Supreme Court Rules Texas Abortion Law Is Unconstitutional

The Supreme Court has ruled a Texas abortion law, which imposes strict regulations on outpatient clinics, is unconstitutional. In a 5-3 vote, the high court determined the controversial law places an “undue burden” on women, as they have greatly reduced the number of clinics throughout the state.

In 2013, Texas House Bill 2, which introduced several requirements and restrictions on abortion clinics throughout the state, was voted into law. As reported by Legislative Tracker, H.B. 2 covered five major points.

In addition to banning abortion after 20 weeks gestation, the law increased requirements for doctors’ admitting privileges, ambulatory surgical centers, and mandatory reporting. The law also placed restrictions on the use of medications to induce abortion.

The 20-week abortion ban included a provision for scenarios where “in the physician’s reasonable medical judgment, abortion is necessary to avert the woman’s death or a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, other than a psychological condition.”

However, opponents argued the law was still too restrictive. They also argued that the law was based on “junk science,” which suggests a fetus is capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks gestation.

The law also limited the distribution of mifepristone-misoprostol, which is an oral medication used to induce spontaneous abortion. H.B. 2 restricted distribution of the drugs by anyone other than a licensed physician. The law also required a physician to examine women and review their medical history before the medication could be prescribed.

Although the entire law was a point controversy, the sections concerning admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements became the topic of heated debate.

Pro-choice advocates, including, argued that the provisions “forced the closure of more than half of the 42” abortion clinics throughout the state of Texas. The organization predicted fewer than 10 clinics would remain once the law was fully enacted.

As Texas has “a population of 5.4 million women of reproductive age,” the reduction in reasonably accessible outpatient clinics became a serious concern.

In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled H.B. 2 placed an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion in the state of Texas. As the high court’s decision in Roe v. Wade stipulates, “[u]nnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right,” H.B. 2 was deemed unconstitutional.

As reported by CNBC, abortion laws were initially examined by the Supreme Court in 1973. The laws were reexamined in 2007, when the high court voted to uphold the ban on late-term abortions.

The Supreme Court’s decision concerning Texas’ abortion law was made on the last day of the term. Other decisions announced on Monday include the conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and the question as to whether convicted domestic abusers should have access to handguns.

In 2014, McDonnell was convicted on charges of federal corruption. The former governor was accused of receiving money from a private company “in exchange for official acts.”

As reported by CNN, the Supreme Court voted to overturn McDonnell’s conviction based on the fact that “setting up a meeting, talking to another official, or organizing an event (or agreeing to do so) — without more — does not fit that definition of an official act.”

Fox News reports the Supreme Court also voted to uphold laws that prevent people who are convicted of domestic violence from possessing a gun.

Although all three issues are likely to spark debate, the Supreme Court’s decision regarding abortion in Texas will likely remain one of the most controversial rulings this session.

[Image via Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock]

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