The arguments were made before a high court at a crossroads, short one member after the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, in a session that showcased an ideological divide on the bench.
The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, is challenging a 2013 Texas law that requires doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and that requires clinics to follow the same standards as ambulatory care centers, which are more expensive to maintain and have specific requirements such as hallway widths and medical staff qualifications. “And 11 other states have laws requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges near their clinics, but six of those cases are facing court challenges”, the Independent Journal reports. The court has pending appeals from both states on whether those laws can go into effect.
The two most significant abortion cases the court has decided – Roe v. Wade, in 1973, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in 1992 – found that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, at least prior to viability, but also found that states have a legitimate interest in regulating abortion.
“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.
According to Seago, “We saw the liberal justices, whom we expect to oppose this legislation, really trying to change the role of the Court” by reviewing the medical evidence for the law themselves – a role normally reserved to the Legislature. Many women would have to travel hundreds of miles to get there, Ginsburg said.
Abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Wednesday.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the four liberal justices expressed opposition to the law, Reuters reported. “And when over 210 women annually are hospitalize due to abortion, Texas can”, said Scott Keller, Texas Solicitor General.
All of the justices agreed on Wednesday that the law had to fall if it imposed the “undue burden” established in an earlier case. Sotomayor asked. Then, ignoring Roberts’ signals for the lawyer to wrap up, Sotomayor said it plainly: “This law was targeted at abortion only”. Scalia consistently supported abortion restrictions, NBC reported. Additionally, the state law forces clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.
The court’s decision is expected in June, which, as the New York Times points out, will be just “as the presidential campaign enters its final stretch, thrusting the divisive issue of abortion to the forefront of public debate”.
“This is all about women’s health and quality of care for whatever kind of decision they choose to make”, said Rep. Jodie Lautenberg, R-Texas.
In 90 minutes of intense arguments, the court’s liberals and conservatives signaled that there’s little common ground as they try to figure out what to do about rules that Texas says are aimed at promoting women’s health.
If the law is allowed to stand, the 10 remaining clinics will be centered in four metropolitan areas – Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio. “This may not be medically wise, ” Kennedy said. If Justice Kennedy concludes that the Texas laws are permissible, the court will likely divide 4-4, affirming the lower court opinion and leaving the regulations in effect, but making no law for the rest of the country. 2 is that in order to perform abortions legally, clinics must be regulated as Ambulatory Surgical Centers.