Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Supreme Court Strikes Down Republican's Unconstitutional Anti-Choice "TRAP" Law

Today, In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that Texas' 2013 law against abortion violates the Constitution and places an "undue burden" on a woman's right to an abortion. Many are calling the ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt the most significant on abortion in that last quarter century.

The widely criticized Texas law was enacted by Govenor Rick Perry in 2013 after State Senator Wendy Davis' now famous 11 hour filibuster. The law would have required all abortions to take place in ambulatory surgical centers, or mini-hospitals, instead of regular clinics and require that abortion doctors obtain “admitting privileges” from local hospitals.

These requirements appropriately named TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) were defended by Texas lawmakers by saying it is meant to protect women’s health despite the fact that Texas had reported no deaths from abortion in the five years leading up to the law. Additionally the Texas Hospital Association explains, “thousands of physicians operate clinics and provide services in those clinics but do not have hospital admitting privileges.

The regulations would have had the effect of shutting down all but 5 of Texas’s 40-odd abortion clinics leaving the state’s five million women largely without access to abortion.

Arguments made against the provisions included one from Justice Ginsberg in which she stated that abortions are statistically safer than many simpler medical procedures, including tonsillectomies, colonoscopies, in-office dental surgery and childbirth — but Texas does not subject those procedures to the same onerous requirements.

The decision couldn't come soon enough seeing that the now stricken down law has already shut down about half of the 42 clinics that had operated across the state before it went into effect. This left large portions of rural Texas women without any access to safe and legal abortion with one study finding that since the law’s passage, hundreds of thousands of women in Texas “have tried to self-induce their abortions without medical assistance, making it more common in Texas than in other parts of the U.S.”.

Writing for the five-member majority, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote…

Both the admitting privileges and surgical center requirements place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, constitute an undue burden on abortion access, and thus violate the Constitution.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Justice Breyer in his majority opinion and penned her own scathing concurring opinion that…

Given those realities, it is beyond rational belief that H.B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions,’. When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners ... at great risk to their health and safety.

Justices Breyer and Ginsburg were joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan while Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Thomas and Alito dissented.

Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, weighed in on the ruling saying the decision was...

a victory for women in Texas and across America... This fight isn’t over: The next president has to protect women’s health. Women won’t be ‘punished’ for exercising their basic rights."

Bernie Sanders also applauded the Court’s decision tweeting...

The Supreme Court today reaffirmed that access to abortion is a woman’s constitutional right. It cannot be blocked by extreme Republicans.

Republican nominee Donald Trump, has remained uncharacteristically silent and has made no mention of the court's ruling.

Today’s Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt does not only affect Texas but will impact many GOP-led state legislatures that have passed similar laws that are designed to regulate abortion clinics out of business. Hopefully now that these illegal TRAP laws are gone women’s ability to get a safe and legal abortion will be restored.

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