Leave laws out of health rights

The Texas abortion restrictions may harm thousands of women.

Sam Jasenosky

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to block Texas’ anti-abortion provision last Tuesday in a 5-4 vote. The provision requires abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The Supreme Court’s previous abortion rulings allowed restrictions on abortions so long as they don’t create an “undue burden” on women obtaining one.

In the case of Texas’ restrictions, Justice Priscilla Owen wrote in the appellate ruling that Texas restrictions wouldn’t outlaw the procedure entirely, but they would drive women to go a greater distance to get an abortion.

Since Texas implemented the law, opponents like Planned Parenthood have said more than one-third of abortion facilities can’t provide the procedure and are already turning women away.

Texas-based abortion doctor Lester Minto told Slate last week that women seeking an abortion have few options after being turned away.

One of those options is to go to Mexico, where it’s legal to purchase misoprostol, an ulcer drug that induces abortion. The drug, which costs about 10 cents per pill in the U.S., can cost about $80 per pill in Mexico.

But doctors can’t legally intervene and provide medical attention until after women have tried to unsuccessfully terminate their pregnancy, Minto said.

Minto said at this stage, the medical intervention involved ends up having the same effect as an abortion.

“It’s just a change of words,” Minto said about the difference between abortion and legal medical intervention.

Dissenting liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said even if the case comes back to the Court on appeal, the law permanently affects women who can’t get an abortion now.

While reading the decision, I found myself thinking about the estimated 20,000 Texan women who face rejection for abortions because five conservative male justices made a decision in Washington, D.C.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry praised the Court’s decision, calling it “good news both for the unborn and for the women of Texas, who are now better protected from shoddy abortion providers operating in dangerous conditions.”

As a woman who lives in a state where my reproductive rights aren’t up for debate, it worries me that abortion is still an uphill battle.

The Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade more than 40 years ago, and yet politicians in Texas are still trying to limit women’s freedom to choose their own reproductive options.

Minto said he can’t get admitting privileges at a local hospital because it’s religiously affiliated and won’t have him.

If the law allows women to get help from doctors once they’ve unsuccessfully attempted their own abortion, then it would seem the law’s intention isn’t to protect women from abortions in the first place.

Rather, it seems the law’s goal is to scare women into thinking abortion isn’t an option.

U.S. health professionals reported inducing 784,507 legal abortions in 2009, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Those were 784,507 cases of women making choices about their bodies and futures.

The conservative Supreme Court justices shouldn’t allow their power to take that choice away from Texan women.