Women’s Reproductive Health Cases Tagged for Supreme Court

Year after year, the highest court in the United States takes up hot-button cases on divisive policy issues that can have nationwide effects. This year, the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are considering two cases related to women’s health and reproductive rights. The first is rather ridiculous, picking up either Sharpe Holdings Inc. et al v. Burwell or Dordt College et al v. Burwell, both from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Following the Hobby Lobby case, religious-affiliated nonprofit groups could opt out of providing contraception coverage for employees by acknowledging their opposition and filling out a form. Then, the insurers or other third-party administrators would arrange and pay for the contraception, being reimbursed by the federal government. However, religious groups are again challenging the law, saying that even filling out this form is a violation of their religious liberty because even though they don’t arrange or pay for the contraception, their employees would still be receiving contraception. Using this logic, it seems to only be a matter of time before religious groups will argue that their religious liberty is being violated because contraceptives simply exist and are available in any form.

The other case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, involves anti-choice restrictions on family planning clinics in Texas, otherwise known as TRAP laws, the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. Two new restrictions in Texas require that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that the clinics providing the abortions meet the same physical standards of hospitals or surgical centers. The first restriction is frankly, redundant. Should a patient at a family planning clinic require serious medical attention, all hospitals are required by law to admit them. No hospital is allowed to deny a patient in need of care. Requiring the doctor to have additional admitting privileges simply allows anti-choice groups the opportunity to target reproductive health clinics. The second restriction forces family planning clinics in to undergo costly and drastic physical infrastructure changes that no other clinics offering comparable care are subject to. For example, outpatient dentistry or surgical centers are not required to have the same number of patient rooms as hospitals. These restrictions, which are also appearing in other states, are being challenged because of their transparent efforts to circumvent Roe v. Wade and to detrimentally restrict women’s access to family planning care.

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