If you’re interested in women’s medical rights, you’ll want to read Linda Greenhouse’s explanation in the New York Times of how an Arkansas abortion law case is bad news for those thinking women should retain autonomy over medical decisions.
This is the case where the stridently anti-abortion 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave life again to a “bizarre grab bag” of four Arkansas anti-abortion laws transparently intended to put the last medical abortion provider in Arkansas out of business and otherwise restrict women’s rights in meaningful ways (including requiring them to inform a rapist of how abortion remains should be disposed of).
When I wrapped up the Supreme Court term in a column last month, I observed that in his separate opinion providing a crucial fifth vote to overturn a Louisiana abortion law, Chief Justice John Roberts had been “careful to leave the door open to continued attacks on the right to abortion.”
What I intended as a cleareyed warning to my fellow abortion-rights supporters to hold the cheers for the outcome in June Medical Services v. Russo turns out to have been quite an understatement. It turns out that the door, with the chief justice holding it, opened wide enough to drive an entire federal appeals court through.
Greenhouse explains that the decision on one of the Arkansas laws, which ends the safest medical means of second-trimester abortion, likely means the end of abortions in Arkansas at 14 weeks of pregnancy. She helpfully explains the outrageous terms of the various laws — intrusive required medical record production, broad notification of remains disposal and more. For example:
The third law requires doctors to inform the local police any time a patient under age 17 has an abortion. The law makes no distinction between teenagers whose circumstances indicate potential sexual abuse and those who become pregnant through consensual sex with someone the same age — even a husband (girls in Arkansas can marry at 16 with parental consent). Judge Baker concluded that for such girls, police involvement was a stigmatizing invasion of privacy without a countervailing benefit.
Baker had struck down these laws, as clearly required by precedent before Roberts’ trickery emerged, because they created undue burdens on women without an expressed legislative purpose for the restrictions. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge likes to say these laws are about women’s health.
That is, simply, a lie. And expect to see more of it, Greenhouse writes.
If this grab bag of anti-abortion measures seems bizarre, it’s just a taste of things to come. Clearly what the four have in common is to make getting an abortion more onerous. But they share something else as well, threatening to shred not only a woman’s privacy but her dignity, something the Casey decision explicitly protects.
She said it was an “aggressive” move by the 8th Circuit to reach out to Roberts’ concurrence to shred precedent that allowed judges to weigh benefits and costs.
If that standard is indeed gone, by what means would a judge have left to decide if a law created an undue burden? The words of an Arkansas legislator?