Virginia Judge Takes Back Own Ruling Letting Non-Doctors Perform First-Trimester Abortions

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Grace Carr Reporter
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A federal judge abandoned his own previous ruling to permit medical professionals who are not doctors to perform first-trimester abortions in Virginia on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson walked back his May 6 ruling that Virginia’s “Physicians-Only Law” requiring doctors to perform first-trimester abortions is “‘unduly burdensome’ and therefore unconstitutional,” The Washington Post reported. Hudson granted a motion for summary judgment following his conclusion.

Hudson’s previous ruling would have allowed first-trimester abortions to be performed in clinics or hospitals in the presence of a medical professional, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants and midwives with appropriate training. A physician would not be required to perform the procedure, according to the ruling.

Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled in 2010 that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was unconstitutional, according to the Post.

“It’s truly a landmark ruling,” Center for Reproductive Rights attorney Jenny Ma said following the ruling, the Post reported May 8.

Abortion groups have long argued medical professionals and nurses should be able to perform first-trimester and medication abortions. Permitting only doctors to perform the procedures is an underhanded attempt to restrict abortion access, pro-choice groups argue.

Hudson rescinded his ruling Tuesday.

“On further review, the Court is of the opinion that summary judgment was improvidently awarded,” he wrote.

Pro-life groups applauded Hudson’s reversal.

“We’re thrilled that Judge Hudson took this extraordinary step to reverse his earlier decision that jeopardizes women’s health,” Family Foundation president Victoria Cobb said in a statement. (RELATED: Alabama’s Near-Total Abortion Ban Spares Women, Would Send Abortion Doctors To Prison)

The Virginia Society for Human Life “welcomes the action of Judge Hudson to reverse his own ruling,” the group’s president Olivia Gans Turner said.

“There is overwhelming evidence that medical professionals other than physicians can safely and effectively provide abortion care,” Ma said in an email criticizing Hudson’s updated conclusion, according to the Post.

An abortion rights activist holds up a sign as marchers take part in the 46th annual March for Life in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

A decision is set to be finalized in a May 20 trial. Those in favor of and those against the ruling will have the opportunity to make a case in the trial in Richmond.

In addition to the state’s physicians-only requirement, clinic licensing standards and the state’s 24-hour mandate that blocks women from undergoing abortions until at least a full day has passed since the time they received an ultrasound will also be examined.

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