Whole Women's Health v. Hersedt

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: June 27, 2016
  • Case #: 15-274
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed a concurring opinion. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, J., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

Portions of a bill requiring doctors performing abortions to have privileges at a hospital not more than thirty (30) miles away and that the clinic performing the abortion meet the requirements of ambulatory surgical centers places a substantial burden on women seeking abortions.

Texas House Bill 2 requires that physicians performing abortions have privileges a hospital within thirty (30) miles and that the clinic where the abortion takes place meet the standard of an “ambulatory surgery center.” The District Court initially granted an injunction. The injunction was vacated by the 5th Circuit as evidence was offered that it would provide health benefits to women. The present parties ultimately filed suit in federal court. Petitioners alleged that the Bill would limit the number of abortion facilities, the limited number of facilities and physicians would not be able to keep up with demand, travel time would increase for those seeking abortions, and there is no evidence of lowered risks as a result of the Bill. The District Court granted an injunction which was stayed by the Court of Appeals. The stay was reversed by the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court. Res Judicata does not apply to the claims brought in this suit because they are new claims and the petitioners were not required to bring all claims in the first suit. The Court of Appeals applied the wrong legal standard when determining if the Bill imposed an undue burden. Further, the Court of Appeals inferred legislative facts which is impermissible. The privileges requirement for physicians created an undue burden. There were not apparent benefits from its implementation, and there was no relevant credentialing function and further legislation, such as this Bill, would have no impact on corrupt abortion facilities. The requirements that abortion clinics meet the standard of ambulatory surgery centers is also an undue burden. There is no evidence demonstrating that there will be a decrease in risks, the surgery center will not be able to meet the demand, and women would be forced to travel in order obtain abortions. Finally, the other arguments put forth by the respondents are not persuasive. Severability clauses are a judicial aid, they are not mandatory. It is irrelevant that this will only impact a small number of women capable of reproduction; it must be measured by the population for which this is an actual burden. Cases which apply to second trimester abortions are irrelevant as most abortions in Texas occur in the first trimester. REVERSED AND REMANDED

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