Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thoughts on Planned Parenthood vs. Abbott

Scott Lemieux has good take on Planned Parenthood vs. Abbott, the case that overturned several of the most controversial provisions of Texas' recent law design to limit access to abortion last summer.

Currently the controlling standard governing states' ability to enact statutes regulating access to abortion is Planned Parenthood vs Casey, which holds that states  can regulate abortion so long as it doesn't provide an "unreasonable burden."

Since Sam Alito and John Roberts joined the court, however, rulings haven't overturned Casey or Roe vs. Wade, but generally have reduced it to a shell by finding that many individual regulations -- notably a ban on so-called "partial birth" abortion don't produce a meaningful burden.

With the wave of state legislation in Kansas, Mississippi, Texas, South Dakota and other states seeking to regulate abortion clinics out of business, we're going to find out if Casey actually means anything. 

What's notable in the Texas case, as Lemieux points out, is that district judge Lee Yeakal's ruling would actually "put some teeth" back in Casey by suggesting that there is no rational basis to require certain "safety" regulations on abortion providers, most notably the requirement that doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

This case is mostly a win  for reproductive rights advocates, but it did uphold a part of the law requiring doctors to adhere to (arguably outdated) FDA protocols for administering abortion-inducing drugs (though it narrowed the requirement considerably).

The ruling doesn't end things, as Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has already appealed. The next venue, the Fifth Circuit Court of appeals is notoriously conservative and has overturned several district rulings protecting abortion access in the past. (Here's hoping that this winner isn't on the panel that hears the case)

This case, along with others, is probably going to end up at the Supreme Court, where the fate of Roe vs. Wade may hang on what Anthony Kennedy ate for breakfast on the morning of oral arguments.

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