On March 2 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the most important abortion case in two decades and the first major controversial case handled since the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
The case deals with a relatively new Texas law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have hospital admitting privileges. The law also forces clinics to upgrade their facilities to hospital-like standards.
One side believes this will make abortion safer for the women involved, while the other thinks these regulations are not valid means to increase the health and safety of patients. The law is an unconstitutional scheme to deprive millions of Texas women access to legal abortion.
The ruling will be interesting, as the recently deceased Scalia was the court’s fiercest abortion critic. Without him, the court will not weaken the constitutional standards affecting abortion. The four liberal justices would not go along with the decision to suppress a woman’s right to choose.
On March 4, two days after hearing the oral arguments for the Texas case, the court lifted a temporary block of a similar Louisiana law, which opponents say would only leave one abortion clinic open in the whole state. The court will rest until a final decision is made on the Texas case, insinuating it will set a national precedent.
The Texas law places an undue burden on women, and while Texas officials believe requirements are necessary, female Texans will not have access to an abortion clinic within 150 miles. Travelling over 100 miles or to another state to get an abortion is simply not an option for many women. Thankfully, the three women on the bench are fighting for all of us.
Before the law there were about 40 clinics in Texas. If the Supreme Court were to put it into effect, the law will require about 70 percent of them to shut down, leaving roughly 10 clinics left in the state. The closing of those facilities puts extreme stress on the few clinics remaining open, as well as increasing obstacles confronting women seeking abortions or general healthcare in Texas. The debacle could also increase the rate of unsafe illegal abortions.
Having an abortion is not an easy decision for any woman, regardless of the many reasons for the procedure. With this in mind, facilities should provide a safe environment within a close proximity to patients. Instead of Texas shutting down facilities completely, the court should solely aim to increase the safety and health procedures.
It is a woman’s right to decide if she wants to keep her baby or not and to choose which facility she wishes to undertake the medical procedure. The Texas government and other states are taking that freedom away by providing minimal facilities and making it harder for women to have an abortion.
With four liberal justices in the Supreme Court, there is no doubt this decision will take a while for a final ruling. A decision will probably arrive in late June as the presidential campaign finalizes, forcing the controversial issue of abortion to the forefront of public debate.