The Supreme Court Overturns Texas’ Anti-Choice Laws
Today, in a huge victory for American women and their families, the Supreme Court struck down two challenged provisions of Texas’ anti-choice law with a 5-3 decision in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The decision deemed unconstitutional the Texas law HB 2—a Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers law, or TRAP law—aimed at limiting women’s access to safe and legal abortion by targeting clinics and providers.
The decision was the result of a challenge to politically motivated and medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care providers that were opposed by expert organizations such as the American Medical Association and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
If the law had been upheld, the consequences would have been dire. At least 32 of the 40 abortion clinics that existed in Texas prior to the law were expected to shut down, which would force many Texas women to drive hundreds of miles to access abortion care. What’s more, had the law been upheld, other conservative-led states would have been free to pass similar or even more extreme laws, further limiting American women’s access to abortion care to only a wealthy few.
The law was designed by Americans United for Life (AUL), an anti-abortion group that drafts model legislation for state lawmakers seeking to restrict women’s reproductive rights, and sold as a way to protect women’s health. But, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her concurring opinion, “It is beyond rational belief that HB 2 could genuinely protect the health of women and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.’” In fact, when asked directly during oral arguments, Texas could not identify even one woman the law would have helped receive better treatment.
The Supreme Court’s strong rebuke of Texas’ anti-choice law leaves the right to abortion on much stronger footing than it was before the decision and is a critical moment for women and families across the country. This ruling impacts more than 20 states with TRAP laws, but far too many women and their families still face considerable obstacles to accessing comprehensive reproductive health care, especially low-income women and women of color. For example, women in Texas will have to wait months for many clinics to re-open because each clinic that was shuttered must secure new facilities, staff, and medical licenses before they can offer care again.
Anti-choice advocates across the country have created a complicated web of abortion restrictions and bans in state legislatures that prevent access to safe and affordable abortion for many women. More state abortion restrictions have been enacted in the past five years than in any other five-year period since the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In order to ensure reproductive health access for all—including access to abortion services—lawmakers must heed the original intent of the Roe v. Wade decision and restore women’s basic legal rights.
BOTTOM LINE: Today’s Supreme Court decision is a victory for choice and a victory for women and families across the country. By rejecting Texas’ sham law intended to end safe abortion care in the state, the Court has sent a strong signal that we must reject similar efforts by politicians to interfere with medical decision-making to the detriment of women’s health.
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