The Supreme Court struck down a controversial Texas abortion law Monday
The biggest abortion case in decades resulted in a win for supporters of access
For some, there were tears of joy, shock and sighs of relief. For others, there was disappointment and a vow to continue battling.
The U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to supporters of abortion rights Monday morning. In Texas, where the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case began, reactions were strong and divided, as they were nationwide.
“I am beyond elated,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, said in a written statement. “After years of fighting heartless, anti-abortion Texas politicians who would seemingly stop at nothing to push abortion out of reach, I want everyone to understand: you don’t mess with Texas, you don’t mess with Whole Woman’s Health, and you don’t mess with this beautiful, powerful movement of people dedicated to reproductive health, rights, and justice.”
Less enthusiastic was Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said the original law “was an effort to improve minimum safety standards and ensure capable care for Texas women. It’s exceedingly unfortunate that the court has taken the ability to protect women’s health out of the hands of Texas citizens and their duly-elected representatives.”
The Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether two key provisions in Texas’ House Bill 2, enacted in 2013, constituted an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions in the Lone Star State. The state argued that the law protected women’s health, while opponents pointed to the closure of more than half of Texas’ abortion clinics and claimed that the law only hurt women.
The court’s decision may deter other states from pushing for “clinic shutdown” laws.
Since the passage of HB2, women in certain areas of the state have found themselves living in abortion deserts, where they’ve struggled to find services. So this ruling was a particular relief to women such as Charlotte Dunham, who lives in Lubbock, where she is the director of women’s studies at Texas Tech University.
“This is especially good news for the women in West Texas,” she said, “where so many clinics have closed and women have had to travel, in many cases, impossible distances to get an abortion, even when the pregnancy was a result of rape or the pregnancy was a danger to a woman’s health.”
But anti-abortion activists such Dorothy Boyett are poised to get back to work. Every week for two decades, she stationed herself outside a now-closed abortion clinic in Lubbock. She was overjoyed when it finally shut down and believes HB2 helped reduce abortions in her state.
“I am not expecting an abortion facility to open in Lubbock in the immediate future,” she said. “But if and when it does, I will resume my efforts to reach out to women and save babies.”
Aimee Arrambide wrote her response while crying “tears of joy” in her Austin kitchen Monday morning. Her late father was an abortion provider in Texas, and she said she could not be more proud.
“It isn’t, or shouldn’t be, surprising when the Supreme Court upholds an obvious constitutional right. What’s surprising is that taxpayers in Texas, and in dozens of other states, allow extremists to waste millions of tax dollars enacting, enforcing and defending laws like HB2,” said Arrambide, a reproductive rights program manager and policy specialist at the Public Leadership Institute.
“After being pushed back 10 steps, Texas women can now take one step forward,” she continued. “Our job is to turn this tiny stream of constitutional protection into a river of justice.”
The cross-currents, though, will undoubtedly continue to flow. After all, abortion has long been a hot-button issue in the United States.
“We are very disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life. “The State of Texas will be unable to fully implement HB 2’s common sense regulations to protect the health and safety of women at substandard abortion facilities. Our work to protect mothers and unborn babies from abortion will continue.”
Many on either side of the debate were quick to respond Monday. But for one physician, who performs abortions in Dallas and for her own protection refuses to be named, the ruling left her stunned. She’d trained herself to expect the worst.
“I had lost faith that our system could do right by women, by women’s health, their families, their potential,” she wrote in an e-mail Monday morning. “I thought that we had gone down the tragically oppressive path so far that we had abandoned common sense, logic, compassion, evidence-based healthcare.”
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But as the news sank in, she couldn’t contain her excitement.
“Overjoyed, weeping, in a state of ecstatic shock,” she continued. “Long live women’s agency to control their bodies and their lives!”