The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is a significant victory for women in the United States. The case centered on two of Texas’ targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP, laws—restrictions that limit a doctor’s ability to practice medicine, are opposed by leading health care experts as medically unnecessary, and interfere in the patient-provider relationship. In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the laws were unconstitutional because they failed to advance women’s health and placed an undue burden on their ability to access abortion care.
The decision could affect severe TRAP restrictions in other states, such as Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Judges have already blocked many of these laws. However, abortion restrictions are not limited to TRAP laws, and a variety of other types of harmful restrictions remain in effect throughout the country. As a result, seeking comprehensive care is costly for women in many states, not only in terms of their time but also their economic security and dignity. Furthermore, these restrictions have a disproportionate impact on low-income women and women of color who already face a number of barriers to accessing comprehensive health care. For example, the Hyde Amendment restricts the use of federal funding for abortion for women who access their health coverage through Medicaid.
As women’s health advocates celebrate the Whole Woman’s Health ruling, we must see it as only the beginning of eliminating reckless government interference in reproductive rights and ensuring safe and affordable abortion access for all women.
Kendra Smale is an intern at the Center for American Progress. Heidi Williamson is the Senior Policy Analyst for the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center.