Texas has done almost everything short of attempting to legally ban abortion in order to ensure that as few women as possible have access to this constitutional right. Although the Supreme Court has established protection against placing undue burden on women seeking an abortion in several cases spanning decades, Texas is stubbornly revisiting the issue in House Bill 2 and the subsequent suit over its constitutionality in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.
This case will be the third time the Supreme Court visits the issue of the constitutionality of placing undue burden on women seeking abortions. If precedent holds, this will be the third time that these restrictions are found unconstitutional, and the fact that this law was passed in the first place is a direct attack on women’s rights.
The most recent abortion case to reach the Supreme Court regarding excessive burden, or what the Supreme Court calls “undue burden”, placed on women seeking abortions was Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This case further entrenched the protections for women initially established in Roe v. Wade. The issue is that, now, Texas is taking advantage of the gray area in the determination of what undue burden actually means.
To be clear, Texas’ H.B. 2 is placing undue burden on its women -- the state’s 40 abortion clinics have since been reduced to 17. Both women seeking abortions and women’s health clinics face hurdles that make it too difficult for women to easily access an abortion.
Some women would have to travel extreme distances to get an abortion. These distances are especially problematic in the western and southern regions of Texas, as women in these areas would be forced to go to a clinic an average of 111 miles away or go to New Mexico. Many working, family, or economically struggling women are likely unable to make the trip to an abortion clinic twice.
Grace Gilker, Plan II and history sophomore and the president of Women’s Resource Agency, speaks on the extreme efforts some women face and the outlandish alternatives on offer.
“The average of 111 miles probably isn’t representative because you are having to make more than one trip,” said Gilker. “Having the audacity to allege that women can ‘just to go New Mexico’ is insulting and unconstitutional.”
Texan women would also have to endure additional, unnecessary medical procedures. They are required to make two visits to women’s health clinics in order to receive an abortion. The first visit is to get an ultrasound. There is absolutely no medical reason for a woman to get an ultrasound 24 hours before her abortion as it is standard procedure before the abortion itself.
Clinics, too, face cumbersome restrictions on their right to exist. Just under 60% of Texas’ clinics have closed because the bill requires all clinics that perform abortion services to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers. These standards primarily consist of regulations that apply to emergency rooms generally, but not to tailored specifically to the abortion process. They are being put in place primarily to shut the clinics down.
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is the most important abortion case since Planned Parenthood v. Casey. As long as politicians continue to pass restrictive laws on women’s rights, this fight will continue to be had. The Supreme Court needs to take a stand and establish the constitutionality of abortion once and for all.
Kashar is an English freshman from Scarsdale. Follow her on Twitter @leahkashar.