By: Noel León, Former Senior CounselPosted on May 29, 2019 Issues: Abortion Supreme Court

Abortion rights rally outside the Supreme CourtYesterday morning, the Supreme Court announced that it was reversing a lower court’s decision striking down an Indiana law that imposes burdensome restrictions on abortion providers and intrudes upon a person’s ability to seek compassionate abortion care. This medically unnecessary law will make it harder for abortion providers to serve people in Indiana. Meanwhile, a few states away in Missouri, the last remaining abortion clinic is on the verge of being forced to close because the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services is refusing to renew the clinic’s license to provide abortions.

These attacks come on the heels of multiple states – including Missouri – passing abortion bans intended to eliminate abortion access entirely. What’s happening on the Court and in Indiana and Missouri makes clear not only that states are using all means possible to stigmatize and limit abortion, but also that the Supreme Court does not need to overturn Roe v. Wade for abortion access to be eradicated.

The Supreme Court upheld a burdensome abortion restriction in Indiana

In reversing the lower court’s decision, the Supreme Court allowed a medically unnecessary law go into effect that is designed to burden abortion providers by restricting how doctors manage fetal tissue. The Indiana law was originally signed by former governor Mike Pence. The Court issued its order yesterday without holding oral arguments and despite the fact that the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit had found that there was no rational basis for the law. Justice Ginsburg dissented, and Justice Sotomayor wrote to say she would have denied certiorari entirely, which would have left in place the Seventh Circuit’s decision finding the Indiana law to be unconstitutional.

Yesterday’s Supreme Court order is not a “compromise,” as some are calling it. As Justice Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent, the Court has gone out of its way and wasted its own resources to overturn the decision of a Court of Appeals and uphold a bogus law that will make it harder for people to seek abortion care in Indiana. Indiana abortion providers already have to contend with a mountain of requirements utterly unfounded in medical evidence: in-person and biased counseling requirements, mandatory ultrasounds, mandatory delays, parental consent for minors, and a ban on telemedicine for abortion. This law is yet another unnecessary burden that hinders providers’ ability to provide evidence-based and compassionate health care.

As these burdens on abortion providers in Indiana continue to mount, the effect on patients is the loss of providers who can help them realize their decision to have an abortion. The Supreme Court’s decision today to uphold yet another restriction in Indiana is not a “compromise” – it is a direct blow to Indianans’ ability to make decisions about their lives.

Justice Thomas relied on deeply problematic tropes about eugenics to rail against abortion

In the same order, the Court decided not to take up another Indiana abortion restriction that banned abortions based on the supposed reason for the abortion. That means that this “reason ban” portion of the law is still blocked by the Court of Appeals decision.

However, in a furious concurrence, Justice Thomas decided to go on a tirade in support of the reason ban anyway. Justice Thomas completely erases the agency and humanity of those seeking abortion, relying on tired and flawed narratives about Planned Parenthood being founded on a eugenicist agenda to argue that states should be able to ban people from obtaining an abortion when the abortion is for a specific supposed reason. This argument hypocritically ignores the reality that the anti-abortion movement is itself rooted in racism and that these restrictions harm people of color and those with disabilities in particular.

Let’s be clear: abortion restrictions of all kinds are tools of oppression grounded in white supremacy. By controlling people’s reproductive decisions, abortion restrictions prevent people from controlling their own lives and from living with dignity. “Reason bans” that restrict abortion based on the supposed reason that a person seeks an abortion, like the one invalidated in Indiana, are especially stigmatizing to people of color and people with disabilities because they play into racist and ableist assumptions about why people decide to have an abortion. They create distrust between doctors and patients, forcing abortion providers to inquire into a person’s motivations for making what is a deeply personal and often very complex decision. Furthermore, the people who peddle coopted anti-racist language to oppose abortion are themselves furthering white supremacist rhetoric and actively ignoring the many crises that people of color are facing.

Justice Thomas’ dissent attempts to gaslight us with co-opted language about justice and equity. We will not stand for this hypocritical questioning of the motivations that people have for deciding to have an abortion.

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit to keep the last remaining abortion clinic in Missouri from closing on Friday

Meanwhile, four days after the governor signed a ban on abortion at 8 weeks, Missouri stands poised to be the first state without a single abortion clinic since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Right now, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis is the only clinic providing abortions in the state. But the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services is refusing to renew Planned Parenthood’s license, which expires this Friday, May 31, because Planned Parenthood physicians are refusing to submit to harassing interrogations by the state. The state gives little explanation for its “investigative” requests, but has indicated that “board review” and “criminal proceedings” against the doctors could result.

Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit asking a court for a restraining order to keep the clinic from being forced to close once its license expires Friday. A hearing was held today at 1:30pm Central Time, and it is yet to be seen whether the Court will allow Missouri’s last clinic to close this week. You can show your support for the clinic, its providers, and Missourians by signing this letter.

This week’s events are yet more examples of the rapidly accumulating attempts nationwide to make abortion completely inaccessible. These attacks underscore the fact that the Supreme Court does not need to rule on Roe v. Wade for abortion to be made out of reach for more and more people.

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