Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Abortion Law in a Victory for Abortion Rights

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-3 to strike down a Texas abortion law in a victory for abortion rights. From the ruling:  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT [June 27, 2016] JUSTICE BREYER delivered the opinion of the Court. In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833, 878 (1992), a plurality of the Court concluded that there “exists” an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to decide to have an abortion, and consequently a provision of law is constitutionally invalid, if the “purpose or effect” of the provision “is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” (Emphasis added.) The plurality added that “[u]nnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right.” Ibid. We must here decide whether two provisions of Texas’ House Bill 2 violate the Federal Constitution as interpreted in Casey. The first provision, which we shall call the “admitting-privileges requirement,” says that “[a] physician performing or inducing an abortion . . . must, on the date the abortion is performed or induced, have active admitting privileges at a hospital 2 WHOLE WOMAN’S HEALTH v. HELLERSTEDT Opinion of the Court that . . . is located not further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced.” Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. §171.0031(a) (West Cum. Supp. 2015). This provision amended Texas law that had previously required an abortion facility to maintain a written protocol “for managing medical emergencies and the transfer of patients requiring further emergency care to a hospital.” 38 Tex. Reg. 6546 (2013). The second provision, which we shall call the “surgical center requirement,” says that “the minimum standards for an abortion facility must be equivalent to the minimum standards adopted under [the Texas Health and Safety Code section] for ambulatory surgical centers.” Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. §245.010(a). 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 a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, Casey, supra, at 878 (plurality opinion), and each violates the Federal Constitution. Amdt. 14, §1.

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