This Monday, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law ("H.B. 2") that imposed strict requirements on abortion clinics.
There was an elephant in the room: Texas claimed it was acting to protect the health of women, while many suspected the state was resorting to pretext to stop abortions.
The law required doctors at Texas clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and clinics to meet the standards of "ambulatory surgical centers"—mini hospitals. Since 2013, when the law was passed, the number of Texas abortion providers plunged from 42 to 19.
But according to a previous case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a state cannot place an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions in order to stop them.
Justice Ginsburg wrote, "It is beyond rational belief that HB 2 could genuinely protect the health of women."
The Texas governor tacitly confirmed the original suspicion in his response: "Texas' goal is to protect innocent life, while ensuring the highest health and safety standards for women."
How does it affect you?
If you live in the U.S., you likely felt some effects of this verdict. The decision echoed across the country, as courts in states with similar laws refused appeals and blocked restrictions. The Alabama attorney general announced he would not defend his state's law, saying "there is no good faith argument that Alabama's law remains constitutional in light of the Supreme Court ruling."
The case, called Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, is likely to affect the presidential election as well. Donald Trump responded that if he were to fill the vacant Court seat, "you wouldn’t have had that."
For this debate, we used the actual opinions from both sides of the 5-to-3 Supreme Court case:
Was the Supreme Court right to strike down Texas law H.B. 2, which imposed strict requirements on abortion clinics?
Today the Court strikes down two state statutory provisions in all of their applications, at the behest of abortion clinics and doctors. That decision exemplifies the Court’s troubling tendency “to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue."
Ordinarily, plaintiffs cannot file suits to vindicate the constitutional rights of others. But the Court employs a different approach to rights that it favors.
This case also underscores the Court’s increasingly common practice of invoking a given level of scrutiny—
here, the abortion-specific undue burden standard—while applying a different standard of review entirely. Whatever scrutiny the majority applies to Texas’ law, it bears little resemblance to the undue-burden test the Court articulated in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and its successors. Instead, the majority eviscerates important features of that test to return to a regime like the one that Casey repudiated.
The Texas law called H. B. 2 inevitably will reduce the number of clinics and doctors allowed to provide abortion services. Texas argues that H. B. 2’s restrictions are constitutional because they protect the health of women who experience complications from abortions. In truth, “complications from an abortion are both rare and rarely dangerous.”
Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory surgical center or hospital admitting privileges requirements.
Given those realities, it is beyond rational belief that H. B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law “would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.”
So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey laws like H. B. 2 that “do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,” cannot survive judicial inspection.
- The Supreme Court opinions in full
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott's statement
- Ripple effects across the country
- Hillary Clinton's response
- Donald Trump's response