Can These Abortion Stories Determine the Fate of a Supreme Court Case?
Amy Brenneman, the actor and producer known for TV roles in The Leftovers, Private Practice, and Judging Amy, was a 21-year-old Harvard student when she made the decision to have an abortion. Kate Banfield, a childhood education specialist, was a 19-year-old undergraduate at Stanford University when she had an abortion. Suzanne Poppema, a family physician and published author, was a 27-year-old intern just starting her medical residency when she decided to terminate her unintended pregnancy.
They are just three of the 10 women who shared their abortion stories in an amicus brief filed in support of what Brenneman described as "the most significant abortion case before the Supreme Court in 25 years," in an essay for Cosmopolitan on Monday. All of them chose to have abortions because they weren't yet ready to become mothers—a role they've since fully embraced.
"The case challenges a Texas law that targets abortion providers with onerous and unnecessary restrictions, and would force more than three-quarters of the state's clinics to close their doors," Brenneman wrote in the essay, which she penned ahead of the hearing on Wednesday. "If this law were allowed to stand, it would leave only 10 clinics remaining in a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age, many of whom will find themselves in the same position that I was in at age 21," she wrote.
Passed in 2013, House Bill 2 requires every clinic that offers abortions to maintain the same building standards as surgical operating rooms in hospitals. It also mandates that doctors who perform the procedure have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their office. The Texas Republicans who drafted the law defended it as a means of protecting women's health, safety, and welfare. More than 3,300 women have sought to support the Texas law by lending their names to a separate brief in which they say they suffered psychological injuries from their abortions.
The law has also resulted in a drastic reduction in abortion providers throughout the state. Of the 41 licensed abortion facilities that were open in Texas in April 2013, just 18 remained open as of last November, according to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, a research group based out of the University of Texas at Austin. The group's latest research, released on Monday, shows a 42-percent decline in the number of physicians providing abortions in Texas since the law went into effect.
In June, the Supreme Court decided to allow 10 clinics in the state to stay open while it considered whether to hear the appeal filed by Whole Woman's Health and three other reproductive health clinics. The court agreed to hear arguments in November. If the court upholds the law, health advocates say it could set a dangerous precedent for antiabortion laws nationwide.
Fourteen states have already passed laws or policies to regulate physicians' offices where abortions are performed, and 17 states have passed laws or made policies to regulate how medication for abortions is provided, according to the reproductive-health research group Guttmacher Institute.
"If you start delving into your family and friends, you're going to find a woman that's terminated a pregnancy. So, therefore, it's in everyone's life," Brenneman said in a video campaign produced by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The legal advocacy group is representing Whole Woman's Health, one of the abortion providers that sued the state over its strict antiabortion law, in this week's case.
"I look back at my 21-year-old self, and I applaud her," Brenneman said, "and I feel so blessed that I was in a place where I wasn't shamed and I was supported, and it didn't scar me for life."