The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, was decided by a 5–3 vote on June 27 by the Supreme Court. The decision is expected to have repercussions throughout the country, as several states have similar laws that are currently being blocked or are in effect.
The law had required clinics that provide abortions services to have surgical facilities and doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. If upheld, it was predicted that the law would close many clinics, further reducing the availability of abortion services in Texas.
These restrictive measures made it even more difficult for women to obtain access to abortion services, leaving them with no safe options within hundreds of miles. These restrictions, which are not uncommon in laws trying to limit abortion services, often put women at extreme risk or hardship. Many medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, echo these sentiments, stating that this law did not make abortion services safer for women, despite the state of Texas’ stance, and in fact served to impede women’s care.
In Texas, the law’s restrictions prevented three-quarters of the state’s abortion clinics from providing services. This lack of care would mean that 900,000 women of childbearing age would be required to travel more than 300 miles round trip in order to find a clinic that provides abortion services, which is both time-consuming and costly.
Despite being previously upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court ruled that the law provided an undue burden on nearly one million women in the areas affected, and was, therefore, unconstitutional. Justice Stephen Breyer stated in the decision that the restrictions, "vastly increase the obstacles confronting women seeking abortions in Texas without providing any benefit to women's health capable of withstanding any meaningful scrutiny."
Justice Breyer noted the numerous safety requirements that are already compulsory for clinics providing abortion services, and compared the rates of similar surgical procedures with higher mortality rates that are less restricted:
"Nationwide, childbirth is 14 times more likely than abortion to result in death ... but Texas law allows a midwife to oversee childbirth in the patient's own home. Colonoscopy, a procedure that typically takes place outside a hospital (or surgical center) setting, has a mortality rate 10 times higher than an abortion."
Women’s rights advocates joined together to celebrate this historic decision: Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards called it "a win for women."
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