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SCOTUS Strikes Down Texas Anti-Abortion Law

The law would have closed three-quarters of the state’s abortion facilities

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Today, in dramatic 5-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-abortion law which would have forced the closure of more than three-quarters of the state’s clinics. The law was passed in 2013 to limit women’s access to abortion services by requiring all clinics to have same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers and their doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

The strict requirements were seen as absolutely unnecessary because patients at abortion facilities rarely have to undergo hospitalization. The Court’s decision not only affects the state of Texas, but similar laws in 12 additional states. Seen as the Court’s most significant abortion ruling in a decade, it may impact more than 250 abortion restrictions passed over the past five years.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Stephen Breyer. “There was no significant health-related problem that the new law helped to cure,” Breyer wrote. “We agree with the District Court that the surgical-center requirement, like the admitting-privileges requirement, provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg added a concurring opinion saying: “When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety.”

Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Sonia Sotomayor voted in the majority while Justices John G. Roberts Jr., Samuel A. Alito Jr., and Clarence Thomas cast dissenting votes. After the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the final seat on the Court still remains vacant. Justice Alito penned dissenting opinion saying: “When a case involves a controversial issue, we should be especially careful to be scrupulously neutral in applying such rules,” Alito wrote. “The Court has not done so here. On the contrary, de­termined to strike down two provisions of a new Texas abortion statute in all of their applications, the Court simply disregards basic rules that apply in all other cases.”

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