In a 5-3 ruling, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-abortion law on Monday and finds that it puts “undue burden” on a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
The case, “Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt,” is the first abortion case the High Court has considered in more than 20 years.
The law in question, HB2, requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and abortion clinics to have similar building standards as ambulatory surgical centers. The medical benefit of this regulation has been widely questioned.
“The facts are that an abortion is a very safe procedure,” said Emily Martin, general counsel with the National Women’s Law Center. “These rules in Texas actually had the impact of making abortion more dangerous, because they meant women were not able to access abortion until later in their pregnancies.”
Not everyone celebrated the justices’ ruling.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Linda Schleuter, president of the nonprofit Trinity Legal Center, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of the respondents in the case. “Texas has tried to do what was best for women, but the court has changed the legal standard. It came to a conclusion that, I think, politically it wanted to come to, but basically it wasn’t based on prior procedural law.”
With only eight justices on the bench, many observers had expected a deadlocked decision. But Justice Kennedy, as in so many important cases in the last couple years, provided the swing vote that tipped the ruling.
Frank Colucci, a political scientist who has written a book about Justice Kennedy, said that
Kennedy has largely voted to uphold state legislation to regulate abortion in the past, making his vote Monday somewhat surprising. His central role in the decision, however, was anything but.
“Kennedy has been a critical role in the abortion cases since he’s been on the court,” said Colucci.
David Savage, Supreme Court reporter, Los Angeles Times
Linda Schlueter, President of Trinity Legal Center, a nonprofit litigation and legislation support center focused on women’s reproductive health issues based in San Antonio, Texas. It filed an amicus brief on behalf of the respondents in the case
Emily Martin, General Counsel with the National Women’s Law Center, which has filed an amicus brief on behalf of the petitioners in the case
Frank Colucci, author of the book, “Justice Kennedy’s Jurisprudence: The Full and Necessary Meaning of Liberty” (University Press of Kansas, 2009), and an associate professor political science at Purdue University Northwest in Indiana