It’s hard not to be elated by the Supreme Court’s five-to-three ruling today on the Texas abortion law H.B.2. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it all in her one paragraph concurring opinion. The law dictated that an abortion clinic needed the buildings, equipment and staffing for a hospital-style ambulatory surgery center and required doctors to have nearby admitting privileges. These requirements aren’t even imposed on riskier procedures like tonsillectomies and colonoscopies. The majority of the court said the law, one of the nation’s most restrictive, served no medical purpose and absolutely constituted an undue burden for poor women seeking to have an abortion.
The decision will have a far reaching impact on other states that have similarly tried to limit the rights conferred under Roe v. Wade. This is the first ruling in nearly a quarter of a century that actually protects that most fundamental women’s right to choose. The decision is a rare up-beat moment in an otherwise bleak public policy season.
Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts wanted to tread water, sending the issue back to the states for more fact finding until a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia could be approved. The vote, however, was such that if Scalia- or even a Scalia clone – had been there to uphold the Texas anti-abortion law, the majority would still have struck down the Texas restrictions.
Justice Clarence Thomas was the sole voice for finding the law constitutional. Unconfirmed rumors among court watchers have Thomas retiring after the Presidential election. It’s probably too much to hope for, but for many it can’t come a moment too soon.
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