The U.S. Supreme Court heard its first abortion case in over 20 years on March 2, 2016. The case dealt with a law enacted by the Texas state legislature which, according to the plaintiffs, degrades and obstructs a woman’s ability to exercise her rights to terminate a pregnancy.
In 2013, Texas lawmakers passed legislation that requires abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals and to outfit themselves as ambulatory surgical centers.
If enforced, the law will shut down clinics across the state, effectively eliminating 75 percent of the abortion services available in the state. Texas maintains that the purpose of the law is to protect women’s health by bringing health and safety standards for abortion clinics more in line with those of other medical facilities.
The lead plaintiff—Whole Women’s Health—and their supporters argue the law is intended only as means to limit abortion. Whole Women’s Health and other providers in Texas have insisted that the law isn’t medically necessary, is demanding and expensive and most significantly, it actually interferes with the quality of women’s health care.
The court is expected to rule in late June, and their decision could affect the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate nationwide.
Given that the Supreme Court already made its ruling on abortion in 1973 in Roe v. Wade, the real question is simple: are the safety standards typically observed by abortion clinics out of sync with medical safety requirements, or is this law a back-door attempt by the Texas legislature to mount an assault on Roe v. Wade in an ongoing battle over sociopolitical ideologies?
The prospect of the Supreme Court ever overturning Roe v. Wade is extremely unlikely, so lawmakers often attempt to pass legislation to “dilute” or place burden on those who use the 43-year-old ruling.
Shortly after the bill was sent to the Texas House of Representatives, then-Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst tweeted a photo of a map that showed all of the abortion clinics that would close as a result of the bill, writing “We fought to pass this legislation thru the Senate last night, and this is why!” He then followed with a qualifying tweet: “I am unapologetically pro-life AND a strong supporter of protecting women’s health. This law does both.”
In a statement posted on the plaintiff’s website, opponents to the law bring to light the dangers imposed by the legislation:
“We are looking to the Supreme Court to continue their decades-long legacy of protecting the right to legal abortion care without the undue burden of unnecessary hoops and hurdles. These requirements do nothing to promote women’s health and in fact drive more to attempt to self-induce without medical supervision.”
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