Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, 13 Other Attorneys General File Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court to Protect Reproductive Rights in Whole Woman’s Heath v. Cole

Friday, January 8, 2016
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that California has joined 13 other states and the District of Columbia in signing a friend-of-the-court brief in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision substantially restricting access to abortion services in Texas.

The brief, written by New York, and signed by California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia, was filed on Monday.

“Every woman has the right to make informed choices about her health and well-being,” said Attorney General Harris. “I strongly urge the Supreme Court to overturn the Fifth Circuit ruling, which undermines both public health and a woman’s right to choose.”

Attorney General Harris and the 13 other attorneys general argued in the brief that the Fifth Circuit erred in its analysis of a Texas statute that requires all abortion clinics to comply with ambulatory surgical center standards and requires any physician performing an abortion to hold admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the location where the procedure is performed. 

The statute has resulted in the closure of half of Texas’s clinics, and further threatens the closure of all but 9 of the 40 clinics operating before the law was passed.   As a result, many women have been left without access to abortion services and other reproductive health care.

While the law was ostensibly passed to promote women’s health, Attorney General Harris and the other signatories of the brief argue that the legislation actually undermined, rather than promoted, women’s health.  The brief also argues that a state cannot restrict access to in-state abortion services simply because the same services are available in other states.

Attorney General Harris authored a multi-state friend-of-the-court brief in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. in January 2014, urging the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s ruling allowing for-profit companies to deny essential healthcare to female employees based on the religious beliefs of the company’s owners.  In addition, in November 2013, Attorney General Harris joined a multi-state amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley, supporting a Massachusetts law creating a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive health care facilities.

In 2015, Attorney General Harris co-sponsored AB 775, the Reproductive FACT Act, to ensure women have equal access to comprehensive reproductive health care and are able to make informed choices about their health.  The bill was signed into law by Governor Brown and went into effect on January 1, 2016.  Attorney General’s office is currently defending the law in federal and state court. 

Attorney General Harris also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the First Resort, Inc. v. Herrera et al., in support of a San Francisco ordinance prohibiting limited service crisis pregnancy centers in that city from knowingly providing false or misleading information to women regarding their reproductive health.

A copy of the brief is attached to the electronic version of this release at oag.ca.gov/news.

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