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Abortion Rights’ Newest Challenge

Categories: Drew Whitcup, ZiR

Supreme Court_AP_660internalWriting for Mother Jones, Hannah Levintova discusses the newest abortion-rights-related law to find its way to the US Supreme CourtWhole Woman’s Health v. Cole. Levintova describes the premise:

In this case, the justices are expected to focus on two of [recent Texas abortion law HB2]’s most onerous requirements: that abortions be performed in ambulatory surgical centers, hospital-like facilities that specialize in outpatient surgery, and the requirement that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Many medical professionals argue that these restrictions put unnecessary burdens on abortion providers: Building and maintaining an ASC is expensive, given the strict requirements regarding features like hallway width and ventilation. Nor do ASCs enhance the standard of care for abortion; the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other medical groups have repeatedly notedthat the procedure can be safely performed in a typical doctor’s office. The admitting privileges’ provision gives hospitals in conservative communities or with a religious affiliation the power to effectively stop abortions by denying the necessary admission privileges to doctors.

Safe and legal abortions are now rather difficult to get in much of Texas thanks to HB2, despite the Supreme Court already blocking the ambulatory surgical center provision from going into effect until they have ruled on the matter:

The number of abortion clinics in Texas has already been cut by more than half, as elements of HB 2, such as restrictions on medication abortion, a 20 week abortion ban, and the admitting privileges requirement, have gone into effect over the last two years. Before the law, there were 41 clinics in Texas. Today, there are 18…this has created large swathes of the state where women must travel hundreds of miles to get abortion care. If the Supreme Court upholds HB2 in full, including the ambulatory surgical center requirement, the number of abortion clinics in Texas could fall to ten.

The stakes here are undoubtedly high. This is true, it seems, not just for the rights of women in Texas, but for the national conversation as well:

A decision in the Texas case will come down in the first half of 2016, likely making reproductive rights a central issue in the presidential election. ‘Although this is the first step in a much longer process,’ said Amy Hagstrom-Miller, the president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, the main plaintiff in the case, ‘I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold the rights that have been in place for four decades and reaffirm that every woman should be able to make her own decision about continuing or ending a pregnancy.’

—Drew Whitcup, Zeteo Contributing Writer

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