The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision announced June 27, struck down a Texas law regarding safety regulations for abortion clinics. Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt was the high court’s first major abortion decision in nine years (when it upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act). Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority decision for the court, with Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagen joining him. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.
House Bill 2 was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry in 2013. The law required that all clinics performing abortions be held to the same safety standards as certified “ambulatory surgical centers.” Additionally, abortion doctors were required to have admitting privileges at nearly hospitals. The law has since saved the lives of thousands of unborn children and ensured protection for women.
Texas abortion clinics, including abortion giant Planned Parenthood, filed suit and the law was originally struck down. However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s ruling and upheld the law. The case then went to the Supreme Court.
Justice Clarence Thomas decried the ruling, saying, “Today the Court strikes down two state statutory provisions in all of their applications, at the behest of abortion clinics and doctors. That decision exemplifies the court’s troubling tendency ‘to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.’” He added, “I write separately to emphasize how today’s decision perpetuates the Court’s habit of applying different rules to different constitutional rights — especially the putative right to abortion.”
In the majority opinion, Justice Breyer wrote, “We agree with the District Court that the surgical center requirement, like the admitting-privileges requirement, provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”
Hillary Clinton, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, applauded the decision as “a victory for women.” She tweeted, “This fight isn’t over. The next president has to protect women’s health. Women won’t be ‘punished’ for exercising their basic rights.”
Alliance for Defending Freedom’s attorney Steve Aden, pointed out the ruling’s endangerment of women. “Abortionists shouldn’t be given a free pass to elude medical requirements that everyone else is required to follow. We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has ruled against a law so clearly designed to protect the health and safety of women in the wake of the Kermit Gosnell scandal. The law’s requirements were commonsense protections that ensured the maximum amount of protection for women, who deserve to have their well-being treated by government as a higher priority than the bottom line of abortionists.”
“Sadly, women seeking abortions in Texas will be in greater danger after today’s Supreme Court ruling,” explained Gayle Atteberry, Oregon Right to Life executive director. “The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 against a Texas law which mandated abortion clinics abide by the same health and safety standards as all other ambulatory surgical health clinics. Two provisions of this law were challenged by Whole Women’s Health, an abortion facility, saying that it created an ‘undue burden’ for women seeking an abortion. The two provisions required that abortionists have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility and that clinics abide by the minimum standards required of other ambulatory surgical facilities in Texas.
“The only ‘burden’ this law created was for the abortion clinics, which would have had to bring their dangerous facilities up to state and health safety standards.” Women seeking abortions will continue to have abortions in clinics which are unregulated and require no state health and safety inspections. Planned Parenthood has even admitted that nearly 200 Texas women annually need hospitalization following botched abortions. There is no reason now to think this number will change.”
Unfortunately, women seeking abortions in Oregon remain in the same jeopardy as Texas women. “In Oregon, abortion clinics remain completely unregulated,” stated Ms. Atteberry. “Abortion advocates have fought vehemently against legislation which would require Oregon abortion clinics to come up to the health and safety standards of all other ambulatory surgical centers. At the present time, tattoo parlors and veterinary clinics are regulated by the state and are safer to enter than an abortion clinic.”
The Court’s decision illustrates the critical importance of judicial appointments in this year’s presidential election.