Supreme Court Hears Most Important Abortion Case in Decades
Access to Abortion Hangs in the Balance as Justices Deliberate
MADISON – On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the most consequential abortion case the Court has taken up in more than 20 years.
This case will decide whether an extremely restrictive, unnecessary Texas law aimed at abortion providers is constitutional. Upholding this law would devastate abortion access in Texas and would pave the way for even more states to enact similar laws making access to safe, legal abortion care even more difficult for women.
“Doctors know that dangerous laws like admitting privileges put women’s health at risk and threaten to block access to needed safe and legal medical services” said Tanya Atkinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin. “Abortion is a deeply personal decision that should be made by a woman and her doctor – without intrusion from politicians.”
A similar Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they practiced was conclusively struck down by a federal appeals court in 2015. The three judge panel concurred that the law would not enhance patient safety and would impose an undue burden on women seeking abortion care.
“At Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, our top priority is the health and safety of our patients, but as multiple judges have ruled, these laws are intended to put obstacles in the path of women seeking safe, legal abortion care – not enhance patient safety,” said Atkinson. “Based on the strong decisions we have received rejecting the arguments for admitting privileges, we are confident that the Wisconsin law will remain enjoined.”
“This landmark case highlights just how much elections matter,” Atkinson continued. “Restrictive laws that block access to safe and legal abortion target abortion providers are one more reason why we must work together to elect leaders who value the health of women and families and trust women to make their own health care decisions.”
This case will be argued in the U.S. Supreme Court before 8 justices. The court can hear cases and issue decisions with only 8 justices. The court could also decide to hold the decision in Hellerstedt until next term.
If the court does issue its decision, it will likely come down later this spring as the term wraps up. If the court ends up splitting 4-4, the lower court’s decision stands and there is no precedent set. For Wisconsin, this means that the Seventh Circuit decision remains the law of the land and our admitting privileges law remains blocked. However, it also means the Fifth Circuit’s decision will stand and have devastating impact on women in states like Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin is the advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. PPAWI engages in legislative and educational activity and works to elect candidates to office that support these goals.