‘Unprecedented’: Federal judge rescinds order allowing abortions by non-doctors

abortion, Virginia

Less than two weeks ago, federal Judge Henry Hudson ruled that a 1975 Virginia law was unconstitutional. The law declared that only doctors could commit abortions, but Hudson’s ruling changed that, allowing midwives, nurses, and physician’s assistants to commit them as well. But now, Hudson has surprisingly changed course, rescinding his own order.

The Virginia Department of Health had pushed for the law to be overturned, arguing that “[a] medication abortion requires even less physician time, and can be done via Skype — meaning that the physician does not have to be in the same room (or even the same city) as the abortion patient.” Hudson agreed, saying that having abortions on-site was not “medically beneficial.”

Tuesday, however, Hudson changed his mind. “On further review, the Court is of the opinion that summary judgment was improvidently awarded,” he wrote. “Rather, on further consideration, whether the ‘Physicians-Only Law’ presents an undue burden to Virginia women who seek an abortion is a material fact that is genuinely in dispute.”

READ: Are Virginia Democrats still supporting extreme pro-abortion legislation?

The case will now go to trial in Richmond next week, and the abortion industry is already preparing to fight. “There is overwhelming evidence that medical professionals other than physicians can safely and effectively provide abortion care,” Jenny Ma, lead counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the Washington Post. “We will be presenting this evidence at trial next week.” They are likewise seeking to overturn similar laws in Maine, Mississippi, Arizona, Kansas, and Louisiana.

The Family Foundation of Virginia, meanwhile, lauded Hudson’s decision. “We’re thrilled that Judge Hudson took this extraordinary step to reverse his earlier decision that jeopardizes women’s health,” president Victoria Cobb said in a statement that called the decision to rescind “nearly unprecedented.”

Previously, the state of Virginia has argued that it is burdensome to require that a qualified physician be the one to commit abortions, particularly when it comes to abortion pills. But medication abortion isn’t as simple as it’s made out to be.


Many women have openly talked about the horrors they experienced after a medication abortion; they were led to believe it would be similar to their period, only to realize afterwards that it’s quite different. Women have called it “terrifying” and the “worst pain” they’ve ever felt.

Some women have bled for weeks after taking abortion pills; others have experienced side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Some women have died, often because women had an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy, were further along than they believed, or got an infection. And these cases underscore exactly why doctors are actually needed to oversee abortions, even if it’s “just” abortion pills.

Abortion activists claim abortion needs to be legal so women have access to a doctor, instead of being butchered in a back-alley procedure. But now they’re agitating for women to be able to go through with abortions without a doctor overseeing it, which begs the question: is this really about women’s safety, or is it about expanding the abortion industry at all costs?

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