By Nicholas J. Little
Vincent Rue is not a medical doctor, but, through surrogates, he has tried to play one in court. And in this role of a lifetime, he has masterminded the dissemination of pseudoscientific testimony in several state court cases —all in an effort to defeat women’s right to an abortion. His act is about to be reviewed by his most important audience yet – the United States Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court will soon hear the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, representing the latest battle in the long-running campaign by the anti-choice movement to cut off women’s access to safe, legal abortion, a right guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. Realizing that neither the court system, nor the majority of Americans, would tolerate an outright ban on abortion, they have instead sought to create an environment in which abortion is technically legal, but obstructed to the point that it is practically unavailable.
The Texas laws at issue claim not to restrict abortion, but instead, in a dizzying twisting of language, are presented as though intended to make abortion safer for women. According to the laws’ supporters, requiring doctors to maintain active admitting procedures at a hospital within 30 miles of where they perform abortions will prevent complications and ensure safety for the woman seeking a termination.
Let’s be perfectly clear: These claims are false. Abortion, especially early-term abortion, is an extremely safe procedure. In fact, women suffer fewer complications from early term abortions than from giving birth. That’s why leading medical groups like the American Medical Association, the College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Family Physicians have said that the onerous restrictions in the law do nothing to improve patient safety. The real-world effect of the law is to require the closing of most abortion providers in Texas, leaving the 5.4 million women of reproductive age without safe, local access to care. But that didn’t stop Texas from putting forward a string of allegedly expert witnesses claiming that these laws were rationally designed to protect women.
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