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Abortion Showdown in Texas: Whole Woman's Health V. Hellerstedt

In 1973, Roe v Wade paved the way for more than 50 million legal abortions.


But do you know what happened in 1992? In Planned Parenthood v Casey, the Supreme Court held that “the State may enact regulations to further the health or safety of a woman seeking an abortion, but may not impose unnecessary health regulations that present a substantial obstacle to a woman seeking an abortion.”


In the wake of Casey, many states have passed laws which restrict abortion and protect women’s health. The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute says that 15 years ago, only 13 states had four or five restrictions on the books, compared to today with 27 states. And many have been passed in just the last few years.


These legal restrictions—along with other factors, like the use of ultrasound—have saved babies’ lives. According to The Atlantic, “Since 1990, the rate of abortions has fallen by more than a third, and the raw number of abortions has fallen by more than half.”


And that doesn’t sit well with pro-abortion forces, especially those who profit from the gruesome practice. In 2013, a common-sense Texas law requiring abortion clinics to maintain hospital admitting privileges and to meet the same health and safety standards as other facilities performing outpatient surgery was challenged. This latest abortion case is called Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt. Oral arguments were presented before the high court last week, with a decision expected in June. It's the biggest abortion case in a quarter-century.


With the recent, untimely death of the conservative, pro-life Antonin Scalia, the court is split now between four liberal justices, three conservatives, and swing vote, Anthony Kennedy.


The plaintiffs, who claim to be about protecting “women’s health,” and who insist abortion is an essential medical practice, are now in the awkward position of saying that abortion clinics shouldn't be subject to the same oversight as other medical clinics. They claim the law adds rules that are “medically unnecessary” to abortion, but still medically necessary to all other medical practices.


Since the law went into effect, the number of Texas abortion mills has been cut in half, with another ten expected to close if the law is fully implemented.


Roger Severino, director of Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, says “this case is about the ability of Texas to increase the health and safety standards at abortion clinics. The abortion industry should not get a special exemption, and Texas is well within its rights to act.” We need only remember Kermit Gosnell’s grisly house of horrors in Philadelphia. No regulation or oversight there meant that for 30 years his clinic received less oversight than the local ice cream parlor. And mothers, not to mention unborn and born children, died because of it.


There are multiple scenarios that could play out with the Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt case. The U. S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, has already upheld the law, so the only way for similar laws in all 50 states to be struck down is for today’s eight-member court to vote 5-3 to overturn all or part of it. A 5-3 vote the other way, of course, would validate such laws across the nation. A 4-4 split would uphold the law, but only for Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Or the justices could send the case back to the court of appeals, seeking more evidence of a link between the law and clinic closures. Finally, they could hold the case until next term when a ninth justice is seated. There are lot of options!


So please right now, pray for the right decision in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt. Because, as we know, Jesus loves all the children, and the women, of the world.


BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

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Publication date: March 7, 2016

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