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Case

Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt

Last Updated: 5/29/2020

Overview

What's at stake

  • The right of states to protect women from dangerous substandard abortionists
  • The continued erosion of Roe v. Wade’s regime of abortion on demand

Summary

In 2013, the State of Texas passed House Bill 2 in response to public revelations about the slipshod nature of the abortion industry, including the Kermit Gosnell “House of Horrors” in Philadelphia. HB2 mandated that abortion facilities adhere to ambulatory surgical center (ASC) requirements common to most outpatient facilities, and it also required abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility to be able to handle emergencies when something goes wrong—as it too often does. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the facial validity of the provisions based on Fifth Circuit precedent, but it enjoined the application of the admitting privileges provision as to one physician at a clinic in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and it temporarily enjoined the ASC regulation only as to that one clinic. Texas asked the Supreme Court to affirm the Fifth Circuit’s decision as a proper application of the Planned Parenthood v. Casey “undue burden” standard. HB2 had resulted in the closure of most of Texas’ abortion businesses except for about ten larger facilities in urban centers, but Texas maintained that women throughout the state were still within reasonable driving distances of abortion facilities, so that HB2 imposed no “undue burden” on abortion access.

Unfortunately on June 27, 2016, in a 5-3 ruling, the United States Supreme Court invalidated the Texas law. Alliance Defending Freedom will continue to support states and local agencies that are pursuing similar laws to protect women, as well as measures to protect babies in the womb.

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom submitted amicus briefs to both the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court, providing the courts with critical information about the medical benefits of HB2’s reasonable health and safety measures. Representing thousands of pro-life physicians and other medical professions in five pro-life medical associations—the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, the American College of Pediatricians, Christian Medical and Dental Association, Catholic Medical Association, and Physicians for Life—ADF told the High Court that the Act’s surgical center and admitting privileges requirements reflect the professional standard of practice for outpatient gynecological and similar surgery. “[We]urge the Court to affirm that the quality of medical care provided to women seeking abortion should not be any lower than the quality of care provided to women undergoing similar invasive procedures,” ADF and its Allies stated. “The health and safety of all women should not be compromised.”

Alliance Defending Freedom provided strong support to states and local agencies that were defending reasonable and constitutional health and safety measures to regulate abortion like House Bill 2. Our attorneys assisted with strategy, research and briefing, and developing the critical medical evidence.

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Resources

Legal Documents

Court
Title
Date
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