Finally, Some Good Abortion News from South Carolina and Arizona

It's quite easy to feel dispirited about reproductive rights in America. Conservative lawmakers across the country are endlessly devoted to coming up with increasingly inventive ways to restrict women's abortion access (some of their favorites include shuttering clinics nationwide and forcing women to have to jump through bizarre and unnecessary hoops in order to terminate unwanted pregnancies). But this past week, there's been a little glimmer of hope — some legislators have apparently become aware that disregarding women's health and bodily autonomy really isn't the best policy.

On Tuesday, a 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled unanimously that Arizona's restrictions on the abortion pill — which are the most extreme in the country — should be struck down while until the litigation surrounding them is resolved. (In April, U.S. District Judge David Bury of Tuscon denied Planned Parenthood's request to stay implementation of the law, arguing that it would be difficult to prove that it poses "a substantial obstacle to a woman's right to obtain a first trimester abortion in Arizona." Bafflingly, he flat-out admitted in his ruling that women in Northern Arizona "will have to travel several hundred extra miles and may have to secure overnight lodging to obtain a surgical procedure because the clinic in Flagstaff only provides medication abortion." Huh.)

The justification for blocking the law, according to the opinion authored by Judge William Fletcher, is that the plaintiffs "have introduced uncontroverted evidence that the Arizona law substantially burdens women's access to abortions services, and Arizona has introduced no evidence that the law advances in any way its interest in women's health." YES. EXACTLY. In so many of the abortion restriction laws being passed — be it TRAP laws, waiting period mandates, arbitrary restrictions on medication abortion, whatever — it's searingly obvious that the burden on women's access exists, whereas the medical evidence is totally unsubstantiated. As Dorothy J. Samuels points out at the New York Times, this insistence that facts actually matter explicitly rejects "a recent Fifth Circuit holding... that regulations need only be supported by 'rational speculation'— a ridiculous and dangerous elevation of ideology over evidence."

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Another mild pro-choice victory occurred this week in South Carolina as well: according to Think Progress, South Carolina lawmakers concluded their legislative session without passing any measures to obstruct abortion rights. The legislature was considering two bills: one that criminalizes the procedure after 20 weeks — a period during which only 1.5 percent of abortions occur, often involving women in "the most desperate of circumstances," according to NARAL — and one that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. According to Planned Parenthood, this is the result of South Carolina residents making their voices heard: reportedly, over 2,000 residents called and emailed their legislators asking them not to pass the bills.

"The bills had little to do with women's health. They were 100 percent about inserting politics where they don't belong: into the personal, private medical decisions of a woman," Jennifer Dalven, the director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement to ThinkProgress. "This is a victory for South Carolina women."

Image via Getty.