Hudson, who made his initial ruling last week, reversed course on Tuesday, saying he needed to hear more information during the trial, which begins Monday. In a two-page order, Hudson wrote that “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.” Hudson was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush.
Hudson will preside over the two-week trial in the case filed last June by the ACLU of Virginia, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm O’Melveny and Myers. The groups filed on behalf of various abortion care providers, including the Falls Church Healthcare Center and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance.
Hudson’s decision to change course was called “unusual” by one federal court expert and anti-choice groups celebrated Hudson’s reversal.
Hudson’s decision had been hailed as a “landmark” ruling, because it was the first federal court decision to overturn a law banning advanced clinicians from performing first-trimester abortions. Hudson’s initial ruling would have allowed nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to provide first-trimester abortions in Virginia.
The state of Virginia has argued that having physicians involved in all abortions has medical benefits and places only a minimal burden on patients and doctors.
Pro-choice activists disagreed, arguing that the law is intended to restrict abortion access. In response to Hudson’s reversal, Jenny Ma, senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights and its lead counsel on the case, told the Washington Post that there is “overwhelming evidence that medical professionals other than physicians can safely and effectively provide abortion care. We will be presenting this evidence at trial next week.”