Photo by Kjetil Ree
Women got a long-awaited victory Monday in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
The court, on a 5-3 vote, struck down as unconstitutional two laws aimed at curtailing women’s access to abortion. It specifically held that an admitting privileges requirement for abortion providers and a burdensome surgical center facility requirement constitute undue burdens on a woman’s right to choose abortion.
In short, the court rejected the façade that these restrictions had anything to do with improving or protecting women’s health. Their real purpose was to shame and demean women and take away their most fundamental rights. Women’s health is threatened not by a procedure with a major complication rate of less than one-quarter of 1%, but by health center closures that result from restrictive and unnecessary reproductive health laws.
Across the United States, legislatures have imposed approximately 300 abortion restrictions since 2010. In Wisconsin, our Republican governor and GOP-dominated Legislature have passed abortion bans, forced vaginal ultrasounds laws, and harmful admitting privilege requirements.
We’ve seen the disastrous effects of these laws. In Wisconsin, as in Texas and elsewhere, lifesaving health centers have been forced to close with nothing to take their place. There is no question that women’s health is suffering, sometimes in life-threatening ways. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg notes,
“When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners . . . at great risk to their health and safety.”
There is no doubt in my mind that legislative Republicans and Gov. Walker will double down and attempt to pass even more restrictive laws in the sessions to come. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has sent a loud and clear message that Wisconsin’s admitting privileges law is also unconstitutional, our attorney general will continue wasting taxpayer money, litigating this and future burdens on women’s reproductive rights.
This ruling is a turning point in the fight to restore reproductive rights for women. It is fitting that the court released this decision just days before our country celebrates individual rights and liberties on Independence Day. There is nothing that epitomizes individual rights and liberties more than affirming that women have a constitutional right to make their own decisions about their health, family, career and future without interference from politicians.
State Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, is the former legislative director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. This column was distributed by the Progressive Media Project, affiliated with The Progressive magazine.