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Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

Citation. 579 U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 2292, 195 L.Ed.2d 665 (2016).
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Citation. 579 U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 2292, 195 L.Ed.2d 665 (2016).

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiffs challenged Texas abortion law, arguing the law is unconstitutional.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

If the purpose or effect of the law is to place a substantial burden in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before viability, the law is constitutionally invalid.


The Texas legislature passed an abortion law with two key provisions. The admitting privileges requirement required a physician performing or an inducing an abortion to have active admitting privileges at a hospital no further than 30 miles from the abortion facility. The surgical center requirement required an abortion facility to meet minimum standards for ambulatory surgical centers, as set forth under Texas law.

Before the law took effect, an abortion providers filed a case and lost. After the law went into effect, the Plaintiffs filed this suit alleging violations under the 14th Amendment, as interpreted under Casey. Plaintiffs sought an injunction to prevent the two provisions from being enforced.


Whether the Texas law regarding admitting privileges and surgical center requirements were unconstitutional.


Yes. The Texas law regarding admitting privileges and surgical center requirements were unconstitutional.


Justice Thomas

I remain fundamentally opposed to this Court’s abortion jurisprudence. The Court here is attempt to rewrite the undue burden test and move increasingly closer to meaningless formalism.

Justice Alito

In striking down the Texas law, the Court simply disregards basic rules that apply to all other cases. It undermines public confidence in the Court as a fair and neutral arbiter.


Justice Ginsburg

Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to such requirements. Past precedent demonstrates this law cannot survive judicial instruction and does little to nothing for health.


The previous case, that took place prior to enforcement of the law, does not have a res judicata effect on the case before this Court.

The admitting privilege requirement violates the 14th Amendment because it imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to have an abortion. There is no evidence that such a requirement is related to a health-related benefit. Rather, it places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s choice. The requirement led to the closure of half of Texas’ clinics, meaning fewer doctors, longer wait times, and increased crowding.

The surgical center requirement is also unconstitutional because it is unnecessary and reduces the number of available facilities in the state to seven or eight. At the same time, the record provides adequate evidentiary support for the trial court’s conclusion that the surgical center requirement places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion. Judgement reversed.

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