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The government may not be able to cut costs by closing one of the last abortion clinics in the United States, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is working to ensure that the state has no choice but to close one.
This week the ACLU filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit challenging the state’s 2010 law requiring it to build a second clinic by the end of 2018. The Fourth Circuit’s decision on whether it will hear the challenge – which the ACLU is challenging as unconstitutional – comes as the first round of litigation over the law reaches the Supreme Court.
The ACLU has also filed a motion asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit last night to vacate its decision and set arguments in the legal fight back until next spring, after the state legislature has had the opportunity to consider the legislation. The government has until Jan. 2 to respond to the ACLU’s motion.
The ACLU, which has filed suit on behalf of the state over a second clinic, believes that the Fourth Circuit has overstepped its bounds by issuing an injunction against any new restrictions on abortion access.
“While this law was not initially intended to restrict women’s access to safe, legal abortions, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that a law’s impact on any specific woman’s access to an abortion cannot be justified based on the hypothetical possibility that the law could be upheld if it were applied, say, to an 80-year-old woman whose pregnancy is caused by a stroke,” the ACLU said.
That the court is hearing the ACLU’s legal challenge could pose problems. The state’s high court has the authority to grant a stay of implementation of the law, in case it finds that the government had overstepped its authority by imposing the measure. If the lower court doesn’t act swiftly, it could provide a window for the Supreme Court to address abortion rights in a major case, even though there is no deadline for the court’s intervention on the individual case.
“We’re really hoping that the justices will be very responsive and not issue it,” said Susan F. Lipow, the ACLU’s legal director, in an interview with ThinkProgress. “And while it’s been a long year, it’s good to be fighting on a big issue this early in the court’s schedule. The court’s action
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