Supreme Court Strikes Down TX Pro-Life Law

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by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 27, 2016   

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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a pro-life law that ended up shutting down most abortion mills in Texas.

In a 5–3 vote handed down Monday in the case Whole Woman's Health vs. Hellerstedt, the High Court ruled that Texas House Bill 2 (HB2) imposed unnecessary regulations on abortion providers. Texas lawmakers passed the law in 2013, which included provisions requiring that abortion mills meet minimum health and safety standards, and that abortionists have admitting privileges to local hospitals. The law gained national prominence after former Texas senator Wendy Davis filibustered the bill on the Senate floor in 2013.

The law ended up shutting down most abortuaries in Texas, which failed either or both requirements. A group of abortion providers then sued the state, claiming HB2 unconstitutionally limits women's access to abortion. The law was upheld twice on appeal in the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before making its way to the Supreme Court. 

The High Court opinion, authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, and joined by the liberal bloc — JJ. Ruth Bader-Ginburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, along with swing vote Anthony Kennedy — ruled that both of the law's provisions placed an "undue burden" on women's so-called right to abortion.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito dissented. Criticizing the Court's varying and inconsistent standards applied to abortion rights, Thomas wrote in his dissenting opinion, "Our law is now so riddled with special exceptions for special rights that our decisions deliver neither predictability nor the promise of a judiciary bound by the rule of law."

He also criticized the current level of scrutiny for abortion laws, arguing that the "undue burden" standard in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) was "invented" as a "special test" for abortion laws. He went on to criticize the Court for " radically rewrit[ing] the undue-burden test."

And Alito, in his dissenting opinion, denounced the Court for its biased abortion jurisprudence. "The Court's patent refusal to apply well-established law in a neutral way is indefensible and will undermine public confidence in the Court as a fair and neutral arbiter," he declared.

Pro-life leaders are also expressing outrage. Father Frank Pavone, executive director of Priests for Life, issued a statement immediately after the decision.

The Supreme Court is now the Supreme Medical Board, setting its own standards for patient care in the United States. This decision is an outrageous usurpation of legislative power and it only underscores the critical importance of electing a President who will nominate — and Senators who will confirm — justices to the Supreme Court who will adjudicate, not write the law.

 

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