Category Archives: Abortion

The Supreme Court Ruling Against Texas’ Abortion Law – Five Key Points

Last month’s Supreme Court ruling on a Texas law that closed dozens of abortion clinics has been hailed as the most significant court decision related to abortion since Roe v Wade in 1973.

The Supreme Court backed abortion rights
An abortion sign in South Africa

The decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was important because it tackled two specific and key provisions of a sweeping law to restrict abortions that Texas’s conservative legislature passed in 2013, namely:

1 The requirement of doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away from the abortion clinic.

2 It required clinics that perform abortions to have the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers that perform far more complicated procedures.

The practical effect of the law was to close dozens of abortion clinics across the Lone Star State. Opponents of the legislation claimed it would cut the number of abortion clinics from 40 to 10. About half of the clinics had closed by the time of the ruling.  The Dallas Morning News reported a 14 percent reduction in abortions in the state.

In a nutshell, the 5-3 ruling of the Supreme Court, which was written by Justice Stephen Breyer, said that both the admitting privileges and the onerous surgical center requirements “constitute an undue burden on abortion access, and thus violate the Constitution.”

Here are five important takeaways from the ruling

1 It Sends a Message to Other States

Republican-led states have been undermining abortion since 2010 when the party made historic electoral gains and doubled the number of states it controlled. The Supreme Court ruling has drawn a line in the sand and made it clear that laws as restrictive as the one in Texas will likely be struck down.

2 It was the First Pro-Abortion Win in More than a Decade

Pro-abortionists have been losing ground for 10 years, even though Roe v. Wade remains in force. The last time they were on the winning side of a major Supreme Court case was 16 years ago, when a 5-4 ruling in Stenberg v. Carhart invalidated a law in Nebraska that banned a procedure abortion opponents called “partial-birth abortion.”

3 Justice Anthony Kennedy Changed Sides

All eyes were on which side Justice Anthony Kennedy would back. Kennedy has been a swing vote on abortion in the past, but he joined the majority side in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The Supreme Court’s future direction on this contentious and polarizing issue  is likely to depend on November’s election and which side gets to appoint the ninth judge.

4 The Lack of Health Benefit Argument Was Pivotal

One of the original issues disputed in the case involved the Texas legislation’s perceived benefits for maternal health. While the Fifth Circuit assumed health benefits would arise for women, the Supreme Court said it had demonstrated “blind deference” to the claims of lawmakers with an anti-abortion agenda.

The Supreme Court considered statistics that found there are seldom complications from abortions and  even when complications do arise, the H.B. 2 law probably wouldn’t help much.

5 The Opponents of Abortions May Adopt Different Tactics

Anti-abortion lawmakers have become increasingly bold in recent years. Recently, proposals for a total abortion ban were vetoed by the Governor of Oklahoma. Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt may change that because they will be more aware of the possibility of legislation being ruled unconstitutional.

Another ruling could make for an even broader pro-abortion precedent. That would be bad for the opponents of abortion.

We can expect to see states continuing to chip away at abortion laws, but it’s likely to be in a way that’s more subtle that the law in Texas.


Virginia’s Ultrasound Law is the Latest Chapter in a Legal Battle over Abortion

Veritas Legal Media -757-582-1836,

A controversial bill in signed this month in Virginia that has made ultrasounds for women seeking abortions mandatory, again highlights the division in America over the issue of abortion.

Abdominal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions in the Commonwealth will become mandatory after July 1, 2012. The measure was recently signed into law by Virginia’s Republican governor Bob McDonnell.

The bill was signed amid scenes of protest in Richmond, but earlier versions of the bill proved even more contentious because it proposed an invasive form of ultrasound.

The new law “requires all Virginia abortion providers to comply starting July 1 or pay a $2,500 fine for each violation,” CBS news reported.

Patients who live within a distance of 100 miles of the clinic performing the abortion must wait 24 hours after the ultrasound before having an abortion, under the new law. Victims of rape or incest who notified the police of their attacks are exempt. While woman have to be offered a chance to see the images under the new law they can’t be forced to do so.

The original measure attracted widespread criticism because it required women to undergo a transvaginal sonogram, a procedure in which a wand is inserted in the vagina to produce an image.

Critics said the measure deliberately sought to require an invasive procedure to dissuade women from having abortions when a less invasive method was available. McDonnell amended the bill to allow the use of an abdominal sonogram, in which the wand is instead rubbed over a woman’s belly. The initial bill also applied to all abortions including incest and rapes.

“As difficult as an abortion decision is, the information provided by ultrasounds, along with other information given by the doctor pursuant to current law and prevailing medical practice, can help the mother make a fully informed decision,” McDonnell said in a statement.

Virginia is not alone in requiring pre-abortion ultrasound screening. Seven other states have the measure.

The legislation closely resembles similar bills making their way through legislatures in 12 other states, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation.

Abortion law has been one of the most controversial areas of family law in the United States for more than a century, pitting arguments of a woman’s freedom of choice against those of the rights of the unborn child.

Laws banning abortion first appeared in America in the 1820s, originally forbidding abortion after the fourth month of pregnancy.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, remains the most important judicial decision in this volatile area.

Jane Roe was a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, woman from Texas who was pregnant but unmarried.  She wanted an abortion, but was denied under Texas law. A federal lawsuit was filed seeking to have the Texas law overturned as unconstitutional.

The US Supreme Court on a 7-2 vote agreed with Roe that the law criminalizing abortion violated her right to privacy. The case decided a state cannot regulate abortion in the first trimester beyond making sure the procedure is carried out by a licensed doctor in medically safe conditions. The court also ruled that a fetus is not a person protected by the constitution.

Before Roe v. Wade all states had laws on their books criminalizing abortions dating back to the 19th century. These laws stayed on the books until the 1960s and 1970s in many cases.

The landmark case failed to take the sting out of the abortion debate. If anything, it became more intense.

Opponents led by the Catholic Church, became more organized. In the 1980s, the Republican President Ronald Reagan, an outspoken opponent of abortion, argued for the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

The President appointed C. Everett Koop, an abortion opponent, to the position of surgeon general. But Roe v. Wade remained in place.

By the 1980s the abortion issue was spilling over into violence in the organized blocking of access to clinics which provided abortion services, organized primarily by a new group called Operation Rescue.

There were also bombings of abortion clinics by radicals. On Christmas Day, 1984, three abortion clinics were bombed. One of those convicted described the crimes as “a gift to Jesus on his birthday.”

Although the violence has died down, abortion continued to be a political and legal battleground as witnessed in Virginia.

The legal focus shifted to later term abortions in recent years. In the 2000 case of Stenberg v Carhart, Nebraska’s law that made the performing of partial-birth abortion illegal, was struck down by the Supreme Court.

In 2003, the federal government moved on the issue, enacting a Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Although several federal judges struck down  the law, citing the precedent of Stenberg v. Carhart, it was upheld by the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart.

Rules requiring a woman to get “informed consent” or parental consent have proved to be another volatile area for legal action

Generally an abortion provider must give information about the risks, the alternatives, the age of the fetus, and information about assistance available for the woman to have the child. Requirements by states for women seeking abortions to have ultrasounds, is part of the informed consent agenda.

The Supreme Court generally has upheld parental consent laws, provided they allow a minor the ability to obtain permission to have an abortion from a judge rather than a parent. There are 26 states that require parental consent to abortion and 37 states that require some kind of parental involvement such as parental notification short of consent. In all cases the lack of consent can be overturned by a court ruling.

Wide variations in abortion law remain at state level. For instance, 46 states allow individual health care providers to refuse carry out an abortion. And 43 states allow institutions to refuse to perform abortions.

In all 19 states mandate that women receive counseling before an abortion including information on factors such as the possible link between abortion and breast cancer in seven states and the ability of a fetus to feel pain in 11 states.

The Republican-controlled US House of Representatives is currently considering the “Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act” that would effectively federalize state laws of abortion for teens, and is aimed at preventing women under 18 from obtaining an abortion. It would impose harsh penalties on doctors or anybody else who helps a minor obtain an abortion without first informing her parent or guardian.

The law on abortion remains a fast moving and bitterly contested area.