Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Supreme Court Says Texas Abortion Law Is Unconstitutional

(From nbc.com --Wide-shot of courtroom on last day of opinions, 2015-16 Term.-Art Lien)

Back in 2013, Texas Republicans were determined to pass a law to seriously restrict women from being able to access a clinic to have an abortion. The law would have required the clinics to have hospital quality facilities, and their doctors to have privileges at a local hospital. Only about five of the approximately 40 abortion clinics in the state could meet those guidelines.

The Republicans said they weren't trying to restrict abortion clinic access, but just trying to protect the health of Texas women. That was a lie. It was a blatant attempt to do an end run around Roe vs Wade, which gave women the right to control their own bodies (and decide for themselves whether to have an abortion or not).

The Democrats were outnumbered in the Texas legislature, but fought valiantly to kill the odious bill. State Senator Wendy Davis, with help from other Democrats, staged a filibuster and was able to keep talking until the legal time for the legislative session ran out. But the Republicans were not deterred. The governor called a special session of the legislature, and after changing the rules, they were able to get the law passed.

Pro-choice groups went to court to get the law overturned, but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law. It was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was expected by many that the court would probably split 4 to 4, and the appeals court decision would be upheld. That did NOT happen!

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued their decision -- a 5 to 3 decision that ruled the Texas law unconstitutional. The justices in the majority were Breyer, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Kennedy. Roberts, Thomas, and Alito voted in the minority.

The Texas law is now dead -- and this opinion will surely be used to kill similar laws in some other states. Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion, saying: --------

We have found nothing in Texas' record evidence that shows that, compared to prior law…the new law advanced Texas’ legitimate interest in protecting women's health.

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.

Justice Ginsberg wrote a concurring opinion, saying:

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."

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.


Here is what Hillary Clinton had to say about the decision:

"The Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is a victory for women across America. By striking down politically motivated restrictions that made it nearly impossible for Texans to exercise their full reproductive rights, the Court upheld every woman’s right to safe, legal abortion, no matter where she lives. 
"I applaud everyone who flooded the Texas Capitol to speak out against these attacks on women’s health, the brave women and men across the country who shared their stories, and the health care providers who fought for their patients and refused to give up.

"Our fight is far from over. In Texas and across the country, a woman’s constitutional right to make her own health decisions is under attack. In the first three months of 2016, states introduced more than 400 measures restricting access to abortion. We’ve seen a concerted, persistent attack on women’s health and rights at the federal level. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has said women should be punished for having abortions.  He also pledged to defund Planned Parenthood and appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

"Today’s decision is a reminder of how much is at stake in this election. We need a President who will defend women’s health and rights and appoint Supreme Court justices who recognize Roe v. Wade as settled law. We must continue to protect access to safe and legal abortion – not just on paper, but in reality."

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