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Supreme Court Ruling on Abortion is its Most Sweeping Since 1992

Kristen Clarke headshot

June 27, 2016Today, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which involved a challenge to two restrictive provisions of a Texas law (HB2) that required abortion practitioners to have admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30 miles radius, and that also required abortion facilities to meet strict ambulatory-surgical-center standards.

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

“Today’s Supreme Court decision vindicates the rights of people seeking access to the critical services provided by reproductive health centers,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“The ruling has particular implications for African-American, Latino and other women of color, who are more likely to rely on the important services provided by abortion centers.  The court’s ruling makes clear that states expose themselves to liability when they seek to gut the protections of Roe v. Wade by imposing burdensome and unnecessary restrictions that unfairly deny access to abortion clinics and reproductive health service providers.”

The court’s ruling means that dozens of licensed abortion facilities across the state of Texas can now reopen.  Prior to the enactment of H.B. 2, there were more than 40 licensed abortion facilities in Texas, and the number dropped significantly in the wake of the restrictions in this case. As Justice Ginsburg cautions in her concurrence,  “[w]hen a  State  severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate  circumstances  may  resort  to  unlicensed  rogue  practitioners, faute  de  mieux (for want of a better alternative),  at  great  risk  to  their  health  and safety.”

African-American women in the state of Texas comprise a disproportionate number of those women seeking abortions in Texas. As recently as 2012, about 25 percent of the abortions performed in Texas were obtained by black women—though they represent only 13.1 percent of Texas women of reproductive age.  In addition, African-American women in Texas are more likely to be uninsured and thus, rely significantly on the wide range of basic health services provided by reproductive health clinics.

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Lawyers' Committee, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The Lawyers' Committee celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013 and continues its quest of "Moving America Toward Justice." The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending, community development, employment, voting, education and environmental justice. For more information about the Lawyers' Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.

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