On January 4, 2016, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and a coalition of 13 other LGBT, racial justice, and health equity organizations filed an amicus brief in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down draconian restrictions on abortion providers enacted by the State of Texas in 2013 which, if upheld, would lead to the closing of most abortion clinics in the state.
In addition to NCLR, the organizations filing the brief are Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the Equal Justice Society, the National Black Justice Coalition, the Family Equality Council, the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, Equality Federation, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States , Immigration Equality, the National Health Law Program, Movement Advancement Project, and Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom.
The brief urges the Court to carefully scrutinize the state’s asserted justification for the law, just as the Court has done with other laws that infringe upon fundamental freedoms. The State of Texas has argued that the law protects the health of women seeking abortion, but the evidence at trial showed just the opposite. In fact, medical organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association have explained that the restrictions imposed by the new law are medically unnecessary and endanger, rather than advance, women’s health.
U.S. history is replete with attempts to use pseudo-science and unsupported health-related justifications to exclude individuals and groups from the full protection of essential constitutional liberties, including laws barring interracial marriage, excluding women from certain professions, permitting the forced sterilization of those deemed “inferior,” and criminalizing and discriminating against LGBTQ people. NCLR and its fellow amici urge the Court to remember this history and to fulfill its constitutional obligation to look carefully at the State’s asserted justifications for restricting women’s fundamental right to reproductive autonomy.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole on March 2, 2016. On June 27, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision upholding the right to abortion and struck down medically unnecessary restrictions targeting abortion clinics. The 5-3 decision allows the remaining clinics in the state to keep their doors open and clears a path for other clinics to open or reopen to meet the needs of those who need abortion care across the state.