SCOTUS Ruling A Win For Abortion Rights

High Court Comes Down Hard On Texas Abortion Law

WASHINGTON – On the final day of the Supreme Court session before they head to summer recess they up held a major woman’s rights issue. In a dramatic ruling, the Supreme Court on this morning threw out a Texas abortion access law in a victory to supporters of abortion rights who argued it would have shuttered all but a handful of clinics in the state.

This case was one of the most closely watched cases of the Supreme Court’s term, the dispute divided states and reignited passions on all sides of the abortion issue. While California, Washington and a dozen other states sided with Whole Woman’s Health, more than 20 states including Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas and South Carolina supported Texas.

Demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington

The 5-3 ruling is the most significant decision from the Supreme Court on abortion in two decades and could serve to deter other states from passing so-called “clinic shutdown” laws.

Similar restrictions have been passed in other states, and officials say they protect patients. But abortion providers and medical associations say the rules are unnecessary and so expensive or hard to satisfy that they force clinics to close.

The opinion was written by Justice Stephen G. Breyer and joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.

Here is the Breyer majority opinion, which was joined in full by Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered the swing vote on the abortion issue.

“There was no significant health-related problem that the new law helped to cure,” Breyer wrote. “We agree with the District Court that the surgical-center requirement, like the admitting-privileges requirement, provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an “undue burden” on their constitutional right to do so.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Breyer’s opinion and wrote a brief concurring opinion, which focused on what she called women in “desperate circumstances.”

“When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety.”

Protesters hold signs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington

The ruling will have major reverberations on the presidential election, where the fate of the Supreme Court has been front-and-center after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. Senate Republicans have refused to act on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, leaving the court with eight justices.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito wrote dissents.

Thomas wrote a bitter dissent for himself, accusing the court of eroding the Constitution.

“The Court has simultaneously transformed judicially created rights like the right to abortion into preferred constitutional rights, while disfavoring many of the rights actually enumerated in the Constitution,” Thomas wrote. “But our Constitution renounces the notion that some constitutional rights are more equal than others. … A law either infringes a constitutional right, or not; there is no room for the judiciary to invent tolerable degrees of encroachment. Unless the Court abides by one set of rules to adjudicate constitutional rights, it will continue reducing constitutional law to policy-driven value judgments until the last shreds of its legitimacy disappear.”

 

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Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.