KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Supreme Court Justices Divided During Oral Arguments In Texas Abortion Case

In the first major abortion case to be heard by the high court in almost a decade, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was argued before the eight justices Wednesday.

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Hears Arguments On Texas Abortion-Clinics Case
If Kennedy joins the liberals to make a five-member majority, it will have national implications, cutting off what abortion opponents had seen as a promising way to make abortion more rare. Abortion rights backers say more than 200 restrictions have been passed by states in the past five years. If Kennedy sides with the three remaining conservatives, that will not be enough by itself to secure the court’s endorsement of the two issues at stake: requiring admitting privileges at a nearby hospital for doctors who perform abortions and requiring clinics to maintain hospital-like standards. (Barnes, 3/2)

The New York Times: Supreme Court Appears Sharply Divided As It Hears Texas Abortion Case
The Supreme Court appeared splintered on Wednesday during arguments in a major abortion case that could affect the lives of millions of American women. The court’s four liberal justices were adamant that restrictions imposed by a Texas law on the state’s abortion providers served no medical purpose and could not pass constitutional muster. But two of the more conservative justices said there was little evidence that abortion clinics in Texas had closed or would close because of the law. (Liptak, 3/2)

Houston Chronicle: Supreme Court Hears Challenge To Texas Abortion Law
As thousands of activists on both sides of the abortion issue rallied outside the courthouse, the justices took turns probing state lawyers defending the law known as House Bill 2 and the abortion providers who challenged it as unconstitutional shortly after its approval in the summer of 2013. U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, representing the federal government, also argued against the law's contested regulations, which require abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and abortion facilities to comply with the expensive standards of hospital-style surgical centers. (Rosenthal, 3/2)

Texas Tribune: Supreme Court Hears Arguments On Abortion Restrictions
Stephanie Toti of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the abortion providers, pointed out that 11 clinics closed the day the admitting privileges requirement went into effect, bringing the number of clinics down to about 20. Eight clinics closed in anticipation of the law going into effect, she said. But conservative justices appeared skeptical as to whether abortion providers had provided enough evidence to blame the restrictions for those closures. Justice Samuel Alito was the most critical, questioning whether the clinics had closed due to other factors. (Ura, 3/2)

The Wall Street Journal: Some Supreme Court Justices Cite Lack Of Detail In Key Abortion Case
As passions ran high on the court’s ideological wings, Justice Kennedy asked probing questions of both sides, pressing abortion-rights advocates on whether they had tangible evidence to support claims that the state was imposing real burdens on women seeking abortion. Later in the session, he may have tipped his hand after Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller argued that courts shouldn’t second-guess the legislature’s judgment regarding patient safety, and should only consider whether the regulations deprived women of the ability “to make the ultimate decision to elect the procedure.” Justice Kennedy appeared concerned that would give the state carte blanche to restrict abortions in a way that violates the earlier precedent. “Doesn’t that show that the undue-burden test is weighted against what the state’s interest is?” he said. (Bravin and Kendall, 3/2)

CNN: Liberal Supreme Court Justices Critical Of Texas Abortion Law
Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller faced a sustained attack from the three female justices on the bench joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, who questioned him about the impact the law would have on poor women living far from the remaining clinics, the medical necessity of the law and the generally low risk of the abortion procedure. (de Vogue, 3/2)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.