Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, abortion rights remain controversial and the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has once again been petitioned to review another case. The court is minus one justice, due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13, 2016. The remaining justices are scheduled to hear a case relating to the drastic reduction of abortions clinics in Texas.
According to the SCOTUS blog, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt 15-274, has been before the court since the initial application in June 2015, and arguments are scheduled to be heard on March 2, 2016.
Star Tribune reports, this case is one of the largest to be heard during the presidential election year. Without Scalia, “the most vociferous abortion opponent” of all the justices, there is concern over the possible outcome.
When Roe v. Wade was passed, it gave women the right to have abortions. However, the law also gave individual states the right to regulate abortion clinics. Since this ruling, each state has made varying determinations about the definition of the point at which a fetus is viable during the gestation process.
Based on a map provided by Fox News, 12 states allow the termination of a pregnancy at up to 20 weeks. There are 23 states that allow abortions as late as 21-27 weeks and seven states have no restrictions on abortions in place. These variables outline a strong indication of how controversial abortion remains. Once again the Supreme Court is hearing yet another case.
The Texas Bill Behind The Supreme Court Case
The case brought before the Supreme Court challenges the Texas House Bill 2 (HB2) that became law in 2013. After the law took effect, it was challenged legally and on June 9, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the majority of the bill’s regulations. Whole Women’s Health filed a petition in June and SCOTUS granted the petition on Nov. 13, 2015.
Texas HB2 dictated that “all clinics performing the procedure in the state would be required to have certification as ambulatory care centers.” They would be regulated to maintain the same standards as any licensed hospital.
The bill requires doctors to maintain privileges at hospitals within 30 miles the of clinics where they perform procedures. They would be required to have the ability to admit patients should the need arise.
HB2 significantly reduced the number of abortion clinics due to the standards set forth in the bill.
Abortion Clinic Shortages & Complications
There were 40 abortion clinics in Texas prior to the passage of HB2. According to the Fund Texas Choice (formerly Fund Texas Women) website, as of June 15, 2015, only 10 clinics remain open. They are in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, McAllen, and Houston.
On Feb. 29, 2016, a staff member at Houston Women’s Clinic stated there is a minimum of a 24-hour waiting period after a woman has had a sonogram and been counseled about the complications of an abortion before she is able to obtain the procedure. While the state law requires abortions to take place prior to 20 weeks, at Houston Women’s Clinic a woman cannot have an abortion beyond 15 weeks and seven days after conception.
According to Fox News, there are almost a million women who are old enough to obtain an abortion in Texas. Over one-sixth of those women now live more than 150 miles from a clinic where they can choose to terminate their pregnancy, speak to a doctor about their options, or obtain the infamous morning after pill (aka in Texas as the abortion pill). For example, if a woman lives in Lubbock, she must travel nearly 300 miles for services.
In response to these devastating statistics, a unique job title has emerged. CAN MUA News reported on a woman who calls herself an “abortion travel agent,” Natalie St. Clair works in Austin, Texas. She assists women with finding clinics, scheduling appointments, transportation, and overnight accommodations; a must, due to the 24-hour waiting period required.
Fund Texas Choice employs St. Clair and is a non-profit organization that assists women with these needs and financial assistance. The fund specifically assists any woman who does not have transportation or lives at least two hours away from a clinic.
St. Clair deals with the controversy that surrounds abortion and assists women negatively impacted by the HB2 law. Many in Texas, await the response of the Supreme Court as it will hear another case challenging the legality of the reproductive rights of women in America.
By Cathy Milne
SCOTUS Blog: Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt 15-274
Reuters: U.S. top court’s Texas abortion ruling to have broad impact in states
CANMUA: The abortion travel agent and other tales from Texas
Fund Texas Choice Website: Blog, About Us, Texas Abortion Clinic Map
FOX News: Analysis: Supreme Court takes up major election-year appeal over abortion clinic rules
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Wally Gobetz’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of quack.a.duck’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License