Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Supreme Court Could Place an Impossible Burden on Women Fighting for Abortion Rights

Mother Jones (Feb. 27, 2020): The Supreme Court Could Place an Impossible Burden on Women Fighting for Abortion Rights, by Becca Andrews and Jessica Washington:

Mother Jones reporters Becca Andrews and Jessica Washington describe the potential impact of Louisiana'a claim that doctors lack standing to challenge abortion regulations that will be considered by the Supreme Court in June Medical Services v. Russo next week.  Since the 1976 case Singleton v. Wulff, the Supreme Court has allowed abortion providers to file lawsuits challenging abortion restrictions rather than forcing pregnant women to bring the suits on their own behalf.  As a practical matter a decision that doctors lack standing would make it more difficult to quickly challenge unconstitutional legislation and impose great hardship on women who seek an abortion.

“It’s almost impossible to imagine that an individual patient…would divert the resources required to litigate the case away from the challenges of her own personal life, to vindicate the rights of other women in order to prevent the law from going into effect,” says TJ Tu, a lawyer representing June Medical, the Louisiana abortion provider, on behalf of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

While Roe v. Wade was brought by a pregnant woman, Norma McCorvey, the article suggests that it would be riskier for a woman to challenge an abortion restriction today given that the "inescapable gaze of the internet brings risks of harassment and doxxing." McCorvey herself was not able to benefit from the court's holding; she gave birth while the case was being litigated and was thrust into a harsh spotlight that she did not want, later becoming an anti-abortion crusader.

Attacking doctors' standing also helps support an anti-abortion message that doctors who provide abortions are not acting in their patients' best interests.

Mary Ziegler, a professor at Florida State University who studies the history of abortion law, explains that the approach calls into question the intentions of abortion providers. “The general argument is that abortion providers don’t have patients’ best interests in mind,” Ziegler says. “If the court accepts that argument, it will say a lot about the court’s willingness to buy arguments that abortion is bad for patients or bad for women.”

Oral argument in June Medical is scheduled for next Wednesday.

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