2016 June 27

Supreme Court Strikes Down Extreme Texas Abortion Law; Finds “Undue Burden” on Women

 The Supreme Court, in a dramatic decision, declared unconstitutional an extreme Texas abortion law on the grounds that its regulations imposed an “undue burden” on a woman’s access to abortion. The decision in Women’s Whole Health v. Hellerstedt, was 5-3, with Justice Anthony Kennedy providing the key vote that avoided a 4-4 tie vote, which would have sustained the Fifth Circuit Court decision upholding the Texas Law. There were only eight justices because of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the failure of the Republican-controlled Senate to confirm a replacement.
The “undue burden” test was established by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey (June 19, 1992).
One of the most onerous requirements of the Texas law was that abortion clinic doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital with ___ miles. The Supreme Court accepted that plaintiffs’ evidence and argument that the low rate of medical risks to patients undergoing an abortion did not justify the requirement: “The record contains adequate legal and factual support for the District Court’s conclusion that the admitting privileges requirement imposes an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose.”

Another onerous requirement of the Texas law was that abortion clinics must meet the same standards as full hospital surgical centers. The Court found this requirement unsupported by the evidence on the risks of abortion: “The surgical-center requirement also provides few, if any,health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an“undue burden” on their constitutional right to do so.”

Read: N. E. H. Hull and Peter Charles Hoffer, The Abortion Rights Controversy in American History (2010)

Read about abortion in America before Roe: Linda Greenhouse and Riva Siegel, Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling (2010)

Read about the history of reproductive rights: David Garrow, Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade (1994)

A timeline of the history of abortion in America: http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/history_abortion.html

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