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U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Restrictions On Abortion

Flickr user Adam Fagen (afagen)

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning struck down two provisions passed as House Bill 2 in 2013 that Texas tried to put in place that affected women’s ability to obtain an abortion.

In a 5-3 vote, the justices reversed a ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. They ruled that Texas could not mandate doctors who perform abortions to have admitting rights at a hospital no more than 30 miles away. The other provision struck down said clinics would have to undergo expansive construction to become ambulatory surgical centers. 

Officials with Whole Women’s Health, the group that sued the state, was arguing that both provisions are unfunded mandates and will force the closure of all but 11 clinics in the state.

But proponents of the law argued that these provisions make abortion safer for Texas women.

Justice Stephen g. Breyer wrote the opinion with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing a concurring opinion. Justices John G. Roberts Jr., Clarence Thomas and Samuel Anthony Alito dissented.

Justice Ginsburg wrote, "Texas argues that H.B.2’s restrictions are constitutional because they protect the health of women who experience complications from abortions. In truth, 'complications from an abortion are both rare and rarely dangerous.'

In Justice Alito's dissent, he wrote, “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.”

From Justice Thomas’ dissent, "[Today's] decision exemplifies the Court’s troubling tendency “to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.”

Reactions from around the state were swift after the justices issued their ruling:

U.S. Senator John Cornyn said,"Today’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent for states like Texas, which the Constitution makes clear should be free to pass laws that are in the best interests of our citizens."

He went on to say, "Commonsense requirements that abortion clinics be held to the same standards as other medical facilities put the health of the patient first, and today’s decision is a step back in protecting the well-being of mothers across our state.”

Earlier this year, Sen. Cornyn led a broad Congressional coalition in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Texas HB 2. In total, 34 Senators and 140 Members of the House Representatives signed onto the brief, which can be found here.