Supreme Court Strikes down Texas TRAP Laws
On July 27, the US Supreme Court handed down a ruling on abortion, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in what the National Women’s Law Center called “a powerful reaffirmation of the constitutional right of women in every state to make their own decisions about their health, families, and futures.” In a 5-3 decision, the court struck down a Texas law, HB 2, and with it the requirements that abortion providers must have local hospital admitting privileges and all abortion clinics must follow surgical center standards.
According to the New York Times, targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP laws, were challenged by Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion, which found “virtual absence of any health benefit” from HB 2. When the bill was signed into law in July 2013, it triggered the closure of more than half of the state’s abortion clinics.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had joined several religious partners to file an amicus brief in favor of HB 2. “There is ample evidence in this case that hospital admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements protect women’s lives and health,” according to the brief.
Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, took a different view of women’s well-being: “Our faith’s teachings demand that we respect the conscience-based decisions people make, including the right to continue or end a pregnancy.” According to 2014 data published by the Guttmacher Institute, Catholic women had abortions at nearly the same rate as all US women.
TIME called Whole Woman’s Health “the most important abortion politics event in decades,” and one that “will require that the anti-abortion movement rethink its approach to dismantling Roe v Wade’s legacy…”
O’Brien saw a more equivocal impact: “This ruling appears to acknowledge that women have the right to make a decision but not necessarily act on it.”