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Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

United States Supreme Court
136 S. Ct. 2292 (2016)

Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt


The State of Texas passed two laws governing abortions. The first required that a doctor performing an abortion have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles from where the abortion was being performed (the admitting-privileges requirement). This provision was adopted to ensure that women had easy access to a hospital in the event that complications from the abortion arose. The second provision required that the standards for each abortion facility meet the minimum standards for ambulatory surgical centers (the surgical-center requirement). Whole Woman’s Health (plaintiff) sued John Hellerstedt (defendant), commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, claiming that the laws were unconstitutional. The district court determined that the laws would reduce the number of abortion facilities in Texas from 40 to seven or eight. The district court found that this reduction in facilities would make it difficult to serve all the women who wanted abortions in Texas, particularly in rural areas. In addition, the district court found that abortion was an adequately safe practice in Texas prior to the adoption of the laws. Finally, the district court found that abortions performed at ambulatory surgical centers were not appreciably safer than abortions performed at other types of abortion facilities. For these and other reasons, the district court found the laws to be unconstitutional. The court of appeals reversed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Breyer, J.)

Concurrence (Ginsburg, J.)

Dissent (Alito, J.)

Dissent (Thomas, J.)

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