US Supreme Court Strikes Down Abortion Restrictions

June 29, 2016

The court rules that Texas law placed “an undue burden on abortion access.”

There’s good news for women’s reproductive health in the United States.

In what’s being hailed as the most important ruling on an abortion case in decades, the US Supreme Court has struck down Texas House Bill 2, which placed restrictions on abortion providers and resulted in the closure of nearly half the state’s abortion clinics since its passage in 2013.

Texas law required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and mandated that all abortion clinics meet the requirements to be considered ambulatory surgical centers. It also put restrictions on medically induced abortions and prohibited abortions after 20 weeks gestation.

The arguments heard by the Supreme Court addressed the hospital admitting privilege and ambulatory surgical center requirements. Medical providers successfully argued that these requirements were not medically necessary and significantly limited women’s access to abortions, effectively endangering their lives.

The three women justices—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan—along with justice Stephen Breyer, who penned the majority opinion, relentlessly questioned lawyers about the validity of the Texas law. The court deliberated for three months before delivering the ruling on Monday. Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and justice Anthony Kennedy ruled that the law was unconstitutional, with justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito dissenting.

“We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking [an abortion] . . . each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access . . . and each violates the Federal Constitution.”

As of October 2015, only 22 abortion clinics remained in Texas, down from 41 in the two years since the law took effect. As a result, women seeking abortions were faced with long wait times for an appointment and an average 70-mile drive each way to visit an abortion clinic. Because of state-mandated ultrasounds and counseling followed by a 24-hour waiting period, having an abortion—which, let us emphasize, is a safe, legal medical procedure—became an increasingly expensive hassle.

The Supreme Court ruling is a victory for women’s health and women’s rights. “Today, women across the nation have had their constitutional rights vindicated. The Supreme Court sent a loud and clear message that politicians cannot use deceptive means to shut down abortion clinics,” said Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Comment: How do you feel about this week’s ruling?

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