The United States Supreme Court is poised to render a decision next year that will be its most significant ruling on the abortion issue in more than twenty years. The High Court has agreed to hear a challenge to a Texas law that establishes health and safety regulations for
The Texas Legislature enacted the abortion regulation statute in 2013. It required that all abortion clinics in the state meet the same medical operating standards as other outpatient surgery centers. It also required that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic.
The Texas law gained national attention when a pro-abortion state senator named Wendy Davis engaged in a much-publicized filibuster in a failed attempt to block the law. The ultraliberal media showcased Davis as a "courageous" advocate for women's rights, despite the fact that she was opposing a law to protect women from the malpractice of shoddy abortionists.
While the media has often reported that the Texas law is the strictest in the nation, it is actually similar to statutes that have been on the books in the state of Missouri dating back nearly 30 years. The central purpose of these laws is to ensure that facilities providing surgical abortions are adequately equipped to deal with medical emergencies in the same fashion as other ambulatory surgical centers.
The most significant provision of the Texas law, like those in Missouri, mandates that abortionists have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This helps guarantee that an abortionist can continue to provide proper obstetric care to a woman who has suffered "complications" from her abortion when she is transferred to an acute care setting. Very few hospital emergency rooms are staffed with specialists in obstetrics.
The passage of the new surgicenter health and safety law in Texas resulted in the closure of a majority of the abortion clinics in that state. The reason for that is simple. Numerous abortion facilities in Texas and throughout the nation are "served" by out-of-town abortionists who fly or drive into town to perform abortions in assembly-line fashion during concentrated periods of time. They then quickly leave town to their next killing field in another community.
These drive-by, fly-by abortionists have absolutely no physician-patient relationship with the women whose children they are aborting, and are unavailable to provide any kind of followup care to women after the procedure. Women who experience botched abortions are dumped by abortion clinic managers at the nearest emergency room with no physician of record to provide information about their "surgical outcomes."
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the key provisions of the law in June, stating that the regulations served the legitimate purpose of "protecting the health and welfare of women seeking abortions." Within weeks, the Supreme Court issued a stay of the ruling until they could decide whether to hear the case themselves.
The High Court has now decided to do just that. Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the four liberal justices on the Supreme Court in agreeing to take up the case. The other four more conservative justices on the Court voted to allow the law to stand.
The last time the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision on abortion was in 1992 in a Pennsylvania case known as Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
In that decision, the High Court reaffirmed the central holding of Roe v. Wade
that a woman has a "liberty interest" to obtain an abortion without interference from the state prior to viability.
The Court upheld Pennsylvania regulations providing for informed consent by a woman seeking an abortion. The justices established this legal principle: State regulations providing for the health, safety, and informed decision-making of the pregnant woman are constitutional so long as they do not create an "undue burden" on the woman's choice, or erect "absolute obstacles" to her access to abortion. The modern-day Court will now decide whether the Texas law satisfies that legal standard, or whether to establish new standards governing abortion clinic regulation.