The Abortion Case That Could Overturn Roe v. Wade Has A Lot Of Opponents

— by Alex Zielinski, a health reporter at Think Progress

CREDIT: AP PHOTO, PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS

US Capitol police officers line-up in front of pro-abortion rights demonstrators on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, at the Supreme Court in Washington.

A looming Supreme Court case that could severely undermine the right to an abortion has attracted an unprecedented amount of opposition from across the country.

A slew of organizations and individuals filed 45 legal briefs in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, each brief examining the case through a unique lens and each coming to the same conclusion: State laws that restrict abortion access are unconstitutional.

The case will examine the validity of a Texas law, known as HB2, that places burdensome, unnecessary guidelines on the state’s dwindling abortion clinics. These regulations, while framed as improvements to safeguard “women’s health,” ultimately have nothing to do with patient safety — and were instead created by anti-abortion legislators to impose additional, costly red tape on clinic staff. So far, it’s been successful. HB2 has already forced half of the state’s clinics to close, thus cutting Texas’ abortion providers in half.

The Supreme Court case, Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, won’t only decide if Texas’ law is constitutional. Depending how the court rules, the decision could also give legal cover to all states seeking to enact laws that appear to function as health regulations, but that actually exist to restrict access to abortion. The oral arguments for the case begin in March.

Reproductive rights advocates have been outspoken since HB2 passed in 2013, but since the Supreme Court’s  November decision to hear the case, the diversity of opponents has grown. The 45 briefs were filed by a variety of petitioners, including physicians, historians, religious leaders, military officers, scientists, members of Congress, civil rights advocates, law scholars, entire cities, and the United States federal government itself.

“Never before has such a diverse array of organizations and leaders…stepped forward to condemn abortion restrictions at the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement.

Among the briefs were voices of actual women who’ve been affected by the lack of abortion access in the past — a voice some say is forgotten in the high-level case.

“The Supreme Court justices need to hear the real effects of restrictive abortion laws on women like this one in Texas,” said Debra Hauser, the president of Advocates for Youth, a group helping young people access comprehensive sexual health education. Hauser shared her personal experience with abortion in her organization’s brief.

“What is missing from this issue are our personal stories. The reality is that one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime.”

Many of those women shared their stories in another brief submitted Tuesday, representing 110 law professionals who’ve had abortions. Some noted how they would have never had the chance to become a lawyer if they hadn’t had an abortion when they did.

“[Our] experiences demonstrate the real world effects of abortion access on the lives and careers of women attorneys, and underscore the truth of the court’s observation that reproductive choice facilitates women’s ability ‘to participate in the economic and social life of the nation,’” the brief reads.

According to Northup, the briefs represent the largest coalition of faith leaders and faith organizations ever to oppose anti-choice laws at the Supreme Court level. In the legal brief filed by a large collection of different religious leaders, the petitioners stress their support of abortion access — despite efforts from more radical religious organizations to say otherwise.

“As religious leaders and pastoral counselors, [we] provide spiritual guidance to women facing this decision and believe that this complex decision is ultimately a moral one,” the brief reads. “While various religious groups in this country hold differing views on abortion, there is substantial agreement that women have a moral right to make their own decisions on the issue.”

A group of 40 prominent scientists also submitted a brief Tuesday, hoping to overrule the “flawed pseudoscience” that will be used in testimony to support the case.

“We hope the court is able to put abortion politics aside and focus on the illegitimacy of the medical claims propping up the restrictions,” said Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. “When science claims are used to infringe a constitutional right they had better be valid, but that’s not the case here.”

A Tuesday press call drew a variety of opponents together, including Wendy Davis, the former Texas state senator who led an 11-hour filibuster in an attempt to defeat HB2, and Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards, to further illustrate the severity of this case. Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, also spoke on the call, representing the women already harmed the most by the current Texas law.

“For immigrants, mothers, low-wage workers, and Latinas who are all three, securing an abortion means navigating a state-created obstacle course,” she said. “Those unable to jump through these hoops will be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or take matters into their own hands.”

Since HB2 was enacted, at least 100,000 Texan women have tried to induce their own abortion, due to the cost driving to a distant abortion clinic, taking time off work to do so, and other frustrating roadblocks to make it difficult for them to legally end a pregnancy.

The legal briefs filed, which represent more than 1,000 opponents in total, may shine more light on the broader impact the pending case could have on women across the country — an impact that has already left Texas in a health crisis.

“These briefs present a thorough record of the undeniable damage Texas’ sham law has,” concluded Northup. “It will continue to cause, and an indisputable legal argument for why it must be struck down.”


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ them on Twitter

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VA Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound’s Anti-Woman Crusade

09.11.12 –  Virginia’s anti-choice legislators insist on pushing laws that clearly trample on women’s rights and either humiliate them or deprive them of the medical services that they need.

Earlier this year, they championed the demeaning “transvaginal probe law.”

Now, Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell and his anti-choice cronies are backing outrageous new regulations for abortion providers that are impractical, serve absolutely no medical purpose-and ultimately threaten to close clinics down or will force them to rebuild from the ground up.

This Friday, the Virginia Board of Health is being asked to vote on the regulations for a second time-even though the panel already rejected these rules because they were unrealistic and medically unnecessary. The Governor and the rest of the executive branch are acting like the past never happened though, and continue to try to strong-arm the board into advancing these arbitrary regulations.

Among other things, the regulations would force existing reproductive health care facilities to meet architectural standards designed for new hospitals.  This makes no medical or logical sense at all, and it would require providers in the state to undergo massive construction or renovations. Hospitals aren’t even required to meet standards this tough.

Virginia abortion providers have been safely caring for women for decades. But it’s clear that Gov. McDonnell and others are less concerned with women’s health than with imposing harsh rules aimed at shutting clinics down.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has been actively fighting against these regulations, but we need your help.

Send Gov. McDonnell a message demanding that he and his anti-choice cronies stop their crusade against women in Virginia and abandon their efforts to adopt these dangerous regulations.

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Reassuring Our Rights

— by Nancy Northrup, Center for Reproductive Rights

With a unanimous decision yesterday by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, we’ve won our legal challenge to strike down a “personhood” ballot initiative that would have given every fertilized egg the full legal rights of a person.

We challenged this initiative as soon as it went on the ballot—arguing that this frontal assault on reproductive rights clearly violated the U.S. Constitution. The Oklahoma court agreed.

It is not acceptable, they ruled, to propose amendments to the state constitution that are “repugnant to the Constitution of the United States.

“Repugnant” is a fitting word to describe this initiative—one of the most extreme and dangerous anti-choice measures we’ve seen.

If passed, the amendment not only would have outlawed abortion in all cases—including in cases of rape or incest, fetal anomalies, or risk to a woman’s life—but also would have banned many forms of birth control and seriously threatened fertility treatments such as IVF.

We don’t need to imagine the dire consequences if this initiative had become law. The Center for Reproductive Rights is working every day in countries around the world where anti-choice zealots have successfully amended their constitutions to define life as beginning at conception—with devastating results.

In El Salvador, for example, many women are driven to clandestine and dangerous abortions. Others are thrown in jail for breaking the law—even those suffering from miscarriages. All women live under a dark cloud of suspicion.

We’re challenging the El Salvador ban in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights—and we’ll continue to fight these measures wherever they arise.

Today, however, this threat to the women of Oklahoma has been shut down. And in affirming our request to strike down the ballot measure, the court has also struck a powerful blow against the tactics of those who seek to vote down the rights of others, and to enshrine their hostility to women’s lives, health, and rights in the laws of the land.

The Fight for Contraception Rages On

The new federal requirement that private health insurance cover the cost of birth control has generated much heated controversy these last few weeks: Congressional hearings, proposed legislation to unwind it, multiple legal actions.

But the rash of recent misogynistic attacks—from Rush Limbaugh’s verbal assault on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke to the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s sweeping dismissal of women’s rights—has taken the public debate to shocking, demeaning extremes.

But as much as opponents of choice and reproductive rights would like you to believe otherwise, government action to expand access to affordable contraception is neither novel nor radical—and it is by no means an attack on religious freedom, as a number of governments around the world can attest.

Take Spain, for example. Few countries are as Catholic as is Spain. Nearly 75 percent of all Spaniards identify themselves as Catholic (in the U.S., just one in four citizens are Catholic). And yet Spain shows a far more advanced understanding and practical tolerance of contraception and how it fits into today’s society:

  • All women covered under the country’s National Health System pay reduced rates for contraception because the government subsidizes it.
  • All pharmacies are required to dispense emergency contraception—without a prescription and without restriction to age.

Spain is not alone in recognizing the ways contraception can improve women’s status and enhance the country’s overall well-being. The majority of countries in the European Union aim to make birth control affordable and information about birth control readily available. Germany, Romania, and United Kingdom provide particularly good examples. And representatives from several E.U. countries will meet this month in the European Parliament-along with leaders from the Center for Reproductive Rights—in an attempt to create greater consensus on contraception issues and discuss the multiple public health and human rights benefits that subsidization of contraceptives brings.

The primary message of the meeting will be that a woman’s ability to control her own fertility is essential to her health, her empowerment, and her equality in society, and it is a government’s responsibility to ensure access to the full range of family planning services so that women can make free and informed decisions.

Contraception empowers women. It prevents millions of unintended pregnancies and saves billions of taxpayer dollars every year. It should be a step forward that we can all rally around—not a lightning rod for controversy.

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