WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court Monday struck down a 2013 Texas law regulating the safety of abortion clinics, saying in a 5-3 decision that it put an undue burden on a women’s right to an abortion.
The case had challenged two Texas regulations of abortion facilities: abortionists must have admitting privileges at a local hospital in case of a medical emergency at their business, and facilities must meet the standards of ambulatory surgery centers. They must have proper sanitation, staffing, and medical experts on hand to deal with medical emergencies.
The law was passed in the wake of the Kermit Gosnell scandal. Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist, was convicted in May 2013 on three counts of first-degree murder for babies born alive who were killed at his business, and he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after a woman died from an anesthesia overdose at his abortion center.
An almost 300-page grand jury report exposed his business’ horrific practices and conditions. Babies born alive had their spinal cords severed. Blood stains spotted the site, which also smelled of urine. Medical equipment was broken or used and reused without being cleaned. Dead babies lay in jars. Staff members lacked experience and expertise.
Texas’ regulations, proponents said, were in the interest of women’s safety and were meant to prevent another Gosnell case from happening. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court upheld the Texas law in 2015 and allowed it to go into effect in most of the state. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear it.
Pro-abortion rights supporters have said the laws were not essential for medical safety, and that they were ultimately intended to shut the businesses down. More than half the facilities in Texas closed after the law’s passage, the Texas Tribune has reported, although a definitive link between the laws and the closures has yet to be established.