September 9, 2015 — "[T]he right to an abortion -- guaranteed 42 years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court -- has been saddled with so many onerous strictures in so many states that for millions of women, it has become almost meaningless," a USA Today editorial states.
According to the editorial, "[n]owhere is that more evident than in Texas, where abortion foes, in the guise of making abortion safer, have passed laws [HB 2] that forced half of the state's clinics to shut down," falling from 41 clinics in 2012 to fewer than 20 now. Overall, "abortion opponents have passed more than 280 restrictive laws" across the country since 2010, and "[m]ore restrictions are on the way," the editorial states.
"Virtually all of [these restrictions] substitute government mandates for a woman's freedom to choose," the editorial continues. For example, Michigan lawmakers are considering a measure, similar to laws in Kansas and Oklahoma, that "would ban the most common procedure for abortions done in the second trimester."
"This deluge, on top of existing rules, has made abortions harder to get in many states and almost impossible in some," the editorial continues, noting, "Four states -- Mississippi, North and South Dakotas and Wyoming -- are each down to a single clinic." Meanwhile, "about half the states mandate a waiting period, usually 24 hours," before an abortion, while "Missouri, South Dakota and Utah ... require a wait of 72 hours" and mandate that women "show up in person both times."
According to the editorial, these mandatory delays are "a substantial burden" for low-income women, who have to find transportation, take time from work and travel long distances. "How much of a burden will be the central issue when one of the legal challenges arrives at the Supreme Court," the editorial states, noting that the Center for Reproductive Rights last week asked the high court "to consider the Texas restrictions and overturn them." The editorial explains that "[w]omen in some parts of Texas must travel hundreds of miles round-trip to exercise their rights, thanks to the law requiring that all clinics meet hospital-like standards for surgery centers and that all providers affiliate with hospitals."
According to the editorial, abortion-rights opponents have used a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that permits some restrictions on abortion -- as long as the restrictions do not place "an 'undue burden' on a woman's rights" -- "to chip away at abortion rights with increasingly burdensome regulations." The editorial states that while an "'undue burden' might be hard to define," the justices should know that women "should not have to wait days, listen to forced lectures, drive hundreds of miles or do battle in court repeatedly to access a right guaranteed long ago by the highest court in the land" (USA Today, 9/7).