Our Courts Should Enforce the Constitution
by Aimee Z. Arrambide, JD
Program Manager & Reproductive Rights Policy Specialist
My father was an obstetrician-gynecologist in Texas. Shortly after Roe v. Wade, until he passed away ten years ago, my father performed abortions in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Laredo.
He wore a Kevlar vest to work every day, we had an FBI Agent assigned to us, and my family had to live in gated communities because he was threatened almost daily. People tried to trick me into giving out his home address. I was told that my father was a baby killer.
I now work as an Austin-based policy specialist on abortion rights and a board member for Fund Texas Choice. My office is in one of the abortion clinics that was closed by HB 2 and my dad’s Kevlar vest sits across from me as a reminder of his heroism.
So the Supreme Court’s recent abortion rights ruling—Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt—was personal to me.
The Court struck down two Texas laws that were designed to, and did, close abortion clinics. Five Justices ruled that, because there was virtually no proof that the Texas laws protected women’s health, they were an “undue burden” on the constitutional right to abortion.
While some in the media made it seem like this was an extraordinary decision, it should have been ordinary. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg implied in her concurring opinion, this ruling was a no-brainer. The undue burden standard was announced twenty-four years ago in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey. If abortion is constitutionally protected, then there was never a reasonable argument that the Texas laws complied with our Constitution.
Let us be clear. Abortion opponents knew the Casey standard all along. The Texas laws, and dozens of other state laws like them, were enacted not to protect women’s health but to prevent women from exercising a constitutional right. There has been, in essence, a nationwide conspiracy to impose “undue burdens” on the right to abortion—an intentional refusal to follow the constitutional principles affirmed and reaffirmed by the Supreme Court.
And even now that the Court has ruled, no one expects the states to comply voluntarily. We expect resistance to every lawsuit that will be filed to enforce Whole Women’s Health. There will be arguments and appeals and delays for months or even years.
When will taxpayers understand this boondoggle? Anti-abortion extremists have spent untold millions in tax dollars enacting, enforcing and defending hundreds of laws like HB 2 or worse. They were and are unconstitutional. They have been struck down or stayed by courts, or they soon will be. It is long past time for government officials, whether they like abortion or not, to stop wasting our money and start obeying our Constitution.
Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for 43 years. Going forward, all of us have a responsibility to hold our legislators accountable, demand that they repeal unconstitutional restrictions, and enact instead proactive legislation that secures the right to access abortion for all individuals regardless of economic security, gender identity, zip code, immigration status, or ethnic or racial identity.
When Whole Women’s Health was announced last Monday, that was an amazing day. I cried tears of joy, celebrated with my fellow Texans, and looked toward the future of what unencumbered abortion access could look like. But at the end of the day, I realized there is so much more work to do and the task is daunting. The Supreme Court defended our rights, but this victory is only the beginning.
This op-ed was published in The Hill newspaper (click here) on July 2