The Supreme Court ruling Monday that voided Texas requirements that abortion clinics meet certain safety standards and that providers be affiliated with nearby hospitals is reviving a fight over women’s health that is reverberating on the campaign trail.
The 5-3 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt refocused attention on the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Republicans have refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, to fill the position, leaving the court with eight justices.
“The court set a really clear signal that they see through the agenda of the anti-choice movement,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in an interview. “But we still need to fight back on these laws in the states, and we need to vote. This is what it looks like when we have a court that upholds the rule of law, and all of that is at stake in November.”
Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, used the opportunity to distinguish herself from her likely Republican opponent, Donald Trump.
“Trump has said women should be punished for having abortions. He also pledged to defund Planned Parenthood and appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade,” Clinton said in a statement. “Today’s decision is a reminder of how much is at stake in this election.”
Abortion opponents blasted the ruling as a major setback for states’ rights and women’s safety, saying providers should be held to the same safety standards as other health providers and facilities.
“The stakes for the 2016 election could not be higher,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser , president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion. “We must elect a pro-life president and safeguard today’s pro-life majorities in the House and Senate. Only with a pro-life Congress and White House can we begin to address the havoc wrought by the Supreme Court on America’s unborn children and their mothers.”
Congressional Republicans, too, vowed to keep fighting, although none outlined a next step.
“Commonsense requirements that abortion clinics be held to the same standards as other medical facilities put the health of the patient first, and today’s decision is a step back in protecting the well-being of mothers across our state,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said in a statement.
Congressional Democrats jumped in with further appeals to disband a House panel launched to investigate allegations that some abortion providers illegally profit from donations of fetal tissue.
Laws like the Texas restrictions and the panel are evidence that “Republicans are engaged in a systematic campaign to dismantle women’s right to comprehensive health care, family planning, and affordable contraception,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement.
An additional 21 states besides Texas require abortion clinics to have some similar standards to ambulatory surgical centers, according to The Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. The group found that 14 states require providers to have some affiliation with a local hospital, including five states that require providers to have admitting privileges at the hospital.
Outside the court Monday, dozens of protesters — both abortion rights groups and opponents — gathered to wait for the ruling. Abortion rights groups screamed when the decision was announced, chanting, “Women across America just won,” and blasting the rock anthem “We Are The Champions” by Queen, and Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” to drown out opponents’ chants of “Women just lost.”