Rich Vaughn, IFLG: State Laws Challenge Women's Right to Choose

Georgia Abortion Ban Is Latest to Face Federal Court Challenge

Earlier this month a federal judge temporarily blocked a Georgia law that would effectively ban abortion in the state, the latest volley in an onslaught of new state laws designed to challenge, weaken and ultimately overturn a woman’s right to choose.

As reported in The Washington Post, the new Georgia law, signed by GOP Gov. Brian Kemp in May 2019, is one of several so-called “heartbeat” laws enacted by state legislators eager to test the response of a newly conservative-heavy U.S. Supreme Court to challenges to reproductive rights. Were it not for the federal court stay on October 1, the new law banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected—before most women know they are pregnant—would have gone into effect January 1. Although the new law would allow exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother, the federal judge ruled it violates the established legal precedent that governments may not deny women access to an abortion before the fetus would be viable outside of the womb.

With two new Trump-appointed conservative Supreme Court justices in place, and the prospect of future vacancies looming, anti-abortion activists and conservative lawmakers are flooding the lower-court pipelines in hopes one of them will be a winner in the four-decade-long battle to overturn Roe v. Wade at the U.S. Supreme Court. As reported in an excellent, informative piece by ABC News, 17 abortion bans of various types had been signed into law in 10 states as of May 2019; all 17 have been met with court challenges, and none has yet been enacted.

The new Georgia law, which states that a fetus is a “natural person” and a “human being” once a heartbeat is detected, is among a number of so-called “personhood” laws that attempt to establish legal rights for unborn embryos at various stages of development. (Here are a couple of other articles we have written on “personhood” laws: and

In other states, legislators and advocates have attacked abortion rights from different angles, rather than tackling Roe v. Wade head-on: Since the courts forbid an outright ban on abortion, they pass laws that create obstacles making abortion services impossible for most women to obtain.

The U.S. Supreme Court will review next session a proposed Louisiana law that would require doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius. The unstated, practical result of the law would be to reduce the number of abortion providers in the state from three currently to just one. The Supreme court struck down a similar Texas law in 2016, saying that the restriction provided little if any benefit to the health of the woman because abortion complications requiring hospitalization are extremely rare. But, as noted, the liberal-conservative balance of the Court has changed since then, and lawmakers are ready to give it another try. The Court intervened in the case once already, in February, when in a 5-4 vote it blocked the law from taking effect while under appeal. As reported by Politico:

The Justices now have complete discretion on whether they want to rule narrowly on the Louisiana case in a way that leaves in place the standards set by Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, which states laws that place an undue burden on women seeking abortions are unconstitutional, or whether they want to revisit those decades-old precedents.

In August, as reported by CBS News, a federal court blocked a Missouri total ban on abortions after eight weeks from taking effect, although other parts of the sweeping “Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act” did take effect, including a prohibition on terminating a pregnancy due to Down syndrome. Currently there is only one abortion provider in Missouri, Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, which announced that it would comply with the law’s “reason” ban, which prevents termination of pregnancy based on race, sex or a Down syndrome diagnosis.

Other provisions of the new Missouri law, which were allowed to go into effect, reflect the strategy of creating obstacles to abortion. Medical abortions, in which a pill is used to terminate a pregnancy prior to 10 weeks, were outlawed in Missouri in 2017. Planned Parenthood of St. Louis refers calls about those types of early abortions to its Illinois facility. Under the new law the clinic is required to ask women who call whether they want to receive four pieces of anti-abortion literature, written by the state and intended to discourage abortions, and to mail the printed materials to the women at the clinic’s expense.

Politicians and anti-abortion activists say the purpose of all the regulatory obstacles and legal barriers is to reduce the overall number of abortions. But the statistics tell a different story: The number of abortions that take place out of state has skyrocketed. According to a report by The Tennessean, between 2012 and 2017, at least 276,000 women had abortions outside of their home states. Even as the total number of abortions in the U.S. has fallen, the number of women traveling to another state for abortions has gone up, particularly in parts of the South and Midwest where more restrictive laws have passed or where onerous regulations have put most abortion providers out of business. For example, in 2017, 47 percent of abortions performed in Kansas were performed on women from Missouri, one of six states in the U.S. with only one abortion provider, and it located on the far eastern side of the state.

The truth is, even before Roe v. Wade enshrined into law a woman’s right to control her own body, the wealthy and well-connected always had access to abortions. Then, it was the poor and the powerless who were forced to endure unwanted pregnancies or to undertake desperate, dangerous or illegal measures—just as today, the time and expense of traveling out of state for an abortion falls hardest on those with the fewest resources. It is an unequal injustice that was righted for millions of women with passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Today, in 2019, reproductive rights remain under siege. Abortion is the gateway issue for legislators and activists, but the implications of “personhood” laws for assisted reproduction-related issues, such as disposition of unused embryos, are significant.


Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.