Yet More Good Abortion News from the Supreme Court

by Meteor Blades –

mississippi abortion clinic

On the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-3 ruling Monday that overturned provisions of a Texas law that would otherwise have closed half of the state’s remaining 19 abortion clinics, there was more good news in the fallout Tuesday. The Court announced that it would not hear appeals from Mississippi and Wisconsin regarding similar provisions in their own laws.

The provision in both states mandated that physicians at abortion clinics be required to have “admitting privileges” at nearby hospitals. In the Texas ruling—Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt—the Court rejected the admitting privileges provision as well as another mandating that abortion clinics be built and equipped like mini-hospitals. The majority’s reasoning held that the law “places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion” and “constitutes an undue burden on abortion access.”

By declining to hear the cases, the Supremes upheld the Wisconsin ruling last November by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and the July 2014 Mississippi ruling of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In response to the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Mississippi case, Nancy Northrup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a leading advocate for women, said Tuesday:

“The Supreme Court did right by Mississippi women today in allowing the doors of their state’s last abortion clinic remain open while this crucial legal battle continues.

“Whether in Mississippi, Texas, or any other state across the U.S., politicians cannot insert their personal beliefs into a woman’s decision whether to continue or end a pregnancy.  We are confident that courts across the country will continue to affirm that politicians cannot pass laws attacking women’s access to safe, legal abortion.”

In Mississippi, Shannon Brewer, director of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization clinic, told Reuters:

“This is what we’ve been waiting on. We’ve been on pins and needles not knowing when this ruling would come down. This is a wonderful victory for us.”

In addition, Alabama’s attorney general said late on Monday that his state would abandon defense of its own “admitting privileges” requirement for abortion doctors, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

This, many reproductive rights activists believe, will not be the last of the rollback of so-called TRAP laws, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. As noted at Daily Kos Monday, nearly two dozen states have laws similar to the unconstitutional one in Texas.

Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina include provisions requiring admitting privileges for abortion clinic physicians. Arkansas’ law on hospital admitting privileges has been previously stayed by the state courts.

Twenty-two states, including all those above except Indiana, still have laws requiring architectural and equipment standards for abortion clinics that are not required for outpatient facilities that engage in other medical procedures which have more risks than abortion does—such as tonsillectomies and colonoscopies.

These seem destined for being overturned, requiring only that someone in each of those states take them to court, where the Hellerstedt precedent could send them all into oblivion.

But while there’s every good reason to celebrate the victories of the past two days, and the hope for future victories that those cases signal, the fight to defeat the relentless assault on women’s reproductive rights has a long way to go.  Jennifer Dalven, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said what’s just happened Mississippi, Wisconsin and Alabama is only the beginning:

“States have passed more than 1,000 restrictions on a woman’s ability to get an abortion. This means for many women the constitutional right to an abortion is still more theoretical than real and there is much more work to be done to ensure that every woman who needs an abortion can actually get one” … 

Indeed so. But what a difference from just a few days ago.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos