By Lauren Salmiery
The temperature wasn’t rising as crowds gathered in front of the Supreme Court of the United States on Wednesday morning, but the heat was definitely on high. The Supreme Court was hearing Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a monumental case on the HB2 laws passed in Texas that limit abortion access and threaten women’s health.
Wait…abortion access? Didn’t we already take care of this years ago? Although Roe v. Wade made abortion legal for all women, some politicians feel that there should be “stronger safety measures.” These regulations, called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP, laws demand abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals, require abortion clinics to have ambulatory surgical facilities, and enforce various other medically unnecessary building codes. These efforts restrict abortion access and put many lives in danger.
Ultimately, TRAP laws have shut down over 30 women’s health and abortion clinics across the state of Texas – and that’s just Texas. TRAP laws are making an appearance across the United States; Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wyoming all have only one open abortion clinic each. Louisiana has just two.
Population Connection Action Fund and many other pro-choice organizations and individuals rallied together to advocate for real access to abortion for all women on Wednesday morning. The rally saw supporters from all walks of life, including people of various gender, race, class, and sexual identities. Pro-choice activists came from around the country, many from Texas, to show just how much abortion clinics and their physicians mean to all people.
The Population Connection Action Fund team was there in strong support of Whole Women’s Health, willing to face the cold and the anti-choice protesters to uphold women’s constitutional right to abortion access. Among the protesters was actress Amy Brenneman, who published her abortion story on Tuesday. Dr. Willie Parker, an outspoken abortion provider and women’s health advocate, offered the crowd more to cheer for when he spoke about his experiences with women in need of abortion care in Mississippi and Alabama. Senator Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut promised “we’ll fight to make sure that clinics are open, access is assured, rights are protected, and that women have control over their bodies.” Comedian Lizz Winstead spoke on behalf of reproductive rights. Members from countless reproductive rights organizations offered their words of encouragement to the energetic crowd.
While supporters chanted and cheered in front of the courthouse, inside the courtroom Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pressed the issue of the ambulatory surgery center requirement in instances where women could take the abortion pill. Justice Kennedy, whose vote will be invaluable to the outcome of the case, questioned the Texas Solicitor General on the true impact of HB2 on women’s health.
As we wait for the hearings to unfold and the currently-split court to make its decision in June, we must remember that these regulations and restrictions are not protecting women – they are forcing women to turn to supplies in their kitchens rather than safe medicine at their clinics. Access to safe abortion is a right that must be protected to ensure the safety and health of the American people. Where is the constitutionality in HB2? When will our government stand up for reproductive rights, and set the standard for equality once and for all?