As expected, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of one of the many cases in the federal courts challenging Targeted Restriction of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws. The cert they granted is a challenge to a law passed in Texas that, if it is allowed to stand, would make abortion far more difficult for women to get in that state, especially in rural areas.
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to re-enter the national debate over abortion.
The justices will decide whether tough new restrictions placed on abortion clinics and doctors in Texas constitute an “undue burden” on women seeking legal abortions and should be struck down.
The restrictions — forcing doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and requiring clinics to meet standards for outpatient surgery centers — threaten to leave the state with only 10 clinics clustered in four population centers and along the Mexican border. A similar law in Mississippi threatens to close that state’s lone abortion clinic.
Whatever the justices decide next year will help clarify the court’s 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, when a deeply divided court upheld the right to abortion while letting states impose restrictions that do not block women from obtaining services. The case is expected to be heard in March and decided in June.“This is an historic moment,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of several abortion clinics. “This will be the most important abortion rights case before the Supreme Court in almost 25 years,”
“It’s overdue,” said Steven Aden, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which has submitted briefs on behalf of several states in the legal battle. “The Casey standard is unworkable and was ill-designed to begin with. We have more litigation now over the meaning of the Casey standard than we’ve ever had.”
Most people don’t realize that Roe v Wade really isn’t the controlling case regarding abortion anymore. Some elements of it are still in place, but it’s really Casey that controls things. Under that case, states can’t outlaw abortion entirely, but they are free to pass restrictions that make it far more difficult to exercise that right as long as they don’t pose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose. Of course, what constitutes an “undue burden” is rather subjective and dependent on the whims of court. As always, this one will come down to Justice Kennedy.