Wednesday afternoon, abortion rights activist Carol Joffe spoke to students at a Berkeley College Master’s Tea on a topic that, in light of two Supreme Court rulings this week, is especially timely and increasingly urgent.
On Monday the high court cleared the way for a new Indiana state law that would place some of the nation’s most severe restrictions on abortions, including requirements that a woman be counseled about the risks a day in advance and be offered pictures of what her aborted fetus might look like. By declining to hear an appeal of A Woman’s Choice-East Side Women’s Clinic v. Newman, the court has dealt the biggest blow to a woman’s right to choose since the 1989 decision in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services forced doctors to evaluate the “viability” of a fetus before performing an operation.
In 1992, the court tepidly reasserted abortion rights with the Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey decision, which led to the current “undue burden” standard in abortion cases — a standard the Indiana state law violates by forcing women to make two trips to an abortion clinic before they may undergo the procedure. For women in middle America especially, who have to travel long distances to get to abortion clinics, the mandatory counseling is certainly an undue burden. Far as we are from Indiana — and close as any Yale woman needing an abortion might be to University Health Services — the Supreme Court’s decision does not quite hit close to home. Perhaps it should.
Coupled with a decision in favor of anti-abortion protesters — not to mention the prospect of anti-abortion justices filling impending Supreme Court vacancies — the Indiana decision warrants campus response. Right now, when many Yale activists are focusing their attention on what’s happening at Yale and what’s about to happen in the Middle East, it is important that we not ignore what’s going on in Washington and in the Midwest.
We live in an insulated campus where abortions are offered but not advertised, provided through University Health Services but never publicly discussed by them. If UHS’s mum helps protect patients and keep anti-abortion picketers away from hospital doors, then it is well worth it. But now that Roe v. Wade has turned 30 and abortion rights seem to be increasingly imperiled, students and UHS administrators must make every effort to open discussions and reaffirm women’s freedom of choice.
The Reproductive Rights Action League of Yale College soon will begin distributing a pamphlet members put together — informed exclusively by student interviews — with information about the abortion and prenatal care services covered by the Yale Health Plan. Perhaps for safety and publicity’s sake, UHS cannot do what RALY can in the way of fostering dialogue about abortion rights. But the two should work together to make sure the information is accurate and gets to everyone who needs it.
Most important is that RALY and the University continue programs of awareness and forums for discussion, and that anyone concerned with reproductive rights join in, so that women at Yale and around the country do not face undue burdens and maintain their right to choose.