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U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Abortion Restrictions

Marjorie Kamys Cotera
Texas Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down Texas' widely replicated regulation of abortion clinics in the court's biggest abortion case in nearly a quarter century.

The justices voted 5-3 Monday in favor of Texas clinics that protested the regulations as a thinly veiled attempt to make it harder for women to get an abortion in the nation's second-most populous state.

Justice Stephen Breyer's majority opinion for the court held that the regulations are medically unnecessary and unconstitutionally limit a woman's right to an abortion.

"We have found nothing in Texas’ record evidence that shows that, compared to prior law (which required a “working arrangement” with a doctor with admitting privileges), the new law advanced Texas’ legitimate interest in protecting women’s health," Breyer wrote.

Texas had argued that its 2013 law and subsequent regulations were needed to protect women's health. The rules required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and forced clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.

What does this mean for Texas? The Texas Tribune reports

This means Texas’ 19 remaining clinics — of the more than 40 that were open before HB 2 passed — will continue to provide abortions. Had the court upheld the hospital-like standard requirement, Texas would have been left Texas with as few as 10 abortion clinics — all in major metropolitan areas.

Reactions to the ruling

Some Republican Texas lawmakers have expressed their disappointment in the ruling. 

Governor Greg Abbott released the following statement: 

“The decision erodes States’ lawmaking authority to safeguard the health and safety of women and subjects more innocent life to being lost. Texas' goal is to protect innocent life, while ensuring the highest health and safety standards for women."

In his own statement, Attorney General Ken Paxton said the restrictions were "an effort to improve minimum safety standards and ensure capable care for Texas women."  

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick: 

"Despite today's devastating impact on women's health care, and as the proud author of the sonogram bill and co-writer of HB 2, I remain committed to protecting women’s health and safety."

Former state Sen. Wendy Davis says the Supreme Court striking down Texas' abortion law validates a 2013 filibuster she staged against it.

Davis tweeted: "Today made that day 3 yrs ago all worth it!"

The Democrat from Fort Worth stood in the Texas Senate for 11-plus hours three years ago, temporarily blocking tough abortion restrictions.

The GOP-controlled state Legislature easily passed them in a subsequent special session, though.

The filibuster made Davis - and the pink tennis shoes she wore - a national sensation in liberal circles. But her 2014 gubernatorial run ended in an overwhelming defeat by Republican Greg Abbott.

Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards also praised the ruling. 

State Senator Jose Menendez, a San Antonio Democrat, called the Supreme Court decision "a victory for women," but also warned of possible consequences. 

"The fight to protect a woman's right to choose is not over," he said in a statement. "Today's ruling marked a major victory for women's health, but rest assured politicians are already devising the next round of medically unnecessary regulations. We must remain vigilant and stand up for Texas women."  

Today's ruling will likely affect the 12 other states who’ve approved similar abortion restrictions.

This post will be updated throughout the day.