Texas Anti-Abortion Law Looks Likely to Survive Court Challenge

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


Ever since the Republican landslide of 2010, conservative state legislatures around the country have been busily erecting barriers to abortion. The question is, how far can they go? At what point will the Supreme Court rule that these new laws have no legitimate motivation—improving patient safety, say, or guaranteeing informed consent—but are instead designed merely to make it burdensome for women to get abortions?1 Today brought a discouraging but oddly ambiguous omen on just how far the Court is likely to allow states to go:

The justices voted 5-4 to leave in effect a provision requiring doctors who perform abortions in clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital….Justice Antonin Scalia, writing in support of the high court order Tuesday, said the clinics could not overcome a heavy legal burden against overruling the appeals court. The justices may not do so “unless that court clearly and demonstrably erred,” Scalia said in an opinion that was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy did not write separately or join any opinion Tuesday, but because it takes five votes to overturn the appellate ruling, it is clear that they voted with their conservative colleagues.

This is discouraging because five justices voted to permit this Texas law to stand, despite abundant evidence that its only real purpose is to make it harder for clinics to hire doctors to perform abortions. But it’s weirdly ambiguous because Roberts and Kennedy declined to join the majority opinion. Unfortunately, my guess is that this is mostly for technical reasons, since this case will probably be back before the Court after the circuit court issues its final ruling. When that happens, I suspect that both Roberts and Kennedy will come down pretty firmly on the side of allowing states to enact virtually anything short of an outright ban.

1In case you’re not up on the lingo, these are known as TRAP laws—Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. They’re nothing new, but enactment of TRAP laws picked up serious steam after the 2010 midterms. More here if you’re interested.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.