A devastating defeat for religious conservatives and a major victory for abortion rights supporters.
Today the Supreme Court struck down a restrictive Texas law that imposed significant restrictions on access to abortion clinics and threatened to deny millions of women the right to a safe abortion.
The ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellersted found that the Texas law was written in bad faith, and that the medically unnecessary restrictions contained in the law constitute an undue burden.
The 5-3 decision struck down a Texas law passed in 2013, which mandated that clinics providing abortion services meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Supporters of the law argued it was written for the safety of women, but rational observers and other critics of the law have been quick to point out that the law was written in bad faith, meant more to shut down abortion clinics than to improve the safety of abortion.
Writing the majority opinion, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said:
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.
Breyer was joined in the majority by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Anthony M. Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas dissented.The ruling is a significant victory for abortion rights activists and a major defeat for religious conservatives trying to deny women access to safe and legal abortions.
Writing for Salon, Amanda Marcotte notes:
This decision will set back the anti-choice movement at least a decade. For years now, the movement has put nearly all of its energies behind efforts to whittle abortion out of existence through these disingenuous regulations that reduce abortion access under the guise of “women’s health.”
Marcotte is correct, in numerous states religious conservatives have been passing and promoting laws designed to deny women access to abortion under the pretext of protecting women’s health.
Commenting on the decision, Nicholas Little, Legal Director for the Center for Inquiry, said:
The zealots behind the Texas law thought they could do an end run around Roe v. Wade by feigning concern for women’s safety and fabricating unscientific testimony. They failed utterly. The fight is not over, and we will continue to work toward the day when the religious right will have to give up on trying to control the lives of women. That will be a good day.
Bottom line: this is a major victory for secular Americans, and a major defeat for Christian conservatives trying to deny women access to safe and legal abortion.