In a highly anticipated decision that could have dramatically changed the abortion access landscape in the United States, the Supreme Court ruled Monday morning that the Texas abortion law, HB2, was unconstitutional. Had SCOTUS upheld the decision, more than half of the abortion clinics in Texas would have been forced to shut their doors, according to the New York Times.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan voted to reject abortion restrictions imposed by HB2, while Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. along with Justices Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito Jr. dissented.
The key components of HB2 that SCOTUS struck down were mandates that abortion clinics meet surgical-center hospital requirements, including the width of clinics' hallways, and a requirement that abortion providers hold admitting privileges to nearby hospitals.
Opponents of HB2 have argued that these restrictions place an undue burden on women seeking abortions and were merely ways for the state to quickly close many clinics. Further, pro-choice activists have argued that the closure of so many abortion clinics would disproportionately affect poor and rural populations, a sentiment that was echoed in the decision written by Justice Breyer.
In the majority opinion, Breyer wrote that the two key requirements imposed by HB2 "erect a particularly high barrier for poor, rural, or disadvantaged women." As for the admitting privileges restriction, Breyer wrote that obtaining admitting privileges to local hospitals "does not serve any relevant credentialing function."
Had the Supreme Court upheld the Texas law, not only would many Texas abortion clinics have closed, but the decision would have essentially rendered the historic Roe v. Wade ruling a law without much practical applicability. Presumed Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton reflected this sentiment in a tweet she sent out about the SCOTUS ruling:
In a brief press release, President Obama stated that he is "pleased to see the Supreme Court protect women's rights and health."
The decision can't be understated in terms of its importance for upholding access to safe and legal abortions not only in Texas, but across the country.