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With Supreme Court Poised to Review Abortion Law, Professor David S. Cohen Co-Authors Amicus Brief

David S. Cohen with students

January 28, 2016

Professor David S. Cohen joined three other attorneys in writing a friend-of-the-court brief concerning a momentous abortion-rights case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court is scheduled on March 2 to hear arguments concerning a Texas law that would impose ambulatory surgical center and admitting-privilege regulations on clinics that provide abortions, thereby forcing most in the state to close.

Cohen contributed to a brief filed on behalf of 10 abortion providers in Pennsylvania who contend that such regulations would likely drive women to seek “back-alley abortions and into the hands of unscrupulous criminals like Kermit Gosnell,” the West Philadelphia doctor who was convicted in 2013 of murdering three babies that were delivered alive and subsequently killed and of committing involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient who died from an anesthesia overdose.

Citing the horrific conditions that existed in Gosnell’s clinic, the brief argued that regulations setting standards like those for an ambulatory surgical facility would not have protected his patients.

“Gosnell’s practices and policies were outrageous violations of a myriad of existing laws and regulations and bore no resemblance to the ethical and legal practice of medicine, regardless of the field,” the brief said. “Gosnell’s crimes were not the result of a dearth of criminal laws and abortion regulations. Pennsylvania’s existing laws—including an abortion statute which for many years ranked among the most restrictive in the nation—were more than sufficient to close Gosnell’s practice and bring him to justice, which would have happened sooner had those laws only been enforced.” 

Imposing medically unnecessary rules on clinics will make the procedure less widely available and “create a void that criminals like Gosnell will rush to fill,” the brief said, citing studies that show demand for abortions remaining constant, despite the shifting availability of approved facilities.

Cohen wrote the brief along with Pepper Hamilton Partner Thomas Zemaitis, a member of the Women’s Law Project board, and WLP Senior Staff attorney Sue Frietsche and WLP Staff Attorney Tara R. Pfeifer.

Cohen and ’12 alumna Krysten Connon are the co-authors of “Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism,” which was published in 2015 by Oxford University Press.