Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a concurring opinion to Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion for why the nation’s highest court ruled to strike down Texas’ strict abortion law in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case. State officials who authored the law did so on the argument that it set higher standards for ensuring women’s health and safety during abortions. Whole Women’s Health argued that the law was designed to restrict and eventually end abortion in Texas.
In her opinion for why the provisions in the law are unconstitutional, Ginsburg used the same example that was cited by attorneys for the state of Texas in their oral arguments before the Supreme Court. The lawyers and Ginsburg both brought up the name Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell, a doctor and abortion provider, and his “house of horrors” made national headlines in 2010 when he was arrested, and during the years that his trial followed. He was convicted in 2013 on three counts of murder, for killing babies that were born alive in his abortion clinic, and in the wrongful death of one of his patients. The Washington Post has a useful and complete refresher on the case here.
The pro-life movement and conservatives in general seized on the Gosnell case and its outcome influenced the HB2 law, as it became known, which was enacted in Texas the same year Gosnell was convicted. Lawmakers pointed to the Gosnell case as a chief reason to tighten standards on abortion providers.
The basic gist of Ginsburg’s argument was that when women’s access to abortion is blocked or severely limited, then they are more likely to seek abortions from the likes of a Kermit Gosnell.
“When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety,” Ginsburg wrote. The myth she dispelled — and that the law was based on — is that undergoing an abortion at a clinic is inherently dangerous for women. “Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements,” she pointed out in her opinion. Indeed, the statistics support her argument. Based on data gathered between 1998 and 2006, experts estimated the risk of a woman dying after childbirth was 10 times greater than the risk of dying following an abortion.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.