Supreme Court will hear challenge to new Texas abortion law

The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will hear oral arguments in the spring of 2016 for a case (Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole) which challenges a new state medical requirements law for Texas abortion clinics.

The international pro-choice organization Center for Reproductive Rights has been representing plaintiffs throughout the legal process, which began with an attempt to repeal the law at the district court level in 2014.

Specifically, plaintiffs are seeking to overturn two provisions which they argue will effectively leave only 10 abortion clinics open throughout the state: surgical facility-like construction standards for abortion clinics, and a requirement that would allow only doctors with admittance privileges at a local hospital to perform abortion surgery.

Currently, 22 states have surgical facility requirements and 11 have admittance privilege requirements for abortion doctors.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health advocacy group, the new requirements are not necessary to ensure the health of a woman getting an abortion because most are carried out in the first trimester of pregnancy when the risks are minimal.

Pro-abortion advocates in Texas also argue that if the new requirements are allowed to stand, all clinics west of San Antonio will be forced to close.  However, women in west Texas already use a suburban El Paso clinic in New Mexico to receive abortion services.

As for the legality of the case, justices will use precedent set in the 1992 decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the Court ruled that states can regulate abortion practices, as long as the regulations do not cause women “an undue burden”, as proscribed by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

The Supreme Court is currently split evenly on the abortion issue, with four pro-life and four pro-choice justices.  The Court’s decision will therefore likely be decided by its ninth member, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The Court will announce its ruling in June of 2016.

According to the latest poll on the issue by Gallup, a majority of Americans favor legal abortion, but “only under certain circumstances.”  29 percent think it should be “legal under any circumstances”, and 19 percent say it should be “illegal in all circumstances.”


[AP] [Politico] [Gallup] [Photo courtesy AFP]