Why the Supreme Court Must Protect Women's Access to Abortion

Yesterday, March 2, the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether to keep or strike down onerous regulations imposed on Texas abortion clinics, forcing many to close. Hollywoodlife.com talks to actress and activist Amy Brenneman, who once had an abortion, about why it's critical that the court preserve a woman's access to the procedure.

If the Supreme Court upholds Texas's two huge restrictions on abortion clinics, then many other U.S. states with Republican-dominated legislatures will also be allowed to make similar restrictions and effectively end your legal access to abortion.

Here's what's going down:

An abortion clinic in Texas is asking the Supreme Court to strike down two restrictions passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013.

1) The first part of the law requires that all abortion clinics meet the same standards as "ambulatory surgical centers" including having things like 8′ wide corridors so that two gurneys can pass in the hall, just like in a hospital. Even though this is never medically or practically necessary at an abortion clinic.

2) A second part of the law insists that all doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. As a result of these restrictions, Texas, an enormous state with a population of 28,240,245 , is down to about 20 clinics from 40. If the Supreme Court upholds these laws, the number of clinics will drop to 10.

Why has Texas enacted these onerous restrictions? Legislators there claim they are doing it to "protect" women's health. But, the reality of abortion is that it is one of the very safest medical procedures. A 2009-10 study of 54,911 women who had abortions, conducted by the University of California San Francisco, found that there was only a 0.23 percent major complication rate. 0.23 percent!

That's a smaller complication rate than wisdom tooth extractions, at 7 percent, and colonoscopies at 0.35 percent -- neither of which must be conducted in ambulatory surgical centers or which require doctors to have hospital admitting privileges.

Clearly, these laws are a ruse -- aimed at preventing abortions -- not protecting women's health. In fact, childbirth itself has far higher complications and the number of women who die from childbirth was 17.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2011- a big uptick from 1987, when 7.2 women died per 100,000 births. Meanwhile, "birthing centers" don't have to meet ambulatory surgical center standards and mid-wives for home births don't need hospital admitting privileges to assist in a delivery.

Now women who have had abortions, and are grateful that they had that option, have filed their own stories in supporting "briefs" for the Supreme Court to consider. One of those women is renowned actress Amy Brenneman, 51, star of Judging Amy, Private Practice and the HBO mystery drama, The Leftovers.

Amy has been a pro-choice advocate for many years, and underwent an abortion when she was a 21 year-old college student. "It's important for women who have had abortions to speak out and not be ashamed. Ninety-five percent of women who have had them aren't ashamed and don't regret it," Amy told Hollywoodlife.com in an exclusive interview. "The vast majority of women are grateful to have had the choice."

Amy felt that it was critical for the Supreme Court justices to hear from women who do not regret their decision. The justices will also receive a brief filed by an anti-abortion group in which women say they were emotionally damaged by their abortions. "I was 21, in college and in a relationship with a boyfriend for two years, I was using birth control and it malfunctioned," Amy explained to Hollywoodlife.com. "I was very grateful that I lived in a country where 'forced' birth was not the law of the land. I had no income, I was in school, I wasn't ready to be a mom."

Brenneman, who is now a mother of two, says that she chose to have an abortion because "I take parenthood so seriously," and she wasn't in a position to be a good parent. She bristles at the idea that restrictive abortion clinic laws, like those in Texas, have been passed to "protect women", as if we are toddlers. Even if you're a teen, you need to have autonomy over your own body. If you trust a woman to carry a child for nine months, you should trust her to make her own choice about abortion."

Think about it -- there are no laws in any state specifically enacted to "protect" a man from making his own decisions. Period. Think about something else. If Texas's legislators are so 'pro-birth', then they would also be pro healthcare, pro-education, pro-social programs that help single mothers, teen moms and low income mothers -- none of which they are, points out Brenneman.

So true.

Preventing women from exercising their legal right to have an abortion is "about punishing women for getting pregnant, in that scarlet letter sort of way," Amy told Hollywoodlife.com.

Well let's hope that the Supreme Court sees this situation the same way. FYI, about a third of adult women in America have had abortions, so the court's decision will affect tens of millions of women, for decades to come.

What can you do? If you want to protect your right to make your own choice about whether to ever have an abortion, then you must vote in this presidential election, for a pro-choice candidate. If you don't, you may not be able to make the decision that's best for you, just as Amy Brenneman did. As she says, "I feel so blessed that I was in a place where I wasn't shamed, I was supported and it didn't scar me for life!"