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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

In a greatly anticipated decision Monday morning, the Supreme Court struck down two Texas abortion restrictions that threatened to make access to abortion services nearly non-existent in the state.

The 5-3 ruling reinforced abortion rights, and took a particularly hard stance against restrictions that, in Texas’ case, are clearly meant to restrict abortion access, without improving the safety of those procedures, as proponents of Texas’ laws said they would.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Stephen Breyer and supported by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan, cited research that proves that the restrictions are not necessary, and argued that HB2 was clearly designed to burden women who seek abortions.

Here are the best quotes from the court’s majority opinion:

The anti-abortion legislation was clearly meant to restrict healthcare access: 

We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access … and each violates the Federal Constitution.

…and it was extremely successful in that regard:

Prior to the enactment of H. B. 2, there were more than 40 licensed abortion facilities in Texas, which “number dropped by almost half leading up to and in the wake of enforcement of the admitting-privileges requirement that went into effect in late-October 2013.”

It’s pretty obvious that this was the point of the legislation in the first place:

The suggestion “that these seven or eight providers could meet the demand of the entire state stretches credulity.”

And it discriminates against those without the means to seek care: 

The two requirements erect a particularly high barrier for poor, rural, or disadvantaged women.

And it doesn’t make women safer: 

The great weight of evidence demonstrates that, before the act’s passage, abortion in Texas was extremely safe with particularly low rates of serious complications and virtually no deaths occurring on ac- count of the procedure… Thus, there was no significant health-related problem that the new law helped to cure…

We add that, when directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case…

In our view, the record contains sufficient evidence that the admitting-privileges requirement led to the closure of half of Texas’ clinics, or thereabouts. Those closures meant fewer doctors, longer waiting times, and increased crowding.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote her own short concurring opinion, affirming that as long as Roe v. Wade was in effect, the high court would never allow laws like HB2 to stand:

Texas argues that H. B. 2’s restrictions are constitutional because they protect the health of women who experience complications from abortions. In truth, “complications from an abortion are both rare and rarely dangerous”…

Given those realities, it is beyond rational belief that H.B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law “would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions”…

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…

So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H.B. 2 that “do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,” cannot survive judicial inspection.

Photo: Demonstrators celebrate at the Supreme Court after the court struck down a Texas law imposing strict regulations on abortion doctors and facilities. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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