It's Been a Great Two Days for Reproductive Rights
In a series of three victories for women's reproductive rights, the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear cases connected to strict state laws that would have made abortions nearly impossible to obtain and have allowed pharmacies to refuse to give out medicine — like birth control pills — based on religious grounds.
Two of the three cases stemmed from similar laws in Mississippi and Wisconsin that required doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals in order to perform abortions. This law was particularly devastating for women in Mississippi because under these terms, the state's lone abortion clinic would be shut down. Sound familiar? It should — these states' laws mirrored the same restrictive Texas law that was struck down in yesterday's Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt ruling. Mississippi and Wisconsin had hoped that the Supreme Court would overturn lower court rulings that had rejected their legislation. However, by allowing those lower court rulings to stand, the Supreme Court, once and for all, prevented the restrictive laws from being reinstated.
In addition to declining the cases from Mississippi and Wisconsin, the court also refused to hear a challenge to Washington state's law that makes it illegal for pharmacies to refuse to stock or dispense medicines based on an employee's religious affiliation. This particular piece of legislation has been a source of controversy since it passed in 2007. A judge in an earlier case — brought forth by the owners of a supermarket-based pharmacy that objected to stocking or selling morning-after pills due to their religious beliefs — ruled the law unconstitutional, but that was reversed after an appeal. More recently, a related case — this time raised by small business owners who refused to dispense birth control — maintained the validity of the law and made it illegal for store owners and employees to refuse to sell medicine based on religious objection.
The Court's refusal to hear these three cases, as well as Monday's Whole Woman's Health ruling, reaffirms its longstanding position that women have the constitutional right to make decisions about their own reproductive health — and confirms that restrictive laws like those in Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Texas only hinder women's safety. "When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety," Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the majority ruling on Whole Women's Health. "So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade, and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H.B.2 that 'do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,' cannot survive judicial inspection." In short: Laws that severely restrict reproductive rights simply won't fly in the Supreme Court, and to that we say, right on, RBG.
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