The US supreme court on Monday struck down one of the harshest abortion restrictions in the country and potentially paved the way to overturn dozens of measures in other states that curtail access, in what might be the most significant legal victory for reproductive rights advocates since the right to abortion was established in 1973.This is key:
The 5-3 ruling will immediately prevent Texas from enforcing a law that would have closed all but nine abortion clinics. But in a coup for abortion rights supporters, the court also in effect barred lawmakers from passing health measures backed by dubious medical evidence as a way of forcing large numbers of abortion clinics to close.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the opinion for the majority and was joined by justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, andAnthony Kennedy, whose support was key to determining if the liberal or conservative bloc of the court would prevail.
“We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes,” Breyer’s opinion read. “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.”
The case began in 2013, when Texas Republicans, on the heels of an 11-hour filibuster by state senator Wendy Davis, passed one of the most expansive abortion restrictions in the country. The bill, known as House Bill 2, requires abortion providers to have staff privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic and requires clinics to meet expensive, hospital-like building and equipment standards.
Lawmakers claimed these were critical safety measures. But abortion providers argued that HB 2 was a gambit designed to shut clinics down in large numbers. On the day the admitting privileges requirement took effect, in November 2013, the number of Texas abortion clinics plummeted from 41 to 22. Today, there are 18. Had the requirement for clinics to meet hospital-like rules gone into effect, another nine would have shut down. Last year, the four liberal justices plus Justice Anthony Kennedy blocked that requirement until the court could resolve the case.
Around the country, highly similar laws in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin threatened to shutter another 13 abortion clinics.
Monday’s ruling could give abortion providers in those states ammunition to have those laws struck down in the lower courts.
On Monday, the majority ruled that courts should in fact scrutinize the medical evidence behind burdensome abortion restrictions.This can devastate the full spectrum of bogus anti-abortion laws, including the cruel and unnecessary vaginal probe ultrasounds for early abortions required by many states. (The Pennsylvania version never passed. Nonetheless, the anti-abortionists in the state house never give up and just passed this:)