The USA Today editorial board blasted the state-led rollback of abortion access in the United States, explaining how it infringes on the right to choose and underscoring how the misinformation behind the influx of restrictive anti-choice legislation harms women.
According to a July report from the Guttmacher Institute, states have already “enacted 51 new abortion restrictions,” bringing “the number of restrictions enacted since 2010 to 282.” The slew of anti-choice legislation has included measures roundly condemned as unnecessary and dangerous by medical experts, including “targeted regulation of abortion provider” bills (or TRAP laws), waiting periods, and early abortion bans.
Conservative media's legacy of misinformation surrounding reproductive rights and health has paved the way for such legislation, championing measures that harm women even as experts speak out against them. Lauding restrictions that medical experts agree are based on medically inaccurate or outright false information, conservative media have worked tirelessly to build a platform of falsehoods for the restrictive legislation to build upon.
USA Today underscored the dangerous ramifications of such policies in a September 7 editorial, writing that “the right to an abortion -- guaranteed 42 years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court -- has been saddled with so many onerous strictures in so many states that for millions of women, it has become almost meaningless.” Pointing to restrictive anti-choice policies in states such as Texas, where “abortion foes, in the guise of making abortion safer” passed legislation that shut down more than half of the state's abortion providers, the editorial board explained how the laws have posed an “undue burden” on women, making abortion all but inaccessible in many states:
A constitutional right that's almost impossible to exercise isn't much of a right at all. Yet the right to an abortion -- guaranteed 42 years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court -- has been saddled with so many onerous strictures in so many states that for millions of women, it has become almost meaningless.
Nowhere is that more evident than in Texas, where abortion foes, in the guise of making abortion safer, have passed laws that forced half of the state's clinics to shut down. In 2012, Texas had 41 abortion providers; today, there are fewer than 20.
Women in some parts of Texas must travel hundreds of miles round-trip to exercise their rights, thanks to the law requiring that all clinics meet hospital-like standards for surgery centers and that all providers affiliate with hospitals. Both requirements might sound reasonable, but a federal judge found the building standards so tangential “to patient safety ... as to be nearly arbitrary.” And two major medical groups say obtaining hospital privileges adds “no medical benefit” for patients, who could be harmed by having less access to safe abortions.
“Undue burden” might be hard to define. But the justices ought to know it when they see it, as Justice Potter Stewart famously said of pornography. Women should not have to wait days, listen to forced lectures, drive hundreds of miles or do battle in court repeatedly to access a right guaranteed long ago by the highest court in the land.