Supreme Court Ruling Opens the Door to Legal Challenges over Limits and Access to Abortion
Question: Why is the recent Supreme Court ruling over Texas’ law limiting access to abortion being considered the biggest decision since Roe v. Wade?
On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, which focused on whether a Texas law unconstitutionally limited access to abortion by requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The Texas law also demanded that clinics meet the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers. The abortion clinics that brought the case said the law would lead to the closure of 75% of the state’s abortion clinics, leaving some women hundreds of miles from services. The clinics argued that the procedure is already a relatively safe one, and the law’s requirements are meant to limit access to abortion. The state countered that the law was meant to protect the health of women who undergo the procedure and downplayed the effect of its passage in arguing that if the law took effect, every metropolitan area that now has an abortion clinic would still have one. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority opinion that any benefits of the Texas law’s requirements do not justify the burdens they impose on clinics. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her concurring opinion that “[i]t is beyond rational belief that [the Texas law] could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.’” Analysts believe that this 5-3 decision could lead to changes in similar laws in other states. Currently, five states require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals while 22 states have licensing standards requirements comparable to those for ambulatory surgical centers. While the decision will not automatically overturn those states’ laws, it does provide guidance to courts that may handle future challenges to those states’ laws.
It is ALWAYS “best practice” to request a copy of the prior treating physician’s records when you assume the care of a patient. If it cannot be obtained or if the patient refuses to cooperate in obtaining those records, proceed with caution, if you proceed at all. For chronic pain patients, that is a red flag that your new patient is a “shopper”. Additionally, make sure that your chart clearly states that records were requested and name the prior treating physician. Again, if the patient does not remember the name, that is also a “red flag”.
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