National Health Law Program Lauds Decision, But Notes Much Work Remains to Secure Women’s Rights
Washington – The National Health Law Program lauded the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which invalidated onerous provisions limiting access to abortion services in Texas.
In a 5-3 vote the Supreme Court struck down the draconian abortion restrictions imposed by Texas law, and found that the law burdens women’s constitutional right to abortion care. Texas House Bill 2 (HB 2), passed in 2013, required abortion providers to obtain local hospital admitting privileges and also mandated that all reproductive health care facilities that provide abortion care must make costly and medically unnecessary building upgrades comparable to ambulatory surgical centers. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 22 states have similar laws that will now be unenforceable, increasing abortion access across the country.
Writing for the majority Justice Stephen Breyer concluded each provision “places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.”
National Health Law Program Executive Director Elizabeth G. Taylor said women of color and low-income women were harmed disproportionally by the Texas law.
“These two restrictions have closed more than half the clinics in the state, depriving thousands of women in rural areas of Texas access to abortion care,” Taylor said. “Today’s Supreme Court action was a significant victory for women living on insufficient wages, struggling to make ends meet.”
“Every woman, not just those with means, must be able to freely decide what is best for her and her family,” said Susan Berke Fogel, National Health Law Program’s director of reproductive health and justice programs. “Today, the justices struck down a Texas law that was intentionally aimed at ending access to abortion in Texas, infringing on women’s constitutional right to make decisions regarding abortion. HB 2 also would disproportionately harm women of color and those of limited means. Texas, like too many other states, has worked to interfere with women’s constitutionally protected right to abortion. Today’s Supreme Court decision is welcome news, but much work remains to restore public funding for abortion, and counter ongoing efforts to obstruct women’s health and rights.”
Research reveals that accessing reproductive care is increasingly difficult for underserved communities in Texas. According to U.S. Census data, the poverty rate for women living in the state’s border region is twice that of the non-border region and that 88 percent of Texas-Mexico border counties have median income below the state level. The Texas Policy Evaluation Project reported in March that since enactment of HB 2 more than half the state’s abortion clinics have closed.
NHeLP signed an amicus brief urging the high court to strike the Texas law.
Founded in 1969, the National Health Law Program advocates for the rights of low-income and underserved people to access quality health care.