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February 26, 2016 12:21 PM UTC

What You Need to Know About the Abortion Rights Case at SCOTUS Next Week

  • by: ProChoiceCO

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

On Wednesday, March 2, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in  Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. This is the case that will decide whether or not to uphold Texas’ anti-choice TRAP laws. The Court’s decision is expected to be announced in June.

TRAP laws are designed to make it impossible for women to access abortion care by regulating it out of existence. It doesn’t matter if abortion is technically legal if doctors can’t perform them thanks to medically-unnecessary laws and women have to drive hundreds of miles in order to obtain one.

As pointed out in the New York Times, “it’s telling that today’s abortion opponents have dusted off the word ‘‘protection’’ to justify regulations that are shutting down clinics across the country… There’s no phrase for men equivalent to ‘‘damsel in distress’’ and no such thing as ‘‘protective’’ legislation for men… By causing clinics to close, and thus forcing women to travel longer distances to have abortions, the law has delayed, and in some cases blocked women’s access to the procedure. Both outcomes jeopardize women’s health.’’

You can see the NARAL Pro-Choice America video on TRAP laws here.

Or just take it from comedian John Oliver on HBO.

And as described in NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado’s opposition report Against Our Will: How National Groups are Targeting the Pro-Choice Majority in Colorado, we’ve seen these same TRAP laws attempted by these same groups over and over in Colorado. And we will see them again in the 2016 General Assembly.

So we’ll be paying close attention to what happens next Wednesday. And you should be too.




7 thoughts on “What You Need to Know About the Abortion Rights Case at SCOTUS Next Week

  1. This is a vital case for effectively upholding Roe v Wade. TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) are specifically targeted against abortion facilities, and there has been no documented case of one of them actually helping women to receive safer care. No other type of clinic that performs similar (or greater) risk procedures has been targeted with the same restrictions.

    Under current Supreme Court precedent, states can enact medically necessary regulations on abortion clinics, but they cannot be punative. Unfortunately, they didn't define exactly what a good regulation would look like… There was some skepticism on the Court over the Constitutionality of these laws, but no case to present them with an opportunity to clarify.

    My guess is this goes 5-3 or perhaps 6-2, with Kennedy and/or Roberts siding with the liberals. Without Scalia goading Kennedy on, I think the liberals will have more sway with him. When Kagan came on, the talk was about her ability to act as a counter-balance to Scalia with Kennedy, but it was clear that Scalia came out much the stronger in that balance.

      1. Kennedy's Stenberg II opinion was dripping with paternalism about women's need to be protected from themselves when choosing abortion, and Roberts is another Catholic man to the right of Kennedy.  I predict  4-4 tie, with Hillary's new justice deciding the case when Ohio's similar restrictions reach the SCOTUS. 

        Back in reality, a challenge to a law as an undue burden should require the state to prove how the law is due.  Silly me, thinking words in lawsuits should have some resemblance to their common usage.

  2. There's a great review of the case at SCOTUSBlog.  As an aside, there's always a great review of <insert case here> at that blog.  If you have any interest in outcomes at the court, it's a really awesome source of information.

    What the article doesn't mention is that the Fifth Circuit took action in another TRAP law case, June Medical Services, on Wednesday (Texas and Louisiana share the same appeals court).  A lower court issued an injunction telling the state not to enforce the law.  The circuit court stayed that injunction (the legal math is injunction = don't do; stay + injunction = don't don't do = do), allowing the state to close all but one clinic.

    The losers (women) in the case will ask the Supreme Court to lift the Fifth’s stay, putting the original injunction back in place. This will get decided before Whole Women’s Health and may be an indication of what the decision will be in that case.

  3. Why Courts Shouldn’t Ignore the Facts About Abortion Rights

    Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down Wisconsin’s admitting-privileges law last year in an opinion that used comparative data to show how singling out abortion made no objective sense. (Wisconsin doesn’t require admitting privileges for any other outpatient procedure, including those demonstrably more dangerous.)

    Courts, he said, should weigh the medical evidence behind a regulation against its impact. When the evidence is “feeble” and the burden substantial, the burden is undue, he concluded.

    The Fifth Circuit acknowledged Judge Posner’s approach and rejected it. “In our circuit we do not balance the wisdom or effectiveness of a law against the burdens the law imposes,” the court said in an earlier round in the Texas litigation.

    Evidence matters to courts. Courts take evidence all the time. That’s why we have trials, and judges. The notion that when it comes to restricting abortion, facts shouldn’t count, is to give “abortion exceptionalism” a new meaning. It is a meaning the Supreme Court will reject if it is true to its precedents and principles.

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