Reproductive Rights

Protect Women’s Reproductive Rights

A woman’s right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy in its early stages was first recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S 113 (1973). In Roe, the Court relied on the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “personal liberty” as well as the Ninth Amendment’s “reservation of rights to the people” to hold that a “woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy” in its early stages was a right protected by the United States Constitution.

In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), the Supreme Court reaffirmed its central holding in Roe, but added guidance to state legislatures about how to balance a woman’s right to choose with the state’s “important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life.” There, the Court instructed that a woman has a protected right to terminate her pregnancy before “viability,” that is, “the time at which there is a realistic possibility of maintaining and nourishing a life outside the womb, so that the independent existence of the second life can, in reasons and all fairness, be the object of state protection that now overrides the rights of the woman.” Id. at 870. After viability, however, the state is permitted to regulate the woman’s decision as it deems appropriate. Currently, Texas law defines a “viable” pregnancy at 20 weeks. Casey also recognized, however, that a woman’s decision to terminate a nonviable pregnancy, like all rights, is not absolute. “[N]ot every law which makes a right more difficult to exercise is, ipso facto, an infringement of that right. . . . Only where state regulation imposes an undue burden on a woman’s ability to make this decision does the power of the State reach into the heart of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause.” In other words, a state law creates a “undue burden” on a woman's right to choose if it “has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

In 2013, despite significant opposition by Texas women, the Texas Legislature enacted HB 2, an anti-choice bill which purported to protect women’s health, but, in reality, did the opposite. The bill passed on a straight-party vote, despite the fact that its constitutional soundness was highly questionable. Unsurprisingly, in 2016, the United States Supreme Court, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, struck down two key provisions of the law, stating they violated the Constitution because they constituted an “undue burden” on a women’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy before viability. Sitting members of the Legislature running in safe districts, and where they face no opposition in November, have vowed to try again during the next legislative session, which is set to begin in 2017. If elected, I will fight to protect a woman’s right to choose as established by the United States Constitution and the United States Supreme Court.