U.S. Supreme Court strikes down regulations on Texas abortion clinics

By Carol Zimmermann

(CNS) -– In a 5-3 vote June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down restrictions
on Texas abortion clinics that required them to comply with standards of
ambulatory surgical centers and required their doctors to have admitting
privileges at local hospitals.

case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, challenged a 2013 state law, H.B. 2, placing
the requirements on the state’s abortion clinics. Opponents of the law claimed
the requirements were aimed at closing abortion clinics. But the state and many
pro-life advocates maintained that the law protected women’s health.

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other religious groups submitted a
joint friend of the court brief in the case supporting the Texas law, which was
similar to other state laws regulating abortion clinics across the country.

Stephen Breyer, who wrote the opinion, said the restrictions on the clinics
“provide few if any health benefits for women, pose a substantial obstacle
to women seeking abortions and constitute an ‘undue burden’ on their
constitutional right to do so.”

court has rejected a common-sense law protecting women from abortion facilities
that put profits above patient safety,” said Deirdre McQuade, assistant
director for pro-life communications at the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life

said the Texas law “simply required abortion facilities to meet the same
health and safety standards as other ambulatory surgical centers.”

in a statement issued after the ruling, also said: “Abortion claims the
lives of unborn children, and too often endangers their mothers as well. This
ruling contradicts the consensus among medical groups that such measures
protect women’s lives.”

votes in the case were from Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence
Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr.

wrote that the court’s decision “simultaneously transformed judicially
created rights like the right to abortion into preferred constitutional rights,
while disfavoring many of the rights actually enumerated in the
Constitution.” He added that the Constitution “renounces the notion
that some constitutional rights are more equal than others. … A law either
infringes a constitutional right, or not; there is no room for the judiciary to
invent tolerable degrees of encroachment.”

U.S. Supreme Court’s use of the words “undue burden” echoes its 1992
ruling in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, in which it upheld provisions in
Pennsylvania law requiring parental consent for minors, a 24-hour waiting
period before an abortion, filing of detailed reports about each abortion and
distribution of information about alternatives to abortion. It struck down a
requirement that married women need to notify their husbands before having an

essence, the court said a state may enact abortion regulations that do not pose
an “undue burden” on pregnant women.

phrase was often cited during the March 2 oral arguments in the Texas abortion
clinics case where opponents of the state regulations said they were aimed at
stopping abortions, because they forced clinics to close, which in turn, they
said, puts an undue burden on women seeking abortions who would have to travel
farther to find an available clinic.

According to the
Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports legal abortion, 25 states
have laws or policies that regulate abortion providers and clinics that perform
surgical abortions that it claims “go beyond what is necessary to ensure
patients’ safety.”

states currently require providers of either medication-induced abortion or
surgical abortion to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and another
10 require the provider to have either admitting privileges or another type of
relationship with a hospital.

2015, Arkansas adopted a new restriction that requires only providers of medication-induced
abortions to have an agreement with a physician who has admitting privileges at
a hospital; the law does not include a similar requirement for providers whose
doctors do surgical abortions.

state of Wisconsin, where federal judges have struck down hospital admitting
privileges for abortion clinic doctors, is filing an appeal with the Supreme

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Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.

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