The 5th Circuit Court Of Appeals Stuck A Knife In Roe v. Wade
Yesterday, three George W. Bush-appointed judges on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with anti-abortion lawmakers in Texas to uphold sweeping restrictions that will cause abortion clinics across the state to close. The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, is a big blow to Texas abortion providers who hoped to fight against a law passed by Texas lawmakers that will shut down all but eight of the state’s abortion clinics.
The law in question—HB 2—requires clinicians who provide abortions to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital and requires clinics to comply with a list of prohibitively expensive and completely unnecessary architectural and other requirements. The legal question at issue in the case was whether these restrictions place “undue burden” on women seeking abortion services. These restrictions would force hundreds of thousands of women to travel more than 150 miles to the nearest clinic but the 5th Circuit did not find that burden “undue.”
Here are three key takeaways from this case:
Politicians, not clinicians, are behind these restrictions: Anti-abortion lawmakers have pushed these laws through the legislature under the guise of making abortions safer for women despite the fact that there is little evidence to support that claim. In fact, a federal judge determined that there is “no rational relationship” between the restrictions included in HB 2 and improved patient outcomes.
The decision will cause almost all abortion clinics in Texas to close: In August 2013, before HB2 took effect, Texas had 40 licensed abortion clinics. If the law takes full effect, only eight clinics will remain open. What that means is 900,000 reproduction-age women will have to travel more than 150 miles to the nearest clinic.
If the case goes to the Supreme Court, it could undo Roe v. Wade: This case is almost guaranteed to be heard by the Supreme Court next fall. And if the Court were to side with the ideologically-charged 5th Circuit’s ruling many other states would have broad discretion to further restrict access to abortion. In the event that the Supreme Court does uphold the 5th Circuit decision, it could effectively destroy what little remains of Roe v. Wade protections.
Rather than working to pass sweeping abortion restrictions under the guise of protecting women’s health, lawmakers should focus on real ways to improve women’s abortion access. This report from the Center for American Progress cites expanding those who provide abortion services as a meaningful way to expand abortion access.
BOTTOM LINE: Texas’s law expanding abortion restrictions has already had a visibly detrimental impact on the state, and the 5th Circuit’s decision to uphold the restrictions could have far-reaching consequences. If this case goes to the Supreme Court and is another to fall victim to the ideology of the Roberts Court, it could mean the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
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