Lawmakers braved Wednesday’s heavy winds to stand outside the Supreme Court in solidarity with advocates opposing abortion or arguing for abortion rights.
The eight-member Supreme Court heard a case on a Texas law that requires abortions to be done in ambulatory surgical centers and requires doctors to have admitting privileges to local hospitals and clinics. Hundreds of protesters rallied in front of the court, while police struggled to keep traffic on First Street moving. “It is probably the most monumental decision that we’re going to see in a very, very long time here,” Rep. Lois Frankel, a Florida Democrat who supports abortion rights, told HOH. “You see the word 'trapped'? It’s called trapped legislation. It’s targeting the regulations of abortion clinics, so they really can’t perform a legal abortion.”
The makers of a new documentary about such legislation, "Trapped," were in town this week ahead of a planned run of the film at D.C.'s Landmark E Street Cinema. The movie won the Sundance Film Festival's Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking in January.
At the rally, signs saying “trapped,” “#teamlife” and images of abortions all meshed together. A line of pro-life supporters stood facing the court with red “LIFE” stickers over their mouths. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., stood in the crowd behind them and tried to talk over an abortions-right advocate speaking Spanish into a microphone.
“Do you believe in protecting women? Do you believe in protecting life? Is there any conflict between the two? Thank your mother,” Sasse said. “The people of Texas should have the right to common sense legislation.”
“The America idea is about protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he added.
That includes a woman's right to choose an abortion, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, co-chairman of the Pro-Choice Caucus, told HOH.
“It is important that women have access as the Constitution gives them the right to have access," the New York Democrat said. "And to take that away, by doing away with clinics, is sort of an underhanded way of making sure women have no access to what is constitutionally protected.”
“I hope this court will do the right thing. And I don’t want it to be 4-4 because that means the lower court would stand and that would not be good for Texas."
If the appeals court's decision stands, only 10 of about 40 abortion clinics in Texas could remain open.
“If [Justice Anthony] Kennedy goes along, and it goes 5-3, we can at least have a temporary sigh of relief until we get another Supreme Court justice,” Frankel said.
Both congresswomen spoke about the days before abortion was legal. “I’m here as a woman who remembered the back-alley days when women would turn themselves over to people with filthy hands and die,” Slaughter said.
Frankel recalled, “I grew up in an age before Roe v. Wade and I found a friend dying, bleeding to death, from a back-alley abortion.”
“I remember the times when thousands of women were killed, when they didn’t have access to a legal abortion," she added. "So I’m here in solidarity but I think it’s important, everyone has to know that this case, what happens in this case, could be the beginning of the end of legal abortion in this country."
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