Fighting for Abortion Rights in the South
Three years later, in June 2016, a momentous Supreme Court in Texas ruling found one of the United States’ harshest abortion rulings to be unconstitutional. The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, struck down a Texas law which asked that abortion clinics meet expensive, hospital-like building requirements, as well as demanding that abortion providers have patient-admitting privileges with local hospitals. Even though the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case was local to Texas, these local cases have the potential to establish precedents regionally. What we’re seeing now is that the battle to secure safe abortion is being fought on local and egional levels, with big cases happening at the national level. Abortion advocates are trying to shape the state law – not federal law – because it is at the state level that we see the constant and deliberate erasure of the enshrined constitutional right. This battle becomes regional if we understand that states serve as “laborities” of experimentation for other states: they make similar decisions, look to each other for support and guidance. So, if one state begins to erode on abortion access – it can quickly become a legal matter.
After the case, Alabama stopped its fights to force admitting privileges on providers, which would have resulted in the closing of four out of the five clinics in the state. A day after the ruling, the Supreme Court declined a case for a similar admitting privileges law coming out of Wisconsin, which would have shut one of the state’s three clinics. At the time of the ruling, pro-choice campaigners spoke positively about how in the coming months, lower courts were likely to strike down nearly identical cases in Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, where the measures threatened to close all but one clinic in the respective states. Providers in the aforementioned states shared their relief, too. “I felt like nothing was certain until it was a done deal at the court,” said Willie Parker, the chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health. Parker, the sole abortion provider in Mississippi, and a provider in Alabama, has struggled to obtain admitting privileges in both states. He concluded, “Today, I’m extremely pleased.”
Worryingly, as Parker, the Mississippi abortion provider said, “I full well expect that people who are convinced ideologically that they are right to restrict access to abortion, they will not stop because of this setback.” And thus, the work continues to ensure that women in the United States do not lose this hard-fought right.