In an end-run of women’s constitutional rights, Republican-run states have used Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws to shut down access to legal, and safe abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Proponents of TRAP laws claim abortion clinic restrictions are enacted to protect the “health and safety of women.” Critics of abortion clinic restrictions say that proponents’ claims couldn’t be further from the truth. Who is right?
Texas Governors Say “Fuck The Constitution”
The Supreme Court of the United States decided Nov. 13 to hear an appeal of HB2 2013 in a case known as Whole Women’s Health v. Cole in the 2016 spring session and, according to the Huffington Post, the court expects to rule in June.
Gov. Perry easily shrugged off medical science, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), security risks, and the Constitution when he signed HB2 in favor of making women the enemy because Roe v. Wade prevents him from attacking women’s choices directly. Instead, he designed HB2 to force as many clinics as possible to close and make accessing abortion impossible.
The current governor, Gregg Abbott (R-Texas), holds the same extreme views and has had no trouble picking up Gov. Perry’s crusade against a woman’s right to choose when he took office. Gov. Abbott promptly introduced new legislation further restricting abortion in the state, according to the Texas Tribune.
The ACOG opposes HB2 and similar TRAP laws because they contradict its recommendations regarding pregnancies. That alone should be enough to expose HB2 for what it is – an unconstitutional law designed to punish abortion doctors and women for their choices.
Abortion Clinic Regulations, Undue Burden On Trial
According to SCOTUSblog:
“A law will be struck down if it creates, or is intended to create, a “substantial obstacle” to seeking an abortion before the fetus is able to survive outside the womb.”
Having neglected to define what “undue burden” meant, Whole Women’s Health forces the high court to correct that oversight.
The restrictions that regulate abortion clinics and abortion doctors while forcing women to jump through hoops to obtain an abortion are the definition of undue burden. The HB2 restrictions on abortion doctors and clinics include:
- Forces clinics to become Ambulatory Surgical Centers
- Forces doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals
- Forces clinics to put a “healthcare provider” on call 24/7, or hire one.
Not only are the provisions medically unnecessary, but they are costly as well and, as a result of these regulations, HB2’s true intentions were realized when 23 of Texas’ 41 abortion clinics closed.
The “on call” provision, which forces the on call providers to give out full contact information to clinic patients, is at best a security risk. Anti-choice extremists known as “Abolish Human Abortion” recommended kidnapping pregnant women to stop them from having abortions, according to Addicting Info.
This really alarmed us this morning. Just one reminder that getting an abortion in Texas can be very dangerous. pic.twitter.com/bdHCZ3F3lM
— Fund Texas Choice (@FundTexasChoice) November 10, 2013
If they are willing to go far as committing a felony like kidnapping, could you imagine just how far they’d go to get a clinic’s information, and that of its staff? Or what the extremists might do with that information?
The hoops women have to jump through as a result of HB2 include:
- Force women to have, look at, and hear described an ultrasound.
- Travel hundreds of miles each way to visit the clinic and then,
- Visit the clinic an extra two to four times, based on the type of abortion
The ACOG – the foremost authority on women’s healthcare before, during, and after pregnancy – recommends against medically unnecessary ultrasounds. HB2 directly contradicts this recommendation, instead requiring women to have ultrasounds and other medically unnecessary tests to shame women into going through childbirth, which is riskier than having an abortion, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The Road To SCOTUS
The road to the Supreme Court zig-zagged between two cases, the Fifth Circuit Court, the Texas Supreme Court, and back for two years before SCOTUS stepped in.
It started when District Judge Lee Yeakel blocked HB2 in October 2013 with an injunction, according to RH Reality Check, in a case known as Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, referring to Texas’ current governor. Punctuating his ruling, according to the Huffington Post, Judge Yeakel made it clear that HB2’s unconstitutional intention is:
“To reduce the number of providers licensed to perform abortions, thus creating a substantial obstacle for a woman seeking to access an abortion.”
The conservative Fifth Circuit Court reversed the ruling, upholding HB2 in March 2014. A month later, Whole Woman’s Health filed an appeal to HB2, according to RH Reality Check. Judge Yeakel again ruled HB2 unconstitutional, and the conservative court again reversed that ruling.
SCOTUS intervened after more zig-zagging, which provisionally stopped Texas from implementing HB2 until Whole Women’s Health had a chance to appeal formally, and it did in September. Just 18 abortion clinics are operational in Texas currently, and half of those expected to close if SCOTUS favors HB2.
The Consequences Of Ruling For Or Against HB2
Although any Supreme Court ruling in Whole Women’s Health v. Cole will have earth-shattering consequences, it must first define what “undue burden” actually means, which would clarify just how far the right wing can legally go to skirt the constitution in plain sight.
A recent conservative streak exhibited by SCOTUS has left a trail of equally conservative rulings in its wake. Take the Hobby Lobby ruling, for example, that solidified the GOP’s war on women and eroded women’s equal right to healthcare.
A conservative ruling favoring Cole would open the floodgates to more TRAP laws to close even more Texas abortion clinics, and other Republican-run states would follow.
On the other hand, a ruling favoring Whole Woman’s Health would uphold Roe v. Wade, solidify Casey, and confirm women have a constitutional right to legal, safe abortion access while finally putting red-state governors and the rest of the extreme anti-choice right wing in their place.
Everyone must be reminded that the Constitution applies to everyone, and that the collective “you” can’t pick and choose which parts of it you want to follow when it suits you.