Whole Woman’s Health (US Supreme Court)

Abortion Restrictions and Women’s Liberty: Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt ( NAPW and the NYU Law School Reproductive Justice Clinic organized and filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of 14 organizations in this pivotal case challenging Texas laws that would have undermined the right to choose abortion and severely restricted women’s access to abortion services in that state. The case was successful: in 2016, the Supreme Court held that these Texas restrictions were unconstitutional. Our brief argued that the Texas abortion restrictions would prevent some women from having abortions; result in others having abortions outside of safe medical settings; and make those who do so more vulnerable to arrest and prosecution. The brief highlighted the case of Jennie Linn McCormack, an Idaho mother of three who lived 138 miles from the nearest abortion provider. Ms. McCormack was criminally charged with unlawful abortion because she ended her pregnancy at home with medication obtained online. That case and the hundreds of arrests of other pregnant women nationwide illustrate that the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt decision has profound implications not only for women’s liberty in reproductive decision-making, but also for women’s liberty in its most concrete sense: freedom from arrest, prosecution, and detention.

The brief also explains why a woman’s regrets about an abortion decision or belief that her health was harmed by the procedure are not justification for HB2's provisions, which radically reduce access to abortion services in Texas. The brief calls on the Court, consistent with Caseyand Roe, to reject such false and paternalistic rationales that deny the fact that all pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes have profound risks and consequences. Such risks and potential consequences are compelling reasons to respect, not undermine, women’s decision-making competency and health-care access.


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