The Supreme Court recently delivered a mixed bag of key abortion and reproductive health rulings. Here’s an update on what these decisions mean for abortion and reproductive rights and what we can do to protect Roe v. Wade.
Louisiana Abortion Law Unconstitutional
First, in a victory for abortion rights, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision held that a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital is unconstitutional. The decision June Medical Services v. Russo relied on precedent decided by a more liberal court to find that the admitting privileges requirement was an undue burden on the constitutional right to an abortion.
Here’s why: These [admitting] privileges are often impossible to obtain, since hospitals can deny them for a panoply of reasons, including their opposition to abortion and their view that the provider admits too few patients to justify the credential. Had Louisiana enforced this requirement, it would’ve left the state with just one doctor authorized to terminate pregnancies.
Of the June ruling, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s President Ilyse Hough said:
Today’s decision is a win for women in Louisiana who will continue to have access to the time-sensitive abortion care they need. It’s a win for truth and fact-based decision making, as even a Court tilted so far right couldn’t ignore the concrete arguments and data showing that public health is compromised by these burdensome restrictions on abortion. Finally, today’s decision shows that advocates can make a difference. Support for Roe v. Wade is at an all-time high in this country and so many made their voices heard through this process. The Court’s legitimacy in the eyes of the public will be threatened if they follow through on Trump’s promise to end legal abortion.Emphasis mine.
Employers Can Refuse to Cover Birth Control
Unfortunately, a week later, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to reproductive health. In Trump v. Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court ruled that any employer may refuse to cover contraceptive care on religious or moral objection. The case centered on an Affordable Care Act mandate that requires insurance to provide birth control at no cost. In short, the decision means that empowers may refuse to cover birth control.
Again, here’s Ilyse Hogue of NARAL Pro-Choice America:
The Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Trump administration to put control over people’s birth control in the hands of the whims of their bosses and employers is deplorable. This decision just further exposes that ultimately, the Radical Right is really about controlling women and our lives with no eye towards equality or public health and well being.
It’s clear that our reproductive freedom is in immediate peril. That’s why we’re more determined than ever to make sure Trump is a one-term president come November and to hold to account all of the politicians who have greenlit his agenda by voting to confirm his nominees to the Court.
Inform Voters: What It Means
Despite overwhelming public support – three quarters of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade – reproductive rights are under continued attack. The incremental and piecemeal attacks on Roe codified by recent Supreme Court decisions will have immediate impact.
The Trump v. Pennsylvania decision may cause as many as 126,000 people to lose access to birth control. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that costs for each person who loses coverage could reach up to $584 annually—an amount that could make birth control inaccessible and unaffordable to many. It makes sense, then, that low-income folks will be disproportionately impacted by the ruling.
“The reproductive justice movement was born out of the intersections of race, gender, and class, all issues that tie directly into the ability to have a child, not have a child, and be able to start and raise your family with dignity and respect,” Nourbese Flint, the policy director of Black Women for Wellness, told BAZAAR.com.
We must acknowledge that the fight for reproductive rights is inextricably intertwined with the fight for economic, race and gender equality.
Empower Advocates: What Can We Do?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the most important thing we can do right now is register, mobilize and turn out voters in November.
Reproductive rights are on the ballot. The next President will nominate – and the Senate will confirm – at least one Supreme Court Justice. If these cases prove anything, it’s that reproductive rights literally hang in the balance. It’s up to us to make sure the next President – and Senate – will prioritize reproductive rights.