Supreme Court Smacks Down Bullsh*t Texas Abortion Clinic Rules
Thirteen Texas reproductive health clinics will be allowed to reopen their doors this morning, thanks to a new Supreme Court ruling. At least for the time being, hundreds of thousands of Texas women will have access to the reproductive health care that their state government is trying to deny them, because two-thirds of the members of the highest court in the land are in touch with reality enough to realize that not most women cannot, in fact, afford to hire a limousine to chauffeur them to the next state when they need an abortion.
The justices voted 6-3, along some pretty well-worn party lines, to allow clinics to remain open without meeting the state’s regulations that would have required them to meet the unnecessarily high standards of an “ambulatory surgical center“. The bad news is that this decision only protects clinics during the time period in which the uber-restrictive legislation is appealed; if the abortion rights advocates lose their case at the Fifth Circuit hearing, that could mean another Supreme Court case down the line (and hopefully, one with a similar decision), but it would mean that these clinics are shuttered in the interim. And that would be a huge problem for Texas women, especially those who are poor or who live in rural areas. Despite the arguments of Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general, in the case before the Supreme Court, abortion rights aren’t just for women who live in cities or who are wealthy enough to afford their own car; they’re supposed to be for everyone.
Thirteen clinics might not might like a big deal, especially if you’re lucky enough to live in a state where your own access to reproductive health care has never been in doubt. But that’s over half of the reproductive health clinics still left in Texas; and the few that remained are prohibitively (and unconstitutionally, according to three of the Supremes) far away for women who might not have access to transportation, time off work, or child care. The closing of these 13 clinics increased the number of Texan women who found themselves more than 150 miles away from a clinic by a factor of more than 10. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is involved in the appeal, previously 86,000 women were this far away – if the Fifth Circuit upholds this law, 900,000 women will be. As far as I’m concerned, 86,000 women being effectively cut off from access to the reproductive health they need is way the hell too many, but almost a million? It would be unthinkable, except that Texas has done a lot more than just think about it.
Abbott, who is a gubernatorial candidate as well as the attorney general, isn’t too concerned about his potential constituency’s access to health care: at least not the part of the constituency that could get pregnant. According to the statements he presented to the Supreme Court, living 150 miles from a clinic is a “comfortable driving distance”. Sorry, but no: spending upwards of four hours in a car to make a round trip isn’t a fun prospect at the best of times, let alone with pregnant-bladder. And even the most comfortable of two-hour drives requires a little thing called a “car”, or “a nearby bus line”. It sounds to me like Abbott is spectacularly out of touch with reality, but I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s planning on personally providing that oh-so-easy transportation to the people of his state who are otherwise out of luck. Depending on what the Fifth Circuit has to say about this case, I hope his car doesn’t have too many miles on it so far.