Kaiser Health News Original Stories

Supreme Court

4. Justices Could Send Abortion Case Back To Texas After Conservative Wing Questions Law's Effect

During Wednesday's oral arguments, some of the justices debated if there was enough evidence to prove the Texas law at the center of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt was the reason the abortion clinics in the state closed. Meanwhile, the three female justices led the charge against the strict regulations, saying the state was targeting abortion and not other more dangerous medical practices.

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)

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)

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)

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)

USA Today: Supreme Court Closely Divided On Abortion Case
It seemed possible that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who likely holds the deciding vote, would seek to have the case returned to Texas for additional fact-finding, delaying any decision until next year at the earliest. That could include whether the law's restrictions were responsible for shuttering up to 20 clinics and whether the few that remain open can handle the statewide demand for abortions. If the case is not sent back but is decided on its merits, it seemed more likely that Kennedy would join the liberals in ruling that the law places an undue burden on abortion access without serving a legitimate medical purpose. Such a sweeping decision, which likely would be issued in late June, could impact states with similar laws. (Wolf, 3/2)

Reuters: Key Justice Kennedy Wavers As Supreme Court Confronts Abortion
Kennedy at one point suggested sending the case back to a lower court to get further evidence on the law's impact, including an assessment of the ability of existing Texas clinics to meet the demand for abortions. If there is evidence new clinics that meet the state's regulations have increased capacity to perform abortions, it would show the law has provided a "beneficial effect," Kennedy said. (Hurley, 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 Associated Press: Deeply Split Supreme Court Wrestles With Abortion Case
Texas says it is trying to protect women's health in rules that require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and force clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery. The rules would cut the number of abortion clinics in the state by three-fourths, abortion providers say. The three women justices and Justice Stephen Breyer repeatedly questioned why Texas needed to enact the 2013 law. "But what is the legitimate interest in protecting their health? What evidence is there that under the prior law, the prior law was not sufficiently protective of the women's health?" Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller. (Sherman, 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)

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court's Female Justices Lead Attack On Texas Law That Would Shut Abortion Clinics
The three female Supreme Court justices led an attack Wednesday on a Texas law that would shut down about three-fourths of the state’s abortion clinics. Though supporters of the law say the state’s strict medical regulations were intended to promote health and safety, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued that they would hurt women. Texas lawmakers, she said, were “only targeting abortion.” ... Justices Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said Texas does not similarly regulate other medical procedures that are more risky, including dental surgery and colonoscopies. Doctors can perform those procedures safely in a doctor's office, without the need for a fully equipped surgical center, they said. “We know that liposuction is 30 times more dangerous [than an early-stage abortion], yet doesn’t have the same kind of requirements” in Texas, Kagan said. (Savage, 3/2)

The Washington Post: The Forgotten History Of Justice Ginsburg’s Criticism Of Roe v. Wade
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the Supreme Court’s most ardent protector of abortion rights, outspoken enough about their importance to become an icon to young feminists and a source of outrage among her detractors. With her valedictory on the court undetermined but within sight, Ginsburg, 82, may have only one more chance to leave a mark on reproductive rights. It comes in the most consequential abortion case during her time on the court. ... With her leadership on the issue pivotal, it is difficult to remember that 23 years ago Ginsburg was considered suspect on the issue. Some women’s groups questioned President Bill Clinton’s choice of Ginsburg for the Supreme Court because she had criticized the legal foundations of the court’s landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. (Barnes, 3/2)

While the justices heard the case, emotions ran high outside the courthouse -

Reuters: Emotions Run High Outside Courthouse For Abortion Showdown
Emotions over abortion simmered on the sidewalks outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, with hundreds of activists on both sides of the issue staging dueling rallies and anti-abortion lawmakers joining the fray. "If you support life, let me hear you scream," South Carolina Republican U.S. Senator Tim Scott told anti-abortion demonstrators, eliciting yells and applause. "We are talking about 10 fingers and 10 toes and one precious heart. We are here for the right reasons." (Dunham, 3/2)

The Washington Post: Hundreds Of Activists Rally Outside Supreme Court For Key Abortion Case
Even before the oral arguments began Wednesday inside the U.S. Supreme Court, crowds of abortion rights supporters and opponents from across the country gathered outside for what is considered the most significant abortion case to reach the high court in decades. The signs on display outside the court showed the divided feelings. “Life counts,” one read. Another said, “I am a pro-life feminist,” and another read, “My body, my choice.” Yet another read, “There’s nothing pro-life about anti-choice.” Another: “Menopausal women nostalgic for choice.” And there were divisions by color. Both sides were making speeches and at times drowned each other out. (Vargas, 3/2)

The Associated Press points out that another decision expected soon might provide insight into the justices' thinking on the Texas abortion case -

The Associated Press: Justices Soon Could Hint At Outcome In Texas Abortion Case
For a clue on how the Supreme Court may decide a major abortion case it heard Wednesday, look to its impending decision in a fight over abortion clinics in Louisiana. The justices may not decide the high-profile case about regulation of abortion clinics in Texas until late June. But an order could come any day in the Louisiana case. The clinics are asking the high court to block enforcement of a 2014 law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The clinics say the law could leave the state with just one clinic in New Orleans, down from four. The cases are at different stages in the legal process, but they involve similar laws and actions by the same New Orleans-based federal appeals court. (Sherman, 3/3)

Campaign 2016

5. Trump Unveils Seven-Point Health Care Plan, But Details Remain Vague

The GOP front-runner's proposals mostly fall in line with what other Republicans have offered -- including revamping Medicaid to be a block grant program and selling insurance across state lines. Bu
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