Asking the Supreme Court, “Who Matters?”
Graphic by Ria Saxena
The Supreme Court’s new term is now in session. With pending cases on LGBTQ+ employment rights, on the separation of church and state and on abortion, constituents’ fear is rampant, and for good reason. Decisions on these matters now lie in the hands of nine justices, a majority of whom are conservative. With this in mind, the termination or further restriction of abortion, which has been at the forefront of the conservatives’ to-do lists for the past year, appears probable as the Supreme Court plans to take on the case.
Anti-abortion legislation writers and supporters hope to challenge Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The former decision granted abortion as a protected right, and the latter case acts as a safeguard to deny laws which create an “undue burden” to access of abortion. Now, with Republican justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh in the pool, the upcoming June Medical Services v. Gee case will be the first on abortion in a conservative-majority court. This means past landmark abortion cases, like the two mentioned above, are in danger of being overturned.
June Medical Services v. Gee only acts to further bar people from access to abortion. The case revolves around Act 620, which Louisiana passed in 2014. The act requires doctors to have admitting privileges in a hospital—which once acquired would allow the doctor to admit patients to the hospital for specific treatment—that is no farther than 30 miles from where an abortion is practiced. This is an act that has yet to be put into effect as it continues to be debated back and forth in courts.
If you’ve been keeping up with abortion legislation, this may sound familiar. That’s because the Supreme Court shut down an identical law in Texas in 2016. The piece of Texan legislation featured in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was deemed a “substantial burden” as the requirement of admitting privileges would ultimately close clinics, as hospitals continuously rejected privileges for doctors who perform abortions.
This 2016 case went through the motions. It raised the question of the legality of requiring admitting privileges, but the Supreme Court then dismantled the legislation, categorizing it as another burden meant to bar individuals from access to abortions. And yet, a mere three years later, the Supreme Court takes on a nearly identical case, which raises me to question why June Medical Services v. Gee is even being argued in the first place.
Unfortunately, the 2018 NIFLA v. Becerra case foreshadows bleak prospects if June Medical Services v. Gee is to combat Planned Parenthood v. Casey in the near future. NIFLA v. Becerra declared that Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are not required to disclose if they have a medical professional at their “clinics.” CPCs advertise themselves as professionals offering counseling to those seeking abortions, but their end-goal is to talk people out of them. When you’re talking to a worker at a CPC who wears a medical coat, regurgitates statistics, shows you an unprofessional ultrasound and gives no evidence to indicate whether or not they’re actually medically trained, you’re being scammed of your right to equal access to credible and reliable information.
As with most of American law, authoritarian abortion laws are going to majorly impact the lives of uneducated, low-income individuals. Misinformation is rampant. People can easily be diverted to CPCs in hopes of seeking an abortion, but will instead be guilted out of their own constitutional right to the procedure. On top of this, if Louisiana’s Act 620 passes and the Planned Parenthood v. Casey “undue burden” standard for abortion law is overturned, the already dwindling number of clinics will either cease to exist or become overwhelmed by the amount of people flocking at one clinic in the mere hope of getting an abortion.
Pro-life advocates and lawmakers must be prepared for the backlash. Those who have the financial capability will fly out to seek abortions and the many who aren’t will be forced to take on the brunt of the aftermath of these decisions. According to a 2014 survey from the Guttmacher Institute, approximately 59% of women said they sought an abortion to be able to continue to provide for their current child or children. 75% were considered low-income, with 49% living below the poverty line. If abortion is to become a federal crime, these families will undergo further economic stress, and we would most likely see a spike in homelessness, broken homes and children in foster care.
In reality, this phenomenon is already occurring. Low-income individuals can’t afford to miss work. They don’t have the time to be processed nor to attend counseling appointments. For some, the pre-existing six-week cut off in certain states will continue to impact the lives of full-time working individuals who do not have the time, expense or even a primary care physician to seek help.
As a result, there has been a decrease in procedural abortion rates which has been attributed to “improvements in contraceptive use and increases in the number of individuals relying on self-managed [or self-induced] abortions outside of a clinical setting.” The 2017 Guttmacher Institute study also took note of how some women were being admitted to hospitals under the guise of a miscarriage, when in reality, they had a self-induced abortion. That being said, it is likely that many are turning towards dangerous alternatives due to a combination of fear, embarassment and again, a lack of resources and time to undergo a procedural abortion at a clinic.
With the added weight of abortion restrictions on the shoulders of impoverished folks who have no health insurance, the search for other avenues of abortion through self-medication online has risen and will continue to rise. If the conservative court restrains access to abortions, women will continue to scavange the internet to find any medication that claims to terminate their preganancy. Although current research on self-induced abortion medication like mifepristone and misoprostol is positive, people shouldn’t be ashamed and forced to hide in the shadows of the internet for medication.
The only option to dismantle the anti-abortion rhetoric is to shine light on the minorities who are disproportionately impacted. The solution to the abortion debate could be solved if we created trailblazing paths towards educating and providing the public with proper sex education and access to contraceptives. However, abortion is a choice that we must provide for folks who are still not given their constitutional right to equal access of education on reproductive issues. People must understand that June Medical Services v. Gee raises the question of who matters and who doesn’t. Once again, the Supreme Court will have to decide.
Jin Hee Park is a third-year English and Criminology, Law, & Society double major, and the Opinion Co-Editor for the New University. She can be reached at email@example.com.