Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and a coalition of 13 other LGBT, racial justice, and health equity organizations have filed an amicus brief in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down draconian restrictions on abortion providers enacted by the State of Texas in 2013. If upheld, the restrictions would lead to the closing of most abortion clinics in the state.
The brief urges the Court to carefully scrutinize the state’s asserted justification for the law, 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. 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. [pullquote]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.[/pullquote]
“Spurious medical claims lead only to mischief and certainly cannot justify governments infringing on people’s constitutionally-protected liberties,” said Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director. “We urge the Court to give due scrutiny to the health claims asserted by the State of Texas in supporting this injurious law which, if allowed to stand, will cause great harm to millions of women in the state for no public benefit.”
Pseudo-science has been used throughout American history 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 LGBT people. GLAD and its fellow amici urge the Court to look to this history and fulfill its constitutional obligation to examine carefully the State’s asserted justifications for restricting women’s fundamental right to reproductive autonomy. [pullquote]“We urge the Court to give due scrutiny to the health claims asserted by the State of Texas in supporting this injurious law which, if allowed to stand, will cause great harm to millions of women in the state for no public benefit.”—Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director[/pullquote]
The National Center for Lesbian Rights’ director, Kate Kendell, spoke of dignity in light of the Texas restrictions.
“Courts have always played a vital role in subjecting repressive laws to careful review to preserve core constitutional values. When courts have abdicated that role and simply deferred to unsubstantiated public health and scientific claims, the principles of equal dignity and freedom have been compromised,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “We cannot allow that to happen to the millions of women in Texas who stand to lose access to safe and legal abortion care.”
Added NCLR Policy Director Julie Gonen: “When fundamental rights are trammeled based on empirically indefensible rationales, people suffer. For decades, governments in this country used pseudo-science to justify oppressive statutes barring interracial and same-sex couples from marriage, restricting women’s freedom, and subjecting LGBT people and people with disabilities to forced sterilization and other horrific treatment. In each instance, unsupported public health claims and baseless sociological assertions were invoked to defend the denial of fundamental liberties. We urge the Supreme Court to look with a critical eye on the claims by Texas that these abortion restrictions serve the interest of women’s health and see them for what they are –the most recent use of specious scientific claims to undermine individual freedom.”
Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld attorney Margot Mendelson concluded: “Many of the Supreme Court’s most celebrated rulings have vindicated core constitutional principles by carefully scrutinizing the rationales advanced to justify restrictions on fundamental freedoms. Amici ask the Court to draw upon this judicial tradition by rigorously examining restrictions that will deny the fundamental right to reproductive autonomy to thousands of Texas women.”
In addition to GLAD, the organizations filing the brief are the National Center for Lesbian Rights, 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 LGBT 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.
To read the brief, click here.
Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.
[From a Compilation of News Releases]