Today, the Supreme Court handed down another major decision. After they voted last week to protect affirmative action (yay!), but then were deadlocked on DACA and DAPA effectively killing the Obama Administration’s sweeping relief for undocumented immigrants (boo!), I wasn’t sure if I could take any more important SCOTUS decisions. Thankfully, the weekend offered a brief reprieve before today, when Justice Stephen Breyer announced the 5-3 majority opinion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas wherein the Court sided with reproductive health providers against the “undue burden” placed upon them by Texas legislators.
In the historic Roe v. Wade decision that first legalized abortion as a constitutionally-protected right, Supreme Court justices ruled that “abortion . . . is performed under circumstances that insure maximum safety for the patient.” However, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the majority of Supreme Court justices also established that “unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right [to access abortion procedures].” In Whole Woman’s Health v. Texas, the Supreme Court was challenged to decide whether newly passed regulations on the Texas’ abortion clinics — requiring that clinics have extra-wide hallways and that abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals — posed an undue burden that unconstitutionally compromised abortion access for Texas’ women.
The regulations were passed in Texas as part of a concerted national effort by conservative anti-abortion activists and legislators to eliminate abortion access by enacting state-level Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws. In essence, the anti-abortion movement seeks to disenfranchise women by enacting laws state-by-state that make the constitutional right to access abortion procedures so practically tedious as to be essentially inaccessible for the vast majority of women.
TRAP laws have been highly effective in limiting abortion access. Since 2010, the number of state-level anti-abortion laws passed each year as more than tripled. In that same span, 1 in 10 abortion clinics have been forced to shutter their doors leaving at least five states with only a single clinic to serve the entire state’s population.
Hi, Hobby Lobby. It’s me, Jenn.
I heard you won a pretty big court case today, one that established your constitutional right as a corporate conglomerate-person to infringe on my rights as an actual person-person. I heard you congratulating yourselves in what you dubbed a major blow in defense of the free practice of your religion (centered around cheaper healthcare costs?) and free expression of your political beliefs (centered around being a jerk?), both of which apparently involve limiting the reproductive rights of the women who work for (within?) you.
Well, I have the freedom of expression, too. And, I think this decision is stupid.
Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled against abortion clinic buffer zones in Massachusetts, arguing that a woman’s right to unobstructed access in seeking reproductive health services was of less weight than the right of protesters to abusively taunt and harangue her with their political opinions. In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS judges ruled that Massachusetts’ abortion clinics’ 35 foot buffer zone around abortion clinic front doors, which effectively restrict all non-clinic employees or patients from congregating and blocking access (regardless of political affiliation), is unconstitutional. This decision despite the fact that SCOTUS protects buffer zones (many larger than health clinic buffer zones) around polling places and even the Supreme Court itself.
In practice, last week’s decision established that a woman’s right to privacy and reproductive choice is less constitutionally important than the right of protesters to verbally abuse her.
Today, SCOTUS made a second heinous ruling in regards to women’s rights. SCOTUS ruled in favour of Hobby Lobby against portions of the Affordable Care Act that mandated abortion and contraceptive coverage. Hobby Lobby lawyers asserted the right of the company to — on religious grounds — refuse health insurance plans for employees that includes contraceptive and abortion care coverage, regardless of the employee’s own political or moral opinions on the subject.
Or, more specifically, to permit employers to force its stance on abortion access onto their employees.
Last year, nearly 500 restrictions on abortion and reproductive choice were proposed at the state level nation-wide. Among those abortion restrictions were bans on sex-selective abortion; bans that have now passed in eight states — Arizona, Illinois, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Kansas and North Carolina.
Advanced by Republican pro-life legislators, the ban on sex-selective abortions cite concerns that appear superficially feminist: to protect the “unborn” from gender discrimination prior to birth. Further, these bans are based on the assertion that male-biased birth ratios are evidence of sex-selective abortion; that these male-biased birth ratios are only found in India and China; that these male-biased birth ratios are evidence of sex-selective abortion occurring in the United States; that the growing influx of Asian women immigrants from India and China means sex-selective abortion is occurring here; and that the U.S. is one of the few remaining countries in the world that has yet to ban sex-selective abortion. As I wrote about last year, these are the kinds of arguments that are being expressed on the floor of state legislatures, and they are succeeding in restricting reproductive rights for women living in those states.
Yet, closer examination of the arguments of Republican legislators reveals that it is predominantly unfounded and wholly racist anti-Asian stereotypes — not facts — that serve as the principle justification for these recent restrictions on sex-selective abortions.
Last month, I wrote about the South Dakota State Legislature’s efforts to pass further abortion restrictions in the state; in this case, to require mother’s to demonstrate that they are not pursuing an abortion in relation to the gender of the fetus. Shockingly, bill authors and defenders linked the need for this bill to the state’s growing AAPI population, invoking arguments that AAPI mothers are predisposed to sex-based abortions.
As I wrote last month:
Check my previous post for why this bill is clearly racist, and draws upon historic fears of the immorality of Asian Americans to pass legislation that stoke the fears of racist hate.
Sadly, despite the efforts of women’s rights groups like the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (@NAPAWF), this bill — HR1162 — has passed the South Dakota State House and Senate, and is now on South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard’s desk.
Act Now! Please sign this petition to urge Governor Daugaard to veto HR1162, and share this post widely!
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!