Doctor wearing glasses listening to female patient.

Physician Free Speech and the Doctor-Patient Relationship Post-Dobbs

By Lynette Martins and Scott Schweikart

Laws regulating physicians’ professional speech – i.e., what they can and cannot discuss in the exam room with patients — have made a resurgence in the post-Dobbs era. These so-called “gag laws” have primarily targeted physicians’ speech around firearms, reproductive rights (predominantly abortion), and, less frequently, conversion therapy.

In the abortion context, these restrictive laws impact not only patient access to critical medical services, but also the fundamental underpinnings of the physician-patient relationship.

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Fertilized human egg cells dividing.

The Irony of Pro-life Efforts to Grant Embryos Legal Personhood

By Gerard Letterie and Dov Fox

The overruling of Roe v. Wade has emboldened pro-life lawmakers to confer legal personhood status on early-stage embryos outside of pregnancy as well, including in the context of assisted reproduction. Recognizing embryos as legal persons, it is said, promotes a “culture of life.” And yet treating embryos as persons would actually undermine a promotion of human life, in this critical sense: helping people to have the children they want and are otherwise unable to have.

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Austin, TX, USA - Oct. 2, 2021: Participants at the Women's March rally at the Capitol protest SB 8, Texas' abortion law that effectively bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

The Impact of Criminal Abortion Bans on Assisted Reproduction in the Post-Dobbs Landscape

By Yvonne Lindgren

In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, the constitutional floor that had protected the abortion right for nearly fifty years, and returned the issue of regulating abortion to the states. In the post-Dobbs landscape, thirteen states have banned abortion, either through laws passed after the decision, through trigger laws, or by reviving pre-Roe era abortion bans. As a result of criminalizing abortion, the protective function of medical malpractice law is supplanted by provider and institutional decision-making driven by the imperative to avoid criminal liability and loss of licensure. This essay argues that abortion bans have made all reproductive health care less safe, and that these new pregnancy-related dangers will disproportionately impact assisted reproduction, because those who conceive through assisted reproduction often face a higher risk of complications needing medical intervention, and because women may be reluctant to act as surrogates in light of the heightened risk of pregnancy.

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cell with pipette and needle.

The Impact of Dobbs on Assisted Reproductive Technologies: Does It Matter Where Life Begins?

By Judith Daar

In February 2023, a Louisville lawmaker introduced a bill that would prosecute women for criminal homicide for having an abortion. The Kentucky Prenatal Equal Protection Act, introduced by Republican Representative Emily Callaway, extends the state’s criminal abortion law to pregnant women for any termination not linked to a life-threatening condition or spontaneous miscarriage. Declaring, “innocent human life, created in the image of God, should be equally protected under the laws from fertilization to natural death,” the bill elevates the rights of the unborn over any rights held by the pregnant woman to control her reproductive future. Now sanctioned in a post-Dobbs rational basis world, this bill and others like it pose potential roadblocks to other medical interactions with unborn persons, notably in vitro fertilization (IVF) and related assisted reproductive technologies.

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Washington, DC, USA - December 1, 2021: Abortion rights rally at the Supreme Court, Jackson Women's Health v. Dobbs.

Assisted Reproduction in a Post-Dobbs US

By Chloe Reichel and Seema Mohapatra

Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) face an uncertain future as anti-abortion policymakers and advocates work to restrict access to reproductive care post-Dobbs.

Until last summer, modern ART had been performed in the United States with the Constitutional protection for abortion care in the background. After Dobbs, fertility doctors and patients have begun to realize that strict abortion laws and policies affect not only those who do not wish to continue a pregnancy, but also people who very much desire to have a child.

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Remarkable macro view through the microscope at process of the in vitro fertilization of a female egg inside IVF dish in the laboratory. Horizontal.

That’s Criminal: The Choices Fertility Specialists May Have to Make

By Gerard Letterie

Fertility care operates in a delicate emotional space that demands complete trust across the consult table. Trust that decisions will be made with the patient’s best interests. Trust that guidance will be offered exclusive of any other competing influence, be it financial, personal, or convenience.

In a post-Dobbs setting, new, restrictive laws may disrupt this delicate equilibrium. This concern is materializing with an increasing velocity as states look to further limit reproductive autonomy.

Next in the crosshairs might be the disposition of embryos in the context of IVF. Dobbs has energized the pro-life movement to expand beyond abortion to other reproductive technologies within the context of the catchphrase “life begins at conception.”

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La Plata, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina; 12 04 2020: Claim of legalization of abortion in Argentina. Woman with green scarves protested in front of the church.

Decriminalizing Abortion in Argentina: 8 Takeaways from the Inflection Point of Legalization

By Alicia Ely Yamin

In December of 2020, Argentina’s Congress passed Law 27.610, which overhauled the country’s previously restrictive legal framework on abortion. Law 27.610, “Access to Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy,” created two kinds of legal abortion: (i) IVE (its acronym in Spanish, which translates to “Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy”), which allows any person to request an abortion up to 14 weeks gestation; and (ii) ILE (which stands for “Legal Interruption of Pregnancy”), which makes abortion available at any point in a pregnancy for cases involving rape, and where there is a threat to the life or “integral health” of the pregnant person.

Around the world, when countries have taken steps to liberalize abortion access, these new laws have proven challenging to implement, as in Ireland and South Africa. As with any country, lessons from Argentina are deeply contextualized. Nonetheless, the Argentine experience offers insights to consider for countries at different stages of abortion struggles.

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The United States Capitol building at sunset at night in Washington DC, USA

The End of Public Health? It’s Not Dead Yet

By Nicole Huberfeld

Once again, health law has become a vehicle for constitutional change, with courts hollowing federal and state public health authority while also generating new challenges. In part, this pattern is occurring because the New Roberts Court — the post-Ruth Bader Ginsburg composition of U.S. Supreme Court justices — is led by jurists who rely on “clear statement rules.” This statutory interpretation canon demands Congress draft textually unambiguous laws and contains a presumption against broadly-worded statutes that are meant to be adaptable over time. In effect, Congress should leave nothing to the imagination of those responsible for implementing federal laws, i.e., executive agencies and state officials, so everything a statute covers must be specified, with no room for legislative history or other non-textual sources.

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New York NY USA-August 17, 2021 Businesses in Chelsea in New York display signs requiring proof of vaccination prior to entering.

Employers and the Future of Public Health

By Sharona Hoffman

As state and federal public health authority erodes, employers may increasingly find themselves playing a central role in promoting public health. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers either incentivized or required employees and customers to be vaccinated and/or masked even in the absence of federal and state mandates. In the future, they may frequently take the lead in implementing public health measures.

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