On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court heard arguments for the most important abortion case in decades, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.
The case concerns a Texas law, HB 2, which says abortion clinics need to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles and meet the requirements of ambulatory surgical centers. Both of these requirements are medically unnecessary and thus far have only served to shut clinics down.
We'll have to wait until June to see what the Supreme Court decides, but for now, we have the transcript from the arguments.
It's unclear from the transcript which side Justice Anthony Kennedy will fall on -- and he will be the deciding vote -- but it is perfectly clear the female Supreme Court justices are total baddies who are standing up for women's health and reproductive rights.
Here are some of their best moments.
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg wouldn't let bullsh*t fly.
RBG asked Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller, who was arguing for the law to stand, how many women are now more than 100 miles from the nearest clinic with all the clinic shutdowns.
Keller answered that with the new law, 25 percent are more than 100 miles from the nearest clinic in Texas, but some women are close to a clinic in New Mexico.
That's -- that's odd that you point to the New Mexico facility. New Mexico doesn't have any surgical -- ASC requirement, and it doesn't have any admitting requirement. So if your argument is right, then New Mexico is not an available way out for Texas because Texas says to protect our women, we need these things. But send them off to Mexico -- New Mexico -- New Mexico where they don't get it either, no admitting privileges, no ASC. And that's perfectly all right. Well, if that's all right for the women in the El Paso area, why isn't it right for the rest of the women in Texas?
When Sonia Sotomayor went in on the requirement to take abortion pills in an ambulatory surgical center.
Under Texas law, women have to go to an ambulatory surgical center to take a pill to induce an abortion. That's right, they can't take a pill anywhere other than an ambulatory surgical center. When this was pointed out, Sotomayor said,
I'm sorry. What?
Sotomayor then asked,
Is there any other medical condition by taking the pills that are required to be done in hospital, not as a prelude to a procedure in hospital, but an independent, you know -- I know there are cancer treatments by pills now. How many of those are required to be done in front of a doctor?
Stephanie Toti, arguing for Whole Woman's Health, said,
None, Your Honor.
When RBG picked up on this idea in her questioning of Keller.
She asked what the medical benefit was of having the pills taken in a facility, and Keller responded saying should complications arise, women can get help through hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles.
This didn't convince Ginsburg. She said,
That complication is likely to arise near the women's home, much more likely to arise near her home, which the 30 miles has nothing to do with... You need to have access to a hospital within 30 miles. Thirty miles of what? Thirty miles of the surgical center when the woman lives at a much greater distance?
When Sotomayor called out bad statistics.
Keller used the argument Planned Parenthood had 210 women hospitalized from complications. This sounds like a big number, until Sotomayor asked,
What's the percentage of 210 from 70,000? My math is pretty horrible.
Keller had to respond it's less than 1 percent. Sotomayor, noting she wasn't trying to downplay an individual's medical problem, said, "There are people who die from complications from aspirin." She continued,
Yet, we don't require that people take aspirins in ASC centers or in hospitals.
When the justices kept hitting on the fact abortion is a simple, safe procedure -- especially compared to other procedures.
Abortion has an extremely low rate of mortality -- lower than colonoscopies and much lower than childbirth. Elena Kagan said,
There are many procedures that are much higher risk: Colonoscopies, liposuctions, we could go on and on. And -- and you're saying, that's OK, we get to set much higher standards for abortion. And I just want to know why that is.
Ginsburg started saying childbirth has higher complications, but then Keller cut her off to try and argue otherwise. To which Ginsburg said,
Is there really any dispute that childbirth is a much riskier procedure than an early stage abortion?
The transcript indicates this made people laugh.
When Sotomayor refused to allow that these laws are beneficial.
When Keller tried to argue putting these laws in force, on top of existing regulations, was medically valid, Sotomayor said,
It's valid only if it's taking care of a real problem.
This case concerns the meaning of placing an "undue burden" on a woman to get an abortion. An undue burden should be recognized as something where the benefits do not outweigh the burden. Sotomayor told Keller,
You can't have a law that has marginal, if any, medical benefit be applied to this procedure anywhere where there's an undue burden on people -- on women.
The Supreme Court's decision will be announced in June.