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.
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously today that Massachusetts’ abortion clinic buffer zone ruling is unconstitutional. In 2007, the state amended the state-wide Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act to make it illegal to congregate within 35 feet of the entrance of an abortion clinic, including on public sideways and roadways.
The amendment was implemented to directly address an oft-used tactic by the anti-choice Right: the harassing and abusive screeching and finger-wagging that seeks to shame women entering clinics for seeking an abortion (whether they are actually doing so or not).
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.