The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday it will hear a challenge to a wide-reaching and contentious Texas abortion law, marking the beginning of the biggest legal fight over abortion in two decades.
It’s the first time in eight years that the justices have taken up a case involving abortion rights, and this one will have a particularly strong ripple effect. The decision in the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, will be expected less than six months before the 2016 elections — guaranteeing that abortion will break out as a top issue on the campaign.
In the case, the justices will determine whether a two-year-old law in Texas poses an “undue burden” on women’s legal right to terminate a pregnancy. That standard was set during the landmark 1992 ruling on Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and abortion opponents are hoping to change nearly 25 years of precedent.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the case on behalf of a Texas clinic at risk of closure, quickly cheered the court’s move.
“Today the Supreme Court took an important step toward restoring the constitutional rights of millions of women, which Texas politicians have spent years dismantling through deceptive laws and regulatory red tape,” Nancy Northup, the group’s president and CEO, wrote in a statement.
The Center for Reproductive Rights — as well as other abortion rights supporters — argue that the law has created barriers to abortion that violate the court's last landmark abortion case, Roe v. Wade.
Already, more than half of the state’s clinics have closed because doctors cannot meet new regulations under the law. The regulations are considered the be the strictest in the country.
There are now 18 clinics left in Texas, down from 40 in 2013.
The law was signed by then-Gov. Rick Perry in 2013, drawing national attention after then-state Sen. Wendy Davis, later a gubernatorial candidate, staged a marathon 11-hour filibuster.
The case specifically challenges two parts of the law. One says abortions can only be performed at hospital-like ambulatory service centers, which have strict structural standards. The other requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
The case does not challenge other controversial parts of the law, such as the 20-week ban on abortions, which would remain standing.
This story was last updated at 3:08 p.m.