The close of 2017 brings with it the opportunity to reflect on this first year of the Trump Administration—the attacks on the rule of law, the unprecedented resistance, and the hope for a way forward. One campaign promise President Trump has managed to keep is the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice. While Justice Neil Gorsuch testified that he made no indications as to how he would rule in any case, Trump’s campaign promises included Supreme Court appointees who would overturn Roe v. Wade, undermining the Constitutional protection for the right to decide whether to continue a pregnancy, and—he apparently believed—paving the way for states to enact “some form of punishment” for people who have abortions.
Between 2011 and 2013, politicians in 30 states enacted 205 abortion restrictions, ranging from outright and unconstitutional abortion bans to laws intended to make it impossible for providers to offer abortion. Last year alone, fifteen states adopted 26 new restrictions that limit or impede access to abortion, making it harder and sometimes impossible for women to exercise their constitutionally protected right to abortion. This wave of anti-abortion activity has dramatically changed the country’s landscape for women seeking an abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2013, more than half the states had at least four abortion restrictions in effect
These multiple restrictions compound and, for many women, make it impossible to obtain an abortion. In Texas, for example, a woman seeking a medication abortion has to make four separate trips to the provider because of the restrictive laws that exist in that state. She is forced to undergo and view an ultrasound, listen to a description of the fetus' development, wait 24 hours, and then has to make two trips for medication abortion because Texas forces providers to use an outdated protocol rather than following current evidence-based medical practice. And this is if she can actually reach a provider - one out of six women in Texas will have to travel 150 miles or more to reach an abortion provider.
These laws impose unnecessary monetary costs. These costs are particularly devastating to low-income and poor women who already face significant barriers accessing care. The cost of the abortion itself can be prohibitive, especially when politicians force women to pay out of pocket by prohibiting insurance coverage of abortion. Then, women must arrange for and receive time off work, most likely without pay. They might have to pay for childcare, find a place to stay or make multiple roundtrips to distant clinics, and/or find reliable transportation. As one provider aptly noted, “[T]he vast majority of women can’t add those travel costs to the cost of an abortion or they can’t take off work.” These restrictions chip away at women’s right to abortion by creating so many barriers that abortion becomes unobtainable.
by Eric J. Segall, the Kathy and Lawrence Ashe Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law
Prior to the oral arguments in the 2013 same-sex marriage cases involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, Supreme Court commentators committed to marriage equality debated just how fast the Court should act. On this blog, I urged the Court to strike down DOMA in the Windsor case but deny standing to the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 litigation in the hope that the logic of Windsor would lead lower federal courts to strike down state laws banning same-sex marriage. I advocated that approach fearful of the political backlash that would result from the Court creating a national rule imposing same-sex marriage on reluctant states in one bold strike.
Those who wanted the Court to act quickly had two substantial objections. First, the Court’s job is to decide cases “under the law” not to make political predictions and calculations about the effects of those decisions. Second, gays and lesbians should not have been forced to wait one more day before achieving the marriage equality they deserve.
Now that events have unfolded, it is important to address both of those objections (albeit with hindsight) because the arguments for and against the Court acting quickly on same-sex marriage shed important light on the appropriate role of the Supreme Court in our political system and how the Court should force important social change in the future.
In the National Law Journal’s Legal Times blog, Katelyn Polantz reports on the announcement that ACLU lawyer Vanita Gupta will lead the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. She is the first South Asian-American to lead the division.
ACS Board of Directors member Linda Greenhouse examines the exciting opening days of the Supreme Court in The New York Times.
Garrett Epps considers in The Atlantichow the right to abortion set by Roe v. Wade has eroded over the years.
In Hamilton and Griffin on Rights, Marci A. Hamilton examines how politicians can protect women and “nullify the effect of the pernicious Hobby Lobby decision.”
Jonathan Cohn writes in The New Republic that the Supreme Court’s decision to put a hold on portions of a Texas abortion law should make pro-choice advocates optimistic.