Today I attended the rally outside of the US Supreme Court in anticipation of the decision on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the most significant abortion case to be decided by the Court since Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.
Casey reaffirmed the Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, holding that the Constitution guarantees the right to abortion and that states must not impose undue burdens on those seeking abortion. At issue in Whole Woman’s Health was whether Texas’s law requiring abortion doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges and abortion clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers constituted an undue burden under Casey. The Texas law has caused the closure of seventy-five percent of abortion clinics in Texas, rendering abortion practically inaccessible, particularly for poor and rural women.
This morning both sides of the abortion debate took to the steps of the Court to voice their opinion, but their tones were vastly different. Pro-choice advocates wore bright purple shirts, waved signs reading “Stand with Whole Woman’s Health,” “Stop the Sham,” and “Keep Clinics Open,” and danced to music from pop feminist icons such as Beyoncé and the Spice Girls. Anti-abortion advocates stood solemnly in the background holding signs with graphic imagery and messages like “I am the Pro-Life Generation,” “Women Do Regret Abortion,” and “Fathers Do Regret Lost Fatherhood.”
Abortion doctors told the crowd that abortion is a medical decision, not a political issue. Politicians and interest groups are politicizing abortion, but the decision whether to have an abortion should be between a patient and a doctor. Abortion is a safe and routine procedure which results in less than 0.03 percent of complications needing hospitalization. Requiring abortion doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges is medically unnecessary and unduly burdensome.
The Court ultimately sided with the abortion doctors and struck down the law as unconstitutional in a 5-3 decision, a sweeping victory for abortion clinics in Texas and across the United States. The right to access safe, legal abortion prevails for another day. While humanists and other reproductive rights activists should celebrate this important victory of women’s rights, we must also remain vigilant against the religious right’s inevitable attacks against reproductive justice.