In the wake of the most significant women’s health decision in twenty years, IDEAL WOMAN celebrates Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and all the women who fought so hard to defeat obstacles to abortion access in the United States!
A little history.
In 1973, the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, which held that a woman’s decision to have an abortion was protected under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. In 1992, the Supreme Court decided Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which held substantial obstacles to abortion access violated the constitutional right to abortion.
Ever since then, conservatives have done everything in their power to eviscerate Roe and Planned Parenthood. In 2015 alone, 396 provisions to restrict abortion were introduced around the country, and 57 were enacted.
In 2013, the Texas legislature passed a law severely limiting abortion access in the state. Specifically, the law imposed two practically-insurmountable obstacles to abortion access for poor women in rural Texas.
First, the law created an “admitting-privileges requirement,” which meant that any doctor performing an abortion had to have active admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles from the place where the abortion was performed. Why is this important? Because in poor, rural communities, there ARE NO HOSPITALS within 30 miles of the health clinics that offer reproductive health care services, including abortion.
Second, the law required every health care facility offering abortion services in Texas to meet incredibly onerous building specifications (to essentially become mini-hospitals). This “surgical-center requirement” further threatened abortion access throughout the state.
Before the Texas law was passed, there were more than 40 licensed abortion facilities in the state (for 5.4 million women of reproductive age). If the admitting-privileges requirement and surgical-center requirement were allowed to take effect, that number would be reduced to SEVEN.
SEVEN facilities in a state that covers nearly 280,000 square miles.
Thankfully, today, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in Whole Woman’s Health et al. v. Hellerstedt et al., holding that NEITHER of the Texas provisions offered medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon abortion access each would impose. Writing for the majority, Justice Breyer stated that each provision “places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.”
In a concurring opinion, Justice Ginsburg explained the facts: complications from an abortion are both rare and rarely dangerous. Many medical procedures, including childbirth itself, are far more dangerous to patients, and yet not subject to either an admitting-privileges requirement or a surgical-center requirement. “Given those realities,” Justice Ginsburg wrote, “it is beyond rational belief that [the Texas law] could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.’”
Three cheers for women’s health and meaningful abortion access! If you want to know more about these critical issues, check out this useful video (by another IDEAL WOMAN, cartoonist Hallie Jay Pope); and watch IDEAL WOMAN Dawn Porter’s amazing documentary TRAPPED.
Women’s rights are human rights!!!