- Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Texas law limiting women’s access to abortions in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the first major abortion case of the decade.
The Texas law – House Bill 2, or HB2 – required abortion clinics to meet the standards of “ambulatory surgical centers,” or hospital facilities that can accommodate low-risk surgery. It also mandated that abortion doctors have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic.
The law, which its creators say was designed to protect the safety of women seeking abortions, caused the majority of Texas’ abortion clinics to close. The law had been upheld by the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Whole Woman’s Health, the clinic that filed the case, claimed that the law’s restrictions placed an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions – a standard established in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In Monday’s decision, the Court ruled that both restrictions outlined in HB2 qualified as an undue burden.
In a 5-3 decision against the Texas law, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority. The court concluded that the neither of the provisions within the bill “offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes” and thus violates another landmark abortion case, Roe v. Wade.
The case hands a victory to abortion-rights advocates. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a concurring opinion, and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.