On June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court announced its decision in a case called Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, arguably one of the most important judicial decisions regarding abortion since 2007. Here are four important things you need to know about the case.
(1) The Supreme Court has ruled that the admitting privilege requirement and ambulatory surgical requirement are unconstitutional based on incorrect factual evidence.
The case dealt with a Texas law, House Bill 2. There were two parts of House Bill 2 that were challenged: (1) the requirement that the abortionist must have admitting privileges to a nearby hospital; and (2) the requirement that abortion facilities meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. These requirements were enacted to help protect the health of the woman seeking the abortion so that they would not be harmed by unsanitary conditions at the abortion facility and that she could receive prompt emergency care if something went wrong during the abortion. The Court ruled that both of these requirements are an undue burden on women seeking abortions and are, therefore, unconstitutional.
At its very core, the Court has dealt a huge blow to making sure abortions are safe for women. In a 5-3 decision, the Court found that both of these requirements were too burdensome on women seeking an abortion.
The decision was based, in part, on claims by abortion advocates that these requirements caused over half of the abortion facilities in Texas to close. As a result, women in many parts of Texas would need to travel hundreds of miles to reach an abortion facility. Additionally, fewer facilities would become overcrowded.
The evidence does not support these conclusions. First, a number of abortion facilities shut down before or immediately after the law was enacted because they voluntarily chose not to comply with the requirements. Second, national data shows that the number of abortions has been declining for the last several years so the closures may have simply been a result of simple supply and demand. Third, closures may also be simply a result of abortionists retiring or relocating for any number of reasons. Fourth, no evidence was provided to show that the remaining facilities were running at capacity already (and thus, risked being unable to meet the abortion demand) or that the demand for abortions would even continue at the same level.
(2) The abortion industry claims to be helping women by rejecting safety regulations.
While abortion has historically been touted for helping women achieve equality in the area of reproduction, ironically, the abortion industry fought against regulations designed to make abortions safer for women. In this lawsuit, the abortion industry, in effect, argued that abortion clinics should be substandard to the care that women would receive at a medical facility.
Keep in mind that these requirements were enacted after the horrors of Kermit Gosnell’s facility were exposed. Gosnell operated an abortion facility in Pennsylvania with atrocious conditions. Facilities were filthy, instruments were unsanitary, the staff was woefully untrained, the facility lacked necessary safety equipment, and illegal late term abortions were performed. Many of his patients suffered serious complications or even died.
These regulations are aimed at preventing situations such as Gosnell’s. In fact the very abortion clinic who sued, Whole Woman’s Health, has a long history of health violations including rusty and unsanitary equipment as well as failure to have life-saving equipment such as a defibrillator.
It is ironic that these are exactly the conditions abortion supports complain of in “back alley” abortions, however, they are not interested in forcing abortion facilities to enact basic sanitary and safety requirements.
(3) The Court found the requirements unconstitutional because the abortion facilities could not comply.
It is important to note that the Court’s rationale turns on the fact that it is expensive or difficult to comply with the requirements, particularly with regard to the ambulatory care center regulation. The abortion industry argued that it would cost too much to comply.
In any other industry, this excuse for noncompliance would be laughable. If a person wanted to be a doctor but couldn’t pass the required exams, no one would suggest getting rid of the exams. If a hospital said they could not comply with regulations regarding the sterilization of equipment, it would be unreasonable to suggest that the sterilization rule should be thrown out the window. Yet this is precisely what abortion facilities have been able to do.
(4) The Court is unwilling to uphold pro-life laws because criminals won’t obey them anyway.
Yes. You did read that correctly. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Breyer, actually justifies their position by stating that because laws might not deter certain people from the wrongful act, those laws should not be in the books. Justice Breyer writes:
Gosnell’s behavior was terribly wrong. But there is no reason to believe that an extra layer of regulation would have affected that behavior. Determined wrongdoers, already ignoring existing statutes and safety measures, are unlikely to be convinced to adopt safe practices by a new overlay of regulations.
Are you confused?? You should be. Following the Court’s reasoning, because murderers disregard homicide laws, we should get rid of all homicide laws. Likewise, because some people fail to stop at stop signs, we should get rid of stop signs. It should be patently obvious that laws ought not be abolished because some people choose to defy them.
So Now What?
Absolutely the Supreme Court did a terrible thing in saying that the safety and welfare of women are not worth protecting. However, hopefully this will reawaken the sleeping giant, so to speak, that is Generation Life. Take time to learn more about what the Supreme Court did by visiting some of these websites:
- St. Louis Review Coverage
- Archdiocese of St. Louis Press Release
- National Catholic Register Coverage
Remember that life will be victorious but we must all do our part to convert hearts and minds!