
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), together with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), issued a new, second temporary rule that extends the full slate of pandemic-era telemedicine prescribing flexibilities for controlled substances for all patients through December 31, 2024.
This new temporary rule means that first-time patients seeking testosterone for gender-affirming hormone therapy after November 11, 2023 may do so via telemedicine, and do not need to be seen in-person. The previously-issued temporary rule had extended those flexibilities only through November 11, 2023, unless an individual had established a relationship with a provider by that date. A final rule is anticipated in Fall 2024.
Wisconsin Senate Passes Anti-Abortion, Anti-Trans Measures
In October 2023, Wisconsin’s Senate majority passed three bills as part of their “Embrace Them Both” package to limit abortion access, including increased funding for crisis pregnancy centers and making changes to the state’s 1849 abortion ban.
Lawmakers also voted along party lines to restrict gender-affirming care for minors and to bar transgender female athletes from playing on girls’ sports teams, which was met with opposition from the public. While Governor Tony Evers is expected to veto all of these measures, we recognize that both the movements for trans rights and reproductive rights are inexorably linked.
False Claims Act Case:
On January 11, a federal district court judge granted a stay in U.S. ex rel Doe v. PPFA (the False Claims Act case), postponing the jury trial that was set to occur in April 2024. The trial is stayed until PPFA’s pre-trial appeal to the Fifth Circuit is complete. There is no schedule by which the Fifth Circuit must resolve that appeal, but it will take several months at minimum.
The state of Texas and an anonymous plaintiff are suing PPFA and the three Planned Parenthood affiliates that provide vital sexual and reproductive health care – including birth control, life-saving cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment – in Texas and Louisiana, falsely alleging Planned Parenthood violated Medicaid provider rules and was improperly paid by Texas and Louisiana Medicaid programs, violating the False Claims Act.
Georgia Supreme Court Allows Six-Week Abortion Ban to Remain in Effect as Legal Challenge Continues:
The Georgia Supreme Court issued a ruling that allows H.B. 481, a ban on abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy, to remain in effect.
The court’s majority opinion disregards long-standing precedent that a law violating either the state or federal Constitution at the time of its enactment is void from the start under the Georgia Constitution. The case will now return to the trial court, which has not yet ruled on the remaining claims brought by the plaintiffs that the ban violates Georgians’ rights to privacy and equal protection under the state Constitution.
Nomination of Former Planned Parenthood Litigator to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
In November 2023, Nicole Berner – an outstanding lawyer with commitment to public service, a labor rights advocate, and a former Planned Parenthood litigator – was nominated by President Biden to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
While at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Berner litigated cases protecting medication abortion in Ohio, defending the rights of young people to access abortion in Missouri and working to increase abortion access in New Mexico, among other projects. She currently serves as general counsel for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and is a partner at the law firm of James & Hoffman.
If confirmed, Berner would be the first openly LGBTQ judge to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Status of Abortion Bans in the States
Below is a current state of affairs regarding access to abortion care across the United States. In some states, the fight over abortion access is still taking place in courtrooms, where advocates have sued to block bans and restrictions. Other states have moved to expand access to abortion by adding legal protections.
Regardless of where your state lands on the access spectrum, we have the opportunity to build our movement and advance our issues through engagement, advocacy and action.
As of January 18, 2024 twenty-one (21) states across the nation have eliminated all or some abortions. These states are as follows: AL, AR, AZ, FL, GA, ID, KY, LA, MO, MS, NC, OK, SD, TN, TX, UT, WI, WV.
- States where abortion has been banned: AL, AR, ID, KY, LA, MO, MS, OK, SD, TN, TX, WI, WV
- States where abortion has been banned after the earliest stages of pregnancies: GA
- States where abortion has been banned after 15-20 weeks gestation: AZ, FL, NC, UT
We are grateful that abortion in is still safe and legal in California, and we stand strongly alongside our friends in the fight for full reproductive freedom for all. Please visit abortionfinder.org for the latest information on abortion provider service status.