What the Supreme Court’s abortion decision means for women

The misleading language of abortion restriction

abortion laws

On Monday the Supreme Court struck down a Texas abortion law, marking a huge win for pro-choice activists and women everywhere.

The case focused on two provisions of the Texas law, which, on paper, don’t sound so bad, but in reality, are just another way for anti-abortion activists to use legislation to prevent women from having abortions.

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The first provision stated that doctors must have admitting privileges in order to perform abortions.

What are admitting privileges? Essentially, they allow doctors to admit patients into the hospital, a job that is typically handled by other staff at hospitals, and have nothing to do with abortions.

By forcing doctors to obtain admitting privileges from hospitals, Texas legislators were bringing hospitals into the political debate about abortions. It’s like watching a fight between two friends and then having one of them ask you, “Well? What do you think?” Of course you don’t want to get involved.

So the hospitals refuse to give doctors admitting privileges, and due to the state law, doctors are not allowed to perform abortions.

The other provision stated that abortion clinics must maintain standards equivalent to hospitals.

Again, this provision doesn’t sound like much. Hospital standards? That’s good, right? Clean, sanitary, care for patients.

That may be true, but the reality is, most abortion clinics simply don’t need to maintain these kinds of standards for their procedures. Some only perform first trimester abortions, and these clinics simply are not hospitals.

So what happens when the clinics can’t afford to pay to upgrade to and maintain these standards? They’re forced to close down by the state, leaving women everywhere without a nearby abortion clinic.

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This is what was happening in Texas.

These laws made it impossibly difficult for doctors to perform abortions and for clinics to operate. In fact, the law effectively forced half of the abortion clinics in Texas to close down. If the law stayed in place, many more of the few remaining clinics would have to close, as well.

As it is, most women in Texas have to travel over 40 miles to find the nearest abortion clinic. There are plenty of stories of women traveling more than a hundred miles. 

Thus, the Supreme Court’s decision to rule Texas’ abortion law unconstitutional is a huge victory for pro-choice advocates all over America. States with laws similar to Texas’ will no longer be able to operate by these laws, as they are effectively unconstitutional, as well.

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In November of 2015, Texas had only 17 clinics, down from 41 before the law was passed. WIthout the onerous Texas laws holding them down, however, far more clinics will be able to operate now. Thus, that number is expected to rise in Texas, and the number of clinics in other states with similar laws is sure to rise as well.

Furthermore, in states like Mississippi, Texas, Wyoming, and more, 40 miles or more stand between women and the nearest abortion clinic. As more clinics open, that 40 mile distance will begin to shrink and shrink, making abortions far more accessible.

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One of the justices, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, argued that making abortions more accessible means that women won’t have to resort to other far less desirable means, such as having their abortions performed by “unlicensed rogue practitioners” or even attempting to perform their own abortions right at home.

She’s right. A simple search on Google for “illegal abortions in Texas” yields some very upsetting results:

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All of these headlines occurred in 2015 and 2014 in aftermath of laws in Texas that were making abortions inaccessible to many women across the state. 

After this decision, though, such headlines should not be back for awhile.

The reality is, though, that anti-abortion activists will likely find yet another way to make abortions inaccessible. This time, at least, we had the Supreme Court on our side, but who’s to say who will be on SCOTUS by the time this comes around?

For now, though, pro-choice friends, take a moment to breathe, be happy, and celebrate a historic victory.