While hundreds rallied in Washington, D.C., dozens watched in Austin as controversial abortion restrictions passed under Texas House Bill 2 get their day at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Justice Anthony Kennedy provided the vote in the 1992 case that bolstered the abortion right that the court declared in Roe v. Wade in 1973.
If Kennedy votes with the three remaining conservatives, the court will be evenly divided and unable to issue an opinion. One of the regulations before the court also mandates any physician to provide “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic they work in.
The best that supporters of the law could hope for would be a 4-4 split that would let stand a lower-court ruling that affirmed the Texas regulations but set no nationwide legal precedent on whether other states could enact similar measures. “What evidence is there that under the prior law, the prior law was not sufficiently protective of the women’s health?” “The possibility of holding it over and rehearing in November when there’s still only eight Justices becomes less attractive to the Court”. There were no abortion clinics in 93 percent of Texas counties, and 35 percent of the state’s women lived in those counties. Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Jennifer Elrod rejected the clinics’ argument that the appeals court should heed earlier Supreme Court action preventing Texas from fully implementing the regulations.
Since the Republican-backed regulations was passed in 2013, many abortion clinics in Texas have closed. Texas says it is trying to protect women’s health in rules that require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
As for the other jurists, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued, “What it’s about is that a woman has a fundamental right to make this choice for herself”.
“They’ve oftentimes caused women to have to turn to their own means to self-induce in some of the communities”, added Amy Hagstrom Miller, the chief plaintiff in the case and CEO of Whole Women’s Health.
But Justice Elena Kagan said the facts of what has happened as the case has worked its way through the legal process answered the questions.
Only Justice Clarence Thomas did not ask any questions.
Since there would be well-equipped abortion facilities in the state’s major metropolitan areas, Roberts said it was not clear the law posed a “substantial obstacle” for women who seek an abortion.
Verrilli seemed to score points with Kennedy when he said the remaining clinics that met the ambulatory surgical requirements – already required in Texas for second-trimester abortions – could not meet the demand.
In a sign that he was not comfortable with aspects of the law, Kennedy sounded concerned about a possible increase in surgical abortions prompted in part by the state’s separate new restrictions on medically induced abortions, in which women take pills to terminate a pregnancy.