Court must rule to protect women’s reproductive rights
The U.S. Supreme Court is about to announce a landmark decision on women’s reproductive rights in America, one that will have an impact on women in every state, including here in New York.
If it adheres to well-established precedent, the court will ensure that the freedom of individuals to make their own reproductive decisions, recognized in Roe vs. Wade, is protected for future generations of women and girls. If not, the progress of the past 43 years will come to a screeching halt.
The case, Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, is about a Texas law called HB2. Passed in 2013, the law places onerous restrictions on doctors who provide abortions, including a requirement that they obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and that their facility meets the stringent specifications of ambulatory surgical centers. These rules apply only to women’s health care providers and not to other practices that provide equally safe procedures.
The authors of the bill argue that it is designed to protect women. But experts like the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists disagree. They say laws like HB2 serve no medical purpose, interfere with doctors, and do nothing to improve women’s health.
In fact, the law has actually made it much more difficult, and often impossible, for women in Texas to obtain a safe, legal abortion. Since HB2 passed, the number of locations providing abortions in Texas has been cut in half, and if the law is allowed to take full effect, there will be only about 10 providers in the entire state, serving 5.4 million women of reproductive age, some of whom would have to travel hundreds of miles for care.
The court’s decision will resonate far beyond Texas, however. Several other states have similar laws designed to shut the doors of clinics on thousands of women who rely on them for care. These laws mean higher costs, longer waits and additional barriers to access.
Unsurprisingly, it is low-income women and women of color — those who often lack the means to overcome additional costs and challenges — who are most negatively affected.
New York is not immune from these growing attacks on reproductive rights; far from it. There are nearly a dozen bills in the state Legislature right now that would restrict access for women seeking an abortion, including enforced waiting periods, mandated ultrasounds and defunding Planned Parenthood. And every year the Senate Majority refuses to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify the protections of Roe vs. Wade into New York state law.
The truth is, if lawmakers were really concerned about the safety of women seeking an abortion, they would ensure every woman had access to high quality, safe, legal care. But it’s no secret that the real motivation behind these laws has nothing to do with the well-being of patients. Several supporters have stated openly that the goal of these laws is not to make abortion safer (it’s already one of the safest medical procedures), but to make it more difficult.
What anti-choice extremists fail to acknowledge is that closing clinics doesn’t end abortion, it just leads to abortions that are illegal and unsafe. Laws like HB2 force many women, particularly low-income women, into making an impossible choice between carrying an unintended pregnancy to term or seeking dangerous alternatives — and sometimes facing criminal charges when they do.
This is the end game for Texas lawmakers and their like-minded colleagues in New York — a situation even worse than the pre-Roe days, in which women are aggressively prosecuted for deciding to end a pregnancy.
The decision to have an abortion is often complex, and deeply personal. It is one that women are capable of making on their own without interference from (mostly male) politicians. The Supreme Court can either put a stop to the nationwide assault on a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions, or it can turn the clock back 50 years to an era of dangerous back-alley abortions. The court should take a stand for women, families, and the Constitution, and strike down this backward law.