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The Supreme Court is About to Rule on a Major Abortion Case

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Next week, the Supreme Court is set to deliver a ruling on its biggest abortion case in decades, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which could potentially determine the future of abortion access across the country.

The case is challenging a Texas anti-abortion bill from 2013, known as HB2, which has resulted in the closure of more than half of all abortion clinics in the state, leaving 750,000 Texans at least 200 miles away from the nearest clinic.

Two provisions of HB2 in particular will be decided by the court: the admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements. The first provision states that abortion providers must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. The second provision requires facilities where abortions are performed to meet unnecessary architectural standards, such as expanding hallways and doorways and adding locker rooms.

These requirements have been denounced by many, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). In a letter to the Supreme Court ahead of the oral arguments on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the President of ACOG, Mark S. DeFrancesco, wrote, “As women’s health physicians, we fundamentally believe that in order to keep abortion safe, we must keep it both legal and accessible. Without question, allowing state governments to impose restrictions that are not medically necessary will only make it harder for women to access the safe abortion care that they need.”

Depending on how the court rules, this case could result in only one or both of the provisions in HB2 to be upheld or struck down. The ruling could apply only to Texas, lifting the restrictions and allowing clinics to reopen, or leaving 5.4 million Texans of reproductive age with only nine abortion clinics.

The fact that the court has only eight justices on the bench could also impact the outcome of the case. If the court is split 4:4 on the decision, then a prior ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will be upheld, leaving the Texas law in place, but also leaving the door open for similar cases challenging abortion restrictions to be heard again in the future.  

The most important thing to remember is that Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is not about determining the legality of having an abortion; rather, it will determine what the states can or can’t do to regulate and restrict abortion, which impacts if a person is able to access it at all.

Stay tuned and check back for information about how the Supreme Court rules on this case and what that means for you.