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NYT Urges SCOTUS To Uphold Women's Constitutional Protections, Rule Against Abortion Restrictions

December 21, 2015 — Calling on the Supreme Court to protect women's right to abortion, a New York Times editorial states, "How many laws making it harder to get an abortion will pass before the Supreme Court sees them for what they are -- part of a tireless, coordinated nationwide assault on the right of women to control what happens with their own bodies without the interference of politicians?"

According to the editorial, "One answer is, no fewer than 288. That's how many abortion restrictions states have enacted since the beginning of 2011." The editorial notes, "The trend accelerated in 2015, as state legislators passed 57 new constraints on a woman's right to choose" and considered "[h]undreds more, most of which could come up again in 2016." While antiabortion-rights lawmakers often "disguise their true intent by claiming that their interest is in protecting women's physical or mental health ... now and then the facade falls away," the editorial continues, citing Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who referred to a set of 2012 abortion restrictions he signed into law as "'the first step in a movement' that aims to 'end abortion in Mississippi.'"

The editorial states, "This is the ominous purpose the justices must not ignore as they hear a major lawsuit from Texas early next year." The lawsuit "involves a state law [HB 2] passed in 2013" that holds abortion care facilities to "the same building, equipment and staffing standards as ambulatory surgical centers, a costly and medically unnecessary standard," and "requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic."

Such laws -- "known as TRAP laws, for targeted regulation of abortion providers -- have sprouted up in dozens of states as abortion opponents test the limits of the Supreme Court's vague standard on abortion rights, which asks whether a restriction poses an 'undue burden' to a woman's right to choose," the editorial explains. In several states, "these laws have resulted in the shuttering of all but a few clinics that perform abortions, forcing women to travel hundreds of miles for the procedure," the editorial states. Citing a study that found at least 100,000 Texas woman had tried to self-induce an abortion, the editorial notes that clinic closures can "increas[e] the chance that a woman will try to end her pregnancy on her own." Doing so is "extremely risky," the editorial states, and "in some states it is even grounds for a charge of attempted murder."

However, the editorial notes that while "TRAP laws are the only ones currently before the Supreme Court ... they are far from the only roadblock to reproductive health care put up in 2015." According to the editorial, in 2015, "[f]ive states enacted or extended [mandatory delays] for abortions"; "[t]wo states, Arizona and Arkansas, passed laws requiring doctors to give women misleading information about the possibility of 'reversing' a medication-induced abortion" and "Arkansas also became the third state to ban the use of the modern, evidence-based drug protocol for medication abortion, which is cheaper and more effective than what [FDA] approved" 15 years ago.

Further, "there is the unrelenting, but politically unpopular, campaign by" state and federal conservative lawmakers "to deny funding to Planned Parenthood," which "is the only reproductive-health service provider for millions of [low-income] women" and "already prohibited by law from using federal funds for almost all abortions," the editorial continues.

The editorial states, "Texas' law places an undue burden on women seeking abortion services and should be struck down," concluding, "Beyond doing that, the justices must send a clear and broad message affirming the constitutionally protected right of women to determine the course of their reproductive lives" (New York Times, 12/19).