Check out my latest piece in The American Prospect.
For the first time since the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton rulings established a constitutional right to an abortion in 1973, pro-life advocates find themselves squarely on the losing side of a watershed legal decision.
The high court’s dramatic 5-3 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt upends laws in two-dozen states around the country that have imposed abortion restrictions comparable to those struck by the court on June 27. In a ruling that cemented the importance of its decades-old finding that states may not impose an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, the Court rejected a Texas law that had mandated that clinics meet the standards of hospitals, and that their personnel have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
The Texas requirements had slashed the number of clinics offering abortion in the state by more than half, yet the high court could find “no significant health-related problem that the new law helped to cure” wrote Justice Stephen Breyer in the Court’s majority opinion.
“We agree with the District Court that the surgical-center requirement, like the admitting-privileges requirement, provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so,” Breyer wrote.
With that, the Court changed the contours of the abortion battle, and dropped pro-life advocates into unfamiliar territory. For decades, the pro-choice movement has been on the defensive and losing ground in the abortion war, particularly as Texas and other states rushed to embrace onerous clinic restrictions known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws.
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