March 5, 2016
This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the most consequential abortion case in decades, Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
The case evaluates the constitutionality of a Texas law requiring all abortion clinics to meet the standards required of “ambulatory surgery centers,” and all physicians providing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Proponents of the law maintain it is a safety measure protecting women’s health, pointing to such notorious cases as Philadelphia’s Kermit Gosnell.
Opponents claim this law has caused numerous clinics to close needlessly, thus imposing an undue burden on women seeking abortions. Many doctors who perform abortions (including Jefferson’s Dr. Lisa Perriera) have stated that the law in fact does not improve patient safety - for reference, it imposes more stringent standards on abortions than on other procedures with higher rates of complications (colonoscopies, wisdom teeth removal, and appendectomies, to name a few).
Both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have stated that the new law will do more harm than good by impeding women’s access to care. Opponents claim that it may have even led to a rise in second trimester abortions and therefore an increase in surgical (as opposed to medical) abortions.
Following the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the now-8-member court appears sharply divided on the issue, with female justices taking a vocal role and regular swing voter Justice Kennedy hinting that he may even send the case back to lower courts for additional data collection. The court is expected to release a decision in June.