The United States Supreme Court began hearing the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt on Wednesday morning, a landmark abortion-rights case out of Texas that could have lasting consequences on the entire nation. The case seeks to block a piece of Texas legislature, known as HB2, which requires clinics to meet the standards of an ambulatory surgical center, and also requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. These requirements have nothing to do with women's health, and everything to do with restricting access to legal, safe abortion. The case has given rise to the Twitter hashtag #StopTheSham, which aims to highlight how HB2 is actually endangering women's health, rather than protecting it.
Since the law was passed in July 2013 by then-Gov. Rick Perry, more than half of Texas' 41 abortion providers have been forced to shut down, and, upholding the law would bring the total amount of clinics to just 10 clustered in a few major metropolitan areas, according to The New York Times. This would leave vast swaths of the state underserved, including an area the size of California, according to a brief filed in the case. Many women seeking abortions in Texas are already forced to travel hundreds of miles to access care, taking time off of work, and spending money they can't afford on travel, hotels, and child care.
In 1992, the Supreme Court heard the case of Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, and, in its decision, noted that states do not have the right to place undue burdens on women's constitutional right to an abortion. The Court defined undue burdens as "unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion." HB2 is the very definition of undue burdens, as abortions do not need to be performed in a mini-hospital to be safe, and, if a patient needs to be hospitalized, they can simply call an ambulance; being escorted by a doctor affiliated with that hospital is unnecessary and frankly, absurd. Upholding the law would also encourage other states with anti-choice legislators in power to create their own restrictive laws.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement when HB2 was introduced noting that it "plainly intended to restrict the reproductive rights of women in Texas through a series of requirements that improperly regulate medical practice and interfere with the patient-physician relationship." ACOG Texas District Chair Lisa M. Hollier, MD, MPH said that the bill is "not based on sound science," and the statement also pointed out that the risk of major complications following an abortion is less than 0.5 percent.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted a series of #StopTheSham tweets late Wednesday morning, and linked to his statement that "[t]he Supreme Court must reaffirm that access to a safe and legal abortion is a woman’s constitutional right, a right which cannot be blocked by extreme, right-wing politicians." Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Washington Sen. Patty Murray have also tweeted in support of overturning HB2. Curiously, there's no word as of press time from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Let's hope she speaks up soon.