The Supreme Court on Monday overturned an odious Texas law that made it close to impossible for women to obtain abortions within the state, deeming the law’s “substantial burdens” unconstitutional in a 5-3 majority opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer.
The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, concerned two regulations enacted by the Texas legislature in 2013, known as HB2. The laws mandated that that all abortion clinics meet the medical standards of an outpatient surgical center, which would have required each clinic spend millions of dollars on upgrades, and required doctors performing abortions obtain surgical privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the abortion clinics.
As a result, the regulations would have had the effect of shutting down all but 5 of Texas’s 40-odd abortion clinics, leaving large swathes of the state’s five million women without access to abortion. And all this, despite the fact that Texas had reported no deaths from abortion in the five years leading up to the law.
But the Court ruled Monday that those regulations constituted an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion, as delineated in the landmark abortion case, Roe v. Wade.
“We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes,” Breyer wrote in the Hellerstedt decision. “Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.”