Keeping Track of Possible Supreme Court Abortion Cases

(This list will be updated periodically)

In September, our worst fears were realized with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice who was thought to be opposed to women’s constitutional right to abortion. With his confirmation, the Court is now tipped in what is a likely anti-abortion majority with justices Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Roberts, and Thomas. While Kavanaugh himself tried to be elusive about his views on the subject during the nomination process, President Trump made it perfectly clear that one of his priorities in nominating justices was their likeliness to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The changing composition of the Supreme Court regarding abortion rights comes at a time when hostility towards abortion is rising at the state level. According to the Guttmacher Institute, between 2000 and 2018, the number of “very hostile” states rose from 0 to 7, and “hostile” from 4 to 14.

Even if the Supreme Court does not reverse Roe v. Wade, any future abortion case could still overturn other landmark abortion-rights cases, Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Repealing both cases would allow more restrictions on abortions and would severely limit a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion in many states.

Following Kavanaugh’s confirmation, states like Alabama and West Virginia have also prepared abortion-ban legislation for a post-Roe world. In hopes that their bill will rise to the Supreme Court and overturn Roe, anti-abortion activists have been filing similar restrictions across the nation, such as June Medical Services v. Gee which concerns a Louisiana law almost identical to the Texas one reversed in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. If Roe is overturned, regulation will fall back on the states, many of which are sure to criminalize abortion or increase restrictions.

The Kansas Supreme Court made a landmark ruling on May 24, 2019. The Court declared the right to an abortion to be the law of the land in Kansas. According to the Kansas Supreme Court, the Kansas Constitution guarantees all men and women “equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The court’s decision says that “this right allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation, and family life — decisions that can include whether to continue a pregnancy.” Their decision cannot be appealed and Kansas women will have the right to abortions, no matter what the future holds for Roe v. Wade. This ruling is an example of how the right to abortions can still be secured state by state, even with Brett Kavanaugh sitting on the Supreme Court.

With an uncertain future surrounding the legality of abortion in the United States, the following list tracks recent abortion cases, many of which have the potential to reach the Supreme Court. Red cases indicate the case has been denied from being heard by the Supreme Court. Yellow cases indicate the case has already been heard in a Circuit court and either could be appealed or already has been appealed to the Supreme Court. Yellow cases are of most concern currently to reach the Supreme Court.

EMW v. Glisson

Case last heard: U.S. Federal District Court

Case to be heard: Sixth Circuit    

  • This case concerns a Kentucky law that would have banned abortion in the state by shutting down the last health center that offers safe and legal abortion. The law in question would require abortion providers to have transfer and transport agreements with nearby hospitals.
  • In September, a federal District Court judge struck down the law.
  • The case is being appealed to the Sixth Circuit.

Case last heard: U.S. Federal District Court

Case to be heard: Sixth Circuit      

  • This case concerns a Kentucky law that would have banned abortion in the state by shutting down the last health center that offers safe and legal abortion. The law in question would require abortion providers to have transfer and transport agreements with nearby hospitals.
  • In September, a federal District Court judge struck down the law.
  • The case is being appealed to the Sixth Circuit

Planned Parenthood of Arkansas & Eastern Oklahoma v. Jegley

Case last heard: Eighth Circuit

Case to be heard: TBD

  • This case concerns a 2015 Arkansas state law that required anyone who distributed abortion-inducing drugs have a contract with a physician who had the authority to admit patients to a nearby hospital.
  • A federal district judge originally barred the law from going into effect but this decision was reversed in the Eight Circuit. Arkansas now only has one effective abortion clinic.
  • In May, the Supreme Court placed this case on its Certiorari Denied list, refusing to hear it. The case could come up again.

Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains v. Hawley

Case last heard: Eighth Circuit

Case to be heard: U.S. Federal District Court

  • This case concerns a Missouri law that requires specific necessities for abortion facilities, such as distances to the hospital and “admitting privilege.”
  • The Eighth Circuit vacated a lower court decision that blocked the law for having an “undue burden” on abortion access, and the case has been returned to the lower court to determine “undue burden.”

Garza v. Hargan AND LATER Azar v. Garza

Case last heard: DC Circuit

Case to be heard: No

  • This case concerns Jane Doe, an undocumented 17-year-old, who received a judicial waiver of parental consent to obtain an abortion. Kept in a detention shelter, ORR refused to let Jane leave the shelter for the abortion.
  • U.S. District Court for District of Columbia ordered the government to let Jane leave the shelter in October 2017. The D.C. Circuit Court re-imposed this order.
  • The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, who voided the ruling because the case was no longer valid.

Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky Inc.

Case Last Heard: Seventh Circuit

Case to be heard: Supreme Court (possible)

  • This case concerns a 2016 Indiana Law (signed by Pence) that would dictate women could not terminate a pregnancy for the fetus’ race, gender, national origin, ancestry or genetic abnormality. Also, healthcare facilities would have to bury or cremate the fetus.
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana issued an injunction in 2017 which was upheld by the Seventh Circuit in 2018.
  • After the 7th Circuit’s decision, the state appealed to the Supreme Court, and the case is currently pending petition at the Supreme Court.
  • Supreme Court issued an opinion on May 28, 2019 to uphold part of the law which requires the cremation or burial of fetal remains. However, the Court also denied the appeal to reinstate the part of the law banning abortions based on the sex or disability of the fetus.
  • This was the closest these state abortion bans have come to testing the Supreme Court on Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court’s actions signal that they are not yet willing to reconsider the rulings made in Roe.

Whole Woman’s Health Alliance v. Hill

Case Last Heard: No

Case to be heard: U.S. Federal District Court

  • This case concerns the 2016 Indiana Law and the provision in it that requires an 18-hour waiting period between having an ultrasound and an abortion procedure.
  • The Seventh Circuit upheld a U.S. District Court Injunction, and the state has filed a petition with the Supreme Court to overturn that injunction.

Whole Women’s Health v. Paxton

Case Last Heard: U.S. Federal District Court

Case to be heard: Fifth Circuit

  • This case concerns a July 2017 Texas law that forces the burial or cremation of embryonic and fetal tissue when a woman has a miscarriage management procedure, ectopic pregnancy surgery, or an abortion. The law also requires a waiting period, ultrasounds, and a ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E).
  • A federal district court filed an injunction against the law, the State appealed. The case will be heard in the Fifth Circuit Court.

Gee v. Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast, Inc.

Case Last Heard: Fifth Circuit

Case to be heard: TBD

  • The case regards an individual’s right to sue to challenge a state’s disqualification of a Medicaid provider. It originated because Planned Parenthood Louisiana was removed from a list of Medicaid providers.
  • A district court issued an injunction, and the Fifth Circuit affirmed.
  • Petition of the case in the Supreme Court was denied in December 2018.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. v. Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health

Case Last Heard: Seventh Circuit

Case to be heard: TBD

  • A 2016 Indiana law allowed the state to defund family planning programs because they provided abortion services.
  • A district court issues an injunction, which was upheld by the Seventh Circuit, that the state could not defund an organization solely because they provide abortions.
  • The Supreme Court denied the petition of this case.

EMW Women’s Surgical Center et al. v. Andrew Beshear et al.

Case Last Heard: 2017 in a U.S. Federal District Court

Case to be heard: TBD

  • This case concerns a Kentucky law that required a “speech-and-display requirement” with an ultrasound before administration of an abortion, as well as use of a fetal heart rate monitor.
  • The law was struck down in a U.S. District Court in 2017.
  • The case was appealed in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and on April 4, 2019, the Sixth Circuit upheld the law, despite the fact that a similar law was struck down by the Fourth Circuit in 2014.

Preterm-Cleveland et al. v. Lance Himes et al.

Case Last Heard: U.S. Federal District Court

Case to be heard: ONGOING in the Sixth Circuit

  • This case concerns an Ohio law that would make it a fourth-degree felony for an abortion provider to administer abortion if they had sufficient knowledge that the woman was seeking an abortion due to knowledge of Down Syndrome.
  • Physicians would have to confirm in their reports that they had no knowledge of Down Syndrome.
  • A federal District Court issued an injunction in March 2018. Arguments in the Sixth Circuit began January 30th.

Frederick W. Hopkins v. Larry Jegley et al.

Case Last Heard: U.S. Federal District Court

Case to be heard: ONGOING Eighth Circuit

  • This case concerns an Arkansas law that requires doctors to obtain a woman’s entire pregnancy history before an abortion and a ban on D&E.
  • In August 2017, the U.S. Federal District Court granted an injunction, and the state appealed.

Reproductive Health Services v. Marshall

Case Last Heard: U.S. Federal District Court

Case to be heard: ONGOING Eleventh Circuit

  • This case concerns the rights of minors in getting an abortion and an Alabama law that would complicate the process of judicial bypass by appointing a legal guardian to the fetus in the court.
  • A Federal district court blocked this measure, and this case is being considered by the Eleventh Circuit.

West Alabama Women’s Center v. Miller

Case Last Heard: Eleventh Circuit

Case to be heard: TBD

  • This case concerns a 2016 ban in Alabama on D&E.
  • A Federal District Court issued an injunction which was upheld by the Eleventh Circuit in August.
  • Alabama has yet to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky v. Adams et al.

Case Last Heard: U.S. Federal District Court

Case to be heard: ONGOING Seventh Circuit

  • This case concerns a 2017 Indiana law that requires parental consent for minors seeking abortions, where the parents must provide a government I.D. to the court.
  • A federal district court issued an injunction in 2017.

June Medical Services v. Gee.

Case Last Heard: Fifth Circuit

Case to be heard: Petition to Supreme Court

  • This case concerns a Louisiana law like the Texas 2016 case by the Supreme Court that requires doctors who administer abortions to have “active admitting privileges” at a nearby hospital.
  • On January 28th, petitioners asked the Supreme Court to block the lower court ruling temporarily so they can file a petition for official review.
  • In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court temporarily issued a stay on the law on February 7th, until the court hears full oral arguments on the case.
  • See more from SCOTUS Blog here.

Whole Woman’s Health Organization v. Thomas Dobbs

Case Last Heard: U.S. Federal District Court

Case to be heard: Fifth Circuit (possible)

  • This case concerns a Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks.
  • In November, a federal judge blocked the law permanently, but the state of Mississippi has appealed to the Fifth Circuit.

Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands v. Lawrence G. Wasden et al.

Case Last Heard: U.S. Federal District Court

Case to be heard: Ninth Circuit (possible)

  • This case concerns an Idaho law that creates a list of “abortion complications” and requires health professional to document and report when they occurred.
  • It is pending in the Ninth Circuit.