Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was argued in front of the Supreme Court on March 2, 2016. Given the gravity of the case, most anticipate that a decision will be one of the last announced this term.
Wendy Davis filibustered HB2, but it became law anyway. The Center for Reproductive Rights lays out what’s at stake:
The Supreme Court has made it clear that women have a constitutional right to abortion and that states cannot pass laws that create an undue burden for women exercising that right. The Supreme Court’s 1992 decision inPlanned Parenthood v. Casey, which affirmed the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, explained:
These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the 14th Amendment.
In an attempt to sneak around the Constitution and four decades of Supreme Court precedent, anti-choice politicians in Texas passed a law known as HB2 in 2013. Under the pretext of protecting women’s health and safety, HB2 buries clinics under medically unnecessary regulations so burdensome as to make it vastly more difficult, if not impossible, to obtain safe and legal abortion care.
Should politicians in Texas succeed in their underhanded efforts, HB2 would leave at most 10 providers in all of Texas—the second-most populous state in the nation—forcing women to travel hundreds of miles or turn to drastic or illegal options.
Lyle Denniston, of the phenomenal SCOTUSblog, provides a good summary of the argument and what to expect in a decision. Reviewing the day, he shared:
Going into Wednesday’s argument, it was already clear that the Justices disagreed deeply about the enforcement of the Texas law. The Court split five to four in last June in limiting enforcement of the law, and the line-up then was quickly evident by comments and questions from the bench by all of the Justices (except Justice Clarence Thomas, who did not say anything).
With Justice Scalia’s death, Justice Kennedy’s swing vote could mean either a 5-3 decision (if he were to side with the more liberal justices) or a 4-4 deadlock, which would mean the law would stand as decided by the Fifth Circuit but would not set a precedent except at the circuit court level (i.e. would not be a Supreme Court-level precedent that would apply to the entire country).
Jane will be watching, waiting for SCOTUS, as the final few court decisions are announced this June. Already, Janes around Texas are finding it far more difficult to obtain abortion care in a timely or affordable fashion.
The New York Times, after Hellerstedt was argued, looked at Google searches as a proxy for whether more women—in Texas and around the country—are looking for information on how to perform an abortion at home, by themselves or with help:
The state with the highest rate of Google searches for self-induced abortions is Mississippi, which now has one abortion clinic. Eight of the 10 states with the highest search rates for self-induced abortions are considered by the Guttmacher Institute to be hostile or very hostile to abortion. None of the 10 states with the lowest search rates for self-induced abortion are in either category.
Search rates for self-induced abortion were fairly steady from 2004 through 2007. They began to rise in late 2008, coinciding with the financial crisis and the recession that followed. They took a big leap in 2011, jumping 40 percent. The Guttmacher Institute singles out 2011 as the beginning of the country’s recent crackdown on abortion; 92 provisions that restrict access to abortion were enacted. There was not a comparable increase in searches for self-induced abortions in Canada, which has not cracked down.
In Texas, searches on terms related to DIY-abortion happen at more than 10% of the average frequency of searches.
If you have come to this page because you are a teen in Texas and need help understand the laws and procedure in Texas, contact Jane’s Due Process.
If you are a person over the age of 18 in Texas and need guidance, contact one of the abortion funds in Texas, which are listed on the TAKE ACTION page of this blog.
We’re all here with you, and for you. Right now, it’s all up to the Supreme Court.