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Supreme Court rejects Texas abortion law
2016-06-27

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In what has called its most significant ruling in years, the U.S. Supreme Court, on June 27, rejected a Texas abortion-access law.

The five-to-three decision is seen as a victory for supporters of abortion rights who argued it would have close all but a few clinics in the state.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion, and was joined in full by Justice Anthony Kennedy—considered the swing vote on the abortion issue.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Breyer's opinion and wrote a brief concurring opinion, which focused on what she called women in "desperate circumstances."

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton immediately praised the ruling, tweeting, "SCOTUS's decision is a victory for women in Texas and across America. Safe abortion should be a right—not just on paper, but in reality. -H."

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were among those dissenting.

Lambda Legal Hails U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Protecting Access to Abortion

(Washington, D.C., June, 27, 2016) — Today, in a 5-3 decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down two provisions of a Texas anti-abortion law that, if allowed to go into effect, would have forced 75 percent of Texas abortion clinics to close. Lambda Legal, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the abortion providers, clinics and their patients, applauded today's decision.

"Today the Court affirmed that the Constitution protects the right to abortion, and clarified that the test used by the Court to determine whether an abortion restriction is unconstitutional —the 'undue burden' standard—is a rigorous test," said Camilla Taylor, Counsel at Lambda Legal. "When a state legislature passes a law restricting abortion, claiming that the law serves women's health, courts have an independent constitutional duty to scrutinize the legislation closely to determine whether the health justification is simply a pretext, and the law actually serves little or no health-related benefit."

Lambda Legal submitted a friend-of-the-court brief that encouraged the Court to scrutinize closely the legislative justifications for abortion restrictions. "This victory is a crucial win not just for women but for LGBT people as well, who also can need access to abortion services," added Taylor. "The landmark Supreme Court cases on which both LGBT people and women (whether LBT or not) depend for vindication of their constitutional guarantees of liberty and equality share a common doctrinal foundation. Additionally, women, whether LBT or not, share a common history of subordination and discrimination, including through application and enforcement of sex stereotypes, such as those reflected by anti-abortion regulations. As LGBT people know all too well, when government interferes with individual autonomy in decisions about family life, intimacy, and procreation, government stigmatizes people and deprives them of equal dignity. This ruling protects the dignity and equality of everyone who needs abortion services, and is a tremendous victory for reproductive justice. We congratulate our colleagues at the Center for Reproductive Rights on this significant win."

Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt involved a challenge to two provisions of HB2, a Texas anti-abortion bill that passed in July 2013: 1) a requirement that a physician performing or inducing an abortion have admitting privileges at a hospital located no more than 30 miles from the location where the abortion is induced; and 2) an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) licensing requirement, which mandates that abortion clinics meet structural and operational standards appropriate for mini hospitals. These provisions do not enhance patient safety or health, and serve only to make it harder for women to end a pregnancy.

Lambda Legal lawyers on the brief include Camilla B. Taylor, Kyle A. Palazzolo, Susan L. Sommer, Jennifer C. Pizer, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, and Kara Ingelhart, in addition to Lambda Legal fellow Caroline Sacerdote.

Statement of Lorie Chaiten, Director, Reproductive Right Project, ACLU of Illinois

This morning, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision, struck down two Texas laws that sought to limit all meaningful access to abortion care in the state by imposing medically unnecessary and burdensome requirements on abortion providers. The Supreme Court's decisions blocks enforcement of the Texas laws — mirrored in a number of other states — and reinforces the Court's decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey which held that states may not place "substantial obstacles" in the paths of women seeking abortion care.

The following may be attributed to Lorie Chaiten of the ACLU of Illinois:

The Court's decision today is a strong rejection of the efforts of legislatures across the country to shut down abortion care under the guise of protecting women. As Justice Ginsburg noted in her concurring opinion, the Texas laws— demanding that doctors in abortion clinics have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that the clinics themselves become the functional equivalent of small hospitals — were not intended to advance women's health, but had the purpose and effect of making it more difficult for women in Texas to get abortions.

We are pleased that the Court has spoken directly to the effort to limit meaningful access to abortion care in the United States. This is a good day for women in America.

NCLR Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Decision Upholding Abortion Rights

(Washington D.C., June 27, 2016)—Today the U.S. Supreme Court struck down two restrictions on abortion enacted by the State of Texas in 2013 that would have shut down three quarters of the clinics in the nation's second-largest state. The 5-3 decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, upholding the constitutional rights of Texas women, will allow the remaining clinics in the state to keep their doors open and clear a path for other clinics to open or reopen to meet the needs of those who need abortion care across the state.

Statement by NCLR Policy Director Julianna S. Gonen:

"As it did one year ago in our landmark case that brought marriage equality to the nation, today the United States Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional protections that secure some of the most personal decisions one can make—decisions around family formation. Whether choosing a life partner or determining whether to continue or end a pregnancy, the liberties enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment are fundamental and cannot be legislated away by politicians. Today's ruling struck down unconstitutional regulations imposed by Texas on abortion clinics. Those clinics can now resume providing essential reproductive health care, as well as care to the LGBT community, which often turns to these providers as vital sources of compassionate and affirming care."

The National LGBTQ Task Force statement:

Washington DC, June 27 2016: "Abortion rights are LGBTQ rights, and today's historic decision reaffirms one of our most important constitutional freedoms. The opinion is an outright win for reproductive justice. Clearly the Texas law in question was not only morally wrong but was legally an undue burden," said Candace Bond, Policy Counsel, Reproductive Rights/Health/Justice, National LGBTQ Task Force


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