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The biggest Supreme Court victory for abortion access in decades

In the landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case on June 27, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that two abortion restrictions in Texas are unconstitutional because they would shut down most clinics in the state and cause an “undue burden” for Texas women to access safe, legal abortion. The case exposed the lie that anti-abortion politicians have been peddling for years: that it’s somehow “safer” for women when the state imposes medically unnecessary, onerous restrictions on health centers and clinicians that provide abortions. With this historic decision, the Court reaffirmed a woman’s constitutional right to access legal abortion.

The decision immediately struck down medically unnecessary restrictions in Texas that targeted abortion providers, requiring them to obtain often unattainable admitting privileges and adhere to prohibitively expensive building requirements (like down-to-the-inch dimensions for hallways and janitors' closets). Less than 24 hours after the ruling, efforts to enforce similar abortion restrictions in Alabama, Mississippi, and Wisconsin fell. 

What Happens Now

So, what happens now? In Texas, the medically unnecessary mandates on admitting privileges and building requirements have been eliminated. That means the abortion providers that were left standing after Texas’ anti-abortion law passed (which are about half of the approximately 40 providers that existed beforehand) will be able to stay open. What’s more, some of those health centers that Texas' HB2 shuttered could reopen.

Beyond Texas, efforts to enforce similar abortion restrictions in three other states — Alabama, Mississippi, and Wisconsin— were thwarted less than 24 hours after the ruling. More states likely will follow suit.

In the long-term, the ruling should help strengthen constitutional protections for abortion access across the United States.

We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet

This decision was a huge triumph for abortion access — but we’re still fighting against abortion restrictions in other states.

Far too many women still face insurmountable barriers to safe, legal health care. A person’s right to make their own decisions about abortion shouldn’t depend on who they are or where they live.

Bottom line: It’s time to pass state laws to protect a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, and repeal ones that block it.

Just consider these stats from the Guttmacher Institute:

425 restrictions

on safe, legal, abortion were introduced in the first 6 months of 2016 alone by state lawmakers.

334 restrictions

on safe, legal abortion were passed from 2011 to July 2016 by state lawmakers.

57% of women

live in a state that is either hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights.