One year ago today, we saw the U.S. Supreme Court hand down, in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision, one of the most powerful victories for reproductive health, rights and justice we have seen in a generation.
I find it difficult to take a moment to celebrate this anniversary today. As I reflect on the past year, it’s often hard to see bright spots. The election of our 45th president has been a disaster for us morally and ethically. It has torn us apart and is so destructive and so alarming. And we have witnessed terrible injustices such as those done to Philando Castile and Sandra Bland. These are the byproducts of our American legacy of hatred and bigotry, and it’s hard to raise a glass to our Supreme Court victory in light of these injustices happening at the same time.
That said, I must challenge us to raise a glass anyway, despite the ongoing cruelty, to celebrate the victories we do win along the way. Whole Woman’s Health was an example of the little gal fighting back against the big guy. May our legacy be to inspire others to do the same. I want you to have faith that your work matters, your voice matters and your righteousness in the face of adversity and oppression matters.
Justice is not static. It’s not achieved once and then complete. It requires constant push back — linking our arms across barriers that are constructed to keep us disconnected, isolated, afraid, angry and hopeless. And because of that, we at Whole Woman’s Health know we cannot win one battle, then sit back and say, “My work here is done. My contribution has been enough.” The reality is not nearly enough has been done with the Whole Woman’s Health precedent and all that this decision means and the kind of relief it can bring to women across the country.
Since June 2016, we have seen multiple states beyond Texas’s borders get relief from targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws — from Virginia to Alabama to Mississippi to Wisconsin to Tennessee. The precedent set in Whole Woman’s Health has also been used at least twice to date to restore voting rights to people who were being targeted or discriminated against. This is a powerful legacy and just the beginning of what we can use Whole Woman’s Health to achieve. I am so very proud we brought this lawsuit to the Supreme Court.
However, it’s only the beginning for Whole Woman’s Health, and for us all. We will remain vigilant and proactive. We will challenge injustice, even when the odds are against us. Our opposition may have more power, more money and a bigger mouth, but we will continue to fight back against TRAP laws because it’s the right thing to do. Because all people deserve access to the same rights, no matter where they live, their ability to pay or the color of their skin.
The Whole Woman’s Health decision has emboldened our opposition. Just days after we won our landmark case, back in Texas, the Health and Human Services Commission proposed new regulations on fetal tissue disposal with no regard for the Supreme Court’s ruling. Our opposition is unabashed in its abuse of power and the perpetuation of shame and stigma with the end goal of stagnating women. That’s what restricting women’s access to safe abortion services is all about: Chipping away at our dignity, denying our bodily autonomy and preventing us from actualizing our full humanity. It’s not simply about abortion itself — it’s about what access to a full range of reproductive options represents and allows for women.
That’s the reality I battle every day, and it’s why we continue to cultivate resiliency in the fight for access to abortion care for all. I can promise you today, one year after our victory, that you can count on us to fight for you for years to come. We all are lifted up when the women in our communities have true and full equality.
Amy Hagstrom Miller is the CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and lead plaintiff in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
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