Six years ago, on January 22, 2013, to be exact, the fight for women’s reproductive freedom in America became personal for Amy Key Bousquet. As expected, a US supreme court justice ruled that her right to abortion under the landmark 1973 case Roe v Wade would never be revoked.
Key Bousquet-O’Rourke took a job as a counselor at a Chicago abortion clinic. In June 2015, she had an abortion. For an abortion counselor at a Chicago abortion clinic, November 28, 2015 is indeed a bittersweet anniversary. At that time, the US supreme court was poised to set the precedent in one of the most hotly debated reproductive health cases in the US: the case of Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, in which two Texas abortion clinics— one regulated as an ambulatory surgical center and the other a separate medical facility— had argued that the state had no reason to further restrict abortion access.
This particular fight wasn’t fought as easily as in the earlier cases, and, for a while, this time even many abortion rights supporters thought it might not be possible. President Trump’s pick for the supreme court, Neil Gorsuch, seemed at odds with the precedent set by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been the swing vote in the 2012 case that legalized abortion nationwide. Because the swing justice retired, if Gorsuch joined with three conservative justices and Kennedy’s replacement was Ted Cruz, there might be enough votes to overturn the 1973 decision. If not, the chief justice, John Roberts, on the other hand, was the only justice with the necessary votes to uphold it.
At some point, after so many years of abortion foes legislating with the issue seemingly in mind, the political spectrum collapsed. Eventually, a majority of justices said they wouldn’t go down that road. And without Kennedy’s vote, the number of SCOTUS justices likely to make the decision shrank. The court still discussed whether the ultra-conservative justice Jeff Sessions had enough votes to outlaw abortion in the US, but ultimately decided not to weigh in.
In March 2016, the court ruled the Texas law unconstitutional, with Kennedy writing the majority opinion. And though the decision did not go as far as abortion rights activists had hoped, the court had ruled that states can regulate abortion clinics in a way that improves the safety of patients, as long as these standards are “narrowly tailored” and designed to protect patients’ health.
For anyone who still hopes this is the last case that will divide the court, the anniversary of the ruling shouldn’t disappoint. “The ruling is a landmark,” an abortion rights supporter told The Advocate. “I don’t think anyone who is pro-choice can feel that we’ve arrived anywhere other than because of the arrival of that ruling. There’s no evidence that any other similar restriction on abortion clinics will succeed.”
The court will once again sit down in April to determine whether the law was really narrow-minded, or whether it would restrict the women of Texas. If the case makes it through this round, SCOTUS will issue a ruling this summer. And if they rule the Texas law unconstitutional, it will leave the question of whether the Supreme Court will remove itself from the abortion issue to the next president and Congress.
Casey Neistat and Leah Remini team up to fight back against Trump’s online streaming ban
Photographer Casey Neistat spent the year 2018 trying to tell important stories. A short film about immigration, his confession to buying porn online, and a series of beautiful, haunting photographs about child laborers have all been available on his YouTube channel. But the series that really has an impact comes on the YouTube channel of Leah Remini, who is also trying to keep the stories of those wronged by the church of Scientology at the forefront of the public’s mind in 2019.