Supreme Court Abolishes Controversial Texas Abortion Law
The law required abortion clinics to meet the standards of outpatient surgical centers
In a monumental ruling on Monday, the Supreme Court voted 5-3 to eliminate a 2013 Texas law regulating the state’s abortion clinics – the biggest decision on the controversial topic by the country’s highest judicial body in decades, reported the Wall Street Journal.
The court ruled that a 2013 law signed in by then-Texas gov. Rick Perry – and known as H.B. 2 – led to an “undue burden” on women’s right to an abortion.
According to the law, Texas abortion clinics had to meet the standards of outpatient surgical centers, and their physicians had to maintain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, reported the WSJ. Pro-choice supporters charged that the regulations would force most of the state’s clinics to be shuttered.
“Neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court’s majority, according to the WSJ. “Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a pre-viability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the federal Constitution.”
Also in the majority were Justice Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were among the dissenters. Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat has remained open since his February death, as Republicans have opted not to act on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.
Alito said that the two provisions addressed should have been dealt with separately, and wanted to have the laws sent back to lower courts to be decided.
In response to the ruling, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted, “SCOTUS’s decision is a victory for women in Texas and across America. Safe abortion should be a right – not just on paper, but in reality.”
The National Institute for Reproductive Health was also pleased with the outcome, with president Andrea Miller saying in a statement obtained by PEOPLE, “The highest court in the land has reaffirmed that our constitution protects a woman’s ability to make such fundamental and important life decisions as whether and when to have a child, and that no matter where she lives, access to abortion is an essential part of that right.”
Miller continued, “Now we must build on this powerful momentum, working with our partners and allies in Texas and across the country, to dismantle hundreds of other unjustified laws against abortion and enact new laws that ensure that every woman can access abortion with the compassion, respect, and dignity she deserves.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan issued his stance on the decision on social media, writing on Twitter, “I’m disappointed in the Court’s decision. But our fight to protect women’s health & promote life will not stop here.”
The ruling will have major implications on other states attempting to pass future laws that would challenge the premise of Roe v. Wade, CNN reported.
“By clarifying exactly what the ‘undue burden’ test requires, I suspect the majority was hoping to dissuade states like Oklahoma from continuing to pass laws that so directly challenge the central premise of Roe v. Wade – that the Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s right to an abortion in a meaningful percentage of cases,” Steve Vladeck, professor of law at American University Washington College of Law, told CNN.
Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump has yet to react to the ruling.