The Supreme Court of the United States has finally knocked the Puritanical Texas state lawmakers for a loop with their judgment in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case.
Texas is one of nearly 30 states that forces unconstitutional restrictions on women’s right to have a safe, legal abortion by imposing a time delay, which places an incredible emotional and financial burden on women, and/or unnecessary facility requirements that place a burden on doctors and health professionals. In 2013, the Texas state legislature passed House Bill 2, which focused on several tactics to limit abortion:
- defined so-called fetal pain measures,
- re-enforced the time delay that a woman must wait to obtain an abortion after first consulting with a doctor
- set forth the requirements of the doctors to have hospital admitting privileges,
- detailed requirements for abortion centers to be designed like surgical centers,
- banned abortion-inducing drugs.
Read the entire, nauseating bill here.
For three years, the women of Texas have had their constitutional right of access to safe, legal abortion trampled upon by the Tea Party and other religious conservatives. These evangelical groups concoct increasingly inane measures based on bogus “science” and cherry-picked Bible verses to enact unrealistic, unnecessary requirements in their zealous frenzy to prevent women from practicing full body autonomy and unburdened choice.
Whole Women’s Health fought the law, and the law lost. SCOTUS delivered a clear, decisive opinion in favor of Whole Women’s Health on June 27, 2016. The Supreme Court ruling was 5-3.
We agree with the District Court that the surgical center requirement, like the admitting privileges requirement, provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an undue burden on their constitutional right to do so.
The court noted that the “number of facilities providing abortions dropped in half, from about 40 to about 20” after HB 2 went into effect. The justices further explained how the number of women affected by HB 2 increased exponentially:
[T]his decrease in geographical distribution means that the number of women of reproductive age living more than 50 miles from a clinic has doubled, the number living more than 100 miles away has increased by 150%, the number living more than 150 miles away by more than 350%, and the number living more than 200 miles away by about 2,800%….
The surgical-center requirement would basically eliminate all abortion centers from the rural areas of Texas:
[T]he number of facilities would drop to seven or eight if the surgical-center provision took effect, and those remaining facilities would see a significant increase in patient traffic; facilities would remain only in five metropolitan areas….
The decision also notes the following:
[B]efore H. B. 2’s passage, abortion was an extremely safe procedure with very low rates of complications and virtually no deaths; it was also safer than many more common procedures not subject to the same level of regulation….
As for the surgical-center compliance requirement, the court acknowledged the expert testimony that showed the financial burden of renovating abortion centers directly created an undue, unconstitutional burden on women:
[T]he surgical-center requirement imposed an undue burden on the right of women in Texas to seek previability abortions; that, together with that requirement, the admitting-privileges requirement imposed an undue burden … and that the provisions together created an ‘impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion.’
One of the main points the evangelicals do not seem to comprehend is that these women’s health centers do much more for women than only provide abortions. Clinics offer sexual health information, birth control, mammograms, and more — all of which was stripped away from rural Texas women with nowhere else to go when the clinics were forced to close their doors thanks to HB 2.
Now, that is all going to change — and not just for women in Texas. With the Supreme Court ruling that the surgical-center requirement is unconstitutional, other states that have similar undue burden laws will have to allow women’s health clinics to remain open, as they are. And hopefully, clinics that were forced to close will be able to reopen and help women in their communities once again.
Hear that, Mississippi?
Read the SCOTUS’ entire 107-page opinion on the Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt case here.