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Potential Ramifications of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt & an Overview of Recent Abortion Legislation

2016 July 25

On June 27, the Supreme Court issued a 5-3 ruling on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion, reversing and remanding two provisions of HB 2, which was passed by the Texas legislature during a special session in 2013.

The majority opinion was largely based on Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed that states cannot place an “undue burden” on those seeking an abortion.

The challenged provisions are often known as the “admitting privileges requirement”—which requires the physician performing the abortion to have active admitting privileges at a nearby hospital—and the “surgical-center requirement”—which requires abortion facilities to meet ambulatory surgical center standards. While the Supreme Court’s ruling applied to Texas’ law, specifically, this ruling may impact a series of laws that also include these two provisions.

Ten states (AL, KS, LA, MS, OK, WI, MO, ND, TN, and UT) passed laws that involve an admitting privileges requirement. Most of those laws have been passed since 2011 and require those who perform abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges to a hospital no more than thirty miles away. Some states specify fifteen miles while other states specify fifteen minutes.

However, admitting privileges requirements in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin have been overturned by lower courts.

Several states, including Michigan and Tennessee, have laws with surgical-center requirements that are similar to the one in TX HB 2, while many others have slightly differing surgical-center requirements.

Whole Woman’s Health, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case ...

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