Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt

136 S. Ct. 2292 (2016)


The Texas Legislature enacted a bill that required doctors who gave abortions to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of their clinic where their abortions were performed, and also, they must use surgical standards to perform abortions. Whole (Ps) filed an action seeking facial invalidation of the law’s admitting-privileges provision. The District Court granted the injunction. Three days later, the Fifth Circuit vacated the injunction, thereby permitting the provision to take effect. The Fifth Circuit pointed to evidence introduced in the District Court that the admitting-privileges requirement “will reduce the delay in treatment and decrease health risk for abortion patients with critical complications,” and that it would “‘screen out’ untrained or incompetent abortion providers.” The court rules that P had not provided sufficient evidence “that abortion practitioners will likely be unable to comply with the privileges requirement.” Ps again filed the present lawsuit in Federal District Court. They sought an injunction preventing enforcement of the admitting-privileges provision as applied to physicians at two abortion facilities. They claimed that the admitting-privileges provision and the surgical-center provision violated the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, as interpreted in Casey. The court found the cost of compliance to exceed $1.5 million per facility and a substantial net reduction in abortion clinics as well. It also found that abortion in Texas was extremely safe with particularly low rates of serious complications and virtually no deaths occurring on account of the procedure. The District Court determined that the surgical-center requirement “imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a previability abortion,” and that the “admitting-privileges requirement, . . . in conjunction with the ambulatory-surgical-center requirement, imposes an undue burden on the right of women. The District Court concluded that the “two provisions” would cause “the closing of almost all abortion clinics in Texas that were operating legally in the fall of 2013,” and thereby create a constitutionally “impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion” by “restricting access to previously available legal facilities.”  The court enjoined the enforcement of the two provisions. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court on the merits. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.