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Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Landmark Decision of the Century for Abortion Rights

June 15, 2016

Background Information:

In 2013, House Bill 2 (H.B. 2) was passed by the Texas Legislature which contained new legislation related to abortions.  For example, one provision requires that physicians performing abortions must have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion is performed.  Another provision required that all abortion clinics comply with ambulatory surgical centers standards.  Whole Woman’s Health sued the State of Texas seeking to invalidate H.B. 2 as they relate to clinics in McAllen and El Paso.  Whole Woman’s Health argues that “H.B. 2 denies equal protection, unlawfully delegated lawmaking authority, and constituted arbitrary and unreasonable state action.”  The district court sided with Whole Woman’s Health and “dismissed the equal protection, unlawful delegation, and arbitrary and unreasonable state action claims and granted declaratory and injunctive relief against the enforcement of the two contested provisions of H.B. 2.”  However, while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the equal protection, as well as the unlawful delegation, and arbitrary and unreasonable state actions claims, they partially reversed the injunctions because the plaintiffs failed to show they placed a substantial burden for women seeking an abortion. 

What’s at Stake:

            In past Supreme Court decisions such as Roe v. Wade in 1973, which was affirmed by the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court made it clear that women have the right to an abortion and states cannot place an undue burden for women seeking an abortion with state laws.  H.B. 2 in Texas, is a back-handed way that anti-choice politicians ignoring the Constitution and burying abortion clinics in unnecessary and impossible standards and regulations.  These regulations and standards create such a burden, that women seeking an abortion have to travel hundreds of miles, pay extensive amounts of money, possibly going out of state, all to exercise their right to choose.  If politicians in Texas succeed with these ridiculous and unfair laws, this will leave at most 10 abortion providers in the entire state of Texas.  If H.B. 2 if found lawful, it would reduce availability of abortions to women in the entire South, forcing women to travel extreme distances, and even turn to unsafe and illegal abortion options. 

Where the case is now:

Currently, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is being decided by the United State Supreme Court and the conclusion should be made by the 27th of this month.  If all goes well and Whole Woman’s Health wins the case, this will be a major victory for women’s reproductive rights.  That decisions would protect women’s rights, protect women’s dignity, clinics would stay open, a powerful momentum would occur, and the fight would continue with this great victory.  However, if there is a split decision or a loss on the part of Whole Woman’s Health, all but 9 clinics would be closed in Texas and this decision could control the rest of the laws around the nation in other states just like Texas.  Experts say that medically H.B. 2 proposes unnecessary requirements and are opposing these burdensome regulations, since they serve no medical purpose and interfere with women’s health. 

            The entire momentum of the women’s reproductive rights movement and the ability for abortion providers to provide care could be changed by this landmark decision.  It is important that people raise up their voices in support of the many abortion care providers around the nation and stand together to oppose the oppression that TRAP laws and legislation like H.B. 2 impose on anyone who is trying to receive reproductive health care.