Jewish groups laud Supreme Court for throwing out abortion law
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Jewish groups laud Supreme Court for throwing out abortion law

After court strikes down Texas law restricting access to abortions, ADL and JWI express support

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Pro-choice and pro-life activists demonstrate on the steps of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 27, 2016. (Pete Marovich/Getty Images/AFP)
Pro-choice and pro-life activists demonstrate on the steps of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 27, 2016. (Pete Marovich/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — A US Supreme Court decision to strike down parts of a Texas law that restricted abortion access for thousands of women throughout the state drew praise from Jewish groups Monday, with some calling it a “victory” for reproductive rights.

The law, HB2, would have closed roughly 30 clinics in the state that offer abortion services, as one of its provisions required doctors performing the procedure to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and forced the clinic to meet the same standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

Other states have imposed similar restrictions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, like Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee.

The ruling was considered the court’s biggest decision on the contentious issue since Planned Parenthood v. Casey upheld abortions as a constitutional right in 1992.

Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Women International, said that the law would have impinged on women seeking the procedure, and intimated that this ruling could derail other states’ attempts to clamp down on abortions.

Pro-choice activists wait for rulings in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Pete Marovich/Getty Images/AFP)
Pro-choice activists wait for rulings in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 27, 2016. (Pete Marovich/Getty Images/AFP)

“The court’s decision appropriately recognizes the real-life impact of HB2 on access to abortion,” ADL’s senior vice president of policy and programs Deborah Lauter said in a statement. “This ruling is a victory for reproductive justice and gender equality in America.”

If allowed, the law would have “continued to place major roadblocks on all women seeking to exercise their Constitutional right to an abortion, including travel expenses for multiple doctor visits, obtaining child care, and getting time off from work,” added Marvin Nathan, the group’s national chair.

“For many poor women, who are disproportionately women of color, these roadblocks would have effectively barred their access to abortion, resulting in detrimental health consequences, as well as keeping women impoverished by jeopardizing long-term earning and educational opportunities.”

Supporters of the law argued these requirements ensured abortions would be conducted more safely, but the court’s majority said the restrictions were too burdensome to be foisted on a constitutionally protected service.

“Neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes, “Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority opinion. “Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a provability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the federal Constitution.”

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer making a point during a panel discussion also featuring Justice Elana Kagan at the 2014 General Assembly conference of the Jewish Federations of North America in suburban Washington, Nov. 9, 2014. (photo credit: JTA/Ron Sachs)
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer making a point during a panel discussion also featuring Justice Elana Kagan at the 2014 General Assembly conference of the Jewish Federations of North America in suburban Washington, November 9, 2014. (JTA/Ron Sachs)

Critics of the law have claimed it inflicts regulations that are expensive and difficult to satisfy, deliberately with the intention of forcing clinics to shut down, a sentiment expressed by JWI chief Lori Weinstein.

“The Court affirmed what women and advocates have long known: That sham laws like HB2 are ‘a substantial obstacle’ for women seeking abortion, and that this type of ‘undue burden on abortion access’ is absolutely unconstitutional,” she said in a statement.

Rabbi Jonah Pesner (screen capture: YouTube)
Rabbi Jonah Pesner (screen capture: YouTube)

The Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism also praised the court’s 5-3 decision. Rabbi Jonah Pesner called the ruling “historic” and said that the law was full of “unnecessarily burdensome and medically inaccurate provisions that aimed to restrict access to abortion.

“This historic decision ensures that women in Texas and across the United States face fewer barriers to receiving legal healthcare services,” he added.

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