By Maria Peeples
On Monday, the Supreme Court delivered a huge win to women with a 5-3 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. This victory, which advocates are calling the biggest case for abortion rights in 25 years, asserted that certain restrictions placed on abortion clinics in Texas create an “undue burden” and struck them down. Not only is this good for women in Texas, but it sets a precedent that is already nullifying unjust laws in other states. Mississippi, Alabama, and Wisconsin dropped legal battles defending similar abortion restrictions this week, and there are likely to be more to come.
In a statement released by the White House after the decision, the Obama administration wrote, “We remain strongly committed to the protection of women’s health, including protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her right to determine her own future.” A similar message on President Obama’s Twitter account read, “Every woman has a constitutional right to make her own reproductive choices. I’m pleased to see the Supreme Court reaffirm that fact today.”
The word abortion was nowhere to be found in the president’s statement and tweets.
We all have an obligation to protect the rights of women to determine our own futures. On that, President Obama is certainly correct. Indeed, we must remain committed to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care. Yet, after a long-awaited decision on a Supreme Court case explicitly about abortion, why is President Obama still unable to say the word abortion? Accessible abortion is an integral part of women’s health, and protecting that right requires naming and fighting for abortion for what it is – a safe and routine medical procedure.
President Obama’s refusal to celebrate a victory for abortion by name is unfortunately in line with his administration’s record on reproductive justice. Earlier this month, we expressed our outrage over the White House’s decision to hold a summit on the state of women and girls that left abortion off of the agenda. After we joined many advocates and organizations including Center for Health and Gender Equity, Amnesty International, and Catholics for Choice in calling on the President to take action on the Helms Amendment by gathering dozens of activists in a presence outside the State of Women Summit and that day placing a full-page ad in The Washington Post, both expressing disappointment at the exclusion of abortion from the agenda and requesting executive action on Helms, the White House once again refused to act on expanding abortion access for women in need, leaving survivors of rape without access to the “women’s health” that President Obama purports to protect.
The insults don’t stop at the White House, however. It expands to an organization using the likeness of the White House to promote what it calls progressive change. Organizing for Action (OFA), the organization that spun out of Obama’s campaign, also used the day of the historic Supreme Court decision to send out a tweet under the Barack Obama account it manages, celebrating Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and again failing to name abortion. But, supporters were encouraged to add their name to OFA’s list if they are committed to continuing to protect a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices.
The ask? Supporters of women’s reproductive rights were then prompted to donate to Organizing for Action, despite the lack of action on behalf of the Obama Administration to stand up for abortion rights, in policy or even in name.
Barriers to abortion care harm women across the world every day. On Monday, the Supreme Court gave us one victory in the face of increasing and violent restrictions to abortion that have left women in peril while trying to access basic reproductive health care. President Obama’s refusal to say abortion while applauding the court’s decision speaks volumes, and reminds us that this administration’s tepid approach to abortion contributes to a climate of shame, stigma, and barriers to accessing abortion that hurts women at home and abroad every day.