Casey’s Turn

There is a really great article published by Meaghan Winter in Slate this week. It details how the decision by the Supreme Court in 1992 for the case Casey vs Planned Parenthood set the stage for all the restrictions we now face in accessing abortion. Go read the whole article, but here is what I want to concentrate on in this article:

“Yet it’s no wonder the public doesn’t fully grasp Casey’s influence, despite the problems the decision has helped create for women seeking access to reproductive health care. Lower courts have interpreted the decision in myriad and sometimes conflicting ways. Because of the subjectivity of what counts as a “substantial obstacle,” lower court judges have used Casey to justify differing opinions about waiting periods, admitting privileges, and more. Whole Woman’s Health marks the first time the court has had to grapple with Casey, and how the justices define “undue burden” will have a ripple effect on abortion access for years to come. But the challenge before them—to determine just how many obstacles Texas women can face before their burdens are undue—is the result of anti-abortion advocates’ work within the government, patiently, over decades, to dismantle Roe v. Wade.”

What does constitute an “undue burden”? When Casey was decided, the pro-life group Americans United for Life had already been established for 21 years. (1971) Their Legal Defense team started working on templates to give to state legislators about how to restrict abortion state-by-state. That’s why you see so many similar laws in different states. ‘That passed in North Dakota, let’s try it in Indiana’ seems to be the anti-abortion plan. They have been so successful, that reading the Guttmacher State Policies in Brief is a depressing undertaking for pro-access advocates. Many abortion clinics have closed because they couldn’t conform to the TRAP laws in their states. Five states only have one abortion clinic each (Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming) Kentucky came close this month to being another state with one abortion clinic only, but Judge Scorsone ruled the Lexington clinic could stay open.

What does constitute an undue burden then? How far do you have to travel to have it be a burden? How long is too long to wait after making your decision to get an abortion? How much should the cost increase for added regulations that do nothing to protect women’s healthcare to be considered an undue burden? How many restrictions can be added at one time to abortion before it is considered an undue burden? (Indiana)

We have been saying for a long time that these restrictions, especially the Hyde Amendment, penalize those living in poverty the most. The wealthier among us will be able to travel, pay the clinic fees, pay for childcare, hotel bills, etc, even if the travel needs to be eventually to Canada. While those less affluent are forced to carry their pregnancies. So is the test of an undue burden to be applied equally among all income levels, or do we just use our scale to weigh that burden by the ones who can afford to overcome them?

Casey’s Turn has had 24 years to make the Supreme Court ruling ripple through the access to abortion for women in the United States. Even if we replaced all of the politicians who practice medicine without a license in 2016, I predict it will take at least that long for the trend to reverse. That’s another 24 years of restrictions on abortion access. That’s a whole generation of our children who will not know the freedom of access to abortion right after Roe vs Wade was decided.

If you want to scream about how unfair this is, there are two rallies being held on April 9. One is in Frankfort, Ky. One is in Indianapolis. Make a sign and join one.  

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