Abortion-rights supporters in the US were celebrating yesterday after the US Supreme Court overturned controversial restrictive abortion laws in Texas.
And why should you care? It was the first major victory for reproductive rights in the US in a two decades-long battle which has seen the chipping away of women’s access to abortion. In the past five years alone, more than 280 pieces of legislation restricting access to abortion has been introduced across the continent – the most in any five-year period since abortion was legalised in 1973.
As a result more than 160 abortion clinics have shut up shop in America. Now, women have to wait three-weeks longer for an abortion and travel a minimum of four-hours longer. Of greater concern, it has meant more women have attempted to end a pregnancy by themselves.
At the heart of the anti-abortion lobby’s successful stealth campaign was the encouragement of lawmakers to introduce so many rules and regulations that it made running an abortion clinic excessive and unaffordable. In this particular case, Texas’s so-called HB2 laws required abortion clinics to effectively run like a mini-hospital.
In their ruling the judges agreed that the HB2 law placed an ``undue burden’’ on women trying to access abortion, and in the process they managed to debunk some classic myths around the practice.
1. Abortion is unsafe
In handing down the ruling one of the judges, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – a long-time abortion rights supporter - declared that abortion is generally a safe procedure. ``In truth, complications from an abortion are both rare and rarely dangerous. Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory surgical-centre or hospital admitting-privileges requirements,’’ she said citing the requirements imposed on clinic providers of the HB2 law.
2. What women need is more abortion laws
Justice Ginsburg was damning in her findings on the effects of any legislature that restricted access to abortion: “When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners … at great risk to their health and safety.”
3. More laws against abortion equals greater protection of women's health.
Justice Stephen Bryers said the new laws did nothing to advance the protection of women’s health: ``More fundamentally, in the face of no threat to women’s health, Texas seeks to force women to travel long distances to get abortions in crammed-to-capacity superfacilities. Patients seeking these services are less likely to get the kind of individualised attention, serious conversation and emotional support that doctors at less-taxed facilities may have offered.’’