By Joe Flint
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin debating an argument for the first time since the justices in late June voted to strike down a key provision of the Texas abortion law.
That case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, has left several other states with restrictions or restrictions on abortion coverage that will soon reach the court. And many of those cases, including the Missouri challenge, are likely to center on the same legal argument as the one that challenges the Texas law.
“The overall effect [of the Texas case] is going to become clearer as this case plays out,” said Sarah Warbelow, senior legislative counsel at the Human Rights Campaign. “Texas didn’t change the law. It was a huge law that was overturned.”
Missouri Right to Life’s lawyer argued during the Whole Woman’s Health oral arguments in June that another law meant to protect the fetus wouldn’t infringe on a woman’s right to an abortion under the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. But Warbelow said Missouri’s law is clear.
The next big abortion-rights case to be argued by the Supreme Court involves the Kansas City Abortion case.
Unlike some of the other states with abortion restrictions, which are trying to curb access only in a clinic in the state’s main metropolitan area, Kansas City’s abortion law essentially disallows abortions at all except for victims of rape or incest, mothers who will be dying because of pregnancy complications, and those who have been able to get the help they need for their own health to have a minor girl act as a guardian for a female minor and arrange for an abortion. That request can come from doctors or women themselves.
Even those exceptions to the ban are “so extreme,” Warbelow said, “that a doctor that is running a practice for years is starting to stop taking patients with those exceptions.”
The top lawyers in both Missouri and Kansas request that the justices invalidate both parts of their abortion laws, and their lawsuits also call for abortion clinics to be able to perform later-term abortions, once they’ve had multiple attempts at legal challenges. Warbelow said it’s a crucial argument because that will allow them to “have some control” over the timing and location of abortions.
In Minnesota, state abortion restrictions were upheld in a different case that raised the specter of overturning Roe v. Wade. Now the state of Minnesota asks the court to allow more time for abortion clinics to close after that decision.
Health advocates fear that abortion-rights decisions by the Supreme Court will make it more difficult for women to get abortions in Missouri. But other abortion-rights groups hope the Supreme Court may ultimately decide to leave Missouri’s restrictions alone or force the state to regulate them more heavily, a legal strategy that federal appeals courts in several states have turned down.
“We think the right of women to access safe and legal abortion care will be upheld by the Supreme Court if the justices rule in a way that seeks to eliminate the law in its entirety,” said Megan Jo Hofer, an attorney for the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights group.
The Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments next week in a Missouri case dealing with the state’s abortion law.
Read the full story on Merritt Montgomery at ProPublica.