WASHINGTON― As states lose court battle after court battle over the hundreds of anti-abortion laws they’ve passed in the last five years, taxpayers are being forced to pay millions of dollars that are desperately needed for other purposes.
Alabama, for instance, just had to call a special legislative session to deal with a massive budget shortfall. The state is so desperate for money that it’s considering creating a lottery to raise funds for it’s deeply short-changed Medicaid program. Meanwhile, the state agreed last week to pay $1.7 million in attorney fees and costs to Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, which successfully challenged a state law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled a similar law in Texas unconstitutional, causing Alabama’s attorney general to drop the state’s appeal after two years of pricy court battles.
Wisconsin, which is currently trying to save money in the state budget by underfunding its public schools, is expected to pay $1.8 million in legal fees to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU after a judge blocked its 2013 admitting privileges law and the Supreme Court refused to review it. North Carolina had to dip into its emergency fund for natural disasters to pay $1 million in legal fees to the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood and ACLU, which successfully challenged a 2011 state law forcing women to view a narrated ultrasound before having an abortion. And Missouri, where Gov. Jay Nixon (D) had to freeze money for K-12 transportation and charter schools to balance the budget, was just ordered to pay $156,000 in attorney fees after the state illegally revoked the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic’s abortion license.
“Time after time, courts across the country have reaffirmed that a woman has a constitutional right to safe and legal abortion,” said Stephanie Toti, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Not only do unconstitutional abortion restrictions harm women, but they are a burden to taxpayers.”
These price tags, of course, do not include the states’ own legal costs, which are equally high. Texas, for instance, has already spent more than $1 million defending a pair of abortion restrictions that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in June, before the Center for Reproductive Rights has even filed for legal fees. And the court battles over unconstitutional abortion laws in the states aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.
“Political attacks on health care come at a cost,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood. “We will continue to fight state by state, legislature by legislature, until each of these laws is struck down.”