It’s been a crazy few years (decades?) for anyone who follows the news surrounding abortion and reproductive rights. Last Thursday, I attended an event at Suffolk University Law School on the upcoming oral argument in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstadt. Stephanie Toti, Senior Counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, who will argue the case in front of the Supreme Court this March, shared insight about the upcoming oral argument and the implications the case has for abortion rights in Texas, as well as the rest of the country.
Some background: In 2013, Texas legislators passed HB2, a sweeping measure that imposes numerous restrictions on access to abortion—you may remember Wendy Davis’ amazing filibuster on the bill and the protests that followed. The law imposed numerous restrictions on abortion care, including the following requirements:
- Doctors who provide abortion services must obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals no farther than 30 miles away from the clinic; and
- Every health care facility offering abortion care must meet building specifications to essentially become mini-hospitals (also known as ambulatory surgical centers, or ASCs).
Toti discussed how HB2, despite its rationale of protecting women’s health, was actually designed to shut down abortion clinics and has already forced more than half of Texas’ clinics to close their doors. In fact, the closure of these clinics and limits on access has already been shown to have negative effects on women’s health.
She also discussed the amazing 45 amicus briefs that have been filed in support of Whole Women’s Health. The list includes including leading medical experts and associations, social scientists, federal/state and local governmental entities and legislators, Republicans, military officers, and religious leaders. One, that is especially inspiring, as well as unprecedented, signed by 113 female attorneys, who have exercised their constitutional right to abortion.
If left in place HB2 would shutter all but 9 or 10 abortion clinics in a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age. 5.4 million. 10 clinics. It’s unimaginable. And yet, it’s could happen in Texas, and what’s going before the Court in March. Ultimately, this case has far wider implications than ensuring access for the women of Texas. It will not be long before the hardships Texas women face become the new normal in America.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court for the most important reproductive rights case in almost 25 years. Stand with them and Draw the Line.