In an important victory, the U.S. Supreme Court today struck down provisions of a Texas anti-abortion law that threatened the health and humanity of pregnant women. National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) with the NYU School of Law Reproductive Justice Clinic filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief on behalf of 14 organizations, arguing that if upheld, the Texas law would prevent some women from having an abortion; force others to have abortions outside of safe medical settings; and make those who do so potential targets for arrest and prosecution. The Court’s decision today strikes down that law.
In a 5-3 ruling, the Court accepted Whole Woman’s Health argument that the “undue burden” standard for evaluating laws restricting access to abortion has teeth. In other words, the Court clarified that its earlier decision in Casey did not grant permission to state legislatures to pass laws under the guise of protecting women that in fact put women in danger by placing substantial obstacles in their path to abortion services.
Today’s decision gives strength and meaning to the “undue burden” standard of constitutional review of laws designed to restrict access to abortion health care. It also establishes that:
• Cases addressing pregnant women’s access to abortion and protecting that access involve “important human values.”
• Pregnant women are not a class of persons who may be subject to legislation based on pretext or junk science.
NAPW’s Executive Director, Lynn Paltrow explains, “The people who have abortions are overwhelmingly women who already are mothers or who will someday give birth to children who they will parent.” She added “This decision recognizes that the same people who have abortions undertake significant risks to their health and lives when they go to term and acknowledges the fact that miscarriage and homebirths with midwives are part of pregnant women’s experiences.”
Today’s decision, however, falls short of recognizing that for people with the capacity for pregnancy, principles of equality demand that all reproductive health decisions, including abortion, must be protected as fundamental rights under the highest standard of review. NAPW’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Nancy Rosenbloom said “NAPW is committed to continuing the fight to ensure that abortion is a fundamental right recognized as necessary to women’s equal participation as full constitutional persons.” She added, “The way we truly value life, mothers, and families is to get rid of all unconstitutional laws like the one the Supreme Court struck down today and ensure full constitutional and human rights for all people with capacity for pregnancy whether they are seeking to end a pregnancy or go to term.”