At the end of the Supreme Court’s 2016 Term, the Court issued its decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. One of the more closely watched cases of that Term, Hellerstedt asked whether the Supreme Court would adhere to its prior decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed that women have a constitutionally protected right to decide to end a pregnancy.
The state of Texas had not formally requested that the Court revisit Casey or the earlier decision Casey had affirmed, Roe v. Wade, in Hellerstedt. But that was what Texas was, in effect, asking the Court to do. If Texas were correct in Hellerstedt that the challenged abortion restrictions were valid, the right to decide to end a pregnancy would have amounted to little more than a fiction. The Texas restrictions at issue in Hellerstedt required doctors providing abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals within thirty miles of where the doctor performed abortions and required facilities providing abortions to comply with the litany of restrictions applicable to ambulatory surgical centers. There was no evidence that either of the restrictions made abortion safer, and their combined effect was to reduce the number of clinics in the state of Texas from over forty to seven, all of which would have been concentrated in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio metropolitan regions. If states could enact such severe restrictions without having to establish that the restrictions actually serve a valid purpose, it is not hard to imagine that the right to decide to end a pregnancy would have become a right in name only.
Leah M. Litman,
Unduly Burdening Women’s Health: How Lower Courts Are Undermining Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt,
Mich. L. Rev. Online
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr_online/vol116/iss1/4