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US Supreme Court overturns Texas abortion law

@PattyMurray via Twitter

In a close ruling (5-3), the Supreme Court of the US struck down a Texas abortion law this morning.

The overturned law consisted of two elements that the Court ruled unlawful.

First, doctors who are abortion providers were required to have “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic — meaning that the doctors can admit their patients to the hospital without consulting doctors permanently staffed at that hospital. However, many hospitals deny these privileges as a means of avoiding involvement in controversial abortion issues, making this privilege difficult to obtain.

Additionally, the law required abortion-providing clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical clinics; the law included specifications for features ranging from ventilation and corridor width to the angle at which water flows from drinking fountains.

Texas officials said the law’s provisions aimed to protect women’s health, but the requirements put costly strains on abortion providers causing nearly half of the Texas’ 40 abortion providers to shut down. Had the law been upheld today, that number was likely to be reduced to 10 clinics in the state that could offer abortions.

"There was no significant health-related problem that the new law helped to cure," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority opinion. "We agree with the District Court that the surgical-center requirement, like the admitting-privileges requirement, provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an "undue burden" on their constitutional right to do so."

In a brief opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained that such a law could actually put women’s health and safety at a greater risk. "When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety," she wrote.

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