What The SCOTUS Abortion Ruling Means for American Women…
In its first major abortion ruling since 2007, the Supreme Court last Monday overturned parts of a Texas law regulating the procedure; a decision that will likely prove monumental in paving the way for increased abortion access for American women. In its 5-3 decision in the case Whole Woman’s Health V. Hellerstedt, SCOTUS found that parts of the law – including the provisions that all abortion clinics must have hospital-grade surgical facilities and that all doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals – are unconstitutional.
How will the ruling affect American women and what does it mean for the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice movements? The decision comes at a time in which women seeking to have abortions in states like Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana have faced increasing obstacles and a dramatic shortage of clinics offering the procedure – even by non-surgical methods. In Texas there are only 19 clinics that are allowed to perform abortions, even though there are over 5 million women of reproductive age living in the state; in other states in the so-called ‘Abortion Desert,’ which stretches throughout much of the South and Midwest, legal abortions have become increasingly difficult to obtain due to recently passed laws like Texas’s ‘HB2.’
Spearheaded by Conservative state lawmakers these laws have allowed for an inequality in reproductive care offered to American women depending upon their state of residence. The laws are more likely to burden young and lower-income women because a shortage of providers has forced many to cross state lines to seek the procedure and travel can be too costly for some.
Such restriction of access to what the court called a woman’s “basic right” had been presented and enforced under the guise of protecting women’s health; the Supreme Court’s decision then sets an important precedent that may help reshape the landscape of women’s health rights in America. In her concurrence with the ruling Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “It is beyond rational belief that HB2 could genuinely protect the health of women… Many medical procedures including childbirth are far more dangerous to patients yet are not subject to ambulatory surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements.” The ruling then will likely dissuade state lawmakers from attempting to restrict abortion on grounds of safety.
For American women the ruling should put an even brighter spotlight on the November presidential election since the next president will fill the Supreme Court’s current vacancy. While the court ruled to uphold a woman’s right to have an abortion in this case, a conservative president could potentially nominate more justices, which may sway the court to rule against women’s reproductive rights in the future. After the ruling, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted, “The fight isn’t over. The next president has to protect women’s health.” Meanwhile, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump said Thursday that if he were president, SCOTUS would never rule in favor of abortion. “You won’t even have to question. You wouldn’t even have to bother going to court,” Trump told radio host Mike Gallagher.