A big win for abortion rights: Our view
The Supreme Court unmasked Texas’ bogus health laws on abortion as an illegal burden.
For more than 25 years, abortion opponents unable to overturn Roe v. Wade have been building ever-higher barriers to a woman’s right to an abortion. On Thursday, in the most far-reaching abortion ruling in a generation, the Supreme Court in essence told them, “Stop, you’ve gone too far.”
In its 5-3 decision, the bitterly divided court struck down parts of a Texas law that had already closed half of the state’s abortion clinics, and if allowed to go forward, would have left the nation’s second largest state with less than 10 clinics to serve 5.4 million women of reproductive age. By contrast, California, the nation’s most populous state, had 160 abortion clinicsat last count.
Texas is one of many states that have used onerous restrictions to turn what is a constitutional right, guaranteed by the court in 1973, into little more than an empty promise, especially for low-income women who have less ability to overcome these obstacles. The barriers include waiting periods of anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, required counseling and forced sonograms.
Between the growing restrictions and anti-abortion politics, abortions have become hard to obtain in many states and almost impossible to get in some. Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, for example, are each down to a single clinic.
In recent years, abortion foes have turned their sights from women seeking abortions to the clinics providing them, passing especially rigorous laws in 15 states. Texas’ 2013 law — which requires all providers to have “admitting privileges” at a nearby hospital and to maintain hospital-like standards of ambulatory surgical centers — was among the harshest.
While both provisions might sound like they promote health, as Texas insists they do, the Supreme Court unmasked that rationale as bogus. In 2013, Texas already had strong abortion clinic regulations, particularly low rates of complications and virtually no deaths from abortions, but passed a new law anyway.
The results? Wait times ballooned, from about five days to 28 days in Dallas-Ft. Worth, for example. Clinic staffs faced burn-out, and many women faced driving hundreds of miles to get an abortion in what the court called “crammed-to-capacity superfacilities” where “individualized attention, serious conversation, and emotional support” were less likely.
Balancing a “virtual absence of any health benefit” from the restrictions against the obstacles they placed in women’s paths, the court ruled that the Texas law violates the “undue burden” standard it spelled out in a 1992 decision.
The ruling will likely impact similar laws across wide swaths of the country. But it may take some time, as courts weigh the facts in each. Certainly, the Supreme Court’s strong language should dissuade more lawmakers from going down this cynical path.
Abortion foes latched onto the idea of regulating clinics after Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell was indicted in 2011 and later convicted of three counts of first-degree murder at his horrifying clinic. Disreputable providers deserve to be shut down and criminal doctors prosecuted.
But Gosnell’s crimes had nothing to do with the lack of hospital-like facilities or admitting privileges. His rogue clinic flourished amid a complete breakdown of oversight by multiple agencies, hospitals and professional organizations that failed to do their jobs.
If state health officials are interested in women’s safety, they should focus on these issues and ensure that inspections are carried out. Providers, too, could do a much better job of policing their own.
Thursday’s decision will not change the country’s deep, emotional divide over abortion. But it should make clear that abortion rights can’t be trampled with laws that pretend to protect women but actually endanger their health.
USA TODAY’s editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff. Most editorials are coupled with an opposing view — a unique USA TODAY feature.
This doesn’t mean that the work is over. For now, we have a victory, but they will come up with something else. A woman’s body is her own. When the GOP talks about less contraceptives available to couples or no contraceptives, unwanted pregnancies will be the result.
Enjoy the few moments of victory but know this is not over yet. This is where women need to get out and speak up for our rights.
Any child born has the right to be born wanted, cared for, and loved.
That baby has a right to be wanted and loved and doted over. That child has the right to regular health and dental care and a good education. They have the right to a decent chance to a life worth living. They have a right to a life that won’t end up in homelessness. They have a right to what we had.
And if a woman is unable or unwilling to care for that child, a woman has a right to not have that child. If a woman is unable or unwilling to carry that child, she has a right to not be forced to carry a fetus for 9 months.
Children should not be forced to have children, and victims of rape or molestation have the right to not have to be reminded of the most life-shattering trauma they will likely ever face for every moment of every day for the next 9 months, and into the rest of her life.