The Supreme Court is beginning its re-argument today of Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, an expansive and controversial case that offers the court its opportunity to define the limits of what’s legal in the abortion context.
The matter before the justices is this: Is Texas’ 2014 abortion law in violation of the two-part requirement in Roe v Wade that a woman’s right to abortion must start at fetal viability, at which point she has the option of continuing a pregnancy – one that may or may not be a family member. Texas and the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) argue that there’s nothing in the language of the case’s “First Amendment rights in our system of government to protect fetal life,” namely, that states don’t have the right to forbid abortion at all. But supporters of a woman’s constitutional right to abortion say that the Texas law, and the 20-week abortion ban currently in effect in Iowa, affect the type of abortion provided and the degree to which women and health care providers can provide the service.
Some of the largest abortion provider groups in the US, in addition to the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, have filed amicus briefs supporting Texas’ law. They argue that Texas’ decision to regulate medical procedures is a response to the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt. As Courtney Millette explains in a fascinating article in the Atlantic, this situation has put the court in an unusual predicament:
“In the coming months, the court will decide whether to let the law take effect, overturn it, or leave the law in place and tailor it to accommodate the Justices’ faithfulness to a woman’s privacy rights. Which way they go depends partly on who they are and how they think they’ll vote. In the months to come, it will be the nation’s highest court determining what are the most important personal and economic decisions any woman will ever make for herself and her family.”