IFLG-Federal-Appeals-Court-Sidelines-South-Carolina-Abortion-Ban-Rich-Vaughn-v5

Federal Appeals Court Sidelines South Carolina Abortion Ban

A federal appeals court on February 22, 2022, upheld a stay on a South Carolina “fetal heartbeat” abortion law that would punish doctors who violated it with stiff fines and up to two years in jail, as reported by the Raleigh, North Carolina, News Observer.

But although the recent appellate ruling stops the South Carolina abortion ban from taking effect, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule later this spring on similar laws in Texas and Mississippi, both intended to test women’s constitutional right to choose. Should the Supreme Court weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade, the historic 1973 decision that established women’s right to abortions, the South Carolina law would take effect immediately.

Apparently not content with the severity of their original bill, which made exceptions for rape and incest, South Carolina lawmakers already have advanced two more abortion bills in 2022. One would make all abortions illegal in the state—even in the case of rape or incest—if Roe is overturned, with the only exception being to save the mother’s life. The second would force physicians to inform women who have taken or plan to take medication to induce an abortion about an unproven, potentially dangerous method of reversing it.

Fetal heartbeat law challenges viability standard

The South Carolina legislature passed, and Governor Henry McMaster signed, the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act in February 2021. The law requires doctors to perform an ultrasound to check for fetal cardiac activity, which can be detected at about six weeks—usually before a woman even knows she is pregnant or has the chance to consider her options.

If fetal cardiac activity is present, the doctor is prevented from performing an abortion unless the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or if the pregnant mother’s life is in danger.

It should be noted that the early “cardiac activity” detected in a six-week fetus is not really a “heartbeat,” according to medical experts, but a “fluttering” or movement of the embryonic cells. In fact, the fetus does not develop a heart until about nine weeks, as reported by the Associated Press, and a fetus is not normally viable outside the womb until 24 weeks. The South Carolina law and other state laws like it are aimed at challenging Roe and subsequent decisions establishing the “viability” standard that women have the right to an abortion up to 24 weeks.

Doctors who perform abortions in violation of the law would be subject to a $10,000 fine and up to two years in prison. The woman having the abortion would not be charged under this law.

Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups filed suit almost immediately in U.S. district court, which issued a preliminary injunction followed by a formal stay of the law. Twenty Democratic state attorneys general filed an amicus brief in support of the suit, arguing the South Carolina law would result in women denied abortions in South Carolina traveling to other states for services, creating a burden on those states, U.S. News & World Report wrote in September 2021. In July 2021, 20 other states, primarily Republican-led, filed an amicus brief in support of the South Carolina law.

In its ruling on February 22, 2022, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s injunction. South Carolina officials have not said whether or not they will request a hearing by the full 4th Circuit Court but vowed to continue all means to defend the law, as the News Observer reported.

Supreme Court to rule in spring 2022 on Mississippi, Texas abortion bans

But the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this spring or early summer on two other state abortion laws, designed, like South Carolina’s, to weaken Roe v. Wade or overturn it altogether.

As we wrote in May 2021, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a lawsuit against Mississippi’s “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban, just of one of numerous new state laws that challenge the “viability standard” that has been legal precedent in abortion law since 1973. In agreeing to hear the Mississippi case, the Court wrote that it would address a single question: “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” 

Meanwhile, Texas lawmakers, apparently on a mission to one-up other Republican-led states, enacted a draconian law outlawing all abortions in Texas, including in cases of rape and incest, and financially incentivizing conservative activists, religious organizations or plain, ordinary citizens to sue anyone involved in an abortion performed in Texas —the doctor, the clinic, counselors, Uber drivers, relatives, or a friend who loaned money for the procedure. Despite legal challenges from activists, consumers and the Biden administration, the conservative-majority Supreme Court declined to stay the Texas law. The court is expected to rule in both cases in the spring.

New SC bills threaten murder charges for doctors, unproven therapy for women

But wait, there’s more. Since the beginning of 2022, the South Carolina state legislature has brought forward two more abortion laws, as Columbia, South Carolina-based WTLX/News 19 reports.

The first, S 988, would ban all abortions, and like the Texas law, makes no exception for cases of rape or incest. Abortion would be legal only to save the mother’s life, and a doctor who performed an abortion in violation of the law would be charged with murder.

The second new law, S 907, elevates legislators’ medical recommendations above those of physicians and medical science. The law would require physicians to tell women requesting abortion medication about an “abortion reversal pill.” The text of the bill states that a single pill containing progesterone can reverse the effects of medication taken to induce abortion, should the pregnant woman regret her decision to have an abortion, News 19 reports.

The problem is, the bill has generated opposition from OB/GYN physicians, who say the reversal medication is untested, unproven and potentially unsafe for the pregnant woman. “There is no scientific evidence of this. No clinical trials, no safety or side effect profiles, no scientifically sound data,” Columbia, South Carolina-based OB/GYN Dr. Carol Alan told News 19.

As we have reported extensively, South Carolina is only one among many conservative-led states battling to strip women of their constitutional right to choose an abortion. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, at least 21 states are expected to ban abortion outright, U.S. News & World Report wrote in December 2021, potentially creating a reproductive health care “desert” across much of the U.S.  

Conservative Supreme Court could decimate Americans’ reproductive rights

Questions raised by justices during oral arguments have convinced some activists and observers that the Roe decision is indeed in peril. Even Chief Justice John Roberts, a “moderate” conservative who has voted with the court’s three liberals in many cases, appeared to consider changing the standard from “viability,” when a fetus could survive outside the womb, to a shorter period of time that would, presumably, still give a woman sufficient time to make a life-changing decision, The New York Times reported. In fact, Justice Clarence Thomas, along with the late Antonin Scalia, has argued for years that there is no constitutional “right to privacy,” a principal on which not only women’s abortion rights but Supreme Court decisions on interracial marriage, birth control and same-sex marriage have been based, as reported by The Hill.

This last argument, as well as the language of state laws designating unborn fetuses legal persons, threatens a range of rights and privileges most Americans take for granted. Among those is the right of infertile couples, LGBTQ people or unmarried individuals to create families using assisted reproductive technology.

As South Carolina legislators debated the state’s newest, most severe abortion ban, S 988, opposition witnesses said the bill’s language would prevent South Carolinians from seeking fertility treatment such as IVF, which frequently produces more embryos than can be used as well as many that are not viable enough to be implanted. Under this proposed law, and dozens of other state laws, those unused embryos would have the same rights of personhood as you or me or the mother who was impregnated through rape or incest, which could have an alarming if not fatal impact on the access to, and in fact the legality of, IVF and other reproductive technologies.

These questions of accessibility and legality of IVF and other assisted reproduction technologies, basic human rights of women to make decisions about their own bodies, and other privacy rights loom over us all as we wait for the Supreme Court to rule. Court watchers aren’t optimistic about Roe’s survival. Americans, who may be focused on the narrow issue of whether or not abortion is legal, have no idea of the drastic and wide-reaching consequences if Roe is overturned. Many of the rights we assumed constitutionally protected—the right to have information about and access to contraception, for example, or the right to marry the person of our choice—all will be in question.

And that’s no accident. Those who work in the statehouses to craft these bills understand the effect of the language of these bills. They are intended not only to outlaw abortion in the United States, but also to enshrine religion-based standards of morality and behavior in U.S. law.

The Supreme Court is what it is. President Joe Biden’s appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer will merely preserve the court’s 6-3 conservative majority. But we know from history that the justices do respond to public opinion, and sometimes they even change their minds. We need to make sure they know the American public does not want women to lose the right to control their own bodies, and it doesn’t want laws that would deny people the right to use assisted reproductive technologies to fulfill their dreams of parenthood. Please help us, spread the word!

 

 

Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

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
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
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 moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern 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, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. 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.

Katie Deaquino
KATIE DEAQUINO
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

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 which he received in 2013, 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. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Alexander Espinoza
ALEXANDER ESPINOZA
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Toni Hughes
TONI BOONE
Paralegal

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.”

KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

Kim has over 30 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 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
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

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 TAMAYO
Paralegal

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 CHIEN
Paralegal

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
MOLLY O'BRIEN
Partner

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.

Phoebe Sadler
PHOEBE S. SADLER
Associate

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan
RUBINA ASLANYAN
Paralegal

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Cara Stecker
CARA STECKER
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble
STEPHANIE KIMBLE
Paralegal

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
TRISH PITTMAN
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Elsa Jimenez
ELSA JIMENEZ
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.