In a 5-3 ruling, the Supreme Court declared a Texas law that effectively restricted access to abortion clinics unconstitutional. The ruling was seen as a major win for abortion rights activists and for women's health care.
The 2013 law, called HB2, required abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. It also required the doctors performing the abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. After the law was passed, 23 of the 41 clinics that provided abortion services in Texas were forced to closed down.
Whole Women's Health, a clinic with locations in San Antonio, McAllen and Fort Worth, brought the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that
Critics of the law pointed out that abortions are safer than colonoscopies and, in most cases, oral surgeries, and claimed that the law was not meant to safeguard women's health but instead to restrict women's access to safe and professional abortions. In fact, abortion patients rarely require hospitalization and most simply take two pills, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The state of Texas claimed the law was "to ensure patient safety and raise standards of care."
When asked in an oral argument if Texas could provide a single example of an instance where the new law helped a woman get better treatment, Texas admitted there was no such instance on record.
"It is beyond rational belief that H. B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law 'would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions,'" Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — one of three women on the Supreme Court — wrote in her opinion. "When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners... at great risk to their health and safety."
And Ginsburg is right; a recent Texas survey found that between 100,000 and 240,000 women aged 18 to 49 had attempted a self-induced abortion at one time or another in their life. Over 100,000 of those women, the survey reported, had attempted self-induced abortions in the past year.
Many are calling the court's decision the biggest win for abortion rights since Roe v. Wade, which recognized a woman's right to choose. Texas' HB2 was deemed to put an "undue burden" on that constitutional right. There are 5.4 million women in Texas of reproductive age.
Hillary Clinton, the first woman to ever become a major party's presumptive presidential nominee, immediately weighed in when the court's decision was announced.
Perhaps most importantly, the ruling will have an effect on at least twelve other states across the country who have tried to impose similarly restrictive laws under the guise of protecting women's health.