The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a challenge to a Texas law that would leave the state with about 10 abortion clinics, down from more than 40. The court has not heard a major abortion case since 2007, and the new case has the potential to affect millions of women and to revise the constitutional principles governing abortion rights.
The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, No. 15-274, could provide the Supreme Court with an opportunity to clarify its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which said states may not place undue burdens on the constitutional right to abortion before fetal viability. The court said undue burdens included “unnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion.”Texas legislators said that the contested provisions were needed to protect women’s health. Abortion providers responded that the regulations were expensive, unnecessary and a ruse intended to put many of them out of business.
Casey was a huge victory for abortion-rights advocates because it ended up reaffirming the constitutional right to an abortion that the court established in Roe v. Wade in 1973.
In 2007, a divided court upheld a federal law that bans an abortion procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion and opened the door to new limits on abortion.
There should be a decision handed down next spring or summer... just in time to become an issue in the presidential election.
If the Roberts Court rules against abortion providers and their patients, it could leave Texas with only ten clinics, forcing more than 75 percent of the clinics in the state to close. Mississippi will lose its only clinic, and anti-abortion lawmakers in states that have not yet passed similar requirements will no doubt be emboldened to push for them.
Abortion access nationwide quite literally hangs in the balance.
Update: The early line.
The outcome in this case is likely to come down to the vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Though Kennedy typically votes with opponents of abortion, he voted to grant a temporary stay preventing Texas’s anti-abortion law from going into effect. So this case might be one of the rare cases where Kennedy determines that an abortion restriction goes too far.
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