Category Archives: Texas

The Importance of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

By Kelsie Merrick

In 1973, Roe v. Wade was, and still is, a controversial case that passed through the Supreme Court. The ruling in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationally unless a woman was in the third trimester then the state had a right to enact abortion regulations to protect the fetus. The only exception to this rule was if the pregnancy was a threat to the mother’s life. Then in 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey reintroduced the controversy around abortion this time about whether consent from a spouse or parent and a 24 hour waiting period is necessary before an abortion. In this case, the court ruled that “states may not impose an ‘undue burden’ on access to abortion: a law is invalid ‘if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.'” Now, abortion has reentered our court system with the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case.

In previous abortion cases, there has been a clear argument with two clear sides: pro-life and pro-choice. That is, the concern has generally been about the baby not about the mother, but with the introduction of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt the conversation is shifting from the baby to the safety of the mother. This case began in 2013 when Texas created a law requiring “doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away, and set clinic standards that are similar to those of surgical centers.” Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion provider, argues, “the law isn’t medically necessary, is demanding and expensive, and interferes with women’s health care.”

Since 2011, “at least 162 abortion providers have shut or stopped offering the procedure” with at least 30 of those closures coming from Texas alone. One of the main reasons behind the closures was the new state regulations that have made these facilities too expensive to remain in operation. Texas is the primary case study of these new regulations and the repercussions of stricter regulations are already noticeable. According to certain providers, “full implementation of the law would leave almost a fifth of Texas women 150 miles or more from a facility.” Texas has already dropped from 42 to 19 clinics since 2013 and if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the new law, Texas would be left with nine abortion clinics. This is a problem for women who need an abortion, whether it is for personal or health reason, and are incapable of traveling that far. A more serious problem caused by the extreme distances of abortion clinics is that “more women would now die of complications from self-induced abortions.”

Another issue facing the abortion world is the discriminating views that then lead to the vandalism of buildings and clinics. Susan Cahill from Kalispell, Montana was unable to rebuild her practice after it was vandalized due to the cost of repairs. Planned Parenthood, one of the leading abortion clinics, has had their fair share of tormenting and vandalism from people protesting outside to fires being started at their facilities. About a third of the facilities that closed or stopped performing terminations were operated by Planned Parenthood. This is detrimental to Planned Parenthood’s operation as a whole since their main goal is not to give abortions but to education society, mainly young adults, about safe sex and contraceptives available to the public.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were “210 abortions for every 1,000 births in the United States.” Even with abortions being almost one-fifth of the births that year, abortions are decreasing without implemented regulations. Since 2010, the Associated Press estimates abortions have decreased 12 percent. Possible explanations for this could be that teen pregnancy rates are decreasing which leads to the reason for more access to birth control. If abortion rates are already decreasing, is it necessary to regulate the clinics? On the other hand, verifying that clinics are safe and healthy and that properly trained doctors are performing the surgeries is also highly beneficial to women that need and want an abortion. Hopefully, the Supreme Court can figure out how to ensure women’s safety without the closure of abortion clinics.

Wendy Davis vs. Texas Abortion Bill

Wendy Davis, feminist superhero

Unless you’ve been avoiding the news for the past twenty-four hours, you’ve heard the name Wendy Davis mentioned. On Tuesday, Davis stood up to the senate in an effort to filibuster a Texas bill on abortion that would provide even more limitations on a woman’s right to control her own body.

The bill would add further restrictions on abortion clinics around the state, including banning any abortion after the twenty-week marker and require all but five abortion clinics in Texas to be closed. The women who so badly need access to abortion to clinics would no longer be able to get to them.

Ms. Davis was nineteen when she had her first child, but managed to get herself from a trailer park all the way through Harvard Law School and eventually to the Texas Senate. “She’s carrying every woman in the state of Texas, if you will, on her shoulder,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood.

If Davis’ filibuster successfully continued till midnight, the legislature would be unable to take a final vote and thus successfully block the bill.

The rules regarding filibusters in the state degree that Davis had to remain on topic the entire time, was unable to lean on any additional support (including a desk or a chair), and could not pause for a bathroom break, food or water. After three strikes the filibuster could be called off.

Davis’ first strike came when she discussed Planned Parenthood’s budget, which according to the legislature did not pertain to the bill being discussed. The second when after standing for almost seven hours, Davis had a colleague help her adjust a back brace. Davis received her final strike when she discussed the current laws requiring a woman to have a sonogram before a doctor will perform an abortion.

When the Senate called an end to the Davis’ filibuster, state Senator Leticia Van De Putte spoke up saying “at what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” resulting in shouts of support throughout the chamber.

Despite the senate’s attempt to silence Davis, her efforts resulted in the bills final votes being taken at 12:03, three minutes too late for SB 5 to be passed as a law.

Throughout this ordeal Wendy Davis got countless supporters. Tweets vary from actor Mark Ruffalo to president Barack Obama showing their support of Davis with hashtags such as #StandWithWendy. Her salmon colored sneakers that she apparently threw on as she ran out the door have become a symbol of her stand.

But why is it that a woman’s right to control her body is still being discussed? When was the last time a man had to stand for eleven hours so that he could have control of his own body?

And then to add to this, the protestors supporting a woman’s right to control her own body were called terrorists by Texas Republican legislator Bill Zedler.

Since when did fighting for what should be your right make you a terrorist? People are furious and for good reason – it’s 2013 and women are still forced to fight for their right to choose.

The fight isn’t over, but at least people are listening.

See other articles on Wendy Davis and the Texas filibuster at The New York Times, The Washington Post, and National Public Radio.