The Supreme Court has issued a historic 5-3 ruling in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, declaring Texas’ HB 2 law unconstitutional, making it the most important Court decision on abortion since Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the ruling that established the “undue burden” standard. The Texas law required clinics offering abortion services to comply with ambulatory surgical center standards, as well as mandated that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals, leading to the closure of over half the abortion clinics in Texas. Because the Texas government could provide no proof of HB 2’s medical benefits, the Court has ruled that both provisions constitute an undue burden for women seeking an abortion.
“Today women across the nation have had their constitutional rights vindicated,” said Nancy Northrup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the organization that filed the suit on behalf of Whole Woman’s Health. “The Supreme Court sent a loud and clear message that politicians cannot use deceptive means to shut down abortion clinics.”
However, pro-choice advocates warn that complacency within the movement cannot accompany this victory. “In the 2016 election, many candidates for state legislature, Congress, and the presidency, are pledged to ban access to abortion and to limit access to birth control,” cautioned Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority. “The balance of the Supreme Court will be determined by the next President. The closeness of this decision calls attention to the high stakes for women in this next election and for the next quarter of a century. In fact, this election may determine for millions of women their reproductive fate and the course of their lives.”
Since 2010, dozens of other states have passed hundreds of targeted restrictions on abortion providers, closing clinics across the country. Until the Supreme Court rules that any impediment to accessing abortion constitutes an undue burden, women’s bodies will continue to be used as battling grounds for politicians from the state houses to Congress.