On trial

Supreme Court shows divide on abortion case just one day in

Pro-choice advocates (right) and anti-abortion advocates (left) rally outside of the Supreme Court. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, United States Supreme Court justices remained intensely divided after hearing arguments about a Texas abortion case that could affect the rights of millions of American women. According to a review from the New York Times of court transcripts of the 90-minute session of Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstadt, liberal justices — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor — questioned the validity of anti-abortion bill HB2, which lawyers argue has shuttered more than half of abortion clinics in Texas. Justice Kagan called the effects of HB2 in Texas “almost like the perfect controlled experiment as to the effect of the law,” adding, “It’s like you put the law into effect, 12 clinics closed. You take the law out of effect, they reopen.”

HB2, famously filibustered by Senator Wendy Davis in 2013, banned abortion in Texas after 20 weeks, mandating that doctors must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility and asking abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. Doors of only 19 of Texas’ 40 clinics remain since the law fell into place and if HB2 is upheld by the high court, the number of clinics in Texas could drop to 10, according to Broadly, setting a dangerous anti-choice precedent for other states to follow. Justice Stephen G. Breyer warned that clinic closures that leave “three quarters of a million [women] living more than 200 miles away [from a clinic]” could lead to a rise of self-induced abortions, and ultimately, women will die from such procedures. The justices must determine if “undue burden” was placed on women seeking abortions in the state.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who holds a “crucial” vote according to the Times, suggested that it may be helpful to have a figure that better explains how many abortions could occur if the Texas law were fully implemented. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that there may be two questions at play: whether or not a burden was placed on women seeking abortions, and whether Texas gave plausible justification for the anti-abortion law. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. suggested that the 2013 law had nothing to do with clinic closures, saying, “There is very little specific evidence in the record in this case with respect to why any particular clinic closed.” Justice Clarence Thomas kept mum.

A decision will probably be reached in June.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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