June has been pretty depressing for me (Pulse, busted phone, Facebook ban) but at last this month brings some good news. The United States Supreme Court has struck down Texas House Bill 2 as unconstitutional. This is a tremendous victory for reproductive rights, both in Texas and in other states.
At contention in the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, were two extreme restrictions on abortion providers. The first called for all providers to have admitting privilege at local hospitals and went into effect, causing about half of the facilities in Texas to close. The second requirement was that all abortions must be performed in an outpatient surgical center, even when they doctor is performing no surgery. The Supreme Court had an injunction on that aspect of the legislation, preventing Texas from enforcing it.
In a 5-3 decision, the highest court in the country ruled that these state laws created an undue burden on access to abortion, without sufficient public health justification. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote about the lack of need for this type of legislation in the majority opinion.
In the face of no threat to women’s health, Texas seeks to force women to travel long distances to get abortions in crammed-to-capacity superfacilities. Patients seeking these services are less likely to get the kind of individualized attention, serious conversation, and emotional support that doctors at less taxed facilities may have offered.
In her concurring opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote more about the risks to health such laws create.
When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety.
In other good news, for the first time ever the Democratic party’s platform includes repealing the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal funds for the purpose of abortion, with limited exceptions. This law has created a division in access since its original passage in 1976. It is attached to annual appropriations bills and has remained for forty years.
The women (and others) primarily impacted by Hyde are poor, disabled and on Medicaid, Native Americans using Indian Health Services, prisoners and immigration detainees, and military service members and their dependents. For the last four decades we’ve had a world of family planning haves and have-nots, where a large population who rely on federal programs are specifically excluded from healthcare. And this is the first time the Democratic party has agreed to do something about it.