U.S. Supreme Court strikes down regulations on Texas abortion

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court's June 27 decision to strike down restrictions on Texas abortion clinics is having ripple effects on legislation across the country and it also has galvanized those on both sides of the abortion issue.

The impact of the ruling — which said Texas abortion clinics do not have to comply with standards of ambulatory surgical centers and their doctors are not required to have admitting privileges at local hospitals — was felt almost immediately.

That same day, Alabama's Attorney General Luther Strange said his office would drop its appeal of a federal district court judge's 2014 ruling that the state's admitting-privileges law, similar to the Texas law, unconstitutional.

"While I disagree with the high court's decision, there is no good faith argument that Alabama's law remains constitutional in light of the Supreme Court ruling," Strange said in a statement.

And the next day, the Supreme Court refused to review court rulings that blocked admitting-privileges requirements at abortion facilities in Mississippi and Wisconsin.

Support for the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt — the court's first ruling on abortion in several years — predicted a swift wave of changes striking down similar restrictions on abortion clinics across the country. Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, described the court's ruling as the first step in opening the door to restore more access to abortion.

Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, doesn't see it that way.

"There may be some laws that are turned down because of what the Supreme Court did," she said, "but by and large the laws are going to stay."

"The abortion industry wants to set up this mirage that no laws are going to stand and they will try to intimidate or scare pro-life legislators," she said in a June 30 phone interview from New Mexico.

The decision could impact abortion laws in Missouri with a possible legal challenge to similar laws passed in 2005. These laws requiring that an abortionist have hospital privileges within 30 miles of the abortion clinic and that abortion clinics follow the same procedures as all ambulatory surgical centers are common sense safety measures and not undue burdens, said Steve Rupp, president of Missouri Right to Life.

"This decision allows the abortion industry to operate unsafe clinics and with little oversight," Rupp said. "Today the court advanced the abortion agenda over the protection of women's health."

Karen Nolkemper, executive director of the Respect Life Apostolate of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, said: "No abortion clinic will ever be safe for unborn children, but these common-sense safety requirements struck down by the Supreme Court would have at least protected women from undue harm at the hands of abortion providers. We will continue to speak for those who have no voice and to seek legal protections for innocent lives."

The Missouri Catholic Conference issued a statement saying, "The MCC will continue its efforts to ensure that women in crisis pregnancies have access to agencies that offer alternatives to abortion."

Mike Hoey, executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy agency for the state's Catholic bishops, said the decision "will not stop the decades-long effort of pro-life citizens to protect women and their unborn babies from the abortion industry."

Tobias thinks the pro-life movement will be more invigorated in their fight after the court's decision.

"Pro-lifers are steadfast and determined," she said, noting that they are accustomed to taking a few steps forward and then some backward, but they will continue to vote for those who promote pro-life legislation.

"The court decision was a step backward but it does not change what we're doing," she added. She also said pro-life advocates have other issues they are emphasizing such as fetal health legislation that bans abortions at 20 weeks or later based on fetal pain.

She said it is worth noting that one part of the Texas law, H.B. 2, that was not challenged was its prohibition on abortions after 20 weeks. Similar legislation has passed in 14 states and she believes other states will follow suit. 


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