The Supreme Court’s decision today is the biggest victory for abortion rights in a generation
This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a highly anticipated decision on Whole Women’s Health vs. Hellerstedt–undeniably the most significant abortion case before the court in decades.
The case centers on a deceptive TRAP law (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) that has succeeded in shutting down 75% of the abortion clinics in Texas. These laws place onerous, medically unnecessary, and ultimately, impossible admitting privilege and surgical center requirements on abortion clinics (but not on other outpatient clinics providing similar or even riskier procedures).
In today’s 5-3 decision, the Court held that the requirements of the Texas law do nothing to protect the health and safety of those seeking first trimester abortions, and “place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, constitute an undue burden on abortion access, and thus violate the constitution.” Plainly stated: the court overturned the restrictive law, stating that the burden placed on those seeking abortion is so significant that it violates their constitutional right to abortion.
While proponents of TRAP laws insist that they protect the health and safety of women, the Court recognized that this is just not true: By imposing unnecessary regulations on providers of abortion care, these laws force clinics to close their doors and force patients to travel hundreds of miles to obtain an exceedingly safe and common procedure; in tens of thousands of cases, women have tried to induce abortion themselves.
What does today’s decision mean?
The most direct result of this decision is that Whole Women’s Health, an abortion provider in Texas, will not have to close its doors. In addition, many other providers in Texas will stay open, and, we hope, more will reopen. Several other states in the South will not be able to implement similar TRAP laws, allowing clinics in those states to stay open.
Despite the best efforts of our opponents, Maine’s legislature rejected a similar TRAP law in 2015, so this ruling will not have a direct effect on the ability of Mainers to access abortion. However, today’s decision means that Maine is less likely to see this kind of legislation introduced again, freeing proponents of reproductive rights to focus on advancing access, rather than playing defense against this kind of sham legislation.
This decision is a huge victory for evidence-based policy, for expert providers, and for all of us who believe that we must be able to make our own decisions about our bodies, our families, and our lives–and that politicians shouldn’t interfere in these decisions with laws intended to limit our choices.