Two key provisions of the draconian 2013 Texas abortion law were struck down this morning by a 5-3 Supreme Court majority. Significantly, Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the majority in an opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer. One of the challenged provisions dealt with admitting privileges at local hospitals and the other mandated abortion facilities to comply with all the requirements of ambulatory surgical centers.
In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833, 878 (1992), a plurality of the Court concluded that there “exists” an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to decide to have an abortion, and consequently a provision of law is constitutionally invalid, if the “purpose or effect” of the provision “is to place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” (Emphasis added.) The plurality added that “[u]nnecessary health regulations that have the purpose or effect of presenting a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion impose an undue burden on the right.” Ibid.
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We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, Casey, supra, at 878 (plurality opinion), and each violates the Federal Constitution. Amdt. 14, §1.
Thomas, Alito and Roberts dissented.
I haven’t had the chance to read the opinions yet, but based on what little I have read, this opinion is shaping up to be a sweeping and significant one. Stay tuned.