According to the Guttmacher Institute, it’s estimated that from 1950 to 1960, the number of illegal abortions was between 200,000 and 1.2 million in the United States. The culture promoting marriage and family values stigmatized single mothers; many families ostracized them. The desperation of some pregnant women led them to the doors of motel rooms, where they would risk their lives to get an abortion. Using coat hangers and other sharp objects, strangers would “operate” on these women, often without anesthetic, which would lead to infection, internal bleeding, and infertility—or even death. Or hazardous chemicals were ingested in place of proper medicine, such as bleach, lead, and malaria medicine.
Thankfully, those days are over. Yet since 2010, over 200 abortion restrictions have been enacted into law that make it difficult for many women to get a safe and timely abortion. Women have had to go around unnecessary obstacles imposed under the guise of “medical precaution” and “clinic requirements.” Ridiculous waiting periods, refusal clauses—which allow health officials to refuse to provide reproductive services and even information—mandatory ultrasounds, health insurance limitations, and scarcity of clinics are all measures put in place to slow down, halt, or make the abortion procedure more difficult and emotionally straining than it already is.
A study by Guttmacher Institute showed that 30% of women in the U.S. will get an abortion before age 45. Because of its prevalence, it’s important that safe treatment options are available. However, receiving these treatments in an effective and timely manner is not easily done.
The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt is of paramount importance because the number of operating abortion clinics, especially in rural areas, is in sharp decline. In fact, a 2011 study showed that 89% of U.S. counties do not have an operating abortion clinic. Searching for care that’s affordable and within reach puts additional stress on pregnant women, who are often forced to travel miles to get a safe abortion. Low-income women are at a great disadvantage; they are burdened with the cost of transportation, the procedure itself, taking time off from work (often unpaid), and finding childcare (59% of women receiving abortions are already mothers).
Safe and easy access to basic reproductive care is essential to safeguard all women’s health; the reproductive rights of women are protected by the Constitution and cannot be abridged. This Supreme Court decision in the Texas case sets a precedent for other states to take the necessary steps towards strengthening women’s reproductive rights.