By ANN MONTAGUE
— JUNE 27 — Women are celebrating today in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building after a 5-3 ruling reaffirmed Roe v. Wade and struck down two provisions of a Texas state law that restricts women’s access to abortion. The 2013 law that the court nullified required all abortions to take place in ambulatory surgical centers or mini hospitals, instead of regular clinics. Many state legislatures have passed laws similar to the Texas law, which are designed to regulate abortion clinics out of existence.
These so-called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws violate a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion. The Texas law HB 2 requires clinics to invest in expensive building upgrades to meet the more stringent standards of ambulatory surgical centers. It also mandates that doctors obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
National Advocates For Pregnant Women (NAPW) and the NYU School of Law Reproductive Justice Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of 14 organizations saying that the Texas law would prevent some women from having an abortion; force others to have an abortion outside of safe medical settings; and make those who do so potential targets for arrest and prosecution. The Court’s decision today strikes down that law.
This decision came in the context of increased numbers of women demanding their right to abortion. As this law was being debated, women from across Texas marched and sat in at the state capitol to demand their rights. Women came together who had fought for the right to abortion in the streets that had brought about the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, with younger women who had never before imagined a time when abortion was illegal and a safe abortion was not an option.
Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, made clear that these laws are unconstitutional: “Unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right to an abortion.”
As to the admitting privileges provision, Breyer said there was “nothing” in the record of the case to show that the requirement advanced the interest of protecting women’s health. “Each [requirement] places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution”.
It was interesting that even Justice Anthony Kennedy saw this law as unconstitutional. Kennedy has been involved in 12 cases addressing abortion restrictions. In those 12 cases, he has voted on whether 21 different abortion restrictions could take effect. In all instances except one, he has always allowed restrictions on abortions.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concurred with the opinion written by Justice Beyer and added a short but clear statement that was aimed at state legislatures around the country telling them that any cases restricting access to abortion violated Roe v. Wade and would be struck down: “Abortions are statistically safer than many simpler medical procedures, including tonsillectomies, colonoscopies, in-office dental surgery and childbirth—but Texas does not subject those procedures to the same onerous requirements. Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like HB.2 that do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion, cannot survive judicial inspection.”
It was interesting to note that a few hours after the decision, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren were appearing together at a large rally in Cincinnati. It was billed as a major speech in which the two women were campaigning together for the first time. Both speeches were telecast in full on MSNBC, and after it was over, veteran journalist Andrea Mitchell seemed shocked that not one word had been uttered by either woman about the Supreme Court’s abortion decision. Later, Mitchell reported that she was told that the Clinton campaign didn’t think Cincinnati would necessarily be that receptive to the issue.
There was another victory for women at the Supreme Court today. This was a win for two million home-care workers. Two and a half years ago, the Labor Department finalized a rule requiring that home-care workers be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked as well as overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. It was stopped by a lawsuit that was filed by the International Franchise Association and the home-care industry.
The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, so the Labor Department rule will go into effect. The ongoing union organizing of home-care workers in both the public and private sector and their demand for respect and dignity, along with their alliance with fast-food workers in the Fight For 15, has given them the visibility and power to influence the U.S. Supreme Court. Congratulations!