June 27, 2016 – Even though short-staffed, the Supreme Court of the United States was able to reach an important majority decision today that I fully support. With a 5-3 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the court reversed a decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision prevented the ability of Texas and other states with similar legislation to impose unnecessary and pernicious restrictions on women’s health clinics that would force most of them to close.
The Texas law would have required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where such abortions take place. While this might sound reasonable, it is not. Admitting privileges are tied to admittances, and it would be extremely difficult for the physician to meet the minimum number of admittances to obtain such privileges.
Let’s use a little common sense in that regard. How is it beneficial to women’s health to require an increased level of admittance to a hospital? Shouldn’t the goal be to achieve zero required admittances?
Secondly, the law required a retrofitting of facilities to meet statutory hospital-grade standards. These standards included expensive renovations such as adding wide corridors and large rooms to reflect hospital-level volume. The standards also required adding expensive equipment.
Again, the requirements may sound reasonable on the surface. However, the standards are not applicable to clinic-level volume and are not applied to any other outpatient healthcare service of equivalent risk. Even more absurdly, the Texas law applied the requirements to clinics that only prescribe medication-induced abortions (i.e., the dispensing of morning-after pills with no on-site abortion services offered).
SCOTUS’s decision is to be applauded. It prevented a surreptitious erosion of women’s rights under the guise of protecting women’s health. In effect, it was designed to force specific religious beliefs upon those who do not share them.
Let me explain what I mean.
Conservative’s vehemently argue in favor of the First Amendment’s “freedom of religion” protection. Yet, they only seem to support religious freedom when it conforms to theirs. The entire pro-life / pro-choice debate seems to be based upon religious beliefs when it should be based upon a law that fairly represents the best interests of society in general without regard to any particular religious bias.
Before I get labeled as an atheistic demagogue of some kind, let me set the record straight. I am a Roman Catholic. My religion is clearly pro-life. However, I live in a country that respects the rights of others. They need not share my religious beliefs nor choose to be restricted by them. If I am to have the freedom to hold my personal beliefs, I have to honor the freedom of others to hold beliefs that may differ from mine. The First Amendment has to be applied equally to protect their right to embrace religious beliefs that are different than mine… or no religious belief at all.
The right to privacy is also implied under the Fourth Amendment. What right is more private than those involving our own bodies and health?
Beyond the physical threat that some pregnancies can cause, there may be emotional threats to some women as well. While physical threats may be scientifically observable at some level, emotional threats are nearly immeasurable. They reside within the individual. Are you competent to judge the emotional trauma that someone else may suffer as the result of an unwanted pregnancy? I know that I am not. That is why we need laws that protect individuals on an equal basis; laws that account for a difference of personal circumstances.
If I had a dollar for how many times I’ve heard Republicans argue that they care about individual liberties and that Democrats, like me, think the Government needs to regulate individual freedoms, I would have a fully-funded campaign. Yet, on the issue of pro-life / pro-choice, Republicans feel that women should not have the right to choose and that Government should regulate that liberty.
I support the concept of personal freedom. Therefore, I support personal choice. Women’s health is a critical issue, and women should have the freedom to choose what course is best for them.
Those are my thoughts. What are yours?
(Please feel free to express you opinion below. My only request is that you do so rationally rather than emotionally and in a civil manner that respects the rights of others to disagree.)