The Supreme Court announced on Friday that they will re-enter the heated debate over abortion. The justices face a tough debate over restrictions placed on abortion clinics and doctors in Texas constitute an “undue burden” on women seeking legal abortions and should be struck down. A Texas victory would encourage more than a dozen other states to seek similar limits. Regardless of the outcome, the decision will be one of the most important abortion cases in the past 25 years. The Texas law which was passed in 2013 forces two requirements. Clinics providing abortion services must meet the same medical standards as ambulatory surgical centers. And doctors providing abortion services must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Emboldened by the court’s most recent action on abortion — its 2007 ruling that upheld bans on “partial-birth,” or late-term, abortions — state legislatures have enacted hundreds of restrictions in recent years. They range from 24-hour waiting periods and parental notification laws, mostly upheld by lower courts, to bans on abortion after six or 12 weeks, which courts have blocked. The number of abortions in the USA has dropped steadily, from more than 1.5 million in 1992 to slightly more than 1 million in 2011. That marked the lowest rate of abortions for women ages 15-44 since 1973. The Texas law, passed in 2013, forced more than half the state’s 46 clinics to close, and more are threatened by the latest appeals court decision. Wyoming has no abortion clinics. Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota each have one. Texas Senator Kelly Hancock said the measure was intended to protect the health of patients.
We wanted to make sure that not only those that were taking care of women’s healthcare were qualified and had admitting privileges and that the facilities they were operating in had good, commonsense improvements.”
The Supreme Court previously shot down four efforts in the past two years by Arizona, North Carolina and Wisconsin to appeal lower court rulings striking down abortion bans or restrictions on medication abortions, admitting privileges and mandatory ultrasound tests. Coincidentally, the issue will play out during next year’s presidential election, just as it did in 1992. Then, the focus on abortion rights and restrictions helped Bill Clinton against President George H.W. Bush, polls and studies suggest. The latest Gallup polls show 80% support for legal abortion in at least some circumstances, so a renewed focus could help Democrats next year.
The court has drastically changed since 1973 when the court made their decision in Roe v. Wade. No women were serving when the decision was made. This time three women join the debate, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The law’s challengers claimed the restrictions are meant to limit abortions rather than improve women’s health and would force all but 10 clinics to close in a state where about 60,000 women seek abortions annually. A federal court trial judge declared the law invalid, ruling that it would not advance the state’s interest in promoting women’s health. The justices are expected to hear the case early next year and will possibly make a decision by late June.