In June 2016 – in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt – the Supreme Court struck down two Texas abortion restrictions that, under the guise of protecting women’s health, specifically targeted abortion and abortion providers by imposing requirements on them that were more burdensome than those imposed on similar medical procedures and practices. These regulations made it harder or impossible for the providers to remain open and serve patients, and increased costs and delays for patients. And Texas was not alone in passing these laws. Fortunately, the Supreme Court saw through the charade, holding that these types of laws unconstitutionally burden a woman’s right to abortion.
Now, 9 months after the ruling, women in Texas and Mississippi have the Supreme Court to thank for big wins in their states. In Texas, in a huge win for women, Whole Woman’s Health – the clinic that challenged the Texas law – announced that it will be reopening its flagship health center in Austin. This is the first clinic to re-open in Texas since the Supreme Court ruling.
Moreover, the ruling has not just affected women in Texas. In Mississippi, a federal court on Friday permanently blocked the state’s targeted regulation that was nearly identical to one of the Texas regulations struck down in June. Because of this ruling, Mississippi’s one remaining abortion clinic can continue to serve patients.
These states have much further to go to ensure abortion access for the women in their states. After all, half of the 41 clinics in Texas were forced to close before the Supreme Court stepped in, so having one re-opened clinic does not guarantee women the same access they had before. Still, the Supreme Court ruling is propelling access to abortion in the right direction and hopefully will prevent other attempts to limit abortion access elsewhere. Finally, as the Senate is considering a nominee to the Supreme Court this week, this is an important reminder that the Supreme Court plays a key role in protecting women’s rights.