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Women’s Reproductive Rights Upheld At Supreme Court

June 27, 2016

The Supreme Court sent a very strong message today as it struck down two key abortion restrictions.  In so doing most legal scholars are analyzing it as redefining the scope of Roe v. Wade.  It is without a doubt the most significant abortion ruling in a generation.

In Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, the Court ruled 5-3 that Texas’s regulations on abortion providers constituted an undue burden on the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy. In 2013, Texas passed a law requiring all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The undue burdens this created for women are without a doubt.  Conservatives wanted legal procedures in place so to have cumbersome blocking measures on abortion, but when challenged those measures could not in any way be reasonably argued.  

Today’s ruling follows up on the 1992 plurality opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which Justice Kennedy joined Justice O’Connor in writing that states may regulate abortion as long as they do not create an “undue burden.”

Clearly the attempt made by Texas, and the Republican majority in the Wisconsin statehouse, went out of their way to create an “undue burden”.  Significantly attempting to curtail abortion without actually outlawing it may win points from the base of the GOP when asking for campaign contributions, but it does not fare well in the halls of constitutional thought.

As was made clear during the oral arguments before the court these measures in Texas (and elsewhere) were medically unnecessary as the female Supreme Court justices pointed out that abortion has a lower complication rate than many other common medical procedures, including childbirth.

In Wisconsin attempts at such regulations have also found disfavor in the courts.

In November, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court decision that struck down Wisconsin’s similar law requiring doctors who perform abortions in Wisconsin to have hospital admitting privileges.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the state law, enacted in 2013 but never enforced because of court challenges, was an unlawful infringement on abortion rights.

Over and over the fight from conservatives continues to be waged in their attempt to control the reproductive rights of women.  Over and the courts push back and show where the law rests.

And on it goes.

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