The nearly 90 minutes of oral arguments March 2 were before a court left with eight members following the February 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who regularly voted to uphold abortion limitations and was expected to have provided the fifth vote in this case to uphold the requirements.
At the heart of the Texas case is a law that requires abortion clinics to be licensed as ambulatory care facilities, and that requires clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Casteel said she had an abortion in 2003, before the regulations were imposed that have cut the number of abortion clinics in Missouri to a single Planned Parenthood office in St. Louis. We've asked Kate Shaw, an ABC News contributor and an assistant professor of law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in NY, to help provide some clarity. "What evidence is there that under the prior law, the prior law was not sufficiently protective of the women's health?".
"...As to some of them, there's information that they closed for reasons that had nothing to do with this law", Justice Samuel Alito said.
The high court, divided between liberals and conservatives, has blocked the surgical-center requirement from taking effect. If the justices were to uphold the Texas law, Verrilli said, then "what you're saying is that [Casey] exists only in theory, not in fact". The omnibus anti-abortion bill immediately prompted the closures of women's health clinics throughout the state given heightened regulations many viewed as draconian and created to force their closure. Under the new law, doctors who perform abortions also must have admissions privileges at a nearby hospital.
The case centers on whether a Texas law regarding abortion clinics is constitutional. Three conservative justices remain, and will likely uphold the law. Advocates for the clinics say that would mean the majority of clinics would close in Texas and Louisiana, which has passed a similar law, and the last clinic in MS would be shuttered.
"This law closes most abortion facilities in the state, puts extreme stress on the few facilities that remain open, and exponentially increases the obstacles confronting women who seek abortions in the state, " Verrilli said. The clinics are hoping he'll join the court's four liberal justices in deeming the regulations unconstitutional.
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This, as evidenced by poll numbers, has not worked, and, last week, Florida Senator Marco Rubio chose to fight fire with fire. I guess loyalty is only a one-way street where you must be loyal to some group but they owe you nothing.
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden said Abortionists should not be given a free pass to elude medical requirements that everyone else is required to follow.
Justice Anthony Kennedy holds the key to whether the court splits 4-4, a result that would leave the regulations in place, but not resolve the issue nationally. "It purports to protect maternal health... but it's going to have the effect of making sure that hundreds and thousands of Texas women either have to drive 150, 200 miles to clinics that are giving them 20- and 30-day waiting periods".
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) joined four other groups in a friend-of-the-court brief that urged the justices to affirm the Texas law.
"This is all about women's health and quality of care for whatever kind of decision they choose to make", said Rep. Jodie Lautenberg, R-Texas.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked how the state could point to the existence of abortion clinics in New Mexico, just across the state line from El Paso, as providing access to women there.
As the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a controversial abortion case Wednesday, abortion supporters and opponents gathered in front of the building to protest.