For years now, anti-choice lawmakers have been trying to force clinics across the country to close their doors, and mislead the public by claiming–against all medical evidence–that more restrictions on abortion access protects women’s health.
Between 2011 and 2014, states enacted 231 restrictions on abortion. This blitz is the result of a carefully coordinated attack anti-choice activists call the incremental strategy, because of how individual restrictions incrementally, and cumulatively, combine to devastating effect.
In short, while trying to figure out how to criminalize abortion in the United States, anti-choice activists have focused on making the procedure inaccessible, especially for low-income earners and women of color.
So far, it’s working. Clinics have been forced to close all over the country, creating reproductive healthcare deserts. Many working-class and low-income American women now live many miles away from affordable reproductive healthcare and supervised abortion care.
In the beautiful, sprawling state of Texas, incremental restrictions have already forced more than half of the state’s abortion care facilities to close.
For some Texans living in these desert areas, accessing supervised reproductive healthcare has become all but impossible. For most working people, time equals money; traveling hundreds of miles for an appointment can be prohibitively expensive and logistically impossible. In addition to the cost of the procedure, these women lose income from missed days of work; need extra money for gas or public transportation; have to arrange and pay for childcare; and, if they don’t want to sleep in a car, often need money to pay for accommodations near the facility.
Can you imagine if this was the scenario for any other legal, supervised healthcare procedure, never mind one that, while remarkably safe, increases in risk of complication and cost the longer it is delayed? Or if these regulations disproportionately deprived wealthy white women of their Constitutional right to legal abortion?
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Texas case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (previously called Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole).
In this case, the justices will review two provisions of HB2, a Texas law designed to shut down clinics that provide safe, legal abortion services under the guise of improving women’s health. In doing so, they will answer the question reproductive rights advocates have been asking for the last several years:
If the Constitution protects the right to abortion, how can our courts uphold laws that close down safe abortion providers and thereby deny many women access to care?
We submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of ten abortion providers in Pennsylvania. Two Women’s Law Project board members–Thomas E. Zemaitis, a partner with the law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP, and David S. Cohen, law professor at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law—joined Frietsche and Women’s Law Project staff attorney Tara R. Pfeifer as co-counsel on the brief.
Our work was recently highlighted in the New York Times.
The Times article features insightful commentary by WLP Board member David S. Cohen and highlights “stories of women who say their abortions allowed them to control their bodies, plan for the future and welcome children into their lives when their careers were established and their personal lives were on solid ground.”
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is the biggest abortion case in years, and could potentially inform abortion access all over the country, including Pennsylvania, which is already one of the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to abortion access.
How to Show Your Support
While the justices listen to legal arguments in the building Wednesday morning, we will join thousands of women’s health advocates on the steps of the Supreme Court for the Rally to Protect Abortion Access.
Join us at the Rally for Abortion Access on the steps of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, from 8AM-Noon.
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Follow Us on Twitter: @WomensLawProj & the hashtag #StoptheSham
Watch the rally at the Supreme Court on the Livestream
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The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.