Reproductive well-being of future generations is hanging in the balance

Reproductive well-being of future generations is hanging in the balance
© Francis Rivera

On Wednesday, March 4, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a case with the potential to severely limit Louisiana women’s access to abortion. 

The case before it is June Medical Services v. Russo and the court is considering the constitutionality of a Louisiana law requiring those who provide abortion care to have to admit privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they provide abortion services. 

There is no medical reason for requiring admitting privileges for those who provide abortion care. Complications from abortion procedures are rare and other procedures, such as removing wisdom teeth, have greater risks associated with them. 

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It is without question that the goal of the Louisiana law is to limit access to abortion, which outright denies women’s power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to have a child. Should the court uphold this Louisiana law, it would result in the nearly 1 million women of childbearing age in Louisiana having access to only a single abortion clinic in the state. 

The women of Louisiana deserve better. They deserve to make their own health care decisions and they deserve access to the full spectrum of reproductive health services, including abortion. 

In fact, all women deserve better and if the Louisiana law is upheld by the court, it will embolden other states to start requiring unnecessary admitting privileges for those who provide abortion care. 

Though June Medical Services v. Russo does not outright reverse Roe v Wade, it renders it less meaningful by not affording all women equitable access to the rights that Roe v. Wade and subsequent cases have protected.

It creates a world in which, just by virtue of zip code and income, some women will have no or severely limited access to abortion — an absurdly arbitrary way of a country affording constitutional rights to some and not others. 

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Women of higher means will be able to afford to travel to places where they can access abortion, but that won’t be possible for women already struggling to make ends meet. Those women often don’t have a car, let alone the money for airfare to travel across the state or to another state to reach a provider. Then there are the other related costs of child-care, time off work, hotel stays, and meals away from home, all of which put access to abortion further out of reach for these women. 

These cautionary tales are more than conjecture. A 2019 report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research reports on multiple studies that suggest a link between access to or exposure to abortion and greater educational and employment attainment for women. The converse was found too when comparing states with more or less restrictive access and exposure to abortion. 

June Medical Services v. Russo is significant not only on its own merits but because of the precedent it sets for a broad array of restrictions in other states if it is upheld by the court. These limitations, among others already being instituted in states across the, wrest women’s ability to own their health care decisions and instead hand these decisions to lawmakers, hospital administrators, and governors. Allowing this to continue will have a chilling effect on the advancements made possible for women since abortion became legal nationwide in 1973.

We must do better. We must not diminish the progress we have made in the 47 years since Roe v. Wade’s decision and we must ensure that all women no matter who they are or where they live can live life on their own terms and timelines. The reproductive well-being of future generations hangs in the balance. 

Ginny Ehrlich is the CEO of Power to Decide, which is a private, non-profit organization that works to ensure all women have the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant.