The Hill

Supreme Court Rules Texas Abortion Bill Imposes Undue Burden On Women's Reproductive Rights — Now What?

"You don’t mess with Texas," said Amy Hagstrom, the founder, president, and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, on a press call hours after the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) struck down HB2 — a law that set impossible standards for the majority of the state’s abortion clinics. The justices decided that this posed an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose, giving clinics the go-ahead to reopen.

Broadly, this decision gives Roe v. Wade a new leg to stand on. Hagstrom and reproductive rights lawyers, physicians, and activists all anticipate the ruling will set a precedent for ongoing and future attempts to restrict women’s rights. In fact, on Tuesday SCOTUS rejected two abortion cases in Mississippi and Wisconsin that would result in clinic closures and religious objection to dispensing the Plan B pill, respectively. In Alabama, where a law similar to HB2 was put on hold, Attorney General Luther Strange admitted that “there is no good faith argument that Alabama’s law remains constitutional.”

But what does the decision mean for women right now?

“This win doesn’t mean the struggle for abortion access is over,” said Hagstrom, whose health organization was the plaintiff in the case. “Today we made history, and tomorrow we get back to work.”

Texas Texas abortion provider Amy Hagstrom-Miller looks on as Nancy Northup, President of The Center for Reproductive Rights speaks to the media outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, D.C. Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Since HB2 passed in 2013, the number of abortion clinics in Texas has dropped from 41 to 19. Only nine were able to comply with the law’s requirements. Doctors could only perform a surgical or medical abortion if they had “admitting privileges,” the ability to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics. And clinics had to conform to hospital-like design rules usually reserved for ambulatory centers, including wide corridors, large operating rooms, and advanced heating and cooling systems.

Even with HB2 out of the way, an ambulatory center can’t revert back to being an office-based surgery facility because each operates under a different license. While the licenses are very similar, ambulatory center licenses are regulated by an outside accreditation association that conducts routine inspections, Time reported. If they switch up their care plan, they will not be eligible for federal reimbursement of their services. Not to mention a 2005 law that states abortion services needed past 16 weeks must be performed at an ambulatory center is still in effect. So for now there’s still a need for both centers and office facilities.

To reopen the offices that have closed is not simple. Hagstrom said that most had to sell their buildings or let go of their leases and surrender their licenses to the state. Meanwhile, the physicians and staff they employed have found other jobs. New clinics will need to raise funds for new equipment and medicine before they come online, too. So Hagstrom and her cohorts see the ruling as more of a rallying cry to put a stop to this type of legislation, especially among younger generations who came out to support Whole Woman’s Health during the case.

“The decision was squarely surrounded around women and women’s health,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The state of Texas had not a single rationale of how this would benefit women.” Based on more convincing scientific evidence than that presented by legislators to justify the law, the court concluded HB2 existed only to limit women’s reproductive rights.

Other states have passed laws similar to HB2 and lawyers fighting them will now be able to use the SCOTUS ruling in their respective courts. Whole Woman’s attorneys representative Nancy Northup, also the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said she will review today’s decision closely for ways it could affect the cases being litigated around the country over regulations that have enacted strict ambulatory center guidelines, abortion waiting periods, and forced ultrasounds, among other requirements.

What’s important, Northup said, is SCOTUS ultimately upheld the ruling set forth in the 24-year-old Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The decision in that case granted states permission to regulate abortion so long as they do not impose undue burden on women, such as causing them to spend large amounts of time or money to obtain abortion services. Such obstacles are especially hard for women of color and low-income families to overcome.

Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said she is thrilled with the ruling and added that it removes some of the barriers the 2.5 million Texan Latinas of reproductive age face. But last week’s tie vote in the United States v. Texas case means immigrant women and their families will have a hard time accessing health care in general — abortions and otherwise. The ruling upholds a temporary injunction against President Barack Obama’s executive action that would grant certain undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and parents of lawful permanent residents safety from deportation. Their safety no longer guaranteed, immigrants are afraid to reveal themselves, according to The New York Times.

Like Hagstrom, Gonzalez-Rojas agrees today’s ruling simply makes it more difficult “for politicians to take away our rights,” and that there is still work to be done.