2016 SCOTUS: June Updates
On June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court took a stand! They voted against anti-choice lobbyists who wanted to close down abortion clinics in Texas by placing difficult and unnecessary requirements on the providers. Their vote sets a precedent – and it’s a major victory for women’s rights!
This decision confirms and strengthens the constitutional protections of abortion rights and is the most significant Supreme Court ruling on abortion since 1992, when rights to abortion established by Roe v. Wade in 1973 were reaffirmed.
Texas’ HB2, passed in July 2013, enacted difficult and unnecessary requirements for abortion providers: restrictions that have forced a majority of clinics in the state to close their doors.
HB2 would have lowered the number of Texas abortion clinics drastically and increased obstacles to abortion.
If HB2 had been upheld, the Center for Reproductive Rights notes, “these requirements would shutter all but 9 or 10 abortion clinics in a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age, and leave more than 500 miles between San Antonio and the New Mexico border without a single clinic.”
HB2 would have increased the risk of back alley abortions.
Around 70,000 women obtain abortions in Texas annually. According to the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, after the passing of HB2, the average distance for a Texas woman to the nearest abortion clinic became 85 miles; the national average distance is 30 miles. 25 percent of Texas women seeking an abortion found themselves more than 140 miles from an abortion clinic.
HB2 had thus effectively made abortions more costly and time-consuming, leading to increased health risks as women may be deterred from going such great lengths to obtain an abortion. Between 100,000 and 240,000 Texas women have tried to induce abortions on their own, and this number could have risen drastically with the increased obstacles to abortion.
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Zubik v. Burwell
In this case, Rewire says the Court returns to the ACA’s birth control benefit and the question of whether the government’s process for allowing religiously affiliated nonprofits to opt out from providing health insurance plans that offer contraception is too burdensome under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Court consolidated seven cases filed by hospitals, nursing homes, and other kinds of businesses that are religiously run and affiliated; all object to filling out the opt-out form. A ruling that would allow these nonprofits to be exempted from the coverage would have enormous implications, as 10 percent of larger nonprofits have asked the Obama administration for an accommodation to the rule already. A group of 240 students, staff and faculty from religiously affiliated universities recently signed on to an amicus brief submitted to the court in response to Zubik v. Burwell, another of the cases consolidated into this group of objections to the opt-out form.
The Court heard oral arguments on March 23, and on May 16 and 23d, the cases were remanded and returned to their courts of appeals, where a compromise must be made.