Sometimes, the consequences of a law on individuals can be too abstract. The implications may be set before a court by lawyers, but when a decision is made that affects not only a woman’s rights but also the tangible, physical sense of control over her own body, its consequences are immediate.
On Friday, more than forty women were turned away from previously scheduled abortions at Whole Women’s Health clinics in Texas, and more than one hundred women have had their appointments cancelled at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin. Only a few days earlier, a Federal Court Judge had struck down parts of a Texas Law that required physicians performing abortions to conform to strict admission privileges requirements as unconstitutional. On Halloween however, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal agreed to hear an appeal by Texas at a later date, while also putting the Federal Court Judge’s decision on hold. As a result, come Friday morning, the admission privileges requirement (even though deemed unconstitutional by a Federal Court Judge) came into effect, denying Texas women in areas unable to conform to the strict requirements their reproductive rights, and putting their health and safety at risk.
While the full appeal is yet to be heard, and the current stay of the decision only temporary until then, there is a risk that the Court of Appeal, may permanently uphold the constitutionality of the Texan abortion law reforms.
In a proactive response, the women’s health providers who filed the original suit have lodged an emergency application with the US Supreme Court to reinstate the Federal Court’s decision to strike down the Texan laws. In effect, they’ve given the Texas Attorney-General a taste of his own medicine.
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Supreme Court has given Texas until next Monday (11 November) to respond to the appeal. Until then, the law will remain in place. Here’s hoping that even in granting a temporary decision, the Supreme Court recognises that the mere risk of violating Texan women’s constitutionally protected rights, as well as the risk to their health and access to essential services, far outweigh Texas’ clearly political position on this matter.