Conservative legal and advocacy groups are celebrating a 5-3 Supreme Court ruling from Thursday upholding a Texas law that banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The five-member majority held that the law is constitutional because it provides the government with evidence about what risks are associated with abortion. The court’s decision conflicted with two lower federal courts, which declared that the law is unconstitutional on the grounds that it is unconstitutional to deny abortion access at 20 weeks, based on its impact on women.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged that the ruling would have “consequences” for people across the country.
Texas passed the law in 2013, but courts on both sides of the issue have been weighing in on it for years. It has resulted in a flurry of challenges and highly contentious legislative battles.
States across the country passed thousands of laws in the last few years that tightened restrictions on abortion, which advocates say are mostly meant to limit access.
In the past, states like Texas adopted laws that restrict abortions but the Supreme Court has often sidestepped them. But abortion opponents turned to a new strategy: tailoring laws in ways that would actually get the Supreme Court to recognize that a constitutional right existed at 20 weeks, something it has previously lacked the legal backbone to recognize.
“This case is about the government intruding into the profoundly personal act of a woman’s pregnancy,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissenting opinion. “For millennia, the right to abortion has enjoyed broad constitutional support. That support includes the Supreme Court’s 1970 decision in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, which rejected the view that some restrictions on abortion advance the state’s interest.”
“This law and others like it may be undoubtedly necessary to protect the health of women — indeed, we ‘have treated their increasing prevalence as no cause for alarm,’” she continued. “But the state may not trample on the right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy by requiring the making of an ‘individualized decision’ by a State-appointed ‘doctrine council.’”
The number of states banning abortions after 20 weeks has spiked to 41, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights group.
“Today’s ruling supports the anti-choice movement’s years-long campaign to limit women’s access to abortion at all stages of pregnancy,” Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, said in a statement. “It’s shameful that the Supreme Court’s work to reduce access to abortion has come about through the application of an unconstitutional anti-choice philosophy.”