Jackie Casteel, from Columbia, Missouri, will be joining hundreds of other women from across the United States to rally outside the steps of the great Supreme Court in Washington D.C. this week as the nation’s highest legal authority will consider medically unnecessary laws that restrict women’s access to abortion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
Jackie was 20 years-old, living in rural Mid-Missouri when she became unexpectedly pregnant. With little means and battling personal demons, Jackie knew it wasn’t the right time to become a mom.
“I hadn’t yet dealt with my addiction issues that stemmed from deep-rooted childhood traumas. It wasn’t until years later that I understood who I was as a woman and how to cope with the life events that lead me to addiction. There was no healthy space in that time for parenting,” Casteel remembers.
In 2003 Planned Parenthood’s Columbia, Missouri Health Center was still offering medication and surgical abortions without any mandatory waiting periods. Though, that was the year the legislature passed its first mandatory waiting period law (24 hours) which didn’t go into effect until 2006. Looking back, Jackie says her abortion was relatively accessible compared to what she would have to face today.
“At the time, I lived in a rural part of Mid-Missouri. Even with the health center 30 minutes from me, I still had to work several more weeks in order to save up enough money to afford my abortion, which meant I was farther along than I wanted to be. I know if I were in that position today, with no abortion provider in Columbia, my life would be quite different,” Casteel said.
“I wouldn’t have been able to afford to travel to either Kansas City or St. Louis to get an abortion. My circumstances would’ve forced me into a situation I was not emotionally or financially ready for, or even worse, might have led me to experiment with potentially dangerous herbal concoctions.”
TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws, passed in 2007, not only enforce medically unnecessary building codes but also require the physician to have admitting privileges at a hospital nearby, have greatly stood in the way of Planned Parenthood’s ability to continue providing abortions in Columbia. These very TRAP laws will become front and center in the Supreme Court Wednesday.
“This trip to DC is so personally important to me. I feel a responsibility to represent the countless voices in my home state as well as other states who face medically unnecessary abortion restrictions,” Casteel said.
Jackie will carry her story to Washington D.C. this week in an effort to raise awareness about what could happen to countless communities like Columbia, across the country, if the Supreme Court upholds these politically motivated laws. Just like Columbia, towns everywhere could see abortion providers disappear because of laws designed by politicians to restrict a constitutionally protected medical procedure.