The US Supreme Court handed a victory to abortion rights advocates, striking down a Texas law imposing strict regulations on abortion doctors and facilities that its critics contended were specifically designed to shut down clinics.
The 5-3 ruling held that the Republican-backed 2013 law placed an undue burden on women exercising their constitutional right to end a pregnancy established in the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision.
The normally nine-justice court was one member short after the February 13 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who had consistently opposed abortion.
Conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy voted with liberal members of the court.
Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the court, said that the appeals court that upheld the law was wrong in its approach, noting that courts are required to “consider the burdens a law imposes on abortion access together with the benefits that those laws confer”.
By setting a nationwide legal precedent that the two provisions in the Texas law were unconstitutional, the ruling imperils laws already in place in other states.
The Texas law required abortion doctors to have “admitting privileges,” a type of formal affiliation that can be hard to obtain, at a hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of the clinic so they can treat patients needing surgery or other critical care.
The law also required clinic buildings to possess costly, hospital-grade facilities.
These building regulations included corridor width, the swinging motion of doors, floor tiles, parking spaces, elevator size, ventilation, electrical wiring, plumbing, floor tiling and even the angle that water flows from drinking fountains.
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