Masked as a health concern case, the ruling could potentially affect millions of women across the country.
A Supreme Court decision is expected today in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, one of the most monumental abortion rights cases since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The justices might not announce their decision for months, but here’s why you should be paying attention to the case that could topple women’s health rights.
Wait… What exactly is going on?
The case challenges safety provisions at Texas abortion clinics that demand the centers meet “ambulatory surgical centers” standards and only staff doctors who have admitting privileges at area hospitals. Abortion rights activists say that the law, which was enacted in 2013, is essentially a Trojan Horse, infringing on women’s rights while masked as a safety concern.
So what’s at stake?
If the Supreme Court upholds the law, almost half of the state’s surviving abortion providers will be forced to shut their doors. When the law went into effect three years ago, the number of clinics dropped from 40 to 19, and if the justices rule in favor of Hellerstedt, that number could drop to 10 in the entire state.
But I don’t live in Texas. Why should I care?
There are approximately 15 other states who currently have the same or similar provisions in effect. However, lawmakers in 23 other states have voiced their support for Texas and are closely following the case. If the law upholds, then there’s a strong chance that politicians will begin introducing legislation that would place similar restrictions in their own states.
Justices have been listening to arguments, and a decision is expected today, though it might not be publicized for months. The four liberal judges on the court are expected to vote against the law, though they would need five votes for a victory. The death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia last month left a more even playing field; however, none of the remaining conservative judges are expected to side with with abortion providers. In the event of a 4-4 tie, the law would be upheld, leaving 5.4 million Texas women with even more limited access to what should be a constitutional right.
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