The justices appeared to be closely divided on the merits of the case, and with the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the possibility is there that the court will not be able to reach a majority decision.
It is the most significant abortion case since 1992, when the justices, including Anthony Kennedy, upheld the landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling but declared states may regulate abortion as long as they do not put an “undue burden” on women seeking to end a pregnancy.
Wednesday’s case focuses on a part of the law that has yet to go into effect requiring abortion clinics in Texas to have hospital-grade facilities – a requirement that would require costly upgrades at many providers’ offices. That means the crucial issue may be not how many women will have to drive how much farther to get abortions as a result of H.B.
“The 5th Circuit was on firm legal ground in its decision, and we have asked the Supreme Court to affirm it. The law’s requirements are common-sense protections that ensure the maximum amount of safety for women”, Aden added.
However, a such ruling leaving the Texas law intact could encourage other states with anti-abortion legislatures to pass similar laws.
The US Supreme Court has heard arguments in a controversial abortion case that may have implications for millions of women across the country. Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned the Texas argument that the restrictions don’t create an undue burden because women can travel to a clinic across state lines in New Mexico, where such restrictions are not in place. Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, said that ‘it took a while to see the impact of state laws imposing policies on abortion providers’.
While the court’s conservative justices wanted proof the law led to clinic closings, the liberal wing questioned why Texas holds abortions to a different and more expensive safety standard than higher-risk procedures like liposuction and colonoscopies.
The first already kicked in, requiring abortion providers to have local hospital admitting privileges.
“I ought to know something about women’s health, and I will tell you that there is no such thing as a safe abortion”, Black said. Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito said, “As to some of them, there’s information that [abortion clinics] closed for reasons that had nothing to do with this law”.
Texas Solicitor Scott Keller said that there may be complications, even with a medical abortion.
The three women on the court and Justice Stephen Breyer repeatedly asked why Texas needed to enact the 2013 law. The ambulatory surgical centers that HB2 requires abortions to be performed in, for example, mandate wider hallways, larger operating rooms and more anesthesia resources than typical clinics. The state has pointed to the fact that major cities in Texas still have abortion clinics, and it claims those clinics can meet the demand for the procedure.
Justice Kennedy was the clear swing vote in Wednesday’s hearing.
Attorneys for the state admitted in federal court that the law’s intent is to reduce abortions.
At one point, Kennedy expressed some discomfort with a possible increase in surgical abortions because the law placed new restrictions on medically induced abortions. Should Hillary Clinton win the presidential election in November, Kennedy’s vote won’t matter, since whoever she picks to replace Scalia will side with the Court’s liberal wing to overturn H.B. 2.