On March 2 the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Whole Woman’s Health is an abortion business chain located mainly in Texas. The chain doesn’t want to comply with a Texas law that requires abortion clinics to meet ambulatory surgical facility safety standards and requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.
Whole Woman’s Health argued the Texas law puts an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion because many abortion clinics do not meet the safety requirements of ambulatory surgical facilities and abortionists often struggle to get admitting privileges.
The Texas law and similar laws in other states like Michigan were passed following the murder conviction of abortionist Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell’s clinic in Philadelphia went uninspected for decades, resulting in the deaths of countless born-alive children and at least two women. Many legislators realized abortion clinics could no longer be held to lower standards or be trusted to operate free of oversight.
Abortion businesses are now demanding a special constitutional privilege to ignore state health regulations. A facility that provides ambulatory (also called outpatient) surgery ought to be treated the same as other ambulatory surgical facilities. Whole Women’s Health claims these safety standards will cause their clinics to close, even though other abortion clinics have decided the meet the standard in order to remain open.
While abortion groups challenged the safety regulations, they did not challenge a late-term abortion ban in the same law. Abortion advocates seem concerned about losing such a challenge, which would encourage other states to pass bans on abortion after 20 weeks.
As usual it appears that Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the deciding vote on the court. Justice Kennedy has a mixed history; he voted to uphold the federal ban on partial-birth abortion in 2007, but also explicitly supported Roe v. Wade with the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1992.
The recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia means eight justices will decide the case instead of the usual nine. If the vote is tied at 4-4, the lower court’s ruling upholding the Texas law will be left standing. A decision on this case is expected to be announced sometime in June 2016.
To learn more about other Supreme Court cases relating to abortion, visit www.RTL.org.