US Supreme Court strikes down Texas anti-abortion law

Two provisions of a law in Texas were ruled to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in a 5-3 majority verdict.

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Image: Activists demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, June 27, 2016, as the justices close out the term with decisions on abortion, guns, and public corruption are expected. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In a landmark ruling, the United States Supreme Court has struck down two key provisions of a law governing women's health providers in the state of Texas. 

The case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt challenged a law in Texas which placed a number of restrictions on abortion providers in the state. 

The case, described as the most significant ruling from the highest court in the land on abortion since Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey in 1992, revolved around the requirements put in place in a 2013 law which meant clinics had to adhere to building standards regulations in place for surgical clinics, and doctors who performed the abortions had to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. 

In delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Stephen Brayer wrote that the court had decided that the laws placed "an 'undue burden' on a woman’s right to decide to have an abortion, and consequently a provision of law is constitutionally invalid, if the 'purpose or effect' of the provision 'is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability'." 

He added that "we conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes."

Had the regulations stayed in place, at least 10 of the 20 abortion clinics in the state of Texas would have been forced to close. In her statement on the verdict, Justice Ginsberg wrote that H.B. 2, as the bill was known, claimed to "protect the health of women who experience complications from abortions," but that "it is beyond rational belief that H. B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law 'would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions'."

Justice Brayer, along with Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg all voted in favour of striking down the bill, and were joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy to make a 5-3 majority ruling, despite there only being eight members on the court in the wake of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February

Speaking about the ruling, Whole Woman’s Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Millern told ABC News that "Every day, Whole Women's Health treats our patients with compassion, respect and dignity, and today the Supreme Court did the same. We're thrilled that today justice was served and our clinics stay open."

The court has not ruled on an abortion case since 2007, when they upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The ruling may now also have an impact on November's general election, as the judge who will fill the vacant spot on the bench will be nominated by the next administration. 

Hillary Clinton took to Twitter in the wake of the ruling to state that it was a "victory for women in Texas and across America."

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