The Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down two anti-abortion laws in Texas, but its effects won’t be limited to Texas. The day after the ruling, the Court declined to hear two other cases involving Texas-like anti-abortion laws in Mississippi and Wisconsin.
That means those two laws are done for. Lower courts ruled to block them, and the Court denied the appeals of those rulings.
And on Monday, Alabama’s attorney general announced he was dropping legal appeals to uphold a similar law in that state.
As in Texas, Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Alabama all required doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges with a nearby hospital. And as in Texas, those laws threatened to shut down clinics — in Mississippi’s case, the last abortion clinic open in the state.
Admitting privileges laws are one example of what pro-choice advocates call TRAP laws, or targeted regulations of abortion providers, because they impose regulations on abortion doctors that don’t apply to similar medical procedures. Often, those regulations are specifically designed to shut down abortion clinics.
As a federal judge explained when he struck down Wisconsin’s law last year, admitting privileges are particularly difficult for abortion providers to get. Hospitals typically require doctors with privileges to admit a certain number of patients a year. But because abortion is so safe, abortion providers almost never have to admit their patients to a hospital.
Wisconsin and Mississippi are likely just the first of many states whose Texas-like laws will be struck down after the Supreme Court’s ruling, and Alabama probably won’t be the only state to back off from obviously unconstitutional court challenges. But it probably won’t mean the end of states fighting losing court battles on abortion laws.