Activists Call on Supreme Court to Stop Politicians from Restricting Access to Safe, Legal Abortion

by Dan Quinn

AUSTIN – Recounting the state’s central place in a decades-long battle, reproductive health care advocates in Texas today called upon the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a draconian law that undermines the court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 establishing the right to abortion.

The Roe decision more than four decades ago came in a case out of Texas. The Supreme Court this morning heard arguments in another Texas case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The court must decide whether states can restrict access to safe and legal abortion by imposing unnecessary regulations that force many clinics to close. Upholding Texas House Bill 2, which the Texas Legislature enacted in 2013, would render the freedom won in Roe almost meaningless for millions of Texans today. It would also throw the door wide open to similarly restrictive legislation in states across the country.

Advocates and representatives of various organizations and providers spoke at an Austin press conference this morning.

Trisha Trigilio, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas:

“A woman’s constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services was recognized more than 40 years ago, but legislators in Texas and across the nation have been attempting to whittle that right away ever since. This Supreme Court case challenges just one of the more than 300 laws against abortion passed in state legislatures since 2010, restrictions opposed by leading medical groups like the American Medical Association that are designed to shut down clinics, push abortion out of reach and ultimately make women less safe. Facts matter. These laws don’t make women safer.”

Austin attorney Barbara Hines, a prominent abortion rights activist in the years leading up to the Roe decision:

“Back in 1973, it was almost inconceivable to us that more than 40 years later we would still be fighting for the freedom to make decisions about our own reproductive health care. But unless the Supreme Court gets this decision right, clinics across the state will close and politicians will once again have made it almost impossible for many women to have access to safe, legal abortion care in Texas. That also means we will see politicians trying to pass the same deceptive and dangerous laws in other states across the country.”

Zoraima Pelaez, president of the Texas Freedom Network’s Texas Rising chapter on the UT-Austin campus:

“I struggled over whether to share my own story about having an abortion as a college student, but I realized that this court case could take us back to the days when the law restricted the freedom to choose for ourselves whether and when to have children. So I’m telling my story and making sure people understand that this hard-won freedom is at stake right now. That freedom is meaningless if access is so limited that we really have no choice.”

Sarah Wheat, vice president for community affairs for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas:

“Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of these restrictions when they temporarily went into effect in October 2014. The stakes for women cannot be overstated. A woman’s very right to access safe, legal abortion is on the docket, and the consequences for women will reverberate far beyond the Lone Star state. Texas paints a grim picture of what will become a reality for women across the country if the Court upholds this clinic shutdown law.”

Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health:

“I’ve spent my life providing those seeking abortion with a compassionate, dignified model of care. The Texas Legislature tried to take that away with the stroke of a pen. Now it’s up to the Supreme Court to put an end to these political shenanigans. We’re fighting for the day when all people have access to the compassionate and comprehensive reproductive health care that we provide at our Whole Woman’s Health clinics.”

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Today’s press conference was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Lilith Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, Progress Texas, Shift, and the Texas Freedom Network.

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