For political junkies and Supreme Court groupies alike, this week has been a big one. Though #BeckywiththeBadGrades may have taken a sad walk home, and trans-phobes may have run screaming from their local recruiting offices, no one, perhaps, had a worse week than anti-choicers. From the Supreme Court’s decision on Whole Women’s Health to a federal judge blocking an Indiana abortion restriction based on fetus abnormalities, anti-choice advocates have not had much to smile about.
The Supreme Court came out early this week with a one-two punch. First, its smackdown of Texas' House Bill 2 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt on Monday affirmed that laws requiring abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers and for doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals in order to remain open were “unnecessary,” and caused “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. Feminist hero and popular source of baby costuming, Ruth Bader Ginsberg didn’t hold back in her concurring opinion, slamming the “women’s health” argument the defenders of Texas HB2 made:
It is beyond rational belief that H. B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law 'would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.'
Anti-choicers were not pleased, to say the very least. Acting president of Americans United for Life (AUL), Clarke D. Forsythe, claimed the Supreme Court had put “profits over women’s health and safety by opposing life-saving regulations” in a statement that also referred to HB2 as a “commonsense” law.
A landmark ruling on Monday still wasn’t enough for SCOTUS. On Tuesday, it let stand two appeals court rulings that protected abortion providers from restrictive HB2-like laws in Mississippi and Wisconsin. According to NBC News, these laws also required doctors who performed abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. By not hearing the cases — and thus, allowing the lower courts’ rulings against them to stand —SCOTUS basically told anti-choicers to knock off.
With a brief reprieve on Wednesday, anti-choice advocates took another punch on Thursday. This time the blow didn’t come from SCOTUS, but from U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, an Obama appointee, who blocked an Indiana abortion law that would have made it illegal for a woman to obtain an abortion because of genetic abnormality in the fetus. According to the Chicago Tribune, Planned Parenthood’s granted injunction contested that this law, passed in a largely divided state legislature this March, infringed upon a woman’s constitutional right to privacy.
If it’s not clear yet that anti-choicers might not be pleased with the revelations of this week… they’re not. But they’re not backing down, either. Americans United for Life is circulating a petition to “Tell the Senate: Do Not Approve Any Obama Supreme Court Nominee.” After being suspiciously silent (for him), Trump also slammed Whole Woman's Health, "Now if we had Scalia ... or if Scalia was replaced by me, you wouldn't have had that," he told radio host Michael Gallagher on Thursday.
So what’s next for anti-choice movement? Reproductive rights activists should be wary that in the grand scheme, anti-choicers still have momentum. As Sarah Kliff wrote for Vox, amidst all the celebration over Whole Woman's Health, "What went less discussed were the 286 other abortion restrictions that have passed since 2010. A quarter of all post-Roe abortion restrictions have passed in the last five years alone." Nevertheless, I'm hopeful that this past week may signal a powerful change — and challengers to reproductive rights just might start to realize that they are on the wrong side of history.