The US Supreme Court has struck down a 3-year-old law in Texas that placed tight restrictions on abortions across the state. While some advocates of this law – called House Bill 2, or HB2 for short – claimed that imposing strict regulations on abortion procedures protects women’s health, the eight-justice court voted 5-3 in favor of the many healthcare experts who have gone on record stating the law has no medical basis.
Introduced in 2013, HB2 requires all abortion clinics in Texas to meet the same building standards as regular hospitals, while also stating that doctors working at these clinics must have permission to admit patients to a hospital within 48 kilometers (30 miles). To meet these requirements, most abortion clinics in the state would have to undergo costly redevelopments in order to expand the width of their corridors, among other things.
While some have claimed that these tight regulations ensure that abortion procedures meet the highest safety standards, the Supreme Court ruling claims that HB2 places an “undue burden” on clinics, restricting women’s access to abortion. Indeed, since the bill was introduced, half of Texas’s abortion clinics have been forced to close, placing a huge strain on those doctors that have continued to provide the procedure.
Furthermore, women seeking abortions have been hit with excessive waiting periods and long journeys – sometimes to other states – in order to be seen to. This, the Supreme Court decided, constitutes an “impermissible obstacle” to the constitutional rights of women in the US, leading to the ruling to overturn a bill that “provides no benefit” to either doctors or patients.
With the US presidential election coming up later this year, it’s thought abortion could become a major sticking point in the battle for the White House, with Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump having recently expressed an opinion that women seeking abortion should be "punished".
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton – who is expected to take up the Democratic nomination – has come out in support of the Supreme Court ruling regarding HB2. “By striking down politically motivated restrictions that made it nearly impossible for Texans to exercise their full reproductive rights, the court upheld every woman's right to safe, legal abortion, no matter where she lives,” said Clinton.