Supreme Court to Hear Texas Abortion Law Case
By William G. Hodge
For the first time since 2007, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear its first major abortion case that would affect millions of women as it pertains to the constitutional provisions governing abortion rights.
The case in question concerns a challenge to Texas law that would force the nation’s second-most-populous state to close a majority of its forty-two clinics because of the strict requirements imposed on abortion providers. The law would require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers and mandates that a doctor have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the facility where he or she performs.
The Texas lawmakers reason that the measures would ensure that Texas women are not subjected to substandard conditions at abortion facilities. Meanwhile, the abortion providers contest that the regulations are expensive, unnecessary, and intended to put many of the providers out of business. Furthermore, abortion advocates say that the regulation would create an undue burden on the constitutional right to abortion because, the regulation would close all of the facilities west of San Antonio and cluster the facilities in four metropolitan areas: Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.
This case’s decision, which should be expected in June of 2016, could turn out to be the third installment in a legal trilogy on the scope of the constitutional right to abortion after Roe v. Wade in 1973 and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.
The lower courts are divided over whether they should accept lawmakers’ assertions about the health benefits of abortion restrictions at face value or investigate to determine whether the assertions are backed by evidence.
In June, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, largely upheld the contested provisions of the Texas law, using the more deferential approach. A panel of the court ruled that the law, with minor exceptions, did not place an undue burden on the right to abortion.
This case’s decision is important because of its legal implications on a constitutional right but also political as the presidential campaign enters its final stretch, thrusting the divisive issue of abortion to the forefront of public debate.