Now that the Supreme Court has struck down abortion restrictions in Texas that would have forced most clinics in the state to close, judges are likely to block similar laws in seven other states.
Six of those states -- Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Wisconsin -- have laws being challenged in courts that require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 on Monday that the Texas version of that law is unconstitutional because the requirement is medically unnecessary and "places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a pre-viability abortion."
Tennessee also has three anti-abortion laws being litigated in the courts, and those cases were put on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case. At least two of those laws -- the admitting privileges requirement and a stipulation that most abortion clinics be turned into ambulatory surgical centers, or mini-hospitals -- are likely to fall as a result of Monday's ruling.
Republicans swept into state legislatures in 2010 have enacted an unprecedented wave of abortion restrictions that have shut down dozens of clinics across the country. Many of these laws, instead of directly banning abortion, attempt to close clinics by making it logistically or financially impossible to operate. The Supreme Court effectively slapped down these so-called TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) in Monday's ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
“We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority opinion. “Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.”
The seven states with pending abortion cases are likely to be the first to feel the legal consequences of the decision. But the ruling may have a much broader impact on abortion laws across the U.S.
Four more states -- Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Virginia -- have clinic regulations similar to the ones struck down in Texas, although those states haven't yet been challenged in court. Missouri, South Dakota, and Utah also have admitting privileges-requirements that wouldn't likely withstand a future legal challenge.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned lawmakers in her concurring opinion on Monday that these types of laws "do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion" and "cannot survive judicial inspection.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version wrongly identified North Dakota as having admitting-privileges regulations. It is South Dakota that has those regulations.