The United States Supreme Court has been awfully busy in the past weeks, including handing down a historic ruling about abortion rights on Monday. In a 5-3 vote, the justices struck down a Texas abortion access law that was responsible for shutting down dozens of clinics throughout the state.
According to Think Progress, the law had two provisions that required abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges in a nearby hospital and that clinics had to comply with expensive regulations normally imposed on “ambulatory surgical centers.” Two rules that were almost impossible to fulfill resulted in once having 40 clinics that were this close to being dwindled down to seven.
Had SCOTUS not thrown this law out, 5.4 million women in the nation’s second-largest state would have only seven clinics to access for abortions, USA Today noted. But the damage had been done with reports of Texas women having to drive hundreds of miles to get to the nearest clinic, enduring long wait times, and even having to travel outside the state to get the procedure done.
But supporters of the Texas bill felt that women’s safety trumped those other obstacles. They claimed that these restrictions were about making abortions safer, a notion that abortion advocates and the five justices strongly rejected.
“There was no significant health-related problem that the new law helped to cure,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote. “We agree with the District Court that the surgical-center requirement, like the admitting-privileges requirement, provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”
President Obama praised the ruling, saying, “We remain strongly committed to the protection of women’s health, including protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her right to determine her own future.”
It’s being reported that these closed clinics will reopen in the near future.
Monday’s decision comes 43 years after the historic Roe v. Wade was handed down, stating that it was a constitutional right to have an abortion. And while the face of abortion activism does seem predominately White, this particular ruling has a serious impact on African-American women, given that we have the highest abortion rates in the U.S.
And be clear: Not having access to safe and legal abortions doesn’t translate into Black women having less abortions. Not having access means more Black women will take matters into their own hands and put their own lives at risk in order to terminate their pregnancies. But most important, these same clinics that were shut down throughout Texas didn’t just offer abortions, but primary health care, reproductive health care, and STD/HIV testing. By taking these clinics out of the community, it only continues to put low-income and women of color in the state of Texas further at risk.
This is why this matters.