The Next Big Abortion Rights Battle is Happening Right Now
Road trips are supposed to be fun, carefree jaunts across long stretches of highway. But for ten of thousands of pregnant women in Texas, they’ve become a necessary evil. Thanks to a monstrous abortion law pushed through the state’s Republican-dominated legislature in 2013, abortions clinics have become harder to find than a person of color on the Oscars’ nominee list. The law, created to protect the “health and safety” of women, has been a lightning rod for controversy, and it’s the basis for the next big abortion battle taking over the Supreme Court. Yesterday, the now eight-person team of justices heard oral arguments over Texas’ abortion bill, HB2, that dealt a deathblow to reproductive freedom for Texas women.
In the three years since it was enacted, repercussions have sent shockwaves through the state, creating a living hell for any woman who wants to have some semblance of control over her womb. Before HB2 was enacted, forty-one abortion clinics provided services to women across the biggest state in the United States. There are now only nineteen, and if the law is upheld by the Supreme Court, that number will shrink to nine. Even with the nineteen still operational, the absurd distance between clinics has forced women to go all Mad Max: Fury Road and set off on long arduous trips just to get an abortion. Right now, 900,000 Texas women now live farther than 150 miles from an abortion provider, and 750,000 live farther than 200 miles. If that’s infuriating, you may want to sit down before the bill passed, fewer than 100,000 Texas women lived over 150 miles from a provider, and only 10,000 lived more than 200 miles away. That’s beyond frustrating—it’s downright cruel.
So what caused the mass closure of the clinics? It comes down to two key provisions within the bill. The first requires all abortions—either surgical or medical (with pills)—to be done in ambulatory surgical centers. The second requires doctors performing either surgical or medical abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. You know, just in case the procedure that’s literally safer than a colonoscopy goes horribly awry.
The ruthless stripping away of abortion rights isn’t exclusively a Texas problem, either. Thanks to the help of Republican-controlled legislatures across the country, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama have passed restrictive abortion laws that echo the one in Texas. It’s added up to an all-out war on a woman’s right to choose that was established in 1973’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision. This coordinated attack is dressed up in a false narrative of safety for pregnant women and tied with a bow that reads, “”Hopefully they’ll be more preventative and not get pregnant.” Seriously. That’s an actual quote from the man who co-authored Texas’ abortion bill.
Now that oral arguments have concluded and the justices have gathered in discussion to decide if the law places an “undue burden” on pregnant women, we can only wait. The most likely scenario is that, until the Supreme Court decides in June, politicians across the country will continue to regulate the decisions of pregnant women in their states.
Images via Jennifer Whitney, Kevin Dietsch, and Susan Walsh.
Stay tuned to Milk for more on this developing story.