Litigation Counsel, Lawyering Project
Access to abortion care is a basic human right. But even though it’s been almost half a century since the Supreme Court declared the right to an abortion the law of the land in Roe v. Wade, difficulty accessing abortion care has left many unable to exercise that right. And social injustices like systemic racism and poverty, among others, have ensured that the most marginalized communities face the deepest challenges to access.
Anti-abortion extremists in state legislatures have been fixated on creating even more barriers to access for people seeking abortion care. Indeed, this has been central to their post-Roe strategy to end legal abortion in the United States. That’s why they’ve enacted hundreds of medically unnecessary laws and regulations related to abortion, with a marked increase since 2011. Anti-abortion legislators attempt to justify these laws as necessary for patient health. And even though abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, it is unique in its subjection to onerous regulations.
In 2013, Texas passed a law requiring, among other things, that all abortion clinics meet the expensive licensing standards for ambulatory surgical centers, and that all doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The legal challenge to this law ultimately went to the Supreme Court in 2016. Noting that these requirements provided no medical benefit, and instead only created barriers to accessing abortion, the Court struck down the law in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
Abortion bans in states like Alabama and Georgia have grabbed headlines and received outsized attention in recent years, but those restrictions are just the tip of the iceberg. These bans merely show how the Trump administration has emboldened anti-abortion legislators. But they don’t need to ban abortion outright to make patients jump through unnecessary and often humiliating, sometimes access-prohibitive, hoops. And as the Trump administration changes the face of the judiciary, these anti-abortion politicians have found more allies in the courts.
Consider the Louisiana statute currently before the Supreme Court. As Whole Woman’s Health made its way through the courts, Louisiana passed a law identical to the Texas law challenged in Whole Woman’s Health. In 2018, that law was struck down by a federal court in Louisiana. But a panel of judges from the Fifth Circuit—a court with a history of expressing hostility to abortion rights that now includes five Trump appointees—reversed that judgment. Now, the Supreme Court must decide whether a law identical to the one it struck down almost four years ago is somehow constitutionally sound.
But it’s not just Texas, Louisiana, or the South erecting barriers to abortion access. Almost immediately after Roe, Minnesota began enacting abortion restrictions. Ranging from limiting who can provide abortion care to the requirement that fetal tissue from an abortion be buried or cremated, these medically unnecessary laws ignore both scientific advancements and the dignity of people seeking abortions and providing abortion care.
That’s why a coalition of Minnesota advocates have filed a lawsuit challenging these and other abortion restrictions as unconstitutional. These laws violate Minnesotans’ rights to privacy and dignity, free speech, religious freedom, and equality under the law. This lawsuit and the UnRestrict Minnesota awareness campaign reflect the reality that everyone deserves access to reproductive health care, regardless of who they are or where they live. And as we take this fight to the courts, we will ensure that this right can be exercised.