Thursday, March 03, 2016

This Is Beautiful, Just Beautiful. On The Women Of The Supreme Court And Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt

The US Supreme Court is currently hearing oral arguments about Whole Woman's Health v Hellerstedt, a Texas abortion case.  Dahlia Lithwick at Slate has written an excellent piece about those arguments and, in particular, the role of the three female Justices in interrogating the arguments.

This is a case where gender matters, where life experiences matter, where the personal indeed IS political and also vice versa.*

The Texas abortion case is actually two cases:

The case involves a crucial constitutional challenge to two provisions in Texas’ HB 2, the state’s omnibus abortion bill from 2013. The first requires doctors to obtain admitting privileges from a hospital 30 miles from the clinic where they perform abortions; the second requires abortion clinics to be elaborately retrofitted to comply with building regulations that would make them “ambulatory surgical centers.” If these provisions go into full effect, Texas would see a 75 percent reduction in the number of clinics serving 5.4 million women of childbearing age.

Lithwick's Slate article revels in the questions of Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan, questions which really are about the medical risks of abortion, as compared to other medical treatments.  Do read the whole piece.  To whet your appetite, notice how the following exchange nails the party-political nature of these types of cases:

Then it’s Kagan who moves in. Calmly, poker-faced, she asks Keller: “You said that as the law is now … Texas is allowed to set much, much higher medical standards, whether it has to do with the personnel or procedures or the facilities themselves, higher medical standards … for abortion facilities than for facilities that do any other kind of medical work, even much more risky medical work? Am I right?” 
Keller agrees. Then Kagan asks: “And I guess I just want to know, why would Texas do that?” The room erupts. Keller says complications. Kagan says that liposuction actually has greater complications. Keller says Kermit Gosnell. Kagan says nothing that happened in the Gosnell case could have occurred under Texas’ pre-existing regulations. Sotomayor says colonoscopies have more complications. Finally, Keller says, “But legislatures react to topics that are of public concern.” And that is what matters. Not women’s health. Politics.

Bolds are mine.

The bolded concluding sentences may be obvious in this context.  But I've met similar political motivations in my extensive reading of women's health studies, parenting studies and evolutionary psychology explorations into gender and sexuality.  What gets studied, by whom, and what gets popularized, and by whom:  all those aspects appear strongly motivated by traditional gender views and gender politics.

*  "Political is personal" follows if the Texas regulations remain in place.  The resulting unavailability of abortions in many parts of the state will directly impinge on the lives of poor women with unintended pregnancies.