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Reproductive Justice is Under Attack

Every weekday morning, I wake up and immediately grab my phone. After a few minutes of panic-scrolling through my notifications, I let out a sigh of relief. No anxious texts from my boss, no concerned tweets from Bernie Sanders, and most importantly: no decision from the Supreme Court on June Medical Services v. Russo or Trump v. Pennsylvania.


Now, you may be asking, "Katie, why would your boss be concerned about that?" and that's a great question. Throughout my senior year, and throughout this summer, I've worked at NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri—the state affiliate of NARAL America—an organization that engages in politics and advocacy efforts to fight for reproductive justice. My boss? The executive director of NARAL MO, Mallory Schwarz, has yet to send the panicked message telling our office that we need to get ready for court, but she's prepared to.

Let's unpack these cases one at a time. June Medical Services v. Russo is a critical case this SCOTUS season. It has the ability to gut the decisions made in Roe v. Wade. This case involves a TRAP law—or a Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers—which centers on a requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The anti-choice lawmakers in Louisiana, who passed the specific law this case is about, claim this regulation is about the safety of those undergoing abortion procedures, but the intended effect is to make it almost impossible for abortion providers to even keep their doors open.


Now, if this case was like the others before it, I'd be inclined to say that it might not be about politics. But, in 2016, SCOTUS ruled on a nearly identical case in the ruling of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which established that these regulations led to undue burdens—a standard accepted by the court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—for those seeking abortion care, and were therefore unconstitutional.


If the court ruled against TRAP laws once, why wouldn't they do it again? Now, this issue was politicized by the placement of Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, two justices who've said that—if given the opportunity—they would overturn Roe v. Wade. By doing so, they're pushing the court to go against its own historical precedent, and rule not only against one case affirming abortion rights, but also to seek to rule against and overturn dozens of cases despite historical judicial support of abortion access.


In states like Missouri, TRAP laws have forced all but one clinic to close or stop performing all abortions, whether medical or surgical. When Missouri tried to outright ban abortion, Planned Parenthood sued for our rights and won. When Missouri used TRAP laws to attempt to close this last clinic, Planned Parenthood sued for our rights and were given an injunction—a pause in the case. The June decision will not just affect Louisiana, but rather all those states across the country looking to ban abortion without a direct or easy way to do so.


The repercussions of a negative ruling in June Medical Services v. Russo would mean the functional end of protections delegated in Roe v. Wade, and put the health of pregnant people at risk. Sure, you can still access abortion (as provided in the decision of Roe), but if you can't get to a clinic because there aren't any in your state—or the states around you—your legal right to access abortion care is no longer provided: you still can't access abortion.


As if that's not enough, another case is in the works at SCOTUS that also deals with reproductive justice: Trump v. Pennsylvania, a case that could seriously restrict access to birth control. This kind of attack sets a dangerous precedent for more to come.


This latter case focuses on the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) requirement that employee health plans cover birth control. Trump, along with other anti-choice lawmakers, want to put employers in charge of deciding whether or not their employees have a right to insurance that covers their birth control, under the veil of religious—or as Trump described them—moral, objections. Now, my employers would include birth control in our health coverage, no matter what, but what can we say of more "typical" jobs for people my age? Do we think Taco Bell, CVS, Hobby Lobby, or Planet Fitness—all organizations that have contributed to or supported Trump in the past—will continue to affirm our rights to make decisions about our bodies?


The answer is no. Anti-choice lawmakers and judges are trying to make our place of employment a deciding factor in whether or not we deserve to get birth control, even if it's not for contraceptive purposes. This is purely about controlling our bodies and restricting our rights, not our religious freedoms. This case is about bodily autonomy and the ability to choose if and when we become pregnant. That's NONE of my boss's business, and has NOTHING to do with the place I can get a job at.


Both rulings are supposed to come out very soon, and we need to be on high alert. If the courts fall to the sway of the anti-choice justices, our rights and abilities to make choices for our own bodies are at risk: having to approach our bosses to ask for permission to be prescribed the pill or get an IUD, needing to travel across the country—assuming we could afford it—to access abortion care in another state, and being forced to let other people and factors make decisions about if and when we want to become pregnant.


As much as I'd love to advise you to have hope and faith that prior court decisions will save us, as much as I would love to tell you that things will work out in the end, I'm not entirely sure of that. I still wake up anxious, still scroll through abortion Twitter, still end the day nervous for these decisions to come out and for our lives to change. No activist or advocacy leader will be able to figure out what we're fighting until these decisions come out, but until then, stay focused, keep watching, and know that there are millions of people across this country (and others) who are watching the Supreme Court attempt to restrict our rights on the global stage.

For more information on these cases and TRAP laws:

https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/issue/trap-laws/

https://www.vox.com/2020/1/14/21059931/supreme-court-birth-control-religious-liberty-pennsylvania-little-sisters

https://www.reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/WWH-Undue-Burden-Report-07262018-Edit.pdf

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2019/18-1323

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