SCOTUS to rule on Texas abortion clinic law

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Photo Credit: Kelly Smith | Daily Texan Staff

The Supreme Court of the United States is expected to rule on a Texas abortion law known as HB 2 on June 27.

In the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the plaintiff is arguing the key provision that mandates all abortions, both surgical and medical (administered by a pill), must be completed in ambulatory surgical centers — which do not require overnight hospital stay after surgery — poses an undue burden on women.

The current law requires a doctor who is an abortion provider to be able to admit a patient to a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. The bill also includes revised building codes for the facilities, similar to those for a hospital. 

Many abortion clinics statewide have closed since the law was enacted. 

Charlotte Lichtenheld, advertising and women’s & gender studies sophomore, said the law that is up for review is completely uncalled for and has nothing to do with protecting a woman’s health.

“An abortion is an extremely safe procedure,” Lichtenheld said. “It is safer than liposuction and it is 11 percent safer than giving birth. Any restrictions that have been placed on abortion are completely unnecessary and are only to restrict abortion access.”

Lichtenheld said regulation of abortions is important.

“Abortion is only unsafe when it is performed illegally because it is unsterile, unregulated and is not performed by medical professionals the majority of the time,” Lichtenheld said.

Ryan Bullard, a political strategy and government senior, said he believes the case is less about the law itself and more about the state’s abilities to regulate abortions.

“Although I am pro-life, the main reason why I support the respondents, the state of Texas, is that I believe key parts of HB 2 are in the interest of public health,” Bullard said. “The Texas State Legislature, a democratically elected body, [has] the right and obligation to pursue legitimate state interests such as public health.”

Humanities junior Zoraima Paeza, is president of Texas Rising, an organization on campus that advocates for reproductive rights. He said  if the law is upheld, it could have an effect on access to
abortions nationwide.

“If we lose, then it’s terrible because this stands as a precedent,” Paeza said. “Then Republican-led legislatures will take this law and pass it, and we’ll see massive closures nationally.”

Paeza said if the law is struck down, but the Supreme Court fails to define what an “undue burden” is, the legislature can drum up a whole new slew of bills that put restrictions on providers. 

Bullard said he believes the court will likely strike down some parts of HB 2.

“There are four liberal justices on the Court,” Bullard said. “A fifth, Justice Kennedy, helped author the Planned Parenthood v. Casey plurality decision, which lays the foundation for the pro-abortion argument. Kennedy will likely back the liberals, causing a 5-3 split and a win for the pro-abortion side.”

Lichtenfeld said she thinks the Supreme Court will vote in favor of Whole Woman’s Health as well.

“If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Whole Woman’s Health or if it is a mixed decision, the remaining 19 clinics will keep their doors open,” Lichtenfeld said. “The decision will pave the way for other clinics to reopen and help solve the abortion access crisis in Texas.”