Feb 18, 2019
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a Louisiana law that would have required doctors providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
This decision takes place in the midst of a concerted effort by the right-wing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision affirming women’s right to abortion, protected by the U.S. Constitution. Abortion opponents have been encouraged by the recent addition of Brett Kavanaugh to the court, giving the court an apparent 5-4 conservative majority.
It would be a mistake for anyone who supports a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion to be encouraged by the recent decision. The Court only issued a temporary stay against the Louisiana law. The decision passed by just one vote, 5-4, with Judge John Roberts casting the deciding vote. Roberts is a conservative voice on the Court who has supported previous decisions restricting abortion.
There are currently at least 20 lawsuits at various judicial stages that could be used by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. One case involves an Indiana law that would require a woman to undergo an ultrasound, then wait 18 hours before having an abortion. The state of Mississippi is appealing a decision that overturned a law banning abortions after 15 weeks or in other words, most 2nd trimester abortions.
The Louisiana law requiring doctors to have hospital admitting privileges is similar to one passed in Texas, which the Supreme Court previously ruled unconstitutional. Were it to be implemented, many doctors would be discouraged from providing abortions, because to have admitting privileges requires a doctor to live in the local area. Because local providers have been the victims of terrorist attacks by abortion opponents, these laws could cause doctors who provide abortions to stop doing so.
Whether due to funding cuts or laws aimed at restricting access, a number of states have few if any abortion clinics. Mississippi, Missouri, and South and North Dakota each have only one clinic in operation. Mississippi has no clinics where 91 percent of women live!
So, since 1973 there have been serious erosions in women’s actual ability to obtain an abortion. Barriers set up by politicians and the courts over the last 46 years– whether it’s forcing women to travel longer distances or by simply making an already distressing choice more frightful, are serious erosions in all women’s actual ability to obtain an abortion. However, whereas wealthy and upper middle class women more readily have the means to travel to find an abortion provider, these barriers have made it much harder on poor and working class women.
Attacks by the wealthy ruling class on women’s rights are part of an attack on the working class and all the oppressed. Maintaining and expanding women’s right to choose an abortion won’t happen if we wait on judges and politicians. It will require fights similar to those that won those rights in the past.
The Supreme Court that decided Roe v. Wade was composed of a majority of conservative judges appointed by Eisenhower and Nixon. The decision came, however, at the time of powerful social movements of the 1960s and 70s, which started with the black movement and inspired women to go into the streets to fight for their rights.