The Texas law restricting abortion was overturned as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court this morning, 5-3:
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
WHOLE WOMAN’S HEALTH ET AL. v. HELLERSTEDT,
COMMISSIONER, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE
HEALTH SERVICES, ET AL. [pdf]
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
No. 15–274. Argued March 2, 2016—Decided June 27, 2016
790 F. 3d 563 and 598, reversed and remanded.
BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed a concurring opinion. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, J., joined.
From Justice Breyer’s opinion:
“….We must here decide whether two provisions of Texas’ House Bill 2 violate the Federal Constitution as interpreted in Casey….We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, Casey, supra, at 878 (plurality opinion), and each violates the Federal Constitution….”
“….The statement that legislatures, and not courts, must resolve questions of medical uncertainty is also inconsistent with this Court’s case law. Instead, the Court, when determining the constitutionality of laws regulating abortion procedures, has placed considerable weight upon evidence and argument presented in judicial proceedings….”
“….In our view, the record contains sufficient evidence that the admitting-privileges requirement led to the closure of half of Texas’ clinics, or thereabouts. Those closures meant fewer doctors, longer waiting times, and increased crowding. Record evidence also supports the finding that after the admitting-privileges provision went into effect, the “number of women of reproductive age living in a county . . . more than 150 miles from a provider increased from approximately 86,000 to 400,000 . . . and the number of women living in a county more than 200 miles from a provider from approximately 10,000 to 290,000.” 46 F. Supp. 3d, at 681. We recognize that increased driving distances do not always constitute an “undue burden.” See Casey, 505 U. S., at 885–887 (joint opinion of O’Connor, KENNEDY, and Souter, JJ.). But here, those increases are but one additional burden, which, when taken together with others that the closings brought about, and when viewed in light of the virtual absence of any health benefit, lead us to conclude that the record adequately supports the District Court’s “undue burden” conclusion. Cf. id., at 895 (opinion of the Court) (finding burden “undue” when requirement places “substantial obstacle to a woman’s choice” in “a large fraction of the cases in which” it “is relevant”)….”
“….More fundamentally, in the face of no threat to women’s health, Texas seeks to force women to travel long distances to get abortions in crammed-to-capacity superfacilities. Patients seeking these services are less likely to get the kind of individualized attention, serious conversation, and emotional support that doctors at less taxed facilities may have offered. Healthcare facilities and medical professionals are not fungible commodities. Surgical centers attempting to accommodate sudden, vastly increased demand, see 46 F. Supp. 3d, at 682, may find that quality of care declines. Another commonsense inference that the District Court made is that these effects would be harmful to, not supportive of, women’s health….”
On the sweeping severability provision in the Texas law:
“….That language, Texas argues, means that facial invalidation of parts of the statute is not an option; instead, it says, the severability clause mandates a more narrowly tailored judicial remedy. But the challenged provisions of H. B. 2 close most of the abortion facilities in Texas and place added stress on those facilities able to remain open. They vastly increase the obstacles confronting women seeking abortions in Texas without providing any benefit to women’s health capable of withstanding any meaningful scrutiny. The provisions are unconstitutional on their face: Including a severability provision in the law does not change that conclusion….”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a righteous Supreme Court smack down of legislative game playing.
From Justice Ginberg’s concurrence:
“….When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety….”
From Justice Thomas’ dissent:
“….I remain fundamentally opposed to the Court’s abortion jurisprudence….”
Uh, we all knew that already.
Remember in November, it’s the Supreme Court, Stupid.