With the recent passing of Justice Scalia, all eyes are on Supreme Court nominations and Congressional politics.
But we can’t lose sight of what’s really at stake when the court hears Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt: women’s health and lives.
At the heart of this case is whether or not a law passed in Texas qualifies as placing an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion, which would make it unconstitutional. Already in Texas, all but a fraction of the state’s 44 women’s health centers have closed their doors. This has not only drastically reduced access to safe abortion; it has severely cut women’s access to basic health care like contraception, cancer screenings and annual exams.
If the Texas law is upheld, not only will millions of women in Texas be left without access to safe abortion, we also expect that states ruled by Governors and Legislatures hostile to abortion access will pass similar clinic shutdown laws. A woman’s constitutional right to safe and legal abortion will be determined by her zip code, and this means that abortion will be functionally unobtainable for millions of women.
If the court is tied, they may ask to start all over and re-hear the case next term – or the lower court ruling will stand and millions of women in Texas will be without care.
As we gear up for an intense wait over the next few months, I have to share with you an amazing story of 113 women lawyers who shared their own personal stories about abortion and reproductive health care in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court. This was unprecedented. These women bravely put their own personal stories on the line, in their words, to demonstrate that their personal experiences support Justice Blackmun’s observation that “because motherhood has a dramatic impact on a woman’s educational prospects, employment opportunities, and self-determination, restrictive abortion laws deprive her of basic control over her life.”
Here are a few of their stories:
I am the daughter of a teenage mother who is the daughter of a teenage mother. I had an abortion when I was 16 years old and living in rural Oregon. I often tell people—and I believe it to be true—that access to a safe, legal abortion saved my life. If I had not had an abortion, I would have never been able to graduate high school, go to college, [or] escape my high-poverty rural county in Oregon.- Public Defender
Taking control of my reproductive freedom gave me the ability to be the first person in my family to graduate from high school, the first person to graduate from college, and the first person to achieve a post-graduate degree.- Litigation partner at a large law firm
I have often wondered how my life might have changed if . . . my doctors had delayed treatment [of two dangerous pregnancies] because of restrictive laws, and my reproductive capacity had been destroyed as a result. The Court’s decisions protecting my right to choose have been indispensable to all of the opportunities I’ve been able to pursue, both in my professional career as an attorney and in my personal life as a wife and mother.- Appellate Litigator, who has argued multiple cases before the Supreme Court
The stakes for women in this case cannot be overstated. At Planned Parenthood we’re monitoring every aspect of this case because – politics aside – women’s access to the full range of reproductive health care hangs in the balance.
We’ll be keeping you up to date over the coming months. Next you’ll hear from Alexis Lohse, a Texas transplant to Minnesota who knows exactly what these laws mean for women, because she lived it. She was one of the thousands of women who lost access to basic preventive care and birth control when the law originally passed and the first clinics began shutting down. Stay tuned.