Open Letter to SCSU Community

To the St. Cloud State University campus community:

On March 2, 2016, the Supreme Court will hear Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case that is fundamentally about autonomy, one’s ability to freely determine what is best for their health without interference, and access to the safe, and legal health care that meets individuals’ self-identified needs. This case challenges laws that restrict abortion access under the guise of concern for the health and safety of patients but are truly political ploys to limit the accessibility of abortion care. The outcome of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt affects us all: it will change the realities of abortion access for decades to come: either by finding undue restrictions unlawful, or forcing clinics to shut down, and subsequently, people to seek alternative and unsafe abortion services.

Despite clarity from the Supreme Court that people have a constitutional right to abortion, states continue to pass laws that limit women’s access to abortion care through a variety of tactics, including:

  • Requirements that doctors who provide abortion care have admitting privileges at local hospitals and
  • Requiring every abortion care facility to adhere to building specifications for ambulatory surgical centers

Although these sound like reasonable safety precautions, most abortions occur within the first trimester of pregnancy and are performed by taking oral medication or vacuum aspiration, which do not require any “surgical” methodology and are generally very safe medical procedures.[1] Thus, abortion care typically does not necessitate, for example, a clinic’s ability to move a gurney through their hallways or have the ability to admit patients into hospitals. Is patient safety is truly the intended outcome of these laws? These requirements target and place undue burden on abortion care clinics, forcing them to shut down and thus limiting access to safe and legal abortion care.

Additionally, states have enacted mandatory counseling and post-counseling waiting periods before women can access abortion care and mandatory ultrasounds before abortion procedures, regardless of whether or not they are medically necessary. With fewer and fewer clinics available, people are forced to drive longer distances to receive care and may be forced to wait up to 72 hours after a medically unnecessary “counseling” session to receive their abortion care, further burdening women to not only pay for the cost of a procedure (typically $1,000 or more), but also transportation, and potentially hotel fees, childcare fees, and loss of wages. We know that access to abortion care is limited not only by social class, but also by race, gender, age, and other identity markers, and these restrictions affect diverse populations in complex and detrimental ways.

As the Center for Reproductive Rights notes,

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other leading health care experts are united in opposing these burdensome regulations, arguing that they serve no medical purpose, interfere in the doctor/patient relationship, and do nothing to promote women’s health.

Texas House Bill 2 has resulted in the closure of nearly 75% of clinics in the state since 2003 due to numerous restrictions like those outlined above. If the Supreme Court upholds this bill via the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case, anti-choice lawmakers will be able to create harsh and medically unnecessary restrictions that will severely limit safe abortion care not only in Texas but across the U.S.

Access to safe abortion care is a public health concern; we all have a stake in ensuring the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the precedent of people’s constitutional right to safe, accessible abortion care. Your voice is important.

“Access to safe abortion care is a public health concern; we all have a stake!” Tweet this Quote!

Join with activists across the nation as we ensure people from diverse identities have access to safe and legal abortion care by having conversations in your community to raise awareness of this case and the issues that surround it, writing to your local, state, and federal representatives to make your position clear, join public demonstrations, sign petitions, use social media to spread awareness, and write to your local newspapers.

Our voices are powerful. Our activism is meaningful. Stand up with me for the rights of all people to have access to bodily autonomy, the ability to freely determine what is best for their health without interference, and access to the safe, and legal health care that meets their self-identified needs.[2]

Kate Bennett
Graduate Student, St. Cloud State University
Graduate Assistant, St. Cloud State University Women’s Center

 

[1] During the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, the risk of death of the mother from childbirth is 11 times greater than the risk of death of the mother from an abortion procedure.

[2]For more information about the Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt case, reproductive justice, abortion laws, and related topics, see:

The Center for Reproductive Rights: http://www.reproductiverights.org/protectabortionaccess
Trust Black Women: http://www.trustblackwomen.org/our-work/what-is-reproductive-justice/9-what-is-reproductive-justice
Planned Parenthood: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion/in-clinic-abortion-procedures

Kate is a graduate assistant at the Women’s Center and a master’s candidate in Social Responsibility. She spends most of her time working on her thesis about the Tiny House movement. Her favorite ways to procrastinate are reading her favorite novels for the hundredth time, snuggling her cats, and creating original art pieces for her Etsy shop.

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