The majority in the 5-3 ruling said the restrictions impose an “undue burden on abortion access.”
The Supreme Court struck as unconstitutional part of a restrictive Texas statute that threatened to shutter half of the state’s remaining abortion clinics and deny millions of women the right to a safe abortion.
The ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt represents the most significant victory for abortion rights at the high court since the turn of the century, as states have scrambled to pass and defend similar laws across the country, seeking to chip away at the landmark Roe v. Wade.
That 1973 decision, refined by a conservative compromise in a 1992 case, established that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to end her pregnancy, but later rulings and conservative lobbying have given states leeway to craft abortion laws and regulations targeting not so much the right but those who facilitate it.
Writing for a 5-3 majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said the two Texas laws at issue in the case are unconstitutional.
The immediate impact of the ruling means that the plaintiff in the case, Whole Women’s Health, will not have to close any more of its Texas clinics.
“Every day, Whole Woman’s Health treats our patients with compassion, respect and dignity,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder and CEO of the group. “And today the Supreme Court did the same. We’re thrilled that today justice was served and our clinics stay open.”
Many of the laws were based on models written by Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion legal group. Clarke Forsythe, the group’s acting president, said today’s decision “endangers women nationwide as health and safety standards are at risk.”
NARAL President Ilyse Hogue added that the key to the ruling was the court’s ability to look into the intentions of the legislature that passed the law, which is central to similar court challenges in states such as Louisiana and Mississippi.
“The Justices apparently saw what we already knew — that the Texas law under review and all those like it are never about protecting women,” she said. “They are about trying to ban abortion and undermining a woman’s dignity and ability to determine her own future.”
The Texas law was famously filibustered by Wendy Davis, who was a state senator at the time. She reacted to the ruling Monday on Twitter.
Fifth circuit is reversed!!! #WholeWomansHealth
— Wendy Davis (@wendydavis) June 27, 2016