Abortion Returns to the Supreme Court

The Takeaway

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Today, the Supreme Court hears arguments in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a case that could have far-reaching consequences for abortion rights in Texas.

In 2013, the Texas state legislature passed a law that requires abortion clinics to meet standards usually reserved for hospitals. The law also required that each clinic employ at least one doctor with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. These standards aren't required for other procedures with a similar level of risk—colonoscopies, for example, have a much higher mortality rate than abortions, but the doctors performing them don't need to have admitting privileges. Still, the state insists that the standards are necessary to protect women.

Alice Kessler-Harris, author of "Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States" and a professor of American history at Columbia University, says the "protection" the state claims to provide for women under this law is problematic, particularly when looked at from a historical perspective.

Along with a number of other historians, Kessler-Harris signed onto an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, arguing that such "protective" laws have often rest on stereotypes about men's and women's roles in society, and often hurt women in the long run. 

See Also: Planned Parenthood President on 2016 Election, Supreme Court