Over forty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court established a woman’s fundamental right to an abortion. Since then, lawmakers, special interest groups, and confused presidential candidates have worked to reverse this right. The court’s landmark case, Roe v. Wade (1973), struck down a Texas law that criminally punished the act of helping a woman get an abortion. Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) established an equally important precedent. The case ruled against a Pennsylvania law that placed “a substantial obstacle” in front of women wishing to obtain an abortion as an “undue burden.” Thus, the undue burden test was born to measure state abortion laws’ constitutionality. And now this test has thrust Texas back into the legal spotlight.
To be fair, Texas did plenty of thrusting on its own.
Few people will ever be convinced by opposing arguments on abortion. The eight justices are no exception to this rule, especially without a ninth, tie-breaking vote. In early 2016, Justice Scalia died in Texas and removed a conservative voice from the court, which remains sharply divided on social issues. The current case in question — Whole Women’s Health vs. Texas — revolves around the 2013 Texas HB2 law. John Oliver recently shredded the legislation’s new clinic requirements as arbitrary and geared more toward eliminating abortion than a medical purpose. The law places these restrictions upon abortions:
- Pregnancies past 20 weeks don’t qualify for an abortion unless the life of the mother or child is at serious risk. In these cases, the abortion doctor must perform the procedure in a way that “provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive.”
- Patients using the abortion pill must make up to four in-person clinic visits. These include two pill-taking visits, a follow-up appointment, and a mandatory 24-hour waiting period after an ultrasound for any woman who lives within 100 miles of the clinic.
- Abortion clinic doctors must also have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. This is the hardest point to satisfy because hospitals aren’t jumping to grant such privileges.