This morning, the Supreme Court overturned two key provisions of a Texas anti-abortion law from 2013, declaring that they posed an undue burden on Texans trying to access abortion care and that the law is unconstitutional.
In the 5-3 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the court reversed the ruling of the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had previously upheld the law. Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the liberal justices on this decision, resulting in a majority. Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.
The first provision that was struck down would have required all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. The second provision required facilities where abortions are performed to meet medically unnecessary architectural standards, such as expanding hallways and doorways and adding locker rooms.
Justice Breyer, who delivered the opinion of the court, stated:
We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.
This decision means that the 19 remaining clinics in Texas will continue to provide abortion care. If the Supreme Court had upheld the ambulatory surgical center requirement, there would have been only 10 abortion clinics left to serve over 5.4 million Texans of reproductive age.
Today’s decision has also fortified the premise of an abortion case heard by the court back in 1992. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court declared that states could pass restrictions on abortion, so long as they didn’t impose an undue burden on women.
There are still over twenty other restrictions on abortion across Texas and hundreds more around the country, including federal restrictions like the Hyde Amendment, which make abortion inaccessible for millions of low-income people. More cases like this may be challenged in the coming years as state legislatures continue pursuing abortion related legislation.