Three Takeaways from the Biggest Abortion Case of Our Generation
Posted by Kristen Barton
March 4, 2016
This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the Texas HB2 case, Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. HB2 is a bill in the Texas legislature that would further restrict abortion access in the state. If put into full effect, this bill will close down all but ten clinics. Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt can change the way abortion cases and reproductive justice is handled state by state from here on out. This precedent could revolutionize reproductive justice and the law.
Here are three takeaways from the case thus far.
This is the first time the Supreme Court is hearing an abortion case of this size with three women sitting on the bench, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (aka the notorious RBG), Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kegan. This means women are being represented in the Supreme Court for a case directly related to reproductive justice in a way never seen before.
With the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February, the court is evenly split on this decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy has been a swing vote in cases before, and he could possible be swayed again. Of course, he could also have the case sent back down to Texas, adding at least a year to the timeline of this decision.
- The Notorious RBG is Slaying
Let me tell y’all, she did her homework. Justice Ginsburg was prepared with counter arguments for everything the lawyers threw at her on the first day of oral arguments. For example, when Scott Keller, the Texas Solicitor General defending HB2, tried to say west Texas women can just go to New Mexico for an abortion, RBG pointed out New Mexico does not require admitting privileges at clinics. This means, if Keller’s argument is correct and admitting privileges are necessary for safety, Texas is not protecting a large portion of its population.
As a young, reproductive justice advocate in Texas, this case and its outcomes are extremely important to me. It’s saddening to see my home state, which I love, try and limit my rights to my body and make personal health decisions for me. As a woman currently going to college and living in west Texas, I was upset to read Keller’s argument that west Texans were able to access care by crossing the border into New Mexico. The assumption that people in west Texas can drop everything for a trip to New Mexico and afford to take off work for something that should be a guaranteed right, is a terrible reason for taking away their ability to access reproductive care.
This case is critical and all reproductive justice advocates should be following the court as it prepares to deliver its decision this summer. Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt could be the cultural and political shift to a new way of viewing abortion in many states, and I sincerely hope it is.