U.S. Supreme Court dismantles Texas HB2

Abortion
In a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt reversed HB2 in Texas by a vote of 5-3 easing restrictions on what qualifies as a suitable facility to terminate pregnancies. (Photo/ Courtesy)

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the legal implications were far-reaching for House Bill 2 (HB2) and beyond.

HB2, proposed in the Texas Legislature and signed into law by former Governor Rick Perry in 2013, limited the number of facilities that could perform abortions based on infrastructure and medical requirements. Additional qualifications included the doctor performing the procedure needed to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility.

By overturning the law on grounds that it placed undue burden on clinics who perform such procedures, similar laws in other states may also benefit from the new precedence.

“I am pleased to see the Supreme Court protect women’s rights and health today,” said President Obama in statement about the ruling. “As the brief filed by the Solicitor General makes clear and as the Court affirmed today, these restrictions harm women’s health and place an unconstitutional obstacle in the path of a woman’s reproductive freedom.”

While pro-life proponents hailed the ruling a victory, conservatives decried the decision as a blow to efforts to ensure safeguards for facilities performing abortions. Yet with such restrictions in place, the overall number clinics shrunk from 40 to 20 statewide.

Many attribute that to the closing of clinics who could not meet the basic standards put forth in SB2. Yet others claim the comprehensive list of prescribed changes, which included everything from specific width of hallways and location standards, were established to create arbitrary legal headaches and costs to high to continue operating.

“We remain strongly committed to the protection of women’s health, including protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her right to determine her own future. Women’s opportunities are expanded and our nation is stronger when all of our citizens have accessible, affordable health care,” continued the President in his statement.

According to the original petition, which originated from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, it was these prohibitive measures that fundamentally made the law illegal.

“A statute which, while furthering [a] valid state interest, has the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s choice cannot be considered a permissible means of serving its legitimate ends [as in] Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey.”

 The decrease in geographic distribution means that the number of women of reproductive age living more than 50 miles from a clinic has doubled, the number of women living more than 100 miles away has increased by 150 percent, the number living more than 150 miles away by more than 350 percent and the number living more than 200 miles away by 2,800 percent.
Under cross-examination, the Justices questioned the point of the law citing it was just a red herring. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly released a statement noting the real losers were women in Texas.

 

“HB2 was an effort to improve minimum safety standards and ensure capable care for Texas women,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. “It’s exceedingly unfortunate that the court has taken the ability to protect women’s health out of the hands of Texas citizens and their duly-elected representatives.”

 Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee all have stipulations that clinics must operate in a hospital-like environment.

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