In landmark 5-3 decision, Supremes affirm reproductive rights

Today’s Supreme Court decision on reproductive rights inspired a huge sigh of relief for women and men across the U.S. Easily the most critical abortion ruling since the 1992 case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the High Court upheld the undue burden standard that if any law imposes a “substantial obstacle” to a fundamental human right, it is dubbed unconstitutional. And that was exactly the case with Texas law HB2, the subject of debate in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. In their 5-3 ruling, the justices found that instead of banning abortion outright, lawmakers were using so-called “TRAP laws” to impose outlandish requirements on the clinics where women could obtain a safe and legal abortion. The widely unattainable and unaffordable regulations forced clinics to meet the same standards as many surgery centers and required physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their facility. Clinics, especially those in more remote rural areas, were unable to meet these burdensome regulations, forcing an overwhelming majority of them to close. Even worse, the 2013 law falsely suggested that abortion is unsafe, when in reality, even colonoscopies carry more risk.

So what does this mean moving forward?

  • States trying to pass similar laws will face an uphill battle in creating similar backdoor anti-abortion laws that disproportionately impact young, rural, and low-income women of color.
  • For Texas, 5.4 million Texans, including 2.5 million Latinas of reproductive age,  will regain access to reproductive healthcare.
  • With the potential for Texas clinics to reopen, women will not have to resort to – as Justice Ginsberg stated in her opinion – “unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety.”
  • Texas women will not have to travel across state lines to obtain a safe and legal abortion, will not face as many barriers to abortion via medication, and worse yet, will not have to perform DIY abortions.
  • Women and their families will save money on healthcare. Under HB2, some women reported spending $5,000 for abortion care.
  • Some think the ruling bodes well for more “pro-science” rulings on reproductive rights and other issues from the court.

Needless to say, overturning HB2 was a big win for the future of women’s reproductive rights and health across the United States.