What You Need To Know About the SCOTUS Abortion Case, According to Lizz Winstead of Lady Parts Justice
On March 2nd the Supreme Court will hear what is likely the most important abortion case in a generation. Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt could have huge implications for abortion in the United States. This technically legal right is effectively inaccessible for countless women — a problem at the heart of this case.
Lizz Winstead, founder of the organization Lady Parts Justice and co-creator of the Daily Show, explained to the FBomb what this case involves and why it's important.
To understand Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, we have to understand what came before it.
Roe v. Wade is seen as this touchstone supreme court case that gave people the right to safe and legal abortion, but in 1992, the Supreme Court heard another case. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, anti-abortion advocates were desperately trying to create obstacles for women to get an abortion. They presented an argument that so many women have regrets about abortion that we need to put all of these loopholes in place because they need to think about it more (which is insulting in and of itself). A whole bunch of people gave testimony about their abortion regrets and that swayed a lot of judges who essentially ruled that abortion will stay legal, but states have the right to create regulations as long as they don't cause any kind of burden. They never defined what they considered an “undue burden,” which gave the states permission to create unnecessary and expensive hurdles for patents. The case basically allowed lawmakers to legislate abortion out of existence without overturning Roe v. Wade PLUS told women that they can't be trusted to make their own choices.
This led to the current reality of rampant TRAP laws.
States across the country then created TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers), which created obstacles that force clinics to close unnecessarily, and result in forcing women who need abortions to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles to find a clinic. For example, a Texas law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges to a nearby hospital in case there’s an emergency. It sounds rational on its face, but in order to obtain these privileges, you have to show you will have patients to admit. Because abortions are super safe, there are very few patients, so the hospital often denies the clinic privileges, forcing the clinic to close. Another regulation was that a clinic can get shut down if their janitor's closet doesn't meet certain standards. Advocates argue that laws like these do constitute an “undue burden,” that these laws were created ONLY to prohibit people who want abortions and prevent clinics from staying open.
Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt will determine if this is an undue burden after all.
The Supreme Court will now decide what an "undue burden" is — if that’s driving many miles to terminate a pregnancy; to have to wait days to do so and spend money on a hotel room, babysitter, and even lose money taking time off of work; to be lectured about medical information; to have to look at and pay for an ultrasound of the fetus — all of those things.
If they decide those are reasonable laws that means there will only be ten clinics open in the entire state of Texas. It also means that lawmakers around the country will be able to start imposing those laws on people in their states: This case sets a national standard. If people don’t get out and vote and pay attention going forward, then anti-choice politicians who get elected can also start creating more laws all over the country. We could find ourselves unable to access abortion without ever overturning Roe v. Wade.
This case is an important reminder of why we need to be vocal advocates.
Conservatives often say these restrictions are for women's safety. Advocates and women who have used abortion services need to stand up and say this isn’t for the safety of women. We need to start talking about abortion as one aspect of health care that a person might need in their lifetime. We need to shift the script and start talking about abortion as a normal part of life and defend it for those who have had them so they don’t feel shamed and those who provide them to let them know we are proud they’re part of a community.
We need to be advocates. I’ve seen people who used clinics in their younger days before getting jobs with health care now stop advocating for clinics. We’ve abdicated the responsibility of defending the clinics to the people who provide the health care. I don’t think that’s right. That’s why I started Lady Parts Justice. I felt like everyone I know has at some point in her life used an affordable clinic – for birth control, for a pap smear, for an exam, as a way to get an exam.
We also need to let the people who provide abortion services know we will defend them. We need local movements of support so that these clinics don’t feel abandoned and aren't fighting this battle alone. We should be fighting for and with them. No one should have to go to work everyday wearing a bullet proof vest to provide health care. It’s really important to develop relationships with local clinics, to start a dialogue to understand how advocates can be supportive and let them know that no matter how this stuff goes down, no matter who is elected, we can still create a community-based network of people who have abortion providers' backs.
There are many ways young women can do this.
The one thing young women should know as they come into their own as sexual beings is that we’ve all been where you are at. Be an activist in the way you know how and the way that feels safe and right for you. Have conversations with your pals. If you’ve gone with a friend who needed an abortion or birth control to a local clinic, talk about what that experience was like and ways you can keep in touch with and support that clinic. The more we talk about our reproductive lives, the more empowered we feel.
Support your friends, support your community, support your clinic in the way you know how, but do something.
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