In a victory for the abortion rights movement, a federal judge in Richmond ruled on Monday that requiring a doctor to perform most abortions violates the Constitution.
U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson agreed with a group of clinics and abortion rights advocates that “a consensus appears to have evolved” on the issue, meaning Virginia’s current medical requirements are “unduly burdensome” and therefore unconstitutional.
Abortion rights advocates have long argued that first-trimester abortions are safe enough to be performed without a physician, and Monday’s decision marks the first time a federal judge has agreed with that assessment.
Though Hudson has yet to set a date for his ruling to go into effect, once it does, midwives, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants with the necessary training will be able to perform abortions in Virginia.
The state of Virginia argued that there was a medical benefit to having physicians involved in all abortions and that the burden on patients and doctors was minimal, but abortion rights advocates successfully argued that the law was intended to restrict abortion access.
Abortion rights advocates immediately praised the decision.
Hudson’s ruling comes ahead of a trial later this month, in which the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU of Virginia and the Center for Reproductive Rights are pushing to strike down Virginia’s most stringent “TRAP laws.”
These laws include requirements that all second-trimester abortions be performed in a hospital, a mandate that patients wait 24 hours after getting an ultrasound to have an abortion, and overly strict licensing standards for clinics.
That trial is set to begin on May 20.