News / USA

    Texas Restrictive Abortion Law Goes Before US Supreme Court

    A volunteer stocks a table with shirts during a media tour of the Whole Woman’s Health clinic in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 9, 2016. The group has launched a campaign to win support to keep its clinics open.
    A volunteer stocks a table with shirts during a media tour of the Whole Woman’s Health clinic in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 9, 2016. The group has launched a campaign to win support to keep its clinics open.

    The US Supreme Court could either affirm or set back abortion rights this year, depending on how the justices rule on a restrictive law enacted two years ago in Texas that has led to the closing of more than half of that state’s abortion clinics.

    Only eight justices will hear arguments on Wednesday, March 2, in the case of Whole Women’s Health versus Texas after one chair was left empty by the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative who the law’s supporters believe would have sided with them.

    The remaining justices are evenly divided between those who lean conservative and those who lean liberal, with at least two of them sometimes serving as swing votes.

    But the real question in this case is not the legality of abortion, which some conservative justices may oppose, but to what degree a state can impose restrictions on the practice.

    (L-R): Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts attend a private ceremony in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court in Washington for late Justice Antonin Scalia, Feb. 19, 2016.
    (L-R): Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts attend a private ceremony in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court in Washington for late Justice Antonin Scalia, Feb. 19, 2016.

    Putting up barriers to abortion?

    Marcela Howell is executive director of In Our Own Voice, a black women’s advocate group that has filed an amicus brief supporting the challenge to the Texas law. She says it puts an undue burden on poor women who cannot afford to travel long distances to a clinic, especially since Texas is one of 32 states that has rejected the use of federal government-provided Medicaid funds for abortion.

    She told VOA, "If they are under Medicaid they are not able to use Medicaid health insurance to cover abortion care, which adds the additional burden of figuring out how they are going to pay for an abortion.”

    Howell says the law is a thinly veiled attempt to undermine the right to abortion established by the court in the 1973 Roe versus Wade decision.

    “Politicians should not have a right to put up those kind of barriers to women seeking what is a constitutionally protected health care service,” she said.

    A study released last month by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project documented some of the negative impacts of the abortion law on women, especially those who are poor or live in areas far from the only abortion clinic still in operation.

    A procedure room is seen during a tour and event at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio, Feb. 9, 2016, in San Antonio, Texas.
    A procedure room is seen during a tour and event at Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio, Feb. 9, 2016, in San Antonio, Texas.

    Protecting women’s health?

    But such findings are irrelevant, according to John Seago, a legislative assistant who helped write the law. He argues that the hardships some women face are the result of abortion providers choosing to close clinics for financial reasons.

    “This is a choice that the abortion industry is making, specifically, Whole Women’s Health, the plaintive in this lawsuit,” Seago said. “This is a decision they are making not to invest the money in complying with the law, but rather to challenge it in court.”

    But David Brown, staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, says the law’s provisions impose medically unnecessary and burdensome requirements on the clinics.

    “Particularly, there are two: there is one that requires clinics to convert themselves into mini hospitals and another that requires physicians who provide abortions to essentially join the staff of a nearby hospital.”

    Seago contends that such requirements are similar to those imposed on clinics that perform plastic surgery or other elective procedures and the requirement for abortion doctors to be accepted at a local hospital helps prevent malpractice.

    David Brown, however, says such requirements are transparent attempts to impede access to abortions in Texas.

    “These laws are opposed by the entirety of the mainstream medical establishment in this country,” he said. “Every major medical organization, from the American Medical Association to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and everybody in between recognizes that these laws are medically unnecessary and impose pointless burdens, whose only effect is to shutter clinics.”

    In the hands of a divided court

    The death of Justice Scalia could favor the challenge to the Texas law. With him, there was a five-to-four advantage for conservatives that has now been reduced to a four-four split.

    “We have lost this advocate on the court,” Seago said, “but we still are optimistic that we are going to win and that we will be able to enforce our law at the end of the day.”

    Other supporters of the law agree, including Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who defeated Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis in the 2014 election after she gained national fame by trying to stop the abortion bill with a filibuster.

    But those who support a woman’s right to choose an abortion, here in Texas and in other parts of the country, are hoping the court will strike down the law.

    An even split on this case would leave the Texas law in effect, but would not constitute a ruling that applies to other states with similar legal restrictions on abortion.

    You May Like

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Cliff Dweller from: Texas
    February 26, 2016 10:25 AM
    This law was passed on political grounds only. The number of abortion clinics in Texas, and the number of abortions performed in Texas, has been flat for 20 years. The Republicans have been the super majority in Texas government for nearly that entire time? Why didn't they pass this law 15 yeas ago? How many lives were lost during that time? The truth is they needed an issue to get money out of the base, and there weren't any. Tort reform, taxes, Medicaid, and school funding had all been taken. So, they went after this one, and passed a law which will be overturned, costing us a bunch of money.

    by: Donna
    February 25, 2016 5:11 PM
    Let's get this straight. Either society pays for women on Medicaid to go get abortions or we use our tax dollars to raise their children for 18 years? Where is the part about responsibility of the poor men and women not to create more children that they can't afford now which is why they are on Medicaid.

    by: Devin m
    February 25, 2016 5:07 PM
    How about birth control? How about taking responsibilty for what you do?
    In Response

    by: Donald from: Texas
    February 25, 2016 8:54 PM
    So if they don't take responsibility by having birth control, we should take responsibility for them by raising their children for 18 years?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora