This morning, in a victory to pro-choice advocates, the Supreme Court struck down an overly restrictive abortion law in Texas with a 5-3 decision. Stephen Breyer wrote the opinion, and he was joined by the swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who saved us from another 4-4 tie vote that would have upheld the Texas law (and again, demonstrated the need for Merrick Garland). The law, if upheld, would have resulted in the massive shutdown of abortion clinics across America, as other conservative states adopted the law
Texas’s HB-2 law required abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as outpatient surgical clinics and for abortion doctors to also have hospital admitting privileges. That doesn’t sound too terrible, until you understand what that actually means.
You may recall that John Oliver covered this same issue four months ago. He explains what the law was, and what it would have meant here at the 3:40 mark.
As you can see, the building specifications are ridiculous: A hallway in an abortion clinic has to be 8 feet wide. Why? How does that in any way protect the safety of a woman who is getting an abortion? 90 percent of abortions take place in the first trimester, where surgery isn’t even required. As Oliver notes, “You don’t need an operating room to take a pill.”
The admitting privileges are likewise absurd and serve no medical basis. After all, hospitals will see anyone, even — as Oliver notes — someone who gets a Pez dispenser stuck in his ass. Likewise, admitting privileges aren’t required for birthing centers, where 12 percent of women actually are admitted into a hospital, so why require them for abortion clinics?
As the result of HB-2, even 13-year-old women who were the victims of rape, and who traveled from four hours away to get an abortion, were turned away, and often had only one other legal option: To travel to New Mexico and pay $5,000, plus travel and expenses. That’s not bloody likely in the case of most poor 13-year-old girls.
It was a ridiculous law designed with one reason only: To shut down abortion clinics in Texas.
In fact, in that segment, John Oliver hit upon exactly the point that Stephen Breyer made in his majority opinion: “Abortion cannot just be theoretically legal, it has to be literally accessible.” The ruling here is a victory for abortion rights advocates, because it means that abortion clinics will not have to meet senseless standards that have absolutely no relationship to abortion procedures.
As Oliver predicted, the entire decision was left in the hands of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who thankfully came through on this and sided with the majority.
SCOTUS's decision is a victory for women in Texas and across America. Safe abortion should be a right—not just on paper, but in reality. -H— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 27, 2016