Today the Supreme Court struck down Texas’s ultra-restrictive abortion law, HB-2, which little more than a thinly-veiled attempt by right wing conservatives to deny women their right to make decisions over their own bodies. The new ruling sets a precedent that will prohibit Republicans in other states from attacking women’s rights to bodily autonomy – rights that terrify conservatives who believe that all women must submit to their “moral” strictures.
The crux of the case rested on whether HB 2, a package of TRAP (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers), puts “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, meaning that women would be blocked from getting an abortion by significant barriers that have nothing to do with health and safety, despite what GOP legislators claim.
The TRAP laws would have forced 34 abortion-providing clinics to close, leaving only 6 in the entire state, depriving a million women of access to safe, medical abortions. This is blatantly an attempt to subjugate women and force their bodies to comply with demands of conservative men.
In case there was any doubt as to the real purpose of these TRAP laws, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant made it obvious when he announced that “today you see the first step in a movement to … try and end abortion in Mississippi!” as he signed a TRAP bill into law in 2012. Or when former Texas Governor Rick Perry urged the passage of a 20-week abortion ban, saying “to be clear, my goal, and the goal of many of those joining me here today, is to make abortion, at any stage, a thing of the past.” Despite the language in the bills that pretends to be concerned with the well-being of female citizens, in public, Republican lawmakers don’t even bother to try to conceal their real intentions.
The Huffington Post spoke to a Planned Parenthood OB-GYN who explained the impacts of the TRAP laws:
“The hardest part of my job are the mandates, by Texas, that are not informed by medical evidence. And they’re constantly changing. Here in Texas, the physician who performs an abortion has to be the same one to do an ultrasound at least 24 hours before. So even if a woman is referred to me by her doctor, and has already had an ultrasound, I have to repeat it. I also have to read a medically unnecessary script, which is mandated by Texas.
Women would be better served if I could simply practice the evidence-based medicine that I was trained to provide. These medically-unnecessary mandates create barriers to providing care; they do not create better care, or safer medicine.”
The right wing war on women’s health must come to an end, today’s ruling was a victory in a long war. History has shown us what happens when women are not able to access abortions – they are forced to take them into their own hands. Many women attempted dangerous self-induced abortions, with methods like inserting knitting needles or coat hangers into the vagina and uterus, douching with solutions such as caustic lye, or swallowing drugs or chemicals, which lead to injuries, cases of permanent infertility, and deaths.
Low-income women who cannot afford to travel hundreds of miles to have a safe, medical abortion also cannot afford to have an unplanned child. Having an unplanned childbirth can be the difference between finishing college or dropping out; it can be the difference between establishing financial security and living in poverty. These women are at high risk to attempt unsafe home abortions like more than 100,000 women in Texas already have.
Texas has already cut funding to Planned Parenthood, making it exceedingly difficult for low-income women to access contraception. In just the first three months following the funding cuts, there was a 16% drop in low-income women using contraception. It is absurd to take away the right to choose to prevent pregnancy, and then the right to choose to end a pregnancy.
In effect, Texas’s policies have been rules to ensure that women either stay at home in the kitchen, safely chaste, or have their babies and stay in the kitchen looking after them. We are thankful that the Supreme Court stood up for women’s rights, but wish we did not live in a society where men try to hard to trample on them.
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