A ruling on the state’s requirements for abortion providers could roil the 2016 race.
Supreme Court justices will meet behind closed doors Monday to start the process of deciding which cases to take up this term, with all eyes on a challenge to a Texas abortion law that could roil the presidential race just months before voters go to the polls.
The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, centers on a series of far-reaching restrictions on Texas abortion providers and clinics, which led to the closure of about half of the state’s abortion facilities. It promises to be the most significant abortion case in at least two decades, and could inject divisive social issues into the presidential race at a key moment.
If the justices hear the case after their term officially begins Oct. 5, they are expected to focus on two of the most significant restrictions in the Texas law — that abortion providers must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and that abortions be performed in facilities that meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Many other states — mostly red states where opposition to abortion is strong — have also imposed such restrictions.
Supporters say such laws ensure that women terminating pregnancies will get safe, quality care. But abortion rights advocates say that the regulations are unnecessarily onerous, often forcing clinic closures and that they are designed to restrict abortion, not make it safer.
The laws are part of a movement within many conservative states to increase the number of regulations on doctors and clinics that perform abortions. Arguments over the case will likely turn on whether the state has imposed an “undue burden” on women’s access to abortion.
In 1992, the court ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that states could impose some restrictions on abortion as long as they did not pose an undue burden on a woman’s access to the procedure. A ruling in this case would be only the second time since the Casey decision that the high court has reviewed such limits.