Editorial Excerpts, September 2020

Published: August 31, 2020

The Supreme Court struck down an onerous and unnecessary Louisiana restriction on abortion, offering a striking rebuke to the state for passing the same version of a law the high court ruled was unconstitutional four years ago.

In a 5-4 decision in June Medical Services L.L.C. vs. Russo, the court found that the Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals provided no health benefits to women and would drastically curtail access to the procedure, most likely leaving one clinic and one doctor in the state to provide abortions.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing the principal opinion, made it clear in his opening sentence that the Louisiana law was “almost word-for-word identical” to the Texas law that the court struck down in the Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt case four years ago. …

The Supreme Court has, yet again, made clear that it rejects the pretext that these laws are intended to protect women’s health. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All these laws do—and the court has said this—is make it profoundly difficult to get an extremely safe and legal procedure. And that burden of difficulty falls hardest on those with the least means—poor women and women of color and those who live in rural areas. …

It’s appalling that nearly 50 years since the passage of Roe vs. Wade guaranteed a right to a safe, legal abortion—and after landmark Supreme Court cases in 1992 and 2016 reaffirmed that decision—women are still fighting to preserve their legal right to an abortion. The Women’s Health Protection Act would guarantee a right to abortion and bar the onerous restrictions various states have placed on providers and patients. But that faces an uphill climb in Congress. We expect the courts everywhere to stop these attempts in their tracks—and that is exactly what the Supreme Court did Tuesday.

Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2020

Well, that didn’t take long.

Only days after surprising the nation by striking down a strict anti-abortion law in Louisiana, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts reminded Americans once again that it is no friend to reproductive rights, or to the vast majority of women who will use some form of birth control in their lifetime.

In a decision Wednesday, the justices dealt another blow to the birth control mandate under the Affordable Care Act. In the wake of the 7-to-2 ruling in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, “between 70,500 and 126,400 women would immediately lose access to no-cost contraceptive services,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her dissent, citing a government estimate. …

It bears reminding that the cost of birth control can be significant, and that many women rely on it not just to prevent pregnancy but to treat medical issues. Sometimes, the contraceptive method that works best—or the only one a person can tolerate—costs many hundreds of dollars without insurance coverage.

It also bears reminding that the Trump administration has been attacking both the A.C.A. and access to birth control since the moment President Trump took office. On the latter front, its most successful effort before this week was to gut the nation’s decades-old family planning program, called Title X, in an explicit effort to cripple Planned Parenthood. All of the administration’s efforts on this front have most directly affected poor women and women of color. …

It’s hard to imagine the conservative justices of this court, especially, allowing employers to claim a moral exemption and require their employees to pay out of pocket for, say, a treatment for COVID-19. That sounds absurd. And yet, when it comes to birth control, such state interference with personal health decisions is considered a legitimate matter for public debate.

The New York Times, July 8, 2020