Divided Supreme Court hears Texas abortion case
March 15th, 2016
By Matt Hadro and Adelaide Mena
WASHINGTON – As the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments March 2 about a Texas law requiring abortion clinics to meet higher medical standards, advocates outside the court said the regulations are about protecting women’s health.
For Nona Ellington, the case is a personal one.
“As a result of that abortion at age 15, I’m no longer able to have children,” she said outside the court. “I had five miscarriages instead.”
The miscarriages led to life-threatening complications, including tubal pregnancies and a ruptured fallopian tube, she said, adding that she also suffered severe psychological effects after the abortion.
Now, she is taking a stand against “shoddy abortion clinics” and warning that abortion is “a very dangerous procedure.”
Inside the court, the justices heard a challenge to a Texas law that requires abortion clinics in the state to conform to the same regulatory health standards as ambulatory surgical centers.
Under these health standards, abortion doctors must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles in case of a medical emergency resulting from an abortion. In addition, final regulations increased the required number of staff at clinics, as well as mandating building requirements such as a designated operating room.
Critics say that the law’s regulations could result in 75 percent of Texas abortion clinics closing, due to increased operating costs or lack of additional real estate to conform to the regulations. Most remaining clinics would be in urban areas, critics say, creating a substantial burden on women seeking abortions.
The state of Texas, defending the law, argues that the medical consensus is split on the need for the regulations, and so it is within the state’s power to act if it sees the need for oversight of clinics.
Inside the court, oral arguments focused on whether the law’s intent was to place an “undue burden” on the right of women to have an abortion, as prohibited in the court’s 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
The law puts “heavy burdens on abortion access that are not medically justified,” said Stephanie Toti, challenging the Texas legislation before the court. She pointed to clinics closing throughout the state in anticipation of the law’s enactment or right after it was enacted.
The court is expected to rule later this year. The recent death of pro-life Justice Antonin Scalia leaves a hole in the ideologically divided body of justices, leaving the remaining eight members of the bench to issue the decision.
From March 17, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.