Alarmingly, the Supreme Court’s newly fortified conservative majority could begin eroding the constitutionally-protected right to abortion – secured 46 years ago in Roe v. Wade – as soon as Thursday. Almost five years after its enactment, Louisiana’s TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) law forcing physicians providing abortion services to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the procedure could finally go into effect on February 8, 2019. This burdensome and medically unnecessary requirement would effectively shutter two of the state’s three remaining abortion clinics, leaving only a single doctor qualified to care for the nearly 10,000 Louisiana women seeking abortions each year. Those women would then face delays, increased travel times, and other obstacles to safe, legal health care, perhaps forcing some to undergo unlicensed abortions or to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. All that is needed for this to become a reality is for the Supreme Court to stand back and do nothing.
Should the Court fail to follow its own precedent – something the Justices, as nominees, swore to do – what would this mean for the hundreds of abortion restrictions currently working their way through the courts or being considered in state legislatures across the country? Put plainly, allowing the law to take effect would clearly signal that the Court does not intend to police state or lower court compliance with Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (a case that struck down a nearly identical Texas law), Planned Parenthood v. Casey (a case that created the undue burden standard), and Roe itself. Freed from the Court’s oversight, this would provide anti-abortion lawmakers with a license to ensure that abortion is only available in theory. Measures imposing onerous requirements on doctors and patients or even banning the procedure before most women even know they are pregnant would make abortion unavailable in fact, disproportionately harming low-income women, women of color, immigrant women, and young women in the process. As Center for Reproductive Rights CEO Nancy Northrup so aptly put it, this would represent “death to Roe by a thousand cuts.”
This oncoming assault on millions of American women of reproductive age is yet another example of how the courts affect our lives and those of future generations. That’s right, courts matter.
Want to do something right now? Call the Capitol Switchboard TODAY at (202) 224-3121 to tell your Senators we need fair, independent arbiters of justice who will remain faithful to the law and uphold constitutional rights, including reproductive rights. You can also ask your Senators and Representatives to support the Women’s Health Protection Act – a bill that would allow medical professionals to provide abortion services free from restrictions that apply to no similar medical care and interfere with patient’s personal decision-making – when it is reintroduced later this year. Act now to preserve Roe today and for many years to come.