Today, Texas' omnibus abortion bill, HB2, which was signed into law by then-governor Rick Perry on July 18, 2013, following then-state senator Wendy Davis' filibuster, will be considered by the Supreme Court, as they hear arguments in Whole Women's Health vs. Hellerstedt.
Eesha Pandit has written a terrific piece, "The Supreme Court's Massive Abortion Case: Everything You Need to Know about Whole Women's Health vs. Hellerstedt," which I recommend reading it its entirety, but here I'll excerpt her explanation of what's at stake:
Now for the politics: What's at stake when the lawyers stand before our eight Supreme Court Justices this week? Quite simply: The fate of abortion access all over the country, not just in Texas, hangs in the balance.If the law is upheld in Texas, it would restrict abortion access so severely in the state that abortion would be virtually inaccessible for millions and millions of people who need it.
The Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey held that legislators may restrict abortion rights, but not if those restrictions cause women an "undue burden." Thus, the key question in the case is whether the Texas law, with its four core restrictive provisions, is unduly burdensome to someone seeking an abortion.
Before the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who made it clear that he believed Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, many pro-choice advocates worried that this case could serve to bring Roe down altogether, if enough justices decided to use this opportunity to declare that there is, in fact, no constitutional right to an abortion. With Scalia's seat now vacant, that scenario is off the table, since there simply aren't enough votes left on the bench for such a ruling.
Now all anticipation and anxiety shifts toward Justice Anthony Kennedy, the notorious swing vote. If Justice Kennedy voted to uphold HB2, the Court will likely hand over a 4-4 decision. In this scenario, the decision of the lower court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, that HB2 is constitutional, will stand. In that case, the Texas law would be upheld, but only in Texas, establishing the abortion restrictions until the law, or one similar, makes its way to the Court again, after the appointment of a new justice.
In addition to Texas, 23 states have passed laws — called TRAP ("Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers") laws — that regulate abortion providers above and beyond federal law.
I desperately hope that the Supreme Court—by which I mean one man, Justice Kennedy, who holds the fate of millions of women et. al. in his hands—does the right thing and overturns HB2.
And I will say, once again, that I am, and will always be, pro-abortion for any person who wants or needs one. Because abortion is healthcare, and healthcare is a right.