Texans react to Supreme Court ruling against abortion restrictions in HB 2

Jasleen Shokar

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions in the Texas Omnibus Abortion Bill, known as HB 2, on Monday.

In a 5-3 decision for the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority, stating that mandating abortion clinics to meet requirements for surgical centers and mandating physicians to have admitting privileges at a hospital are unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court’s decision will lift the restrictions the law attempted to impose on 19 abortion clinics currently open in the state, and could allow more than 20 closed clinics to reopen. According to the Texas Tribune, closed clinics will have to reapply for licensure and there is no guarantee that state officials will grant them all licenses again.

Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan accompanied Justice Breyer in the majority ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

“We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes,” Breyer said. “Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access … and each violates the Federal Constitution.”

Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, said there is more work yet to come and clinics don’t reopen overnight.

"You don’t mess with Texas, you don’t mess with Whole Woman’s Health, and you don’t mess with this beautiful, powerful movement,” Hagstrom Miller said.

The state claimed the law was necessary to protect the health and safety of Texas women. Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement following the Court’s announcement.

“The decision erodes states’ lawmaking authority to safeguard the health and safety of women and subjects more innocent life to being lost. Texas' goal is to protect innocent life, while ensuring the highest health and safety standards for women,” Abbott said.

A study released in March of this year by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) concluded the law “increased travel distances, high out-of-pocket costs, overnight stays, and decreased access to medication abortion,” which are “significant burdens” on women.

The study found that the 38 percent of surveyed women whose nearest clinic had closed because of the law, averaged a one-way distance of 85 miles to travel to a clinic. Women who lived near an open clinic had an average commute of 22 miles.

Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, a sponsor of HB 2 when it was passed and signed in 2013 by Gov. Rick Perry, said the Supreme Court’s ruling was “bad news” for women.

"Women deserve the same standard of care at abortion clinics as they would receive at a medical facility,” Laubenberg said. “Obviously the politics of abortion supersedes the health and safety for women."

A celebration was hosted by Texas-based abortion rights organizations at Scholz Garten on Monday evening. A crowd of about 300 people listened to politicians, activists and other speakers and celebrated the day’s victory.

“I just want to say I am in awe of what this community has accomplished — this historic victory for women … to have rights over our bodies,” elected House District 49 representative Gina Hinojosa said. “Today we celebrate, tomorrow we begin again the work, the strategizing, to further these rights and protect these rights. But today, we should celebrate this amazing victory, this historic victory that you all have accomplished.”

Zoraima Pelaez, president of the UT-Austin chapter of the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) and humanities junior, shared a personal story with the crowd.

“The moment that really stuck with me when I heard about this victory, was the time that I was sitting on my bathroom floor crying, and bawling because the tiny little stick on my counter read 'pregnant,'” Pelaez said. “I was crying because I thought about all that I had accomplished and how hard that had been and how much more I wanted to do … I was in no position to be a mother. I was crying because I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was going to have an abortion … At that time I felt ashamed, but I suppose that’s how they want us to feel: alone and ashamed.”

Pelaez also criticized the state for its reproductive health policies, saying that “there is something inherently wrong with our state when we use shame as a tactful approach to policy [and] when we use women’s health as a guise for political expediency.” However, she expressed confidence going forward.

“This morning, when I heard the decision, I cried again … but this time I wasn’t scared or ashamed, I was proud and hopeful.”