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Supreme Court to hear challenge to Texas law regulating abortion care

Pro-life demonstrators stand outside the US Supreme Court.
Pro-life demonstrators stand outside the US Supreme Court.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

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The Supreme Court is giving an election-year hearing to a dispute over state regulation of abortion clinics in the court's first abortion case in eight years.

The justices said Friday they will hear arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, probably in March, over a Texas law that would leave about 10 abortion clinics open across the state. A decision should come by late June, four months before the presidential election.

The issue split the court 5-4 the last time the justices decided an abortion case in 2007, and Justice Anthony Kennedy is expected to hold the controlling vote on a divided court.

The case tests whether tough new standards for clinics and the doctors who work in them are reasonable measures intended to protect women's health or a pretext designed to make abortions hard, if not impossible, to obtain.

Abortion rights supporters say the law - H.B. 2 - would close 75 percent of clinics in the state. The two controversial provisions include requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away, and requiring abortion clinics to to have facilities equal to an outpatient surgical center.

In 1973, the Roe v. Wade ruling established that states cannot create "undue burdens" or "substantial obstacles" restricting abortion access.

With files from the Associated Press.


Dahlia Lithwick, senior legal editor for Slate

Stephanie Toti, lead attorney for the plaintiffs in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole and senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights

John Eastman, Ph.D., Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service at Chapman University Fowler School of Law