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Nearly a quarter century ago, the Supreme Court asked pro-choice and right-to-life advocates “to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution.” Nothing of the sort materialized. If anything, the social and political battles intensified, with states enacting 1074 abortion restrictions. The Court has not considered various appeals in the face of an avalanche of legislation, but on June 27, 2016, it struck down 2 onerous restrictions on physicians and clinics offering abortion services.

In Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, the Court found Texas’s requirements that physicians conducting abortions obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals and that licensed abortion facilities meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers to be unconstitutional. Stephen Breyer, writing for a 5-3 majority, held that the restrictions failed to offer medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens on women’s access to abortion.

This article explores the implications of Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt for other abortion restrictions that purportedly safeguard women’s health; for access to abortion in Texas and other parts of the country; and for the health, rights, and dignity of women seeking abortion, particularly those who are disproportionately affected by restrictions and other burdens on access. The article includes a table describing state abortion restrictions across the country, together with pending court cases.

Publication Citation

JAMA (Jul. 21, 2016),