Supreme Court’s Ruling a Win, But NC Lawmakers Are Still Hostile to Abortion Rights

Most voters are unaware of it, but abortion rights in NC and across the country could be one election away from falling.

By Susanna Birdsong

June 30, 2020

SCOTUS’ 5-4 decision is a major win for women’s health advocates, but lawmakers in nearly every state, including NC, introduced 300+ anti-abortion bills last year.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June Medical Services v. Russo reaffirmed what we’ve long known: State lawmakers cannot impose medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion. 

While the final outcome of the case represents a clear victory for reproductive rights, it simply affirms the status quo. 

The case was brought by our partners at the Center for Reproductive Rights, who successfully argued that the Louisiana law at issue in this case — a law requiring physicians who provide abortion care to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic — was identical to a Texas law struck down by the Court in their 2016 Whole Woman’s Health decision. 

RELATED: Supreme Court Blocks Law That Would Have Left Only 1 Abortion Provider in Louisiana

Today’s decision preserves the Court’s own precedent that says states cannot place restrictions on abortion access that create an “undue burden” on the patient seeking that care.

On paper, abortion is still safe and legal in every state. On paper, politicians still cannot enact laws with the goal of pushing abortion care out of reach. And yet, far too many people live in a world where access to abortion is practically unattainable. 

As advocates for reproductive health care and abortion access, we celebrate today’s decision. But we know there are still too many politicians who will stop at nothing to limit access to abortion or try to ban it outright, no matter the court’s precedent. 

In North Carolina, the onslaught of attacks on reproductive health care persists, with anti-abortion bills filed every legislative session. A record-high 77 percent of Americans say they do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and there is no state where making abortion illegal is popular. But last year alone, more than 300 abortion restrictions were introduced in nearly every state in the country. 

We also know there is more work ahead to ensure that the rights affirmed today are a reality for people across the state. The barriers to abortion access for people of color, people who live in rural areas, and people living in poverty remain unacceptably high. 

As a country, we have underinvested and under-resourced Black and Latinx communities — leading to dramatic disparities in health outcomes and less access to care. 

Politicians have pushed basic health care almost out of reach for millions of Americans and have refused to expand Medicaid in North Carolina, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without health insurance across the state.

As with many other forms of health care, a person’s ability to access abortion is still determined by where they live, how much money they make, and the color of their skin. 

And as we’ve seen police brutalize and control Black bodies, we understand that the same control is happening in sexual and reproductive health care. True reproductive freedom is simply unattainable for Black women when they are persecuted simply for existing.

The bottom line is that the fight for reproductive freedom for all is far from over. Advocates for abortion access must now turn our attention to Congress to call on them to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would create a nationwide safeguard against bans and medically unnecessary restrictions that single out abortion care and protect the long-held constitutional right to access abortion. 

A person’s ability to decide whether and when to parent a child is fundamental to their bodily autonomy. And we won’t stop fighting until that fundamental right is a reality for all.


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