In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court granted an emergency stay and barred Texas from implementing a law that would have closed all but nine of the state’s clinics. Texas’ anti-abortion law, which was to take effect today, would require clinics to meet hospital-level operating standards and the doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. These regulations are medically unnecessary and would make it financially or physically impossible for many clinics to operate. By granting the reprieve, the Supreme Court has at least temporarily preserved Texas women’s access to safe and legal abortion care and has given healthcare providers and women’s rights groups time to petition the court while the court decides whether to take the issue up in the next term. Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, stated that while this is a promising initial victory, “we now need the Court to clarify that medical evidence matters and that the Constitution doesn’t allow states to rely on sham justifications for shutting down clinics and prohibiting abortion.”
Texas’ anti-abortion law has sparked an important conversation about the disproportionate impact of reproductive restrictions on poor women. All women have the right to an abortion. But as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained in a 2014 interview, the end result of legislation like the Texas’ anti-abortion law would be that “any woman of means can have a safe abortion somewhere in the United States. But woman lacking the wherewithal to travel can’t.”
Abortion services cannot only be accessible to women with means. And while Massachusetts has stronger protections for reproductive rights than many other states, we must do more to ensure that abortion care remains open and available to everyone. As Justice Ginsburg urged “it must start with the people.”
Alina Wattenberg is a legal intern at the ACLU of Massachusetts.