On March 2nd, The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which would determine the constitutionality of HB2 and other TRAP laws. The case comes at a critical time, when clinics throughout the South are shutting down at a shocking rate; currently, Louisiana and Alabama are facing the closure of all but one of their clinics, and Mississippi’s last remaining clinic is only open by emergency court order. While arguments took place inside, outside over 2,000 reproductive justice activists gathered to call on SCOTUS to #StopTheSham and support safe access to abortion in Texas and nationwide.
“I'm sorry. What? She has to come back two separate days to take them? ... When she could take it at home, it’s now she has to travel 200 miles or pay for a hotel to get those two days of treatment?”
While the lawyers for the state of Texas have repeatedly pointed out that women in El Paso could go to New Mexico for termination, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed confusion because New Mexico has no such requirements for ambulatory surgical centers or admitting privileges that HB2 says are essential for patient health and safety. Justice Kagan further extrapolated that many more invasive or dangerous procedures like liposuction are routinely performed in doctor’s offices that are not required to fit ambulatory surgical center requirements.
After a little over an hour, the lawyers emerged from the court to a rousing crowd cheering in support of Whole Woman's Health and the litigators defending them. Now, the fate of millions of women lies in the hands of the eight justices, with Justice Kennedy believed to hold the swing vote. If the court splits in a 4/4 ruling, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling upholding HB2 will stand, leaving millions of Texas patients without abortion care and opening the door to more TRAP laws across the country that will shut down clinics and strand those in need.
The ruling is expected in late June.