Supreme Court on Monday struck two key provisions of a sweeping anti-abortion law in Texas, granting abortion rights supports their most significant legal victory in a generation. Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the court’s liberals in the 5-3 decision that found Texas had placed unconstitutional burdens on women seeking abortion. It marks the first time the court has imposed limits on state abortion restrictions in more than 15 years and pushes back against a wave of restrictive state laws enacted in recent years.
“We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court.
The ruling is likely to galvanize anti-abortion votes in the presidential race and highlight the political fight over who will be appointed to the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Anti-abortion groups were hoping to enact laws similar to Texas in other parts of the country. A handful of states had already done so; those laws are now likely to face immediate challenges in the lower courts.
In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a group of Texas abortion clinics challenged the state law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and to perform abortions only in ambulatory surgical centers.
Opponents of the law said the restrictions have already closed half of the state’s abortion clinics, imposing an undue burden on a woman’s access to abortion. Texas argued that states have a long-standing right to regulate medical procedures to ensure patient safety.