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Undue Burden- How Far Is Too Far?

By: Marica Leach

Blog Category: Racial Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions

In a 5-4 decision in Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Abbott, the United States Supreme Court refused to vacate the Fifth Circuit’s stay of the district judge’s injunction against the enforcement of the abortion restriction law known as Texas HB 2.  Texas HB 2 requires that physicians performing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the clinic from where the abortion is performed.  Additionally, it requires that medication abortions, non-surgical abortions, be induced only using the FDA approved medications as opposed to the “off the shelf” medications that some physicians recommend.

Planned Parenthood, on behalf of themselves and their clients, argued that Texas HB 2 is unconstitutional since it places an enormous burden on approximately 22,000 who would have to travel almost 150 miles to medical facility where physicians have admitting privileges.  As a result of staying the trial court’s permanent injunction on the enforcement of Texas House Bill HB2, many clinics had to turn away women and some even had to close their doors.

The restrictive abortion statute passed by Texas demonstrates that the Supreme Court is deeply divided.  The Order affirming the stay resulted in two very different opinions.  The dissent points out that the underlying legal question, —whether the new Texas statute is constitutional—is a difficult question that “at least four Members of the Court will wish to consider irrespective of the Fifth Circuit ultimate decision.”  In contrast, Justice Scalia joined by Justices Alito and Thomas feel that Texas HB-2 will win on the merits.  Until that ultimate decision is made, however, the Supreme Court does not find that travelling 150 miles for an abortion is an undue burden for the women living in rural Texas counties especially minority women who will have difficulty affording travel costs to cities such as Corpus Christie.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 


Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Servs. v. Abbott, 134 S. Ct. 506, 187 L. Ed. 2d 465 (2013), aff’g 2013 WL5857853.Act of July 12, 2013, 83rd Leg., 2d C.S., ch. 1, §§ 1–12, 2013 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 4795–802 (West).

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